17 September 2014

16 September 2014

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand

I don’t know where to start talking about Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. A plot summary would both give too much away and explain absolutely nothing. So let me just talk about my FEELS.

The Internet tells me that Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is quite possibly the worst place to start reading Delaney, but I thought the book was fantastically fun, mind-bending, and eye-opening. It makes me crave science fiction as a genre in a way I didn’t think I could anymore. It makes me long for a universe that does not/will never exist. Even now, days after finishing the novel, I feel disoriented and half-drunk on prose.

And yet I freely admit that Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is a problematic novel. The things I love about it -- its lack of explication, its (in places) almost stream of consciousness narrative style, its nonstandard use of pronouns to describe gender and sex -- can make the novel deeply confusing and hard-going. I’m sure there were whole sections in which my reading left me holding the completely wrong end of the stick.

And I don’t care! There is such enjoyment in the manipulation of language (such a reimagining of communication between people!) that reading the novel was simply too much fun for me to care about whether I “got the point.” For example, she and he are used in ways that make it very difficult to ever “correctly” identify the gender, sex, sexual identity, or “humanness” of most characters ... and those identifiers aren’t important, anyway. Basically, it’s Fun With Words for readers who like that sort of thing and I do, very much.

Being unable to sex or gender or orientate by a known system neatly avoids, in my mind, the very real science fiction problem where aliens (and/or far future humans) are so humanish looking and humanish behaving that we end up bringing all our baggage of expectation and assumption to the story. Frankly, I didn’t know/understand what Delaney’s characters were doing half the time and I quickly gave up trying to figure things out and just decided to enjoy the story Delaney was spinning.

And what a story! Even when I found myself thinking “What were you smoking when you wrote that passage, Delaney?” or “Really? Dragon-people with how many tongues?” I couldn’t put the book down. It took me five days to read it, because I frequently had to stop and let its ideas settle in my brain, but it was worth every minute.

Five out of five Rat Korgas.

Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney (Bantam Books, 1984)

14 September 2014

Since You've Been Gone

Just want to come straight out and say Since You’ve Been Gone was a Did Not Finish. Maybe my expectations were too high or it was the wrong genre/day when I picked it up, but I couldn’t make myself care about Holly or her bakery or dead husband or her new love interest.

I picked up Since You’ve Been Gone expecting a sweet story about a woman, still recovering from the loss of her husband, learning to love again. And I (kind of) got that, I guess? Certainly, the novel starts off pretty heavy with loss and longing, but then it darts off into the realms of the most tropish romance novels and I just couldn’t make myself care about any of it.

Also, and I know this will sound completely ridiculous, but Since You’ve Been Gone never felt particularly British. Yes, the Sexy Scottish Man’s name was the super Scottishy-sounding Ciaran Argyll. Yes, Holly drove an old Morris. Yes, the novel won ITV's Lorraine’s Racy Reads competition, judged by Jackie Collins and a team from Mills and Boon. It’s clearly a UK product. It just didn’t feel that way to me. Holly could just as easily have owned a struggling bakeshop Connecticut with Ciaran as the playboy son of a wealthy magnate who summered in the area. Or whatever.

It’s just ... I think I was looking for something like Jill Mansell’s sweetly satisfying To the Moon and Back and Since You’ve Been Gone might actually be fine, but it can’t measure up to Mansell’s book. (Also, still not "British" enough).

Two out of five whiskey and ginger cupcakes for the third I did read.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight (HQN, 2013)

12 September 2014

Even More Cute: Furry Logic

Utterly charming volume of beautiful watercolor illustrations paired with some real eye-roll worthy adages. The expressions on the animal’s faces and their body language redeem them adages somewhat and, indeed, I think I’ll go so far as to say that the book would be completely forgettable without the illustrations.

Seabrook, in her “Artist’s notes” at the back of the volume, writes that she used a tiny single-hair sable brush to paint each watercolor, building up layers of color and detail as she went. It’s astonishing to think of the amount of work that must have go into rendering each animal! It makes me wish the illustrations were bigger or that Furry Logic came with a magnifying glass so that I could more closely examine them.

I read this at lunch on a Monday and I freely admit that, not only did I laugh out loud at some of the animals, my afternoon seemed much better than it should have. Note to self: start adding a little cute to Monday lunches.

4 out of five blue-footed boobies.

Furry Logic by Jane Seabrook: A Guide to Life’s Little Challenges (Ten Speed Press, 2004)