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09 December 2016 @ 01:58 pm
My own private timeline...  
I'd planned to do a "what I'm reading" sort of post last week, and yet it is not last week! I blame household stuff and Idol, mainly reading Idol entries. I'd like to blame my Yuletide story, but I haven't gotten much done on it since November ended.

Idol is also why my book-reading slowed down, in addition to some things I started reading and bailed out on. I finished Patricia McKillip's Kingfisher last week, which was an interesting combination of modern setting and older knights-on-quests elements, creating kind of a mystery. Very pleased by that part of it, and how it all worked out. NOT pleased with the parts that are ongoing problems for the author, where I would like to see some growth from her: all the characters appear to be white (true for virtually all of her books), all romantic relationships are hetero-normative (which defies statistics, really), and as for the mechanics of writing itself... she is still burying the climax. While reading, you reach the point where the climax has ended (or you realize you must have passed it), and think, "Wait, that was IT? That's ALL?" Imagine if an author resolved all of their stories via deus ex machina? That gets very unsatisfying before long. Unless McKillip is secretly 80 or something, I would really like her to try harder.

I started the most recent Lynn Flewelling Nightrunner story, and then bailed on it. I used to be a fan of the series, but there's so much good fan-fiction slash I would rather be reading, and given the recent torture!Porn book in the series, and the fact that I can't remember any of the factions or minor characters anymore... eh. I even donated my 3 or 4 series paperbacks to the library a few weeks ago, which should have been a clue.

I thought I'd be done with Harrison Squared by now, but... Idol. I'm about 6-10 pages from the end, so Today For Sure! I found the book in the sci-fi/fantasy section of the library. It's kind of a YA setup: teenager who lost his father to a long-ago sea attack journeys to creepy North Eastern coastal town with his scientist mother, who then disappears at sea. The kid (Harrison Harrison, hence the Harrison-Squared or H2) is convinced his mother was kidnapped by something sinister. Meanwhile, he's stuck in a school full of pale, weird, black-haired children who rarely speak and take classes like "Practical Skills" (which consists of making fishing nets), and non-Euclidean geometry (which consists of word problems thick with non-sequiturs but bereft of actual math). Also? There are mutant creatures. And snark. \o/

By sheer coincidence, we saw Manchester By The Sea last weekend (set in Massachusetts). Very good, heavy with grief and with characters trapped by their mistakes.

I also did some Xmas shopping last weekend, and got some of the Xmas lights up. My part of that effort is usually a multi-day project (we put up a LOT of lights), so even working in the dark on Sunday didn't finish the job. Who knows about this weekend? It's been raining for days (and more is coming). On the plus side, our daughter arrives home for break on Saturday, so if things don't get done, I'm okay with that.

How's your prep coming?

Kizzyxo_kizzy_xo on December 9th, 2016 10:39 pm (UTC)
I want to see Manchester By The Sea. I've got this *thing* about movies being set around here. However, I seem to be the only one around here who likes movies like *that* (really, I had to practically staple SO to the couch so he'd watch Mystic River with me...heaven forbid if it's not a superhero movie, you know?)

BTW, I don't live near the real Manchester. It's north of Boston. I'm just barely south, aka skirting Whitey Bulger territory :shudder:

I haven't started shopping yet :p
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 9th, 2016 11:01 pm (UTC)
I'm not always eager to see sad movies (or those with difficult emotions), but both of us wanted to see this one-- and saw Mystic River. This was one where I was frustrated with the ending, but I felt it was also true to the character, which is to say... I believed he was who he was. :)
Kizzyxo_kizzy_xo on December 10th, 2016 01:34 am (UTC)
I was surprised yet not surprised by the ending, just because as you said, I believed he was who he was. The sad thing is, what happened in that movie isn't very far from what was real life at that time.
Jennkickthehobbit on December 9th, 2016 10:42 pm (UTC)
McKillip is in her late 60s, almost 70. So...not quite in her 80s, but still. She's also lived in the whitest parts of the country (previously somewhere in New England, now in Bend, OR), so...there's that explanation, I guess. :|

It's definitely bothered me about her books and it's part of why I've mostly quit reading her stuff—I just can't bring myself to trudge through something where everyone's white and straight.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 9th, 2016 11:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I checked-- she's 68, which I guess is old enough to be stuck in hetero-normativity as an exclusive worldview. It seems as if it should have occurred to her at some point, but apparently hasn't.

She's in Salem, which has a larger Hispanic population now than when I was growing up (though the prettiest girl in my first grade class had De Leon as her last name). Still, Ursula K. LeGuin has much the same background in terms of racial exposure, and she has more variety in her characters. I mean, apparently McKillip has one book where the protagonist is non-white, but how is this almost non-existent among her secondary characters? I just find that incredibly odd. She can imagine all of these fantastic worlds and ideas (an Alphabet of Thorn!), and yet no characters of color? Book after book? What?

I really like much of her prose and the weirdness of some of her ideas, but she has fallen lower and lower among my favorites as I read more and more books where she's still stuck in that same spot.

Say, you might try "Altered Carbon." I read that recently-- very much Sci-Fi Noir, as someone called it, but almost the opposite of McKillip's issues. If you can be 'downloaded' into various "skins" (or bodies, as we would think of them), you don't know what you'll look like from one adventure to the next-- or who might be wearing you, if you're unlucky enough to have your body sold. That'll change your worldview right quick. :O

Jennkickthehobbit on December 9th, 2016 11:19 pm (UTC)
Le Guin's background is considerably different—her dad was an anthropologist at UC Berkeley and she grew up in the Bay Area surrounded by their friend group (who were all radicals :) ). So—she was forcibly exposed to those ideas at a young age, and that's part of what made her great, I'd argue. Plus if I recall correctly her husband was a diplomat, so she ended up meeting a lot of really interesting people that way, too. She's one of my favorites, but despite ending up in Oregon, she didn't start here.

I have to say that I'm really picky about books that push for diversity, especially with white authors...it's really easy to go, "oh okay, I will make this POC the sidekick and their only contribution to the story is that they are non-white" and get stuck there. I hate it, so...I tend toward reading stuff that has either been thoroughly vetted (like Le Guin; I had everyone telling me to read The Left Hand of Darkness before I was old enough to really appreciate it :) ), or which is by a POC (Octavia Butler and Sam Delany come to mind, along with NK Jemisin).

Regarding Altered Carbon, are you talking about the Richard K. Morgan novel? Because I tried to read that...oh, God, five years ago? and was seriously squicked by the author's treatment of women—the bit where they specifically put the protagonist into the body of a woman to torture him was about the point at which I went, "nope, if I want noir I'll go read noir, at least everyone's open about it treating women badly"—I think I got to that point and returned it to the library. I've had a lot of people recommend it to me, but I've never been able to get into it again (knowledge of the scene which involved VR and iirc a welding torch? possibly keeping me from enjoying it—I dislike torture porn on the best of days, and the fact that there were basically zero female characters but they made a point of pointing out that women are ~*~more sensitive~*~ really bugged me).
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 9th, 2016 11:40 pm (UTC)
D'OH-- you're right. I forgot about LeGuin's Berkeley past. I think of her as being tied to Portland, because I was at school with her son for a couple of years. An amazing woman, overall.

I know the issue of non-white authors writing POC is a thorny one, and it makes some afraid to even try. I can't promise I do diversity well, but I will write non-white characters because sometimes that's who the character needs to be in my head, and I want to get inside them and see things with their eyes as best I can. But the random sidekick thing can also be annoying. Main characters, characters in passing... variety is richness.

I am talking about the Richard K. Morgan novel, and I'll admit-- I probably overlooked the "woman's body as torture," and I know I skimmed the blowtorch scene as I do with most torture stuff. That was a pretty extreme moment, not much like the overall tone of the book. I didn't notice the women being more sensitive per se, apart from one that already seemed kind of happy to be a caricature of a woman, who went a little deeper than she first appeared. Some of the women were villains as well. IDK, I liked it overall. Now, his book with the gay swordsman and the black lesbian character ("The Steel Remains")? Hard to get through, and that setup seemed contrived even before a few additional character secrets were revealed later on. The author does have some variety. Not necessarily GOOD variety, though I know other people loved that other book.

On a random note, I cannot BELIEVE that caricature does not have the same word root as "character." Do you know how long it took me to hit the right spelling of that word? Argh. :(

Edited at 2016-12-09 11:44 pm (UTC)
Rebeccabeeker121 on December 10th, 2016 01:21 am (UTC)
I've read so little this year and it's bugging me a little. Losing the commute was amazing for every single reason except the lost reading time (I used to take the train).

I saw Manchester by the Sea yesterday. I wasn't quite certain what to expect and grateful that the story stayed 'small'. I wonder what made the writer/director decide to tell this story about these people, it was lovely but I felt like an observer as opposed to being invited in. Might just be me and I would still recommend it to folks who can handle the grief of it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 10th, 2016 06:30 am (UTC)
That grief might have been a lot for audience members to absorb-- maybe making the movie unwatchable?

I noticed while watching that there were scenes where there was not a log of meaningful dialogue, but the characters' movements and body language told the emotional arc very clearly. I wonder if the director "pulled back" a little to help show and not tell a lot of the story.
Rebeccabeeker121 on December 10th, 2016 10:16 pm (UTC)
I loved all of the acting in this, and how completely the story was told even when there weren't words.

But you're right, maybe that bit of distance I felt was created on purpose so that folks could get through it.
cindytsuki_no_bara on December 10th, 2016 03:47 am (UTC)
i keep seeing previews for manchester by the sea and i freely admit the main reason i want to see it is casey affleck, even tho it does look brutally sad and i don't normally want to see movies that i think will make me cry.

i generally like patricia mckillip altho i haven't read anything recent of hers, and the last thing i did read - the riddle-master of hed books - really did have a very anticlimactic climax. the second book, which was very female-focused, was my favorite. i think they were written in the 70s so i cut them some slack where male/female relationships were concerned. harrison squared sounds vaguely creepy but kind of fun. i mean, word problems full of non-sequiturs but devoid of actual math? that made me giggle.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 10th, 2016 06:36 am (UTC)
It's sad, but not as head-splittingly sad as Sophie's Choice, if that helps. Definitely worth seeing, but bring Kleenex.

I was thinking more of McKillip's longer books for adults-- Winter Rose, The Forest of Serre, The Tower at Stony Wood, Od Magic, etc. All of the characters with any romantic leanings are straight. There isn't even hint that anyone isn't, and those books cover a variety of 'universes.' Generally, a new one per book.

The kid in Harrison Squared complains that the math isn't math, which sounds kind of strange, but the one example problem is something like, "You are surrounded by four walls that are 12 feet high. As the walls grow higher over time, who will come to save you?"