Research, Reviews

Reading on Collins Street The sun’s coming up pink as I start this. It’s cold, so after sniffing his bowl and finding nothing but boring plain kibble in it, Odd Trundles proceeded to trundle into my bedroom and hop up on the bed, where he usually sleeps while I take my morning run with Miss B. I imagine him saying “FUCK THIS, I’M GOING BACK TO SLEEP.” Which, you know, really, I can’t blame him.

We haven’t had rain in a bit, and my hair is full of static. It probably matches the rest of me. Applications of cocoanut oil are in order, as usual. The no-shampoo thing hasn’t stopped that, at least. The transition part of waxy, oily hair seems to have halted too. It’s interesting to note how hair texture changes at different parts of the process.

The current project is the next Bannon & Clare book, since the Ripper Affair proofs have been turned in. To that end I’m trying Daryl Gregory’s Spreadsheet of Shame, since my output has fallen off a bit recently. (Of course, the fic I was writing to order for Mel Sterling might have had something to do with that.)

Anyway, we’ll see if I can be shamed by a spreadsheet.

I thought I’d list the books I’ve finished in 2014 so far, as well as my current reading. This might force me to get more non-research reading done–another thing that’s fallen off recently.

* Satantango, Laszlo Krasnahorkai. Part of last year’s “works in translation” reading binge. A weird, circular, incredibly tactile work. I could almost feel the world falling apart all around me as I read. Structurally it’s pretty robust, craftwise there’s a lot of headhopping but Krasznahorkai is a master, so I was never at a loss to determine who was speaking. My favourite character is probably Futaki, just because he’s so contrary and helpless at the same time. Anyway, if you want a mindbender and a good challenging read, highly recommended.

* Between Two Fires, Christopher Buehlman. I read Buehlman’s Those Across the River recently too, and while it was an okay first effort I had some qualms. There’s a great deal to like about his second book, set during the Great Plague–some of the scene-setting is genuinely chilling, and Buehlman has an eye for detail and a willingness to sometimes hurt his characters. Unfortunately, Thomas the male hero is a bit of a Gary Stu, and the girl Delphine is a prime example of a female character whose body is used to transact between the various males that the story is really about, including God. (See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose Between Men was a revelation in literary criticism for me.) The book missed greatness by a narrow margin, but it held me all the way through, had no major structural problems, and had genuinely horrific as well as funny and tender moments. In all, a keeper.

* The History of the Taiping Revolution, Augustus Lindley. Research reading for the next Bannon & Clare book. Lindley was involved with some of the leaders of the Taiping Rebellion, and I figured I’d start with the small bit of contemporary coverage I could find on that historical era. It’s interesting to see his Eurocentrism and Victorian British colonialism intersecting with his sympathy for the rebels, especially since he was diametrically and vociferously opposed to the British lending aid to the Qing dynasty to keep it in power against the rebellion.

* Ada, or Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov. I usually do a reread of this or Invitation to a Beheading almost-yearly. Invitation remains my favourite Nabokov book, but Ada is a glut of sheer pleasure, and every time I read it I find something new. I have some lit crit of Nabokov lying around I should plow through soon, too.

* God’s Chinese Son, Jonathan Spence. Again, research reading. This focuses on Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the Taiping Rebellion, who had what can be described as a classic shamanistic vision–including a protracted illness, a seeming death, and a particular bit of the vision where he was split open and organs were taken out, then new, “stainless” organs were put in and he was closed up by the spirits attending him. (Which is incredibly common in the visions that precipitate a shaman, I’ve seen similar accounts all over.) Hong came “back to life” and realized later that a collection of Baptist missionary tracts translated into Chinese and given to him on the street (he averred that he only glanced through them at the time and set them on his bookshelf) gave him a framework for the rest of his vision. He called Jesus his “Elder Brother”, a term of high reverence in his culture that was sadly misinterpreted by Westerners afterward, and began preaching at and baptizing his fellows. I’m only midway through this one, and I have to say that Spence’s decision to use present tense, while no doubt intended to add immediacy, is distracting and hamfisted. Plus, I get the idea Spence is trying to “sex up” the story in various ways, to make Hong fit into a Western “cult leader” narrative. I’m not finished, like I said, so I’m not sure where this will end up, and reading Lindley’s paean to the Taipings has probably colored my viewpoint.

* Grimoires, Owen Davies. Again, research, but of the occult variety. I love the idea of magic books and this particular history got a good Spiral Nature review, so I figured I’d give it a shot. This is my bedtime read, and as such, slow going.

I’ve been meaning to do this sort of post ever since the New Year, so here it is. I should have a report when I finish the Spence, and also the Davies. I have more research books on the Taiping and Boxer rebellions en route, which should be fun.

And now, the sun is well up–it’s taken me a while to finish this, what with the usual morning crazy around here. It’s time for a run now that the ice has probably melted off, and

  • Kathleen Schaefer

    Hi Lilith
    Recently re-read steel flower …
    Still loving it!
    Thank you!

    More please?!

    Kathleen

  • I dont know if you’re interested, but there’s a spreadsheet variant called the Magic Spreadsheet. Basically you get awarded points for consistency per day with added bonuses for having excess of your daily required wordcount.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AoK7WzmhEcBUdGVXUVFqX3dmRWtCcnJPMVdWZ1J4T0E&usp=sharing#gid=0

  • That does look really nice, but the group component would kill it for me. It may work for other more social writers, though!

  • Michele

    OMG! Lili, I know Chris! I used to work with him at ren faire’s in Florida! he was known as Christophe the Insultor, and that man can use language as a weapon! haven’t seen him in years, but I can hear his voice in my head sometimes when I read his books. kinda creepy, but cool!

  • How wonderful! I can believe he has a way with words in person, too.