Book 18: Charles Nicholl, National Portrait Gallery Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries
Good. Pretty. Brief. Occasionally slightly sloppy, but trying to bio Ben Jonson in three pages with illustrations is the sort of thing we don't expect anybody to do without fluffing a step.
I liked it, snd not just for Nicholl's inimitable snark. We loff you, Charlie.
Book 19: Margo Lanagan, Black Juice
Yeah, I'm going to be the guy who didn't like this collection as much as everybody else. Go figure.
The writing is stunningly beautiful, the stories sometimes piquantly observant. But Lanagan's sense of rhythm and mine don't mesh. I see where her beats fall, and then she carries the story on after the kicker, as if she doesn't quite know how to arrange things so that the necessary information falls before the final downbeat, or as if she doesn't quite trust the reader to get the epiphany (all her stories in this are epiphantic rather than climactic, if you know what I mean) without having it 'splained. Also, after a while, though the situation of each story was interesting and unique, they all started to sound alike to me: character walks through brief, interestingly-worldbuilt situation. Character undergoes epiphany. Narrative explains epiphany. fin.
This made me sad. (I had the occasion to tell the story this weekend of why I am a professional writer because Algis Budrys rejected me so very well. The third or fourth story I sent him, when he was editing Tomorrow, he rejected by saying something to the effect of "I was really enjoying this story until the end, when I think it fell apart on you. This made me sad." It flipped a light switch in my head, because it made me realize that the editor was rooting for me, and it was up to me to fulfill his expectations, to live up to his desire to publish me.
After that, it took seven or eight years to learn how to do that, of course, but that's neither here nor there.)
Anyway, as I was saying: beautifully written, with some jewel-like observations. She evokes a sense of place and the sensations of how a particular setting feels as well as anyone I've read. Not bad, just not for me.
Book 20: Ken MacLeod, Newton's Wake
I still haven't finished this, because I needed shorter narratives during the con. But I did get the opportunity to compliment Mr. MacLeod on his use of voice over the weekend, and he is not only a lovely man with a gorgeous accent, but he blushes when you say nice things to him. I may have to develop a completely inappropriate crush.