Monthly Archives: August 2016

ROW80 ~ Wednesday Update, 8/17

Update

Ever since I wrote “Wicked Witch for Hire,” Eric has entertained the notion that it is the most quintessentially Katherine thing that I’ve written. Every once in a while, Eric will riff on the idea of this witch and longer stories I might write with her at the center. Nothing has ever caught with me until something he said on Monday. And so, my nicely organized list is all upended.

I am cautiously excited to start a brand new project (well, 95% new), but I’m also aware that I am not finishing One Ahead stories. On the other hand, maybe this will get me out of my doldrums, both my recent summer ones and the ones that have been plaguing me for the last few years. I’m going to try a more structured outlining process, mainly because this is going to be more of a quest novel—something I haven’t really written.

I also started the next SQL section at Code Academy and realized the first one hadn’t prepared me well enough. So, I’ve added an additional class on MySQL from Coursera. (Yes, on top of the Macroeconomics class I just added.)

Well, I guess if I’m going to upend my list, the halfway-ish point is the place to do it. This list is getting long…

Changes/progress from last update are in blue.

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Review ~ The Great God Pan

Cover via Goodreads

The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

The Great God Pan is a novella written by Arthur Machen. On publication it was widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content, although it has since garnered a reputation as a classic of horror. Machen’s story was only one of many at the time to focus on Pan as a useful symbol for the power of nature and paganism. (via Goodreads)

I was surprised to find that this story begins with brain surgery. The 1890s were an interesting time for science as it started to truly butt heads with ideas supernatural in nature. In the first section, Dr. Raymond takes the concept of opening a mind rather literally. The surgery is performed on an unfortunate women, Mary. Her mind *is* opened—to the possession of the Great God Pan. Mary later gives birth and the child, Helen, is taken to the country. Time passes…

The next several sections of the book are a collection of second hand reports. A woman is corrupting men. Things are being done in bedrooms. The sexy details are all implied.  The men are ruined, frightened to death or influenced to commit suicide. Our two secondary narrators, Villiers and Clarke, piece together information and realize that this women is Helen, Mary’s daughter. They finally catch up with her and convince *her* to commit suicide. In her death throes, she transforms from human to animal, to something more primordial.

The Great God Pan was a scandalous book.  In a post-Fifty Shades of Greythe-internet-is-for-porn world, a reader might be left wondering what acts of debauchery are being perpetrated. Still, there is an element that may be radical to a modern reader: it’s Helen who has the power after her mother Mary has suffered at the hands of Dr. Raymond and Pan. Female sexuality is also given a predatory, feral sheen. Women are obviously very dangerous. This was a selection from the Obscure Literary Monsters list. I find it odd that the monster is supposedly Pan and not Helen.

Publishing info, my copy: 1894
Acquired: Project Gutenberg
Genre: horror

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading? ~ Aug. 15, 2016

Summerlong The Unknown Poe Descent into the Depths of the Earth (Greyhawk Classics, #3)

Past

Finished The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen. I’ll have a review of that tomorrow.

Present

I’m over halfway through Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle and *just* getting the myth aspects. Well, it has been 20 years since my last Classics class. Also last week, I picked up The Unknown Poe edited by Raymond Foye.  It’s a slim book of very early poetry, letters, and essay excerpts by Edgar Allan Poe, as well as some appreciations by a group of French writers.

Future

Bout of Books is next week. I haven’t decided if I want to join. It would be a good, final 15-ish Books of Summer push, but I don’t know if I really have the time/energy to participate. It will probably depend on how much work I get done this week. Regardless, I think my next reads will either be Decent into the Depth of the Earth by Paul Kidd or The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

ROW80 ~ Sunday Update, 8/14

Week 6 Update

Another sucky week. Insomnia, car problems. On the plus side, the monsoons have finally come to Arizona. We’re soggier, but the temperatures are in a more reasonable range. Been getting regular exercise again, which makes everything a little better. Also, I’ve spent a few evenings watching the Olympics.

Did I rewrite the new beginning to Ch. 3 this week or last?  Last Monday seems like an age ago. I got caught on Ch. 5. I need to integrate a piece of conversation that was cut from elsewhere and, well, rewrite paralysis hit. I think I’ll print out the two original bits and look at them on paper. Really, really would like to get the majority of this iteration done by the end of the week.

Added (because I’m a schoolie): an online macroeconomics class.

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Deal Me In, Week 32 ~ “The Singing Bell”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Singing Bell” by Isaac Asimov

Card picked: Ace of Clubs
From: Asimov’s Mysteries

Thoughts: This being the first story in an anthology that I’ve owned for a few years, I might have read “The Singing Bell” before. I know I’ve read several of the subsequent Davenport/Dr. Urth stories and Asimov’s style doesn’t vary that much. If anything, the tone of this story was certainly familiar.

“The Singing Bell” starts with the crime from the perpetrator’s point of view. We see all the preparations taken by Louis Peyton. Peyton is sure that he’ll get away with the theft of singing bells from the Moon and the murder of his partner because he has the perfect alibi. Or rather non-alibi. Peyton spends every August sealed away in his bungalow in Colorado. Unless Det. Davenport can prove he was on the Moon, he’s good as gold. (Apparently, travel to the Moon is regulated on par with popping to the QT on a Friday night for snacks.) Furthermore, while law enforcement has an uber lie-detector, the psychoprobe, it legally can only be used to confirm near certain suspicions.

All of this leads Davenport to seek the advice of preeminent extraterrestrialist Wendell Urth to find a way to confirm that Peyton was off Earth. Which Urth, of course, does. Any guesses how one might deduce that a man has been off-world for at least a week?

Is This Your Card?

Review ~ The Sisters Brothers

Cover via Goodreads

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

When a frontier baron known as the Commodore orders Charlie and Eli Sisters, his hired gunslingers, to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually to Warm’s claim in the Sierra foothills, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers. Eli’s deadpan narration is at times strangely funny (as when he discovers dental hygiene, thanks to a frontier dentist dispensing free samples of “tooth powder that produced a minty foam”) but maintains the power to stir heartbreak, as with Eli’s infatuation with a consumptive hotel bookkeeper. As more of the brothers’ story is teased out, Charlie and Eli explore the human implications of many of the clichés of the old west and come off looking less and less like killers and more like traumatized young men. (via Goodreads)

I.

I’m going to start off by saying that I didn’t like The Sisters Brothers very much. This came as a surprise to me.

It’s a well-regarded book; in general, but also by reviewers I follow.  I like westerns, though I haven’t read that many of them. I like dark comedy. I didn’t think that my expectations were overly-high. I was definitely looking forward to some quirkiness. So, what’s the deal? I’ve spent a couple days trying to figure that out.

II.

I *did* like the voice. Eli Sisters’ narration evokes the time and the place. The first half of the book is part picaresque and part travelogue. It was Eli’s storytelling that kept me reading despite my reservations.

I did realize that I’m not much of a fan of picaresque novels. Actually, I haven’t read many of them. I don’t have anything against lower-class or below-the-law characters, but there is sort of an aggressive grayness to the characters and situations. For example, in the above blurb, seeing Eli and Charlie as traumatized young men is important to the narrative, but I’ve never found that lacking in the supposedly white-hat/black-hat westerns I’ve read.

III.

Eric and I have had some long talks about what makes good plot. If readers want to be surprised by a book, why do formulaic books work? How can you reread a book and still enjoy it? I think there’s a line that needs to be walked between being predictable and offering up the unexpected.

Honestly, at most points in The Sisters Brothers, I had no idea what was going to happen next. That’s not a bad thing. But even at the end, I didn’t know what was going to happen next. No. Clue. And that didn’t work for me. There was very little payoff for most of the quirky elements. I half expected an ending similar in style to The Departed, but no. Also, almost every event held the same weight. Crazy prospector with a chicken? Bead-stringing witch? Tooth powder? All are of seemingly equal importance to the narrative.

So, there it is. Now, on the plus side, I did finish this book and it’s given me a lot to chew on. That is worth something.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle ebook, HarperCollins (Ecco), 2011
Acquired: Dec. 21, 2014, Amazon
Genre: literary western

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading? ~ Aug. 8, 2016

The Sisters Brothers The Great God Pan Summerlong

Past

Finished Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers. I should have a review of that on the blog tomorrow…if I manage to finally group my thoughts about it. It’s inspired more discussion for Eric and me than most.

Present

I’m about 70% though The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, a choice from my Obscure Literary Monsters list. It’s different than I expected, but then, I’m not sure what I *did* expect.

Future

Next up: Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle. Beagle is one of my favorite authors, so I’m looking forward to this book, but also apprehensive. I haven’t read one of his novels (aside from rereading The Last Unicorn) in a long time.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!