garran: (Default)
Okay, step one: make this post. The two books a month thing is looking remarkably consistent.
E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Samuel R. Delany, Tales of Nevèrÿon

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms
I read The Graveyard Book to Aidan (Joanne's nine-year old) at bedtimes, which I usually don't count, but I read all the text and felt engaged enough that this time I will.

I haven't talked about the kids much (heck, I haven't talked about Joanne much). That sort of direct exposition is not the usual function of this weblog; I've been more likely historically to write ostensibly as though my readers already knew, and try to buoy you along with incluing. But that felt like a more feasible strategy five years ago when I was writing several times a month than it does now, when my writing about anything other than books is, shall we say, somewhat more erratic. So: Aidan is 9, dark-haired, freckled, probably slightly hearing-impaired and given to shout. Justin is 4, blond, warier, likes food best when he can combine it in mad scientific ways. They are enormous for their ages. (Pictorial reference from the summer, when they were shorter.) Both have huge and complex personalities but this will hopefully do as a reference point for future inclues.

That was meant to be scene-setting for a longer meditation, but I don't know when I'll get a chance to write that so I should probably just post what I've got.
garran: (Default)
I've been uncomfortably aware for a while that people who visit my livejournal without being logged in are subjected to garish, obtrusive banner ads all up and down the right side. Recently, even when I am logged in, livejournal is sometimes trying to make me view ads when I try to visit other people's content. I find both of these things unpleasant and embarrassing. I've also been aware, peripherally, of another blogging service using the same engine with no ads and an excellent reputation, so I'm now writing primarily at http://garran.dreamwidth.org ; I'm still mirroring on livejournal, but you may want to update links or what-have-you.

Book!
Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker
...which was about 200 pages and took me a month and a half to get through. The person who lent it to me swears it was not a deliberate attempt at sabotage.

The main difficulty is that it's written almost completely in a barely penetrable visual dialect, or actually rather an imaginary post-apocalyptic offshoot of English. Here's an example paragraph from early in the book:

"Dad and me we jus come off forage rota and back on jobbing that day. The hoal we ben working we ben on it 24 days. Which Ive never liket 12 its a judgd men number innit and this ben 2 of them. Wed pernear cleart out down to the chalk and hevvy mucking it ben. Nothing lef in the hoal only sortit thru muck and the smel of it and some girt big rottin iron thing some kynd of machine it wer you cudnt tel what it wer."

I've never even finished Huckleberry Finn; this didn't at any point stop being hard work for me to translate, and irritating, like somebody singing deliberately off-key. (Joanne, who is dyslexic, looked over the first page and reported that she hardly noticed the difference.) I would have probably stopped early except that it had been recommended by Karen, whose judgement I respect, and I have a bit of a weakness for stories about post-apocalyptic attempts at community. The story itself was odd but kind of compelling, brutal and thoughtful and wry, and it was interesting the tension between the narrator, who seems to be trying to present himself philosophically but straightforwardly, and the fog of language keeping his story obscure and treacherous.

I've been slacking off a bit teaching my class, because it turns out that I can -- if I come in with not a great deal prepared there will still be a lot of interesting conversation. This is awesome, but I'm trying to prepare more anyway. We weathered Heinlein with a general enthusiastic political horror, received a guest presentation that transformed a lot of our theoretical thinking about genre and gender (I remain vague because I believe the presenter intends to publish), and wrote our first papers, worked out and instituted what seems promising to be a successful marking scheme. My impression is that most of the short papers are about LeGuin; the longer, I suspect, will be dominated by Tiptree and Delany (the former of whom people have been vocally very impressed by, the latter of whose fiction we're just now embarking on), which is an outcome I'd be very pleased with.

It's November. Maybe I'll have a birthday party.
garran: (Default)
Hi, I've been super-busy, which means the stuff I mean to write about but haven't got around to is piling up, which means that this entry keeps getting pushed back. Or maybe it's less that I've been busy by the standards I'm used to than that even everything day-to-day has taken on the character of the busy, being new and in need of active attention and adjustment. Joanne and her kids have come home and we are all living in what was formerly only their home and now is mine as well. I will probably have more to say about the many changes that is bringing to me.

My class has now met twice, and settled down, apparently stably, to nine people. The second one especially had a level of conversation with which I am very satisfied, and the democratic grading seems to be going smoothly. I am kind of drunk on the power of being able to dictate (or to have already dictated) the schedule on which people read, and to hear their reactions as they do -- also and relatedly, to say effectively, "Before we have this conversation, go and look at Foucault." We start in next week on Stranger in a Strange Land, which reminds me of August:
Samuel R. Delany, [Trouble on] Triton
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (reread)
Jo Walton, Lifelode
Thomas Disch, Camp Concentration
Triton is a difficult and unsettling book; I'd tried starting it several times before this one and foundered in the first fifty pages or so, which would probably have happened again if I hadn't been doing so much careful reading of Delany lately. It still came across as flat and chilly in those early parts, because it takes a while to become obvious just how unreliable a narrator the protagonist is; then, as it does become obvious and they flee from that revelation into further and more extreme attempts to embrace their narrative regardless, it became unexpectedly compelling to me. It's about how if you are a selfish jerk who refuses to self-reflect, you will not be happy wherever you go, but it would be easy to do that in a facile way, and Delany does not; he evokes the psychology very carefully, convincingly, and with an oddly unyielding compassion.

Lifelode is Jo Walton's most difficult book to find, which is a shame because I think it's probably her best. I made the NVCL pick up a copy, though! It is about housework and trying to deal honestly with the people around one (especially in a polyamorous context) and relativistic time dilation in a fantasy world with meddling gods, and it's sad and gentle and exciting and I really liked it.

This concludes year four (!) of my book log; stats will follow. Edit: Actually, I'll just put them in here. Cower before the felicity of my numbers!

In the year starting September 1st, 2009, and ending August 31st, 2010, I read 55 narrative books, of which 11 were books I'd read before and 44 were new to me. (That's an average of about four and a half books a month. For a while I averaged six, but for whatever reason I seem to read less in the summer.) 34 and a half were by women (with 17 individual authors represented) and 1 by someone who identifies neither male nor female. 13 (by 6 individuals) were by authors I know to be people of colour. I wrote at least a sentence of review or description of 18.
garran: (Default)
Okay, right. So the year between Septembers 1st 2008 and 2009 composed and comprised the third year running of the book-logging initiative that now dominates this weblog. It definitely contained the least reading of any year so far, with my first record of a month containing no novels at all, and a couple of the others showing only one each. In all, I read 48 books this year, of which there were 25 I hadn't read before.

In the spirit of [livejournal.com profile] angrylemur's not-exactly-a-meme of a little while ago, 29 of those books were by women (with 14 unique female authors, as compared to 10 male) but only four were by people of colour. Widening the scope to admit PoC protagonists raises the latter number to 6, which is really fewer than I expected.

Now it's October. September was a good month for reading; I'll post about it hopefully tomorrow.
garran: (Default)
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.
garran: (Default)
I wonder if telling Facebook that I was attracted to men would get it to stop putting scantily clad women all over everything? I wonder if that would be worth confusing everyone I know?

Today I noticed that I have had a more-or-less steady weblog, in some form or another, for six years now. (I installed my copy of NewsBruiser on dear absent wifl either at the beginning of or just before June 2002.) Some of the exchanges I remember having on this livejournal, with people who still read and comment, happened in 2004! It doesn't feel that long ago, unless I think of it relative to other landmarks -- e.g., that it was before I took any college courses -- at which point it feels much longer.

When I was 16, my dad lost his apartment, and so I started living with my mother full-time, after spending most of my life beforehand moving from one house to the other every two weeks. One of the stranger side-effects of this new inertia was that it was like a metronome had been turned off, and suddenly I had no sense of time; for that first year or two some part of me was convinced that it had just been one long two weeks, and anything more than a couple of days old was all jumbled together in such a way that I might go for several months without realizing my position relative to any of it had changed. (That I was, for unrelated reasons, pretty severely depressed during this period surely didn't help matters.)

This reminded me of that phenomenon, but it isn't still the same thing; eventually I broke out of my depression, and, for that reason or just because my brain taught itself new metrics (I think I pay more attention to the calendar and seasons than I used to), my sense of relative time became stronger again. For several years now, I've not had that trouble; to the extent that I'm temporally disoriented, it's for the much more common and traditional reason that time seems to accrete much more quickly now. This weblog thing is really a reflection of that; at some point I was accustomed to think of it as something I'd really just started, and now, some hurrying later, I notice that I forgot to take that label off.

Like most people, I am made somewhat anxious by the quasi-Buddhist observation that things change and decay, and I can't hold on to them. But for my weblog to have turned at some point into a moderately old and well-established Andy's-life institution is a pretty positive change, I think.
garran: (Default)
Yup.
Lloyd Alexander, Westmark
Pamela Dean, Tam Lin (reread)
I forgot to notice, last month, that it was then and not now that I had been keeping track for a full year. (Beginning of September through beginning of September.) In that year, I read 78 86 novels, 9 11 of which I had read before, and wrote 10 reports on demand -- 11, if I'm allowed to count the one I just posted. Some of the reports were on more than one book, of course. I was mostly but not entirely able to avoid the self-conscious inclination to choose things to read based on how good I thought they'd look on the list. Overall I've found the project pretty rewarding; I hope that other people have also been at least somewhat entertained.

[Edit: revised because I forgot to count March.]
garran: (Default)
I got up yesterday at 11 AM (which, believe it or not, was a nearly intolerable earliness), and by the same time PM was feeling comfortably exhausted. I was asleep by shortly after 12, and now I'm up, before dawn, and it's early-not-late (okay, now it's later - I got distracted). I feel proud of that.

Another mundane triumph: I've finally remembered to replace the bulb in my bedside lamp, so I can read in bed again.

I've been thinking about how, for all my occasional protestations to the contrary, the livejournal seems to have become this weblog's primary incarnation, and the different ways of being that promotes. A little while ago, I wrote in my head a brief entry about how recently I've been watching a whole bunch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I thought, "That is not a thing I will actually post"; it wasn't that I was ashamed of its nerdiness (though for a time I wondered if I might be), but rather that I assumed that most of those likely to read it would be bored by it. A weblog is (at times uneasily) both diary and performance, and livejournal seems to encourage the latter aspect especially; as my words, with the advent of Friends pages, are no longer just set down for my own amusement in an environment I control, I feel a considerably greater obligation to be entertaining. (Not to mention engaging - as J. has remarked on recently, it's very easy to be lured into patterns of writing that you know will encourage certain readers to comment. There's a sort of symbiosis that develops, which I find rather pleasant, from both ends, though I'm not sure I like what I may be giving up for it.)

(This phenomenon isn't entirely new - those few readers who were present when this weblog collapsed from the grace of regular updates may recall that that had a lot to do with the feeling - and the crippling self-consciousness - that I may have acquired somewhere a lot of readers, and was serving them poorly. There is, of course, some difference between a general pressing sensation of audience and an active, participatory audience. I seem to do best when I believe my audiences to be hypothetical.)

When I went to see the Windsor House play yesterday (which was non-bad, but not among our best), I talked to Sylvia for a while, and she mentioned that she was writing about 600 words a day; just, you know, journal stuff. I felt a twinge of regret for the time when I wrote in this weblog daily, and could probably have said the same.

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Andy H.

February 2013

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