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Words in the Heart Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

These were dangerous thoughts, he knew. They were the kind that crept up on a Watchman when the chase was over and it was just you and him, facing one another in that breathless little pinch between the crime and the punishment.

And maybe a Watchman had seen civilization with the skin ripped off one time too many and stopped acting like a Watchman and started acting like a normal human being and realized that the click of the crossbow or the sweep of the sword would make all the world so clean.

And you couldn't think like that, even about vampires. Even though they'd take the lives of other people because little lives don't matter and what the hell can we take away from them?

And, too, you couldn't think like that because they gave you a sword and a badge and that turned you into something else and that had to mean there were some thoughts you couldn't think.

What can I say about Feet of Clay? I finished it in about two days. I liked it so much I want to read it over again, and as predicted, I CAN love Sam Vimes even more. Here there's a mysterious poisoning and a series of mysterious murders apparently committed by a golem, and more than one attempt to establish monarchy in Ankh-Morpork, including a scheme to set up Nobby as a puppet ruler, on the pretext that he's the only living descendant of some earl. The conspirators ply him with brandy and try to nudge him into volunteering to be the new Hair Apparent. Luckily, Nobby has spent time in the armed forces and knows better than to to volunteer for anything, however attractive the officer class makes it sound.

As always, a mix of the stupidest and best jokes, all thrown in together so you hardly know which is which.

I loved the cautious friendship between Cheery and Angua, and Carrot being Carrot, and [Spoiler!]the philosophical golem, who when struck by lightning from on high, retorts that he doesn't call that much of an argument. The golem story is surprisingly beautiful, though I don't know why I should be so surprised. By now I should just expect that at some point Pratchett is going to make me sit down and weep in the middle of the joke pile. And Vimes' solution to any debate about the humanity of X is to give X a job in the Watch. Even vampires?? idk, don't push him; he's had a rough decade. MAYBE EVEN VAMPIRES.

There's so much going on in this book, so if I've missed your favorite thing, please mention it! The best Watch book yet? MAYBE. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot.

Also finished in two days, though not exactly the same two days: Second Foundation. This one has a lot of fast-paced space adventure, which by Foundation standards means we get a continuous arc of many months instead of the usual "twenty pages of meetings + a fifty-year time jump." Don't worry, there are still plenty of time jumps! Arkady Darell, the fourteen-year-old fugitive, is delightful in a very Asimovian and 1950s way. The reader can probably see the big twist coming a little ahead of everyone else, but that's a feature here, not a bug. I love the brief but evocative descriptions of Trantor, now an agricultural planet, and its massive, silent ruins. The thing about the Foundation books is I don't actually care who wins, but they're fun anyway.

I didn't finish Nana in two days, but I did finish it. Nana does all right for a while, then dies abruptly and pointlessly of a disfiguring disease -- actually, I appreciated the pointlessness; it wasn't a "moralizing" death -- that is, Zola does some moralizing, and maybe one of Nana's ex-lovers or something indulges in a little, but she dies of smallpox because her son caught smallpox and she tried to nurse him. Her health is ruined not by her vices, which barely touch her, but by an act of kindness, or maybe of maternal selfishness. The randomness of her fate neatly undercuts any previous sermonizing and is satisfyingly unsatisfying.

Unless "smallpox" is a euphemism for "syphilis," in which case disregard the above.

There are some terrific scenes in Nana, like her triumph at the races, where she wears an outlandish costume and the horse named after her surprises everyone by winning. I think if Nana were a minor character in a story about men, I would look askance at her -- badly imagined stereotype, too easy to deride -- but as a main character I liked her. She's totally unreflective, spectacularly vain, ruthless and stupid at the same time - I was sorry she didn't snag herself one of those rich love-mad suitors while the getting was good and spend the next forty years having affairs and the subsequent ten doing good works in the parish so she could score a gigantic tombstone (preferably of her own design). Why did I want her to "win" when Zola was so careful to remove all redeeming qualities from her character? Maybe because there are no really "good" characters in the book, except the baby son whom hardly anyone but Nana cares about except as a cautionary tale, maybe just because she is so unlike other book protagonists.

And The Story of an African Farm, but I'll save that one for next week, or something.

What I'm Reading Now

The Dark Lantern is just as odd and fascinating and chock full of physical details as ever. Richard, the awkward and stiff-necked butterfly collector, has married Hetty, a sweet, good-humored girl who doesn't understand him but loves him anyway for reasons that are never entirely clear (as sometimes happens). Her father doesn't approve of Richard (he calls him a "humorless stick," which is accurate) and Richard's job depends on him remaining unmarried during his probationary period. Hetty is willing to wait, but Richard doesn't trust her, or himself to keep on attracting her, so they marry in secret. Is this ever not a terrible plan? Hetty goes back to live with her parents, but then she gets pregnant, so it has to come out. Now Hetty and Dickie have set up housekeeping and are waiting for the baby to be born before they attempt to make up with Hetty's dad. The last thing Hetty's dad did was punch Hetty hard enough to knock her unconscious. Everything's a little low-level awful, due in large part to Dickie's humorless stickness -- I was going to quote a passage here, but it looks like I've left the book at home, so next time! Poor Hetty can't do anything right.

Dickie is another character type I haven't necessarily seen a lot of in books - sort of a misanthropic socially conservative nerd? He assumes people won't like him and it makes him more unlikable, and spends a lot of mental energy recasting his insecurities as rare and unfashionable virtues. He reminds me a little of a younger, more physically attractive Ignatius J. Reilly. I think I mentioned this before -- one of the things that makes him interesting is that he's a prude by late Victorian standards, and the other characters recognize him as such.

Meanwhile, Hetty's brother Hughie has syphilis, and is busy trying to hide it from his innocent sister and mother. Aww, Hughie. :( Maybe if you'd been a little more prudish yourself, you wouldn't hurt so much. :(

I just started Foundation's Edge, a 30-years-later sequel to the Foundation trilogy. I haven't been able to get through the later Foundation books before, but now I am in a Foundation-positive mood, so we'll see how long the momentum lasts. Some guy keeps saying there is no Seldon Plan; the Seldonites are taking it badly. I'm inclined to agree with him; the whole thing's seemed fishy from the start.

What I Plan to Read Next

Homegoing, a new book(!) at some point in the near future -- I keep seeing it around and it looks good. The next Watch book, or Equal Rites, possibly depending on which one the library has (if the library has either). Pere Goriot. Maybe some nonfiction??


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2016 06:44 pm (UTC)
I have only read one Zola book, Germinal, but it also had the odd characteristic of being stuffed full of characters who are just awful and yet in some odd way I rooted for them too. (Well, Catherine isn't awful. But pretty much everyone else is.) Someday I should read Nana too.

I can only assume that Richard is super good-looking in a way that has blinded poor Hetty to all his other poor qualities. I sort of hope she remains in the dark, because it doesn't sound like it would be pleasant to wake up to the realization that one's spouse is a humorless late-Victorian prude who is convinced his insecurities are secretly virtues. Unfashionable virtues, to boot. He sounds completely armored from ever realizing that he might be in the wrong or need to change in any way.
Aug. 24th, 2016 07:10 pm (UTC)
He is completely armored, poor thing. Hetty likes him in part because he's so different from her, because she feels like maybe he can teach her something, and she's been raised to believe that marriage is a good way for girls to learn new things. And his nerdiness is appealing, too: Hetty's always a little torn between being horrified at his willingness to kill butterflies for his collection and impressed that he knows so much about nature. He has all these interests that her family doesn't have. But they just don't understand each other. Hetty keeps trying to do nice things for him and accidentally offending him instead. Poor Hetty. :(

Read Nana! It's not long.
Aug. 24th, 2016 10:53 pm (UTC)
Aug. 25th, 2016 03:27 pm (UTC)
Hey! What did you think of The Automatic Detective, speaking of detectives who aren't human in the traditional sense? I hope you've had time to relax a little in the midst of everything else.
Aug. 25th, 2016 11:26 pm (UTC)
Not much time, lol!! I had to finish up The Night Circus (library book), but I have just gotten back to TAD and I'm LOVING it! :D He just visited his shrink at her apartment and is weighing what he can and cannot do at this point. It is a fun read - thank you so much for sending it to me! :D
Aug. 25th, 2016 07:16 am (UTC)
The vampire's name is Sally. No further spoilers, I won't even tell you which book. ;-) And yes, he does give them all jobs. Partly, though, it's a sneaky move, such as giving Reg Shoe a job when he comes to complain about treatment of zombies... Afterwards, guess who complains about HIM?
Aug. 25th, 2016 03:26 pm (UTC)
Aug. 25th, 2016 08:53 am (UTC)
Aww, I'm so glad you liked Feet of Clay! It is great in so many ways & I'm happy to hear you thought so too. (I like the Patrician patiently waiting for Vimes to get to the solution to the mystery even though he's already worked it out.)

And Equal Rites will be a serious come-down from a middle-Pratchett; you might get whiplash. If you do, don't blame me, I said you don't really need to read that one first at all, just Wyrd Sisters. ;-p)

Aug. 25th, 2016 03:25 pm (UTC)
Aww, but I want to meet your Granny for the first time! Anyway, the library had neither that nor Wyrd Sisters nor Jingo, so I'm reading The Fifth Elephant instead.

When Vimes burned down the vampire genealogy library, I was like, but VIMES, genealogy isn't NECESSARILY a tool of social and political domination, what about lost_spook's newspapers?? But I saw his point all the same.
Aug. 27th, 2016 08:08 am (UTC)
LOL, yes, burning the genealogical library is hard to take, but I suppose at least it was just heraldry... :-)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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