Those ebooks you’ve been waiting for? Today’s the day. . . . *
YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY.** ::Confetti:: Fireworks? Sure. Why not. Also fireworks. And champagne. Definitely champagne.
And if you forget, splendid Blogmom has put a permanent link in the right sidebar. ***
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* Not that I want to lower the level from high exquisite thought-provoking literature that provides deep and astonishing insights into the paradoxical mind and authentic heart of humanity^ or anything like that but WE FINALLY HAVE A DISHWASHER AGAIN. That is, the kind with a door in the front and a mains plug in the rear and lots of SHELVES in between and you PUT YOUR DIRTY DISHES in it and CLOSE THE DOOR and TURN IT ON . . . and go back to your book or your knitting or your piano^^ with a happy sigh. I AM SO TIRED OF WASHING DISHES BY HAND. Especially the part about redoing all the ones that Peter thinks he’s already washed. Arrrrrrrgh.
^ Plus dragons, vampires, sighthounds, rosebushes etc.
^^ Also FINALLY I had a voice lesson today+ THAT WAS NOT A DISASTER. This is the first non-disaster since the house move, I think, and the gruesomely long summer break during which I FORGOT EVERYTHING I HAD ONCE KNOWN and found myself incapable of relearning any of it in a strange new sitting room++ which was way too SMALL so I was making TOO MUCH NOISE. +++
+ Yes. It’s usually on Monday only Nadia’s car broke.
++ Except it wasn’t strange! It wasn’t new! It is lovely friendly Third House and I am a MORON!#
# This is not news, of course. Especially when applied to singing, knitting, bell ringing, etc.
^^^ I’m still making too much noise but I’m getting used to making too much noise.#
** Also YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. ^
^ I’m not sure how you go about wrapping ebooks and putting them under the Christmas tree, but please try.
*** YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY BLOGMOM.
I ate an apple this morning. In fact I ate two.* And I am still alive. ::Beams:: Of course everything was downhill from there but the apples were fabulous . . .
I was thinking . . . it’s not all stomach flu, or the Samaritans, that my blogging has dropped so precipitously. Some of it is what I had been saying for six and a half years or whatever it was by then, that if I stopped doing it every day I would stop doing it. Although some of it certainly is the added time-and-energy demand of the Samaritans.**
But some of it is just the way my life is going. At the moment there’s a lot less good public blog material than there was a couple of years ago. I don’t want to wrestle with my involuntary two-year-old faith in public: God is love and the world is a mess, whatever. Why does accepting God as love immediately throw THE WORLD IS A MESS into unbearably sharp relief? Discuss. No, don’t. And theology scares the living doodah out of me. WHAT? I was comforted recently by reading or hearing some frelling scholar saying that in the Middle Ages no one would have bothered debating the existence of God, and if you’d tried they’d look at you in bewilderment: theirs was a practical faith and they just got on with it. And when it’s all too much, which it usually is, I just get on with it too, here in the twenty-first century, although that plan is not without its drawbacks. I went round to the estate agent’s today, the fellow who is (we hope) selling the mews for us, because he has a long list of councils, bodies, boards and free lance gardeners, haulers-away and electricians, whom he’s going to sic onto me, and those of you who know me know I do not do mornings, which councils, bodies, boards etc, are often regrettably fond of, and I wanted to emphasise that my passing references to being a late riser were particularly apropos these next two mornings because I had a late duty with the Sams followed by an all-nighter with the Street Pastors. I knew he had already categorised me as peculiar*** but I could now see him staring at me as if I had six heads.
And then . . . well, for example, I have a recently-disabled friend whom I spend the evening with about once a week, to give both her and her regular carers a break. I could make a very funny story of our experience this week when the latest piece of shiny! New! Expensive! NHS kit got jammed in the frelling doorway because it was TOO WIDE TO FIT THROUGH. The little squeezy lever didn’t squeeze it far enough.† My friend lives in an ordinary, non-adapted house with, you know, ordinary sized doors. Doesn’t the NHS, like, I mean, how obvious . . . um, measure the average apertures their home-care assistance machinery is going to have to NEGOTIATE WITH?? We went through some of this after Peter’s stroke too, but . . . GAH. But while I’m the one that gouged some paint off the doorframe, the choice being gouge the sodding frame or call an ambulance and she voted for architectural damage, it’s still essentially not my story to tell.
I’ve told you before about the Samaritans’ pathological confidentiality, so there it’s like, telephone? There are telephones in the Sams’ front office? REALLY? ::Drums fingers and looks clueless:: And I could have got a lot of stories, not very many of them funny although all of them redolent of human nature, out of the Street Pastors’ David Lynch Halloween.†† Or out of most SP shifts. But while I know there are a lot of properly published and money-for-their-authors-earning memoirs out there about social-service work both professional and charitable most of my SP duties don’t feel like my stories to tell either.
Eh well. I’m going to have to work on learning to recommend books or something. I’ve got a pile of ‘must put these on the blog’ books about hip high at this point, leaning against the grandmother clock in the sitting room at the cottage. I should also answer more forum comments.
Maybe I should just concentrate on KES.
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* But not six. But they were big ones.
** And there’s still that homeopathy course to wedge in somewhere.^ Blasted Darkness managed to put his back/neck/shoulders out again. Arnica didn’t work, but rhus tox did. I should do some reading up on frelling stomach flu to have a short list of plausible suspects if the subject comes up again WHICH IT’S NOT GOING TO OF COURSE.
^ I keep averting my attention from Japanese language lessons. Sigh.
*** I have no idea why! None whatsoever!
† Like trying to thread super-chunky-monster yarn into an ordinary tapestry needle. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Fluffy 12-mm size yarn won’t even fit through the big diamond-shaped wire opening of a needle threader, you know? Now what? Weave in the ends with my fingers? Cut off the carefully preserved long frelling yarn tails and sew the ends in place?
†† Did I even tell you that the two people who had had possibly the worst Halloween night of anyone on the planet actually tracking Saturday night’s Street Pastors team down to thank them/us/SPs? That was pretty frelling nice.
I told you it had been reissued: http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2014/02/13/dont-i-keep-trying-to-reinstate-short-wednesdays/ Almost any of Peter’s books, if you mention it suddenly and catch me off guard I will probably say, Oh, that’s one of my favourites! But in Emma Tupper’s case I’m telling the truth.
Here’s a new review by its very own republisher: http://smallbeerpress.com/not-a-journal/2014/04/16/reading-like-its-1971/ *
I was already distressingly near to grown up by 1971 and wasn’t hanging out in kids’ book sections any more. I knew about Peter Dickinson, but I knew him for his rivetingly bizarre murder mysteries. It would take several more years and a job at the children’s division of Little, Brown (as it then was), for me to learn what I had been missing. L,B had the back catalogue of its colleague Atlantic Monthly Press on its shelves too . . . including Peter Dickinson’s kids’ books. Including Emma Tupper.
If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? You don’t have to be told a third time, do you?**
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* I wish I’d grown up on a Scottish loch side. ^
^ I’m keeping the five years in Japan though.
** Makes a good gift too.
This is such a good book.
I don’t remember how I managed to notice it; unless I am being even more clueless than usual, which I admit is entirely possible, I don’t think it’s been waved around and shouted about much over here, which is a pity—do the British really think a YA fantasy novel about the American antebellum south isn’t of interest? But it isn’t a YA fantasy novel about the American antebellum south, although it’s certainly that too—it’s a novel about what it is to be human. Which is what all the best novels are about, including—and I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating—the ones featuring fuzzy blue eight-legged methane-breathers. Or a Louisiana sugar-cane plantation a hundred and fifty years ago, run by slave labour.
Thirteen-year-old Sophie’s parents have split up (very shocking in 1960 middle-class America) and her mother is taking her back to her family’s old home for the summer to get her out of the way. Sophie’s mother’s family were very grand a hundred years ago, and the house where Sophie’s grandmother and aunt still live is on a remnant of the old plantation. Sophie is miserable; she’d already been outcast by her friends because of the divorce, and the back of beyond in the bayou is nearly the worst fate she can think of. She explores the overgrown—and reputedly haunted—maze that had been part of the Big House’s garden in the plantation’s day. And there she meets . . . a Creature. “There’s no question that there’s strange things around Oak River,” says Sophie’s Aunt Enid, “and if they’re not ghosts, then they’re something mighty like.”
“I warn you,” says the Creature to Sophie, “I mighty powerful juju. I sits at the doorway betwixt might be and is, betwixt was and will be, betwixt here and there. . . . ”
But Sophie, reckless in her unhappiness, and having perhaps reread E Nesbit and Edward Eager a little too often, wishes for an adventure. “Adventures just come along natural with going back in time,” says the Creature.
And Sophie discovers that she’s back a hundred years. When her ancestors, the Fairchilds, were plantation owners. And what had been her bedroom in 1960 is the bedroom of the daughter of the family in 1860. Who is understandably dismayed by the strange girl in it. But Sophie, with her frizzy hair and her dark summer tan, is mistaken for a runaway slave. And the only reason she isn’t flogged and dragged away in chains is because she is obviously a member of the family—she has the famous Fairchild nose. She is, it is decided by Miss Liza’s parents, the daughter of Miss Liza’s rackety uncle—and one of his slaves.
Which makes Sophie a slave. Which is not the sort of adventure she had in mind.
The plantation world is brought superbly to life, as are the people in it. One of the things I found particularly effective is sheltered, white-girl 1960 Sophie having no idea what it means to be a slave: that just meeting someone’s eyes because they’re speaking to you is uppity, that any answer at all may be the wrong answer, that it is perfectly acceptable to be expected to wait on table when you are half-sick with hunger yourself, that it is perfectly acceptable to be sent on another errand, and another errand after that when you’re exhausted—because you aren’t really human. And that the white overseer is always right even when he’s wrong, and that a black slave doesn’t know more even when he does—because he’s a slave.
And what this grotesque imbalance of power does to both sides of this criminally bad bargain.
There are so many neat, tucked-away little details in this book, of plot, character and serendipity, none of which I can tell you—but I can tell you to look out for them. I’ve discovered one or two more just glancing through it now to get the names and quotations right—and many of these apparently casual bits and pieces come together beautifully for the climax and denouement.
Give yourself a treat: read it.
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* I read a book over supper last night.^ It was thrilling. I always used to read over meals unless Story in Progress was giving me an unusually ferocious time; but in the last six and a half years if I’m not wrestling with a recalcitrant Story I’m mostly writing the blog at night. Hey. More book recs on the new blog system. Yessssssss.
^ I was also up way too late as a result. Sigh. Well, no system is perfect.
I darned a sock this morning. I’m trying to remember the last time I darned a frelling sock.* There are advantages to staying home all the time.** At the moment I’m actually reading*** books faster than I’m buying them. This won’t last. But I have TWO NEW BOOK RECS to add to the list just in this last week, and you will remember I am a Very Cranky Reader. I periodically have fantasies of doing a book rec a week for the blog. That would press pretty hard on my fundamental CRANKINESS—two rec-able titles in seven days is perhaps not unheard of but supremely unlikely—but it might be an interesting experiment.
After the monsoon, the Nor’easter. We had a no-nonsense hard frost last night, according to my minimum-maximum thermometer down to 28°(F) and the tropical jungle is all huddled anxiously on the Winter Table indoors. And it’s slithery outdoors. I hadn’t tried to go to my monks last night after I got a last-minute email from Alfrick saying that there was no contemplation before the night prayer, which was furthermore early . . . but this morning I was booted, spurred and caffeinated to bolt for Sunday [Anglican] Mass at the monks’, but by the time I had to leave it was still below freezing and I didn’t like the look of the roads. At. All. So I didn’t go. And I didn’t go to St Margaret’s tonight either for the same reason.† I’m beginning to feel like an eremite.
But I darned a sock.††
What with the last fortnight’s undesirable adventures, I’ve kind of lost track of where I am rattling through forum comments. So if I’ve responded to any of these already I hope I’m saying more or less the same things. This may be boring for you, but anything else would be very disconcerting to me.
Tall, thin, spiky shadow? Like, um, rose bushes? Rosebushes that SALUTE? Well, maybe there’s a breeze in there.
No, no, it’s the hob. It’s got to be the hob.
But what’s the hob going to do? They’re not warriors, are they? Maybe it could trip somebody, er, something, er, whatever is coming.
I think rose-bushes of apparently supernatural origin can probably do whatever they put their pointy little minds to. I wouldn’t trust Rose Manor’s own roses—the ones that can survive anything, even Cold Valley winters, and who eat children and small dogs when they can get them—not to have an agenda. And hobs . . . now I know I said something like this before . . . hobs protect their homes. That’s what they’re for. That’s what they do.
|bethanynash wrote on Sat, 07 December 2013 22:18|
|I hadn’t even considered the idea that the tall spiky shadow could be the hob… what does a hob look like? Is the hob tall? Would a hob salute?|
I think we’re in anything-can-happen territory here.
Yep. Got it in one. For a storyteller like me the fun is in taking a tradition or a fairy tale or a bit of folklore . . . and giving it a pink feather boa and a pair of All Stars, so to speak. Again, as I keep saying, I don’t do this deliberately, but when a story—or a hob or a dragon or a vampire or whatever—speaks to me, speaks to me rather than some other storyteller, it’s because THEY WANT THE BOA.
I learned a new word: “deliquescing”!
It’s a good one, isn’t it? It’s been one of My Words for some time. Vellicating, however, I’d forgotten about, till I saw it somewhere recently and thought, oh! I should use that!—especially since I’m twitchy myself.
What I’m wondering is, how will this experience affect Kes’ next volume of ‘Flowerhair’? As in, personal experience (blood, the sheer physicality and awfulness of violent death, which is expressed so well here) informing her writing.
We-ell . . . your life and your fiction have a strange relationship to each other. It’s as I’ve ranted in other contexts: yes, readers know a lot about me, the author of the story, but they don’t know what they know. I’ve never written about being a military brat, living five years in Japan where I clearly did not belong, and then coming back to America and finding that it wasn’t home any more . . . anywhere but here in the blog. But my particular experience of being an outsider—most authors feel like outsiders in one form or another, I think; it helps channel the storytelling—entirely informs my writing. But you can’t tell from my stories that I lived five years in Japan when I was a kid.
And . . . my own experience of extreme situations is that the last thing I want to do is stuff them in my fiction†††—which is what Kes says: nightmares that she doesn’t put in her stories. Flowerhair might retire and . . . er . . . open a florist’s. ‡
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* Your average cotton-with-a-little-spandex or equivalent isn’t worth the bother unless they’re really favourite socks, especially since they’re probably going thin all over at the same time. But nice heavy socks, like the wool oversocks I wear this time of year—they deserve respect, and darning when necessary.^ I used to have a darning basket but it got kind of intimidating.
^ Not least in my case when I find some wool socks I can bear to wear, even over one or two pairs of cotton socks+, I want to keep them as long as possible.
+ Yes. My shoe size goes up in the winter.
** Somewhat depending on how you feel about things like darning socks. Or washing the kitchen floor which I did a couple of days ago.^ I actually kind of like all that fussy domestic stuff. It’s the time it takes I object to. And as I have said frequently, if I have an urge to tidy I’m unlike to waste it on the mere house^^: I’ll go out in the garden and thrash around there. Unless, of course, it’s zero degrees out there. In which case I may wash the kitchen floor.
^ You’d never know it. I have three dogs. Sigh.
^^ The house with three dogs
*** This includes throwing some of them violently across the room and then picking them up and putting them in the ‘Oxfam’ bag. Hey, they have been processed, and they’re now ready to depart my living space.
† Driving is always kind of a marginal activity for me, because of the ME. And although Peter stopped driving several years ago, he blocks the cold wind of reality in other ways. With him mostly out of action I’m feeling even less heroic (and more cold) than usual.
†† Life in the very very slow lane: I’ve forgotten how to do fiddly daily shopping—partly because Peter likes doing it^ and partly because I grew up in a culture that does once a week mega-shops. So I went to mini-grocery number one for lettuce and Peter’s GUARDIAN, and they had the lettuce but not the GUARDIAN. So I heaved a deep sigh, but I’ve already failed Peter once in the newspaper category this week, and a GUARDIAN man can only read the TIMES so often before he starts throwing silverware at the wall, and I walked to the far end of town^^ to mini-grocery number two where I bought the last Sunday GUARDIAN^^^ . . . but it wouldn’t have done me any good to go there first because they didn’t have any lettuce. Store managers get together to plan this kind of thing, right?
^ Takes all kinds
^^ Which takes about thirty seconds. It is, however, uphill going home.
^^^ Which is to say OBSERVER, for those of you who care. I have no idea why the Sunday GUARDIAN is called the OBSERVER.
††† Maybe in a decade or two. Or three.
‡ . . . although I doubt it.