Holden: Abaddon’s Gate, p. 230

Self is amazed, simply amazed that she’s so far managed to hold onto the thread of this story, even through a) pandemic b) riots and c) lack of direction from xxxxxxxx, not to mention d) insomnia.

But it’s Holden. Guy just finished reminiscing about his dog Rufus. While in outer space. While headed to an encounter — maybe fatal — with proto-molecule (The Roci, as stated on p. 226, is over “30,000 kilometers away”). That is so, so Holden. Hard as it is to believe, the guy even manages to fall asleep for who knows how long en route to his destination (But why not? Space isn’t always exciting. Especially if you’ve lived in it all your life)

With the infinite and unbroken black all around him, and the only visible spot of light coming in from the blue sphere directly ahead, it was easy to feel like he was in some vast tunnel, slowly moving toward the exit. The human mind didn’t do well with infinite spaces. It wanted walls, horizons, limits. It would create them if it had to.

His suit beeped at him to let him know it was time to replenish his 02 supply.

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Self is sooo glad they’ve stopped making a big deal of his radiation exposure, because she would not like to visualize Holden with all his hair falling out. Not that this is for sure a symptom of radiation over-exposure. But having watched a few episodes of The Expanse, the hair is very nice, yes. It would be a pity to lose it. Just sayin’.

She ordered the next two books after this one, but not sure if she should go all the way, since she knows it will be super-angsty.

To stretch out the pleasure, she’ll alternate The Expanse with other books on her reading list, like Olive, Again (which was highly recommended by a friend in Canada with impeccable reading taste)

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

 

Emily Bernard, Winner of the 2020 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose

The Prize was announced by the L. A. Times on April 17.

Read about other prizes in the full article here.

What the judges had to say about Emily Bernard’s book:

  • In 12 connected essays, Bernard captured her experience with race in Black Is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time and Mine. The panel of judges that awarded Bernard the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose said: “With deceptively simple and luminous prose, Emily Bernard invites us to inhabit her life as she poses perilous questions seemingly as simple as ‘when is a doll just a doll,’ and pushes ever deeper refusing easy solutions. This is a beautiful, important collection of essays.”

Kudos to this beautiful writer, as well as to the other nominees and winners, including the great Walter Mosley, winner of the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement. Mosley, who now resides in New York City, is the “author of more than 43 books.” He is best known “for his mystery series featuring detective Easy Rawlins, a private detective in south-central Los Angeles.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. And buy books.

 

If You’re Going to Write a Battle Scene on a Space Ship

During shelter-in-place, a good book is worth its weight in gold.

Hyperbolic, much?

Anyhoo, not an hour goes by when self doesn’t thank her lucky stars that she found Leviathan Wakes (She’s waiting on Caliban’s War to arrive, and then she’ll order Book #3 of the series, Abbadon’s Gate)

What she appreciates most of all is the precision of the action scenes. Yeah, yeah, what’s to obsess about, it’s just starships exploding, right?

Newp! The scene has to have verisimilitude! It must put you in a character’s head! It’s not enough to say that a character goes through an airlock, you must describe what it feels like to go through an airlock! And don’t over-describe, because then everyone will know you’re just making it up.

She watched The Expanse Season 4, then backtracked to Season 1, and got about four episodes in. Then, Leviathan Wakes arrived in the mail, and she stopped watching the series because she wanted to experience the book. And self would just like to say: the battles and explosions on the series, which look great, are nothing compared to what’s actually on the page.

It is a fully lived experience, on the page. The main point of view — Jim Holden’s, though Miller’s is almost as good — is ace. The writing is very clean. If you’re going to do space opera and stuff, the writing better be precise. For example, this sentence, pp. 138-139:

  • The hatch behind them slammed shut, and the air in the corridor vanished in a soundless ripple of plastic flaps.

Self having experienced an airlock herself (in Durham Cathedral, of all places), she knows it is something like this. There is, for one thing, “the perfect quiet of vacuum.” (p. 140). The mind ceases to work in normal time.

But, enough of this blogging! She has to get back to the book.

Truly, there’s only one activity — well, maybe two — that stops her from devouring the contents of her refrigerator in one go (Food is love; food is comfort, etc). Right now, because it’s too hot to garden (Only April and it’s too hot to garden. This does not bode well), it’s reading.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Top World-Building: LEVIATHAN AWAKES

The thing about science fiction is: the worlds couldn’t be more different from each other (She’s read three so far this year: The Goblin Emperor, Children of Time, and this book), yet they each have an intricately detailed universe, and the authors write that world with such conviction. If you’re going to build a world from scratch, you better make sure it’s consistent in every particular. In other words, it takes commitment. And energy. And of course imagination.

Self had started watching The Expanse, that’s why she ordered Leviathan Awakes. After the book arrived in the mail, she decided to stop watching The Expanse because she wanted to form her own ideas about the characters.

Alas, whenever she reads about Miller, the image that immediately pops into her head is Thomas Jane wearing a porkpie hat! Whereas, if she had never watched a single episode, she would have had fun conjuring Miller’s appearance (Not that she has anything against Thomas Jane, who’s a very good actor)

Back to the world-building. On p. 26, Miller eats dinner and has some thoughts:

An hour later, his blood warm with drink, he heated up a bowl of real rice and fake beans — yeast and fungus could mimic anything if you had enough whiskey first — opened the door of his hole, and ate dinner looking out at the traffic gently curving by. The second shift streamed into the tube stations and then out of them. The kids who lived two holes down — a girl of eight and her brother of four — met their father with hugs, squeals, mutual accusations, and tears. The blue ceiling glowed in its reflected light, unchanging, static, reassuring. A sparrow floated down the tunnel, hovering . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, 13 March 2020

p. A4: CRISIS TESTS PRESIDENT’S AD-LIB STYLE

Does self care? She means, about the testing of the President’s “ad-lib style”? No, not really.

President Trump’s rare prime-time speech Wednesday was designed to reassure the nation about his administration’s response to a quickly spreading coronavirus.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s scripted speech included errors about health-insurance payments and European travel restrictions, people involved in the speechwriting said Thursday. He also inserted his own mistakes as he spoke, the people said.

During the 10-minute speech — with its one stray word suggesting that the U.S. would ban cargo from Europe — stock futures fell sharply, and the global market rout that followed led to U.S. stocks’ worst drop since 1987 on Thursday.

Self-Regard

Since finishing The Hobbit, a week and a half ago, self has read two books by women: The Haunting of the Mexican Border, by Kathryn Ferguson (University of New Mexico Press, 2015) and Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino (Random House, 2019).

Ferguson undertakes an exploration of the southern border, with a vague hope of making a documentary: she doesn’t have funds, doesn’t know anyone, but stumbles around, talking to whoever will talk to her. And she IS lucky: nothing bad happens to her.

Jia Tolentino is lucky. The daughter of Philippine parents who became Canadian citizens, she is smart as a whip, in-your-face, and funny. Her style is to sit back and analyze everything that happens to her, and everything she does.

In Essay # 2 of Trick Mirror, she recounts her time as a reality TV contestant (She was 16. Never one to miss an advantage, she packs a lot of pocket-sized mini-skirts. Points!). After analyzing her fellow castmates (one was “a sweet guy,” another was “the all-American girl,” still another was “the wacko,” etc.), she asks her castmates what they thought she’d been cast as:

Though I’m sure they would’ve answered differently if someone else had been asking, my castmates guessed I was the smart one, or the sweet one, or the “fun Southern one,” or the prude.

(It is amazing that someone would ever think she’d been cast as “the prude,” given the pocket-sized minis!)

But then she writes, disarmingly, that reality TV “is a narcissist’s fantasy come true . . . everyone likes to have an audience. Everyone thinks they deserve one.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Peaky Blinders S4:E4

  • “This pub’s come to our attention for its lack of ice.”

 

California: The Light

California light is harsh. There are no subtleties between light and dark.

You’re young and then you’re suddenly old. It just happens.

We’re at the very middle of summer. After tomorrow, the days will get shorter. Self is sorry that she didn’t enjoy the summer as much as she should have. The weather every day was so unsettling: some days cool, like early spring. And then, the very next day, intensely hot.

She loves watching CNN: that succession of animatronic talking heads. The best moments of the Democratic Campaign so far have been: 1) Pete Buttigieg being confronted by a crowd of angry black citizens of South Bend, asking him if he believed in Black Lives Matter (“Are you asking me if black lives matter?” Buttigieg asked. “Of course they do.” A woman yelled: SAY IT. WE WANT TO HEAR YOU SAY IT. High drama, self loved it. Buttigieg did not back down. 2) Michael Bennett’s speech highlights, shown this morning before he came on The View. Until this morning, she barely registered a thought about him. WOW, that speech they aired this morning was a scorcher.

Both Buttigieg and Bennet are long shots, but they each represent a uniquely American energy. Which is COMPLETELY LACKING in the GOP.

She watched both Democratic debates. She was not enthused by Kamala’s unleashing on Biden. Self means, someone had to go after Biden, and no one was doing it, good for Kamala for having the keenest ambition of all the candidates. But really, it felt almost too easy. She won’t find it that easy to go after POTUS the same way.

Self tries to imagine a presidential debate between Trump and Kamala. She doesn’t think he’ll go for creepily stalking her across the stage, as he did with Hillary (Or maybe he will. Who knows? He’s clearly used that tactic before. On someone. Alas, Hillary was completely unprepared for the grotesque gesture)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Henry Tilney, The End of Daenerys

It’s nearly the end of Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney still hasn’t declared any feelings for Catherine Morland, but self loves loves loves this him: his diffidence, his wit, his tenderness towards his sister Eleanor. So far, this is her favorite Jane Austen ever (a close second: Emma)

Still reading about Game of Thrones‘ final season because it hurt self to the core. Still more from yesterday’s USA Today (the first thing self grabbed during afternoon tea at the hotel yesterday):

  • Much like Cersei’s death last week, Dany’s demise felt like a dull, anticlimactic end.
  • Bran “hasn’t had a personality since Season 6 and is the least-helpful all-seeing magical reason ever.”

Self is still bitter that they brought Gendry back in Season 7 just to function as Arya’s boy toy in Season 8 (also, if you really want to know, she thinks Ed Sheeran’s pointless cameo in Season 7 should have warned her: You’re not going to like the way this ends.) Cleganebowl happened too late to really matter. Bronn stayed on-brand as the No. 1 Advocate for Brothels. Nice job, Sansa Stark, becoming Queen of the North. The melting down of the Iron Throne was whatever. Jon got to keep his melancholy look. And Davos was sitting right next to Gendry during the gathering of all the remaining families of Westeros, so these two will get to become each other’s family.

Self thinks the wriers’ interest in the story ended with Season 6. After, they were just making sure they dotted their “i’s” and crossed their “t’s” per contractual basis.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

.

Fans Deserved Better. The Characters Deserved Better.

It’s only been a few days, but already self wants to forget.

She agrees with what USA Today’s Kelly Lawler says below:

‘Game of Thrones’ Ends with a Whimper

This isn’t what we signed up for.

When Game of Thrones premiered eight years ago, it was instantly clear that the series was something different. It was a story that broke the conventions of the fantasy genre, not one that was a slave to them. Tragedy and injustice were as baked into the series’ identity as dragons and battles.

But that’s not the show that aired its finale Sunday night. In the final episode, The Iron Throne, the show was unrecognizable. It was hacky; it was cliched. Every character left standing received a saccharine coda. Closure is one thing, but pandering is entirely another.

The Iron Throne would have been a fine ending for a different kind of TV show. It would have been a satisfying landing for a series that had long warmed hearts.

Self still can’t bring herself to watch the last three episodes in their entirety. She only watched the last half of the finale, just before Jon sticks a sword into Dany and she dies with nary a WHY? Or a look of wounded betrayal. Come on! Jon didn’t look anguished when he did it. The whole scene was so by-the-numbers. Empty, empty, empty. And for a series that dominated self’s life for at least eight years, that is a huge disappointment.

Stay tuned.

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