Welcome!

Aug. 31st, 2020 11:39 pm
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
Greetings, traveller! Welcome to Highly's House of Batshittery. Here you will find musings, rantings, sniggerings and occasional coherent thoughts on life, friends, medievalism, the Internet, and the oddities of expat existence. Oh, and cleaning. I tend to talk about cooking and cleaning a lot.
highlyeccentric: Manuscript illumination - courtiers throwing snowballs (medieval - everybody snowball)
1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?

... saw an opera? Not live, though, so I'm not sure if that counts. Co-wrote an article. Oh, and visited Africa! (Morocco only, but it's a new continent for me).

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I'm pretty sure I didn't make any, and don't expect to make any more. Unless muttering I am gonna make it through this year counts as a resolution.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

5. What countries did you visit?

UK (both Scotland and England), France, the Netherlands, Morocco, Australia. I think that was it.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Last year I said motivation, and I *did* get some of that! Rather erratic, but it happened. If I say 'a sex life' will I get an erratic one of those this year?

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The actual *date*? I am probably going to remember the 21st of December, for ridiculous fandom reasons. Also we had an awesome work party.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I can now SEE the end of my thesis ahead of me. I have to actually DO it but I can SEE it. Also I co-wrote an article on gifsets.

9. What was your biggest failure?

As for 2016: don't even. I don't wanna talk about it. Everything. Nothing.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Brains, so much brains. (As per 2015, then) Also I had too many colds.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Hmm. A new camera? A fair bit of new music?

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My boss has been pretty awesome this year, actually!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

THE GLOBAL VOTING POPULATION. Except for Austria, you go, Austria.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent and living expenses. Burgers and air travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

STAR WARS. And the ice skating anime!

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

A *lot* of songs, because this year was the year I suddenly cared about music. Stevie Nicks and Don Henley's 'Leather and Lace' might be the stand-out, though. Or Halsey's 'Hold Me Down'.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier, but only because I had a slightly better time with winter depression and then I came home to the sun for christmas.
ii. thinner or fatter? fatter
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, but i have more large expenses coming up.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Cooking actual food instead of eating out.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Having controversial opinions on Tumblr

20. How did you spend Christmas?

ON A PLANE.

21. How will you be spending/ did you spend New Year's?

At the parental abode. We had one of Mum-s friends for dinner, and went to see the local kiddie fireworks, and then I stayed up doing memes.

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?

Ask me that in five years.

23. How many one-night stands?

None.

24. What was your favorite TV program(s)?

SO HAVE I MENTIONED YURI!!! ON ICE? Because suddenly I care about anime now. This is the first time in a very long time that I've consumed a media where I have no genre knowledge and no access to the source language. It's been a wild ride.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No, but I like some people less.

26. What was the best book you read?

I think that might be Hutcheon & Flynn, 'A Theory of Adaptation'.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Gillian Welch, perhaps? I didn't fixate on one of her songs, but I acquired and loved several albums.

28. What did you want and get?

The sense that I can finish my PhD.

29. What did you want and not get?

Magic brain cures.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Uhmm... Carol, perhaps?

31. What did you do on your birthday?

Nothing much, except for being annoyed that so many people thought doing nothing much on my birthday was sad.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Aside from magic brain cures, nothing much. Perhaps a really good housemate/cohabitation buddy, but being solo is better than having miscellaneous housemates.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

MORE STAR WARS T-SHIRTS.

34. What kept you sane?

Did fandom keep me sane or make it worse? Who knows.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Oscar Isaac, apparently. Not sure how that happened.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Oh god don't EVEN.

37. Who did you miss?

Kayloulee. Katie. Kristen. People whose names begin with K, apparently. (I said this last year and it still stands)

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Maybe some of my new fandom buddies - deputychairman and bomberqueen17 both stand out. Or new academic twitter pals - the individual known as T.S. Wingard is pretty spiffy.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:

All those years of obscure nerding pay off. I mean. Most of the great academic stuff I did this year is just repurposed fannishness; and half the things my boss asked me to add to my work were things I already know of as fandom phenomena.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
This is pretty hard to do - it feels like the first half of 2016 is so sharply divided from the second.
Try the Mountain Goats: "People might laugh at your tattoos; when they do get new ones in completely garish hues"
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
2015 meme.

How many books read in 2016? According to Goodreads, 110. Aka, Quite A Few.

Fiction:Nonfiction ratio: 82:28 (the nonfiction category includes poetry, plays, issues of Meanjin, and work reading - plus there was plenty of work reading I didn't log at all)

Gender breakdown of authors: 21 by solo or collaborating male authors; 6 mixed-gender collections or magazine issues edited by men; one M&F co-edited collection; 1 mixed gender collection edited by a person of some variety of genderqueer that I can't easily determine (Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore edited a collection mostly about gay men, positions self as an insider among that community, but writes under a name originally used for drag; I can't find a recent piece authoritatively assigning any pronouns to them); 3 books by genderqueer authors; 2 all-woman collections; 75 books by solo or collaborating female authors.

So, still heavily skewed toward the ladies! A bit sad that the male-edited collections are mostly Auslit magazines or anthologies.

At this point last year I did a rough count of definitively non-white authors. Once again this is tricky: do I count which authors are white *in my context* or in theirs? I know Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick wrote of herself as white, but it would seem weird to count Ben Aaronovitch as white. CS Pacat is Aussie-Greek and emphatically declares herself as not white, but that makes it feel even weirder not to count Eve KS! Plus there are cases where... counting Banana Yoshimoto seems different to Ken Lui. One is a successful author in the majority culture of her native language, one is writing from an anglophone minority position. But the latter is writing in the globally dominant language and the other occupying the niche of 'foreign translations'.

Anyway, it only comes to 12 (excluding Eve KS and one US author whose bio says she was born in Jerusalem but about whom I know nothing else). Some of the edited collections contained a good diverse representation, but as far as I know all the editors were white. And five of those books were by the same person. So only two more than last year. Hmm. Note to self, improve on that score.


Favourite Book Read, subdivided:

Non-fiction for personal interest: Maybe Eve KS's 'Epistemology of the Closet'? That crosses the boundary between work and personal. Otherwise, the re-read of Holding the Man
Academic reading: Hutcheon & Flynn 'A Theory of Adaptation'. OH WOW so much wow.
Fiction for fun: Hard to say. I read a lot this year - most notably my rapid discovery of some really cool indie romance lines. That means though that few individual books stand out. I think the credit goes to Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie, that was a really amazing short story collection.

Least Favourite: 'Summer's End' by Harper Bliss was a spectacularly meh romance novel.

Oldest book read: Excluding various medieval primary sources, I think that's Henry James' 'The Portrait of a Lady'

Newest book read: Excluding the issues of Meanjin, I think the book read most quickly on the heels of its publication date might have been the 'The Force Awakens' novelisation, and the latest released in the year was Kris Ripper's 'The Queer and the Restless'.

Longest Book Title: That would appear to be 'Fatherhood and its Representations in Middle English Texts' (Rachel Moss)

Shortest Title: Banana Yoshimoto, 'Kitchen' (Ursula Veron's 'Nurk' doesn't count, it has a subtitle)

How many re-reads? Only seven

Most books read by one author in the year? 8 novels or novellas by KJ Charles (via Samhain ebooks)

Any in translation? Banana Yoshimot's 'Kitchen' (and the // edition of La Manekine, I guess)

How many were from the library? Not enough.
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
It's been something like six weeks since I did a WAYRW. Here, some reviews. Mostly short, because time has passed.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I. loved. this. book. All the things I loved about the first book in the duology, plus some really solid character development work.



The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this one for a seminar I was auditing (thus the 'fiction-for-fun' tag is not entirely accurate). It was really, really good - particularly notable, I thought, for the well-written but not voyeuristic rape scene(s). I was very impressed with the links made between the father's early experience of consent violation himself and his later abuse of others, and the delicacy with which Morrison balanced that. Her afterword suggests she now would have done some of those things differently, but I'm impressed all the same.



The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a fun read! It was much stronger on the frame plot and weaker on the embedded narratives than I'd expected, but I enjoyed the characterisation and delicate interplay. I'm a bit iffy about the lead romance, but I suppose as someone who read the entire Captive Prince trilogy in 48 hours I can hardly talk.



The Best Australian Poems 2015The Best Australian Poems 2015 by Geoff Page

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It's probably not that this collection was less memorable than its predecessors, but merely that I wasn't in a poetry-remembering mood for the second half of the year.



The Butch and the Beautiful  (Queers of La Vista, #2)The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this one on the plane, and it fulfilled my plane reading requirements. I *loved* the subplots involving Jaq's teaching work. However, I don't think the main romance plot was sufficiently developed - the couple essentially only had one misunderstanding to overcome, and the majority of tension was derived from a fact about Jaq that was told, not shown (she shies away from commitment), and her angst about that. More of an up-and-down pattern in the main relationship would have strengthened it, I feel - eg, if they had had some sort of early demi-crisis on the theme of the Main Crisis, the stakes would be higher.



The Queer and the Restless  (Queers of La Vista, #3)The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This one was better developed in terms of romance plot structure - there were early hiccups in the lead relationship, and a mini-version of the main crisis. The integration of the romance plot with the secondary plot was stronger, here, than in The Butch and the Beautiful, as it's the secondary plot that's causing Ed to behave unconstructively in his relationship. HOWEVER. The secondary plot was left hanging, and the novel integrated detective tropes so well that that was unsatisfactory. Plus, although obsession with murders isn't great, I think I have to come down on 'team ambition' rather than team 'quit your job and go on adventures'.

'Go on adventures in your statutory paid vacation time' doesn't seem to be an option, in America. Seriously, this guy had had his job for two years and hadn't taken any time off? WTF.



The Sleeper and the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a present from friend R, who knows me well. I opened it in Geneva, so as not to have to carry it to Aus, and then promptly realised I needed to carry it home to share with Dad.

It's good. It's classic Gaiman, the illustrations are gorgeous. I was a leetle disappointed around about 2/3 of the way in when I thought it was going to give me lesbians, but I think I prefer the weird twisty version. I suppose weird and twisty with lesbians would be better still, but there was enough unmarked eroticism in what we got to please me anyway.



Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave ShrewNurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This I got for my little sister for Christmas and it is VERY GOOD and I want to give copies to EVERYONE I KNOW at once. It's pretty obviously indebted to The Hobbit, but in a good way. I think the thing I loved best about it was the neat utilisation of all the apparently-extraneous details. Bilbo Baggins' pocket handkerchief is a sign of his fussy ways, but not actually a plot device; Nurk's clean socks ARE plot devices. Very little was mentioned in this book, other than in Grandmother Surka's journals, that didn't tie back to something else later on.

highlyeccentric: Manly cooking: Bradley James wielding a stick-mixer (Manly cooking)
(I've tried a few times this year to reverse-engineer this recipe from a basic pancake, and failed)

Makes 24

3 eggs
2 tsp honey
1/2 cup water
3 mashed bananas
1/4 cup SR flour
Dash extra baking soda
2 tbsp melted butter

Beat eggs, honey and water together. Mix in bananas, stir in flour and mix until blended. Cook as for regular pancakes.
highlyeccentric: Demon's Covenant - Kitchen!fail - I saw you put rice in the toaster (Demon's Covenant - kitchen!fail)
[personal profile] kayloulee made this for me when I turned up on short notice in Aus for a funeral in 2015. It is a good food.

The source recipe is this tasty and authentic Pan-Fried Honey Hoi Sin Noodle recipe at the Woks of Life. Some of the adulterations are K’s work, some are mine.

Dietary and Accessibility Notes )

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
Currently Reading: Leigh Bardugo's Crooked Kingdom, for funsies. A book called 'The Genesis of Narrative in Malory's Morte Darthe' for work. And I started The Bluest Eye, for a class I'm auditing.

Recently Finished: You'll note my pace has finally slowed, partly because work, and partly because I've taken up knitting again and so am watching more TV.

The Enchantment Emporium (Gale Women, #1)The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a second read (at least?) - I foolishly gave my copy away when I left Sydney, thinking I would not need to own such admittedly flimsy stuff. WRONG. I love flimsy stuff. Weird faintly incestuous polyamorous magic stag-people and their pies, A++.



The Wild Ways: An Enchantment Emporium Novel (The Enchantment Emporium Book 2)The Wild Ways: An Enchantment Emporium Novel by Tanya Huff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this - I find Charlie a much more compelling protag than Allie, I loved 14-y-o dragon Jack, and I am up for anything involving improbable magic and celtic folk music. I... might need to go out to Newfoundland in the summer one year.

BUT. The selkie thing made it somewhat harder to ignore the Special White People fantasy of it all. (I mean, the first book is really the worst culprit - the whole 'tie to land' thing as if the land had no previous spiritual significance for anyone!) Scottish magic creatures in Canada... defending the environment (good) and protesting seal hunts (not actually good for the indigenous people around there!) I just... I'm a sucker for transplanted Celtic mythology, but so much of it is really spectacularly clueless, and these books are no exception.



The Future Falls: An Enchantment Emporium Novel (The Enchantment Emporium Book 3)The Future Falls: An Enchantment Emporium Novel by Tanya Huff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Okay, book. If you're going to make me ship a somewhat worrying older-cousin/younger-cousin wossname (which I'm a little disgruntled about, I *liked* their mentorly dynamic), and you're going to sell me on it... that is a terrible resolution full of plotholes, and without so much as a kissing by way of payoff.

Also the giant asteroid thing was a bit... much.


And I finally finished and scanned relevant bits of 'Founding Feminisms in Medieval Studies', for work. That made my 100th book logged in Goodreads this year - the first time I've met my nominal goal (I don't actually care about meeting the target, just about seeing the running tally throughout the year).

Up Next: Oh, so many bookses. I picked up a Mary Webb from the work shelf, I might turn to that next for light reading.




Music notes: it's a long story but I've just discovered the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and bought their album 'Genuine Negro Jig' for my birfday. Just. Do yourself a favour and go and enjoy their Bluegrass cover of Blu Cantrell's Hit Em Up Style. It's genius and I am in love. Particularly with the lead female singer, because of my established weakness for lady violinists. But the whole band is pretty awesome.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently reading: more of the same - Glenarvon, Best Australian Poems 2015, and so forth.

Recently Finished:

Double Up (Lake Lovelace, #1)Double Up by Vanessa North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Reasonably good fun, easy reading, engaging main pairing dynamic. Eddie made a GREAT supporting character, points to Eddie.

My problems with this book didn't really crystalize until I read 'Rough Road', so I'll cover them in the review to that.



Rough Road (Lake Lovelace, #2)Rough Road by Vanessa North

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Hmm, so, I still like Eddie, and Wish was pretty cool, and the erotic dynamics good.

But this book coming on the heels of Double Up really brought to my attention a trope that I Do Not Like (TM). Both books relied on a character growth arc of 'man shall leave his best friend and cleave unto his monogamous partner' - in Double Up that was second string to 'man shall stop being an ass in denial about his mortality', but it was the chief thrust of Rough Road and it BOTHERS ME. Not that the Ben-Eddie friendship isn't, as portrayed, unhealthy: sure, Ben needed to remember he could trust people other than Eddie, and Eddie needed to get some fucking distance. But it's the thing where this only becomes a problem, and the only solution envisaged, is each of them partnering with someone else. Partners 'need to come first' and all that jazz.

How about: Ben needed to stop being a denialist avoiding avoider because it was fucking up his friendship with Eddie *as well* as his relationship? And Eddie could just maybe find some way of balancing out 'I want to be there for Ben in emergencies' vs 'but it is rude to sex partners if you answer calls mid-coitus'. Seriously, they never considered any option EXCEPT 'you let him go to voicemail and hope if it's a crisis he can and will call someone else'. There are other options! Like 'If you call twice in five minutes I will answer, whatever I'm doing - so don't abuse that privilege, but conversely, if you're in a crisis do call me!'

In short: I am too poly for this shit.


Gays of Our Lives (Queers of La Vista, #1)Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I TAKE BACK MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT ROMANCE NOVELS AND HYPERMONOGAMY this was a great exercise in found-family, friendship and romance reinforcing one another, etc. Also grumpy people with babies, which is great. And what seemed to me like a good handling of chronic illness as well.



AshAsh by Malinda Lo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I, uh. Um. I don't know what to think of this book, really. It seems to have done a thing where every time it does something I really like, it does something I don't like at all in a closely related sphere. It was a good story, but if I was given my choice of Cinderella retellings I'd still take Ella Enchanted over this one.

Case in point: atheist fantasy worldbuilding that works. Great! There's magic here, and saint-like figures / ancestor-spirits, but no deities per se. There's fairies and churches but no God. And somehow it manages to hold together. I really like that someone tried that, and it worked. On the other hand: extremely heavy handed 'male church/education leaders' vs 'lady witches' with the old 'reliable medical knowledge stamped out by sexism' thing. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS FOLKS.

Hmm. Now, as a fairy tale... it's a good Cinderella / 510A tale, I think. Some of the things that annoy me (?? how exactly is she going to support herself ?? be supported by the huntress?? idek) are ones that wouldn't stand out if it was a short story or a narrative poem. The key to 510A is that the heroine be unjustly treated, and triumph over her neglectful family and achieve success *in the conventional terms of her society*, and that pretty much is what happens here - it's made clear that f/f relationships are not unknown, and the second stepsister points out that Ash has made a better match than the elder stepsister.

A lot of the female-errant folk tales are like that: the aim isn't to transform the protag (as with male heroes) or change the terms of society (as is sometimes, but not always, the case for male folk heroes), but to characterise the consequences of people breaking the social contract through a sympathetic victim. There's a reason 'patient Griselda' was so popular for so long.

There are two problems here: one, that because of the norms of modern YA, Ash is characterised as opposed, in many ways, to the values of the society in which she moves - the schtick about not wanting what her sisters want would have worked better if theirs *hadn't* been a society that favoured f/f relationships, if she had to do something truly odd or deviant to be able to live free and as Kasia's lover. (And that would have yanked the narrative away from the Cinderella narrative... but in a way that would work with the tropes of modern fantasy, so it'd be doable.)

The second is the combination of the Cinderella narrative with the Sidhe/fae folklore. Cinderella is emphatically not about female desire, or dangerous sexuality, whereas the fae tales often are. The wandering female or young male protag here *is* changed; as Ash herself says, they're cautionary tales. The fairy helpers in the 510 tales aren't the ruthless oath-binding creatures of the dark hunt, and swapping them in... you get something very interesting, but not entirely satisfactory. I'm not happy with how the fairy bargain resolved - *that* narrative arc was working its way to somewhere much darker and just pulled up short (DESPITE all the worldbuilding and folklore built in that was pointing to Huntress Rescues Her Beloved From The Fae, wtf?).

I also think it's a bit... odd that Lo *lampshaded* the fact that the lesbian romance here is not the deviant option. Ash outright says to her fairy lover 'ours is a queer friendship'. Um. I'm supposed to be rooting for the lady 'ship, I think, because Representation, but you go around saying things like THAT, hmph.

Anyway I'm going to imagine a sequel Ash falls asleep under an ymp-tree one day and is whisked off to fairyland and we get Lesbian Sir Orfeo. Or... or maybe I'll try my hand and writing lesbian fairy tales myself. Hrmph.



Up Next: Uncertain, but I have Bisexual Politics: Look Both Ways, and I need to read The Bluest Eye.
highlyeccentric: Demon's Covenant - Kitchen!fail - I saw you put rice in the toaster (Demon's Covenant - kitchen!fail)
Oh my, why have I never thought to put sage in pasta sauce before? So good. This is adapted from Budget Byte's mushroom herb pasta.

Diet and accessibility notes )

What you need and what you do with it )
highlyeccentric: Sign: Be aware of invisibility! (Be aware of invisibility)
There once was a man from Tuscany
Who went home to his Dad seeking money
He was studying the law
but wanted books more
His pa didn't find this at all funny.
highlyeccentric: Minerva Mcgonagall sometimes thinks Hogwarts would be better with no kids (Potterpuffs - McGonagal thinks Hogwarts)
There once was a student presenting
The Green Knight's poetic beheading
From experience he knew
it's a hard thing to do
to cut off a head without hewing




There are poems like cats, a prof said,
that are pretty too look at, or read,
but more complex by far
when you take them apart -
but then cats, unlike poems, are dead.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
It's Wednesday in Australia. Again. And I have read more books, again.

Currently Reading: Glenarvon, still. Dinshaw's 'Getting Medieval'. Other bits and pieces for work.

Recently Finished:

Patience and SarahPatience and Sarah by Isabel Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Huh. Huh.

First up, I really ENJOYED reading this. It was comforting and engaging and low-demand reading and I expect I will read it again. I do have a great soft spot for rural / colonial narratives with a sense for class and gender wossnames. (Caveats, as usual: this book has next to no racial awareness.)

On the other hand, though, I was left disappointed by where the book STOPPED. It was very much a romance novel in that its narrative thrust was toward first, overcoming interpersonal conflict, and second, overcoming external barriers to Settle Down. I think I would have loved this book 5x more if it was about two women struggling to make something of a small farm, rather than two women trying to ACQUIRE a small farm. It could be a family drama (established relationship) type, or a Romance Novel type (flung together by Circumstance, heiress of small farm and peculiar female farmhand who doesn't want your pity take on the rural life and face Feelings!). I just. That's what I wanted, and did not quite get.


Blood and Circuses (Phryne Fisher, #6)Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I bought this a while ago, in a batch buy of Kerry Greenwood e-books, and somehow skipped it (I've read 5, 7, 8 and 9). Overall, a good read - the murder plot was pretty simplistic, but the cast of characters was interesting, the juggling of gender-deviance and intersex issues against historicity was reasonably managed, and I was a fan of the sweetness in which Phryne's two lovers joined together to back her up instead of fighting. The Themes of the Week were pretty hard-hitting, though - the point was to put Phryne in positions of financial, social and sexual vulnerability that she doesn't normally inhabit, and it certainly did that.


The Good BodyThe Good Body by Eve Ensler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I... I think I liked this *as a play*. I did not actually like the main 'character' or many of her opinions, but damn, as a play, it would be FANTASTIC to stage. So fantastic. I'd do it with italicised-Eve as a voiceover, have her walk out of the wings in the second-to-last dialogue scene where Priya takes her home. All the preceding dialogue scenes, including the one with the husband, would be done with the other character speaking to a space somewhere in the audience.


Roller Girl (Lake Lovelace, #3)Roller Girl by Vanessa North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Cute! I got the rec from KJ Charles' recent review - it's good to see Riptide coming up with more f/f material.


Plus a couple more Riptide romance e-books, to be reviewed later.

Up Next: Unsure. This week's reading was evidently reading for the tired brain, aside from the Ensler. Perhaps I will give the tired brain some Pratchett, or some of the e-book classics I found when tidying up my hard drive.




Music notes: bought another Mountain Goats album at the beginning of the month (Transcendental Youth), and it's good, but hasn't really grabbed me yet like Talahassee did. Still into Gillian Welch.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
(It's Wednesday in Australia)

Currently Reading: Back to Glenarvon, again. Dinshaw's 'Getting Medieval' and a collection called 'Founding Feminisms in Medieval Studies'. I started another Phyrne Fisher, too, 'Blood and Circuses', but haven't got far with it.

Recently Finished: I'm still exceeding my usual standard of 3 books a fortnight, it seems.

Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures. (work)

KitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was an absolutely lovely book. The Japanese original was published in the late 80s, I think, and the English translation in the early 90s. It's dated a little (perhaps a lot? I don't know enough about Japan, really, to tell) but it's delicately gorgeous.

The title novella features a young woman who, bereaved after the death of her grandmother, moves in temporarily with acquaintances, a young man named Yiuchi and his mother Eriko. The story follows their developing and changing relationship as the protagonist recovers from grief, staged out largely in the context of kitchens and food preparation. Eriko is a trans woman, and the story, and her contribution to the protagonist's developing identity, is one of strength - of knowing what she wanted and going after it.

The whole thing is just generally lovely.

One caveat: the translation is quite systematic in referring to Eriko's gender in a way that wouldn't sit right to modern anglophone ears. The text calls her mother, a woman, and so on, but also, where her past is relevant, 'she is a man'. I don't know enough about Japanese to know what that's reproducing, but I suspect it's something systematic in the original; and I also don't know enough about Japanese trans people in the late 80s to know if this would sound right or wrong to them.

The book also contained another, shorter, novella, called Moonlight Shadow, also about grief. It was interesting, and had a similar delicate touch and sense for interpersonal relationships, but it wasn't as striking about it as Kitchen



Bryony and RosesBryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was absolutely delightful. I don't know why I've put off reading T. Kingfisher's work for so long! The slightly off-beat humour one recognises from Ursula Vernon's blog is here in spades, and the thing for gardening, but it's not exactly a comic fairy tale adaptation. There are strong currents of the gothic here, and a delightful central relationship, and great family supporting cast. No talking teacups. A++



Mother, Sister, Daughter, Lover: StoriesMother, Sister, Daughter, Lover: Stories by Jan Clausen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was very *interesting*. It didn't feel all that dated, surprisingly - noone has mobile phones, but in other respects, this could be many womens-activist-artsy centred communities I've brushed up against in my time. The opening story, 'Depending', didn't strike me as much in itself, save that it was a glorious depiction of what the post-L-Word generation call 'the Lesbian Web of Death'.

I really liked 'Children's Liberation', perhaps simply because it wasn't what I had expected from a lesbian feminist writer: the daughter of a lesbian exercises the right to self-determination which her feminist mother insists she has, and ultimately moves in with her strict Catholic grandmother. The story didn't try to suggest this would be perfect for the girl in every way, but that it was what she needed *right then*, and it didn't shy away from her mother's failures as a parent.
Further thoughts, including on 80s feminist call-outs )



Up Next: I genuinely don't know. My brain is a bit tired at the moment.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
Currently Reading: Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen. GB, The Style of Gestures (nearly finished!). A few other things on hiatus.

Recently Finished:
Crimes of the HeartCrimes of the Heart by Beth Henley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


On the one hand: damn, this is a fantastically written play. It's what my lighting mentor J dislikes most in plays: emotion-driven plot about women. A++. It does interesting stuff with class and gender - the two men who come onsstage are not the most important men in the plot, really: the director of the GEDS production described those more important men as 'forces of nature' offstage that the female protags have to deal with.

However.

However.

One of those 'forces of nature' is a fifteen year old black boy having an affair with an older white woman, who gets next to no say in his fate (which is determined by a white dude), and who is treated as an adult - and a sexually exciting one - by the women who discuss him.

We did this play in partnership with the US Mission and some UN gender program, and there was a special Q&A on Thursday night. Whole room full of Americans (except on stage, actually - two Aussies in a six-person cast!), and NO ONE brought this up. No one pointed out the racist elephant in the wings.

Folks, its 2016 and african-american boys get shot in the street because they're deemed adult and threatening, and you don't have *any* qualms about this play doing the same thing AND ensuring he never comes on stage or speaks AND sexualising a CHILD? No one noticed the white lady protag committed STATUTORY RAPE and the boy was punished for it? Oooohkay then.



Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This remained VERY GOOD FOR ME in the tropes department. I mean. Angsty denialist non-platonic but not-sexual bedsharing. I am so there. Also, there was a plot. It was a good plot! It had MANY women in it! They were all interesting! None of them died to further the Hero(ine)'s emotional wossame! Chaol is back; Chaol is awesome.

I retain one pet peeve: WHERE does this society get its chocolate from? Possibly cocoa plants grow on the Southern Continent, but the existence of cocoa doesn't give you tasty chocolate treats to share in your female homosocial bonding time. You need cocoa, and industrialisation, and milk solids, and a bunch of other stuff.



Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


For some reason I thought this was the finale of a 5-book series, but NO.

I find this very upsetting. Very, very upsetting. Still. Props for Interesting Ladies and Tropey Magic Sex.

I tell you what though this book really shows off Maas' skills with paralipsis (where a narrator holds back information). It's not easy to do and do well in close 3p POV - characters naturally think about their stuff! She made good use of it in the first few books, esp vis-a-vis Celeana's identity: but in those cases, it was usually information Celeana was avoiding thinking about or had actively repressed (best way to pull off close 3p POV paralipsis); and the audience always ended up with more information than either Dorian or Chaol. This time, it was things Aelin was *actively plannning* that got elided, and the audience knew no more than the rest of them. The effect was... odd. It made it hard to get a grip on Aelin - but I think that was the point. We end this book feeling like Aelin lied to *us* as well as everyone else. Chaol's earlier concerns make a LOT more sense, and... I think the same paralipsis technique is being deployed in Dorian's POV. Either that or he's gone completely passive and traumatised, which would be understandable but less fun. I'm working on the theory he is or will start scheming some time soon. And he'd be justified in it.



Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oooh, now, this. I wasn't as emotionally INTO this as I was into the Sarah J Maas ones I finished right before it - but perhaps that was whiplash, coming off the emotional rollercoaster of Empire of Storms.

This is a very *good* book. Being less emotionally caught up in it, I had more time to admire the work, which is solid: great worldbuilding, skillful use of in-media-res (starting in the middle of things - well, at the beginning of the heist but in the middle of all the character's complex individual plots) and analepsis (flashback type thing) to fill in the gaps and deepen the characterisation. Also, good work on the ladies. And some really impressively disturbing elements - HOW did she think of Kaz' Traumatic Backstory? HOW?

Will definitely read Crooked Kingdom, but I need a break for a bit.



Meanjin Spring 2016 (Vol 75, Issue 3)Meanjin Spring 2016 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I desperately awaited this arriving and it did not disappoint! The lead essay by Lauren Rosewarne on 'The Rise of the Single Woman' was much better than its short-excerpted SMH version. Greg Jericho's essay on politics, polling and data wonks was very interesting. (Both unavailable on public web, so no link) Melissa Howard's piece on the court of family violence was beautifully constructed. The fiction I was less enamoured with, this issue.



Up Next: I need a break from YA fantasy, so the next up will probably be fiction in hard copy (the YA fantasy stuff I read in e-book). I have 'Patience and Sarah', and 'At Swim, Two Boys', and a handful of non-fiction also waiting to go.




Music notes: back to fixation on country music, apparently. I blame the sound program for Crimes of the Heart - I bought a Dolly Parton album and a June Carter Cash one because of key songs being used in that play.
highlyeccentric: A woman in an A-line dress, balancing a book on her head, in front of bookshelves (Make reading sexy)
I said last week might be the last of the weekly updates, but nope, here's another five reviews since then.

What are you currently reading? For funsies, the latest issue of Meanjin. For work, both Getting Medieval and The Style of Gestures.

What have you finished lately?

The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction by Frank Kermode

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Oh, to be a white dude in academia in the 1960s. Ideas are interesting, but wow. If I went around making sweeping claims like that I'd be kicked out on my arse quick smart.

And yet. It's super useful to me. Someone else has already made the sweeping claims!



Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to ConformWhy Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Huh. I enjoyed this, but it wasn't quite what I expected. Much of it was not 'flaming challenges' at all, but introspective commentary. There were some very interesting aspects - more essays by women than I expected, for instance. Gina de Vriews' 'Girls' was an outstanding example of those.

Some of the personal essays were just really striking - Harris Kornstein's 'I tell you what I want, what I really really want' stood out in that regard. Overall, the book expressed a sense that the gay/queer community has lost something - its embracing of sex, perhaps, or diversity, or perversion, or non-normative chosen family, or, or - in the decades since the AIDS crisis began.

I was also very interested by Ezra RedEagle Whitman's essay 'Straightening the Shawl', on being Native American and gay, and on not identifying as Two Spirit.

On the other hand, there were essays like Francisco Ibáñez Carrasco's 'Rehab for the Unrepentant', which really bothered me. It was a genuinely interesting essay on the author's casual sex relationships with straight (ish), macho men. But it also spoke without any qualms, as if this wasn't a *problem* at all nor something that affected his view of his regular partner (unlike, say, his qualms about the man's closeting and the man's fear of AIDs), of said partner's habit of 'bashing trannies' and beating his wife. Like... Okay. You're happy to be this guy's safety valve on toxic masculinity, fine. But you've gotta at least THINK, sometimes, about what you're condoning when you take his late-night calls about beating up women.



Epistemology of the ClosetEpistemology of the Closet by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really have no idea what to say about this. It was simultaneously immensely interesting, remarkably motivating, and completely baffling. Under no circumstances could I produce a précis of its argument, but I suspect I will be returning to it anyway.



Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am so into this. Our Heroine's slowly revealing trope-tastic identity is doing it for me.

I was also really impressed with the fate of the romance plot. I had resigned myself to Twue Wuv, and I was going to enjoy it, but this is better.



Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


So, growing up on a steady diet of Tamora Pierce and Anne McCaffrey, with occasional Ann Marston for seasoning gave me some very bullet proof trope-kinks.

And this series is SO GOOD FOR ME. So good.

Plus it's well-plotted and well-paced and the new characters introduced or fleshed out in this book are really interesting. I do wish it didn't keep being the women who die, though.

I am really, really into the vicious ambitious witches (say THAT three times fast) and the terrible personality flaw of empathy the heir is hiding.



What will you read next? For fiction funsies, the next Throne of Glass book. When I'm finished with Meanjin, I have 'Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics' to be getting on with.
highlyeccentric: Sir Gawain: as gay as christmas - especially at christmas (Gawain)
* He is, but he’s in disguise

* He was injured due to fighting his friends and relations while in disguise

* He was in such a hurry to get to where he was supposed to be that he lost his sword along the way, and is too ashamed to show up

* He got in a boat with a dead girl and they floated so far down the river they got lost

* He had a fight with Guinevere

* Bors had a proxy fight with Guinevere on Lancelot’s behalf

* Guinevere had a proxy fight with all Lancelot's relatives, and they're all banned from court

* Gawain, being a complete numbskull and apparently the only person in England unaware of Lancelot's undying passion for Guinevere, misconstrued the Astolat situation, and then told Guinevere about it, leading to Guinevere having a fight with Lancelot and/or all his relatives

* He went mad and forgot he’s Lancelot

* He killed all his horses in his haste to get to where he ought to be, and is now late

* He fell out a window while perving on Guinevere

* He’s having a sleepover with a hermit

* He was on his way home from the sleepover with the hermit and he got shot in the butt by a lady out hunting

* He fell into a pit

* He’s stuck in a tower and there’s a princess with an axe who won’t let him out until he gives her a kiss

* He disappeared suddenly, ‘as he was wont to do’

* He did any of the above things and people assumed he just disappeared suddenly, ‘as he was wont to do’
highlyeccentric: Demon's Covenant - Kitchen!fail - I saw you put rice in the toaster (Demon's Covenant - kitchen!fail)
I have been having Computer Trouble (TM), end result of which is I bought a Lenovo Yoga and the Mac Experiment period of my life will be over once I get the damn thing back, unrepaired, from the shop and copy my files off it.

Bleh.

Meanwhile, I have cooked a delicious food. Serious Eats' Takeout Kung Pao Chicken, only I used cashews instead of peanuts.

I don't think I've ever eaten Kung Pao, either authentic or westernised, but it still tastes like the essence of chinese takeaway, which is precisely what I desired from it. (If I wanted authentic I'd go and PAY for it. I genuinely LIKE the white-people-friendly staples of takeaway chinese, possibly because I am a White People.)

A++ would recommend.
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
This may be the last of the weekly posts - I expect I'll slow down a lot once semester hits next week. Sorry for lack of other posts - conference happened, then my computer had to go into the shop (again) for water damage, and generally, stuff happened.

What are you reading now:
The Epistemology of the Closet, which continues interesting.
Why are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots, which is *mostly* interesting but some of the contributions are quite meh.
Crown of Midnight, Sarah J Maas, which is slower and more weighty reading than the first in the series.
Best Australian Poetry 2015, which has poems in it, funny that.
Glenarvon, but I haven't picked it up in a while.

For work:
The Sense of an Ending, (Kermode) which is... odd. Very sixties, but relevant to my interests.

On the intertubes, I've also been reading bits and pieces from Overland, the newly opened Femme Feminism, and, within the constraints of one-free-article-a-week, The Saturday Paper. Daily Life has been swallowed up by the SMH Life and Style, so I needed new sources of actually intelligent writing.

Recently Finished:

The Price of SaltThe Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was really very *literary*, which I didn't expect. I know the only reason it was published as pulp was teh lezbianz contenz, but still. Very literary. Different from the film, but in ways that largely made sense as strategic choices on the part of the filmmaker. I think I found Therese's character much more likable here, though - I see why the film changed her career from 'actual stage designer' to 'wannabe photographer', but I think it lost something in reducing those aspects of her character. For a start, it is much clearer in the novel that Therese is capable of existing as a functional adult without Carol.

On the other hand, the novel has a whole lot of Freudian WOW. The hot milk scene was a, a thing. Definitely a thing.

Interestingly, in the light of complaints that the film contained no men who were not shit, the novel does! Men who are not shit exist. They are useful at times.



Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm really not sure about shelving this with 'childrens-and-ya-fantasy'. It's sold as YA, apparently, but in the way that the YA genre has aged up a LOT recently. And taken in the refugee 'romance fantasy' genre that got elbowed out of standard fantasy by GOT look-alikes.

In short: this is a wild ride, and so many of my favourite fantasy tropes all in one place. A+, good work.



The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass, #0.1)The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Eh, okay. Serves its function as a prequel. If you actually read this first it would dispel some of the character arc in the first novel, but on the other hand, there are whole lines of tension that only make sense if you have the information given as backstory in the novel. This is relevant to my professional interests.



What will you read next?
My boss' book on gestures is a relatively urgent read. For funsies... I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my copy of Meanjin. Bring it to meeee!
highlyeccentric: A photo of myself, around 3, "reading" a Miffy book (Read Miffy!)
What are you currently reading? Glenarvon, but I'm letting it fallow at the moment; the Epistemology of the Closet; Best Australian Poems 2015

Recently Finished: Jenkins et al, Spreadable Media, which was... uh. Odd. Interesting, but it seemed to be aimed at a tech or marketing audience.

Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt, but I want to sit on that for a bit before writing it up.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hmm. The first time I started to read this, I put it down after about a chapter because... look, I'm really not sure about the use of WWII and the Holocaust here, and the analogies the story invites between its magical-realism and actualfax experience. On the other hand, it *is* clear the protag's grandfather is both Jewish *and* Magic, so... I really don't know. And beyond the story itself, as far as I can determine, Riggs is not himself Jewish, so there's something off in the commercial dynamic - big movie deal, making bank off other people's trauma.

The reservations remain the second time but I found the book easier to read. The found-photographs device is twee, but it works, and I have interesting Thoughts about embodiment and body schema, which is my boss' fault. Narrative pace is pretty good, the plot structure interesting and non-formulaic, and the thing with the grandfather's girlfriend and the protag is only about 50% as creepy as it could be.

I will probably see the film, but I'm not sure I'll pursue the rest of the series in either format.



Clancy of the UndertowClancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this quickly, and enjoyed it a lot, largely because of the sheer Australian-ness of it. I haven't heard anyone say 'my x is caning' to mean 'my x really hurts' for YEARS. Wow. The friendship plot between Clancy and Nancy was pretty well done; indeed the fine balances between all Clancy's nearest and dearest are well handled.

Thing is, I feel like it is Not Cool if you are a white dude to write your protag of indigenous descent and have her describe skin tone as 'yellow, like I'm sick' and so on. I mean. There have to be ways to indicate she feels uncomfortable with her appearance without just throwing that out there. And, like, one mention of skin tone and one of having some bookmarks related to Bunjalung culture does not a Representation make. If you're going to go there, as a white dude, and I'm not sure you should, you have to make it *count*. Especially if this is deep 3p POV and pretty much all your protag's internal angst. And the entire point of the novel is Coming of Age And Identity.

On the other hand, Currie is not a lesbian and it seems to me he did a pretty good job with characterising and contextualising a lesbian protag. The story is not about Realising She Is Gay, it's about regular family drama in which coming out is a small part, and about having terrible taste in girls. I liked the way that the narrative POV kept insisting the gay thing wasn't that important while clearly it was, it seemed a realistically convincing portrayal of how you deal with things like that.



A Handful of DustA Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It turns out I have read this before! Every episode I read I found myself remembering the next bit just before it happened.

It was witty, I guess. Most of the bits I liked about it, though, could've been done better by Oscar Wilde. The ending, which had originally been a stand-alone short story, made no freakin' sense coming after the majority of the book. (Whereas possibly if the ending had been FIRST, it might have worked. Or not. Who knows.)

I will now proceed to forget I ever read this book, but this time I will have made a goodreads review of it to remind me. Don't bother reading it again, self. It's not terrible but it's not amazing.



Up Next: Dunno. I have long train journeys this week, so something light. More Miss Fisher, possibly.

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