Archive for the 'bookmaggot' Category

five things make a midyear reading update

  1. 82 books read so far
  2. Two excellent novellas from Tor: All Systems Red and Passing Strange
  3. Three new authors of achingly lovely queer romance: KJ Charles, Alexis Hall, Roan Parrish
  4. Most incisive depiction of the tension between friendship and real estate in modern Ireland: Tana French‘s Dublin Murder Squad series
  5. How the hell does she write so prolifically and so well award: to Roxane Gay, for Difficult Women and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (a second time honoree, she also won in 2014 for Bad Feminist and An Untamed State) (preliminary theory: she just works really, really hard) (I love her)

dark emu, by bruce pascoe

…‘desert’ is a term Europeans use to describe areas where they can’t grow wheat and sheep.

mira’s last dance, by lois mcmaster bujold

She wants her own house? Pen tried to interpret this. Most women do, Des returned, at some point in their lives. Getting one without going through some man is made nearly impossible on purpose, I suspect.

maps out of hell

If Feather’s Your Blue Eyed Boys got me through the brutal aftermath of Mum’s death in the summer of ’14, sassbandit and were_duck’s Draculoids Will Never Hurt You is shaping up to be the essential text for this spring under Fascism. The irony is that I first read it in June of 2011 without losing myself in it. It took six more years of working for Better Living Industries to get to the point where I know I’ll die if I don’t art-bomb the Man and write punk love songs to all my friends. (Ironic twist: gonna die anyway!)

For the full immersion experience, I’ve spent the last week listening to Danger Days on endless repeat and reading The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. In the back matter, Gerard Way, who turned 40 this week (thank you, good sir, for surviving your descent into Hell), describes “looking inward, to that inner 16-year-old girl.” As a former 16yo girl myself, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those rare moments when the culture at large stops shitting on 16yo girls even for a nanosecond, let alone acknowledges them as something strong and important and worth protecting.

But Way also identifies the Man as… himself. His drive, his ambition, his ego, his death wish. I don’t know why I am even a little surprised. Every text that speaks to me on that deep level is somehow about complicity.

the likeness, by tana french

I used to believe, bless my naive little heart, that I had something to offer the robbed dead. Not revenge—there’s no revenge in the world that could return the tiniest fraction of what they’ve lost—and not justice, whatever that means, but the one thing left to give them: the truth.

the biggest estate on earth, by bill gammage

In time, a long time, bark and branch will conceal the scars as though they never were. Some eucalypts are much older than we imagine.

The water has changed. Once it ran slower and clearer. The Darling below Bourke was ‘beautifully transparent, the bottom was visible at great depths, showing large fishes in shoals, floating like birds in mid-air’.

People today think of what animals need. In 1788 people thought of what animals prefer. This is a crucial difference.

bird minds: cognition and behavior of australian native birds, by gisela kaplan

The southern hemisphere is not a mirror image of the north.

the crows approached the female banteng, somehow indicating their intention. The banteng female then rolled onto her back and held her legs up, straining to hold her position, so that the crows could get to the belly and the area between belly and leg. The crows then proceeded to quickly peck at the exposed areas, the authors assuming that the crows extracted ticks and the cow then rolled back onto her belly.

Here is a bird exceptionally endowed for song and yet so much of what is produced seems to have no easily identifiable function.

conflict is not abuse, by sarah schulman

…as was learned by the AIDS crisis, significant attitudinal change, while inhabited by many, is propelled by a critical mass, a small diverse collection of individuals with focused intent and effective action who rise to the occasion to literally change our minds.

Perpetrators increasingly are the ones to call the police, threaten legal action, send lawyer letters, or threaten or seek restraining orders as part and parcel of their agenda of blame and unilateral control.

Good groups help their family, friends, and community members recognize and dissipate anxiety rather than joining them in acting out cruelly against others.

why i am not a feminist, by jessa crispin

Asking for a system that was built for the express purpose of oppression to “um, please stop oppressing me?” is nonsense work. The only task worth doing is fully dismantling and replacing that system.

The workplace and capitalistic society has become increasingly hostile. Not only to women, but to men, too. By keeping the focus on how women are doing in the marketplace, rather than how human beings exist under this system of competition and precarity, our thinking remains very small.

Here is one way feminism is still a useful idea: Almost all of us have been marginalized in one way or another due to our gender. That marginalization should allow us to see that it’s the whole system that is corrupt. Being marginalized should give women the perspective and power to see the system’s workings and its dark heart.

We have to imagine something before we can build the infrastructure that will allow it to exist.

We must lay claim to the culture, occupy it. We must remember that our world does not have to be this way. We do not have to reward exploitation, we do not have to support the degradation of the planet, of our souls, of our bodies. We can resist. We must stop thinking so small.

difficult women, by roxane gay

I wasn’t much popular, either. I was too smart and that made people uncomfortable—most folks where we’ve lived our whole lives don’t trust too much intelligence in a woman. There is also the problem of my eyes—they don’t hide anything. If I don’t care for a person, my eyes make it plain. I don’t care for most. Folks are generally comfortable with the small lies they tell each other. They don’t know what to do with someone like me, who mostly doesn’t bother with small lies.

the ohlone way, by michael margolin

There is an Ohlone song, for example, from which only one evocative line survives: Dancing on the brink of the world. We know nothing more about this song, just that one haunting line.

the lost daughter, by elena ferrante

In fact, despite my breaking away, I haven’t gone very far.

The world in the meantime had not improved; in fact it had become crueler for women.

the view from flyover country, sarah kendzior (2013)

We live in the tunnel at the end of the light.

Mistaking wealth for virtue is a cruelty of our time. … Poverty is not a character flaw. Poverty is not emblematic of intelligence. Poverty is lost potential, unheard contributions, silenced voices…

Today the attack on the poor is no longer cloaked in ideology – it is ideology itself. This ideology is not shared by most Americans, but by those seeking to transform the Republican Party into, as former GOP operative Mike Lofgren describes it, “an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.”

five highlights of my year in reading

1. Gorgeous memoirs of appalling events

2. Rich, thinky SF by women

3. Excellent narrative history on audiobook

4. My own sundered history, restored to me in various ways

5. In spite of everyone who says how good they are, really very, very good

more from chronicle of a plague, by andrew holleran

“I keep thinking there’s a beach at the end of this,” a friend said. “An island, and we’ll be happy again.”

His mother left yesterday after his cremation and when I walked her to the cab, she said to me: ‘I think the reason I was put on earth was for these last two months.’”

One cannot expect people to live in a state of perpetual horror and outrage. Eventually they subside. Fatigue sets in, burnout, boredom, acceptance—and the attention span turns to something else. How could it be otherwise? Yet all of this is strange.

penric’s mission, by lois mcmaster bujold

You’re worse than evil. You’re inefficient.

hospital time, by amy hoffman

Our family commitment to each other is not forced, but desired; our marriages are not arranged for economic benefit or social duty; our children are chosen and beloved, not incidental and taken for granted.

I was overwhelmed, it was all too much for me, how could it not have been? I wanted to run away, I wanted it to be over. I’m sorry. I wish, I wish, I wish every single day that I had been more genuinely kind, more open and loving and freely generous. Although if it happened again, someone I know having AIDS —and it has, it will —I’d do it again and feel the same, because that’s what AIDS does, the fucker.

You have to call him, you have to be persistent and annoying. He doesn’t have to like you. I finally learned life’s lesson: They don’t have to like you.

shirley jackson: a rather haunted life, by ruth franklin

One of the ironies of Jackson’s fiction is the essential role that women play in enforcing the standards of the community—standards that hurt them most.

take this bread: a radical conversion, by sara miles

“It’s about giving up,” she told me. “You get to a point where you just have to give up. And then you learn to be honest.”

Now that you’ve taken the bread, what are you going to do?

“How do you pray?” I asked Lynn. “Well,” she said, “usually I start off, ‘Okay, what the hell is going on here, God?'”

darwinian

I started listening to Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History (having finished up Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering, which traces the American way of death back to the Civil War, and is excellent.) Mukherjee’s Emperor of Maladies made me cry buckets and also gave me an inkling of insight when it described “cancer pathways” – specific sequences of gene mutations that lead to specific conditions.

I couldn’t wait for The Gene to come out and so far it’s even better than Emperor. He talks about his paternal uncles, Rajesh and Jagu, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and how the trauma of Partition exacerbated their illnesses. This immediately after I read Timothy Knatchbull’s From a Clear Blue Sky about the Mountbatten bomb. The consequences of British imperialism run through both families like another inherited trait.

Mukherjee made me laugh out loud when he described Darwin resolutely ignoring the theological consequences of his research as the idea of evolution dawned on him, calling this “the separation of church and state of mind.”

I first encountered Darwin as a teenager in my Dad’s Stephen Jay Gould and Dawkins books, which sounded every bit as self-satisfied as the religious books I was reading at the same time. Darwin came back around later, long after I’d lost my faith, when I read Janet Browne’s wonderful biographies of him. She described how seriously he took his reading, and in response, I started keeping my own log of the books I had read.

As a devout Christian and then as an angry atheist, a lot of Darwin was lost on me. If you refuse to engage with the central struggle of his life, between his faith in meaning and what his observations taught him, you miss so much. I see in Darwin now what I saw in La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona: that this world is more beautiful than it needs to be; that even when you understand its underlying principles, its glory can bring you to your knees.

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”