23 July 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Raspberries

"In July, the pink raspberries, all in brambles in the woods and growing up our front porch,
turned black and tart." -- Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

22 July 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Characters I Want With Me On A Deserted Island

This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, we're talking about the ten characters we would want with us on a deserted island. Most of my characters were selected based on their usefulness so they tend to be a bunch of hardy survivors who would (hopefully) find a deserted island No Big Deal. I have no idea whether they'd all get along with each other or if my island would quickly go all Lord of the Flies. Also, I seem to have presumed my deserted island will be no ordinary Deserted Island, but be more an Island of Mystery full of "monsters, mad scientists, castaways, ancient temples and other mysterious phenomena."
  1. Billie Wind from Jean Craighead George’s The Talking Earth. She survives (and thrives) alone in the Everglades.
  2. Ged from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series. He can talk to dragons, has spent a lot of time alone at sea, and has survived an awful lot of unpleasantness. Also, you know, MAGIC.
  3. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Well, she kept surviving the Hunger Games!
  4. Princess Cimorene from Patricia Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons. Knows fencing, magic, cooking, Latin, and other useful things. Generally very capable and aware of her own worth.
  5. Rincewind from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He has a knack for staying alive. Also, he is usually accompanied by the Luggage, an ambulatory bag of holding strong on defense and good at laundry.
  6. Sabriel from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series. She fights monsters and saves the world. Also, handy to have around when dealing with the dead.
  7. Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings. He’s nice, is good at cooking and gardening, and has a way with spiders.
  8. The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. She knows how to take care of herself, has a vast repertoire of dirty jokes, and tells a good story.
  9. William, the father in Johann Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson. He knows everything about everything and helps his family carve a little civilization out of the wilderness.
That's only nine, so here's a mostly-relevant comic I found on Pinterest:

20 July 2014

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey was an excellent, albeit slim, introduction to Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 trans-Antarctica expedition. Rather than telling the story step-by-step over hundreds of pages, Bertozzi has chosen to tell the story through a series of short scenes which stress not the patriotic majesty of the expedition but rather the smaller, more intimate personal stories -- forced to abandon ship, they discard their scientific equipment (too heavy to carry), but keep a banjo; one of the crew members goes bicycling among the penguins; they kvetch about rations, etc -- that create a sympathy for and interest in the crew, that a broader story might not.

What I still find fascinating was that, despite the hardships and travails, no-one from the Endurance was lost on the expedition! Yes, the expedition utterly failed to attain its goal of traversing Antarctica, but everyone came back alive. That is no small thing. And, it was quite depressing, upon reading the afterward, to then discover that several of the men returned home only to be killed in World War I. (Also, I now require a companion graphic for the relief ship, the Aurora, because Shackleton barely touches on them but the Afterward suggests they had a wretched time of it, too).

If you're looking for a meaty work full of biography and background, Shackleton isn't it. And that's fine, because there are already lots of Big Books on Shackleton to choose from. It's an excellent introduction and will, no doubt, lead many curious readers on to larger works. Certainly, if I'd read this when I was twelve, I would probably have cleaned my school library out of books on Shackleton and Antarctic explorations.

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey written & illus. by Nick Bertozzi (First Second, 2014)

18 July 2014

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

She was gracious and yet fading, like an old statue in a garden, that symbolizes the weather through which it has endured and it not so much the work of man as the work of wind and rain and the herd of the seasons, and though formed in man's image is a figure of doom.
A preface by Jeanette Winterson! An introduction by T.S. Eliot! I approached Nightwood with high hopes ... and they were cruelly dashed against a wall of dull and impenetrable text. The novel begins with the birth of Felix, jumps ahead thirty-odd years, introduces us to circus people, introduces us to the "doctor," and then (finally! on page 38!) we meet Robin Vote. But do we? The obfuscated prose is so dominated by Felix and the "doctor" that I was unsure how to "read" Robin except as a nervy woman who should never have married or, heaven help them all, had a baby.

And then we meet Nora ... and I just gave up. Skipped ahead to the last two chapters, mumbled "what?" a lot to myself, and put the novel aside.

Basically, I'm just smart enough to know I'm not smart enough to appreciate Nightwood. I'm sure, for the right reader, it's phenomenal. However, it left me feeling as if I'd spent the evening battering my head against a wall.

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (New Directions, 2006)