30 May 2004

Reads & Listens, May 2004


The Stone Fey by Robin McKinley (illus. by John Clapp)
Stand-alone novella set in Damar long after Aerin (The Hero and the Crown). Beautifully illustrated and well told story full of passion and longing. Romantics may be disappointed with the ending, but I loved it.

Truer Than True Romance: Classic Love Comics Retold by Jeanne Martinet
Slyly silly re-write of those horrible romance comics. I think my favorite was "My Heart Said Yes, But My Therapist Said No," but the advise column ran a close second.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
While not quite as excellent as all the hype suggests, it's still a fascinating look at a very impressive woman. Similes and metaphors occasionally get a bit overwrought and the overall style is uneven -- sometimes very descriptive and moving, but frequently flat and dry as textbook. Still worth borrowing from the library.

Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip
What's not to like? Marauding time-traveling kings, librarians, mages, illusion, love ... yummy.

Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French (illus. by Bruce Whatley)
Wonderfully funny tongue-in-cheek look at a week in the life of a wombat. Illustrations, while very cuddly, are realistic -- the wombat is not anthropomorphized into something foolish.

Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali
While I am getting a little tired of the recurring gay Indian bridegroom theme, this novel is still well worth reading.

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer (read by Scott Brick)
Mormon Fundamentalists, the history of the LDS church, and the Lafferty brothers. Scary. Repelling. And yet, strangely compelling.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
I'm sure it's all very clever and a true Austenphile would have great fun with it, but I found it rather disappointing. Snobbish and plotless, but hasn't Austen been accused of the same?

Everything I Know About Pirates written & illus. by Tom Lichtenheld
Arrr, me hearties, it's all about pirates, you know. But is it true? You'd have to go find a pirate and ask, I guess. This book is extremely detailed, witty, and filled with hidden jokes. Great fun.

How Smudge Came by Nan Gregory (illus. by Ron Lightburn)
Cindy finds a puppy (Smudge) and smuggles him into her group home only to be found out and told she can't keep him. Deeply touching without being mawkish. Illustrations are really quite lovely. In 1996, this picture book won the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Book Prize and Mr. Christie's Book Award.

Dr. Ernest Drake's Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons by Dugald Steer & illus. by Helen Ward & Wayne Anderson
This is one of the niftiest books I have ever lusted to own. The cover art, the foldout map, cutouts, dragon scale samples, note cards and whatnot are all very clever and amusing. It's the sort of book you expect they read at Hogwarts. A brilliant birthday present for an eleven year old (or a favorite librarian -- all my co-workers are in love with it, too).

Molly's Family by Nancy Garden (illus. by Sharon Wooding)
One of Molly's classmates tells her she can't have two mommies and Molly is very bewildered by that. The treatment of the subject is quite sensible and the illustrations are very soft and friendly looking. The library I borrowed this book from shelves it separately in the "Parents Collection" rather than intermingled with the other picture books. I can see why, but it still annoys me, because it would do more good out in the general collection (but what do I know?).

The Ordinary by Jim Grimsley
Set in the same universe as Kirith Kirin, but you don't have to have read one to enjoy the other. Interesting look at the fine line between magic and technology with a fairly unique treatment of language and mathematics. Contains same sex relationships and religious attitudes which might turn off some readers, but that's their loss. Worth buying? Oh, yes.

Something Rich and Strange (from Brian Froud's Faerielands series) by Patricia McKillip
Pretty good ... a lot of the story's rhythm and description reminded me of The Changeling Sea. Wasn't keen on Froud's illustrations as many didn't seem to fit (more forest than sea).

22 May 2004

Champagne & Churning Juices

Excerpts from love letters addressed to "Lovely One," "Darling Judy," and "Lovely, Delightful, Charming, Beautiful, Sexy, Fascinating, Entrancing, and Beloved One" all postmarked 1975 and found in a cookbook donated to the library:

[Note that the owner of the cookbook was not the person the letters were addressed to.]
"The weather today has been vile, the stock market has re-drooped, and the mildew is settling ever more heavily on this ghastly suburb -- yet withal, I'm in a better mood than usual ... because of you. Falling in love with you is the loveliest thing that ever happened to me (loveliest, that is), and tonight I wanted to tell you so. I wanted to tell you so last night, though I wouldn't have, since I was speaking in public, but I trust that you got the message, which is the same whenever I call: to wit, that I love you, and that I'm calling solely to hear the sound of your voice, and that I can hardly wait to see you again. Anyway, I was disappointed when you didn't answer the phone. There is something about your voice that makes my juices churn, and I miss it when I don't hear it. 
Of course, there are also many other things about you that make my juices churn. I won't enumerate them, there being far too little space remaining on this sheet, nor do I wish to scandalize the postman, the school secretary, the principal, the members of the board of education, your colleagues on the teaching staff, your pupils, or any others whose prying eyes might see this letter in violation of the postal laws and under penalty of TWENTY (20) YEARS IMPRISONMENT. Suffice it to say that the list of juice-churning attributes is lengthy. Very lengthy. Lengthy enough, in fact, to include every lovely hair on your head, every beautiful curve, every gentle look in your eyes, every soft sound that comes from your lips, every one of your fragrances, and every one of your movements. Indeed, I can think of nothing in you that fails to provoke an erotic response in me." 
-- from a letter dated Monday 1/13/1975 
"I've had erotic thoughts of you almost hourly since our last private meeting. One such occurs to me now, perhaps suggested by yesterday's activities: to wit, that I'd love to drink champagne from your navel. And lick it from your breasts. And, as I started to write before the phone rang, from that delightful hollow in the small of your back (giving you, between sips, a leisurely rub with my tongue). 
In the afterglow of your most welcome call, other thoughts now occur to me. Chief among them is that my every contact with you delights and refreshes me: a fact that strikes me anew each time we talk. The sound of your voice, and the things you say, please me like no music I ever heard. Your touch is invariably delicious, and your smiles always thrilling. The moments I've spent with you are the most precious of my life. 
When we were first alone together, and spoke of love, it was, for me, like being a teenager again and discovering love for the first time. That feeling has never faded -- and in fact, is heightened each time I see or hear you. I marvel at it, and at myself (for I'm not a sentimental type), and particularly do I marvel at the joy it gives me." 
-- from a letter dated Monday 12/2/1975
And, because it couldn't be all champagne and churning juices:
"I'm sorry our plans for the weekend didn't develop -- but perhaps it was just as well, though that remains to be seen. When I got home on Friday, my wife announced that she was going to divorce me. It wasn't her first such announcement over the years, but her resolve was firmer by far than I'd ever seen it ... so much so, in fact, that she had already broken the news to my parents and hers and to a few friends as well. 
She changed her mind over the weekend (which she mightn't have done if I hadn't been there), and indeed seemed reasonably well pleased with me when we parted Tuesday morning. But I was and am somewhat puzzled as to why it all came about. On the previous weekend, as I told you, we had argued about many matters, one of them being you and my "trying to make you," as she put it -- and she declared that she would no longer assist me in that effort, would no longer play hostess or otherwise "pimp" for me. Well, I had told her that since you and your husband are among our small circle of very close friends, she would damn well have to accept that we continue to see you frequently. 
That remark apparently kept her at a boil all week. I assumed as we began talking Friday that the content of the remark was the objectionable thing. Maybe my secret knowledge led me to that assumption, or my conscience, or my insensitivity. But before the weekend was half over, we were talking not about you and my desire to "make" you -- but rather, about my dictatorial ways and my manner of delivering the by-then-famous remark. Well, I conceded that point -- and the upshot was, on Monday evening she decided it would be fun to see you and your husband ... and she called to invite you to dinner. Anyway, the crisis seems to be over, and I'll try to avert another. 
-- from a letter dated Monday 9/4/1975