swynn's thread for 2019
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I'm Steve, 50, a technical services librarian at a medium-sized public university in Missouri. This is my 10th year with the 75ers. Expect a mixture of the following, in decreasing density:
Science fiction and fantasy
Crime & mystery novels
Popular history (American, mostly)
Library science/history of the book
Also, I tend to read impulsively so there will also be not necessarily categorizable things that happen capture my attention. Absent other impulses, priority usually goes to things that must be returned to the library. This is a stack generated more by whim & hope than by plan, which I call "The Tower of Due." Here's what it looks like now:
I may also talk from time to time about running. I was an avid long-distance runner up to a couple of years ago, but since then my weekly volume has fallen off to about 10-15 miles. I want to build this back up and start racing again because I miss it a lot.
(A) The DAWs
For several years now, I've been reading through the catalog of DAW, DAW is the first American imprint exclusively devoted to science fiction & fantasy publishing. It launched in 1972 under the editorship of Donald A. Wollheim (hence the name), and continues today, publishing new books at a rate faster than I'm catching up. Last year I read 30 of them, and hope to read at least 31 this year.
DAWs so far: 5
Next up: Merlin's Mirror by Andre Norton
Perry Rhodan is a weekly science fiction serial that has been published continuously since 1961. I read 75 of these last year, and set up a separate thread for it. I'm still enjoying them, but would like to slow the pace a little this year to give myself space to read some other German-language science fiction. So my plan is to keep posting on last year's PR thread, which is here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/279193
Perry Rhodans so far: 2
Next Up: Der Mann mit den zwei Gesichtern (= The man with two faces) by Clark Darlton
For the last few years, Liz (lyzard) and I have been reading through American bestsellers at a rate of one per month. I'm running behind. I'm working through Franz Werfel's The Song of Bernadette in the original German and it's going a bit slow. I hope to catch up on this soon, but ... you know.
Bestsellers so far: 1
Next Up: The Robe (1943) by Lloyd Douglas
More Not Straight Not White Not Dudes
My reading list skews white and male. Go figure. Last year I tracked proportion of LGBTQ, non-white, and female authors in an effort to be more conscious of this. Even so, my scores weren't great: 6% LGBTQ, 8% authors of color, and 33% women. I'd like to do better. I'm aiming for: 10% LGBTQ authors, 15% authors of color, 50% women. Recommendations welcome.
(C) Not Straight: 2/22 (9%)
(D) Not White: 2/22 (9%)
(E) Not Dudes: 9/22 (41%)
Other Good Intentions
(F) Read more off my shelves.
So far: 4
(G) Read more stuff recommended by friends and relatives.
So far: 2
Continue more series than I start. And finish one every now and then, sheesh.
Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen
Greenglass House series by Kate Milford
Danielle Cain series by Margaret Killjoy
Rim Worlds/John Grimes series by A. Bertram Chandler
St. Mary's series by Jodi Taylor
Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
World's End series by Lin Carter
Noon Universe series by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Titus Crow series by Brian Lumley
Stella Hardesty series by Sophie Littlefield
Seeker series by Arwen Elys Dayton
Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford
Seeker series by Arwen Elys Dayton
Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
For recordkeeping purposes, I'm noting the challenges filled by each read in parenthetical codes at the end. The letters correspond to the challenges in the post above.
1) Naked Statistics / Charles Wheelan
2) Bring Back Yesterday by A. Bertram Chandler (I)
3) Berserker's Planet by Fred Saberhagen (AFH)
4) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (DE)
5) A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor (EI)
6) Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu (D)
7) Gender and the Jubilee (E)
8) 1975 Annual World's Best SF (AF)
9) Catching Fire (EGI)
10) Banned in Boston by Neil Miller (C)
11) Swan Song by Brian Stableford (AFIJ)
12) What I Believe by Bertrand Russell
13) The Enchantress of World's End by Lin Carter (AFI)
14) Escape Attempt by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky (I)
15) Greenglass House by Kate Milford (EH)
16) Das Lied von Bernadette by Franz Werfel (B)
17) The Transition of Titus Crow by Brian Lumley (AFI)
18) A Bad Day for Mercy by Sophie Littlefield (EI)
19) Disruptor by Arwen Elys Dayton (EIJ)
20) Twilight of the Elves by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos (GIJ)
21) Damsel by Elana K. Arnold (E)
22) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy (CEGH)
1) Naked Statistics / Charles Wheelan
This is a popular introduction to statistics, and contains high-level discussions of probabiliity, sampling, distributions, standard deviation and error, the Central Limit Theorem, linear regression. It avoids mathematical detail in preference for intuitive descriptions, though some of the math is included in chapter appendices. It's entertaining but a bit too jokesy and math-averse for me. Still, I may check out his "Naked" books on economics and money, where my knowledge of the basics is weaker.
The cover, BTW, is brilliant.
Happy New Year, Steve. You have many worthy goals for this year. Any planned trips to Rochester this year?
And Happy New Year to all visitors! I have all of you starred and am looking forward to watching what you read & how you like it. I'm hoping to keep up with everyone's threads a little better this year. (Just like I hoped last year and the year before, and ... yeah, I know.)
I've certainly enjoyed following your reads and you've inspired me to get off my butt and tackle some of my own DAW's, mostly the unread ones, but a few will be rereads. I'll be happy with one a month though!
Hi Ron and happy New year! I'll head over to your thread and star it to keep up with your DAWs and other reading!
Happy New Year and Thread, Steve!
I had a laugh up above: when I finished The Song Of Bernadette I was going to recommend the Ludwig Lewisohn translation to you..."Unless he's planning on reading it in German, of course," added Ms Smartarse to herself. :D
My academic library reopens this week, so I will be taking a run in to pick up a copy of The Robe (I'll be glad when the war ends and America can stop getting religious!). I'm not sure where you are with What I Believe? - though as you note, it's short enough not to be an issue. I'm also planning on placing an ILL for Jim Tully's Circus Parade, which is surprisingly available: there seems to have been a recent reissue, so it might actually have virtues beyond the (alleged) shock value.
Hi Liz! Actually, I'm using the Lewisohn translation. The vocabulary is rather different from Perry Rhodan (who'd've guessed?) And the prose is much denser than Remarque's. German being what it is, many of the words I don't recognize don't appear in dictionaries, so I'm leaning on Lewisohn to help me through the difficult bits. It's slow going through a story that is anything but fast-paced, but it's still a rewarding exercise.
I found the Lewisohn translation a surprisingly smooth read: it didn't feel translated, which I tend to take as a good sign; I'll be interested to hear what you make of it as a reference-work.
>5 BLBera: Ooops, I didn't answer the question about Rochester. No planned trips this year, Beth, I may be in the area a little more frequently because my father has had some health issues, and could certainly plan a trip around a meetup. But I won't make the marathon this year. :) More on that later.
>16 lyzard: So far so good. It's close enough that so far it's been pretty easy to identify which words and turns of phrase he's rendered in what way.
>17 swynn: Well, keep in touch. We can always meet for a coffee between appointments.
> Nice topper covers. I am not sure what to make of A Bad Day For Mercy. The conflicting imagery has me wanting to laugh and worry at the same time.
>20 brodiew2: Hi Brodie! A Bad Day For Mercy is a volume in Sophie Littlefield's "Stella Hardesty" series, a mystery series where the protagonist is a sort of enforcer. Stella's clients are women in domestic abuse situations; her assignments are her clients' abusive husbands/exes. The covers fit the theme well:
The series gets a bit romancey for me (just for dramatic tension, Stella's squeeze is the local sheriff), so I haven't been tearing through them but I like the premise so much I keep coming back.
Dropping off a star, Steve. Looks your reading year is already off to a good start.
>21 swynn: thanks for providing the cover series. Kudos to the designer. They are eye catching.
Hi Steve! I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on with those DAWs and everything else! I quite like the sound of that series - sounds slightly like the Janet Evanovitch series about the female bounty hunter (I'm sure it has an official title, but it eludes me). I liked those a lot until they just started getting a bit too repetitive.
>24 HanGerg: Happy New Year, Hannah! I like the Evanovich series too-- I think it's just "Stephanie Plum" -- but it's another that I take in small doses. I'll probably read another of them this year. Heading over to your thread to drop a star!
2) Bring Back Yesterday / A. Bertram Chandler
(The copy I read is the 1981 Schocken reprint, which was published as "Volume 3 in the Rim World series." Which you can tell by the way that nobody goes to the Rim Worlds.)
John Peterson is a Second Officer in the Trans-Galactic Clippers corporations, but loses his status when he misses his launch after a night of sex and drugs. This gets him not only fired from TGC but also blacklisted from every reputable spacegoing company in the universe. Since he has no skills other than flying spaceships, this limits his next career moves to: (1) going back to Earth on the dole, or (2) going to the Rim Worlds. He doesn't want to do either.
Stuck on planet Carinthia while he waits for a ship back to Earth, Peterson searches for any other gainful employment. With little time left he gets his opportunity: private detective Steve Vynalek, who is investigating a reclusive scientist on Carinthia's moon Wenceslas. Rumors are that the scientist has discovered the secrets of time travel, which would be very interesting to many parties if true. Vynalek has a plan for an undercover operation, but the operation can only be done properly by a trained spaceman. It's a match made in ... well, a night of debauchery, but it works out for everyone.
In an introduction to the Schocken edition, Chandler writes that Bring Back Yesterday was originally intended as a "private-eye novel set in space" but turned into a space opera. But its roots as private-eye pastiche are still there. Vynalek's methods are deliberately more Sam Spade than CSI:
"Now, as you have already observed, I own a fine collection of detective fiction, none of it modern, all of it from the vintage period. You'll find all the twentieth-century masters here. Conan Doyle, Chesterton, Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie ... "
"And the rest," said Liz. "I can see that your tastes haven't changed. I remember how excited you were when you were searching Beta Carinae for contraband and you found an ancient, tattered reprint of some old book by some old author called Spillane. But what you, a professional detective, can see in this rubbish ... "
"It's not rubbish," he said quietly. "It's good, sound stuff. And, as a matter ofact, it was these very books that encouraged me to resign from the force and to set up shop on my own account." He was warming to his theme. "The trouble with every modern police department is that it's too obsessed with gadgetry."
Peterson's private-eye training consists of reading these novels. After absorbing a few, Vynalek asks him what he's learned:
"The message seems to be that the machinery of organized crime prevention and detection is too cumbersome. The message seems to be that one resourceful man can achieve more than a big and well-equipped police force. And there's another angle. Very often this one, resourceful man -- or not so resourceful -- having blundered into the middle of some sort of mess acts as a catalyst so that the whole lot blows up, very often right in his face."
And that's the sort of adventure that plays out. With no idea what he's looking for, Peterson finds himself the target of multiple assassination attempts: the book's best bit comes when Peterson's ride to Wenceslas is sabotaged and he has to navigate the wreck to its destination. Once there, he unsubtly finds his way to the scientist, whose secret is appropriately revolutionary, and whose daughter is appropriately beautiful and available. The action is packed and the story as engaging as its source material.
3) DAW #147: Berserker's Planet / Fred Saberhagen
This is the first novel in Saberhagen's Berserker series, though two collections of shorter works had been published previoiusly, making this volume 3 in most series numerations. I read and enjoyed the first volume (Berserker) back in high school, but never got around to any others though I've read stories from the series in various anthologies. The idea is that sometime during our expansion into space, humans encounter "berserkers," intelligent war machines dedicated to destroying all life in the universe.
In this one, a party from Earth visits Hunter's Planet for a hunting vacation. Their visit coincides with a planet-wide gladiatorial tournament and the Earthers drop in to spectate. But the contest turns out to be a front for a Berserker plot. It suffers from the same sort of boys'-club aesthetic as Chandler but several nice things are happening here, including a not-very-subtle critique of blood sports in comparison the berserkers' simple, pragmatic pursuit of death:
Never had the berserker asked for offerings of pain or terror. Killing, simple killing without end and as long as life existed, was all it wanted. It was not enthusiastic about inflicting pain, which was after all a manifestation of life, after all, an evil. It allowed the torture to go on only because the infliction of pain was so satisfying to the humans who were its servitors.
With the lure of blood sport, the berserker's minions can trap all the Earthers but one, the party's weak-stomached pacifist whom nobody can remember why he was invited. Upon whom everyone's fate then relies ...
The cover is by Jack Gaughan.
4) The Last Black Unicorn / Tiffany Haddish
Every year when I look over the Goodreads award nominees I see the candidates for humor and think, "I like to laugh. I should try one of these." I usually fail to finish, and worry that my sense of humor is broken.
This year Tiffany Haddish's The Last Black Unicorn won the Humor award. It's a collection of autobiographical bits, focusing on her challenging childhood and her early days breaking in to comedy. Props to Haddish for overcoming all the crap that life threw at her, and for sharing it. It's clear she's a remarkable woman. But I still worried that my sense of humor is broken. For me, the story isn't funny and the jokes fall flat. There's an especially uncomfortable bit with a physically and mentally disabled boyfriend-- the story feels mean-spirited, and the intended takeaway is unclear to me.
5) A Second Chance / Jodi Taylor
Good news! My sense of humor is working fine.
There's a sign on my office wall, which reads-- In the event of emergency, bang head here. Long ago, Peterson had pointed out that it was much too high up on the wall for my head to reach and I had replied that it wasn't my bloody head that would be banged against the wall. I would give anything to have that sign now. It would be something to aim at.
Thanks, Jodi Taylor! Why haven't I already devoured every one of these?
So, something I've been toying with is the idea of posting progress as I get back into distance running. Those who have been hanging around my threads for a few years remember when I posted about races frequently. That's fallen off, as my mileage has also plummeted. I'd like to rebuild my training to where I can at least do a couple of half-marathons a year. So I have this idea that others might be interested, and that accountability might help, so I'll post weekly updates, at least until I don't anymore. If you're not interested, then skip it -- that "RUNNING POST" header is a warning.
Anyway, here's where I am today:
Mileage last week: 15 miles.
Mileage this year: 13 miles (Monday Dec. 31st doesn't count.)
Longest run: 3 miles
Target mileage this week: 17 miles
Monday weigh-in: 255 lbs.
Also, I usually listen to music when running -- except when running roads, obviously, I'm not one of *those* nuts -- so I'll add a "Soundtrack" link to something I enjoy running to. My tastes are eclectic: heavy on rock, blues, and industrial metal, but also pop, bluegrass, Texas country and shiny things. Suggestions for workout tunes are welcome! Let's start with the obvious (Yes, it's on my running playlist. Duh.):
Soundtrack: Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
>29 swynn: I need to get back to that series; I read the first one and loved it, of course.
>34 scaifea: I think I forgot to mention that this one has a long episode set at Troy. And it's only volume 3, so not that far to go ... You know you want to ...
>36 BLBera: Isn't she though? I especially appreciated her in contrast to another humorous book I just wasn't feeling. And, thanks!
>37 richardderus: Well, I won't be caught up by then, but I'm not letting it go so long til the next one either. I have A Trail Through Time on my phone, and think I'll get to in a monthish.
6) Ball Lightning / Cixin Liu
When he is 14, Chen sees his mother and father reduced to ash by ball lightning. He dedicates his life to investigating this phenomenon, which leads him into military R&D, where he meets a fascinating woman obsessed with developing cutting-edge weapons. The book's chief preoccupation is Chen's research, a series of increasingly wild speculations and tests, each of which comes with increasingly inventive weapons. Chen barely has a personality outside of his obsession with ball lightning, and the world outside of Chen's orbit is only vaguely sketched. Towards the end for example, China declares war (or has war declared upon it?) by some state which the text only identifies as "the enemy." I suppose the point is that the enemy's identity doesn't matter, only the opportunity to use the new weapons, but the glibness feels like missed opportunity. Despite the flat characters and sketchy world-building, I loved the hard sf, the far-out ideas, and the musing about the relationship between research and military applications.
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Steve, this year.
Hi Paul! I've dropped a star over on your thread so I can keep up with your reads also. Wishing you a good one!
>46 swynn: That's not part of the Three-Body Problem set, is it? I read the first of those and found the premise fascinating, even as it confirmed for me that I don't do very well with "hard" sci-fi. I'm glad I read it, though.
>50 swynn: It's not part of the Three-Body Problem trilogy ... except sort of: towards the end a character from TBP appears, so you could think of it as a prequel. But the connection is slight, and it stands on its own. Its strengths and weaknesses are very much like those of TBP, which should hint whether it might be your cup of tea.
Wondering how much snow you got as part of this system? I saw photos from St. Louis area on Facebook earlier. Wow!
>51 thornton37814: Hi Lori! We're north of the worst, though we've gotten enough to be a nuisance, and it's still coming down. The Weather Channel says we've got 2.7 inches so far. I'd have guessed something between 3 and 4, and I usually underestimate, but I don't know when TWC last checked.
>52 swynn: It may be heavier in your neighborhood. Sometimes those official counts are somewhere that is a bit warmer like an airport.
7) Gender and the Jubilee / Sharon Romeo
Missouri was a slave state that did not secede from the Union. Calling it a "loyal" state is technically correct, but a stretch in any meaningful sense. Confederate sympathies were rampant, even among state and local officials. Federal troops were stationed in the state in order to suppress rebellion. The troops were in Missouri solely related to the war effort, but their presence meant that an alternative was available to the state's legal authorities. Romeo uses court and Army records to detail how enslaved people, particularly women, appealed to federal military authorities to assert rights that state laws denied them. By doing so, they undermined the institution of slavery in ways that federal forces did not intend and in fact were supposed to avoid. The petitioners' claims also show how the enslaved population of Missouri imagined themselves as citizens and took steps to make it so. The presentation is academic but the content is fascinating.
>54 swynn: A frothy, light-as-air read for your wintertime escapism fix, eh Steve?
>54 swynn: Sounds fascinating. Of course, as a Kansan (and we all know who was responsible for "Bloody Kansas"*), the slavery sympathies and activism of the Missouri populace of the time is well known.
*For those who don't know, roving bands of marauders from Missouri who came across the border and raided and torched towns in the Territory (and later Free State) of Kansas. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleeding_Kansas
>55 richardderus: Well, not much. An explanation may be in order.
For a while I've had a sort of vague notion that I ought to read some history about this state I'm residing in -- prompted, I confess, by finding myself in conversations about state history and having to say, "I had no idea." So I've made a little list of interesting books mentioned recently in the "Missouri Historical Review," the publication of the State Historical Society. This one had a couple of things to recommend it: it sounded interesting and it's short.
It probably wasn't the best place to start: as an academic work, Romeo is writing for historians so she assumes an understanding of things I don't understand: key events in a timeline of Civil War Missouri, more background about St. Louis than I possess, that kind of thing. But it's short, and the stories she digs out of the legal archives are frequently compelling.
>56 ronincats: "Bleeding Kansas" doesn't get mentioned in this text, but yes *that's* a story no Missourian should be proud of. Predictably, some are.
Romeo does mention Kansas as a place that enslaved people would escape to, either to join the Union Army (who had promised freedom to any black enlistee), or just to get the hell out of Missouri.
Did you know Kansas was one of the first places in the country where African-Americans could own property? Also the first all-black township of Nicodemus.
Here's something a little closer to the usual for this thread:
8) DAW #148: The 1975 Annual World's Best SF / ed. by Donald A. Wollheim
I liked most of Wollheim's picks for "world's best" but also had complaints about the ones I liked best, making it hard to pick favorites. Martin's story is quite good though it's a bit obvious and long. Van Scyoc's is also very good, though I think I missed a point because the background seems to have a few holes. Pohl's/Kornbluth's has a fun premise and execution, but also feels forgettable. I very much like Bishop's story, but am puzzled by choices he made in the way of telling it. Only Asimov's was a dud for me.
Several were nominated for genre awards. Three of them -- Martin's, Bester's, and Bishop's -- were nominated for Hugos, and Martin's won "Best Novella." Strete's story was nominated for a Nebula but did not win.
Statistically: the "world's best sf" for 1975 was written by 11 authors, of which 9 are American (plus 1 British, 1 Irish); 10 are White, 1 Native American (Craig Strete); 10 are male, 1 female (Sydney Van Scyoc).
Cover is by Jack Gaughan.
Song for Lya by George R.R. Martin
Natives of the planet Shkeen all follow the same religion which involves, sometime during adulthood, hosting a parasite (“Joining”); then sometime later allowing the parasite to consume you entirely (“Final Joining”). The religion is of cultural interest, but the puzzling thing is that it has started to attract human converts. A telepath and telempath arrive from Earth to investigate.
Deathsong by Sydney J. Van Scyoc
A scientific survey crew investigate a planet with two interesting features: a tiny population of nontechnological humanoid Aborigines, and an advanced temple complex. The temples seem designed to share the story of the race that built it, recalling lives of the ancestors through the playing of ingeniously engineered flutes. But what happened to the temple builders? And what was their relationship to the planet's living natives?
A Full Member of the Club by Bob Shaw
A businessman is devastated when his girlfriend dumps him after receiving a large inheritance. Even worse, she takes up a standard of living that seems lavish even by the standard of her inheritance. He becomes convinced that she’s in on a racket-- and he wants in too.
The Sun's Tears by Brian Stableford
A spaceman notices the girl of his dreams and approaches her father, who tells him that he can have her for one of the sun's tears.
The Gift of Garigolli by Fred Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
A man deep in debt desperately looks for a way to avoid losing his home. Meanwhile, a microscopic interstellar traveler tries to help him.
The Four-Hour Fugue by Alfred Bester
Master perfumist Blaise Skiaki is late delivering his latest project, so his employers hire investigators to find out why. It turns out that a couple of nights a week Skiaki goes for a walk at midnight, ditches his tail, and doesn't return until four in the morning. Worse: he may be murdering people on these nightly excursions.
Twig by Gordon R. Dickson
On a colony world, a young feral girl raised by an intelligent plant teams up with an old drunk to oppose destructive farming practices.
Cathadonian Odyssey by Michael Bishop
When human explorers discovered the planet Cathadonia the first thing they did was wipe out the population of tripod natives, so they could claim the uninhabited planet was available for colonization. Shortly afterward, the first scientific team visits Cathadonian and crashes on landing. The sole survivor makes a trek across the planet in hope of rescue … and gains a fellow-traveler in a tripod native.
The Bleeding Man by Craig Strete
A physician and an agent of the state decide what to do with a patient who bleeds copiously and continuously, and without any apparent ill effects.
Stranger in Paradise by Isaac Asimov
Two brothers, one an autism researcher and the other a telemetrist, work together to build a robot for exploring Mercury.
>59 ronincats: Well, here I go again: I had no idea. There must be a book on Nicodemus ...
Yes, and I'd forgotten that one of the episodes of The West on PBS dealt with this!
>60 swynn: Much more like the Steve I know! *whew* A few more of those brain-busters and I'd've had to invest in an anti-intellectual-gravity generator.
>66 richardderus: Hm. If it came across as stuffy and obscure that's a failure of communication on my part.
The thing that appealed to me were the stories Romeo pulled from the archives; I probably should have described some of those instead of just trying to paraphrase her argument (which, yeah, can sometimes get stuffy and obscure). I'll keep that in mind for future comments, but here's an example of a compelling story from the book.
The book opens with the story of a 12-year old girl who was kidnapped by a respectable St. Louis couple. The girl and her mother had been living near a Union encampment, where her mother was employed as a laundress. The St. Louis couple offered the girl employment as a housekeeper in their home. It's tempting to wonder what made the mother agree to the offer, but you stop and think that a military encampment could not possibly have been safe for a 12-year-old girl of any race, except maybe safer than whatever place they had escaped. In any case, the mother agreed only on the condition that her daughter would be allowed to return to her when asked. Later, the mother asked and the couple refused.
Under Missouri state law, the mother had no legal recourse to compel her daughter's "employers" to honor their agreement. Blacks were not allowed to testify against whites, and as a freed person (well, maybe: "freed" was a fragile status) the mother had no "master" or other white male authority to take up her case. But St. Louis at the time was under martial law, federal military police were available, and the mother appealed to them. The curious thing from a historian's standpoint is that this was a civil matter and not really a concern for the military police, whose responsibility was suppressing rebellion. Civilian authorities should have handled it -- except of course that they wouldn't have done because no laws had been broken. Romeo's point is that the mother appealed to the military authorities anyway. And a case was opened.
Unfortunately, the book isn't clear on whether the girl and her mother were reunited. That may be because Romeo didn't know -- stories in primary sources are sometimes fragmentary -- or maybe because that wasn't Romeo's point, which is that the mother appealed at all to federal authorities, which means she imagined herself deserving certain protections as a citizen of the nation. Romeo draws many stories from the archives to support the argument that more and more enslaved people imagined themselves having a status that the state explicitly denied them, and that they acted on these ideas to make them real. Unfortunately and outrageously, the claimants did not always receive the protections they deserved.
But sometimes they did. And where one person succeeded, others noticed and did likewise.
There's also a frustratingly brief fragment toward the end in a chapter on marriage describing a wedding between two women, one of them dressed as a man. The ceremony was held in a Baptist church. And the congregation seemed to regard the union as odd but valid, and sufficiently worthy of note that it complicated a widow's pension case.
Stories like these are what kept me reading.
>67 swynn: Historiography is frustrating precisely for that reason, Steve, the fragmentary nature of the *surviving* source materials is legendary among archive-divers. Read this Wikipedia article on John/Eleanor Rykener some time! Talk about literary blue...ones!
Romeo's work is historiography, so liable to incite the same feelings as the Wikipedia article. It's inevitable!
>59 ronincats: I was born and raised in Kansas (Kansas City metro) and only recently learned about Junius Groves - a wealthy, black, land owner and farmer, respected businessman, and influential in building up Edwardsville, KS - just west of Kansas City.
I'm curious now to drive through Edwardsville and see if anything he named is still standing. I would expect there to be a statue or a plaque or something for someone as influential as he was in that town.
Incidentally, I heard about him because I saw this children's picture book, No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas and Googled his name. (additional info; photo)
Hello swynn. I hope your day is going well. I think I found the 'classic' DAW book that I will read in your honor-as a result of your 2018 DAW-nting review of mostly sub par titles.
The Pritcher Mass by Gordon R. Dickson. I was at Half Price Books today and discovered the title after passing on a Jack Vance and a Andre Norton. Let's see what happens. If nothing else, I stepped out of my comfort zone for a bit.
It has been many years since I lived in Louisiana. In fact I lived in Lakes Charles for the majority of my formative years. On the bits of history that remains with me today was the assassination of Huey Long. I remember visiting the state capital where bullet holes remain in the marble column where he was shot. At the time I would never have considered reading Huey Long by T. Harry Williams. To my amazement, it a Pulitizer Prize and National Book Award winner. My interest is already up on this one.
One of the earliest 'random' novels I reviewed at my blog was The Rebel's Daughter by J. G. Woerner, which is a Civil War novel set in Missouri. Overarchingly it's the same old boring Northern man / Southern woman metaphor-romance, but in its particulars it deals with the division of the state. Briefly, a young man of no particular status is semi-adopted of the local 'aristocratic' families (displaced Virginians, from memory) and taught the 'gentleman's code' of honour and loyalty, etc. Except when the split comes, they (for financial and political reasons) violate all their supposed principles and go with the secessionists, while he - acting up to the principles he was taught - sticks with the state and joins the militia.
I didn't know much about any of this and found it very interesting, particularly the sections dealing with the German immigrants who became the backbone of the local forces allied with the North. There's also a lot about the political manoeuvring and the actually legality of the push to the Civil War which, nerd as I am, I also found really interesting.
>70 richardderus: Looking forward to your thoughts on that one, Richard!
>71 originalslicey: Well, rats. I've barely started in on Missouri history and now there are all these interesting *Kansas* stories. Thanks for the link to the article about Junius Groves, originalslicey!
>72 brodiew2: I hope you like that one better than I did, Brodie. In any case I'm looking forward to your response to it.
>73 lyzard: It was certainly an interesting time (in the sense of the curse). The Germans' part in it is the subject of a couple other books on my Someday list ...
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Jan. 26)
Mileage last week: 17
Mileage this year: 30
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 19
Monday weigh-in: 253 lbs.
Soundtrack: Kick Around (Samantha Fish)
The recording on my playlist is the one from Fish's 2013 release Black Wind Howlin' But I do not get tired of watching her in the linked video, jamming with Mike Zito and Tommy Castro.
9) Catching Fire / Suzanne Collins
I knew that Collins was going to figure out a way to get Katniss back into the arena, but was worried it was going to be gimmicky. And it was, but in the way that the games themselves are gimmicky and the move made sense in context. She's also nicely moving the interest from the games to the outside world, and I'm eager to see how she wraps things up.
On the other hand, I've had about enough of the "Oooh Gale but oh Peeta" business. In the next book I predict they both die in the first chapter, Peeta from a kick in the side and Gale from complications of dreaminess, leaving Katniss to take over the world and officially declare the new national game is Parcheesi. Please nobody spoil it for me.
Hello swynn! I hope your day is going well.
>75 swynn: It was a fairly random selection and I've heard of, but not read Dickson's Dorsai series. Perhaps, I should read one of those.
>78 brodiew2: I don't want to put you off it, Brodie. I'm genuinely interested in your response to it. There are some nice things: ecological disaster, a mix of science and magic, and a telepathic wolverine. I had some issues with what I saw as holes in the plot, but other readers have liked it.
>77 swynn: *snork!* I love your predictions for Gale and Peeta! May the odds be in your favor, but also don't hold your breath...
>80 scaifea: Despite my flippancy about the love triangle, I'm really enjoying the series. I'd worried that the transition from fighting in the arena to fighting the power would be implausible, but it's working for me so far.
>82 swynn: I'm mostly just joshin' too, because I loved that series. First time in a LONG time that I stayed up until 2am to finish a book.
>84 scaifea: I read it as joshing, so no worries. I've been putting off the series for ages, and wish now I'd read it sooner. It was a recommendation from my nephew that made me finally pick it up. Wait, not a recommendation ... it was more like a command. He was right.
Guten Abend, Steve. Just stopping by to drop a star. I thought I recognized your name on Litsy when you started following me, but it wasn't until I was reading Roni's thread earlier this evening that it finally clicked! Looking forward to following your reading. And yes, the Hunger Games was a great series, but OMG, yes, enough with Gale and Peta already!
I like your idea of identifying your challenges with a letter - I think I will have to steal that for my thread, as it is tiresome to keep writing out the challenge each and every time. Don't know why that didn't occur to me before.
Herzlich Willkommen, Robin! You're welcome to have the code-letters; I added them because last year I'd count some category then months later couldn't re-count the same way. Not this year. (By which I mean, we'll see ... ) You're welcome to steal it, and I hope it helps!
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Jan. 26)
Mileage last week: 19
Mileage this year: 49
Longest run: 5 miles
Target mileage this week: 21
Monday weigh-in: 252 lbs.
Soundtrack: Doppelherz/Iki Gönlüm (Herbert Grönemeyer with BRKN)
An introduction: Herbert Grönemeyer is a German singer-songwriter, arguably the most successful German-language singer of his generation. His latest (15th) album "Tumult" was released last November. It's terrific but mostly not the sort of thing you'd run to. Fortunately there is an exception in this tune, "Doppelherz/Iki Gönlüm," which Grönemeyer recorded with BRKN, a Turkish-German hip-hop star. (Yes, German hip-hop is a thing.) The lyrics celebrate making the world one's home. BRKN's bit goes:
I am at home on concrete and asphalt,
There, where the big city never sleeps,
At home on the beach under palms,
And there where my grandmother's heart beats.
Change the wallpaper, let your soul breathe,
At length every place becomes a cage.
More than your language, more than your color,
I do not fit into the red lines on your map.
It's a big cosmopolitan middle finger to the anti-immigrant crowd. And with a beat you can run to. Plus, the video is smile-making. Really, check it out; even if you don't speak German you'll get it.
10) Banned in Boston / Neil Miller
This is a popular history of Boston's Watch and Ward Society, a sort of animating force behind Boston's book bans during the early 20th century. Founded in 1878 as the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice, a branch of Anthony Comstock's New York society, the Watch and Ward Society was founded and supported by progressive-minded protestants, the cream of Boston society. It continued up to 1967 at various levels of strength and effectiveness. In its heyday the WWS had a gentleman's agreement with Boston booksellers whereby WWS agents would screen new novels and let the bookstores know which titles not to stock. The local bookstores all played along, because the alternative was awkward and expensive legal proceedings. By the middle of the century the WWS's pronouncements had become a national joke, with authors campaigining to have their books banned. One such campaigner was Upton Sinclair who said, "I'd rather be banned in Boston than read anywhere else. Because when you are banned in Boston, you are read everywhere else."
As usual, details make the story more complex. The WWS had a broader agenda than just stamping out trashy novels. They were also concerned about matters petty and profound, from back-alley poker games and prostitution to political corruption. And on the censorship front, the Watch and Ward was not the only actor; they would sometimes stay out of public controversies, and would sometimes recommend no action on a title but would subsequently be overruled. This happened with Sherwood Anderson's Dark Laughter, which Liz & I read last year:
[Boston Police Superintendent Michael] Crowley also overruled the Watch and Ward in the matter of Sherwood Anderson's bestselling novel Dark Laughter, banned in January 1928. .... Crowley and the Watch and Ward, which had stopped the sale of Anderson's Many Marriages earlier in the decade, both agreed that this novel should be banned. ... But the Watch and Ward argued that since it was more than two years old at this point, there was no sense proceeding against it. Crowley was determined to go his own way, however, and another work by a major American author disappeared from the shelves of Boston's bookstores.
It's quite interesting, and occasionally even funny -- as for example the story about the Watch and Ward president who was a public prude but wrote letters to his wife more salacious than anything he ever banned. (Miller includes short excerpts, and short is enough.) The letters were discovered posthumously -- to the family's horror, thinks Miller, but I prefer to imagine they were discovered to the family's surprised delight. Or how about this quote:
Major R.W. Pullman of the Washington, D.C. police told the officers that cleaning up a city was like polishing a brass rod. "When you have got the rod nice and bright, you must polish it every day to keep it shining," he said.
I wonder whether Freud was banned in D.C. Because that would explain that.
Hey, that's cheating! :D
Quite a number of the novels on our list are a few years old, in some cases because it's the American release of a British novel; but yeah, you do wonder at what point this sort of pursuit becomes futile---all the more because the list contains so many relative obscurities that (per Upton Sinclair) would have remained so otherwise.
>90 lyzard: I was hoping to cheat some more, actually. But there's very little per-title information, outside of a few high-profile cases. Miller doesn't even include a list of banned books, though he refers to a list of 70 titles. Most titles get a passing mention if at all. Russell's What I Believe gets mentioned twice. First mention is as one of several examples of banned books that later were recognized as "major works, if not classics, of American literature." (The others mentioned were in fact American.) Second mention is as an example of a book banned on grounds other than obscenity laws.
There are more extended discussions for some titles we haven't read yet: Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks, O'Neill's Strange Interlude (there is a curious relationship between Boston's ban on Strange Interlude and the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain), Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber, Erskine Caldwell's Tragic Ground (for which a ban was denied because the judge found the book "dull" and suggested there wasn't anything in it that wasn't in Gone With the Wind or Anthony Adverse), and probably some others I've already forgotten.
11) DAW #149: Swan Song / Brian M. Stableford
Tagline: In a new universe, is the first arrival its god?
Sixth and last in Stableford's "Hooded Swan" series featuring star pilot Grainger, a mental symbiote who shares Grainger's skull and whom he calls "the wind", and the "Hooded Swan" experimental spacecraft with a mind-machine interface. Since book one (The Halcyon Drift), Grainger has chafed at restrictions imposed upon him; at the close of book five (The Fenris Device) he was able to buy his way to freedom. But every time he thinks he's out ...
Grainger had no desire to fly the Hooded Swan ever again. But then he learns that his former crew took the Swan's sister ship (called the "Sister Swan" in case you didn't get it) into a mysterious nebula. They were following a far-out theory that the nebula was not just a nebula but a portal to another universe. Right or wrong, they haven't come back. And Grainger's old boss believes there is exactly one person and exactly one ship that can rescue them. Assuming of course that they're rescuable. So Grainger climbs into the Swan one last time and enters the nebula. It is indeed a portal, but to something a little weirder than a new universe.
It's a respectable close to the series: it has an interesting new world, it has Grainger's snark, and it gives the wind a satisfying close to its story. Grainger's story on the other hand feels wide open, and even has a couple of loose ends. I finished without a need for a book seven but ready to join in should Stableford have changed his mind. He didn't.
Why yes, the cover is by Kelly Freas. Whatever made you suspect it?
>88 swynn: I never imagined to meet someone who likes Herbert Grönemeyer on this list!
I know and like a few of his songs and have his cd "Was Muss Muss- best of Herbert Grönemeyer" :-)
>93 FAMeulstee: Yay for Grönemeyer love! If you haven't heard Tumult yet, I recommend it highly. There's a video on YouTube of a live performance of the album, and it's just brilliant: terrific music and a terrific performer:
I especially like "Sekundenglück" and "Fall der Fälle," but it's all good.
The reasons for those bans are fairly obvious; some more discussion of the unobvious ones would hve been more valuable, you'd think.
But jeez, if 'dull' is a reason NOT to ban... :D
ETA: I have a copy of Circus Parade on its way via ILL; that it has been recently reissued might suggest it has a bit more meat on its bones than some of our list items.
>94 swynn: Thank you, Steve!
I am watching other Grönemeyer videos now, and I planned to read a bit tonight ;-)
At least I know what I want for my birthday: Tumult!
>95 lyzard: Yeah, it's an is argument: all the sex and atheism you want so long as it's boring. I read the Russell today, so I'll talk about that soon. The Tully is available through my library visitors, so it shouldn't be a problem.
>96 FAMeulstee: Glad you liked it, Anita!
>97 richardderus: .Hope you like it at least as well as I did, Richard! found that the series has a few bunmps, but the last two entries especially were strong.
So, in the big Marie Kondo kerfuffle, I'm firmly Team Keep All The Books. Still I found this funny (warning: f-bombs and lots of 'em):
FWIW, WRT charges of racism, I haven't read any racism in the responses to Kondo that I've seen. But I know enough about racism to know that any public disagreement with a not-white person turns racist crazy fast and I'd be surprised if it wasn't happening. I could probably find plenty of examples if I spent more time on Facebook but who needs *that* negativity? We're little shits we humans.
`Ha! Ha! Love the Marie Kondo piece! And when she puts it like that....
Also, this caught my eye
>60 swynn: "Twig by Gordon R. Dickson
On a colony world, a young feral girl raised by an intelligent plant teams up with an old drunk to oppose destructive farming practices."
The other stories sound mildly interesting, but nothing I haven't read before. This one on the other hand!! Where do I get my copy?!
>101 alcottacre: Then I'm almost caught up to you! Looks like both have some readin' to do ... but I guess we're used to that.
Am I ever fatigued. I posted a TL;DR teaser for my review of The King's Evil on my thread. I'm still wrestling that bad boy to the ground. It was an intense read and I want to get all the way into it, wrench open the cupboard doors and saw the green logs into what *I* see as their proper form, but I know how MEGO-inducing that is for others. I still want to, but to avoid causing narcolepsy in all five of my readers I'm pausing and reflecting.
So I'm taking an hour off the romp among the threads.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Feb. 9)
Mileage last week: 21
Mileage this year: 70
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 23
Monday weigh-in: 250 lbs.
Soundtrack: Big Bad Wolf (In This Moment)
I'm not crazy about the video, but I love running to: "Even in these chains you can't stop me"
12) What I Believe / Bertrand Russell
Two-thirds of a lifetime ago I spent a year in West Germany. My host father was a Reformed minister in the Westphalian village of Heiden, where Sunday mornings he presided over services at a lovely church with a distinctive twisted steeple dating back to the 11th or 12th century. I think my American family was relieved that whatever else I might encounter I was in safe hands, religiously speaking.
Things turned out to be a bit more complicated, religiously speaking. The Christianity I encountered in Germany was quite different from the evangelicalism I'd been raised in: more open to criticism, more self-critical, more aware of history and scholarship and its place in it. It was appealing to a kid who loved debate, frightening to a kid raised to fear for his eternal soul, and altogether disorienting. The house of course was full of books, mostly academic works of history or theology, but for a kid who loved to read, it was a house full of books. Yes, most were out of my league both linguistically and theologically, but not all were theological and many were accessible -- juveniles like Astrid Lindgren and "Winnie der Puh", but also Karl May and a couple of Agatha Christies in translation. Then on the theological shelves was a slim volume, Warum ich kein Christ bin.
It's hard to imagine now failing to recognize the author's name, but I was a high school kid and swear I didn't recognize it beyond being the name of somebody famous. When I pulled it from the shelf I'd misread the title as "Why I am no Christ" and expected maybe a meditation on humility. Pedantically, "Why I am no Christ" would have been Warum ich kein Christus bin, but this book was Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian. Instead of a meditation on humility I found an attack on Christianity itself, and one so bold I wasn't sure what to do with it. Russell's arguments, at least against a certain simplistic sort of Christianity, were strong and so clearly presented that they demanded clear responses. I did not have clear responses but very much wished I had. It's among my regrets that I never talked to my host father about the book, but at the time I couldn't really even articulate my own thoughts. Anyway, it stuck with me. Russell cannot take credit for my loss of faith -- that was a work years in the making and had many authors -- but there is a sense in which he started it, and a sense in which the years-long process was an exercise in coming around to Russell's way of thinking.
Which is a long introduction to saying that What I Believe brought all of that back to me, and I find it difficult to respond dispassionately. What I Believe makes points rather different from Why I Am Not a Christian, and the voice is creakier than I remember. But it is still irreverent, direct, and fully convinced. He is sometimes wrong, as when he claims that the big questions of physics have all been solved, and sometimes has odd preoccupations, as with a digression on sexual ethics. But in broad terms I find his argument largely correct: that humans are a part of nature, that love and knowledge are essential, that ethics derive from human desires, and that the idea of personal salvation independent of social ethics is deeply flawed. And he often says it so well.
So Russell was banned in Boston. And for good reason: this kind of persuasive irreverence is more dangerous than the silly titillation the Watch and Ward so often targeted. The censors correctly recognized their enemy. This stuff really can change minds. It helped changed mine.
So why haven't I read even more of his stuff? I should fix that.
I still thumb through my copy of The History of Western Philosophy every now and then. He's irreverent and crotchety and fully convinced and sometimes wrong in that one too. But it's all said well.
>109 drneutron: Thanks for that rec. I have a collection of his shorter writings that I think I'll start working through but will keep that in mind.
And yes, Russell could be spectacularly wrong, even when he's quotable. In more recent years, I've mostly encountered him in discussions about his work on the Principia Mathematica with Alfred North Whitehead: a monumental work in foundations of mathematics, whose premise was largely undone by a 25-page paper of Gödel's. One must be careful ...
13) DAW #150: The Enchantress of World's End / Lin Carter
Second (or third, depending on how you count) in Carter's Dying Earth pastiche, "The Gondwane Epic." I read the first last year and found the plot busy and the world nonsensical but fun enough as a pulpy romp. Then I bounced hard off the next Lin Carter in the DAW project, and I think it's left a bad taste because I'm no longer inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. The plot here is still busy, the world is still nonsensical, and I found myself impatient with the works.
In all fairness, this Gondwane entry is probably at least as good as the last. The plot is slightly more coherent, and there's a cute bit near the beginning in which our heroes are arrested for failing to break any laws. But when the Scarlet Enchantress kidnaps the giant-strongman-hero in order to make him her concubine and breed a race of super-sorceror-warriors I thought of the ick in As the Green Star Rises and figured, "Well of course she does." Besides that, I'm thumbing it down because there's just nothing sufficiently special about this entry to make me look forward to more.
On the other hand, I want to call your attention to the cover, which is the first cover by a young medical-student-turned-illustrator name of Michael Whelan -- not just his first for DAW, but his first for the American market. He starts strong, doesn't he? I predict we'll see more of him.
>108 swynn: A book that changed me, as well, though I was past teenage when I read it. I stopped arguing with my religious-nut mother (the pedophilic incestuous abuser) and left any hope of dialogue with believers forever abandoned as useless and irritating to all concerned. If a book like this can exist, and one still chooses fantasy over reality, nothing I can say will matter.
>112 richardderus: I've been very fortunate in my relationship with my parents -- I'm sure they have some idea that I'm going to Hell but our conversations lean toward things more pleasant. As you say, what's the point?
I've also been fortunate in having some Christian friends who have been open to mutually respectful dialogue, which is great, so I haven't abandoned hope altogether. After all, I learn things from them now and then. But yes, I'm cautious about whom I open up to.
14) Escape Attempt / Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
Date: 1982 (English translation; original Russian stories 1962, 1974, and 1971)
This volume contains translations of three short novels set in the Strugatskys' "Noon Universe." I'm not even going to try to figure out the numeration on this series; it suffices for me that the volumes are only loosely connected and each stands on its own. The stories are thoughtful and deliberately paced. These three have a common theme of well-meaning characters intervening in situations they don't fully understand. My favorite is the third, which hit a sentimental nerve.
Escape Attempt. Three astronauts on vacation land on a planet supposed to be uninhabited. But they open the hatch to find a dead body. They soon find more, and stumble across a civilization that appears to consist of a ruling class and a suppressed and mistreated underclass. Although there are strict rules about establishing contact with new civilizations, the astronauts intervene on behalf of the laborers only to learn they've misinterpreted the situation.
The Kid From Hell. A young soldier on the planet Giganda is mortally wounded in combat. But instead of dying he wakes up on Earth inexplicably healed. It turns out that agents from Earth have been intervening on Giganda to steer it toward peace and progress. But the soldier cannot understand the strangers' motives and wants only to return home.
Space Mowgli. A crew of ecologists land on the planet Ark in order to prepare it for colonization. Ark is ideal for colonization because it has no native fauna -- or at least, it had none until the ecologists meet a feral boy with curious powers such as perfect recall and an uncanny talent for mimicry. It turns out that the boy is the sole survivor of crashed spaceship; but he was an infant at the time of the crash -- who or what raised him? And what else did they do?
>115 FAMeulstee: Happy Birthday, Anita! And thanks for mentioning Unheilig, a band that I was not familiar with but spent some time YouTubing last night. I quite like their sound, and their range from piano ballads to electronic rock.
15) Greenglass House / Kate Milford
This one is a YA mystery set around Christmas at a hotel that caters primarily to smugglers. Twelve-year old Milo lives at the hotel with his adoptive parents who run the place. Christmas is usually slow, so Milo is looking forward to a holiday with plenty of free time -- but then guests start arriving left and right, all with mysterious motives for visiting a remote inn under threat of a blizzard. Together with the cook's daughter Meddy, Milo play a live-action role-playing-game, which has them investigating the guests and, when things go missing, solving mysteries. The story straddles several borders: it seems to be set in contemporary times but also has a sort of pseudo-Victorian vibe, a la "Jamaica Inn". It seems to be a mystery, but the LARP theme gives it a fantasy feel, and the setting in an old inn brings a gothic atmosphere. The ambiguities are sometimes disorienting, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the effect -- is the story going in too many directions? Is the denouement appropriate for the buildup, and if not then where did the narrative go off the rails? In any case it's interesting, and I'd read another.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: Freezer 5K (Amana, IA, Feb. 9)
Mileage last week: 23
Mileage this year: 93
Longest run: 6 miles
Target mileage this week: 25
Monday weigh-in: 251 lbs.
Soundtrack: Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)
The tune needs no introduction, so I'll just mention that there's a conventional wisdom that says 180 steps per minute is the ideal stride rate for efficient running. That rate feels fast to me, but I've met runners who swear by it and build playlists out of nothing but songs at 180 beats per minute (or 90 BPM, which is equivalent at two steps per beat). By that measure, "Rock and Roll" is an even more perfect track than it already obviously is.
I like the sound of the Strugatsky novellas. I read Roadside Picnic a while back and thought it was amazing. I'm eager to see the film version too, which has a very good rep. My husband owns it but in a copy that doesn't have English subtitles. I might just give it a go anyway and see how I get on.
I'm kind of intrigued by the YA as well. That cover is very evocative somehow. And a hotel for smugglers... could be fun!
>119 HanGerg: I haven't read Roadside Picnic, but I'm hoping to work through the entire Strugatsky oeuvre, so maybe soon ...
I hope you give Greenglass House a try, just because I'm interested in your take on it.
>120 richardderus: I seem to be reading a lot of YA lately, and I'm not entirely sure why. Some of it is quite good, but I certainly don't prefer it as a genre to adult fiction.
We have not talked about The Doomed City, but I am all ears.
>122 richardderus: So I'm a newbie to the Strugatsky Brothers. Though I've been aware of them, my first taste was the DAW project's Hard To Be a God, on the basis of which I've been filling this significant gap in my generic education. From your review, The Doomed City sounds very special indeed, even in relation to the Strugatskys' other work. I'm going to put it off until I've filled out my experience of that other work. But I'm very much looking forward to it. Thanks!
And in the subject of thanks: I read The Lamb Shall Slaughter the Lion on a stay-home-because-of-the-ice-storm-or-something day. Thanks for the warble!
16) Das Lied von Bernadette / Franz Werfel
Date: 1941 (English translation 1942)
The bestselling book in the U.S. in 1942 was The Song of Bernadette, a historical novel about Bernadette Soubirous, a rural French girl who sees visions of beautiful woman with roses on her feet in a grotto near Lourdes. Word gets out about Bernadette's visions and she soon has champions and detractors. Among the detractors are local officials and clergy, who see Bernadette's visions as a threat to their authority and reputation and determine to put a stop to them. But all attempts to expose, embarrass, or intimidate her, not only fail, they tend to confirm the legitimacy of Bernadette's claims. Eventually and each in their own way, Bernadette's detractors wrestle with the problem of how to accommodate Bernadette's claims into their ideas about the world and how it works.
I expected to like this a lot less than I did. As I've mentioned once or twice I am irreligious and skeptical of most miraculous claims. The Lourdes miracles are no exception -- I expect there exist naturalistic explanations and distrust the Church's ability to determine otherwise. But I have myself grappled with the competing claims of science and religion, so Werfel's themes resonate with me: the clash between faith and modernity, and the struggle to adjust one's worldview to experiences that contradict it. Werfel explores this struggle through a variety of characters with a variety of motives -- not always plausibly, but I appreciate the attempt. For me Bernadette is a dull character, empty of self-doubt and uninterested in alternative explanations. But the reflection she provokes in others is intriguing. It does go on a bit long, and the last hundred pages could have been wrapped up in about twenty, but I found the middle 300 or so pages quite engaging.
I read this in original German, with heavy reference to Ludwig Lewisohn's 1942 translation. The vocabulary is large, and the sentences long, and Lewisohn was a big help. He does make one choice that I find puzzling. The book is divided into five sections, and Lewisohn translates the first section in present tense, and the other four in past tense. No such difference exists in the German text: all five sections are related in present tense. It's worth mentioning that German and English verb tenses aren't exactly one-to-one, and Germans often use present tense in contexts where English speakers would use past. So I think either present or past are creditable choices. But I don't sense anything in the German text to justify switching partway through. That said, Lewisohn is obviously a more adept reader of German than I, and I'd be very interested in an explanation for his choice. This was the only major oddity in a translation I think is excellent.
17) DAW #151: The Transition of Titus Crow / Brian Lumley
Tagline: A time-space chiller-thriller in the Lovecraft tradition
Second in Brian Lumley's Lovecraftian monster-hunter series featuring occultist Titus Crow.
Following the events of The Burrowers Beneath (DAW #91), Titus Crow has been cast adrift in space-time in a TARDIS-like grandfather clock that he's learning to steer as he rides. Crow's sidekick Henri de Marigny is stuck back on Earth, but eventually establishes a psychic link that helps Crow home in on Earth. When Crow arrives he tells fantastic stories of his adventures. It's fun for what it is, but it isn't Lovecraftian pastiche. Crow's adventures are more space fantasy than eldritch horror, as if Lumley forgot what genre he was writing.
There are more in the series, though this is the last volume published by DAW. The ending is unsatisfying to this one, and I'm tempted to seek out the third just to see if Lumley will patch it up. But the whole thing was sufficiently unsatisfying that I probably won't bother.
Well done! Reading a work that long in German is an amazing accomplishment. :)
Yes, Bernadette is a catalyst, not a character; the reactions of others to her is where the interest lies, and Werfel was wise to focus on that. In fact the book drags whenever it switches its perspective to her, including those last 100 pages, but overall I found it much easier to read than I expected.
And boy, did I get my wish about "something different" after three straight religion-themed novels! Word to the wise: you might want to spread out Strange Fruit and Circus Parade more than I did, unless you have a penchant for a peculiarly southern form of violence...
>126 richardderus: Careful, Richard: the next bestseller is Lloyd Douglas's The Robe. If you peak too early you won't have any deaths left to wish for.
>127 lyzard: Thanks for the heads up. I have some catching up to do, and I'm certainly not ready for another religious novel -- especially The Robe, which I am dreading based on the tedious Richard Burton/Jean Simmons film. Strange Fruit sounds like a good excuse to postpone it.
>76 swynn: I love Samantha Fish!
Have you seen her live? She's not around much anymore, but I try to catch her whenever she comes back to Kansas City.
I have to say that, like Bernadette, I found it a better and easier read than I anticipated; I also found it less annoying than Douglas's "pretending I'm not talking about religion" books.
Still 600 pages of piling on, though. :)
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Patty's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 22
Mileage this year: 115
Longest run: 6 miles
Target mileage this week: 26
Monday weigh-in: 248 lbs.
Soundtrack: Maybelline (Hans Thessink and Terry Evans)
I'm very fond of this cover of the great Chuck Berry tune, performed by Dutch blues guitarist Hans Thessink and the late Mississippi bluesman Terry Evans, on their live album "True & Blue". This track is too fun for words, and that bit where Thessink plays a full minute on a single open and deliberately detuned string without losing a soul in the crowd -- it's a kick every time.
** RUNNING POST **
Race report: Amana Freezer 5K, Feb 9
The Freezer 5K was originally scheduled for January 26, but was postponed because of polar vortex. I half-expected the race to be postponed again since the forecast for starting time was in the single digits. The race organizers decided to hold it anyway and I'm glad to report the forecasters were wrong: it was a sunshiny ten degrees at the start. There were just over 150 runners, only about half of last year's crowd, judging from online results, but still an impressive field for a race in small-town rural Iowa. The race seems to attract a lot of runners from the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area and I suppose they don't have many choices in January and February. Even if there were more choices, the Freezer 5K would still be an excellent one with a flat fast course, chip timing, and enthusiastic volunteers. The course runs from Amana, one mile east to East Amana, around a block and back. This year it was covered with packed snow and ice, which I understand happens much less frequently than you might expect for a winter race in rural Iowa. Organizers had spread sand prior to the race, and I assume the sand helped because I didn't see anyone fall. Still, you can see in the picture how runners were hugging the shoulder and anywhere the ground had a little more texture. I was very glad I'd packed Yaktrax, and even with the extra traction the road felt pretty slick.
In such a case, goal number one is: "finish upright." (Success!) Besides that, I was hoping to finish in 32 minutes. I reckoned that goal reasonable since I've been training at a pace just under eleven minutes per mile and knew I'd race a little faster than I'd trained. So I was very pleased to have a chip time of 30:18, which means a sub-ten minute pace. That means it's reasonable aim to aim for sub-30 minutes in my next race, which will be my local St. Patrick's Day 5K on March 17.
Congrats on the good time in the Amana race, Steve. I think y'all are crazy for voluntarily subjecting yourselves to this weather, but I'm glad no one fell and you made it through safely. Come back in the summer to visit Prairie Lights — it will be summer eventually, right?
What you say tempts me. Summer sounds really great right now, as does Prairie Lights in any season. And by summer I hope to be ready for longer distances, so ... hm, have to see what's available.
18) A Bad Day for Mercy / Sophie Littlefield
This is the fourth entry in Littlefield's series featuring Stella Hardesty, a woman who once killed her abusive husband and who now rents her services to victims of domestic abuse who want their exes to behave or just to stay away. In this one Stella's sister calls her with news that her son (Stella's nephew) has gotten into debt with the mob, who have threatened to kill him and have mailed body parts to show they mean business. Stella drives to Wisconsin to investigate -- only to find her cousin sound in his own body but cutting up somebody else's for disposal. He didn't kill the guy, he assures Stella, but he can't afford to be caught with the corpse. Stella (inexplicably) believes her nephew and starts a search for the real killer, uncovering a plot involving the nephew, his Russian girlfriend, the girlfriend's husband, and a business opportunity in male undergarments.
It's light and moderately fun, though I'm in no hurry to read the next. I usually like the premise of this series more than its execution, but in this case it helps that the romancey bits are kept to a minimum while Stella is in Wisconsin and her romantic entanglements stay back in Missouri. I can't expect similar luck in the next entry, A Bad Day for Romance. So, probably sometime next year.
>137 swynn: ...so she's basically a thug for hire...um...not for me, no. It sounds like her series petered out after the fifth one, for which I might just be glad.
>139 richardderus: I've enjoyed many stories about thugs for hire, but there's a mismatch in tone in this series that always disappoints me. I want it to be more noir, but it always arrives more romantic-comedy. I'd rather the violence were featured in a context of moral ambiguity, than used as a foil to Stella's relationship with the hot sheriff.
And about once a year I think maybe I'll give it another chance. As you note, it has exactly one more chance.
>140 swynn: Have you ever read Lawrence Block's Hit Man series, Steve? It might be more up your alley — very little if any romance, at least. Although they are packaged as novels, they are really more like individual stories with not much threading them together, at least in the early books. The later books are more connected.
>141 rosalita: I think so: isn't that the one where the hit man is also a stamp collector? It's been a long time, but I read a volume that was either a collection or a fix-up, because I remember it being very episodic. I also remember liking it, but plot details obviously didn't stick with me. I probably should revisit it.
Yep, that's the one! Keller is the hit man's name. There are five books in the series, and a handful of short stories that were published as ebooks. I really liked the books, but I am a big Larry Block fan. He is amazingly prolific, having two other long-running series and a couple of shorter ones in addition to the Keller books.
>143 rosalita: I'm familiar with Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series, all of which I read a *long* time ago, which means I'm probably not up-to-date. I haven't read anything by him in a long time, and probably ... oh, jeez, look at the size of that library stack. Still ....
19) Disruptor / Arwen Elys Dayton
Third and last in Dayton's "Seeker" trilogy, a YA fantasy/sf series featuring a group of teenagers who have trained to become "Seekers", teleporting super-soldiers who fight for justice. In the first book (Seeker) the kids learned that Seekers have become corrupted and fight for material gain; in the second (Traveler) they learned more about the history and deeply flawed administration of the Seekers and chose sides. This one sprints toward a big showdown and final reveal, tying up subplots on the way.
I wish I hadn't let so much time pass between books 2 and 3, because I'd forgotten many details and the text was less memory-joggy than I needed. So I probably missed finer plot points but still enjoyed the action, and was satisfied by the resolution and final big explanation.
Happy anniversary to Perry Rhodan, which publishes its 3,000th(!) issue today!
>145 swynn: "Memory-joggy" is an excellent adjective for that elusive quality that later books in series need to have for us readers that have been a while between instalments , and I'm stealing it for use in my own reviews!
20) Twilight of the Elves / Zack Loran Clark and Eliopulos
Second in the authors' "Adventurers Guild" series. In this one, an elven city has been overrun by zombies, and the surviving elves have fled to Freestone -- where our middle-grade heroes are training for careers as adventurers. For reasons of plot, our heroes-in-training are selected to help the elves take back their city.
The first volume was recommended to me by my nephew, and I liked the first well enough to read the second. The first was an okay dungeon crawl, but this second one takes on issues related to treatment of refugees that I found both well-handled and not overbearing: there's still plenty of action and it's still fun. Cliffhanger says another is coming, and I'll read it.
>147 swynn: THREE. THOUSANDTH. ISSUE!!!
I am truly impressed and pleased. It makes me happy that Perry Rhodan has such a following.
>151 richardderus: My awe-sense exactly. Also, I have a lot of catching up to do ...
21) Damsel / Elana K. Arnold
When the King dies, the Prince slays a dragon, rescues the damsel, and becomes King. The damsel bears the new King a son, who, when the King dies, slays a dragon and rescues a damsel and becomes King, repeat. So when Prince Emory's father dies, Emory defeats the dragon, rescues the damsel Ama, and returns to reign. But Ama's not so sure she likes this story. Why can't she remember her life before the rescue? Does she really have to spend the rest of her life shut up in a castle? With that creepy ass Emory?
Mixed feelings about this one. I love the subversion of the cliche, and love the message. But warning: there are multiple sexual assaults, and more references to genitalia than I've ever seen in YA fantasy. It's all part of a point about owning one's body and I get that, I'm just acknowledging that it challenges my ideas about what goes in a YA novel. Also there's a secondary character who seems underutilized, as if the author had another plan for him and backed off but couldn't cut him altogether.
I picked this up because the author will be a guest at an upcoming children's literature festival. Chances are, she'll talk in that context about her works for a younger audience but still I'm interested to see her presentation.
>152 swynn: Consider it the elixir of immortality. You can't even entertain the possibility of dying until you're caught up.
>114 swynn: I just got a copy of Far Rainbow in the other day. I have not read any of the Strugatsky brothers other books, but I have high hopes for this one. I will have to look up Escape Attempt if I enjoy my first adventure with them.
>117 swynn: Sounds fun! LARP in a book? I am in!
Adding others to the BlackHole too. Your thread is bad for me!
>154 richardderus: I hope it works! (It certainly sounds easier than Perry's method: solve the Galactic Riddle, find Wanderer the planet of immortality, and convince the disembodied collective consciousness of a race of superscientists to give me a life-sustaining cell bath. Sheesh, who has time for that?)
>155 alcottacre: Glad to help, Stasia! By an odd coincidence my next Strugatsky is an omnibus that includes Far Rainbow. I hope we both enjoy it!
Well, that makes me feel better about some of the series I'm trying to read!
22) The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion / Margaret Killjoy
Looking for reasons for a friend's suicide, Danielle Cain wanders into Freedom, Iowa, a sort of anarchist commune where her friend had last lived. She arrives just in time to see one of the locals killed in the street by a three-antlered demon deer. Then things get creepy. And political. Best is the diverse cast, who find in Freedom a place of mutual acceptance (though at some cost). The politics can get a bit heavy-handed, but the whole thing is a metaphor for bargaining over security and freedom so we're not going to avoid that. I'd have liked for Danielle to have had a little more agency, since it seems she mostly watches things happen. But that's probably the point: "peace beats aggression" is sort of the title after all.
Danielle and her surviving friends close the book with a decision to go looking for more demons. The conversation feels a little forced to me, but I enjoy this crew well enough that I'll follow them further. Thanks Richard for the warble!
>160 swynn: Oh I'm so pleased you enjoyed Margaret's odd, unclassifiable short novel.
23) Illuminae / Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
YA science fiction about survivors of an attack on a colony planet: the survivors are fleeing, the attackers pursuing. The AI on board the survivors' command seems to have been corrupted, ordering an attack on one of the survivors' own ships. They can't keep the AI active, but they can't defend themselves with it deactivated. And of course, their entire survival depends on a couple of teenagers. Because YA.
This has won a lot of awards and gotten a lot of love, and I think I get it, but it didn't click for me. The format is a series of computer logs and official reports which seems like a good idea until you realize that computer logs and official reports are *boring.* The authors also realize this, so they spice up the official reports with snark and creative writing. The documents don't *read* like documents, which for me killed the premise. And since I didn't buy the premise, everything else ... the "teenagers save the day" trope, the "computer wakes up with feeeelings" trope, the "kill a computer with an unsolvable problem" trope, all just felt tired. Not for me.
** RUNNING POST **
Target Race: St. Pat's Day 5K (Kirksville, MO, March 17)
Mileage last week: 26
Mileage this year: 141
Longest run: 7 miles
Target mileage this week: 28
Monday weigh-in: 245 lbs.
Soundtrack: Tausend Mann und ein Befehl (="A Thousand Men and One Order") (Oomph!)
Oomph! is a German industrial/goth rock band who have been around since the early nineties and influenced acts like Rammstein and Megaherz (both likely to show up here eventually). This is the first track on their latest album Ritual. "Tausend Mann und ein Befehl" updates a pop hit from 1966, Freddy Quinn's Hundert Mann und ein Befehl. Follow the link and you'll recognize Quinn's tune as Sgt. Barry Sadler's "Ballad of the Green Berets." Quinn's German lyrics translated Sadler's jingoism into a sort of vague elegy, making the song plausible as a antiwar protest, and it was interpreted as such in the 1960's. But it can also be read as an idealization of soldiers' sacrifice, as evidence the YouTube comments which tend toward nationalism at the mildest. No such ambiguity exists in the Oomph! song: they borrow phrases from Quinn -- "Irgendwo im fremden Land" ("Somewhere in a foreign country"), "Heute ich und morgen du" ("Me today, you tomorrow") -- but their punchlines are "Nie wieder Krieg!" ("Never again war!") and "Stellt euch quer!" ("Resist!"). No doubt about the side they're taking, which can be a big deal for rock bands who sing auf Deutsch.
I don't know whether to be delighted that rock bands are still writing protest songs after all, or to despair that decades-old peace slogans still seem so timely. Either way, the song rocks and I run to it.
>165 fairywings: Welcome Adrienne!
Yeah, I've been reading a bunch of YA this year, and I'll be reading more for an upcoming Children's Lit Festival. I didn't set out to read so much YA, and my response to Illuminae makes me think I may be reaching a saturation point. But I'll definitely put both of those series on the list -- the Marsden series especially looks interesting.
>166 swynn: I read a lot of YA myself, I like the Dystopian and Fantasy genres the best. It's all rather hit or miss in my opinion, what works for one author just feels tired and overdone for another. There are definitely some really good stories out there, you just have to wade through the mediocre to find them.
Hopefully you find some gems while reading for the Children's Lit Festival.
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