He's embarrassing but he hasn't started a war yet. Now which, I wonder, is the greater crime...
He's embarrassing but he hasn't started a war yet. Now which, I wonder, is the greater crime...
Well, I'm delighted.
(I have to thank Cine Outsider for the tip-off; I had no idea until I was scrolling down as I do about every month or so and then what? I still have dreams of seeing an actual print someday. The film was shot in Technicolor. It may have been chopped to pieces by Columbia, but what's left should still look good. Besides, I have always had the sneaking suspicion that even the most faithful digital transfer cannot properly reproduce the full effect of Dr. Terwilliker's hat.)
I think I've previously mentioned the occasional benefit of being the last drop for the vegbox man - the week of 18 avocados? (Some weeks there are items missing from my box, so it's not all good news.) This week there was a bonus net of lemons in my box, so I was inspired to make lemon polenta cake. But to make life easier I made small individual cakes in bun cases.
They are delicious and, I reckon, better than a single large cake. I had to grind my own almond flour (also contains hazelnuts, because not quite enough almonds) and I think that really enhanced the cakes, making the texture more uneven and interesting.
( the recipe )
And as a savoury, I baked some individual 'frittatas'. Or maybe they were pastry-less quiches. It all depends on how you look at things. Either way, they were very tasty and I shall be making them again for my lunches.
They contain roast veg, feta, finely sliced onions, and egg whisked with a little milk. I seasoned only with salt and pepper, but the roast veg has such an intense flavour that this was the right choice. The bonus is that the veg was a bit tired and limp, so I was using it up before it had to be thrown away. And there's a bit more roast veg in a box in the fridge as a handy ingredient for I don't yet know what.
I can go back to the Globe! They've announced Michelle Terry (a brilliant Shakespearean actor) as the new artistic director of the Globe. It's back in the hands of the players, where it began, where it belongs.
I trust her taste. I've seen her (only on DVD, alas), as Rosalind, Beatrice, Titania/Hippolyta, Rosaline, and the Princess of France. All terrific. I wish I'd seen her as Henry V. What I remember most vividly is a moment from the Dream. The play had begun with masked figures of Titania and Oberon, seducing and inspiriting Hippolyta and Theseus; then a battle of Athenians and Amazons, bow-women all, with sigils on their brows. After Hermia's stormy declaration of love and the pronouncement of her patriarchal doom, the silent queen came up to her, looked long, and traced a sigil on her brow. Perhaps she meant, There are other sisterhoods.
Before it was invaded by meaningless noise, the old Globe did Shakespeare very well indeed, thank you.
I know a lot of writers. Really a lot. Really really. And we all have different process, and that’s great, that’s wonderful. In person I have been known to chirp “we are all a beautiful rainbow,” but it’s really hard to get my total lack of sarcasm on that point through on the internet. (We are, though! We are all a beautiful rainbow! Yay!) In this case, I have spotted what looks like a consistent red flag for burnout, and I’m having a hard time phrasing it so that it’s clear that I don’t mean to exclude some kinds of inspiration.
Here’s the red flag. Writers with a few novels or a ton of short stories under their belt who get into a place where they only want to talk about being sick of tropes and wanting to deconstruct them. I know that deconstruction is a major creative inspiration in some writers’ processes (all a beautiful rainbow!). But the larger percentage of conversation about other people’s work gets to be about deconstruction and frustration, the more I watch for other signs of burnout.
Because–squee is not just good publicity. Squee is important for your own work. If you’re not honestly feeling like squeeing about other work you’re encountering, that’s a bad sign. And it’s probably not a bad sign about what’s out there in the world, because there is a lot of stuff out there in the world. If none of it is pressing your buttons, really none? that’s a bad sign about your buttons and where you are in terms of energy levels, taking criticism, getting enough recharge, all those things.
This is not a red flag of you being (or a friend being!) a bad person, or a worthless artist, or someone who will never recover, or anything like that. I’ve seen many people come out of this kind of burnout. But just as it’s easier to talk about how to begin a story than how to deal with the middle and ending that grow out of it, it’s a lot easier to talk about early-career things than all the paths that can grow out of them. And yet it feels to me like there are a lot of mid-career/developing writer paths and pitfalls that it would be really useful to talk about more, so…I’m going to try to do some of that, and I appreciate the other people who are doing that too.
(One of my favorite roads out of this is to cast my net very, very wide and look at things that are way outside my usual so that badly handled tropes and obvious choices are less grating. But other solutions for jolting out of this kind of deconstruction/negativity trap welcome.)
Sonnet VI from Sappho & Phaon, Mary Robinson
Is it to love, to fix the tender gaze,
To hide the timid blush, and steal away;
To shun the busy world, and waste the day
In some rude mountain’s solitary maze?
Is it to chant one name in ceaseless lays,
To hear no words that other tongues can say,
To watch the pale moon’s melancholy ray,
To chide in fondness, and in folly praise?
Is it to pour th’ involuntary sigh,
To dream of bliss, and wake new pangs to prove;
To talk, in fancy, with the speaking eye,
Then start with jealousy, and wildly rove;
Is it to loath the light, and wish to die?
For these I feel,—and feel that they are love.
Mary Robinson was an English actress, royal mistress (her role as Perdita from A Winter's Tale gave the future George IV his early nickname of Florizel), and (after those two careers washed up) popular early Romantic poet. While there had been a few sonnets written in the decade before this was published, after being totally out of fashion for over a century, her Sappho and Phaon was the first sonnet cycle of the Romantic era, and a significant part of rehabilitating the form. If you like any of Wordsworth's sonnets, thank Robinson. If you like this sonnet, go read the rest: it's good.
Subject quote from "Who's Next?" Tom Lehrer.
"One touch from me animates the inanimate," boasts the Apple-Stone, the "small, bright, golden ball, about the size of a marble" that assisted in the birth of the universe and gave rise to the myth of the Golden Apples of the Sun; the children find it on the highest bough in the orchard, like a Sappho fragment come to life, and they make enlightening, foolish, dangerous, and kind use of it over the next twelve chapters until it returns to the earth to sleep and restore its power and find another apple tree to bloom from, decades or centuries hence. Most of their adventures have a comic slant, as when they animate the decrepit hearthrug to settle a bet over what kind of animal it came from and never find out because they spend the day having confused their "Lambie" with an actual escaped leopard prowling the moors, or have to play detectives for a lost glove weeping bitterly over being separated from its beloved right hand ("I'm deeply attached to it. I love it"), or create an intelligent, talkative, opera-loving sheep about twice the size of a Great Dane for reasons that make sense at the time. Sometimes the comedy turns spooky, as when they accidentally animate a feather boa and get Quetzalcoatl, who not unreasonably expects a sacrifice for incarnating when called, or an episode with a formerly model rocket triggers an international incident and science fiction, or the narrator discovers an unexpected and unwanted affinity for night flight on a witch's broom. An interlude with an effigy of a Crusader constitutes the kind of history lesson that would fit right into Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), as some of the children have their romantic illusions punctured and some come away with an interest in astrology and medicinal plants. And the two weirdest, most numinous chapters are the reason I can't be one hundred percent sure that I didn't read this book a long, long time ago: the life and death of the Bonfire Night guy that is partly the sad, passionate ghost of Guy Fawkes and partly a pyromaniac patchwork of the five children whose castoffs and imagination gave it form (as it explains in one of its more lucid moments, "Everyone is a mixture, you know, and I'm more so than most") and the introduction of new magic when the weeping gargoyle off a nearby church turns out to be the stone-trapped form of a medieval demon named "Little Tom," a wild, ragged, not quite human child in tricksterish and forlorn search of a witch to be familiar to. Both of them gave me the same half-echo as Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew (1953), again without any of the language coming back to me. I might run it by my mother to see if she remembers bringing it home when I was small. On the other hand, it might just be that I know ashlyme and nineweaving.
The Apple-Stone is the second book I've read by Gray and The Seventh Swan (1962) almost doesn't count, since I know I read it in elementary school and all I can remember is that it upset me more than the original fairy tale, which I suspect means I should re-read it. I like this one a lot, non-magical parts included. We learn early on that the parents of the English family are the puppeteers behind the popular TV show Ben and Bet Bun and absolutely none of their children think once of bringing the Buns or the Foxies to life because they find the whole thing desperately embarrassing. (The Clans' parents are rocket scientists and the narrator envies them deeply. "We're fond of our Mum and Dad, and hope they may grow out of it in time.") The children as a group are a believable, likeable mix of traits and alliances, differentiated well beyond obvious tags like Jo's academic crazes or Nigel's artistic talent or Douglas' belligerence or Jemima's imperiousness or Jeremy's daydreaming. They fight almost constantly with one another—the Clans especially, being composed of one Campbell and one Macdonald, are engaged in the kind of dramatic ongoing feud that is half performance art and half really blowing off steam—but close ranks immediately against outsiders, even supernatural ones:
"But I must tell you straight, gentles, that I can't do much of the true Black Art," said the gargoyle. "I'm not one of the great ones. I was never aught but a very little 'un. Horrid tricks I can manage," it added, boastfully, "like makin' folks squint, or muddling their minds, or twisting their tongues so that they stammers and stutters—"
"I c-can do that without your help!" snapped Nigel, going red.
"And I'm muddleheaded enough for everyone," I said, quickly.
"No, you're not!" said Jo, fiercely. "And Nigel only stutters when he's away from his home." Then she turned on the gargoyle. "You'll do no horrid tricks, do you hear? We're not sorcerers. We brought you here to help you."
The creature was still changing during all of this . . . Its hair was long and black, and tangled. Its ears were still pointed, though not as huge and batlike as before. It gave us a scornful grin, and said, "Many sorcerers don't care to admit to it."
If you have not read this novel, you can probably tell by now if you're going to like it. The Nesbit it reminds me of most is The Enchanted Castle (1907), but it feels like itself and it feels like its own time, which is equally important. I am actively sad that the near-fine UK first edition I saw at Readercon cost sticker shock—the library copy I just finished reading is the American first edition and the illustrations really didn't work for me. (I'm sorry, Charles Keeping! Your work for Alan Garner, Mollie Hunter, and Rosemary Sutcliff was great!) Maybe sometime I'll get lucky at the Strand. In any case, the text is what matters most and that I recommend. It is good at the strangeness of things that are not human and it never risks making even the cute ones twee. It's good at children's priorities and the ways that not being an adult doesn't mean not seeing the world. I didn't quote much of a descriptive passage, but I like its language. Anyone with other favorite novels by Nicholas Stuart Gray, please let me know.
And it helps that the actors are all so gorgeous, the clothes jaw-droppingly beautiful, the sets all places I would dearly love to live in myself.
Anyway, Marquis Xie is shaping up for a major power play, thinking that he is maneuvering behind the scenes while his targets fumble in the light of day. But as yet he doesn’t know that he is quietly being outpaced, step by step . . .
( Read more... )