Les Semaines

April 26, 2009

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

 §

Home From the Funeral

Every so often life conspires to show me just how isolated I am from many cultural norms. Funerals are one place. I have been to very few in my life. Family funerals? Well, I have never been to one before. My side of the family doesn't do funerals.

So, add to the chaos of grief, quick long-distance travel, stress, emotion, not enough sleep, the sheer is-this-really-happening aspects of being in a barely familiar place with barely familiar people (except Jim and Mark)--well, my father-in-law's funeral was a unique situation.

Friday we left Seattle in the early afternoon. We changed planes in D.C. at Dulles airport, but our second plane had a long delay, and we got into Greensboro two hours late, at 1:30 a.m. (they originally predicted we might not get in until 2:30!) Mark and Jim's sister Pat were there to get us and drive us to Pat's house about a half an hour away--they must have been exhausted! We were tired, too, especially Jim whose cold was at its height (or is that depth?), but at least that was only 10:30 our time.

We just managed to get up in time for the family viewing at the funeral home at 9:00 am. That was followed by a grave-side service, then a lunch at Pat's sister-in-law's house.

We spent the night at a hotel in Greensboro, because we had to get up at 4:30 am (1:30 am our time!) for our series of planes home (two changes, one in Dulles and another in Denver--luckily, no delays). We were grateful but worn out in every way when we got home Sunday afternoon.

We are still taking it all in, recovering and processing the experience as best we can from it all (obviously Jim losing his father is not so immediately recoverable). Jim is gradually getting over his cold; we are slowly catching up from our exhaustion.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

No time to listen, but tUnE-YaRdS's BiRdBrAiNs plays in my head ALL THE TIME.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Allison van Diepen's supernatural young adult novel, Raven, is about Nicole who dances with a hip hop group, works in a club, whose brother is an addict, and who is in love with the eerily gorgeous Zin, a member of her dance group. She is shocked to discover the truth of Zin's supernatural background and the people who surround him. An interesting read.

Alma Alexander's young adult fantasy novel, Cybermage, is the final volume in her Worldweavers trilogy. Hard to say much about the plot that doesn't spoil the previous novels, but like them this is an interesting mix of private school teen stories, cyber-adventure, high magic, and mythic fiction.

Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, and Anne Stuart's supernatural romance novel, The unfortunate Miss Fortunes is about three sisters who are on the run from their evil aunt who wants to steal their powers. When the aunt creates a spell to send them their true loves, all of whom she believes are under her power, mayhem ensues. Kind of fun, but suffers from having three similar entwined storylines (and three authors?) so it feels repetitive and not as much fun as it might have otherwise been.

Kate Christensen's mainstream novel The Great Man is the story of an artist as told by the women who loved him to two different biographers. The women include his mistress and their twin daughters, his wife, and his sister. The portrait that emerges is fascinating, and tells more about the women than it truly does of the man who was so deeply involved in their lives. A rich, realistic, and absorbing tale with intriguing characters.

Jules Watson's historical fantasy The White Mare (the first of her Dalraida series) is set in first-century Scotland, something sure to fascinate me. It's the complex story of a young, damaged priestess and an prince exiled from Ireland and their fight to unite the scattered Scottish kings and tribes against the invading Romans. Intriguing, but I wanted to find it more engaging than I did.

Lisa McCann's young adult fantasy novel, Fade is a sequel to Wake, about a young girl who gets can't help but get caught up in the dreams of anyone sleeping nearby her. This is another situation where describing the plot would spoil the previous volume, so I won't. I kind of like these books, can't help feeling they could be more powerful--this is a case where the canvas feels too restricted by the young adult highschool setting and the associated tropes for the concept--such a good idea.

Jeanne Duprau's childrens' SF novels The People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood are related to her The City of Ember. Sparks follows what happens when (WARNING: SPOILER for Ember!) the people of Ember try to fit into what's left of civilization on the surface, while Yonwood is a tangentially related prequel describing events before the cataclysm that send people to Ember. It's a strange mix of maybe-this-is-set-on-earth, maybe-not and a confusing time setting. I'm not as enchanted as others seem to be by these, but I do find them worth the time.

Jo Graham's historical fantasy Black Ships kept me going on the long flight to the funeral. It's a retelling of the Aeneid, told through the eyes of a young slave who becomes a priestess for the remains of her people as Aneas and his men search to gather and protect them, and to find them safety. While bleak, this was utterly absorbing and readable. Impressive.

Robin Hobb Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage are the first two volumes of her Soldier Son trilogy. As with Hobb's other novels, these are utterly absorbing in their detailed view of their characters, their world, and the chaos they are caught up in. Epic fantasy of the highest calibre. Though I didn't think I'd be interested in these, of course I immediately lost myself in them. Great books for travel and for recovery from travel when you want to be in a different place.

The bleak story of Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, Gemma Bovary was dreary: boring characters in an ugly situation of their own making. It could have been interesting--the story of unhappy people trying to better their lives and find something good in them, but really it was a slog to finish.

Julie Berry's young adult fantasy, The Aramanth Enchantment struggles to reconcile a fairy tale plotline with a kind of contemporary realist voice and feel. Orphaned and penniless when her rich parents die, Lucinda is taken in by her jeweller uncle, but his second wife abuses her. Then when the uncle dies, the aunt kicks her out onto the streets. However, a pickpocket had just climbed through her winodw the night before and stolen a jewel from her that she must recover, and...I give up. There's also a arbitrary goat who inexplicably behaves like a dog. And dancing in the street with a prince, who is of course gorgeous and charming and she can't help but fall in love with him. And the pickpocket can be bribed to help her. Oh, and the jewel belongs to a fairy godmother type character who happens to live in Lucinda's old home and her mother's clothes are all still there. The arbitrariness was way too much for me, as was the (unearned I felt) fairy tale end. I dunno. I wanted to like this better; maybe I just read it at the wrong time.

Tana French's mystery novel, The Likeness, kept me up last night reading it until I finished. It stands alone perfectly well, but is a follow-up to Into the Woods, which I also really enjoyed. This is told by Cassie, who gets drawn into an undercover operation when a murder victim is found who looks enough like her to be a twin--not only that, the victim has been living under an alias that Cassie herself created in previous undercover work. As Cassie slips into the woman's life she finds she likes it, maybe too much--she's still coping with the trauma of events from the previous book. Fascinating psychological drama, and Cassie is a terrific character. A good mystery for someone like me who doesn't really like mysteries.

Laura Whitcomb's young adult fantasy, The Fetch is certainly unique. Calder is a Fetch, who leads souls who choose to die through a kind of purgatory and on through to heaven for several centuries. However, when he spots a woman and falls in love with her, on her behalf he refuses to take her son. It turns out that the mother is Tsarina Alexandra and when Calder finds Rasputin dead he can't resist taking Rasputin's body and sending Rasputin's soul off to explore the Land of Lost Souls rather than carrying him back. When the royal family are killed during the Russian Revolution, Calder rescues Alexei and Anastasia, and they flee to find his lost Key, pursued by a gathering legion of Lost Souls, who have been inspired by Rasputin. This is a fascinating picture of an afterlife. Calder is charming and his relationship with Ana, his role as a Fetch, his own past and how he is drawn to the royal family is intriguing. While a large chunk of the plot seems utterly unnecessary, overall I liked this.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Poems have appeared! "Dsonoqua Daughters" (in print and audio) at the Spring 2009 issue of Goblin Fruit. The issue has even already been reviewed at Time-Shark.

Another poem (this one from the Scotland manuscript) just appeared in PDF format at Stone's Throw Magazine. Check out "Inchcomb Abbey."

Back in the game: novel cutting resumes.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

1:45 am, Tuesday, June 10, 1997

Eaglesham, Scotland

I'm awake @ midnight--not an uncommon event. But since I'm awake I thought I might as well catch up.

Had a very waiting Sunday at Mom and Dad's with them and Aunt Jocelyn. Mom and I realized quickly what we'd forgotten: she our water bottles and me the book I was reading. Short hop to Vancouver and we got ourselves caught in the departure area, but that turned out fine--I still got sushi (Mom shared) and a very funky pair of sunglasses (early birthday present from Mom and Dad). They've paid for everything so far, which is not good.

Vancouver to Heathrow long and uneventful. I ended up by the window, Mom beside me and a spare beside her, next to the aisle, more more room than normal, which helped. Dad moved across the aisle.

Strange moves in Heathrow to get to our next flight.

Throughout the whole thing I was taking ibuprofen as though there were no tomorrow to fend off cramps.

Got to Glasgow (only one in my row near the back--Mom and Dad up front) and got our rental car--plenty big enough despite what Kai the rental agent said--and almost purple. I drove us here to Eaglesham with only one wrong turn off a roundabout, which was easily corrected. Dad navigated.

This seems very rural and far from Glasgow, but is in the metropolitan area, I gather. Had dinner at a posh Chinese restaurant. It was pretty good though very different from the Chinese I used to. And pricey.

Back here I was too tired to talk with the hosts as Mom and Dad did, came upstairs and crampily crashed, only to wake now.

8:10

Bright sun--first fog, then clear and bird song.

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