Archive for December 2010
And if you are anything like me, you probably have been scrambling for ideas on what to get people for Christmas. So this year, why not get your loved ones some books by women? Here’s a few of my favorites:
Shirley Jackson has long been on of my favorite writers and one of the things I love about her writing is that she writes to the correct damn length (modern novels are so bloated.) Which is why I want to highlight her two masterpiece short novels – The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. You’ve probably read them already, but they are definitely worth passing on to someone else.
I’ve always wished that I lived while Jackson was publishing so I could experience the discovery of her work as she was writing. And I bet you do too. So run, don’t walk and buy M. Rickert’s two short story collections. She is the writer you want to say in twenty years that you were reading now. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.
Kelly Link is one of those unique voices that comes along once in a generation. (And spawns masses of imitators – far too many imitators.) For my money, her first collection is the one you want. Her later ones are more polished, but I think this one shines for the sheer raw genius.
One of my favorite childhood memories is watching The French Chef on Channel 2. I think I started watching because my aunt liked it, but there was something mesmerizing about Julia Child, vibrant and alive like few people are. I didn’t know what a hollandaise sauce was, but watching her, I wanted some. I think it is hard to understate her influence on American cooking. (Heck, she basically invented the TV cooking show.) None of these are fiction, but I make the rules and you won’t go wrong buying any of them.
I was surprised when I learned the author of I Capture the Castle was also the author of 101 Dalmatians. I’ll admit I’m not familiar with her other writing, but even with these two books, it’s a hell of a legacy.
Ok, more later.
1. You have several gods at your beck and call. Yep, they can do most anything, except for read minds. Your beloved daughter has been murdered. What do you do?
a) Concoct a byzantine plan to see if the person you suspect is guilty a la old timey witch tests You know, that one where they throw a woman in a pond and if she drowns, congratulations she’s not a witch. If she survives, she’s clearly a witch and gets burned at the stake. Except for “burned at the stake” insert “becomes ruler of the entire world.”
b) Get the damn Gods to find out who killed your daughter and then have them make paste out of him.
2. You have obsessively been trying to find out who killed your mother. You are now about to die, but you still have a chance to denounce the one you believe is guilty. You:
A) Denounce the bastard!
B) Decide “What’s the point?” I’ll just hold my tongue.
So these first two questions felt like Jemisin knew what she wanted to happen but couldn’t think of a good reason why, so she went with really, really bad ones.
3. Darre is a country straight out of creepy pornos. This is best exemplified by which rite of passage?
a) Amazon women capture a male enemy warrior and then boink him into exhaustion.
b) One amazon warrior fights against one of the male citizens of their country. If she wins, they “make love.” If he wins, he gets to rape her.
Yeah, really I have no words for this.
4 A teenager elected leader of her/his country?
a. Totally plausible.
b. George Lucas has a lot to answer for.
Nope, don’t buy it. Especially given the chance to do something for her people, Yeine spends most of her time investigating a personal tragedy. Oh, and getting laid.
And for good measure I will complain about how it’s a matriarchal society, except for Yeine’s dad who got to be the leader bean too, because you know, special snowflake syndrome.
5 Is today opposite day?
c) No (by which I mean yes because it totally is)
d) No (by which I mean no.)
Yep, when in plotting doubt, turn to Calvin and Hobbes for assistance.
Anyway, apparently it was opposite day the day Yeine died because instead of getting killed by the magic widget of doom, it turned her into a goddess. For pretty much no reason at all. So yeah, we got the ending that was telegraphed way in the beginning of the book and it was even less satisfying that I had expected.
6. So did you too have the feeling when Yeine was talking about Naha that it was like a woman talking about how awesome her boyfriend was and you totally wanted to hand her a pamphlet on “top signs your boyfriend is abusive”?
b. Hells yeah, and double creepy because the book felt like a Mary Sue.
There were things I liked about the book, like the super creepifying way some people died (turned to diamond! Getting a jillion extra limbs!) or the war where not a single person died.
And I think the bones of the plot could have been quite good, but it didn’t cohere all the way and Jemisin forced it.
Maybe next time.
This is a short story that was published in Harpers back in 1952 (Subscribers can read it online) and this is not the side of Shirley Jackson that I think most modern readers are familiar with, and that’s a bit of a shame.
It’s a simple enough story – everyone in the family has the flu (and why don’t we call it the grippe any more? That sounds much more ominous than plain old flu) and they are all having a restless night which involves much swapping of beds as the kids migrate to their parents bed and people move on as it gets crowded.
It’s a funny piece, one that has the sharpness that’s shown in her horror writing, with a wry amusement that makes me think she was thinking “Yep, this is life” when she wrote it.
I picked this up at a Christmas dinner over the weekend and started reading on the train home. I’m a bit surprised at how much praise this book has been receiving. (I forget who suggested she was getting paid by the asterisk, but I see what they mean.)
Anyway, I’m mostly posting because I’m pretty sure Jemisin just telegraphed the ending when has Yeine refer to people as “mortals” and of course shortly after we find out she shares a soul with a god. Which pretty much means that I can expect the climax of the book to involve her becoming the dead goddess Enefa.
Which doesn’t sound all that interesting to me. (I shall hold out hope Yeine will become the goddess sooner rather than later and the do some goddess ass-kicking. Probably won’t happen because I’ve heard the second half of the book Yeine getting a lot of nookie.)