July 31, 2010

Cheek by Jowl, Ursula K. LeGuin

A book that falsifies animal behavior as a mask for the indulgence of fantasies of morally regressive human behavior is not, to my mind, a book to give any child, or any adult either.

LeGuin of Watership Down, but true of so many books, especially ones with wolf-shapes in them.

Evidently the original Bambi was deer-centered and subtle.

While the cover says that these are essays on fantasy, a great many of them are equally about stories about animals, or humans' relations with animals; the genre has changed immensely as our real daily relations with them have shrunk.

Find in a Library: Cheek by Jowl

Posted by clew at 01:05 PM

July 29, 2010

This is the End, Stella Benson

WWI looks like a thunderstorm at the end of a perfect summer day (well, if you were English); but a thunderstorm mistaken, until the blast, for a cooling rain. So many people were unsatisfied in the summer twilight.

This isn't the best example; Benson's The House of Living Alone is better. This one argues that the urge to fantasy or fiction doesn't save us from much, and tries to make the argument in the same genre; the current The Magicians, Lev Grossman, is better at the same suicide.


You promised War and Thunder and Romance.

You promised true, but we were very blind

And very young, and in our ignorance

We never called to mind

That truth is seldom kind.

You promised love, immortal as a star.

You promised true, yet how the truth can lie!

For now we grope for hands where no hands are,

And, deathless, still we cry,

Nor hope for a reply.

You promised harvest and a perfect yield.

You promised true, for on the harvest morn,

Behold a reaper strode across the field,

And man of woman born

Was gathered in as corn.

You promised honour and ordeal by flame.

You promised true. In joy we trembled lest

We should be found unworthy when it came;

But—oh—we never guessed

The fury of the test!

You promised friends and songs and festivals.

You promised true. Our friends, who still are young,

Assemble for their feasting in those halls

Where speaks no human tongue.

And thus our songs are sung.

Project Gutenberg file , This is the End

Posted by clew at 12:58 PM

Theresa Marchmont, Mrs. Gore

Has all the apparatus of a Gothic, short-circuited by one character being honest and virtuous.

Project Gutenberg file #9387, Theresa Marchmont

Posted by clew at 12:47 PM

The Odd Women, George Gissing

The odd women are economically excess. Some want to change the rules (get jobs); others don't, particularly, but would like not to starve to death.

In the cases when sympathy must be divided, Gissing's sympathy is for the women. The New Woman who will not play Enid to Erec is sad, because they almost love each other, but justified, because he wanted to dominate her and that doesn't work (anymore?). The woman who marries for security and wrecks her husband is not admired, but nor is he; her weakness is not examined as much as his is. In the end, that marriage leaves its participants much worse off, but two or three people much better off. Maybe Gissing is a utilitarian. Even the title-hunting sister-in-law turns out to be practical and kind.

Remarkably little is said about actual employment; everyone knows that it's best to have capital, after that a pen-and-ink job, very bad to be a governess/companion/nanny/teacher. The admirable activist is drawing women from 'the overstocked profession of teaching'; someone else defends the 'solidarity of ladies and servant girls' on Christian grounds.

There's one good marriage, after decades of scraping and hoping and waiting... perhaps the difference is that husband and wife are economically equal, as well as equal in love.

Project Gutenberg file 4313, The Odd Women

Posted by clew at 12:44 PM

Bookselling: bushels or boutique

The resale value of books seems to have collapsed recently; physical booksellers near me remark that they have to buy at the lowest price found online plus shipping, which, for almost all books, is effectively the cost of shipping. You'd think the post office would be doing better.

That makes electronic books that we can't resell rather a lot closer, economically, to physical books; and physical books are hard to grep. If the DCMA is restrained until we can back up our own books, this might be a wash for most readers (assuming we learn to back up and index our digital possessions, which is also getting cheaper and easier).

Selling physical books seems increasingly quixotic. There's a warehouse in Seattle where booksellers who krill-filter the few books worth indexing sell the rest by weight. Taking the opposite approach, there's Ada's Technical Books, in a charming stone building (the Loveless building!) in Capitol Hill. Now, why buy there, instead of more cheaply? They're right close to a local hackerspace, so some clients will want to buy while the soldering iron is hot; and they're a nice place to be, with chairs and witty adornments and, generally, assistance in constructing a representation of self; one with some momentum. *I* bought.

Picture 1.png

Posted by clew at 12:29 PM
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