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Jo Walton, Among Others
...is fantastic, but what to say about it? It comes the closest of any book not Gaudy Night to being in the same genre as Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, with which, as long-time readers may recall, I am somewhat obsessed. Do you like explorations of wounded people learning unorthodox ways to thrive, or girls who read a lot coming of age and finding community, or people coping with the world after they've saved it? How about subtle and deniable magic? This is a book for people who respond to those things, though I wouldn't rule out others.

I posted about this xkcd on my facebook, but it feels more like a weblog entry so I'm going to reproduce it here. Seeing it again the other day I was struck by what a familiar narrative it is, and I've been thinking about what that says about the kind of sexual advice that's given to men.

So then I go on about that for a while. )
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Happy year! 2010 semiotically speaking has acquired increasingly dystopian associations from a Canadian perspective, but maybe semi-omnipotent aliens will turn Vancouver into a tiny sun. Actually that wouldn't really help.
George R. R. Martin, The Armageddon Rag
CJ Cherryh, Destroyer
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (reread)
CJ Cherryh, Pretender
CJ Cherryh, Deliverer
Sara Ryan, Empress of the World
Somewhere in the middle of the month there I was evidently taken over by the urge to read about Harriet Vane for a while. I had forgotten what a lovely and assured prose stylist Sayers was, particularly in Gaudy Night, which in its own quiet way I think might be one of the best novels of the 20th century. I would like to read it together sometime with Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, with which it has a surprising amount in common (so perhaps it's not surprising that I should like it so much).

Speaking of Pamela Dean, I read The Empress of the World on her recommendation. There is something about both of the principals being women that breaks down my detached resistance to romantic tropes in a way that's very pleasant. (But the romance in this was not mindless or uncomplicated, and I've kept thinking about it since.)

When Rachel was here I introduced her to cryptic crosswords, which she got good at much more quickly than I did back when I first started. In the process of some incorrect speculation we came up with our own clue, "Editorializes to the trees. (6)"; later I encountered in a published crossword a very similar clue with the same answer, but I like our wording better. It is possible that we are nerds.

I've got out of the habit of linking things I write from this weblog, in part because I write things to link (or for that matter entries from which to link) so relatively rarely these days. But I did write a song and a poem I'm pretty happy with in 2009, so there's no reason not to get around to mentioning them.

Visuals

Jul. 15th, 2009 03:15 pm
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You guys are awesome for answering my question. I was going to post my own answer sooner, but was moderately overwhelmed with schoolwork; sorry to leave you in suspense. At least on my monitor, what I imagine looks about like this:

An orange-yellow......and a pale green...

...both luminescent. To clarify, this isn't what I'd get from that phrase in just any circumstance; it's very particular to Thom Yorke's voice and the context and instrumental background of that song. Nobody else who commented thought of the same colours, which is about what my hypothesis would have been.

Not long ago [livejournal.com profile] marlo participated in something I thought was kind of cool, so I'm going to do it, too. Here are the rules she posted:

"• Post ten of any pictures currently on your hard drive that you think are self-expressive.
• No captions! It must be like we're speaking with images and we have to interpret your visual language just like we have to interpret your words.
• They must already be on your hard drive - no googling or flickr! They have to have been saved to your folders sometime in the past. They must be something you've saved there because it resonated with you for some reason.
• You do not have to answer any questions about any of your pictures if you don't want to. You can make them as mysterious as you like. Or you can explain them away as much as you like."

I decided to exclude images that I'd already posted to this weblog, at least in its livejournal incarnation.

So here follow ten pictures; some of them are kind of big. )
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All I read in September was
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed (reread)
I've been kind of embarrassed at how little I've been reading lately, but I think I probably gave myself unrealistic expectations by first starting to keep track during the peak of an unusually heavy period. (It was also a much more innocent time in terms of academic stress.) That tends to happen in waves, so it will be back eventually, and really it only bothers me when I'm considering my reading habits in isolation; when I consider what I've been spending my attention on instead, I don't regret it at all.

Anyway, here's the bookkeeping bookkeeping for my second year of noting these things in my weblog: I read 58 novels, 11 of them rereads. (Also, two of them at different times were Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, so maybe that should count as 57 and 10.) This is a little under thirty fewer new books than I read in my first year, which actually isn't as bad as I thought it might be.

Leaves are starting to change en masse, and it's noticably chilly even when the sun is out; before either of these signs of autumn, before even the equinox formalized it, the days were already getting radically shorter. This feels heavy with narrative significance, because, like a proper existentialist, I am casting out portentious meaning onto everything around me. (You should see my recent relationship with fortune cookies.) I had an excellent summer, charmed and optimistic in a way that was thematically in keeping with and maybe enabled by the daylight still lingering when I got out of my classes at 9 PM. It's not that the sky's recent indifference has me pessimistic instead; it does seem an important difference of tone, though, to be moving into the seasons during which humans really need to work to make their own light.

(One place where I was not actually so good at projecting meaning onto things was in my Japanese course, where on the third day of class or so I had the literally nightmarish experience of having a piece of paper put in front of me and having no idea what to do with it. So I dropped that course and replaced the course I was going to take next term with the equivalent of the last course I took at Langara, which will hopefully catch me back up but which means that I won't be graduating from UBC in April. The need to make up the credits I've thus abandoned did give me an excuse to sign up for the awesome-looking "Feminist Pedagogies in the Classroom and Community" course that Isabel is going to be in, though, which I hadn't thought that I was going to be able to justify.)

Later: something about the election, probably.
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The solstice has passed and so the days are waning, though they're still long enough that if it's dark out it's probably like 2 AM. (By which point... Oh, never mind.) The solstices and eqinoxen have no religious or ritual significance for me, but I always feel buoyed and energized when I notice that it's one of those days; there is something about that particular sort of astronomy, the recognizable influence on my life of things happening on a scale where I am completely insignificant, that I've always found very cheering.

I got my copy of Brendan's book! I ordered the 'author's edition', which comes with an exclusive original anacrusis, so he wrote me an entire story in the style of my placing 2004 Lyttle Lytton entry. I would take this for karmic justice if I were more confused about how karma is supposed to work. The collection is generally excellent, containing several of my favourites (I was particularly pleased to see Asuka, which I recently rediscovered), and several more that I'd forgotten about (or never read?) but admit to be their equal, or near it. There are some webcomics-star-studded illustrations, which I mostly take to be superfluous, in keeping with my opinion of illustrated books more generally; a couple are good enough to enhance my experience, though Bridget is more effective just as text, I think. It's built around Cosette (not least, I suspect, because she's unusual in that her stories can be presented simultaneously in order of composition and that of internal chronology), but several other bad pennies make appearances: there's a Rita story and two separate Holly stories, though we have none of the information that links the latter except her name.

(Everything that Brendan has written about Holly since I made my timeline has been set in the biggest gap I identified there. This is both gratifying and a little bit taunting, since I also want to know what happens next.)

My women's studies pal Joanne told me that there's an English professor whose literature class is all fantasy -- Tolkien and Sandman and, particularly exciting to me, Dean's Tam Lin. The other day at Matt's book launch, Selena told me about a "Women In Film" class she'd taken with a thoughtful and fascinating professor who focussed on works by local women of colour. The knowledge of these, and all the other fascinating classes I haven't taken yet, is rather bittersweet as I register for what will (should all go according to plan) be my final year as an undergraduate, in which there's room for nothing but Japanese and Philosophy, and not nearly all the philosophy I'd still like to learn here, even; I feel nostalgic for my early Langara days, when, having no plan, I just dove into anything I spotted that I thought might excite me. It's not that I have no excitement for the things I'm still taking -- happily, college on the whole has never yet been drudgery for me. There's just so much more offered than I'm able to accept!

I might try to work Tam Lin or Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary into my Women and Literature research paper, though; I can see how that might work, and it would be lovely to get to write about Dean.
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Tam Lin (filk) )
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Diana Wynne Jones has this thing she does at the end of a lot of her books where she resolves everything. Formerly inexplicable, half-forgotten side plots resurface to become a crucial part of the shape of the final revelations; the whole book seems to have become a machine for collapsing smoothly and comfortably into this climax, these understandings. Of course I don't mean to imply, to anyone that hasn't read her, that the main appeal of a Diana Wynne Jones novel is that it's a sort of puzzle box -- for one thing, she writes magic that is simultaneously sensible and wondrous better than probably anyone else. But I've always admired this, and the precision and clarity that it seems to suggest goes into her plotting.

It's interesting that Pamela Dean doesn't do this at all; her (two) books (that I've read) are filled with strange and sometimes unsettling scenes that stick strongly in the mind as part of the shape of the book, but are never afterwards referred to or explained specifically, or made clear in retrospect in any straightforward way by the things we eventually learn. This is a different kind of impressive writing, in that she's able to pull it off without the book's feeling incomplete or the reader (at least in my case) feeling cheated. I've read Tam Lin sufficiently many times that I've lost track of the number, and I still, each time I do, come across some places where I'm really not sure what's actually going on, underneath. I can remember, on the first few readings, the strong suspicion that in fact nothing consistent was going on; that there was no way, or at least that we didn't have enough information, to ever make rational sense of the events in the book. I just didn't mind, because the emotional sense that they made was so compelling.

This is a little harder to take in Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, in part because the book hurts more. I tend to finish Tam Lin with a pleased, fond feeling, but some of the elements in JGR left me angry -- not at the book or at the author, but generally, on the main character's behalf -- and a little more resolution, or at least recovery, might have made that easier to deal with. (Although being made sad or upset by a story is a very clean feeling -- not unpleasant, the way it tends to be messy and unpleasant to have those feelings inspired by something in one's own life.) Perhaps rereading it, and starting to understand a little more of the underlying, will help, though I think I'll need to wait at least a little while before I do that. On the other hand, it was really good.
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I'm typing this on Memory -- or rather, Memory's shell, the gutted Memory, reset like _Quinn's Ping. I have the old hard drive here, too, though I still don't know what if anything I might be able to get back from it. Maybe in the meantime I should call this version 'Amnesia'.

I went to the library and got out Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary, which is turning out to be charming in a lot of similar ways, or maybe parallel ways, to Tam Lin; it's not the same book, but it tastes almost the same, so it's like having a Tam Lin that's new. Similarly, I've got out Noe Venable's album "Boots", which I've had for a couple of years but somehow never properly listened to until now, and there are songs there that are ragged and yearning and soaring in the way that Noe's older stuff has for me and her newer, for all that I love "The World Is Bound By Secret Knots", has never quite captured, and they have that, but I've never heard them before, so they can astonish me and fill me up just like Boots the song did in 2002. That pleasure, to get back the freshness of something worn with love, is so rare; to have it twice at once is intoxicating.

It has me thinking of Tam Lin, though, and this entry that I wrote nearly a year ago, and the recurring theme of my longing for belonging. A couple of months ago, on a sunny day, Elise and I went for a walk near Langara, and we passed a yard with a wooden playset set up in it, which got us talking about treehouses; I remarked that I had never had one, and that I had always wanted to, as a child, and Elise (being one of the sweeter people that I know) declared that we should certainly build one together. But it felt like that wouldn't quite be satisfying; what I'd wanted wasn't so much the structure of the treehouse as its ideal, the close-knit gang of childhood comrades, all living nearby, all coming regularly to a place they'd built, deep in the pockets of each other's lives. This old dream was really just another manifestation of my pervasive desire for a place to belong.

Since writing that entry, I have often (though not always) been less content than I was at the end of it. This term, Langara has finally become a place that I know people; where it's more likely than not each day that I'll see somebody I know in the halls, and stop to talk. I've only just made this, but I'll probably need to leave it soon. I went by to see Dale the other day, and he remarked that I probably had nearly enough credits to make a university transfer by now; he said that I should seriously consider it, because it was really a much neater environment for someone like me. He's probably right. I'll have another semester here, maybe two, and then I'll move on.

This is one of the most frustrating and exhausting aspects of schooling, and one of the few that Windsor House doesn't seem to have an answer for, although I guess that you get to come back, in a sense, once you have kids. How can I keep building these communities if I'll just have to leave them behind?
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...and that I find useful to call to mind enough that they've at some point acquired names. (All of the names have 'syndrome' in them, which may or may not be technically accurate.)

1. Oki Syndrome: After Hiranabe Oki, my character for the Waitility project, because she suffers from this to a rather more pronounced degree than I do, and so it's sometimes easier to examine it through her. Oki Syndrome is the incorrect but sneakily convincing idea that one doesn't quite exist, in terms of having an impact on others; that you're the reader, not the protagonist; that you can observe without making a difference. It makes it startling and unintuitive to be looked directly at, and difficult to sensibly imagine taking part in a realtionship, even if it can clearly be observed that that happens.

(Tam Lin describes a difficulty of novel readers, which isn't this, but is sort of related: the desire to see how a situation will play out if one doesn't affect its course. Actually, this can be seen as a facet of the Oki thing, since that's sort of implied in the assumption that it's possible.)

2. Virtue Syndrome: After the Ani DiFranco song of that title. Virtue Syndrome is the way that I'm anxious always to be, and to appear, okay; that "I want to have good news to report, every time I come up for air", which makes it difficult, often, to discuss the ways in which I'm insecure or having trouble, because shouldn't I always be getting better? Why is that still there?

3. Paks Syndrome: After the title character of Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion, because it's pointed out to her that she has trouble with this, and that's what I draw from to recognize it in myself. Paks Syndrome is the tendency to assume that, because a person is one's friend, and usually treats one well, that person is generally good and decent.
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One nice thing about rereading Tam Lin (yeah, I picked it up almost immediately upon finishing the entry where I mentioned it. I am weak) is that it helped me feel more enthusiastic than trepidatious about heading back into college classes with the Fall. Here is my current registered schedule:

Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday

12:30 - 1:25 History of the Early Medieval World

1:30 - 2:25 Introduction to Logic

Monday

2:30 - 5:25 Religions of the West

Tuesday Thursday

3:30 - 5:00 Sociology I

There is, you'll note, a significant paucity of those hour-long breaks between classes that so pleasantly characterized my Spring (though I still get Wednesdays off). I hope that works out okay. Of those classes, I'm least certain about the last one - and still conceivably might decide against it - but Sociology sounds like the sort of thing which might fascinate me, and I'd feel bad if I neglected either to experiment or to take at least four classes - Tess, who is starting in the Journalism program this fall (!), is taking six.

It's amazing how quickly that feeling of dread and inertia settled back on to me once I was out of my classes this term. I'll be glad to be back.

Ha

Aug. 2nd, 2005 04:33 am
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When I first read (Pamela Dean's) Tam Lin, I had never listened to the ballad, and didn't know it, except by reputation and general plot for its mention in Fire and Hemlock, so I only just now got the joke that Janet first meets and is yelled at by Thomas as she's looking through the library for a copy of The Romance of the Rose for her English class. (She had not pulled a double rose / A rose but only two / When up then came young Tam Lin / Said, Lady, pull no more) I'd like to read that book again, although I'm kind of nervous to, since my copy is falling apart (and cola might glare at me if the next thing I read isn't cyberpunk).

Right now I'm reading T.H. White's The Once And Future King, which I got from the library on a bit of a whim; I can tell that I both think it's very good and am not in a mood to have any patience with it. I think that I'll finish The Sword and the Stone (which makes up the first fifth of it, and is surprisingly similar to the way I remember the Disney movie), so as not to be abrupt, and then take it back, and try the rest sometime later. Before that, I read Jo Walton's The King's Name, having read The King's Peace before Harry Potter, and I liked both volumes a lot.

(Jo Walton and Pamela Dean have in common that they each have a fairly accessible internet presence, and a livejournal, which I find kind of heady and surreal. I came to the conclusion a while ago, I think as the result of reading a Neil Gaiman interview, that if I met a famous author I was familiar with I wouldn't be much more flustered or behave much differently than if I met a weblogger I followed but didn't know - the primary difference being how many other people felt the same way - but I still don't generally expect the categories to overlap.)

Yes, I really am staying up this late these days. As usual when that happens, I can't tell at all what my writing's like.
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Tam Lin, and buying islands. I think of that house, with Karen and Cody, and of J.'s Netside.

I seem to have gone through this a little earlier than most people, because of Windsor House. Tam Lin is a lot of the reason that I've wanted to go to college - a "real" college, where I am immersed in not just a curriculum but a community, because I have always been a sucker for community, for the sort of membership that I felt from that book. Now I'm in Langara, which isn't really that - I would say that I've made friends, but it's a sort of sideways bonding; nothing full-on and intense. And I will probably eventually transfer to a proper university and do heaven-knows-what and I have no idea to what degree I'll feel a part of it.

It can be both unhealthy and kind of heady and glorious to consolidate most of your emotional life in a single, small, insular group of people. Which is a subtly but importantly different thing from being able to give yourself wholly to the love of a specific time and place and fellowship, even knowing it cannot endure for long. I don't know if I want the Tam Lin university experience the way I once did; I think I'd probably value it if I had it, but I don't know if I'm yearning for it. It's been a little while since I lost the constant presence of the Windsor House community in my life (which is sort of my own fault as much as anything, though it could not help being lessened); it could be that I'm wary of another home which I'll inevitably need to leave.

On the other hand, it's possible that I don't feel the need for such a thing very sharply because what I've got now is pretty good. Though I hadn't consciously marked the transition, I'm not nearly so lonely or frightened right now as I was during the Summer or Fall (which observation is intended as no slight to the various #hinotori and #waitility folks who formed the main bulwark against that loneliness at the time); I have AD&D and school and the play and the Philosophy group and various people throwing occasional parties and periodic excursions with Andrew (although he may be leaving for a distant university soon, and I will miss him). I'm not entirely content, but it would seem that I am happy.

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Andy H.

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