Despite appearances here I have not given up on reading and interacting with artifacts of culture. This isn’t an apology for not posting book reviews, mind you, just an acknowledgment that they have been lacking. It’s possible I’ll be able to wrestle myself back into the swing of things soon.
One of the books I read in the close of 2014 and loved was Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, which was about 12 dancing princesses in 1920s New York City. It took its fairy-tale roots seriously and was horrific in an utterly believable way.
I’ve also finally watched the entirety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was an ordeal. Not because the show is bad or hard to watch, but because I wanted to get it all done before a friend returned from vacation, which meant I watched 144 episodes in 21 days. That is a lot of television. I liked the show generally. To me it’s a 3-season show about highschool Buffy followed immediately by a sequel show about more grown-up Buffy. I liked the first show better, but recognize that they were doing more interesting things in the later show. The Body is probably one of my favourite episodes of television ever. Anyway. Now I have Opinions about Buffy, so if that’s your thing we can converse!
I’m currently slowly reading a C.J. Cherryh novel called Fortress in the Eye of Time. It is slow going. A coworker is reading the Kingkiller Chronicles and I’m very jealous of reading fantasy that you can’t put down. I can put this down so easily.
I recently read Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and was also underwhelmed by it. I think it needed another pass on the dialogue to make it feel a little less amateurish. It read like it was trying to be Hellboy but with really obvious lines and jokes. I wanted to like it but couldn’t.
There’s been more. I will be doing a writeup for the Tales of the Black Company books I’ve been reading, but I want to do them justice. Maybe later this week.
Lud-in-the-Mist is a fairy story by Hope Mirrlees that was written in the 1920s but doesn’t feel especially out of date. There are some stylistic choices with the point of view never holding still with one character for long, which doesn’t feel very disciplined, but it’s completely forgivable because the story is so pleasant.
Lud in the Mist is a boring little town just to the East of the Faerie lands. When people start acting strangely the Mayor tries to get to the bottom of things and discovers smuggling of faerie fruit, which is such a tremendously obscene thing to eat or even discuss that in the court records it is referred to as silk. All sorts of things happen with this faerie fruit, including to the Mayor’s son and a whole school full of girls (guess which one is more of a concern). There are reversals and clever bits and friendship and strange oaths and it’s all quite charming.
If you enjoyed Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Neil Gaiman’s Stardust you really should read this fairly neglected classic.
Jew Gangster is about a kid in depression-era New York who becomes a gangster as a way of climbing out of poverty. It’s a pretty classic story with all the proud disapproving father, friends who hang on for a taste of money, and moving away from the family the gangster was trying to help elements that feel like they’re in every gangster story.
It does all the elements well, but there isn’t anything groundbreaking in here. Religion only really came into play when the protagonist couldn’t sit shiva for his father, which seemed like a missed opportunity, given the title. The black and white art is good and it feels more of its time than something like Sandman Mystery Theatre. But if you like gangster fiction there’s not much here you haven’t seen before.
Atlantis: Three Tales is a non-SF book by Samuel R. Delany, and one of the reasons I don’t go looking for Delany books systematically. I didn’t know it existed when I found it in a used-book store in Seattle in February.
It contains three stories. “Atlantis: Model 1924” is about a young black boy who comes to New York City in 1924 to live with his brother. Delany does some interesting parallel text things to represent memory and its strangeness. Sam crosses the Brooklyn Bridge where he maybe watches a man drown after pissing into the river and talks to a queer guy who invites him to his apartment in Brooklyn. “Eric, Gwen and D.H. Lawrence’s Esthetic of Unrectified Feeling” is about art and feeling and profanity. There’s an impressive cussing milkman in this one, and stuff about boys introducing boys to sex. “Citre et Trans” is about a queer young writer travelling in Greece who gets raped by a couple of sailors and his relationships with a bunch of expatriates, and a dog.
The thing that affected me most about the last story is how the rape was violent but more importantly, complicated. It wasn’t “These terrible sailors raped this writer” it was very complicated, even with the blood and the theft and the downplaying of the situation afterwards. It was the kind of story that sticks with you. Yeah. Delany’s really good even once he left science fiction behind.