conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
The first link that popped up on Google is no longer functional, and it doesn't work at archive.org either. The correct link now is https://theauthoritarians.org/

That's easy to remember!
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I criticized Martin Edwards' The Golden Age of Murder when I first read it, but I must say it has been a productive book for me in leading me to new and interesting authors: first to E. M. Delafield, who isn't even a murder mystery author but nonetheless got caught up with those who were (now that sounds like the plot of a detective story in itself), and now with George Bellairs' Death of a Busybody.

I must say I feel that E. M. Delafield was the more successful find. Bellairs, eh; Death of a Busybody is a perfectly adequate English country village mystery, but I don't feel the urge to search out any more books by him.

And his detective, Inspector Littlejohn, has given me a new appreciation for the depth Ngaio Marsh gave to her Inspector Alleyn. Now you may object that Inspector Alleyn is not exactly over-endowed with personality himself, which may be accurate when compared to the eccentricities of for instance a Poirot -

Speaking of Poirot, I saw Wonder Woman recently and the new Orient Express was one of the previews and maybe I just imprinted too hard on David Suchet, IDK, but I'm not sure I approve of this new Poirot. Do we need a new Poirot? Why all the remakes all the time???

ANYWAY. The point I intended to get to is that Inspector Littlejohn has no discernible personality at all. While I prefer this detective's personal lives to remain second fiddle to their mysteries, lest they throttle their books like strangler figs, it turns out that there is indeed such a thing as too little personality in a detective, too. Littlejohn is little more than a conduit for exposition, and mostly indistinguishable from the other characters who act as conduits of exposition in this book, which makes the thing sadly forgettable even though I enjoyed it in a mild way as I read it.
dhampyresa: (MY BIRTHDAY HAS SQUID)
[personal profile] dhampyresa
1. You are on the wrong continent to play Critical Role.

2. You are not caught up on Critical Role. They're not going to roll back the story 50 episodes or so just so you can join in.

3. You are not a character in Critical Role, either.

4. Critical Role does not take place in Fallen London.

5. You do not know how to make a lightsaber. No, not even if Percy helps.

6. You cannot break through two different layers of reality (from Fallen London to the world of Critical Role, and from there to the 'real world') so you can steal the DM's notes and METAGAME. No. Stop.


The way you actually knew it was a dream: getting wifi on your phone when, and I quote, "there's no wi-fi in the Neath". Really, self? REALLY? It's getting wi-fi in Fallen London that broke your suspension of disbelief? Really?

(Then I lucid-dreamed my way into stealing the DM's notes but woke up before the actual metagaming could happen.)

Bits and pieces

2017-06-25 21:42
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
[personal profile] shewhomust

  • Poking around the internet, looking for something else, I found this article about the decline in puffin numbers in Iceland. It dates back to 2013, and blames the mackerel, heading north on the warmer waters and eating the zooplankton which would otherwise feed the sand eels (ans eating the odd sand eel, too). The evidence is circumstantial, but persuasive. In passing, it suggests that the technique of catching puffins in flight using a net on a pole is actually less damaging to the puffin population than the previous method of catching them from the burrows: "Pole netting targets the tremendous wheels of flying puffins that form just off the colony cliffs. Thousands of birds spend hours flying in an arc out to sea, then banking and coming back low over the cliffs. The birds that do this are mostly adolescents. They have free time, and they spend it endlessly reconnoitering the cliffs, trying to learn what it takes to find a burrow and a mate." Of course: birds that spend their time flying round aimlessly in circles, what could they be but adolescents?

  • I described the practice of pole netting in a post last year about a television programme, also about the decline in seabird numbers, presented by Adam Nicholson. I am now reading his new book, The Seabird's Cry and hoping for more up to date information. I've barely started it, and have only just reached the chapter about puffins, but I loved this hint of how they spend their winters: "Winter puffins, dressed in grey, float in silence, picking at fish and plankton alone on the surface of the sea." Something very chilly about that wording.

  • And one puffin-free item: Harry Potter, the Durham connection. I am mildly shocked at the idea that Durham University is offering a Harry Potter module as part of its English degree: the course, as described, sounds like a very good way to teach civics to schoolchildren, but not the material for undergraduates on - oh, wait, can I even assume that it's a literature degree? Better stop here and go to bed.
ada_hoffmann: photo of me out in the snow wearing a heavy coat and laughing (Default)
[personal profile] ada_hoffmann

Today’s Book: “Iwunen Interstellar Investigations (Prologue Season)”, a web serial by Bogi Takács


The Plot: A magic teacher from a planet of autistic people is shocked out of their routine by the arrival of a mysterious, injured stranger – and of some interplanetary intrigue.


Autistic Character(s): Almost everyone, including the protagonist!


Iwunen Interstellar Investigations is set on Eren, the aforementioned planet of autistic people, and so the first thing I want to talk about here is PLANET OF AUTISTIC PEOPLE.


We’ve seen disability-centric societies in previous Book Party episodes. “Kea’s Flight” is set in a society of developmentally disabled teenagers on a spaceship, but the teenagers are supervised by NT caregivers and robots. “This Alien Shore” gives us Guera, a planet where everyone, including the leadership, is disabled or mentally ill. But while there is a major character who comes from Guera, and some interesting scenes of intrigue between Gueran leadership, we saw very little of what Gueran life was like on the ground.


Iwunen Interstellar Investigations starts us off right at the beginning with scenes of relatively normal life on Eren. So right away this is EXCELLENT. Ranai ta-n Iwunen, a magic teacher, is depressed, and is hoping that a new student, Wuda-reyun, will give them something to do – but Wuda-reyun, who is from another planet, is presumptuous and seems ill at ease with Ereni culture.


By the way, Eren is not just a planet of autistic people. It’s a MAGICAL planet of autistic people, in which magic (called “māwal”) is interconnected with high SFnal technology. This is exactly my jam. Unfortunately, once we have gotten to know Ranai and Wuda-reyun, the plot begins to move at such a fantastically fast clip that we only see Ereni society in glimpses. There are some really delightful details woven in – people are formal about power relations so that they are easier to remember! The word for “rules lawyering” is monomorphemic! – but in general, the story is not interested in explaining a lot about Eren. The story is interested in ADVENTURE! Pretty soon, Ranai et al are in a different part of the galaxy entirely, investigating something involving interplanetary politics and weapons deals.


The plot in general goes by quickly enough that readers not familiar with Bogi’s work might get confused at some points. The “Concepts” section on the website does a good job filling in basic background about the universe, and I would recommend it during the early stages of reading.


As to the characters themselves, they are just fine. Almost everyone on Eren shares the “Ereni cognotype” (their word for autism), but characters have their own diverse personalities, from the cautious and authoritative Ranai to the naive and principled Abinayun to Mirun, the stranger from another world, who literally crashlands in the story with great eagerness and little control. We also see glimpses of Ranai’s daughter, Birayu, a creative child with atypical language skills who adores food. Birayu’s presence is important from a representation perspective, as it shows that not everyone on Eren is “high-functioning”, and that a range of abilities are accepted. Ranai is a single parent who employs someone to assist in raising Birayu, which seems to be an arrangement that is working out, although I would have liked to see them and Birayu interact more in early chapters.


There is also a hint of a budding romantic attraction between Ranai and Mirun, both of whom are nonbinary. Since Ranai is demisexual, this part of the story occurs gently and gradually and is still far from being resolved at the end of the season. (Mirun’s origins, by the way, are among the things that aren’t explained in this story. But if you are up for some darker fare, you can find them in “Toward the Luminous Towers“.)


Bogi objected when I filed this story, on Patreon, under “cheerful books”: some bad things are certainly implied, both in Mirun’s vaguely-hinted-at backstory and in the political intrigue. It’s just that, as a dedicated reviewer of books about autistic people, a disproportionate amount of my reading deals with ableism, abuse, and other Bad Things. There are some really well-done, really important books that talk about Bad Things, and Bad Things are pervasive in real life. But I cannot describe how refreshing it is to read an adventure with a happy ending in which autistic people run around without being constantly oppressed for being autistic. That’s what I mean when I call this one “cheerful”. I don’t want there to be fewer books about Bad Things, but I do want there to be MORE books like this one!


This is overall a sprightly, enjoyable read with many twists, and with a gaggle of interesting autistic characters whose personhood is never in question. I’m looking forward to further installments in the series, and I’m hoping that they will take us in even greater depth into the world of Eren.


The Verdict: Recommended


Ethics Statement: Bogi Takács is someone I would consider a personal friend. I read eir web serial by waiting for the chapters to be posted for free on eir website. All opinions expressed here are my own.


This book was not chosen by my Patreon backers; I read it because I was excited enough about it to read it on my own time. Reviews chosen by my backers are still in the pipeline, and you can become a backer for as little as $1 if you’d like to help choose the next autistic book.


For a list of past/future/possible Autistic Book Party books, click here.

(no subject)

2017-06-25 14:15
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (cosmia)
[personal profile] skygiants
I have never read Dhalgren or indeed any Samuel R. Delaney. However, as of yesterday I have at least had a Dhalgren Experience, thanks to [personal profile] aamcnamara, who turned up a local theatrical-dance-music-light-'architectural puppetry' performance of something called Dhalgren: Sunrise this weekend.

Dhalgren: Sunrise is comprised of bits of text from what I assume is Dhalgren the book, accompanied by dance, light, and music, almost all of it improvised. Also, some of the music was performed on imaginary instruments. "That must be a theremin!" I thought brightly to myself on seeing one of the instruments, mostly because I don't know what a theremin looks like and therefore I assume that any instrument I don't recognize is a theremin. But it turns out it was not a theremin, because there was a credit in the program for 'invented instruments,' though I don't know whether the one I saw was the Diddly Bow, the Bass Llamelophone, or the Autospring.

Anyway, so my new understanding of Dhalgren is that it is about a city in which Weird, Fraught and Inexplicable Things Are Happening. This is not a very thorough understanding, but it's still more of an understanding than I had before. The show is composed of seven scene-vignettes:

Prelude: A brief reading of [what I assume to be] the book's introduction.

Orchid: Three women dance on a bridge and a man acquires a prosthetic hand-weapon-implement. The director at the end gave special thanks to the dude who made it, understandably so, because it very effectively exuded Aura of Sinister!

Scorpions: Gang members dance and fight in front of a building? Alien gang members? Just aliens? Anyway, some entities wrapped in glowing lights have a dance fight in front of a building; the text is from the point of view of a worried inhabitant of the building who Has Concerns.

Moons: The moon has a new secondary moon friend named George. The dancing in this section was one of my favorite bits -- the Moon did some amazing things with her light-strung hula hoop. [personal profile] aamcnamara pointed out later that the narration in this bit, which featured a wry and dubious radio announcer, seemed like a perhaps-intentional echo of Welcome to Night Vale. I have never actually listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but from my cultural osmosis knowledge this seems about right.

Fire: The light show took front and center in this bit about everything being on fire and also, simultaneously, not on fire. The maintenance man doing the narration is very plaintive about all of this. There may also have been dancing in this bit but I don't remember what anyone was doing.

Sex: The guy with the sinister prosthesis has an intimate encounter with two other people inside a blanket fort. I always like the blanket-fort method of showing sex onstage, it hints appropriately while allowing actors not to have to do anything they're uncomfortable with. At some point in this process the sinister prosthesis is removed for the first time, which I expect symbolizes something about human connection.

Sunrise: The characters who have previously just had sex emerge from the building and now seem to have a difference of opinion about whether the sunrise is just normal, or whether the earth is actually falling into the sun. Eventually all the characters are onstage being distressed, along with the music and the lighting -- again, really cool light effects here, especially the final overwhelming projection of light followed by and darkness.

It's a one-hour show without intermission, which we all agreed afterwards was for the best; the deeply weird mood and atmosphere would have been difficult to slip back into if one could get up in the middle to go to the bathroom. For those of you who have actually read Dhalgren, I will leave you with [personal profile] aamcnamara's sum-up: "It was a strange experience, but honestly could have been stranger."

Not All the Coal

2017-06-25 14:28
lesser_celery: (Default)
[personal profile] lesser_celery
Tales to Terrify has posted a wonderful podcast of “Not All the Coal That Is Dug Warms the World,” a story by Steve Toase that we published earlier in Not One of Us #54. I love Martin Reyto’s voice and the way it conveys the protagonist’s plight. I also appreciate the generous and visible crediting, as well as the link to our website. The reading of the story starts at the 14:31 mark.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Gentle Readers, however many of you there may be,

I'm in the mood to take requests. What would you like to see me write a blog post about? All suggestions will be entertained (writing, politics, mental/physical health, true crime, Shakespeare, etc.), but may or may not be acted upon.

I'm screening comments, in case you want to ask privately for a public response.

(no subject)

2017-06-25 14:19
thawrecka: (Mireille)
[personal profile] thawrecka
I said to a friend yesterday, I'm so committed to avoidance I'm even avoiding the things I was using to avoid the thing I'm meant to be doing. I'm meant to be writing a short book about recent films. And I enjoy writing about film, generally. But my brain keeps going... what if I leave it until later? Surely it will take no time to do this so I can write it all at whatever the last minute ends up being. Brain, no. And then it became, what if I re-sort the tags on my DW, to avoid browsing reddit, which was to avoid browsing tumblr, which was to avoid browsing plurk, which was to avoid reading blog posts, which was to avoid reading books, which was to avoid writing.

In other news I broke inspirobot:

Don't be a slave to yesterday's awkwardness, just laugh and be jolly.


It keeps giving me images that are actually inspirational.

Films watched this weekend:

The DUFF, a teen film which I am at least 15 years too old to appreciate. Every beat was thoroughly predictable, down to the inspirational speech at the end. The only difference between this and teen films of my youth is that this one has internet bullying instead of just ye olde fashioned bullying and a mean girl that wants to be a reality star. But literally everything else was generic American teen film about quirky white middle class girl who doesn't quite fit in & etc. etc.

La-La Land - I get the feeling that with this one the style is the substance. Beautiful use of colour and lighting and shot framing, for which we can thank Linus Sandgren who won the Academy Award. Gorgeous film to look at. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are reasonably good actors. But if you're casting a musical I think it might be a good idea to cast leads who can sing and dance at least better than I can, and I found much of the first two thirds of the film tedious.

Tedious white hipsters struggle with the idea that they might have to get grown up jobs and compromise by doing terrible things like actually promoting their work, sigh, but because it's a Hollywood film they end up with the dream jobs anyway. Gosling's character, Sebastian, was especially annoying. I found the scene where Mia was horrified to realise the band Sebastian had joined was playing fun music that people enjoyed especially eye-roll worthy. I believe it's meant to be at least in part an homage to musicals of the 50s, but instead of feeling like an homage it just felt regressive, uplifting white hetero mediocrity to some sacred thing. It never seems to quite know whether it wants to be Singing in the Rain or 500 Days of Summer, without the satire that livened up either.

I can see why my friend who liked it called it a three star film, though for me it was only a two star experience. Still, some of the sequences were enjoyable and I liked the parts John Legend was in.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
So first, two signal boosts:

1. I found out about this via the League of Women Voters. This act, introduced in both the Senate and the House, has the stated purpose "To require States to automatically register eligible voters to vote in elections for Federal office, and for other purposes."

Among other things, it would automatically register eligible voters via information they provide to various government offices, such as the DMV. A number of states have take this kind of legislation up, and a few have passed it, but it would be wonderful to have this on a federal level, for all states.

It's S. 1353 in the Senate and H.R. 2876 in the House. Call your reps and ask them to support this act by co-sponsoring it.

What we're seeing right now in Washington with the AHCA is what happens when the elected officials are not sensitive to the needs of their constituents. To force them to care, we have to make it easier for those constituents to make their voices heard in the voting booth.


http://thisfinecrew.dreamwidth.org/98278.html

2. There is a new friending meme going around, so if you've already posted at [community profile] 2017revival and [community profile] addme and are still thinking "I need more people", you can try that. Boost it, anyway, would you? These things only work if they get shared.

Anyway, I want to get rid of my last few tabs, so bear with me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Frog Log Saves Wildlife in Your Pool

Here's what happens when lightning doesn't hit the ground

The Last Picture Show

America’s Short-Lived ‘Black Army on Wheels’

What vampire bats can teach us about cooperation

The Green Energy Revolution Will Happen Without Trump

The fact is: Facts don’t matter to climate deniers

The Canadians helping refugees start anew

What's the Problem With Al Jazeera?

White People Keep Finding New Ways to Segregate Schools

London tower blocks evacuated as 34 buildings fail fire tests

Insurers Battle Families Over Costly Drug for Fatal Disease

Trump won't hire poor people for a top post - many Americans agree

Science Says Summer Is Going to Be Ruined for Many Years to Come

How Charlottesville, Virginia’s Confederate statues helped decimate the city’s historically successful black communities.

To Make Sense of American Politics, Immigrants Find Clues From Lands They Left

Venezuela's Maduro confronts perils of his reliance on the military

Bill Cosby Is Planning Town Halls About Sexual Assault And The Law, Spokesman Says (Gross!)

'No doesn't really mean no': North Carolina law means women can't revoke consent for sex

Nursing Home Workers Still Posting Nude and Vulgar Photos of Residents on Snapchat

Psychologists Open a Window on Brutal C.I.A. Interrogations

really fun

2017-06-24 19:31
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
I have been going to Tai Chi classes at Davis Square Martial Arts for at least a dozen years. I tracked them down after the instructor at the Lexington Rec department flipped out because most of us clearly didn't practice at home, and after being shouted at, everybody quit. At first I went two or three times a week, but that became too tiring after a while, so I long since settled in to just the Saturday morning class, the timing of which matches up pretty well with the ringing practice later on. I usually just say Tai Chi, without distinguishing between the Yang 24 or competition 42 step form, or the bagua spear that we do at Seven Hills park in the summer, or Tai Chi sword, or whatever. One of the sweet things about the classes is that the adult classes are on a one-room schoolhouse model. Everybody does the warm-up together, and then the class splits up into as many sections as necessary - on any given day, there could be someone whose was first class it was, and people who had been working on ever more complex routines for years would be there as well. If the instructor is working with one group, the people in another group could be helping each other out. This morning we warmed up outside and then moved indoors when the rain got harder. It turned out that all of us were working on Leung Yi Bagua. For an example see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdAAUoOVMYA I was the least experienced of the bunch, but there were no newbies of any sort. I'm not sure I remember a class in which *everybody* was doing the same thing, although I am probably exaggerating. I also don't remember ever seeing the instructor barefooted before. No street shoes are allowed in the studio, but quite a few people have designated shoes (including the instructors). Often by the end of the class, whatever we're doing, I am physically tired and brain-fried, but for some reason, today I was engaged the whole time, way longer than my usual attention span. Smiling.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Took Finn to the groomer again. I like for him to look like people love him.

Last time, they just had to shave it all off. There wasn't much choice, and so they didn't ask what I wanted. I get that. This time they did ask. "Do you want him to look like a poodle?" "Isn't he already a poodle?"

Yes, but now he looks more like a poodle. I didn't think it was possible.

I've been amusing myself and occasionally annoying everybody else by crooning "You are so poodle-ful to meeeeeee" at him ever since.

*************************************************************


Why the Amish Are Building America’s RVs

To Remember Random Errands, Turn Them Into a Story

Teenage boy from Mumbai slum dances way to NY ballet school

A Serbian Farmer Wants To Protect The Balkan Donkey By Selling Its Pricey Milk

I am Lionfish, hear me ROAR!

Ramadan? There's an app for that.

The Once-Common Practice of Communal Sleeping

What Mormon Family Trees Tell Us About Cancer

America’s hungriest wind and solar power users: big companies

The unsustainable whiteness of green

Teens Are Having Sex Later, Using Contraception, CDC Finds

11 Ways That I, a White Man, Am Not Privileged (just read it)

How Europe could be the unexpected beneficiary of America’s fall from global grace

FEMA Is Preparing for a Solar Superstorm That Would Take Down the Grid

Turkish schools to stop teaching evolution, official says

Some U.S. States Relax Restrictions On Cladding Suspected In Grenfell Tower Fire

When twisted justice stops prisoners from starting over

A New, New Right Rises in Germany

Kurds see chance to advance their cause in ruins of Islamic State

America’s cultural divide runs deep. While rural and urban Americans share some economic challenges, they frequently diverge on questions of culture and values. On few issues are they more at odds than immigration.

How Accusing A Powerful Man of Rape Drove A College Student To Suicide

The Silence of the Lambs (This article is about child rape.)

As women go to jail in record numbers, who's watching out for their kids? No one.

Politics )

(no subject)

2017-06-24 17:08
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
[personal profile] skygiants
Our adventures with Star Wars: The Clone Wars continue! Though, alas, those of many of our clone buddies do not.

Episodes 11-20 of Season 1 under the cut )

It Is Warmer Below

2017-06-24 17:54
moon_custafer: (Default)
[personal profile] moon_custafer
 I saw a reproduction of this poster today in a restaurant downtown, after the Dyke March*. It wasn't the first time I'd noticed, but it always pleases me because it looks like it was designed by a go-getting young demon in some 1920s British fantasy novel that successfully blends comedy and the numinous:




During which we sat next to a lady wearing rainbow ruffled leggings and this backpack.

Reading Not-Wednesday

2017-06-24 16:37
brigdh: (Default)
[personal profile] brigdh
What did you just finish?
Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi. A nonfiction book about Sabella Nitti, a woman who was found guilty of murdering her husband in 1923 Chicago – making her the first woman to be given a death sentence by an American court. (Note: not really. Plenty of women had hung or burned or otherwise received capital punishment before Nitti, but a lack of historical awareness meant that the lawyers, judges, and general public at the time reacted as though this was a new development, and chose to be proud of it or appalled by it as their personal politics dictated.) She is probably best-remembered these days as the inspiration for the Hungarian-speaking woman in the musical Chicago; here she is protesting her innocence during the Cell Block Tango.

Nitti was an Italian immigrant, illiterate, a farm wife, ugly (at least according to the reporters covering the case), and spoke no English or mainstream Italian, but only a fairly rare dialect called Barese. In addition, she was saddled with a defense lawyer who seemed to be actively losing the ability to maintain a train of thought – his behavior during the trial was remarkably unhelpful to her cause, and he would later spend years in a mental asylum. These factors almost guaranteed she would receive a guilty verdict despite the fact that it was never even clear if her husband was actually dead (it seems likelier he just decided to abandon the family), much less that she was the one who killed him. The local sheriff and one of Nitti's own sons seem to have been the prime movers in pinning the crime on her, despite the lack of evidence.

The depiction of the prejudices and passions of 1920s Chicago was where the book really shone. Women had newly gained the vote, and many saw the potential death sentence of a woman as connected to that – with power comes responsibility. Others argued that women were inherently deserving of mercy: "She is a mother and a mother has never been hanged in the history of this country. I do not believe the honorable court here will permit a mother to hang.” And then, of course, there was the issue of looks, of proper decorum – the pretty, fashionable yet obviously guilty women judged innocent by their all-male juries, and Nitti condemned to hang.

The first 2/3rds or so of the book, when Lucchesi is guiding the reader through Nitti's life before her husband's disappearance and the subsequent trial, are pretty great. Unfortunately the last third loses the thread. Lucchesi detours into describing the backstories of various prisoners Nitti would have met or other contemporary court cases in Chicago; none of it seems to have much to do with Nitti, who disappears from the page for chapters at a time. Some of these would become the inspiration for other characters in Chicago, but since Lucchesi won't mention the musical until the epilogue, the reader is left to make the connection on their own or be confused. (Overall I found the book's lack of direct acknowledgement of Chicago odd – it's so obviously hanging there, waiting for the reader to notice it, and yet Lucchesi treats it like a devil who will bring bad luck if its name is invoked. Not to mention the missed marketing opportunity.) Others, like the two chapters spent on the Leopold and Loeb case, just seem to have interested Lucchesi and were vaguely connected, so she threw them in as a afterthought.

It's a good example of historical crime writing, even if it needed a better structural editor.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD EVERYONE READ IT IMMEDIATELY. A novel set in 1746 New York City, the book opens with the arrival in town of Richard Smith, fresh from London and bearing a bill for a thousand pounds. All of the novel's action is compacted within the next 60 days, as various New Yorkers wait to receive word from England proving Smith is who he says he is and if he really is owed such a fabulous sum; in the meantime they (and the reader) are left to figure out the mysterious Smith: a conman who should be thrown in the city's freezing jail? a wealthy aristocrat who your daughters should be encouraged to woo? a French spy, come to exploit the division between the city's new-born political parties? an actor, a Catholic, a gay man, a libertine, or possibly even a Turkish magician? Through it all Smith delights in giving no answers, reveling in the New World as a place to remake himself. I generally am suspicious of books that deliberately hide information from the reader, but it's done so well here and leads to such a delightful revelation that I think it was the perfect choice.

Spufford's style is a moderate pastiche of 18th century novels; here are the opening lines as an example:
The brig Henrietta having made Sandy Hook a little before the dinner hour—and having passed the Narrows about three o’clock—and then crawling to and fro, in a series of tacks infinitesimal enough to rival the calculus, across the grey sheet of the harbour of New York—until it seemed to Mr. Smith, dancing from foot to foot upon deck, that the small mound of the city waiting there would hover ahead in the November gloom in perpetuity, never growing closer, to the smirk of Greek Zeno—and the day being advanced to dusk by the time Henrietta at last lay anchored off Tietjes Slip, with the veritable gables of the city’s veritable houses divided from him only by one hundred foot of water—and the dusk moreover being as cold and damp and dim as November can afford, as if all the world were a quarto of grey paper dampened by drizzle until in danger of crumbling imminently to pap:—all this being true, the master of the brig pressed upon him the virtue of sleeping this one further night aboard, and pursuing his shore business in the morning. (He meaning by the offer to signal his esteem, having found Mr. Smith a pleasant companion during the slow weeks of the crossing.) But Smith would not have it. Smith, bowing and smiling, desired nothing but to be rowed to the dock. Smith, indeed, when once he had his shoes flat on the cobbles, took off at such speed despite the gambolling of his land-legs that he far out-paced the sailor dispatched to carry his trunk—and must double back for it, and seizing it hoist it instanter on his own shoulder—and gallop on, skidding over fish-guts and turnip leaves and cats’ entrails, and the other effluvium of the port—asking for direction here, asking again there—so that he appeared most nearly as a type of smiling whirlwind when he shouldered open the door—just as it was about to be bolted for the evening—of the counting-house of the firm of Lovell & Company, on Golden Hill Street, and laid down his burden while the prentices were lighting the lamps, and the clock on the wall showed one minute to five, and demanded, very civilly, speech that moment with Mr. Lovell himself.

However, it's 18th century language hiding a 21st century attitude; this is a novel deeply aware of gender and racial divisions, for all that they're mostly hidden behind humor and a page-turning sense of suspense. It's a New York City shaped and haunted by the ghosts of the slave revolt of 1741, and its shadow lies over every page, thought it's only ever directly addressed in one on-page conversation (though goddamn, it's a conversation with resonance). Smith meets and begins to court Tabitha Lovell, who is described as a "shrew" by her family and the rest of this small-town New York. Her portrayal though, is much more complex than that stereotype, and it's never quite clear how much she is an intelligent woman brutally confined by social strictures or how much she suffers from an unnamed mental illness.

And yet it's fun book, an exciting book! There are glorious set-pieces here: Smith racing over the rooftops of winter New York, outpacing a mob howling for his blood; a duel fought outside the walls of the city that turns in a split second from humor to horror; a play acted on the closest thing New York has to a stage; a card game with too much money invested. The writing is alternatively beautiful and hilarious, and I'm just completely in love with all of it.

I really can't recommend this book enough. I came into it not expecting much, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Mount TBR update: No change: 18


What are you currently reading?
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley. A new book by the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a book which approximately one million people have recommended to me and yet I still haven't gotten around to reading. But, uh... I've got this one! :D

The long way home

2017-06-24 20:15
shewhomust: (puffin)
[personal profile] shewhomust
So that was the end of our stay on Lindisfarne. Memo to self: a half-week in a holiday cottage is shorter than a full week than you would believe possible. Also, much as I enjoyed our trip to Scotland last year, I do love spending time on Lindisfarne. But now it was time to go home. We could do something fun on the way home, though, couldn't we? [personal profile] durham_rambler had a request for what we might do. And it began like this:

Stairway to Heaven


More pictures under the cut )
poliphilo: (Default)
[personal profile] poliphilo
We made a decision we weren't going to mow the lawn this summer and now it's a meadow, full of cowslips and clover and feathery grasses. How, and I'm feeling quite evangelical about it, is this not preferable to something that looks like a bowling green?

As a concession to what the neighbours might think we allowed Julia to cut a few strips to serve as pathways and to make it plain that not mowing isn't laziness but a choice.

Science articles

2017-06-24 13:30
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
So, went out to walk the dogs earlier. Everything was going great, until Moonpie found a patch of grass. It looked to me to be identical to all the other patches of grass, but not to her....

Moonpie: YAY! Grass!
Me: C'mon, we're on our way home now!
Moonpie: Sure, sure, but hold on, I gotta roll around here.
Me: C'mon!
Moonpie: Busy flopping around like a dead fish!
Me: Indeed, you are.
Moonpie: LIKE A DEAD FISH!!!!
Finn: Smells good. Maybe I should take a leak.
Moonpie: LIKE A DEAD FISH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We did eventually get home, where I found out that when Eva agreed to take out the compost for me in exchange for $7, she actually just dumped it on the ground sort of near the compost bin instead of actually in the bin. She's not getting her $7, and I don't care what she says, that's plenty fair.

**********************


While trust is inherited, distrust is not: study

Massive, ‘Dead’ Galaxy Puzzles Astronomers

Bioengineers create more durable, versatile wearable for diabetes monitoring

Legal or not, more American women are opting for abortion by medication. We asked doctors: How safe is it?

Self-folding origami: Chemical programming allows Nafion sheets to fold and refold

A Better Touch Screen, Inspired by Moth Eyes

Scientists spy on the secret inner life of bacteria

Sea sponges stay put with anchors that bend but don't break

Some clouds are full of little lollipop-shaped ice crystals

How did bird babysitting co-ops evolve?

Why Do Bird Eggs Come in So Many Shapes?

Saying 'climate change' instead of 'global warming' decreases partisan gap by 30 percent in U.S.

Wave beams mix and stir the ocean to create climate

Are you forgetful? That's just your brain erasing useless memories

Cancer cells may streamline their genomes in order to proliferate more easily

This glass frog wears its heart for all to see

How a wildfire kicked up a 45,000-foot column of flames

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved
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