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Books read, late January

Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary. This is the scraps of observation, literally scraps, that Barthes scribbled down about his feelings after his mother died. I had been hoping for the sort of communal experience of grief across the years that I got with Tennyson, and this is definitely not it. Barthes focuses almost entirely on himself here, rather than on memories of the person he lost–I can tell you very little about his mother, from this book. Some grief experiences turn out not to be universal at all.

Gwenda Bond, Girl in the Shadows. This is a YA in the same universe as Girl on a Wire with overlap of characters but different protagonist, so I think it would be fairly easy to pick up without reading the first one. The protag here is a teenage girl who wants to be a magician despite the dearth of girls in that profession–and then finds out that more than one kind of magic is real, and her control over the stage kind does not extend to the other kind right away. There are the dangers of being involved in a circus plus the dangers of the world beyond it. This was fun, and I raced through it.

Stephanie Burgis, Moontangled. Discussed elsewhere.

Thomas DuBois, ed., Sanctity in the North: Saints, Lives, and Cults in Medieval Scandinavia. Lots of good essays here about the pre-Protestant saint cults and also which elements of saint worship survived into the Protestant era in this region and why. Thoughtful and interesting, rounded out some views of a region where I have a lot more context of the religions of the period surrounding this one.

Katherine Fabian and Iona Datt Sharma, Sing for the Coming of the Longest Night. Kindle. Oh this was so lovely. It’s a story of found family and lost love and daring magic rescues, and if you’ve ever felt on the outside of a Christmas movie looking in, this might well be for you. It is the very best kind of inclusive and fun, and I sat on a bench waiting for Orchestra Hall to open up reading and laughing helplessly at how funny but also how true some of the passages were.

Tim Flannery, Throwim Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds: On the Track of Unknown Mammals in Wildest New Guinea. Every year for my grandpa’s birthday I buy a book that we both might have enjoyed. This was this year’s choice, and it did not disappoint, it had all sorts of things about rare species that were just the sort of thing I would have called Grandpa up to read to him over the phone, or vice versa. I think it’s clear that Flannery would write it somewhat differently today, that his more recent books have learned more modern language approaches to talking about different people’s customs, but there was enough about the tree kangaroos to be going on with.

J.E.A. Jolliffe, Pre-Feudal England: The Jutes. This was a book from the ’30s and was a grave disappointment. Not recommended. The time spent on land deeds was all right, but Jolliffe was muddled about who he was talking about and tracking his own assumptions vs. proven fact and I yelled at it and really, you don’t want this.

Andrew Lang, The Pink Fairy Book. Kindle. Probably a reread, but I read the fairy books so long ago that I have no record of it. Lots and lots of Lang’s own cultural assumptions heaped onto other people’s fairy tales in ways that are very transparent now that we don’t share them, but on the other hand he was trying to get worldwide fairy tales to an audience that wasn’t necessarily getting them other ways, so…we can get them other ways, but thanks for your service, Andrew Lang.

D.H. Lawrence, ed., Some Imagist Poets, 1916: An Annual Anthology. Kindle. What a hilarious thing to read immediately (immediately) after Rose Macaulay and see exactly what she was making fun of in the poetry of this era, because yes, okay Rose, yes. There were some lovely things in it but not by anyone you wouldn’t expect, unfortunately, if you’d read any Imagists before. No hidden gems, alas.

Rose Macaulay, Dangerous Ages. Kindle. This book, good heavens this book, where has this book been. (We all know where this book has been.) It is from 1920, it is about a woman who has raised her children and finds herself at loose ends with them more or less grown, and is trying to figure out what next, in an era when that question was regarded with a certain bafflement by most of the people around her, and it’s about middle age and work and family and…it’s amazing, it’s sharp and tender and funny and does all sorts of things, and I would say no one else thinks of doing them, but I didn’t know she thought of doing them, so who knows who else is out there. It’s free on Gutenberg whenever you want it.

Arkady Martine, Danika Dinsmore, et al, eds., Reckoning Issue 4. Kindle. Another really good issue of this magazine, which I have consistently enjoyed. My favorite pieces were “The Last Good Time to be Alive” by Waverly SM, “Thank You For Your Patience” by Rebecca Campbell, and “Ambient and Isolated Effects of Fine Particulate Matter” by Emery Robin. I was particularly glad I’d read the Campbell right before my ConFusion panels because I talked about it on two or possibly all three of them, it just kept applying, it keeps applying to everything. I got to hear the Robin piece read aloud by its author in New York in October, so that was an astonishing treat, and I can’t wait for it to go live in the online edition so I can link it for you in my short story round-ups; especially those who have lived in the East Bay will, I think, find it rings particularly true.

Liza Mundy, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II. This is more a social than a technical history, but that’s all right, there are loads of codebreaking technical histories, this tells you how the women involved with the American codebreaking projects lived, where they lived and how they ate and what their families knew and how they kept them from knowing. I loved this.

Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden. Reread. Mostly historical fantasy shorts, but in quite a variety of settings and magics, and I did enjoy the variety even on its return visit.

Lilah Sturges and Polterink, Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship. Shapeshifting friendship to the max! Never Not Lumberjanes.

Mariko Tamaki, Lumberjanes: The Good Egg. This one is a Lumberjanes middle grade novel, and even more Never Not Lumberjanes, because I will take it in graphic novel form if that’s how they’re serving it, but I would always rather have interiority than illustration. That’s obviously a personal preference, but it is in fact my personal preference. Yay.

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