January 13th, 2012

loose tea for loose women

on the beat of better things

I did not get a photo of Lake Superior under moonlight last night (like tossing sheets of hammered pewter) because light conditions were too low for my little point and shoot, but here's the currently ongoing sunrise:

2012 01 13 Grand Marais 004

It's cold as hell out there, and I'm picking away at Shattered Pillars, adding the scenes that make the narrative make sense. I always have to do this. It's like I can only write 3/4 of the book on the first pass through.

Pretty happy with it so far, though. And now I have to see a man about a Rukh.
bad girls  mae west

uphill curves, downhill stretch, me and that cadillac neck and neck

That's the view from the porch, five minutes ago.

it's -22 F out there with wind chill. It's possible going out in sock feet wasn't my brightest idea, even if the socks are alpaca.

The video doesn't quite capture the mist boiling off the cold lake, glowing in the slanting light of the sun:

2012 01 13 Grand Marais 010
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can't sleep books will eat me

i'm so damned cold and if this blood don't turn to gold i think i'm doomed

Being a review of sorts of Caitlìn R. Kiernan's The Drowning Girl: A Memoir (Penguin-Putnam, March 6 2012).

Kiernan has long explored themes of the malleability of identity, of the numinous in everyday life. In The Drowning Girl, she gives us modern-day Providence through the eyes of a young woman who suffers from schizophrenia: the ultimate unreliable narrator. This is a deeply beautiful book, deep and sensuous, treacherous and unpredictable, as full of undertows and currents as the title would suggest.

Her protagonist suffers visions. She suffers obsessions. She is an artist, and she becomes fixated on paintings, on stories, on the legends of drowned women in New England over the years. As she begins researching those legends--and legends, as well, of sirens and mermaids--she begins uncovering terrible patterns. Patterns that cost her her lover, her art, her stability, and perhaps her life.

But her brain is unreliable, and she--and we--can never trust those things she sees. This book represents an incredibly artful use of the unreliable narrator as an absolutely essential structural tool. It reminds me of what Charles de Lint did in Memory and Dream, but it's my opinion that The Drowning Girl is the more successful novel.

I'm trying to find ways to talk about this book without giving away too many of its secrets, because it's like a tide pool. There are myriad small mysteries here, and they all deserve the careful, leisurely attention of a reader who is willing to immerse herself in the story. Drowning is not just a thematic element here, but a structural one. As Kiernan's protagonist drowns in information, in badly processed neural signals, the reader is swept along on sinister currents and, in the end, must make her own decisions about what really happened. It's troubling and beautiful and it leaves the alert reader questioning her own perceptions and assumptions about the real world as much as anything in the text.

With The Drowning Girl, Kiernan has achieved a level of maturity and complexity as an artist that her earlier work merely hinted at in potential.

I can't put too fine a point on it: This is a masterpiece. It deserves to be read in and out of genre for a long, long time.

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can't sleep books will eat me

i listen for your answer. tell me what to say.

Being a review of sorts of a debut novel, Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon (Daw, February 7 2012)

As this is one of the other determinedly non-Western fantasies coming out this year, of course I had a vested interest in it. 

This promising debut offers a glimpse of a dusty and wonderful fantasy city through the eyes of three engaging, unconventional protagonists.What I found particularly interesting about this book is that, although the setting leaves Fantasy-Europe behind to delve deep into Fantasy-Arabia--a welcome change--this book is structurally one of the most traditional adventure fantasies I have read in some time.

There is an old man, a ghul-hunter who has long since learned to take a pragmatic--perhaps even cynical--approach to life. His apprentice (and foil) is a passionate young ascetic, a dervish who wishes to learn the art of monster hunting. They are goaded into action by a shapeshifting warrior girl on a quest for revenge for her murdered family, killed by monstrous ghuls.

Deriving his inspiration from The Arabian Nights, Ahmed sends his three protagonists on an adventure that brings them into contention with gloating bandit princes, self-absorbed royalty, wisecracking alchemists, and a whole panoply of others. It's fast-paced and good fun, though the structure wobbles a bit here and there (the ending seems slightly arbitrary), and I could have wished the villains had a bit more complexity throughout.

However, in terms of a wonderfully sketched-out fantasy world, a skittery adventure, and a joyous romp, this is not bad a-tall. The city and the culture breathe; the smells and tastes are lovingly evoked until the pungency of Ahmed's world saturates the reader's imagination.

The absolute truest thing I can say about this book is that it will make you awfully hungry. 

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