Sunday Sum-Up: November 13, 2022

Winter seems to have arrived here, having fallen from warm, almost spring-like weather earlier this week to positively wintry, sub-freezing temperatures. We even had some snow flurries yesterday! I was excited. My co-workers, less so. We got a bit of much-needed rain on Thursday morning, but otherwise, it’s been fairly dry. Still. I’m hoping that this winter will be a much rainier/snowier one than last year (which was horribly dry). The forecast for next week is ‘cold and dry’, but I’m hoping that those days with a slight chance of snow/rain turn into days where we get some real moisture. Droughts are awful, and I’m very tired of this one.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Mina is finally starting to get used to the time change, but it’s been a slow process. I feed her first thing in the morning before I get my own cereal or coffee. She is used to this, and thanks to the time change (moving an hour back), she was getting up at her then-usual time (around sunrise, which is now about 6:30AM) and crying to be fed. I refused to get up until I had to, so we had a few rough days before she started to adjust to the new time. But she still gets up before my alarm and starts meowing incessantly for food.

And don’t feel like you have to be sorry for her, because mean old me doesn’t get up instantly to feed her. She always leaves a little bit of kibble in her bowl, so she has something she could eat if she wanted to, but she’s used to getting her wet cat food in the morning, and she prefers it to her kibble.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

And suddenly, Dracula appears! I’ve actually been rereading Dracula since May 3, thanks to the Dracula Daily substack. Since Dracula is an epistolary novel, the person who runs the substack sent out the parts of the book that took place on the date they went out. So if, say, Jonathan Harker had a journal entry on October 4, then we got that journal entry. It was like we (that, is, the 200,000 or so people who have been following along) were reading the book in real-time. It’s been an interesting experience, as I usually breeze through this book in a few days. Since I was forced to slow way down, I got a better sense of when and what was going on, and how long it took all the events to unfold. I also got a better sense of the characters and their time period, thanks to the history buffs who would post long explanations of the late-Victorian postal service, the English rail service, or the fact that you could get flowers overnighted from Amsterdam to London. It’s made me appreciate the entire book so much more, and I have a better sense of the male characters, as well as a better idea of why film/TV adaptations constantly undersell Jonathan Harker’s character (he’s suffering from PTSD thanks to his experiences in Castle Dracula and isn’t the sort of manly-man that many readers apparently want, so he’s framed as a sort of Victorian milksop, despite his many adventures), and leave out other characters (Quincey Morris, for example) altogether. It’s also made me rather despise the Mina/Dracula relationship that Hollywood seems to be obsessed with (why would you ship Mina/Dracula when Mina’s relationship with Jonathan is so much more intense, more loving, and more interesting?). I chipped in to support the upcoming audio drama, RE: Dracula, which will provide listeners a full cast recording with soundscaping and a full concept album. They’ll remain faithful to the text, though they will be adjusting some of the racist language that was typical of British writers of the 19th century. They’ll also be exploring the queer subtext that becomes more obvious with a slow reading of Dracula. Initial production is currently underway, and it will premiere next year on May 3. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Dracula (there’s a reason I named my cat after one of the main characters), and the Dracula Daily read-along made me enjoy it even more.

I don’t think I’d heard of Elspeth Barker’s only novel, O Caledonia until a few weeks ago, but I’m so glad I picked it up at Barnes and Noble recently. I’m also glad I got to it right away, because Reader, I’m in love with this gothic little book. It begins with the death of sixteen-year-old Janet, who is found dead on the stairs beneath a stained glass window in her family’s crumbling Scottish mansion. This is not a murder mystery, though. The story opens with Janet’s death, then goes back to tell her life story, which is lonely because Janet constantly has to hide her true self from everyone around her because they steadfastly refuse to even try to understand Janet’s intellectual and often melodramatic interests. She is far happier wandering in the woods and examining the various plants and animals that live around her and adores classical literature. Janet is a singular character whose inner life shines thanks to Barker’s prose, which reminds me of a fast-running stream. This is a short novel- my copy is just under 190 pages, and well worth the time to read it. It’s a hidden gem and deserves to be read by more people.

I reread 84, Charing Cross Road on the morning of my day off. It’s a collection of letters and postcards– primarily between Helene Hanff, who lived in New York City, and the staff of a used bookshop in London between 1949 and about 1968. As their epistolary relationship develops over the years, Hanff’s friendship with the staff grows stronger, and you want to keep reading to find out what’s going on in the lives of both Hanff and the staff who is corresponding. They end up sending each other gifts and expanding their circles of friends. Hanff’s sense of humor is fantastic, and her casual American ways provide a contrast to the initially very proper English mannerisms. She wins them all over, though, because who wouldn’t be charmed by Hanff? I certainly was, and I’ve added a couple more of her books to my TBR. My library has them, so I may check them out and read them in December.

What I’m Currently Reading:

My hold for Elder Race finally came in at the library, so I checked it out and started right away, though I haven’t gotten as far as I wanted to. It’s set far in the future after humanity has colonized other worlds and generations later have completely forgotten their origins. In the world of Elder Race, the people live in a medieval-esque society of strict social norms for the ruling classes. Young Lyn is the youngest daughter of one of the region’s rulers. She is an impetuous young woman who has a hard time obeying her mother’s demands and doesn’t relate to her sisters’ political machinations. But when her land is threatened by strange forces commanded by a nearby enemy, she decides to go and ask a legendary sorcerer for help. The sorcerer happens to be an anthropologist from a technologically-advanced society. He has survived the ages thanks to cryosleep, and while he is not supposed to interfere with the society he is meant to observe, he believes he has been abandoned by a society that may no longer exist. So while he is supposed to remain apart from the people of the world, he can’t help but form connections and involve himself in a struggle that is not his own. So far, this is a compelling story, and it’s fascinating to see how the fantasy and science fiction sections twine themselves around each other.

Living Nations, Living Words is a collection of poetry by Native American poets, as collected by former US Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo (who is herself a Native American). I’ve found this collection fascinating and often heartbreaking. There are so many stories of loss and yearning that they’re sometimes hard to read, but there are also so many of the poets who are working with form and format in such interesting ways. I’m looking forward to getting to the rest of this collection.

I’ve reached Edoras in The Lord of the Rings, and Gandalf, Aragorn, Theoden, and the others are getting ready to ride for Helm’s Deep. I didn’t get as far as I’d anticipated, because I forgot how long the chapter ‘Treebeard’ is, and I didn’t realize how many notations I would make. Also, why do I always forget how gorgeous Wellinghall is? Its description is just lovely, and no one every seems to recall it on their lists of ‘places to go in Middle-earth’. Is it because it’s not at all made for humans or human-sized people? Because it doesn’t have things like the Hall of Fire in Rivendell or little round doors leading to cozy hobbit holes? I’m not sure, but I have developed an unexpected love for the place. Also, Rohan and their love for their horses continues to be something I’m completely in love with.

What I Plan to Start Reading Next Week:

I purchased Time Was from my favorite used bookshop downtown. It’s about two men who fall in love in the midst of World War II. They were brought together thanks to a project meant to hide British targets from German radar. Because of a terrible accident, they vanished, and everyone thought they were dead. But they are actually lost in time, each seeking to find the other across the years, leaving hints for each other while they try to get their timelines to overlap enough for them to reunite.

I picked up a copy of The World We Make from my local library. I read the first book in this duology, The City We Became, earlier this year and loved it. I was happy to find out that the next book was due out this year. In The City We Became, the boroughs of New York City developed genius loci that manifested within residents of each of said boroughs in order to defend the city against an eldritch force seeking to destroy the city so it might fully manifest. In The World We Make, the boroughs still have work to do to defend their city- and the world- against those eldritch forces that work even more subtly to unravel reality and destroy the city. I’m so looking forward to this.

9 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: November 13, 2022

  1. Random observation on my part. I’m group reading Ariosto’s ‘Orlando Furioso’ – 15th century Italian madness. Anyway, there’s a scene it where the eponymous hero goes bonkers and starts tearing up trees out of the ground. It reminded me of the scene in LOTR where Treebeard persuades the Ents to join the war against Saruman and Sauron because they are destroying the forests for their war machine. Pretty much what we’re still doing!

  2. If you like Elder Race, I recommend you have a go at Ogres next. That was very good as well. Tchaikovsky is an instabuy for me at the moment, although there is the odd one that I do not like. I also still have some back catalogue to catch up with.

    And I do want to re-read LOTR. I haven‘t read it since the Peter Jackson movies came out. I have a nice illustrated edition waiting for the occasion.

  3. It’s been a while since I’ve reread Dracula. It’s a favorite of mine, as well. That sub stack way of reading it sounds fascinating. Not something I’d have thought of. 84, Charing Cross Road sounds interesting, and unusual. Seems so simple and yet there’s a real appeal to that, especially with the inclusion of a bookstore. And very glad to hear you’re enjoying Elder Race. I loved the way they mixed the fantasy with the science fiction elements. It really worked for me.

  4. The sub stack setup has really been interesting. Makes you slow down and think about what you’re reading, when you get it a little bit at a time, instead of flying through a whole book or large chunk of a book. I’ve learned so much about Dracula and the Victorian world, just from reading Dracula this way and interacting with other readers online.

    I really did enjoy Elder Race! I finished it the other day. I was going to go right on to Children of Time, but NK Jemisin’s The City We Make came in for me at the library, so I’ll start on it first.

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