Deal Me In 2022, Weeks 2 & 3

Deal Me In logo pic

All the Deal Me In details.

Week 2

Card Picked: 2♠️ – a wild card already!
Story: “The Bottomless Martyr” by John Wiswell
List: Since deuces are wild, I had my choice of stories. I decided to pick one from Uncanny magazine’s 2020 reader’s choice list.

Thoughts: Rang is a young woman with a special relationship with Life and Death. Her sacrifices, often horrendous fates befitting a martyr, can cause miracles for others, but can’t save herself. What can she be if not a martyr? John Wiswell has a light touch when it comes to world building. This is a story that is going to hit hard if you’re one of those people who always does for others, especially if it feels like duty.

Week 3

Card Picked: 8♣️
Story: “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing” by Shiv Ramdas
List: Nebula Awards (finalist 2019)

Thoughts: This is a magical realism revenge tale set in Bengal during the era of Churchill’s denial policies—in an effort to curtain the Japanese invasion of India in 1942, food and transportation methods were removed from Bengal, despite, you know, the needs of the people living in Bengal at the time. This is obviously not a happy story. In fact, it’s rough going because the horror here is based reality. This is a corner of history I was ignorant of.

Book ~ Beowulf

Cover for Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, featuring the head and shoulders of a figure (including the face) covered entirely in chain mail.
Cover of Beowulf, translated by Maria Dahvana Headley. The bright blue cover features a dragon intertwined with a red Gothic font B with a gold crown atop,

The first time I read Beowulf was in college, in a history class rather than a literature class. It was a prose translation, probably the ubiquitous one by E. Talbot Donaldson. I came away not very impressed. That mass market paperback hasn’t survived my occasional library culls, even though the notes from the class have (due more to the art on the back of the notebook). The class, History of the Middle Ages, emphasized what the social value might have been for its original audience: an ideal leader is one who is brave, generous, and, most importantly, tied to his community.

I gave Beowulf a second chance when Seamus Heaney’s translation was published. I was already familiar with Heaney as a poet, and it seemed to me that there was probably some literary value to the poem that I hadn’t seen previously. I love Heaney’s translation and it’s become a work I reread every-so-often. When I sat down to Beowulf a couple weeks ago, I got curious about Marie Dahvana Headley’s 2020 translation and queued it up in audio book form.

In Headley’s introduction, she states that she wished to provide a more female forward translation of Beowulf. It’s true, the original author fails to give any details to the women and gives only negative attributes to Grendel’s mother. Headley also wanted to liven up and modernized the language of the poem. What would Beowulf sound like if it were being told today by the dude at the end of the bar, three drinks in?

I’m not sure Headley is entirely successful in either of these two goals. I’m going address the language first, because I realized that is why I reread Beowulf. It’s not for the story (even though I like competent heroes) or the literary value* or even to chew on the interplay of Judaism/Christianity within the narrative. I reread Beowulf, Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, for the language. For me, his translation does feel like an old seaman telling a (tall) tale to a bar full of serious fisherman who want a story of honor and derring-do because their profession is full of mundane danger. That said, I think Headley’s hip-hoppy “Bro” tone could have worked if it were consistent and avoided references that are already past date (yes, like “hashtag blessed” (Also, I looked at excerpts from the printed version, why isn’t it written as “#blessed”? I call the publishers cowards here.)). As it is, I feel like Vin Diesel is the only person who could read this aloud and even out the grandeur and the gutter.

On the second point, I’m going to recuse myself: I only listened to Headley’s translation to just after Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother. (The language was that jarring to.) While Headley does make efforts to point out that many of the women in Beowulf, queens even, aren’t given the names and lineages similar to male characters, there doesn’t seem to be much done to make Grendel’s mother less of a monster. And that’s fine with me. I’m assuming that translations, including Headley’s, have been generally faithful and there just isn’t much to work with. Grendel and his mother are spawns of Cain. Though they anger and hunger and grieve, they are still the monsters of this piece and Beowulf, the hero.


*Co-current to my delve into Beowulf, I’ve been reading Arthur Quiller-Couch’s On the Art of Writing lectures, which cover the nature of English literature. He touches on Beowulf:

The pretence that our glorious literature derives its lineage from “Beowulf” is in vulgar phrase ‘a put up job’; a falsehood grafted upon our text-books by Teutonic and Teutonising professors who can bring less evidence for it than will cover a threepenny-piece.

Monday Miscellanea, 1/17/22

TrekAThon, Round 2

A cartoon avatar showing a purple-haired young woman in a Star Trek: The Next Generation-style uniform.
Cadet Felicia Kendricks reporting and ready to learn!

TrekAThon: Starfleet Academy is coming in February!

This is just a teaser. I’ll have more info about Cadet Kendricks and a TBR later in the month.

Reading

Finished:

Cover for Hounded by Kevin Hearne, depicting a young man pulling a sword from a sheath on his back.
Cover for Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, depicting a man's head entirely covered, including his face, in chain mail.

I also read Poe’s Brother: the Poems of William Henry Leonard Poe by Hervey and Thomas Ollive Mabbott Allen, which was a research hole I went down last week.

Currently Reading:

Cover for Books of Blood by Clive Barker, depicting a gray stone carving of humans and demons cavorting.
Cover for Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, with illustration by Edward Gorey.
Generic "public domain" cover for On the Art of Writing by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.

Quiller-Couch’s On the Art of Writing got me thinking about the origins of American literature. I’ve earmarked an American Literature EdX course, so I might have some reading for that.

Goal Check-In

Shelf Maintenance:

  • I finished three books last week, two from various libraries and one a reread, so no change in my Beat the Backlog number.
  • It’s now been 18 days since I last acquired a book. Since I started keeping track of my book purchases/acquisitions in 2016, my record is 93 days (from Oct. 11, 2019 to Jan. 12, 2020); a goal to shoot for.

Writing & Tomes:

  • *whistles innocently*
  • Still haven’t heard back on “Colors of the Sea.” *checks email just in case* Yep, still haven’t heard.

Listening

Cinema Saturday, 1/15/22

The Hitcher

Year: 1986
Runtime: 1h 37m
Rated: R

Director: Robert Harmon

Writers: Eric Red

Stars: Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Initial: A rewatch for me, but I’ve probably only watched The Hitcher once, over 30 years ago.

Production Notes: The Hitcher caught a lot of flack for being a violent movie. Surprisingly, most of the violence takes place off-screen and most of the disturbing aftermath is never shown.

What Did I Think:
Young horror movie fan Katherine was pretty impressed with this movie, but after 30 years I couldn’t entirely remember why.

Spoilers Ahead:
There are two stand-out features of The Hitcher. One: John Ryder, Rutger Hauer’s character, is never given any motivation for what he does. He’s just a psycho, or maybe a semi-supernatural force of nature. My understanding is that the 2007 remake has him being slighted by the people who later pick him up. That’s disappointing because the story works best when Ryder is a mystery. Two: The movie is not precious about its characters. If you watch enough horror movies, especially ones of a certain era, you can predict that the annoying protagonist is going to die. There are two protagonists in this movie, neither is annoying . . .

Non-Spoilers:
Unfortunately, the nightmarish scenario of being hunted/haunted by a random charismatic stranger is undercut by The Hitcher devolving into a 80s action movie. There are explosions. There are cars that seemingly ramp-jump off each other. A helicopter is shot from the sky by a handgun. Oh, 80s.


The Goonies

Year: 1985
Runtime: 1h 54m
Rated: PG

Director: Richard Donner

Writers: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg

Stars: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman

Initial: A lot of people my age really like this movie. I had never seen it.

Production Notes: Also out in 1985, Richard Donner directed Ladyhawke and Chris Columbus wrote Young Sherlock Holmes. Both are movies I like so much more than The Goonies.

What Did I Think:
WHY IS EVERYONE YELLING??? So much yelling in this movie. I’m not fond of kid protagonists, which is probably why I never got around to watching The Goonies earlier in my life, like when I was around the age of the characters. And I might have a different opinion of this movie if I hadn’t watched Young Sherlock Holmes, Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981), or Columbus’s Home Alone (1990) before I watched The Goonies. Many movies before and after it do what it does, but better (see also, The Lost Boys (1987), Stand By Me (1986), The ‘Burbs (1989)). Still, there are a couple of good moments, mostly courtesy Corey Feldman.


Boogie Nights

Year: 1997
Runtime: 2h 35m
Rated: R

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Writers: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds

Initial: A well-regarded movie with a big cast that I hadn’t seen before.

What Did I Think:
Boogie Nights is a movie. There are characters. Things happen. It’s well-made. The actors do a wonderful job. I like the setting of the 70s. I enjoyed the extended cast of actors I wasn’t expecting, like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ricky Jay. I have no problem with the subject matter; the porn industry is something I know little about, so that’s a plus. The odd theme of found family (even dysfunctional found family) is almost heartwarming. Obviously, some credit has to go to Paul Thomas Anderson for all of this. I’m not eve mad that I’ve had “Sister Christian” stuck in my head since I saw this movie on Wednesday. But, honestly, Boogie Nights is just kind of there. I probably wouldn’t turn it off if it was the only thing on, but I can’t imagine ever going out my way to watch it a second time.

Anthology ~ In Our Own Worlds

Cover for In Our Own Worlds, an anthology of LGBTQ+ novella published by Tor.

In Our Own Worlds is a four novella anthology featuring LGBTQ+ characters. It was a freebie I picked up from the publisher, Tor, in late 2019.

The first novella is The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy. Welcome to Freedom, IA, where the peace is kept by a demonic deer! Not everyone in town thinks a demon who brings retribution on “predators” is a good idea. I like the play on philosophy here, but the story seemed dependent on the reader just going along with character actions when those actions don’t have much reasoning behind them. It wasn’t that characters did outlandish things, but there was the occasional leap of logic that seemed to come out of nowhere.

I had high hopes for the second novella, Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. I have read and enjoyed Klages’s short stories in the past. In fact, this novella is why I picked up the anthology: Klages’s magical realism in 1940s San Francisco seemed like a slam dunk. Alas, as with Nebraska basketball, Passing Strange didn’t do as well as I hoped. I’ve become a bit aware of how authors present exposition and there were a lot of As You Know, Bob going on. Also, the use of magic in the story was very minimal. It almost felt like an overlay on straight (no pun intended) historical fiction.

The third novella was A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. I enjoyed this novella the most*. Okay, I’m not sure I entirely followed chronology, but that’s fine. Aqib and Lucrio are compelling main characters and I was in it for their story/stories. I also enjoy world-building that isn’t spelled out for me; I don’t need every thing explained. In a way, this is an interesting contrast to Passing Strange. Both could tell straight-up stories of forbidden romances, but use magic to solve problems for their lovers (though with consequences). A Taste of Honey just infuses the whole narrative with that magic/science.

* I decided not to read The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang. It really didn’t seem like my kind of story. Political machinations =/= A book for Katherine.

Monday Miscellanea, 1/10/22

Bout of Books Wrap-Up

Bout of Books banner: A cartoon woman in a robe with a thermometer in her mouth, a pile of books in front of her. She has obviously come down with a bout of books.

About halfway through last week, I decided my Bout of Books goal (read 600 pages) was going to be THE goal for the week. Between a fatigue laden arthritis flare-up and taking down my all my holiday decorations, I wasn’t in the mood to do much more than read and play some Minecraft. So, how did Bout of Books go? Very well!

  • I read 642 page. I’m a slow reader so that’s really good for me!
  • I started and finished A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson and Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly. I’ll have posts about those in the near future.
  • Read a bunch of other odds and ends, including going down a Beowulf hole.
  • Made it to the Saturday chat!

Reading

Cover of Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heany, features the head of a figure entirely (face included) covered in chain mail.
Cover for Hounded by Kevin Hearne, featuring a seemingly young man pulling a sword from a sheath on his back.
Cover for Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown. This is an illustration by Edward Gorey: an ominous view from some stony grotto.

Hmm, looks like a lot of boys with swords this week. I’m good with that.

Getting Back to It (or not)

Over the weekend, Valley of the Sun Ultimate (of which I’m a volunteer web master/admin person) decided to cancel New Year Fest, our locally hosted national tournament, which was scheduled for the end of the month. Back in October, it seemed like we would be able to run the tournament safely if we followed guidelines that worked for club tournaments over the summer (proof of vaccination/negative test & mask). Unfortunately, what worked over the summer isn’t working as well in light of Omicron. Plus, case numbers in Arizona are not great.

COVID-19 Cases by Day in Arizona for the time perios spanning July 11, 2021 and Jan. 9, 2022.

I’m disappointed that we had to cancel, but also relieved. I wasn’t looking forward to the admin overheard of tracking the COVID statuses of 400-500 people (accounting for 20 teams with around 20-25 players each). That’s a bit much for my neuroticism. Plus, I feel it’s still better to be safe than utterly “back to normal.”

Goal Check-In

Yeah, I’ll try doing this . . .

Writing & Entangled Tomes:

  • Haven’t heard back on “Colors of the Sea,” so fingers still crossed.
  • Touched my bird-watching piece, but didn’t make too much progress on it.
  • Did some formatting on Joseffy tome.

Shelf Maintenance:

  • The two books I finished for Bout of Books were off my Owned But Unread pile. 2/25 for the year, thus far.
  • Also cleared out a couple of titles that were tagged incorrectly on LibraryThing. Owned But Unread is down to 545.
  • It’s been 11 days since I acquired a book.

Listening

Deal Me In 2022, Week 1

Deal Me In logo pic

All the Deal Me In details.

Card Picked: 5♠️
Story: “Drip” by Shreya Vikram
List: Recommended by Nightfire

Thoughts:
Well, I started the year off with quite a story. Nightfire is Tor’s horror imprint and they post a monthly “best of” of horror stories published online. I haven’t in the past availed myself of their lists, but if this story is an indication, their picks are good ones, heavy on the horror.

I can’t say I totally understood everything going on in “Drip.” The narrator is definitely deranged and in an abusive situation that is pretty over-the-top. He becomes obsessed with dripping of the dirty faucet. Or at least the sound of it, which seems to only be in his head. Everything in this story, including the faucet and the basin below it, is dirty and spoiled. The only freedom for the narrator and his many brothers is when their father is gone, laying in mourning over the grave of his father and father’s fathers. I suspect the faucet and the drip are allegorical (is the faucet their . . . mother?), but none of my theories exactly fit.

The story reminds me of the X-Files episode “Home,” though that family was infinitely more loving.

Other Short Stories

I feel like I read more short stories this week, but really I only read one aside from any in Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown.

“Sheer in the Sun, They Pass” by Hester J. Rook – There are many, many takes on hauntings and ghosts and this was a new one on me.