Origin Story: the why, the what, and the wherefore

  • Loved this– so much that I read it in two days, and it was maybe too long to read it that fast. Had trouble turning off my predictor brain, trying to make all the connections. I think that’s the point– that there are too many variations to predict, you just have to enjoy. About stories and the role they play in life– reminded me of Arcadia, and Enchantress from the Stars (is magic just technology); of The Overstory (I haven’t read much about games, but they feature in both); and all of the various fantasy books that they reference– Narnias and Harry Potter and The Magician books. Enjoyed it immensely.

  • Picked this up after an email from the Folger about their bookclub, which is happening next week. Yay! Loved this. Echoes of Matrix. Lauren Groff, which also about a noblewoman in a convent. Need to reread King Lear, because it’s been a while– Finished it in a great gulp, started yesterday, up at 5 to finish it today. (I keep doing that.) Theoretical underpinnings that came to mind: beginning of Women and Madness, where Phyllis Chesler talks about the way the patriarchy constructs tensions between mothers and daughters (as mothers are required to train their daughters into the restrictions); and (stay with me here) Saidiya Hartman’s Venus in Two Acts, primarily the concept of critical fabulation– I think I’m broadening her term out too much, in losing specificity it may lose power, but I’m thinking about the way these alternate narratives of originally men’s stories (Desdemona, Penelopiad, Learwife, Circe, and etc and etc and etc) devalue or complicate the offical narrative. I want to teach this, in a class of revisions. Maybe called critical fabulations? That’s a good title. I need to firm up my understanding of that concept, and the purposes thereof– I refered in class to Audre Lorde’s Poetry is not a Luxury, the purpose of poetry and imagination is to plot the way to liberty…

    Anyway, such a good book.

  • Enjoyed this. Heavy debt in thought to Wanderlust (or to the logics of Wanderlust)– moving, and stitching, at the speed of thought. Meandering, in an intentional way. Read this on my Kindle, should have moved to ipad– so many pictures, and Kindle is black and white. But still, the textures and the detail were beautiful and meditative.

  • So good I got up at 5 to finish it.

    A ship departs from 17th c Batavia (Jakarta) for Amsterdam, carrying some colonists, soldiers, sailors, a very clever detective in chains and his assistant/bodyguard, a witchhunter and maybe a demon. The ship is cursed, with first a demonic sign on the sail, then various other dark miracles as they progress. The assistant–a smarter Watson to a detective more Poirot than Sherlock– works to figure out what’s going on.

    Love the way Turton nods to classic mysteries in the relationship between the assistant and the detective; his depiction of 17th c world is rich and complex (histories of wars and colonial abuses and witchhunts); and I really had no idea what was going on until very close to the end– and even then, I missed so much. So well done. Funny and a little scary and just so good.

    Reminded me of all the mysteries, as referenced above, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger (complicated ship story) and Melmouth, Sarah Perry.

  • I’ve read this before but I DID NOT REMEMBER IT. Felt like it took forever to read, it was a periodic pick-up during July and August; primarily revisiting it because a scholar I’ve been reading talks about the Victorian storage of paper/archival crisis in all the cubbyholes here. Such a rich area– so many scraps of paper in Victorian literature. Middlemarch, The Moonstone, this, obviously… like ALL of Dickens… so smart, I’m jealous.

    Enjoyed reading. Made me want to reread East Lynne (the next text on the long-ago and much beloved Victorian Sensation Fiction syllabus)– maybe I will.

    And reading it with My Cousin Rachel in mind was astonishing! How did I not put that together like a decade ago? Daphne was paying some serious homage.

  • Started this yesterday afternoon, didn’t come up for air until it was done last night. One of my favorite ways to read– a big gulp, faster and faster, nothing else important.

    Loved this. Reminded me of Iain Pears The Dream of Scipio in scope and structure, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered (and maybe Richard Powers’ The Overstory) in arc and catharsis. Beautiful. The desolation of climate devastation (that is hard to read) but with a seed of hope.

  • I started this list a few days before the new month, and then finished three of my choices early: Learwife, The Devil and the Dark Water, and Slow Stitch. So, updated September list, all tentative, no real requirements, just a direction.

    Literary fiction: Sea of Tranquility, Learwife, King Lear, The Starless Sea

    Fun fiction: Cackle; The Devil and the Dark Water, The Emma Project, homicide and Halo-Halo,

    Nonfiction: A Farewell to Alms (digital), The Body in Pain (digital), Entangled Life

    Poetry: A Thousand Mornings, Dearly

    Memoir: Slow Stitch, What My Bones Know, Crying in H Mart

  • My last post was in mid-July, in whence I wasted some of my internet time (at the local library– rural KY means no wifi at home) updating this instead of writing my dissertation. Since then, I read 10 more books, spent another month in KY, and traveled home to the land of constant connection (D.C. suburbs.)

    Listing the books here, and recording thoughts as they occur:

    106) Here Goes Nothing, Steve Toltz– 3/5 stars; reminded me of A Brief History of the Dead, Kevin Brockmeier

    107) The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner– 4/5; enjoyed, made me want to reread all (of course). Would be good in a bookclub.

    108) Lucky Turtle, Bill Roorbach– 5/5 or more; loved this. Escape to the wilderness (one of my fav tropes), true love’s twisty track

    109) The Reading List, Sara Nisha Adams– 4/5; so good. Widowed grandfather connects with his family and himself through reading great books. Reminded me of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    110) The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes– 3/5; good but maybe not memorable. Another about the bookwomen of Kentucky (see below). Loved the image of the fireflies.

    111) Book Woman’s Daughter, Kim Michele Richardson– 3/5; another Kentucky read, sequel to something I read a few summers ago. Didn’t remember the first book quite well enough, but didn’t want to reread. Enjoyed it, but more of a bookclub book.

    112) The Vanished Bride, Bella Ellis– 4/5; really enjoyed this. The Bronte sisters detect. I’d read more, I’d watch the series, made me want to reread all of all of them. Silly, of course. But fun.

    113) The Cruellest Month, Louise Penny– 5/5; loving this series.

    114) A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny– 5/5; ditto

    115) Where the Deer and the Antelope Play, Nick Offerman–5/5; ok I just absolutely adored this book. I have a hard copy, read the first page or two, realized I was attempting his voice in my head and –miracle of miracles– my local library had the audio book available for immediate borrowing! Listened in two days, passed it on with an imperative statement to my partner. So so good. In this, he is consciously ethical in a way that really resounded with me.

  • Started Louise Penny’s Three Pines series and loving it. Read Still Life and A Fatal Grace in one gulp, kindle on dark mode until four AM. Love reading like that– makes me feel like I’m 12 with a flashlight under the covers.

    Penny shows such a deftness of community and emotion. Not without edges, I’m not sure I really trust everyone who is important to her main characters, but also it isn’t looking for the flaws in people. Pleasantly surprised. I have a fairly low opinion of cozy mysteries (I read them, but I don’t expect them to be great); these are philosophical in a way that is more commonly found in literature that takes itself more seriously.

    Going to try to refocus on the bag of books for the remainder of vacation, and spread these out over the fall. We’ll see how successful I am.

  • One of the features of our vacations for the last 5 years (at least) is my Big Bag of Books. C starts collecting books that have been recommended by book sellers, or that he notices advertised somewhere, and packs them all up for our time in Kentucky. So my reading for the next six weeks (until the middle of August) is drawn (mostly) from the bag.

    101: The Sanatorium, Sarah Pearse

    A super-remote sanatorium is turned into a fancy hotel– they added lots of amenities, but kind of doubled down on the scary atmosphere. Setting reminded me of the Poirot episode in the hotel (Trials of Hercules?… something like that– the one that combined several of the short stories from that collection); the murder could have been more closely integrated with the setting or with the characters– I was caught off guard, didn’t figure it out, but also don’t think I missed anything, I think it just needed more *something* to justify the conclusion. (This might be a problem of genre: maybe this is a suspense, not a mystery– I read everything as mystery, expect the conclusion to be gestured to and worked toward, but that’s a genre-specific thing.) Enjoyed it. Loved the setting, super spooky.

    102: The Postscript Murders, Elly Griffiths

    This was good, reminded me of The Thursday Murder Club. Old lady dies, is it murder, and who would want to kill an old lady? (Answer: plenty of people, obviously) In the way that an out-of-print book affects the plot, this reminded me of the Joanne Dobson mystery… but details of that plot are escaping me. Some long-dead scandal recorded in a racy novel that nearly nobody remembers. Anyway. This was good, and I need to reread the Karen Pelletier novels.

    103: The Messy Lives of Book People, Phaedra Patrick

    She name-checked The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo near the beginning, and that was wisely done. This isn’t that story, of course, but it is similar in the setup: someone gets close to a reclusive icon and kind of investigates what happened in their life. Didn’t see this ending coming, enjoyed it.

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