starlady: (serious business)
Liu Cixin. The Three-Body Problem. Trans. Ken Liu. New York: Tor Books, 2014.

I was quite excited to read this book, which was a bestseller in China and which is one of the few examples of Chinese-language SF available in English. After giving it the old college try, however (I got to position 173 of 593 in my ebook, or to chapter 9), I had to either give up or face death by boredom. I just don't get the hype, and even beyond that, there are a few things about the book that I actively object to. Here's a problem with ebooks that I discovered reading this one: how to throw across the room in disgust?

Stuff from the part I did read. Contains discussion of suicide )

Stuff gleaned from reading reviews )

The AV Club's review called the book more anthropological than exciting on account of translator Ken Liu's attributing the book's flaws to the Chinese literary tradition, but for a whole bunch of reasons I think this is a cop-out on Ken Liu's part. (The review is partly boneheaded [the rise of the Party was 40 years before the Cultural Revolution, WTF] but it makes good points overall.) First of all, I don't think the idea that "the Chinese literary tradition" is necessarily didactic, boring, and bereft of characters with emotions really holds water. I am not any kind of expert on every era of Chinese literature, but at the least Lu Xun and the May Fourth Movement were not for characters without emotions, to say nothing of writers I've loved such as Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang) and Han Bangqing. Ken Liu's decision to render Liu Cixin's prose in this sort of flat manner--and even more, to lard an already overly expository text with even more in-text explanation rather than more footnotes--is the kind of mistake I would expect from a very inexperienced translator. Of course translation is a betrayal; if you're going to translate something, you have to decide what purpose your betrayal will serve, and Ken Liu has done the book and English-language readers no favors in his translation choices.

In conclusion: ARGH.

ETA: [personal profile] seekingferret finished the book and has some very interesting remarks on it (including corrections to some of my assumptions).
starlady: (run)
Martínez, Tomás Eloy. The Tango Singer. Trans. Anne McLean. London: Bloomsbury, 2006. [2004]

Buenos Aires is one of the great literary cities of the world, both in terms of the literature written about and in terms of its denizens' penchant for reading books, and I couldn't leave without shelling out (quite a lot of money) for at least one volume somewhere. I found this book in Libros del Pasaje in Palermo, and I recognized it as one of the "recommended reads" in my Rough Guide. Reading a bit of it in the store confirmed that the prose was captivating, and the story, which follows a hapless American grad student who heads to Argentina ten days before the towers fell in New York and leaves a month after the cacerolazo protests and the collapse of the Argentine economy toppled five presidents in ten days.

People will say that none of this is important, and the truth is it isn't, but I'd rather not overlook the slightest detail. )
starlady: Kazuhiko & Suu landing (fly)
Hyakunin Isshû | One Hundred People, One Poem Each. Trans. Larry Hammer. New Mexico: Cholla Bear Press, 2011.

The Hyakunin isshû is the single most popular poetic anthology in all of Japanese literature: compiled by the noted scholar and critic Fujiwara no Teika in the 12thC, it selects one poem each from a hundred notable poets from nearly six centuries of Japanese verse, starting with the Man'yôshû and ending with Teika's own era. The poems offer a parade of canonical topics, topoi, images and utamakura (poetic phrases) as well as a fascinating catalog of the transformation both in classical Japanese, the language, and in classical Japanese verse from its very beginnings to the end of the classical era itself.

Larry Hammer's self-published translations of these poems makes this much easier by providing not only transliteration of the poems but also the texts in Japanese of the poems themselves, as well as Hammer's translations. The translations themselves are uniformly quite good, frequently roughly metrical and always decent poetry in the target language, which is, I think, important. There are of course many translations where I thought that Hammer zigged where I personally might have zagged, but these are differences of style and opinion, rather than of meaning, and much of it comes down to the fact that classical Japanese is such a dense, allusive medium that it's virtually impossible to replicate the original in any target language, and I certainly think Hammer does as good a job as, if not better than, more well-known assayers.

If all of this sounds interesting, you're in luck! Lulu.com is currently having a site-wide sale, until the end of the month: follow this link to buy One Hundred People, One Poem Each and use code LULUBOOK305 at check-out to save 25% off your order, up to $50 off. There's also an ebook version available, if I'm not mistaken.
starlady: (obligatory japan icon)
Yoshinaga Fumi. Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! Trans. William Flanagan. New York: Yen Press, 2010.

I was pointed to this manga by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' review of it, and it was so worth it. Not only is it an idiosyncratic restaurant guide to Tokyo written by a discerning and passionate foodie, but it's also an absolutely hilarious dissection of the ridiculous lifestyle of the contemporary mangaka, with an added dash of paranoia thrown in due to the fact that Yoshinaga, as the hilarious and brilliant translation has it, "makes her living by drawing men engaging in anal sex." The manga is also partaking in the venerable tradition in Japanese literature of the "I-novel" (watashi shôsetsu), which applies a thin layer of fictionalization to the author's life so as to allow them to speak more freely. Yoshinaga pokes knowing fun at herself as well as all the people she shanghais into going to restaurants with her, and the reader is privileged to go along with them.

I don't know how many of these restaurants are still around, and after the Tôhoku earthquake, I don't know how many of them are operating with full power. I'll be bringing the manga to Japan with me this summer, and I shall certainly report back on both those things as I can. In the meantime, I've been watching the beautiful, and unnerving, video below rather more times than I should. The use of light in Japanese cities is more pervasive than in many U.S. cities, I think--a lot of the cityscape is a lot more like Times Square than anywhere else in that respect--and the changes the video shows are correspondingly dramatic.


starlady: Orihime in Hueco Mundo: "damned to be one of us, girl" (damned)
Andromeda Stories vols. 2 & 3. New York: Vertical Press, 2007.

I was right; I do like To Terra… better (though I'm not sure which manga is bleaker). Probably because I have an easier time dealing with the mother complex when a) the mother in question is a computer (no, I mean that literally) and b) it doesn't cross the line into actual incest. There was a lot of incest in this manga, actually, which is sort of amazing given how few characters actually get screen time. For the record, the robots and the cyborg were my collective favorite, probably because they make the most sense of anyone. Yeah. Also, I found the ending of Terra e… more comprehensible.

Apropos of [personal profile] snarp's comments on To Terra…, I'd have to say that the manga are similar in that all the agency is in the hands of men, with the already noted exception of Il, who is still my favorite character. Where the manga falls down in particular, compared with Terra e…, is how little character development it features, so that I had a hard time sympathizing with anyone. Also, the whole thing with Affle, WTH. Her (possibly delusional, in the manga's view?) prostitute foster mother made her live as a boy so that she could grow up to be a prince? What? Well, she does grow up to be a prince, but…yeah, I don't know, there's a level at which it all feels rather arbitrary.

I do really think that this had a strong influence on R.G. Veda, at least in terms of costuming.
starlady: (clover)
Takemiya Keiko. Terra e… | To Terra… vols. 2 & 3. Trans. Dawn T. Laabs. New York: Vertical, 2007. [1977-80]

I read the first volume of this classic sf epic in Japanese about two years ago, which, combined with the manga's frequent long time-jumps, made remembering exactly what was going on a bit difficult initially.

Oddly enough, I would bet money that this story ends on a way bleaker note than Andromeda Stories, but I have the feeling that in the end I'll like this one better. As soon as I actually finish Andromeda Stories, I'll report back on that.

The plot of the manga revolves around humanity, which in the far future has given over control of itself to a system of supercomputers in an attempt to a) re-terraform Earth (Terra) so as to make it eventually habitable again and b) keep humanity free of the corrupting influence of the Mu, a sub-species (?) of humanity that develops enormous psychic powers in latency, concomitant with a greatly lengthened lifespan and decreased physical strength. As part of this, humans are conceived in laboratories at the computers' direction and live segregated by age: some planets contain only children, while others are reserved for adults, and a rigorous educational process serves to separate out those who are Mu from 'normal' humans. Jomy Marcus Shin believes he's human like everyone else until he undergoes his maturity testing and finds out he's a Mu; eventually, at the behest of the Mu leader Soldier Blue, Jomy accepts his destiny as Blue's successor and leads the Mu in rebellion to the planet Nazca, where they make a temporary settlement and fall to bickering about whether to attempt to regain Terra, their promised land.

Volumes 2 and 3 cover the decision (not without cost) to abandon Nazca and press on to Terra, at the same time as the Mu and Jomy are pursued by the ruthless Terran elite soldier Keith Anyan, who like the Mu prophetess Physis was born entirely from the computers, using synthetic DNA. Keith's rise to power is shadowed by his aide Makka, a Mu who grew up too far out to be put through the educational system and whose loyalty is thus to humanity. For his part, Jomy (who by the end of volume 2 has stopped using his eyes, voice, or ears, instead communicating and perceiving the world entirely through telepathy) is aided and bedeviled by the Nazca Nine, Mu children who were born naturally on Nazca and whose powers are equaled only by Jomy's. The ending is…spectacular.

I liked this manga, though I was sort of shocked by the ending, and it's partly because Takemiya is really good at conveying emotionality, even as she keeps the plot moving at a blazing clip. The characters, and the impossible positions in which they find themselves, stay with you after you finish reading. I really want to watch the 2007 anime, too, since Wikipedia tells me the endings are slightly different. This is yet another nice Vertical release that sold horribly; if you're ever at an anime con with a Vertical booth, they will be more than happy to have you take copies off their hands.
starlady: (tomoyo magic hope)
Sei Shônagon. Makura no sôshi | The Pillow Book (ca. 1005). Trans. Meredith McKinney. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Meredith McKinney has done the world a great service by bringing out a new, comprehensive and compulsively readable version of Sei Shônagon's idiosyncratic classic of Heian literature in English. The previous widely-known version by Ivan Morris, while eminently literary, omitted most of the sections of lists of things with which Sei sprinkles her miscellany, and which form a vital part of the book, conveying much more of her worldview and the culture it came from than at first one realizes.

Sei Shônagon was in service at the court of Empress Teishi from roughly 993 to 1000, several years older than many of her fellow gentlewomen and far outstripping many of them in literary-poetic talent; The Pillow Book is among other things a selected recollection of various moments from the acme of Teishi and her branch of the Fujiwara family's glory, which was cut short in 995 with her father Regent Michitaka's sudden death. Her brothers Korechika and Taka'ie were easily shunted aside by their uncle Michinaga, who married his daughter Shôshi to the Emperor Ichijô on the day of the birth of Teishi's son and who went on to subsidize Murasaki Shikibu's service at Shôshi's court at the summit of Fujiwara and Heian glory, recorded vividly in Murasaki's diary and heavily fictionalized in The Tale of Genji. Sei, associated with Teishi and Michitaka despite her well-known admiration for Michinaga, left the court after her mistress's death in childbirth, and completed The Pillow Book, probably close kin to the commonplace books that many aristocrats and courtiers of both genders kept at their bedsides, sometime later. She did so without the official patronage that supported Murasaki's diary, which is obviously meant as a public record of Michinaga's magnificence and munificence, giving The Pillow Book the freedom to be more personal.

A mini-essay on Sei, Heian Japan, and her book. )
starlady: (utena myth)
Hagio Moto, A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. Trans. Matt Thorn. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2010.

So this is the new, shiny, and last Hagio available in English. My overall reaction can be summed up by saying, "Please sir, I want some more."

More )

I would be remiss if I didn't point to [personal profile] rushthatspeaks' review of this book, which led me on the whole Hagio excursion in the first place; rush makes some different points about these stories that I agree with.
starlady: (utena myth)
Awesome '70s Shoujo Week continues! [personal profile] marshtide has served up Gender, Sexuality and 70s Shojo Part Two: Psycopathic Lesbian Sorority Girls. [I totally have to read Oniisama E, seriously.]

Hagio Moto. A, A'. San Francisco: VIZ, 1996. [1981]

In these four interlinked stories Hagio explores a future solar system in which "unicorns," a rare subspecies of humanity genetically engineered for great computational and technical prowess and a minimum of external affect, mingle in isolate with the rest of their fellow humans, misunderstood and frequently vulnerable due to their difference.

I think I liked the first story, "A, A'," the best; it tells of a young unicorn researcher whose "original" is killed while posted to a remote research station and who according to company policy is cloned from genetic samples taken three years earlier, before her dispatch to the station, and sent out to replace herself. Naturally Adelaide has trouble reintegrating into the life of a group that remembers her old, three-years-their-comrade self; she particularly has trouble with her lover on staff, who can't accept that she's not who she was. The ending is weirdly hopeful and hopeless at the same time.

The other three stories, "4/4" and the two halves of "X/Y," follow the teenage and then young adult teek Mori, whose control over his psionic abilities is precarious--unless he's in the presence of a unicorn, as he learns when he meets the girl Trill at the space station where he lives. Trill, however, has a difficult relationship with her scientist father, and with the outside world, and Mori finds himself drawn into a fraught relationship with all three of them.

In "X/Y" Mori is living on Mars, where he meets a unicorn named Tacto, who is on Mars as part of a team from Earth proposing a revolutionary method to terraform the red planet. Mori finds himself drawn to Tacto, despite the fact that they're the same gender. Or are they? And does it matter?

I'm not entirely comfortable with the way Hagio handles transgender characters and stories about them--"X/Y" needs a warning for a trans character's suicide--and there's something a little off-kilter about her portrayal of gay characters, too. But I think on some level most of her protagonists aren't entirely comfortable in their own skin, or at least with the way society describes that skin, and on that level I imagine they have something in common with their creator and her fellow Shôwa 24 manga-ka. Which is another way of saying Hagio's reach sometimes exceeds her grasp--or the visual structures and language of her manga can't keep pace with her ideas--and reading her work is a fascinating exercise in trying to tease out all the implications of what she does and doesn't do. And it bears repeating that Hagio and the Shôwa 24 exploring these concerns at all in shoujo manga was revolutionary, and path-breaking; there'd be no Ôoku, or a host of other contemporary shoujo and josei manga, without Hagio Moto and Ikeda Riyoko, that's for sure.
starlady: (utena myth)
It's now officially Awesome '70s Shoujo Week here in my corner of the internet. I direct every single last one of you to [personal profile] marshtide's Gender, Sexuality, and 70s Shoujo Part One: Oscar Is Hotter Than You.

And, since the ball is now back in my court, I have my review of the rare Four Shoujo Stories for your delectation below the cut!

Manga, gender, sexuality )
starlady: (orihime)
Takemiya Keiko (story by Mitsuse Ryuu). Andromeda Stories vol. 1. New York: Vertical, Inc., 2007. [1982.]

In the wake of the wildly successful sci-fi classic Terra E…, Takemiya Keiko teamed up with popular SF novelist Mitsuse Ryuu to create Andromeda Stories, which tells the story of a certain planet in the Andromeda galaxy and its tribulations in the face of an insidious force of machinic invaders: the reign of Prince Ithaca and his bride Princess Lilia begins auspiciously, but by the time their son Jimsa is born, things have taken a precipitous slide.

I liked Terra E… a lot, and this manga is interesting too, even after thirty years. The art is very much of its time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (though I do wonder why everyone looks like they walked out of concept sketches for CLAMP's R.G. Veda, i.e., classically Indian). Beyond the plot, which is actually interesting, the single most awesome thing about this story so far is Il, the surly swordswoman in vaguely Japanese (Chinese?) clothing who comes to the planet in an attempt to save it from the invaders and who has no interest in cooperating with anyone ("I'm not your friend; I'm their enemy."). She is a swordswoman! She is stoic! She appears and disappears at random and knows way more than she lets on! These are character traits that are right up my alley.

Andromeda Stories sold horribly in English, but if you're interested in classic shoujo manga, you have to read Takemiya Keiko. I have some quibbles with the translation (principally, WTF are the sound effects not translated, and secondarily, why do translators not realize that when people address someone as 王 or 王妃, a more natural translation than "King" or "Queen" is "Your Majesty"? Argh), but Vertical puts out probably the nicest English-language manga on the market, and overall it's well worth the read, and very readable.
starlady: (a sad tale's best)
Jansson, Tove. The Summer Book. Trans. Thomas Teal. New York: New York Review of Books, 2008. [1972]

I love Tove Jansson's works, particularly Moomintroll and the denizens of Moomin Valley, wholeheartedly. So I was very happy to find this short novel, written in the wake of Jansson's mother's death, on the bargain shelf in Penn Books in Philly.

The Summer Book is told through a series of vignettes about the young girl Sophia and her Grandmother and their life summering on an island in the Gulf of Finland, much like the island on which Jansson and her partner lived until 1991. There isn't really a plot, but there is an entire book's worth of marvelous, keenly observed detail about life on the island, and also, in Jansson's sideways profound way, a measured consideration of life, death, and the nature of family. Jansson's writing is intensely seasonal, and this book is too, not only seasons in nature but in human life. Really, really good.
starlady: Cindi Mayweather running through Metropolis (i believe in the archandroid)
The Apex Book of World SF. Ed. Lavie Tidhar. Lexington, KY: Apex Publications, 2009.

Borrowed from [personal profile] troisroyaumes; thanks again!

The Apex Book of World SF is an outgrowth both of Apex magazine and of The World SF Blog; the blog in particular tries to present SF from around the world to an English-speaking audience, which at least in the States has historically been disinterested in translated literature. I didn't need to read this book to know that English-language readers, particularly in the States, are missing out, but the book offers further incontrovertible proof of that fact, as if any were needed.

The book's full table of contents, several reviews, and buying links are at this post on the blog. Two standout stories; click this now! ) Still, the book is unquestionably worth a read, and I'll definitely be reading the blog for future books of world SF.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
Takemoto Novala. Kamikaze Girls. San Francisco: Viz Media, 2008. [Originally published in Japanese as Shimotsuma Monogatari, 2005.]

Shimotsuma Monogatari tells the story of Momoko, a Lolita who moves with her father from Amagasaki in Hyogo prefecture (right between Kobe and Osaka, for those of you following along at home) to the comparative hinterland of Shimotsuma in Ibaraki prefecture, north of Tokyo. In her rural exile Momoko meets Ichigo, a Yanki biker chick, and the two form what has to be one of the most unlikely friendships in literature, based solely on their respect for each other's wish to do whatever the hell they want, and get along.

The true spirit of Rococo is anarchy. )
starlady: Hei in the trees + text saying "in the TREES" (this is an in-joke)
Uehashi Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Darkness. Trans. Cathy Hirano. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009.

So I read the first book in this series, Guardian of the Spirit, last month, and I liked it pretty well. But seriously, this second book is so much better! I was surprised at how much more I enjoyed Darkness, and I am doubly sad that the series has been put on hold in English due to weak sales. If you like these books, tell Arthur A. Levine that you want to see more of them! [personal profile] nijibug has some posts relating to the series in English here and here.

Oh yeah, the plot. So at the end of the last book our heroine the spearwoman Balsa decided it was high time she went back to the mountainous country of Kanbal, a fairly obvious cod-Korea, from which she was driven by the murderous intrigues of the King nearly twenty-five years earlier, when she was a girl of six. Balsa and her foster father Jiguro lived on the run until his death, Jiguro being forced to kill his old friends whom the king sent after them to keep both of them alive. What these events cost everyone involved--Balsa, Jiguro, their families, and the kingdom of Kanbal itself--is very much at stake, since as one of the King's Spears Jiguro had a prime part to play in the bidecadal ceremony in which the Kanbalese receive the precious stone luisha from the King under the Mountains so that they can feed their poor, mostly non-arable country.

Obviously the plot of this book is a lot more personal, and for my money I'm always more fascinated by the evils that people can do to each other--how easily truth is twisted, trust betrayed, passion subverted by ambition--than the generic "monster hunting a kid!" plot of the first volume. Balsa continues to be even more awesome, and the other native races of Kanbal, the Herders and the Ermine Riders, have a central part to play in the country's fate. Also I think the translation is less clunky this time around too.

I'd love to read more of Balsa's adventures. Next time I go to Book-Off I have another author to look for.
starlady: (king)
Uehashi Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.. Trans. Cathy Hirano. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2008.

I read this book because [personal profile] meganbmoore liked it. I liked it too.

But first let me indulge my inner literal bibliophile: OMG PRETTY BOOK IS PRETTY. The cover! The paper stock! The two-color printing! The interior illustrations and decorations! The slip jacket! Arthur A. Levine does books right.

Apparently this novel has already been turned into a manga and an anime--has anyone read or watched either? What did you think? Me, I liked the story, but I wasn't wild about the translation, though I've requested the next book in the series from my library despite its weaknesses.

I guess that means I liked the story! I did, really; wandering spearwoman Balsa is minding her own business crossing a bridge in not!Kyoto one day when she sees a kid fall off the bridge upstream reserved for royalty, dives in to save him, and realizes later that he is Chagum, the Second Prince. Later Chagum's mother the Second Queen reveals to Balsa that Chagum's father the Mikado is trying to kill his son because the water spirit of the country has laid its egg in Chagum, making him the Guardian of the Spirit, a Moribito. Balsa, who is a moribito specializing in people, agrees to take the prince away from the capital and out of the clutches of his father's Hunters, who are in fact at the will of the Star Readers, who more or less control the government of the country. For allies, Balsa has her old friends Torogai and Tanda, magic weavers of the country's indigenous Yakoo population. Can they keep Chagum safe from the Hunters and from Rarunga, the egg eater, and deliver the country from a hundred-year drought?

Seirei no Moribito ) And, you know, we need a) more fantasy in translation; b) more fantasy where women aren't punished for being badass warriors; c) more fantasy by chromatic authors; and d) more Asian fantasy, so on all these counts I have to recommend the book.
starlady: (basket of secrets)
Kyogoku Natsuhiko. The Summer of the Ubume. Trans. Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander. New York: Vertical Books, 2009. [1995.]

This is the first book in the long-running mystery series by Kyogoku Natsuhiko featuring the onmyouji Kyogokudo, aka Chuzenji Atsuhiko, and his band of friends and war buddies, of which the anime Mouryou no Hako adapts the second book. I liked Mouryou no Hako enough to seek out this book, and wasn't disappointed. It's a mystery set in the summer of 1952, just after the end of the Occupation, and Kyogoku isn't afraid to confront some of the most vexed issues of the century--modernity versus superstition, democracy versus the imperial system, science versus religion--though he's too canny to ever definitively favor one opinion over the other, much like his namesake Kyogokudo (whom, given everything, one suspects is the author's alter ego). In a nutshell, Kyogokudo's school friend Sekiguchi, grubbing for money, is considering writing an article about an incident in which a husband has been missing and his wife has been pregnant for twenty months, and after the wife's sister comes to their friend Enokizu's detective agency for help learning the husband's whereabouts, things spiral out from there.

I had wondered after watching whether the women who lived with Kyogokudo and Sekiguchi were their wives or servants. The book resolves that they're their wives. It's interesting comparing the anime with the book--the book makes it clear that the characters look nothing like the CLAMP character designs (with the possible exception of Enokizu), and Sekiguchi is even more neurotic in the book than in the anime, which I wouldn't have thought possible, but isn't surprising for someone who had problems with depression even before he went off to war to command a platoon which only he and Kiba survived. I still like Kiba the best of all the characters, I think. In some ways the book takes a left turn in resolving the details at the conclusion (child abuse! missing genitalia! dubcon!), but the route there is fascinating. I'd definitely recommend the book to people who liked the anime, or to people who like manga and/or anime such as xxxHOLiC on account of their background in the Japanese supernatural, which this book is positively soaked in (Kyogoku's background is actually in folklore, apparently). The translation is very good, too, despite some inconsistent copy editing decisions on whether explanatory notes should get footnotes or in-text brackets. Anyway, I hope Vertical publishes more. I'll leave you with one of Kiba's lines that I found particularly interesting.

Look at me, Harasawa. I was one of those people who thought the war was right. When I heard the Emperor give his speech on the radio, I didn't know what to think. But now that I've had time to cool off, I understand that we were a little crazy back then. And I think that the democratic thing we're doing now is the right way. So maybe justice isn't anything more than the ghost of an idea. Maybe the winner decides all, and might does make right. That's why–that's why, like you say, there are no gods or Buddhas looking out for the little guy. That's why we have the law. Because we can't believe in gods, or Buddhas, or even justice. The law is the only weapon the weak have against the strong. Don't turn away from the law, Harasawa. It's on your side.
starlady: (jack)
I only got about halfway through the vampire anthology By Blood We Live before I had to return it to the library, which says something about the level of interest the book created and sustained in me. John Joseph Adams definitely takes the "spaghetti at the wall" approach to anthologizing; the stories in this volume range over nearly 40 years and several continents, though as always I could have done with more stories by people not from Euro-American countries--I thought some of the best stories were those that came from outside those places. I'm also not a fan of the little spoilery introductions at the head of each story; I don't need an editor to tell me what to think about apiece in a cutesty tone. Also, despite the popularity of some authors, some of these stories are just bad, or indifferent, which to my mind is even worse than being actively bad.

Blood is like wine, all of the time... )

I also read M.T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts!, which I've been trying to track down since the spring and which is pretty funny. It's on the one hand a knowing pastiche of those sorts of children's entertainments, like Little Orphan Annie, of a certain era, but it's also an enjoyable story about ordinary girl Lily, who saves her state from invading whales on stilts with laser eyes, defeating her dad's evil boss Larry, with help from her friends Jasper Dash, boy technonaut, and Katie Mulligan, girl adventurer. I love Anderson, and have ever since I read the first half of his masterpiece Octavian Nothing, which is nearly mythic in its tone, scope, and subject. Whales on Stilts! is in all respects a much lesser effort, though it's very clever and very funny and Anderson's narratorial voice is quite amusing, somewhere between Lemony Snicket and pure snark. I wouldn't mind reading other volumes of M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales, but, despite the sheer awesome that is the title (and, for that matter, the cover), I'm not sure how long this book will remain on my shelves.

I was a bit disappointed in Tove Jansson's Moominsummer Madness, too. I loved Moomintroll Midwinter because it was so wintry and so intensely seasonal, but despite the fact that it has summer in the title, Madness is less about summer than about the travails of the Moomin family after a volcano floods Moominvalley and they are forced to tread the boards in the semi-abandoned theater in which they find refuge. It's a sweet book, of course, and very charming, but nowhere near as awesome as Midwinter, and since I involved the book in an epic coffee spill, I won't be able to pass it along the literary circle of life.
starlady: (moon dream)
Blue light special: haiku!

In the dead of night
Geese fly under the full moon
Will my soul fly too?

真夜中満月下鵞鳥が飛ぶ
我もか。

I think I'm flubbing by counting 満 as one syllable. Whatever. I'm just pleased I was able to think of a translation.

I've been having a lot of weird dreams lately--usually when I go back to sleep in the morning, for obvious reasons. Today I dreamed that I came home and the house had been vandalized. Yesterday I had another "speeding through steampunk town in Minnesota" dream, this time with the twist that I got pulled over for speeding. Bleh.

I thought yesterday, for the first time in forever. of the subplot in The Magician's Nephew--Diggory's desire to save his mother's life, which of course he eventually does with the apples from the tree in the garden. As I left this morning I thought that my mother resembled my grandmother in her last few weeks; not a comforting comparison.

I went to the Minute Clinic at a nearby CVS and my suspicions were confirmed--I do indeed have sinusitis. *headdesk* I thought that I might have finally broken the cycle of annual sinus infections, but no. Better luck next year? The visit was $59, but I got antibiotics for absolutely free at ShopRite. Score! Who says providence doesn't watch out for children and fools?

I also finished Roberto Bolaño's 2666 on Saturday night. It's a huge, sprawling book, Bolaño's masterpiece--not a coincidence, I think, that it's posthumous--and I can't recommend it highly enough. Bolaño was obsessed with fascism, so I wasn't surprised that the novel's mainly absent hero, Archimboldi, has an encounter with an imprisoned Nazi in a POW camp; I also thought that the real climax of the work, in a strange way, was when Archimboldi adopted his nom de plume; it was all downhill from there. I'm glad, too, that the author's heirs decided to go against his wishes and publish it all in one volume, since I think its unities obviously outweigh its fragmentations: it's a book about critics, writers, serial murder victims, Nazis, professors, journalists, unified throughout by strange, subtle deepwater currents, not least of which is the author's manifest sympathy for all the members of humanity (particularly the outcasts) who grace its pages, except of course for the national socialists.

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