Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
3:13 pm - Reading Wednesday
What did you just finish?
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I'd read this before, but decided to reread it this week on the spur on the moment. It's my favorite of Austen's novels; I used to like Emma best, but when I reread it recently, I was too bothered by the classism to enjoy it as much as I once had. (Not that any of Austen's novels are free of classism, of course, but in Mansfield Park it's a quiet background noise compared to the CENTRAL FOCUS OF THE PLOT as it is in Emma.) Fanny is timid, unloved, and suffers from some undefined type of chronic illness (I'm pointlessly fascinated by trying to figure out what the hell, specifically, it is, since it can apparently only be treated by riding horses), and, as in most Austen novels, nearly everyone around her is a terrible human being, of one type or another. She's incredibly sympathetic, at least to me, and I do like how clearly she sees people.

Anyway, here are some people who are more eloquent than me saying interesting things about the book:
A very excellent discussion on FFA about Fanny Price: self-righteous prig or no?
A Telegraph review. I'm not sure I can go as far as the author does with the idea of slavery being an important underpinning of the book, but it's an intriguing idea, at least.

What are you currently reading?
This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by José Vilson. A non-fiction book about teaching in NYC's public schools.

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Thursday, May 21st, 2015
10:05 pm - Reading Wedne– Thursday
What did you just finish?
Revenge of the Rose by Nicole Galland. I read this as part of my 'clearing off the bookshelves' project, as I am incredibly susceptible to buying historical fiction without knowing anything about it. In this case, it didn't work out for me. This novel is set in the 12th century Holy Roman Empire, and focuses on Willem, a young knight, Willem's beautiful sister, and Willem's best friend Jouglet, the emperor's personal musician. The writing was bland, the characters shallow, and the plot was much closer to "these are some dumb deus ex machina coincidences" than "wow, how neatly it all ties together!", which presumably is what the author was going for. But my biggest problem with the book involves a major spoiler, so I'm going to put it behind a cut: [Spoiler (click to open)]The emperor's musician is eventually revealed to be a woman. Now, I am normally totally down for "woman dresses as a man for the freedom it allows her"! It is one of my favorite narrative tropes. But this book goes really far with it before finally giving the reader this reveal; about two hundred pages and, more importantly, after Willem and Jouglet have kissed and had a serious discussion about whether Willem would get into a relationship with another man. I was so ready for a gay historical romance!

But fine, that's not what this book wanted to be. Still, since it went to such lengths to confuse the question of Jouglet's identity, I expected there to be some interesting commentary on gender roles, or desire, or something. But, nope. Revenge of the Rose is not at all interested in those topics. Instead, there's several hundred more pages to fill up with scandal about Willem and Jouglet trying to keep their relationship a secret, everyone assuming they're gay, and Willem trying to talk Jouglet into revealing herself because that will apparently make everything okay. But this is the problem: in the actual 1100s, a woman dressing as a man and taking on a political role (since Jouglet is a spy and adviser for the emperor) would have been considered just as perverse and sacrilegious as two men sleeping together! Possibly moreso! It would not have made everything okay! And the thing is, I can enjoy it when a historical novel decides to throw accuracy out the window for the sake of fun, but Revenge of the Rose had plenty of other female characters constrained by vaguely accurate gender roles. Women's virginity and dowries are major parts of the plot, and multiple female characters are forced into cloister by their male relatives. Just... none of this applied to Jouglet. For some reason.

So, in summary: not recommended.

As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson. I meant to read something more productive next, but Revenge of the Rose was so terrible that I needed a palate cleanser. As the Crow Flies is the 8th book in the Walt Longmire series, which I've slowly been making my way through, and is one of my favorites from it so far. In this one, Sheriff Longmire is helping to plan his daughter's wedding when he witnesses a woman jump – or fall, or be pushed – from a cliff. The investigation is taken over by Lolo Long, the newly-appointed local tribal police chief (the death, and most of the book, takes place on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation). A lot of the book is taken up with the relationship between Longmire and Long; she's short-tempered, violent, and refuses to apologize, none of which are good traits for a cop to have. Longmire tries to teach her to be a better cop, and frankly, someone constantly emphasizing how important it is not to get angry might be the only police-oriented narrative I want to read about right now.

Anyway, there were multiple minor characters I enjoyed and hope to see again in future books, there was a ton of cute interaction between Longmire and his best friend Henry Standing Bear, and the sequence where Longmire takes peyote was fantastic.

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. It feels a bit weird reviewing this; I mean really, what am I going to say that hasn't been said before? I'd never read or seen this before, and my expectations from cultural osmosis were a bit off from what it actually was. I expected most of the focus to be on the romance, so all of the battle scenes stuff about Roman politics was a bit of a surprise. I enjoyed it! But again... Shakespeare. It feels weird to call it enjoyable. I'd like to watch a production of this now, if anyone has a favorite film version to recommend?

What are you currently reading?
Haven't started anything else yet!

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Friday, May 15th, 2015
5:32 pm - Fic Recs!
A few fics that I've enjoyed recently:

Investigation Report of Sergeant E Rilz by NightsMistress. Guardians of the Galaxy, gen, 4.2k.
I beta'd this, so I am obviously not objective, but this is an absolutely delightful fic that everyone should read. The Guardians cause trouble wherever they go; this might be a minor escapade, but it's still hilarious to read about. A wonderful story.

the revelations in your skin by afterism. Frozen, Elsa/Hans, 105.8k.
Okay, look, if someone had told me I would become obsessed with a novel-length Frozen fanfic, I would not have believed them either. But you guys. This fic. IT'S SO GOOD. It's hot, it's emotional, it's got a plot and a slow-burn relationship and beautiful writing, the characterization is note-perfect, it's absolutely everything I didn't know I wanted. It's got a D/s relationship (with femdom!) which personally I've gotten kind of tired of reading about, because so much fic these days is about D/s, but this is by far the best depiction of that sort of relationship I've read. It's believable, it's not just a cookie-cutter pattern but actually tied to these specific characters and the development of their specific relationship, it's well-done, and of course, it's totally hot. I loved this fic so much and I just want to recommend it to everyone.

Wing and a Prayer by Sholio. MCU, Bucky and Sam, 32.2k. I feel like it's relatively rare to read a good fic all about the development of a friendship, but this story does just that, and a wonderful job of it too. I really enjoyed seeing these guys slowly work into knowing and trusting one another.

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Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
1:39 pm - Reading Wednesday
What did you just finish?
I did finish The Reason for Flowers by Stephen Buchmann this week, but as it was an ARC from NetGalley, they're asking people to delay reviews until closer to the publication date. So, uh, I'll try and remember to post about that in July!

What are you currently reading?
Revenge of the Rose by Nicole Galland. A novel set in the 12th century Holy Roman Empire. It's turning out to be not nearly as well-written as I'd like, but on the other hand, I think there might be a gay relationship developing. Which would be cool, and for which I'm willing to forgive a lot.

...well, that was a short post this week!

(2 comments | comment on this)

Monday, May 11th, 2015
2:03 pm - Watching Monday
Oh, man, I haven't done one of these posts in aaaages. So here's a very brief summary of some movies I've seen lately:

It Follows
An incredibly creepy horror movie that manages to have no gore at all! :D Who knew such things still existed? I adored this, and I like it more and more as time passes and I look back on it. The premise is that there's a curse passed on by having sex: a thing (a monster? a ghost?) that will constantly follow you. It can look like anything - strangers, friends, family members - and if it catches you, it'll kill you. The only way to get rid of it is by having sex with someone else, but of course to do so is to sentence them to death. It was clever and terrifying and disturbing, and I just liked it so much.

The movie pretty much has abhorrent politics (from the opening shot that's just labelled "Middle East" because it's all one country, right) and I am so not designed for suit-porn (personally, I thought Eggsy got less and less hot over the course of the film, which is clearly not the intended reaction), but with all of that said, it's a pretty amusing action movie that I enjoyed more than I expected to! I'm not engaged enough to actually join the fandom, but I'm totally not surprised that a lot of people ended up shipping it.

True Story
A weird little movie about a man accused of killing his family and the journalist investigating his story. I'm not sure how much I actually liked this - it definitely dragged in some places in the middle, with the endless long shots of the two main dudes sitting in an empty white room staring at each other - but if nothing else, it was interesting to see Jonah Hill in a drama.

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Saturday, May 9th, 2015
6:36 pm - National Poetry Month
Tired by Langston Hughes

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two —
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.

(And that's the last one until next April! Happy - very belated - and not necessarily the appropriate nation - National Poetry Month to you all!)

(2 comments | comment on this)

Friday, May 8th, 2015
9:38 pm - National Poetry Month
Man and God, Mohammad Iqbal. Translated by Khushwant Singh.

You made the night, I lit the lamp in it.
You made the clay, I moulded it into a goblet.
In the wild wastes, mountains and forests that you made
Orchards, flower beds and gardens have I laid
It is I who ground stones and turned them into mirrors,
It is I who out of poison extracted its antidote.

(comment on this)

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
10:27 pm - National Poetry Month
The Sun by Mary Oliver

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

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Wednesday, May 6th, 2015
5:42 pm - Reading Wednesday
What did you just finish?
Summoned to Tourney by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon. A Bard, an elf, and a witch fight evil government scientists in order to prevent a massive earthquake from destroying San Fransisco, which - besides being bad in and of itself - would allow demons to take over the world. I liked this book less than the first one in the series, I think because it was much more focused on the plot and less on the character interactions. That said, I'd still recommend it for anyone looking for books about clair universes, because it's a sweet if slight example of one.

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. I'd read this before, but it was nice to read again. I liked it more this time too, though the discussion at the end about whether police can kill people was a lot more heart-rending than I'd remembered it being. At least Peter wins that argument.

The Quick by Lauren Owen. OH MY GOD YOU GUYS READ THIS BOOK. The first 120 pages or so are a quiet, atmospheric account of the childhood and life of James Norbury, a young man in 1890s London with just enough money that he doesn't need to work and can instead pursue his dream of being a poet, but not enough money to afford rooms of his own. He gradually falls in love with his roommate, Christopher, and is just beginning to deal with all the problems that entails. And then the vampires show up.

This book is basically Dracula, if Lucy were a gay dude and his rescuer was his plain, country-girl sister. It even has some of the epistolary quality of Dracula, through excerpts from a character's journal. But there's also Dickens in there (plucky street urchins! vivid descriptions of the dirt of London!), Henry James in the creepy, abandoned family Hall, and a million other Gothic authors. I suppose this book's appeal depends on your tolerance for horror, vampires, and Victorian stylization, but I loved it so much! These are not the sexy, seductive vampires of Anne Rice and Twilight; these are creeping horrors, empty and parasitic, dead behind the eyes and cold beneath the skin. The horror in the book is mostly off-screen rather than gory direct violence, which is my preferred style. I'm also endlessly fascinated by any horror that uses the political trends of the Victorian era - social darwinism, eugenics, imperialism, female hysterics, etc - to imbue its literal monsters with human monstrousness.

I want more books by the author immediately, but unfortunately this is her first.

What are you currently reading?
The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, and Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann. A NetGalley book about - well, that subtitle really covers it all, doesn't it?

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Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
4:30 pm - National Poetry Month
Tonight I Can Write by Pablo Neruda. Translation by W.S. Merwin.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, "The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance."

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses. that I write for her.

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Monday, May 4th, 2015
4:24 pm - National Poetry Month
Lanquan li jorn son lonc en may by Jaufre Rudel. (I'm not sure who the translator is, but I like this version better than any of the other ones I've seen.)

During May, when the days are long,
I admire the song of the birds from far away
and when I have gone away from there
I remember a love far away.
I go scowling, with my head down
so much that songs and hawthorn flowers
aren't better, to me, than the frozen Winter.

I trust the Lord's fairness
in having formed this faraway love,
but for each consolation I achieve
I get two ills, because I am so far away.
Ah! Why didn't I go there as a pilgrim,
so that my staff and hooded cloak
would be beheld by her beautiful eyes!

It will certainly feel like joy when I ask her,
for the love of god, to be hosted;
and, if she likes it, I shall lodge
near her, although I come from far away.
Conversation is so pleasant
when the faraway lover is so close
that he would long to be welcome with kind intentions.

Sad and pained shall I depart
if I don't see this faraway love.
I don't know when ever I shall see her,
so far away our countries are.
So many are the crossings and the roads
that I can't tell.
But be everything as she likes it.

Never shall I enjoy love
unless I enjoy this faraway love,
since I don't know of a better and worthier one
anywhere, near or far away.
So abundant and sovereign her merits are
that down there, in the Saracen's realm,
I wish I were held in thrall for her sake.

God, who created all that comes and goes
and shaped this faraway love,
give me strength, since I already have the intention,
so that I see this love far away
in reality and in a fitting place
so that rooms and gardens
shall seem to me to be new palaces.

He is true who calls me grasping
and longing for a faraway love
since no other merriment pleases me as much
as enjoying a faraway love.
But that which I want is denied to me
since my godfather made it so
that I love and am not loved.

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Sunday, May 3rd, 2015
1:44 pm - National Poetry Month
One Word is Too Often Profaned by Percy Bysshe Shelley

One word is too often profaned
For me to profane it,
One feeling too falsely disdain'd
For thee to disdain it.
One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother,
And pity from thee more dear
Than that from another.

I can give not what men call love;
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not:
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

(comment on this)

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
10:05 pm - National Poetry Month
Surrender by Rumi. Translation by Coleman Barks.

Joseph is back.
And if you don't feel in yourself
the freshness of Joseph,
be Jacob.

Weep, and then smile.
Do not pretend to know something
you have not experienced.

There is a necessary dying,
and then Jesus is breathing again.

Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender.

(comment on this)

Friday, May 1st, 2015
2:37 pm - National Poetry Month
(Okay, yes, it's no longer April, but I only posted 22 poems and I want to get up to 30.)

A Crazed Girl by William Butler Yeats

That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,
Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea.'

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Thursday, April 30th, 2015
9:40 pm - National Poetry Month
Elegy for Jane by Theodore Roethke

(My student, thrown by a horse)

I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils; 

And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;

And how, once started into talk, the light syllables leaped for her. 

And she balanced in the delight of her thought,

A wren, happy, tail into the wind, 

Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.

The shade sang with her; 

The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing, 

And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,

Even a father could not find her:

Scraping her cheek against straw,

Stirring the clearest water. 

My sparrow, you are not here, 

Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.

The sides of wet stones cannot console me, 

Nor the moss, wound with the last light. 

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,

My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon. 

Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:

I, with no rights in this matter, 

Neither father nor lover.

(comment on this)

9:35 pm - Reading Wedne– Thursday
What did you just finish?
The Trouble with Post-Blackness, edited by Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons. A collection of academic essays focusing on the problems with the idea of "post-black" or "post-racial". There's a lot of nice essays in here, though there's few really new ideas, at least if you're at all familiar with this conversation. I thought Bayo Holsey's article, "Embodying Africa: Roots-Seekers and the Politics of Blackness" (about tourism in Africa), and Emily Raboteau's poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Post-Blackness", were stand-outs, but all of the articles were worth reading. The book certainly has good timing coming out now, but unfortunately all of the essays were clearly written before the police brutality conversation heated up. There's a few mentions of Travyon Martin in some of the essays, but nothing about Michael Brown or Eric Garner or, obviously, Freddie Gray.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan. Horace is a young black man in rural North Carolina: brilliant, the hope of his family and school. But Horace is so distraught with himself (exactly why he feels this way takes a while for the book to reveal) that he attempts a magic spell to transform into a bird, so that he won't have to live a human life. Unfortunately, he instead summons a demon which takes him over and forces him to do various weird and terrible things. Or maybe he has a mental break that he interprets as a demon; the book balances right on the edge where either interpretation is possible. Scenes from the night in 1984 when this happened are interspersed with scenes from a single day slightly more than a year later, when three of Horace's relatives go to visit a sick man in the hospital. The POV jumps around between Horace and his relatives, each of them from a different generation and with a different perspective on the family, faith, relationships, money, racism, the city vs the countryside, and other important topics.

I really liked this book, though magic realism usually doesn't work for me. I picked this up because years ago I read Kenan's short story collection, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, and absolutely adored it. Unfortunately though, I see Kenan has written almost nothing new since the early 90s; I wonder what happened to him.

What are you currently reading?
Summoned to Tourney by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon. A sequel to the ridiculous elf/bard/witch threesome book I read last week. It continues to be both ridiculous:
There were two elves — Eric could see their pointed ears if he looked really closely, the way he did if he suspected illusion — already in the hot tub. They waved indolently at Eric and Kory as they passed, but didn’t move. By the stature and the fact that they looked like adolescents, Eric guessed that they were Low Court elves, the kind that were tied to specific oak groves and couldn’t leave them without a lot of magical help from their High Court relatives. The Low Court kids — he always thought of them as kids, even though they were usually hundreds of years old, since that was what they looked like and often acted like — tended to hang out in shopping malls a lot. They’d use their magics to copy or snitch whatever hot fashion items took their fancy, replicate just enough cash to buy themselves endless meals of junk food, sneak into the movie theaters, and play video games that lasted for days. No one ever noticed them, since they looked just like all the other kids in the malls.

and full of adorable OT3-ness:
Beth was already out of her clothes and into the shower; they joined her. It was a tight squeeze for three, but they’d done it before. There wasn’t as much horseplay as they usually indulged in, but they were still breathless with laughter when they tumbled out, now clean, to scramble into clothes.

And now there are evil government scientists kidnapping magical people! These books need a Yuletide fandom.

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. I've read this before, but felt like rereading it recently. I was a little disappointed the first time I read it – I liked it, but didn't feel it was as good as the first book in the series – but I'm really enjoying it this time.

(8 comments | comment on this)

12:51 pm - National Poetry Month
Thy Fingers Make Early Flowers by e.e. cummings

Thy fingers make early flowers
of all things.
thy hair mostly the hours love:
a smoothness which
(though love be a day)
do not fear,we will go amaying.

thy whitest feet crisply are straying.
thy moist eyes are at kisses playing,
whose strangeness much
(though love be a day)
for which girl art thou flowers bringing?

To be thy lips is a sweet thing
and small.
Death,thee i call rich beyond wishing
if this thou catch,
else missing.
(though love be a day
and life be nothing,it shall not stop kissing).

(2 comments | comment on this)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
9:32 pm - National Poetry Month
Sonnet 87 by William Shakespeare

Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate,
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thy self thou gavest, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me to whom thou gav'st it else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgement making.
   Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth flatter,
   In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.

(4 comments | comment on this)

6:24 pm - National Poetry Month
For Jane by Charles Bukowski

225 days under grass
and you know more than I.
they have long taken your blood,
you are a dry stick in a basket.
is this how it works?
in this room
the hours of love
still make shadows.

when you left
you took almost
I kneel in the nights
before tigers
that will not let me be.

what you were
will not happen again.
the tigers have found me
and I do not care.

(3 comments | comment on this)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
9:44 pm - National Poetry Month
Air by W.S. Merwin

Naturally it is night.
Under the overturned lute with its
One string I am going my way
Which has a strange sound.

This way the dust, that way the dust.
I listen to both sides
But I keep right on.
I remember the leaves sitting in judgment
And then winter.

I remember the rain with its bundle of roads.
The rain taking all its roads.

Young as I am, old as I am,

I forget tomorrow, the blind man.
I forget the life among the buried windows.
The eyes in the curtains.
The wall
Growing through the immortelles.
I forget silence
The owner of the smile.

This must be what I wanted to be doing,
Walking at night between the two deserts,

(comment on this)

6:08 pm - National Poetry Month
(Ahh, somehow I've forgotten to post for the last week!)

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

(2 comments | comment on this)

Saturday, April 25th, 2015
11:27 pm - Fic Meme
A meme taken from dhampyresa:

My Top Ten AO3 Fic by Hits:
1. Psalm 133, 4297 hits. Boondock Saints, Connor/Muphy, complete porn. Knowing fandom, it's really not surprising that my most popular fic is short brother-cest porn.
2. Strange Language, 1764 hits. A Song of Ice and Fire, gen focusing on Missandei and, to a lesser extent, Dany. A Yuletide fic, which always helps with the hit count, and a fic written before the TV show started, which I suppose gave it the advantage of being there first.
3. Four Moments the Sands of Time Didn't Erase (and One It Did), 1180 hits. Prince of Persia. More porn (m/m, m/f, and threesome!) and another Yuletide fic.
4. A Place to See Things You’ve Not Imagined (The Singapore Counterpoint), 1131 hits. Pirates of the Caribbean, mostly about an OC with an outside perspective on the canon characters. I'm not sure why this fic is so popular; maybe it's just the advantage of a big fandom.
5. Summer's Day, 856 hits. Yami no Matsuei, Tsuzuki/Hisoka first time. Awww, it's one of the first fics I ever wrote. Good to know my habit of pretentiously titling fics with Shakespeare quotes dates back that far. But I'm glad people are still reading it.
6. Kissing Cousins, 821 hits. Georgette Heyer's Cotillion, Freddy/Jack. Another Yuletide fic! I'm not sure where these hits are coming from, since I don't think Heyer has that big of a fandom.
7. Tolerance and Love (Apres Moi Le Deluge Descant), 768 hits. Merlin, Uther/Morgana. Another one where I'm not really sure where the hits are coming from, but clearly most people do not find what they're looking for, since it only has 4 kudos.
8. Five Things That Never Happened to Hisoka, 726 hits. Yami no Matsuei, mix of gen and Tsuzuki/Hisoka. YOU GUYS I WROTE A FIVE THINGS FIC SO LONG AGO I HAD TO EXPLAIN THE CONCEPT IN MY AUTHOR'S NOTES /old-school cred
9. Thy Faithfulness in Destruction, 645 hits. Yami no Matsuei, Muraki/Tsuzuki dubcon. I'm kind of surprised this one isn't more popular; I'd consider it the best written of my YnM fics. But I suppose it's not that surprising that people prefer fluffy first times or fun AUs. (Which sounds more cynical than I mean it to be! It's just that 'stylistic quality' is probably not most people's main factor in choosing a story.)
10. A Very Necessary Thing, 609 hits. Swordspoint, Richard/Alec. I think the Yuletide bump is why this fic ranks over any of my other Swordspoint fics, but I am fond of it. It actually has a plot other than porn! :D

My Top Ten AO3 Fic by Kudos:
1. Psalm 133, 138 kudos. Still not surprised by fandom.
2. Learning the Rules, 89 kudos. Goblin Emperor, gen about Maia adjusting to life post-book. But this one is surprising! It's such a tiny fandom and such a new fic that I had no idea it was my #2 fic.
3. A Very Necessary Thing, 57 kudos.
4. Strange Language, 50 kudos.
5. Too Great to Ignore, 35 kudos. Rivers of London, Peter/Nightingale H/C pining. God damn, RoL fandom! 35 kudos for a drabble? I guess I need to write more for you.
6. Summer's Day, 34 kudos.
7. Posession, 30 kudos. Yami no Matsuei, Tsuzuki/Hisoka porn that I couldn't be bothered to write an actual scenario for. So of course it's incredibly popular.
8. Ain't Gonna Waste My Pleasures, 28 kudos. Practically original fic about a folk song. AKA that one time I kinda had a Yuletide hit.
9. Five Things That Never Happened to Hisoka, 26 kudos.
10. Wear This Together, 26 kudos. Sleepy Hollow, Ichabbie pining. Apparently pining drabbles in new fandoms work out very well for me!

Almost none of these are what I would consider my "best" fics, or my favorites. A lot of them are fairly old, which I suppose is why they've had time to rack up so many hits and/or kudos. Some of them are older than A03 though, which means they'd be even higher if one could somehow add in the hitcounts of their original incarnations on LJ or the old Yuletide site. It's kind of interesting that my list for top hits has been fairly steady for a while (not that I check it that often), but the top kudos list has several new fic on it. Maybe it's just that several of my top hit fics are porn, and people are sometimes shy about giving kudos to porn (especially when it involves incest or dubcon).

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
8:50 pm - Reading Wednesday
I missed writing up a post last week, so I have more books than usual to cover!

What did you just finish?
Tibet Wild: A Naturalist's Journey on the Roof of the World by George Schaller. An account of Schaller's time researching the chiru, a sort of antelope or gazelle found the Chang Tang, the northern plain of Tibet. Well, that's what the summary said. In reality, that only takes up about half of the book, with the rest being given over to random chapters on topics like snow leopards, Tibetan bears, wild sheep, pikas (sort of a wild hamster), and Schaller's personal life story. Since these chapters were mostly way more interesting than the fucking chiru, which I was tired of ten pages in, I didn't mind. Though I have to say an account of his childhood in WWII-era Germany was not what I expected from the cover.

This is possibly the most boring book I have ever read. If I hadn't needed to write a review for NetGalley, I would never have bothered to finish it. Schaller rarely bothers to tell the reader anything about the chiru - what it looks like, its biology, its behavior - but instead writes endless passages that read something like this: "Today we counted 115 chiru. The next morning the car got stuck in the mud. We counted 97 chiru. The next day it snowed. 103 chiru." On and on and on. There are no characters in the book except for Schaller himself; though he has companions on his trips and occasionally encounters politicians or locals or friends, no one sticks around long enough to have a personality or plot. Often they don't even get names or descriptions. Absolutely not recommended under any circumstances. If you have a strange urge to read about chiru, I'm sure you could find academic articles that are both more entertaining and more informative.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse. This is such a strange book! I mean, yes, it's charming and funny, like all of the Psmith books (though this one has sadly not enough Mike), but what I was really fascinated by was the portrayal of a world before the US – or maybe just NYC - absolutely dominated media, and thus they were strange little places to be explained to one's readers. Other people deal with this all the time, I'm sure, but I'm not used to having things like Broadway or tenements or American slang explained as though they were foreign and baffling concepts, and when you only have to deal with it once a lifetime, it's exciting and amusing rather than annoying and othering. (Especially when he gets it wrong - I would have said cowboys and urban 'thugs' were opposed stereotypes, not basically the same thing, but maybe I know less about 1910's genre tropes than Wodehouse.)

Anyway. Mike and the rest of his cricket team go on a tour to the US; Psmith tags along and, after getting bored of cricket, decides to join a newspaper in New York. Looking for exciting stories to write about, he quickly gets involved in a scandal about the hidden identity of a slumlord, a new boxing champion, and gangsters' fondness for cats.

Knights of Ghosts and Shadows by Mercedes Lackey and Ellen Guon. I decided to read because someone on FFA was recommending it for containing a canon OT3, and yes, it is a very pleasing book on that level. On every other level... oh my god, you guys, this book is so early 90s. Or maybe I should say so Mercedes Lackey? I haven't read enough of her books to judge. But it contains an abundance of Celtic music, Renaissance fairs, street kids (in the 'oh, I make a living busking for money' sense), elves in leather jackets, normal human beings inexplicably wandering around LA in cloaks and scarlet boots, names that sound like bad Tolkien rip-offs, battles with evil sorcerers that involve people throwing balls of magic at each other like a video game, and jazz flute. (Which I try to take seriously, because I am a mature adult, but all I can think of is this.)

On the other hand, it is a sweet, charming book with a lovely central relationship. It's absolutely the opposite of grimdark fantasy, and sometimes that's exactly what you need. Eric is working at a Renaissance fair, mourning the loss of his girlfriend and the upcoming loss of his job, since the land the fair is held on has been bought by developers. He accidentally awakens an elf named Korendil with his music, who recognizes Eric as a Bard, the only one with the power to save all the elves in LA. Meanwhile, Beth, a fellow musician, turns out to also be a witch. Together the three of them fight crime the evil elf and his half-human daughter who are trying to destroy the magic that powers LA's creativity.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This book was AMAZING. In the 1880s, Amelia Peabody unexpectedly inherits a great deal of money, and as she is a sensible woman with no dependents to leave it to, she decides to spend it on enjoying herself, and takes off on a trip to see the sights of the Ancient World, starting with Rome (where she adopts Evelyn, a pretty young lady, as her companion) and Egypt (where she invades the archaeological excavation of Radcliffe and Walter Emerson). Soon there is a mummy menacing everyone, ex-lovers running about, secret wills, mysterious disappearances, and much more. Amelia is a fantastic character, hilarious and stubborn and independent. Luckily this is the first book of a whole series, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

(There is some racism, which the setting allowed me to pretend belonged the characters, even though I suspect it really came from the author. At least it was mostly focused on Italians and their ~passionate Latin blood~, which is not a trope that offends me as much as some.)

What are you currently reading?
The Trouble with Post-Blackness, edited by Houston A. Baker and K. Merinda Simmons. Another NetGalley book!

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Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
9:11 pm - National Poetry Month
When You Are Old by Spencer Gordon

Life is a long time grieving, especially the first time.
The second time you try, and it’s all right, there’s less tears;
it’s a reunion you never thought would happen. Then
the call comes back: the hard line in the head that said

don’t kiss, don’t dance, don’t do that. And even drinking
is easier, somehow, like each sip was watered down with
berries and pills and ice. You never dreamed it
would be so easy. But this is your second time around,

and you’re used to feeling used, and you want to see
the people you thought were gone for good, and so you
lean toward the fat neck beside you, and you say kiss me
darling, I’m back for you, and you alone, and the trees

aren’t sad, are they? The air is a calm mourner, you say;
it doesn't need a wake to drink at. It doesn't need friends or
family. You're like the wind, you think. You don't need a friend.
You don't need another life. And so it ends.

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Monday, April 20th, 2015
6:57 pm - National Poetry Month
For My People by Margaret Walker

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
the dark of churches and schools and clubs
and societies, associations and councils and committees and
conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
rise and take control.

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turning a shade of an angel

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