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No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal. A literary fiction novel alternating between the viewpoints of Harit, a shy Indian immigrant who is isolated from everyone around him, making do by working in a department store and going home to his mother, who is in such a pit of grief that she hasn't spoken a word in years; Ranjana, a much more successful Indian immigrant, both financially and socially, who nonetheless feels a bit unfulfilled and so has begun to secretly write vampire romances; and Prashant, Ranjana's son who is enjoying his first semester at Yale by chasing after various girls. Minor characters occasionally step in to take over the narration for a chapter or two, such as Teddy, Harit's flamboyantly gay middle-aged co-worker, or Harit's mother, but the main focus is on the three above.

In many ways, this is a very typical novel for its genre: lonely people bumbling through their lives, trying to understand who they are and how to interact with the culture around them. It's improved by its touches of levity and brightness, including an almost unrealistically happy ending, but it's hard not to be pleased to see these characters succeed. I absolutely adore Ranjana's vampire obsession, which feels so bizarre surrounded by the very serious-minded literary quality of the rest of the book. Though I do have to protest that Satyal does not seem to have done his research. He says, Anne Rice had as many orgasms in her books as commas, but come on, Anne Rice almost never writes explicit sex scenes. Clearly it should be Laurell K. Hamilton had as many orgasms in her books as commas, and I know he's heard of Hamilton since he name-dropped her in an earlier scene. We also get an excerpt of Ranjana's novel-in-progress at one point, and it's much more Dracula or even Nosferatu than anything from the modern paranormal romance genre. But I forgive these mistakes because awkward moms writing vampire romance is beautiful and should be in more novels about the Immigrant Experience.

Overall it's not a particularly outstanding or memorable example of what it's doing, but it's just odd enough to be worth reading, and your time will be pleasantly spent.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Hoodoo Harry by Joe Lansdale. A novella in the long-running Hap & Leonard series, mystery/thriller books about a pair of mismatched best friends (one a white straight ex-hippie, one a black gay conservative) in rural East Texas. In this adventure, Hap and Leonard are driving home from a fishing trip when their truck is rammed by a bookmobile driven by a terrified 12-year-old boy. Unfortunately the kid does not survive the crash, and an investigation turns up signs of torture on his body as well as the fact that he'd been missing for a week. Even stranger, the bookmobile itself had disappeared more than 15 years ago, along with the woman who drove it. From that point the adventure takes off, with an investigation, more bodies, fistfights, secret hidden rooms, and an all-out gun battle.

This is a quick read (only 76 pages) and could easily be enjoyed without knowledge of the rest of the series, though it's dark enough (as you could probably guess, when a young child dies on page one) that I'm not sure many would want to. It's funny, it's exciting, it's tense, it's basically everything Joe Lansdale always does well, just in a smaller package than usual.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History by Eric Foner. A collection of essays previously published in The Nation about the connection between American history and contemporary issues. Foner is a well-regarded historian; though I know him best for Gateway to Freedom, his book on the Underground Railroad, he's studied and written on multiple periods and topics.

The oldest in this collection is from 1977, written for the 50th anniversary of the case and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Foner describes the ways the men have been used as a symbol and example for multiple agendas, and how most such portrayals ignore the reality of them as individuals. It's still an interesting and useful article today. The most recent is from January of this year, 2017, and recounts Foner's experiences teaching a college course called “The Radical Tradition in America". He's taught it since the 70s, and students have understandably changed over time, from those who were trying to maintain hope during the Reagan 80s, to those energized by Obama's 2008 victory, to the last batch, influenced by Bernie Sanders's campaign. Some of the essays do feel a bit dated, such as the one from 2001 on the Patriot Act. It's still an awful law, don't get me wrong! It's just that nothing Foner says here is likely to be news to the reader.

My favorite essay was the one on Lincoln's changing views on slavery and racial equality ("Our Lincoln", 2009). Foner portrays him as ultimately a centrist, slow to change his opinion but equally capable of correcting past mistakes. It's a nice change from the black-and-white view of history (and modern people) that can sometimes take over our thinking.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


The Golden House by Salman Rushdie. Ah, this book is fantastic! :D I mean, it's Rushdie, who's surprised, but I do think this is by far the book of his I've loved the most.

The Golden family – Nero, the patriarch, and his three adult sons, Petronius (aka Petya), Lucius Apuleius (aka Apu), and Dionysus (aka D) – are newcomers to The Gardens, a small self-contained neighborhood in New York City, like a child's dreamy ideal of pre-hipster Greenwich Village. Their names, by the way, are all fake; the family is fleeing undisclosed trauma in an unnamed country (it's obviously India, but you have to get fairly deep into the book for that to be made explicit). Each adjusts, or doesn't, to their new life in America with varying degrees of success. Petya attempts to move past his severe autism and alcoholism, Apu makes a name as a celebrity artist, and D struggles to figure out his (or her) gender identity. Nero joins the construction industry, blasts his name across buildings, and acquires a Slavic trophy wife, but it's not quite fair to call him a Trump analogue; for one thing, Nero's far too smart and self-aware, not to mention capable of regret. In fact Trump himself is occasionally mentioned in the background, though he's always referred to as 'The Joker':
To step outside that enchanted—and now tragic—cocoon was to discover that America had left reality behind and entered the comic-book universe; D.C., Suchitra said, was under attack by DC. It was the year of the Joker in Gotham and beyond. The Caped Crusader was nowhere to be seen—it was not an age of heroes—but his archrival in the purple frock coat and striped pantaloons was ubiquitous, clearly delighted to have the stage to himself and hogging the limelight with evident delight. He had seen off the Suicide Squad, his feeble competition, but he permitted a few of his inferiors to think of themselves as future members of a Joker administration. The Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face and Poison Ivy lined up behind the Joker in packed arenas, swaying like doo-wop backing singers while their leader spoke of the unrivaled beauty of white skin and red lips to adoring audiences wearing green fright wigs and chanting in unison, Ha! Ha! Ha!

All of this is narrated by René, a young man also living in the safety of The Gardens, a filmmaker with dreams of making a documentary about the Goldens, or perhaps just a movie starring a fictionalized version of them. René openly admits that he will combine characters or change backstories to fit his idea of how the story should go, which means it's always open to interpretation how much of what he's telling us is the truth.

It's a book that is bursting at the seams with stuff of all sorts: Greek myth, Roman history, Russian folklore, American politics, philosophy and melodrama, an enormous number of characters each of whom gets their own backstory, motivation, and secret thoughts, subplots and sub-subplots, dramatic revelations from the past that reappear unexpectedly, murders and fires, equal allusions Kipling and to mafia movies and the I ching, and even a secret baby. The writing is gorgeous, of course, and there's plenty to make you think, but what I was most surprised about was simply how compelling it was. I never wanted to put this book down, because I was so thrillingly engaged to find out what happened next. Just a really, really amazing book. I already want to reread it.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Okay, I'm all caught up with my Netgalley reviewing at least. Now I just need to write about the nine other books I've finished...

Letter from a very contented lady

Aug. 22nd, 2017 10:45 am
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[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

Dear Mr Derringe

Your direction has been conveyed to me by way of Lady Bexbury, whose offices in the matter had been requested by Mrs Lowndes, sister of Miss Netherne – though I doubt not she is now Mrs Carter? – that so very kindly conveyed news of you.

I am entirely glad to learn that you and Mr Perry did not die of a fever in the South Seas, nor were eaten by cannibals, as some have rumoured, though I mind that you told me that the stories of man-eating were an entire figment, or at least exceeding exaggeration. I hope that you are entire recovered from the fever that brought you under Mr Carter’s care, and that your plans for a school prosper.

Dear Mr Derringe, pray do not distress yourself concerning our marriage that never came to pass: I confide that I too am by no means suited for the matrimonial state. But I assure you, I am now in quite the happiest way of life. Your very fine remarks about David and Jonathan brought to my mind that other remarkable tale of devotion in the Old Testament, that of Ruth and Naomi.

You will recall that my cousin Hester is Countess of Nuttenford – now Dowager Countess of Nuttenford, the late Earl having been fatally savaged by a bear whilst on a botanical expedition in Virginia. I became companion-chaperone to her middle daughter, Lady Emily Merrett, a very fine young woman with no inclination to marriage, while she was keeping house for her brothers, the Countess having been an invalid these many years and gone to reside with her eldest daughter, that had but lately married the Marquess of Offgrange.

The present Earl is now married to a very fine young woman, and has given over to our use one of his smaller estates, Attervale, an exceeding pretty little place if somewhat quaintly old-fashioned. There is a dovecote of considerable antiquity and I have taken to the keeping of these birds. Meanwhile, dear Em Lady Emily takes to the keeping of hawks, for there is a mews that we suppose originally intended to that purpose - as she also practices archery we might almost be took for some household of the Middle Ages.

There is a very fine orchard and we brew our own cider: dear Lady Emily’s stepfather, Sir Charles Fairleigh, was most helpful in instructing us in the matter, his own apples and their brewing being highly renowned.

Are you now acquainted with the Thornes and the Carters I confide that you are in a very good antipodean set. The Thornes’ fine humane endeavours for the unhappy convicts are very widely admired in our circles and Lady Bexbury, as I daresay they will have told you, is their benevolent patroness raising interest for them. Their scientific observations are ever attended with the greatest eagerness by savants. I like to think that you will have the opportunity of many fine games of chess with them: I ever regretted that I was by no means up to your mark in the matter.

Is there any service I may do you, I hope that you will always consider me your friend. Please convey my kindest regards to Mr Perry.

In great regard and esteem

Lalage Fenster

[syndicated profile] dictionary_wotd_feed
Comstockery: overzealous moral censorship of the fine arts and literature, often mistaking outspokenly honest works for salacious ones.

(no subject)

Aug. 21st, 2017 09:57 pm
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[personal profile] skygiants
A couple months ago I was talking with my roommate about the new Anne of Green Gables TV series (I have not seen it, she had opinions about it) which led to us reminiscing about Other L.M. Montgomery Books We Had Known, which led to me last weekend rereading The Story Girl and The Golden Road.

I was actually much more attached to these books than I ever was to Anne -- they're about an extended group of cousins who have very wholesome adventures together. The cousins include:

Beverly, Our Narrator, most notable for his mildly purple narration and deeply sentimental soul
Felix, his little brother, who is Fat and Sensitive About It
Felicity, who is Very Beautiful and Very Prosaic and also Extremely Bossy, like Lucy from Peanuts if she also looked like Elizabeth Taylor
Cecily, who is Very Good and Very Serious and probably also Doomed to Die Young Like Good Children Do
Dan, Felicity and Cecily's brother, who is an Annoying Brother
Sara Ray, who lives down the road and cries all the time
Peter, who is But a Hired Boy but Clever and Talented and also In Love With Felicity
and, of course, Sara Stanley the Story Girl, who is not pretty but interesting, and has a spellbindingly beautiful voice, and is prone to stopping in the middle of any given conversation to announce that she knows a story that has some vague relation to the topic at hand and will then proceed to relate that story come hell or high water, which: oh god, of course I imprinted on these books as a kid, because I of course do the exact same thing, except without any vestige of a spellbindingly beautiful voice, and also instead of 'I know a tragic story about our uncle's great-aunt's wedding' my version is usually 'I read a book once in which somebody banged a griffin.' But, much like the Story Girl, once I get started on an anecdote of this kind there is very little chance of stopping me. I apologize to anybody who has suffered from this.

ANYWAY. Fortunately, the other kids (with the occasional exception of Felicity) never get fed up with the Story Girl and are always glad to hear an entertaining anecdote about the minister's cousin's grandmother or whatever the topic of discussion is that day.

The kids also get into normal turn-of-the-century-Canadian kid stuff, like pretending to be ministers, or freaking out because the local old-lady-who-might-be-a-witch sat in their pew at church, or panicking that it might be the Day of Judgment. Normal turn-of-the-century-Canadian kid stuff centers very prominently on appropriate church behavior, as it turns out. L.M. Montgomery's world is composed of Methodists and Lutherans and that's about it. I don't remember this being weird for me as an emphatically-not-Christian youth but it is slightly retroactively weird for me now.

Other notable things that happen in The Story Girl and The Golden Road:
- Dan eats poison berries because Felicity tells him he would be an idiot to eat the poison berries, nearly dies, then goes back and eats more poison berries because Felicity made the mistake of saying she told him so
- Cecily the Very Sweet and Very Good is mean to exactly one person in both books, a boy in her class who conceives a terrible crush on her and will not leave her alone despite multiple stated requests until she publicly humiliates him in class, which she ruthlessly does; a good lesson
- The Story Girl gives a great and instantly recognizable description of synesthesia without ever actually using the word
- The Story Girl befriends a desperately shy neighbor who is known as the Awkward Man, "because he is so awkward," our narrator Bev helpfully explains
- the Awkward Man is later revealed to have a secret room in his house containing women's clothing, which, the Story Girl explains, is because he's spent years buying things for an imaginary girlfriend - and, I mean, far be it from me to question the Story Girl! but some grad student could probably get a real good paper on gender and sexuality in turn-of-the-century children's lit out of this is all I'm saying
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I am a dancer in the New York City Ballet. I wrote the pages that follow during one ballet season. I began on November 21, 1980, and finished on February 15, 1981. I was lonely; I was sad. I had decided to be alone, but I had never decided to be lonely. I started writing on a yellow pad. I wrote, and I smoked. Every page was covered with a film of smoke.

If you like that, you will like this book. It's one of those slim but pithy volumes that precisely captures a time, a place, and a state of mind.

I've always had a fascination with ballet, ever since my second-grade teacher offered a trip to see the Nutcracker Suite (it was at least ten years before I realized that the second word was not "sweet") to her top three students. I had no idea what that was, other than that it was clearly desirable, so I went all-out to make sure that I'd get the prize. I was sufficiently enchanted with The Nutcracker and the general air of specialness surrounding the entire experience that I begged my parents for ballet lessons, at which I lasted something like three sessions. I don't recall the exact problem, but based on my age I'm guessing that there was too much standing around.

After that I confined myself to reading ballet books, which was more fun that actually doing it. Had I tried when I was older, I might have stuck with it for longer. Based on Bentley book and everything else I've read about ballet dancing, it has an austere, stoic, boot camp, push your limits atmosphere that would have really appealed to me if I'd been three to five years older. And then I would have gotten my heart broken, because I am not built to be a ballerina.

Winter Season beautifully depicts the illusion shown to the audience and the reality experienced by the dancers, and how the dancers live the illusion as well. It's got all the fascinating details of any good backstage memoir, without bitterness or cynicism. Even as it ground down her body, Bentley never stopped loving ballet; she seems to feel that she was lucky to have the chance to live the dream, just for the opportunity to spend a few minutes every day being the perfect expression of her body and the choreographer's art.

Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, with a new preface

And I will place the next bit under a cut in case you just want to read about Winter Season. As opposed to ass. Read more... )

Boston counterprotest

Aug. 20th, 2017 11:51 pm
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[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I went to the Boston counterprotest against the so-called 'free speech' (actually Confederates and neo-Nazis) rally on Saturday for a couple of hours. The energy was good, and there were a lot of people-- the radio said maybe fifty thousand counterprotestors and fifty or so Nazis, so we may literally have outnumbered them one thousand to one. The common was about as full as it was during the Womens' March, because people weren't as spread out marching; there were areas that were elbow-to-elbow and then areas where nothing much was going on and you could walk around.

There were of course many, many signs. I took one Ruth made with a graphic we got off Twitter, one of those red barred circles that mean NO over a glyph that combines a swastika and the number 45 so you can read it both ways. The person next to me on the T on the way over was also carrying a sign, so we started talking, and it turned out, completely coincidentally, that she is presently enrolled at the small liberal arts college my wife and I both went to, which is several states away. She had come up for the occasion. It was nice to have somebody there to have my back, since none of my family could make it.

We had been worried on the train about how things would go, but there were thorough barricades and we basically couldn't even see the actual Nazi types, let alone physically interact with them. Every so often one of them would break out a Confederate flag or something like that, at which point the police would immediately confiscate it. One of them got perp-walked away while I was there, but I didn't see what for. The police presence was huge and, while I was there, generally polite to us counterprotestors, although I understand they got more annoyed later. I have to say, the sirens that bike cops use are among the silliest things I have heard in quite a while, like putting a real police siren through a filter marked 'Yakkity Sax'.

There was one dude wandering around shouting about how he wanted to [insert violence and sexual profanity] Trump and Trump's children, but everybody he came near was shouting back at him to just shut up and go home. I couldn't tell his ethnicity beyond 'not white', but he was also wearing a hat with the Washington Racists' logo-- I mean their real logo-- and the crowd was not having with that either. So it was uncomfortable when he wandered by, but the crowd very clearly was not on his side and was not going to let him harass any individual people.

The most intense things got is that somebody set fire to a swastika flag, I believe with a blowtorch. It burned very hot and fast, to intense cheers, and produced a lot of smoke, but I think it had gone out entirely by the time the cops arrived-- it had clearly been timed for when the bike patrol was circling around the other end of the Common. At any rate, I don't believe anyone was arrested in connection with that.

I am proud of my city about this one. A lot of people in the crowd were worried about violence, I was worried about violence, my train-met friend was worried, and that worry was explicitly why we had to be there. Because no. We refuse to give up when things get scary.

It was a good counterprotest.

It was a camel!

Aug. 20th, 2017 01:14 pm
rachelmanija: (It was a monkey!)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
This clip from CNN is well worth listening to.

It encapsulates both the jaw-dropping awfulness and bizarreness of the Orange Supremacist era, and the extent to which the mainstream media has gotten so appalled that they're dropping their usual false equivalency. I mean the old "both sides have a point," which works when both sides DO have a point, but does not when you're talking about Nazis vs. anti-Nazis or Cheetolini vs. human beings with empathy. Also, it made me laugh.

Yesterday post-rally [personal profile] hederahelix and I were discussing this.

"It's just so surreal," she said. "Hey... Is that a camel?"

I looked over. The U-haul next to us had a giant camel painted on the side.

Below the camel, as if in explanation of why a U-haul would be decorated with a giant camel, were a few lines of Wikipedia-esque notes on camels, something like "A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as "humps" on its back."

Cats Against Nazis

Aug. 19th, 2017 01:58 pm
rachelmanija: (Heroes: support WGA)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
The rally was fine, though quite small. I imagine there would have been a much bigger turnout if the Nazis hadn't cancelled. One of my neighbors was there!

I went with [personal profile] hederahelix. We are now heading for Clementine.

Here I am with my sign and feline fellows in resistance.



Dear FemslashEx Writer or Artist...

Aug. 16th, 2017 10:04 pm
rachelmanija: (Buffy: I kind of love you)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
ETA: I changed my sign-up several times since I posted this, so if you looked early on, look again if you're interested.

Dear FemslashEx Writer or Artist,

Thank you so much for writing for me! This is my first time doing FemslashEx, so I'm really excited.

(I only requested art for one fandom; however, if anyone is moved to do an art treat for me in any of them, I would absolutely love that.)

Loves, DNWs, and notes/prompts for my fandoms (Aliens, Carrie, Original Work, Star Trek: Classic Timeline, and X-Men comics (Marvel 616). Read more... )

(no subject)

Aug. 16th, 2017 05:42 pm
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[personal profile] skygiants
It's hard for me not to unfavorably compare every Isabelle Hollington Gothic to Trelawny, the one with the identical non-identical constantly-swapping twins, but The Marchington Inheritance runs a reasonable second for batshit plot resolutions.

Our Heroine is a children's book illustrator named Avril, which would be fine if she were not ALSO notable for her family reputation as a Strung-Out Sulky Counter-Culture Fight-The-Power Teen Rebel with constant Rage Against the Preppy machine, which meant that I had "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi" stuck on rotate in my head for the entire duration of this novel. THANKS, ISABELLE HOLLAND.

spoilers are full of hilariously plausibly annoying children )
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