It’s been a hot and stormy week around here, and while I appreciate the storms for bringing some rain along, I don’t appreciate the hail, tornado, or flooding they brought. I mean, we were dealing with drought and the wildfires that brought on just a couple of months ago, and now we’re back to flooding.
Could we get some moderate weather around here? A little rain here and there and some light thunderstorms? Sure, the building next door being struck by lightning is exciting and all, but that flash was blinding and the ensuing thunder shook the walls and set off car alarms. I don’t need that kind of excitement in my life right now.
We also don’t need lowland flooding. Or hail. Or tornadoes.
Guess we’re stuck with them anyway.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Thanks to the tornado warning that popped up earlier this week, I had to put the cats in their carriers for a while. We hung out in the bathroom (interior room with no windows), and while Mina didn’t seem bothered by it, Sidney threw a moderate fit. After the first few minutes of him being quiet, he decided that he was being treated most unfairly and started yowling about the injustice of it all. Fortunately, the sirens stopped blaring after about five or ten minutes, so even though we were still officially in a tornado warning, I decided to let him out so he would stop yelling. The bathroom door was closed, after all, so there wasn’t really any place where he could go.
That said, he still complained that I wouldn’t open the door and let him out. Nothing made him happy that night until he could get back to his normal napping spot in the middle of the bedroom floor.
For her part, Mina was unimpressed by the whole situation. She seemed to think that Sidney was being very immature about the whole affair, and waited patiently until I unzipped the front of her carrier, at which point she bolted and took up a position on the back of the couch to pretend that the storm wasn’t bothering her.
Then the thunder started, at which point she disappeared into the closet.
Mina is a bold cat, right up to the point where things get loud. Then she is the boldest cat in the closet.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5) by Martha Wells, audiobook narrated by Kevin Free
- The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
- If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Sappho, translated from the ancient Greek by Anne Carson
- The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman, illustrated and lettered by Malcolm Jones III, Charles Vess, Kelley Jones, Colleen Doran
- The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by María Rosa Menocal
I finished up Network Effect last Sunday, and there were so many things I’d forgotten since the first time I read it two years ago. Like Muderbot 2.0 or SecUnit 03. It was great to revisit this story and these characters, and see how Murderbot continues to grow as an individual who is figuring out what it wants out of life. It’s also fun and sometimes maddening to see how the somewhat naive characters from Preservation interact with the Corporation Rim-types, as they are accustomed to providing aid to whoever needs it without thinking of payment or anything like that. They live in a little utopia surrounded by the worst kinds of capitalists who are willing to take advantage of any situation. And poor Murderbot keeps having to navigate between the two worlds. It’s not an easy task. But it manages to do it. Not gracefully or even patiently, but it manages it. I love Muderbot, and I eagerly await the next book, which sadly isn’t due out until next near.
I sat down with The Witch’s Heart on my day off, thinking I would read another twenty pages or so. I ended up finishing the entire thing because once I had some unscheduled time, I was able to just fall into the narrative and had no desire to come up for air. I love Norse mythology and the sagas, and it’s clear that Gornichec does, too. Her prose has the feeling of a translated saga, and it has all the humor and drama of them, too, without straying from the characters’ essential natures and wandering into the territory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here, Loki is a prankster whose pranks always work out in the gods’ favor, even though they often treat him horribly (and end up turning him against them in the end). Odin is an often treacherous wanderer. Angrboda is a complex woman who has very good reason to mistrust the gods and hide from them. She also loves her children and will do anything she can to protect them. Her motives are realistic and understandable throughout the story, and it’s easy to like her even when she does things she regrets. If you enjoy Norse mythology, I highly recommend The Witch’s Heart. Gornichec’s love for the subject matter shines through, and she retells the myths in a way that feels both fresh and modern, and like they’ve been told that way for a thousand years.
If Not, Winter was an impulse purchase I made when I was at Barnes and Noble earlier this week. I’d been thinking of this collection of Sappho’s poetry recently, and when I saw it on the shelf, I had to have it. I read Carson’s Eros, The Bittersweet, for a class in college, and while I can’t remember if she mentioned If Not, Winter in that book, or if it came up during the class discussion, but I ended up picking up If Not, Winter from the library and loving it. Carson does not do what I’ve seen other translators do and try to fit Sappho’s fragmented words into traditional English poetic forms, like rhyming couplets or something. Carson allows the fragments to be just what they are. The ancient Greek is on the left side, while her translations are on the right. In some cases, we have nearly complete poems, but in many cases, all we have is a line or even just a word, and so that’s what Carson gives us. It’s both beautiful and tragic because it really gives a sense of what’s been lost over the centuries. Sappho was referred to as a brilliant poet in her own time, but we have so little of her work left. Needless to say, I highly recommend this collection of Sappho’s poetry. Anne Carson is a treasure.
The Sandman, Volume 3: The Dream Country is a shorter volume than the first two volumes. I don’t remember the first story, about a captive muse, being as violent as it is. I didn’t care for it, as I thought the violence really could have been avoided. But that particular type of violence was more common in SFF/Horror stories than it is now. Good riddance to that. The second story, ‘The Dream of a Thousand Cats’ is told from the point of view of– you guessed it– cats. Here, a grieving cat whose kittens were taken away and drowned goes on a journey to find out why her kittens were taken away from her. She discovers that once, cats were huge and ruled the world, while humans were tiny and served the cats. Then, through a vast dream, humans changed the world and its past to suit themselves, and cats became small and domesticated. The cat discovers a way to change things back, but doing so involves getting enough cats to agree to do the same thing at the same time. A difficult task, indeed. The third story deals with a woman who was forced into an experiment that made her powerful and impossible to kill, but has destroyed her life. She longs for a way to find companionship again, but every avenue she takes has its problems. Then a cute Goth girl shows up at her door. The Goth girl happens to be Death. Overall, I like this volume, though I may re-tune my old review in light of my changed feelings about the first story. I’m still not a big fan of the art, but I realize that that was a common style of comics in the 1980s and early 1990s. Later side-stories of The Sandman have art I vastly prefer– namely Yoshitaka Amano’s gorgeous illustrations for The Dream Hunters. Now it’s on to volume 4, Season of Mists.
The Ornament of the World is deceptively short. It’s only about 285 pages without the notes, but it is dense- especially if, like me, you’re not particularly familiar with the subject: the history, culture, and interplay of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity on the Iberian peninsula from the 800s through the 1490s. Menocal focuses primarily on the culture, language, poetry, architecture, and books of the various points of history she highlights, and I appreciate this approach. Thanks to my many art history classes and everything I’ve read about and studied since college, I realize just how much material history is intertwined with the events of history. While most people focus on battles or the doings of kings and queens, the lives of artists, writers, and musicians often had as much sway as those of kings or warriors. It’s important to realize how intertwined culture is with history, especially when it comes to religious history. Too often, we see the history of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity as opponents, but there have been times and places where they all worked together to form a vibrant society that (mostly) got along peacefully. We in the twenty-first century need to see this, because it is something we must learn to do again, for all our sakes.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Killing Moon (The Dreamblood cycle #1) by N.K. Jemisin, audiobook narrated by Sara Zimmerman (15%)
- I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy by Hafiz, translated from the Persian by Daniel Ladinsky (46/91)
I’d had The Killing Moon on hold from the library for a few weeks after a friend raved about it. Though really, it doesn’t take much to convince me to read anything by N.K. Jemisin, thanks to her Broken Earth trilogy. I’m not very far into this story, but so far I am intrigued. Ehiru is a priest of the goddess of dreams whose duty it is to collect the souls and ‘dreamblood’ of people who have been selected to die. This should be a peaceful, even joyful event for the dreamer, but Ehiru discovers that something is going wrong, and corrupt forces are at work in his world. Meanwhile, people from outside this country are also trying to figure out what is going on, all while under the watchful eyes of guards and nobles. I will hopefully finish this in the next couple of days, but will probably have to wait a while for the second book.
I saw I Heard God Laughing for sale at BookOutlet, and I couldn’t resist. I read and enjoyed another of Ladinsky’s collections of his translations of Hafiz’s poetry, and I loved it. Ladinsky brings a modern touch to these fourteenth-century poems, which (I assume) capture the spirit of the original verse. Ladinsky’s translations are lively, often funny, and beautiful. So naturally, I wanted to read another collection. I Heard God Laughing is much shorter than The Gift, but that’s okay. I’m enjoying these poems as much as the others. I will finish this one later today.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Grief of Stones (The Goblin Emperor #3) by Katherine Addison
- The Word for World Is Forest (The Hainish Cycle #5) by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Amongst Our Weapons (The Rivers of London #9) by Ben Aaronovitch
I have a busy work week ahead of me, thanks to a co-worker’s upcoming vacation. That’s not why I chose these particular titles, though, even though they are short. They’re all books I’ve been looking forward to reading, and The Grief of Stones and Amgonst Our Weapons are new releases.
My pre-ordered copy of The Grief of Stones arrived without significant shipping shenanigans (for once), and as this is one of the 2022 releases I’ve been looking forward to the most, I will be starting this one today. I am looking forward to the further investigations of Thara Celehar and hoping that he will actually let himself find a bit of happiness for a change.
Amongst Our Weapons came out at the beginning of May, but it took a while for my library to get it in, and then I was a little lower on the hold list. But it has come in for me, and as these books are fast-paced and not terribly long, I anticipate getting through it fairly quickly. I’m looking forward to the further adventures of Peter Grant, too.
I got a copy of The Word for World is Forest for part of a yearlong reading challenge I’m taking part in, and also because Ursula K Le Guin is an amazing writer, and I need to read more of her work. I’ve heard excellent things about this book, and I look forward to reading it.