Fannish osmosis told me the following things about this show ahead of watching: a) Non-exploitative women in prison character and ensemble drama, and b) this is one of those shows where everyone - for an euphemistic value of "everyone", i.e. of course there are people who hold other opinions, nothing is ever unilateral in fandom - seems to hate or dislike the lead. Whether the second is true, I don't know, but the former definitely is. It pulls off a really large cast and multiple stories going with it, and does the key trick of of complex characterisation - when people appear as stereotypes at first, later reveals show them as far more interesting and complicated without retconning the events that led to the first stereotype impressen. (Well, that goes for almost all of the characters. There's one bad guard and one particular inmate who at least in the first season are exactly what they appear at first unsympathetic glance.)

As for Piper as the original pov character, I can see where she'd draw fannish ire (she's white, rich, privileged and pretty selfish), but the story is aware of her flaws (which btw don't make her worse than anyone else, either), and doesn't make anyone else suffer for her education. (She partly learns through their stories, which isn't the same thing.) Basically, she works in the first season narrative as a guide for the audience to meet everyone else in the ensemble. Sometimes the show uses Piper to reflect audience expectations and changes back on them, as when spoilery things happen )

The only actor who was instantly familiar to me was Kate Mulgrew, who plays Red the chef, but I was impressed by everyone. Especially by the actress playing Miss Claudette, Michelle Hurst, who does a lot just with facial expression and her eyes. Spoilery comment to follow. ) Not surprisingly, the very messed up mother-daughter relationship of Aleida and Daya (I hope the spelling is right) captured me. My favourite friendship was perhaps between Sophia the transwoman and the incarcareted nun, which was delightfully surprising and relaxed and good for them. Speaking of Sophia, I also appreciated the show didn't shy away from the struggle of or conversely demonize her wife from her pre-op life who fell in love with a man and has her own emotional struggle going on despite being basically supportive, not to mention that now Sophia is in prison she has to raise their son Michael alone. (In some other fictional stories involving trans characters I've watched, family members are either vicious and not understanding or completely and seemingly effortlessly supportive.)

Speaking of tropes associated with prison stories, in the first season the backstories as revealed so far avoid letting all the characters be innocent and/or in prison for a sympathetic crime. (This includes Piper who did do the action she's in prison for, and while early on seeing herself manipulated into it later comes to realise she's avoided taking responsibility for anything all her life.) Though the backstories are all illuminating, with the exception of the only inmate who remained on the clichĂ© side for me. Spoilers don't doubt such people exist, but in a fiction where everyone else is more complicated... ) Everyone else, though, is great, and the show is a good example of how you can explain without excusing. Take Alex, who is a drug dealer. Spoilery things the show does with Alex. )

There's a lot of humor in the show, but it also makes its tragedies cut deeply. I've come to care about all these people, and will definitely continue watching.
Because you don't have to travel to Southern Tyrolia to enjoy Alpine beauty; living in Munich, I also have it next door.

I mean:

Tegernsee vom Wieseer Höhenweg photo 2015_0712Mancherlei0036_zpslcjklvhl.jpg

More beneath the cut )
I'd heard good rumours about it for years, but this week I finally managed to read Ben Aaronovitch's "Rivers of London", the first volume of what I take is an ongoing saga.

Previously I had known Ben Aaronovitch as a Doctor Who scriptwriter - he's responsible for Remembrance of the Daleks and Battlefield, both Seventh Doctor and Ace adventures -, so the DW nods didn't surprise me. But I think I'd have liked this book regardless. It's urban fantasy, with a hero, Peter Grant, who's a young officer with the London Met and runs into supernatural goings on early in the novel, with the result that he's simultanously engaged in solving a vicious murder series and becoming an apprentice wizard. And he has to broker peace between the female and the male divine embodiment of the River Thames.

The casual interaction with deities (and the fact that you can become one - Mama Thames started out as a Nigerian woman, while Father Thames started out as a Roman-era Briton) had some Neil Gaiman echoes for me, though it may simply be drawings from the same mythological sources. Peter Grant, our hero, is black, as are Mama Thames and her daughters (and that's how Selena after a few decades of visiting London, learns there are small underground and some above ground rivers flowing from or into the Thames). This is very much today's London, but at the same time, the novel evokes tropes (one of Peter's superiors is a grumpy Northerner from Yorkshire, because of course he is). There's a lot of humor, but the seriousness of the crimes is truly hard hitting. Especially once two of the characters who looked like they would be regulars get endangered, and yours truly suddenly thinks, damm, British series, I shouldn't take anyone's survival for granted, Spooks alert, X and Y might actually die! But please, not Y! I LIKE Y.

I shan't tell you whether or not Y survives, because I like sharing my agonized suspense. Instead, I'll praise another aspect of the book, which is the of St. Paul's in Covent Garden, the actors' church, and a particular obscure bit of British theatrical history. The play's the thing, indeed. I had my suspicions before the reveal, but fairly played, book.

The novel wraps up both cases our hero is involved with but certainly sets up enough to make me curious about further adventures. Not yet in a "must have immediately" manner, but if I find time - *eyes ever growing staple of recced books* - I will read more.
A few months ago, when the History Exchange announced itself, I looked at the conditions, saw that the minimum word count was only 500, and thought, hey, I'm busy, but I can easily do that in between stuff. If I volunteer for people I already know about, I won't even have to do research.

Famous last words, etc. The end result was one of the longest things I've written outside Yuletide, and I don't regret a single thing. Eleanor of Aquitaine will do that to you. The prompt asked for an AU, which got me thinking not of one AU but several. Well, there's a certain format for this. I've repeatedly written "Five Things..." tales about fictional characters; there was no reason not to do it for a rl one. Especially since said format, at least in the way it works for me, also provides the opportunity to portray the main character "in canon", so to speak, via several angles.

So, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France, Queen of England, survivor extraordinaire who still travelled across the Pyrenees on political missions when in her 70s, something that would be remarkable even today, let alone in the Middle Ages. Her life was often so unlikely that fiction couldn't trump it. However, of course there were plenty of opportunities where with just one circumstance changed, her resulting existence would have been just as remarkable (imo), if in a different (or not?) way. After mulling it over (and reading one of the newer biographies, since the last time I did research on Eleanor was more then 20 years ago), I came up with five scenarios which each became its own story. You can read all five here:

Time and Chance (16069 words) by Selena
Chapters: 5/5
Fandom: 12th Century CE RPF, When Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay Penman, Devil's Brood - Sharon Kay Penman, Historical RPF, Henry II Trilogy - Sharon Kay Penman, The Lion in Winter (1968)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Eleanor of Aquitaine/Henry Plantagenet, Eleanor of Aquitaine/Louis VII of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Thomas Becket, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Matilda I of Boulogne, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Raymond of Antioch, Peter Abelard/Heloise (background)
Characters: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England, Thomas Becket, Bernard of Clairveaux, Petronilla de Chemillé, Mahault of Anjou, Matilda I of Boulogne, Stephen of England, Eustace IV Count of Boulogne, Louis VII of France, Robert de Dreux, Raymond of Antioch, Melisande of Jerusalem - Character, Thierry Galeran, Henry the Young King, William X. of Aquitaine, Petronilla of Aquitaine
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Historical, POV Female Character, Female Friendship

Five lives which Eleanor of Aquitaine never lived.

A few more remarks on those five roads not taken: Hidden under a cut. )
selenak: (Abigail Brand by Handyhunter)
( Jul. 26th, 2015 07:41 am)

Brian Bendis seems to be in ecstasy about the Jessica Jones tv show. (And has as hard a crush on Luke Cage as ever, which cracks me up. Seriously, if there was ever a creator in love with his creation's love interest...) There's also the first photo of Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones. I'm so looking forward to this show!


Accomodation: lovely Capheus pov, exploring him processing what happened in the show's finale.
selenak: (Carl Denham by Grayrace)
( Jul. 23rd, 2015 08:00 am)
Last week I finally had the chance to watch Selma (on dvd). Which retrospectively confirmed to me that the lack of acting and directing nominations back at the Oscars was an outrage, among other things.

Like most movies about real life characters and events who actually pull it off, it doesn't try to narrate the entire saga of a person's life but focuses on one particular event. In this case, while David Oyelowo makes a magnificent Martin Luther King and is undoubtedly the leading man, it's not King: The Biopic as much as it is about a pivotal event in the US Civil Rights movement, and all the better for it. On the audio commentary, director Ava DuVernay at various points says she wanted to both end the reduction of King to the "I had a dream" phrase and show him both as a three dimensional human being and an activist working with other activists, to show how many people contributed and often via fierce debate to the movement (as opposed to the "one heroic leader, lots of spear carriers without personalities" model), and how these included women even though their contributions for a time were belittled even within the Civil Rights movement, because sexism. ("At times you could get the impression Coretta Scott King was the only woman in the Civil Rights movement, and that is so wrong.")

In all this, I'd say she has succeeded, though arguably the women still get the short shrift as most of the scenes profiling Diane Nash and Amelia Boynton Robinson more end up among the cut scenes extras on the dvd. (Otoh Selma resident Annie Lee Cooper trying to become a registered voter and getting sneeringly turned down in the third scene of the movie makes for an incredibly powerful statement of what's at stake - apparantly still or again is, since DuVernay and David Oyelowo say on the audio commentary there are new laws taking back what's been achieved in Selma right now?) (Oh, and re: Annie Lee Cooper, this is where not being an US American comes in hand. I thought the actress was familiar, but it didn't register until the movie was half way through that she was Ophra Winfrey, because the only times I see Ophra Winfrey is as an actress - in The Colour Purple or more recently The Butler -; we don't get her shows here in Germany. So I had no problem seeing her as her character from the start.)

You see strategy debates and disagreements instead of King mapping it all out and everyone nodding agreement. You get presented with an MLK as a compassionate, courageous man; the scene where he talks to the grandfather of the murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson, Carter Lee, hit me especially hard, because it's so difficult to show someone responding to grief without it coming across as trite, and here the circumstances were extra difficult, because of the way the grandson died, murdered by a cop, which has a gruesome current day resonance. And yet both the script and David Oyelowo as an actor pull it off and make King's response real and moving.

At the same time, King isn't presented as a saint. (And Ava DuVernay and her cinematographer resist the temptation Spielberg and his camera man fell into with photographing Lincoln the man against lots of halo like surrounding, might I add.) His response when Malcolm X briefly comes to town is insecure, annoyed and somewhat jealous, not serene. There's a strain in his marriage that's not just due to the work, and the visceral (all the more so because there's no shouting, both parties remain soft-spoken) painful scene where they have it out about his infidelities (which we're never shown, but it is made clear that's not just FBI slander, he does cheat on Coretta) is without any attempt by the narrative to blame his wife or otherwise excuse him. And while he has firm convictions, he doesn't have 20/20 foresight as to how things will work out.

There's also the paradox that for Selma as a getting public awareness event to succeed, they need the local sheriff to be a bigot and a brute. (When trying to persuade members of the local student committee to join forces, King points out that the sheriff in their previous, failed attempt played it right from the sheriff's pov; he kept his cops in line, and had passed out demonstrators carried to the hospital in stretchers. No national attention ensued. So the fact that the Selma authorities are so very hostile is an advantage.) Which you could read as a meta comment on the film as well: there's reason Ava DuVernay picked this one, and not the march to Washington, I assume. It comes with a horrible systematic injustice carried out in a brutal way, and personal courage on the part of the activists on every level.

I would add "making it suspenseful despite knowing the outcome", but while the movie is certainly suspenseful - incredibly so -, knowing the outcome in this particular case is a double-edged sword; yes, voting rights will be protected, but no, casual violence against people of colour by authorities won't become a thing of the past. Which prevents the movie from having that faintly smug "weren't things barbaric back then, and aren't we progressive right now to know better?" aura which some history drama does. On the contrary, it's as much a "J'Accuse" as it is a Rembrance of Things Past.

It also makes clear how ACTIVE peaceful resistance, which in some presentations has gotten the taint of consisting solely of speeches, really is, how much courage it costs, and how much sacrifice. How it was a decision everyone had to make constantly, instead of something once agreed on and then done.

Two background remarks: on the flippant side, I was amused that there were no less than four British actors in key roles of this very American movie - David Oyelowo as MLK, Carmen Edegojo as Coretta Scott King, Tim Roth as Governor Wallace and Tom Wilkinson as LBJ. As far as this foreigner can tell, their US Southern was entirely believable.

And speaking of Johnson, the other background remark: at the time of release, there was a controversy as to whether or not his portrayal was fair. Here are two representative articles: Unfair and Entirely Fair, respectively. What it is is certainly dramatically sound: leaving reform to the authorities will get you patronized and postponed at infinitum, you have to push them into acting.

In conclusion: an excellent film. Am glad I have it available for leisurely rewatch now.
This year, the APs and self won't be able to make our annual late September trip to Southern Tyrolia - I'll be in Los Angeles at a conference -, and thus we moved it to July. One thing I can tell you: it's going to be September again ever after! Because the heatwave currently haunting my part of the world doesn't stop here, oh no. Which means you have to do your hiking above 2000 metres for the temperatures to be remotely bearable. Up the mountains I went these last two days and will for the remaining week. Here's some pictorial plunder:

 photo image.jpg9_zpsco8ftxkf.jpg

The rest is hidden beneath a cut to spare your browsers )
The History Exchange just went live!

Really late in my part of the world, but I've been waiting ever since posting my story, as one does, i.e. weeks, so what are a few hours more? I'm too tired to read much tonight - that's what I'm looking forward to tomorrow - but I had to (delightedly) read the one written for me, which is:

Ă€ chaque jour suffit sa peine (707 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Historical RPF, 17th Century CE RPF
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Charles II of England

Charles has three kingdoms, and can't go back to any of them. So he does his best to keep himself amused in France instead.

Thank you so much, writer!

No prizes for guessing my story (i.e. the one I wrote) - I think it's fairly obvious, but then I always do. I had a blast writing it and will ramble about it post reveal.
Courtesy of dvd releases and the extreme heat meaning lots of time in doors:

Aka the one with 30 additional minutes, of which those featuring Anna Paquin as Rogue are actually not that many. (It's still only a cameo appearance.) This said, there's some good additional character stuff in both time lines there. All of which is spoilery for DoFP. )

In conclusion: worth watching if you're a fan. There's also an audio commentary which I haven't listened to yet, and some more extras.
Before I'm off to confront Darth Real Life on a new day: all the new images of Pluto certainly pleased my space romancing heart, but what made me start this morning with a smile was this:

Pluto Tells All:

And then he started trying to spin the demotion like it was a positive. Look at Phil Collins, he said. He was an ex-member of Genesis but then he had this huge solo career. And I said, first, Phil Collins sucks, and second, I’m not exactly the lead singer of the solar system, am I? This isn’t the Phil Collins scenario, it’s the Pete Best scenario. I’m the Pete Best of the goddamn solar system.

I shall forever think of Pluto as Pete Best now.

Meanwhile, Holmes meets Holmes:

Ian McKellen paid the Elementary cast a visit. Awwww.
The conference doesn't start until this afternoon, and I got up early, so I had the chance to read it - it's not a long novel. Overall verdict? As a novel - a debut novel, even, which it would have been had it been published when it was written - , it has both strenghts and weaknesses; you can see both why her editor rejected it in this form and why the editor in question also realised this writer had huge potential and there was something there which deserved, nay, demanded further development. The weaknesses, unspoilery: in the last third of the novel the characters spout rethoric of the day, ideas and exposition at each other, they have a tendency to feel more like Shavian mouthpieces, if that makes sense. Which isn't true for the rest of the novel. The solution to the central emotional conflict also feels - not wrong for the characters, but wrongly reached. (I'll get into details why in the spoilery part of the view.) Especially as this involves a character (not Atticus!) doing lots of mansplaining to our heroine. Oh, and I'm not sure whether this counts as a weakness or not, but the narration pov is a bit inconsistent - ist's mostly Jean Louise's/Scout's in third person, but there are two or three passages where we're suddenly in Henry/Hank Clinton's or Atticus' pov.

The strengths, though: Harper Lee was already a wonderful wordsmith at this stage. And the characters - both the ones who'd make it into To Kill a Mockingbird and the ones exclusive to this book - are drawn vividly, at once coming to life in a few sentences and staying that way. The flashbacks to Scout's childhood and adolescence feel organically interwoven with what she experiencs in the present. Btw, interestingly enough, only the first of them feels like it could be in To Kill a Mockingbird (and maybe it is, it's been so many years since I've read the novel - a hilarious Scout-Jem-Dill escapade), whereas the others are in an era Mockingbird stays away from, after Scout starts to menstruate at age 11 and thus is rudely reminded her body is female, and the effect this has on her. The ignorance about sex at school in the stories the girls there tell each other, coming with a matter of fact aside comment (not related to any of the plot, so I mention it here) by one of her schoolmates about two other girls being taken away by social services because the older one got pregnant by her own father. (Mockingbird implies that Mayella Ewell got raped by her father, but it's not spelled out explicitly, and I think the movie skips the implication altogether.). Flashback!!Scout in Go Set A Watchman lives far more acutely aware of being female (and not wanting to be), and what can happen to girls, than the pre-pubescent child in To Kill A Mockingbird. Present day Jean Louise hasn't resolved all her gender issues but is on somewhat better terms with being a woman, especially since she's seeing men (all but one) with a far more jaundiced eye.

Then there's the build up. I now wish I hadn't read the advance reviews, though then probably I wouldn't read the novel for months, because the big twist/revelation isn't something Lee drops her readers into right at the start. It's very skillfully done. The hypothetical 1950s reader not knowing any of these characters would have taken a great liking to most of them as our heroine returns to the town of her childhood. There are a very few hints of what's to come (far more noticable to a current day reader), but no more than that, though they increase, and by the time Jean Louise finds out what shocks her world to the core, even a hypothetical first time reader with no To Kill a Mockinbird knowledge whatsoever would have been as shocked as she was, because this novel has done spoilery things. ) The immediate emotional fallout for our pov character, the disorientation, the desperate attempt to reconcile the past with the present, all this is captivatingly written. (It's only once we move past the fallout-and-trying-to-find-explanations part that we get to the characters turning into Shavian mouthpieces weakness I mentioned earlier.) Aching, but very well.

Also: the novel doesn't let its heroine off the hook, either. There are two very powerful scenes were Jean Louise, as we'd put it today, is called on her privilege. The first is when she visits Calpurnia (too old now to work for the Finch family, but previously introduced in flashback as a firm and loving presence through Scout's childhood and adolescence) in the wake of the big twist and as part of her quest to try and make sense of it all. And that's when she gets, if possibly, an even bigger shock.

Spoilery text passage )

That's the end of the scene (Jean Louise is talking to Calpurnia's son in the next line, which opens a new one), and wow. There really is nothing more to be said. And if nothing else, I think it justifies the publication of this novel, because what (few) criticisms of To Kill a Mockingbird I've read usually also concerned the black characters being presented as universally in awe of their white savior.

The other scene I was referring to takes place between Jean Louise and Henry, and Henry is another case in point of this novel answering, unintentionally, to one of directed-at-TKaM few criticisms, this time about the classism in the depiction of "white trash" . Because Henry Clinton comes from a "white trash" family, and Atticus' sister Alexandra has a rant about that to Jean Louise early on ("We Finches do not marry the children of rednecked white trash (...)Henry is like he is now only because your father took him in hand when he was a boy, and because the war came and paid for his education. Fine a boy as he is, the trash won't wash out of him"). I hasten to add that Alexandra is presented as a snob and Henry sympathetically at this point; it's this speech which brings a very pissed off Jean Louise nearly to agree to marry him. When, much later in the novel, Jean Louise and Henry finally have their conversation about the big twist, Henry's reply to the obvious question she asks him goes right at the hart of this difference in their origins, and what it means for his day-to-day existence in Maycomb:

another spoilery text passage )

Neither Jean Louise nor the novel takes this as an excuse for the larger issue, but neither is Henry's point re: the differences in how people react to them denied.

Btw, before I talk about more serious issues and how they're dealt with, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out another strength of the novel: the humour of it. Not just in some of the childhood scenes. An example of the bantery (and unspoilery) dialogue between Jean Louise and her father Atticus early in the novel, before the twist, which refers to something Henry alludes to in the spoilery passage earlier. Aunt Alexandra is just chiding Jean Louise about the rumour Jean Louise and Henry were swimming in the river naked:

"Your father will die, simply die, when he finds out."
Atticus was standing in the door with his hands in his pockets.
"Good morning," he said. "What will kill me?"
Alexandra said, "Im not going to tell him, Jean Louise. It's up to you.
Jean Louise silently signaled her father. Her message was received and understood. Atticus looked grave. "What's the matter?" he said.
"Mary Webster was on the blower. Her advance agents saw Hank and me swimming in the river in the middle of the night with no clothes on."
"H'r'm," said Atticus. He touched his glasses. "I hope you weren't doing the backstroke."

Conversely, here's Jean Louise teasing her father at breakfast re: coffee:

'Still haven't learned how to drink it?'
'No,' said her father.
'Whiskey either?'
'Cigarettes and women?'
'You have any fun these days?'
'I manage.'

You can see what I mean about the characterisation build up within this novel. As an example of a characterisation of even minor characters in a few lines, here's Dill, the character inspired by Harper Lee's childhood friendship with Truman Capote, who shows up only in flashback in Go Set a Watchman but is occasionally thought of by Jean Louise in the present, too.

re: Dill the child: He was a short, square-built, cotton-headed individual with the face of an angel and the cunning of a stoat. He was a year older than she, but she was a head taller.

Dill the adult, during the novel's actions abroad (currently in Italy): He was a born wanderer. He was like a small panther when confined with the same people and surroundings for any length of time. She wondered where he would be when his life ended. Not on the sidewalk of Maycomb, that was for sure.

Aunt Alexandra (whom I don't recall from TKaM): Alexandra was the last of her kind; she had river-boat, boarding school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was a disapprover; she was an incurable gossip. When Alexandra went to finishing school, self-doubt could not be found in any text-book (...).

It's this wit and affection for the characters on the narrator's part which makes the twist and theme extra painful.

Now it gets truly spoilery again. )

Well. No wonder Jean Louise runs around in the later part of the novel inwardly alternately reeling, wondering whether everyone around her went crazy or whether she did, and generally asking WHY?, feeling horribly betrayed and wondering and how both past and present can be true. Unfortunately, the narrative resolution to all of this brings me to the novel's weaknesses again.

Spoilers abound )

Finally a bit of Mockingbird-related musings: when choosing to shift the story to Scout's childhood and make the trial the big plot, Harper Lee and her editor went for a dramatically more satisfying and far more clear cut tale. However, it also meant a lot of the ambiguity is lost. Go Set a Watchman doesn't have heroes and villains, per se. I mean, there is the boo-hiss racist O'Hanlon making a speech at the courthouse, but he's barely in the book, just in that one scene, not a character as much as a plot device to galvanize Jean Louise's discovery. Everyone else, including Jean Louise, has prejudices in different degrees (though she thinks she has none) but also good intentions. It doesn't make some of their actions less devastating. I think there is more than one good book hidden in this one. The one we actually got in Mockingbird, certainly. But I can't help but wondering what would have happened if the editor, instead of advising Harper Lee to go for the childhood scenes, told her to jettison Uncle Jack the Mansplainer, curb the speechifying in the last third of the book and not to stop redrafting until the final two confrontations were the best they can be? US lit is so obsessed with father/son relationships; daughter/father, when not about the father being emotionally withdrawn (this isn't Atticus' problem at all), is still far rarer.

Or: a Calpurnia pov novel. That scene between Jean Louise and Calpurnia in just a short space gives us an impression of Calpurnia seeing her life with the Finch family so radically different from how Scout saw it, without negating Scout's pov, either, and it would have been fascinating to read an entire book of that.

In conclusion: won't become one of my favourite novels, but I'm glad to have read it.
Which by its nature is spoilery for season 2, so under a cut it goes. )
In theory, I know that the History Exchange won't go live until the 19th, but in practice, I keep checking it. Ah, that itchy feeling of wanting to read the other stories and wanting others to read yours...

Speaking of reading, To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't have the iconic status in my part of the world which it has in the US (and Britain?). Of course it's been translated, and I did read it as a teenager, not in school but because the aunt I was staying with during my vacation had a copy and I had read all her other books already. I liked it, was suitably outraged by the injustice and charmed by the family, but I had no idea it was considered a classic elsewhere, nor did I feel the need to read it more than once. When I saw the film version on tv about a decade later, I remember thinking "wasn't Scout more central in the novel? Why is there so much Jem and Atticus in the movie instead?" , but otherwise also liked the film. (BTW, at that point DS9 was already running, but I certainly had no idea that Joseph Sisko, Ben's father, was played by the same actor who played Atticus Finch's client.) The "like" never extended to "love". It was only after starting to consume English language media on a regular basis that I realised quite how iconic Mockingbird was in the English speaking world, and specifically Atticus Finch.

(Truefax: they changed birds and verbs for the German title, which is "Who Disturbs a Nightingale?" - "Wer die Nachtigall stört", which meant some confusion on my part at first once I read allusions to the original English title.)

All of which means I had no emotional stakes when earlier this year the news got out that Harper Lee's earlier written yet never published novel Go set a Watchman would be released this year, at least as far as the book itself was concerned. The "do we even know whether or not this is something she'd want since she's such a recluse and hardly communicates with the outside world"? debate did affect me, because the idea of an author unable to control what texts are released under her name is disturbing to me. (Switching genres and literary status, this is why V.C. Andrews' family endlessly churning out ghost written books under her name after her death remains repulsive to me. By all means, licence sequels and what not, but be honest about it and have them published under the names of their authors. I don't care whether the author in question used to write highly praised literature or pulp fiction, only texts she or he actually wrote should be published under their name.) Especially considering that the fictionalized version of Harper Lee in the movie Capote was a very endearing character, and when I subsequently read a non-fiction Capote biography, this came across as a good depiction. However, a lot of articles later the general media consensus seemed to have been that this was indeed Harper Lee's novel and she wanted to have it published, and so ended my emotional concernedness. I wasn't very curious about the novel itself. I would, I thought, eventually get around reading it, but it wasn't a priority.

Which has changed since yesterday, when I read the spoilery advance review in the New York Times. At this point, I immediately pre-ordered it in its kindle edition. Not because the review was all praise, but because it was all shock, and what it was shocked about made me go "This sounds fascinating". By necessity, spoilers ensue. )

The main reason, though, why I suddenly want to read this novel as soon as I can is that it now offers an emotional experience I can identify with. Not re: my father, but I have several older relations and also old (literally, as in aged) friends utterly unrelated to me who had a similar development to Atticus Finch in the new novel. ) I don't expect a novel, no matter how well written, to make it easier for me, but I really want to know how it depicts it.
Some books you read only once, for reasons ranging from boredom to lack of time to being too emotionally shattered. Others, and for me all the books I really care about, you read on a rush the first time, and then, after a break, more leisurely the second time, savouring them detail for detail. (And then there are the third and fourth etc. times...)

I just finished my second read-through of a book I aquired during my end of April short trip to London after attending the book launching, Roz Kaveney's Tiny Pieces of Skull. Now I've known (and loved) [personal profile] rozk's poetry, her fanfiction and the fantastic (in both senses of term) Rituals of Blood saga, but this is the first non-fantasy prose of hers I've read. The narrative voice - witty, sharp, deeply humane - is recognizably the same. Simultanously, the story in relation to her other work feels like the experimental episodes like Hush, Restless, The Body or Once More, With Feeling did on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if that makes sense - something in a new/different format, which is at the same time a different type of genre.

Tiny Pieces of Skull is a novel set (and originally written) in the late 70s, a comedy of manners (the subtitle "A Lesson in Manners" isn't just irony), an entry in the "Traveller abroad" genre - and a stunning evocation of a key point of LGTB history, for all the characters in this novel except for a few minor supporting characters are trans. Our heroine, Annabelle, starts the plot by deciding on a gamble and follows her American friend Natasha's invititation to come and live with her in Chicago. Before you know it, Annabelle is stuck in Chicago with no money and no Natasha, but also with a refusal to give up and a talent to encounter a rich gallery of fascinating characters, some endearing and funny, some terrifying, all highly memorable and described in superb language. A few choice quotes.

"Her legs went on forever, without pausing even momentarily to be a bum."

"He pecked Natasha dexterously where his moustache and her lip-gloss would not contaminate each other"

"By now Chicago was America for her, far more convincingly than New York had ever been. New York was still The City, as was London. Both were Babylon, rich in ivory, silver, gold and the souls of men; both were prosperous and fallen. Chicago lacked that sense of scale and of the metaphysical. It was provincial, and knew its limits."

Like I said: the first time I read this, I was busy at different points chuckling, gasping (because even without any supernatural elements, there is some terrifying stuff going on there on occasion) and wanting to know what happened next: the second time, I found myself lingering over the gorgeous language. I can't wait for the third time, for this is a slender volume, easily something you can take with you travelling, which I'm about to do again next week.


First season 9 of Doctor Who trailer! Considering the last season became my favourite of the Moffat seasons (and the only one I aquired on DVD), this makes me very happy.
selenak: (Katniss by Monanotlisa)
( Jul. 9th, 2015 07:42 am)
Had a couple of stressful (though in a good way) days. These short, excellet portrait type stories were good to relax with:

Mad Max: Fury Road.

the green place (1745 words) by OwlinAMinor
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Mad Max Series (Movies), Mad Max: Fury Road
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Furiosa (Mad Max), Imperator Furiosa
Additional Tags: Character Study, Post-Movie, Rebuilding

I live again.

The Hunger Games:

Prep (835 words) by flyingcarpet
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Haymitch Abernathy, Peeta Mellark
Additional Tags: Canon Compliant

Haymitch learned interview strategy the hard way.

selenak: (Eva Green)
( Jul. 6th, 2015 10:22 am)
Well, that was... unexpected.

Read more... )
Day 29 - If you could tell Gene Roddenberry one thing, Star Trek related or not, what would it be?

I have an aversion against this type of question, because it seems to be aiming at two possible extremes: adulation and deconstruction. Now I don't have an urge to lecture a dead man I didn't know, and whose creations I enjoyed a lot, about various of his 'isms - that feels presumptuous to me. And the urge to praise someone dead for their efforts is something I get in the case of, say, Van Gogh - the episode Vincent and the Doctor is one archetypical wish fulfillment in that regard - i.e. an artist who died without knowing his creations ever amounted to something. Whereas Gene Roddenberry got all the praise he could have wanted while still alive to enjoy it, and then some, so there's no need.

As this is the last day of the meme, though, and I had to tell the man something, I shall resort the a classic: Live long, and prosper. And he did.

The other days )
selenak: (Dork)
( Jul. 4th, 2015 12:43 pm)
I maaaaaaayy manage to go to New Zealand next year. Now, given that winter is summer and summer is winter if you're from the opposite part of the planet, what would be the best time to visit? If I can manage, I want to see as much of the country as possible, which is easier when it's neither too hot to travel nor all snowed in.

Advise me, New Zealanders and fellow travellers, pretty please?
Day 28 - Your favourite friendship in Star Trek?

I have to separate this into incarnations again.

TOS: the trio, inevitably. And I do mean all three, not Kirk/Spock plus McCoy, but Kirk-McCoy-Spock, with Kirk's friendship with McCoy and McCoy's bickering friendship with Spock as important as the one between Kirk and Spock. Together with the good ship Kirk/Enterprise, this three way friendship is the emotional heart of the show, and the reason it survived that long.

TNG: I was certainly most intrigued by Picard & Guinan. We never got an episode that was all about them, but there were enough scenes to show the depth of the relationship - Picard's complete trust in Guinan's judgment in Yesterday's Enterprise, the way he confides in her in Measure of a Man, while there were also lighthearted scenes (Guinan's wry reaction to Picard's archaelogical geeking out at the start of Rascals). And of course there was the mysterious origin of that relationship. (Shame Time's Arrow, which showed how it started from Guinan's pov, wasn't a good two parter, but they never showed Picard's first encounter with Guinan from his timeline, so that's left free for the imagination.)

DS9: Quark & Dax, and I've written the fanfiction to prove it. Jadzia was the first among the regulars to hang out with Quark socially, not because she was a customer at his bar, and to unabashedly enjoy his company. (This, btw, was when her character clicked for me. The first season had played Dax serene and wise, while the second introduced the Dax who had a flippant sense of humor, loved playing Tongo with Ferengi and flirted with aliens that had open skulls. Not surprisingly, the later version was the one who stuck around.) But it wasn't all having good times together, there was a line to be crossed, which came when he did the weapons of mass destruction dealings with Cousin Gaila, and her reaction was key to giving Quark the courage to go up against Gaila and his psycho client.

Voyager: Janeway & Seven of Nine. This made me from a lukewarm Voyager watcher into, for a while, an avidly interested one. It was a prickly relationship with a great paradox at its start - Janeway forcing individualism on Seven who didn't want it (but whether or not Seven was in a state to make such a decision immediately after being cut off from the Collective was an unanswerable question) -, and their frequent clashes kept me as hooked as their moments of understanding.

Reboot: Kirk & Pike. Reboot!Pike pushed just about every fatherly mentor button I have, and whether he was supportive or chewing Kirk out, he just knew how to handle Jim K., and became apparantly the first person whose opinion really mattered to young Kirk; his inspiration, too. (I'll never fail to regret the reboot wasn't radical and had Christopher Pike remain Captain, with Kirk and Spock serving as his officers.

The other days )


selenak: (Default)


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