dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
Reincarnation Blues, by Michael Poore. Random House, 2017

In this tale, souls get 10,000 chances to reach perfection. If they achieve this, they go into the great cosmic soul forever; bliss, but with no individuality. If they fail, they are obliterated forever. Most people manage it in significantly fewer than 10,000 lives. Not Milo, though- Milo is at 9,995 and it’s not looking promising. Milo knows this- at least between lives, he does. During the resting period between lives, a soul is fully conscious of all their lives. In Milo’s case, two spirits (deities? Avatars?), Ma and Nan, aid (mostly by harassing) his journey to perfection. Also with him between lives is one of the many avatars of death, Suzie. Suzie and Milo are in love. They want to find a way to stay together. Also, Suzie wants to stop being death and open a candle shop.

We follow Milo through a number of his lives. Lives can be as anything; trees, kings, cats, pirates, slugs, slaves, male, female, poor, rich, whatever. He comes *close* to perfection, but somehow always screws it up at the end. The lives are pretty interesting; short tales of near perfection in a prison, turning around the human race on a different prison world where the Water Cartels run everything; and tiny tales, a page long or less, of marching in Selma Ala., and hiding a cache of Polish pornography from the Nazis. Some tales of being not so nice a person. He also has adventures between lives, too- the afterlife is quite a busy place. The whole book is a collection of short stories, with Milo (he tends to keep that name throughout) as the star of them all. Some parts are horrific, some are very funny- his style reminds me of Christopher Moore (and, at times, of certain periods of Robert Heinlein’s work)- but for some reason, Milo never seems to take anything seriously. It made it a little difficult for me to really feel for him. Suzie isn’t around enough to make a real connection with her. I really enjoyed the book- it’s a lot of fun!- but for some reason I just can’t make it five stars. Four stars out of five.
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fbhjr: (Animals)
Yes. I do. )
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dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature, by Bill Goldstein. Henry Hold & Company, 2017

1922 was the year that ‘Ulysses’ was published and Proust’s work was translated into English. Willa Cather declared that the world broke in two in that year, because these were literary works that were distinctly different from all that had come before them. These works had effects on other writers, of course- Virginia Woolf said, after reading Proust “Well, what remains to be written after that?” Thankfully, after being unable to write due to illnesses both mental and physical, she found a new voice within her and created both “Jacob’s Room” and “Mrs. Dalloway”.

T.S. Eliot felt trapped by both his day job at a bank and his invalid wife. His own neuroses did not help; he had a great deal of trouble letting go of his new work “The Wasteland” and was an incredible frustration to the people who wanted to publish the poem.

D.H. Lawrence was traveling the world, trying to find a place where he felt he could write in peace. People seemed to be dying to have him stay with them, even though he was quite unreasonable about his situation, wanting to be put up by friends but also wanting to be left strictly alone. During this time he watched censorship battles being fought over his work, and published “Kangaroo” (which I had never heard of) and “Aaron’s Rod”.

E.M. Forster had writer’s block for well over a decade, but in this year managed to finish a book he’d started long before: “A Passage to India”. His life was unhappy; a closeted gay man in an era that did not allow homosexuality, he did not want to suffer the same fate as Oscar Wilde. His mental outlook wasn’t helped by living with his aging, control freak mother.

These four authors were affected by Joyce and Proust, even those who did not like the work they produced. They were also profoundly affected by the recent World War; “The Wasteland” and “Mrs Dalloway” both contain reactions to that.

The entwined biographies of the four, and what they published in 1922, make a good picture of how modernist writing was being created. The book is not fast reading (I tended to skip over a good deal of Eliot’s parts) but it’s good writing and the research is meticulous. Four stars out of five.
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anais_pf: (Default)
These questions were written by [livejournal.com profile] brittyandacity.

1) Do you want to get married?

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5) Does marriage mean to you 'til death do us part?'

Copy and paste to your own journal, then reply to this post with a link to your answers. If your journal is private or friends-only, you can post your full answers in the comments below.

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dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
Yesterday I posted a joke about Trump being like Henry VIII.

Last night, I dreamt that Henry was very angry with me, and was summoned to his court. There he was, with a few of his wives and some other fancy folks, thoroughly pissed off. He was planning on attacking my house. Last thing I remember was trying to shut and lock all the windows then realizing the futility of that against lances....
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dark_phoenix54: (snooch scream)
Am I the only one who keeps wondering when Trump is going to behead his wife and declare himself head of the country's church?
dark_phoenix54: (skull on books)
So, last nights dream adventures had me being pursued by serial killers. First Tim and I spent a night in a room in a big house that was a sort of motel. We were trying to check out and it was really uncomfortable talking with the woman; I felt the need to really praise the place even though it was just a minimal place. We were trying to edge away to the stairs, and then the husband came in. He had a wild look in his eyes. We took off down the stairs and he came after us, trying to grab us. We made it to the street, and were looking for a place to hide. We passed people walking on the street and they just ignored this guy trying to grab us and waving a knife. Finally we did something REALLY stupid and ran in an open door; it just went to a staircase to the basement and like morons we went down... only to meet a big grinning guy with a big bloody ax. Thankfully it ended there.

I think I have gotten all the plants I bought or started this year into the ground! This is a first for me, especially this early in the year.
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dark_phoenix54: (why motherfucker)
As most of you know, we feed a feral cat on our front porch. We also get the occasional trash panda or skunk, but they have been pretty few and far between.

Yesterday I'm sitting on the sofa, and I hear not just the crunching of cat food, but these weird, squeaky toy sounds. I go to the sliding door (which opens on another porch, but I can see the front porch from it) and go out- there are *two* skunks there. One sort of small for a skunk, the other REALLY little.

Great, if there is one baby skunk there are no doubt more. And they seem to have gone under the house. We are hosting a family that settles arguments with long lasting stink bombs.
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dark_phoenix54: (ivy door)
I'm halfway through with the antibiotics, and I'm really tired of being nauseating, feeling generally crappy, and spending too much time in the smallest room of the house. But the...thing.. has gotten smaller, although it's still very much in evidence and very sore. Today, with bonus skin peeling.

It's too hot for me to want to do anything. In between body functions I read, and have finally caught up with reviews. Book reviews, that is. I still have to do some on a garden tool and some other stuff. That requires going outside and taking pictures. Maybe this evening.

My strange dreams continue (strange as compared to the ones I've had all my life; they are ALL strange in any other respect). Night before I was a member of a vampire hunting group (no one I recognized); last night I was working for Alec Baldwin, in what seemed to be a houseful of kids and teenagers.
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dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
Love and Other Consolation Prizes, by Jamie Ford. Ballantine Books, 2017

‘Love and Other Consolation Prizes’ covers more than 50 years. At one end, we have a five year old half Chinese/half white boy being sent by his starving mother to America. After a horrible voyage (children packed into the hold like animals; any who got ill were thrown overboard) and being placed in a few different places, he comes into the hands of Mrs. Irvine, who sponsors him at Holy Word school. When his year-end review comes up, he asks Mrs. Irvine if he could maybe go to another school or something rather than continuing at Holy Word. In an act that seems like retaliation, she takes him to the Seattle World’s Fair (actually called the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition), where many donated things are being raffled off, and donates *him*.

At the other end, we have the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, with a brand new Space Needle and much more. The little boy is now Ernest Young, senior citizen, living in a flea bag hotel, with his wife, Gracie, being in a state of dementia. But her memories are starting to come back, and she is calming down. At the same time, one of their daughters, Judy (Juju), a newspaper reporter, is searching for a great story- and has discovered, via old newspapers, that her father was the boy who was raffled off. She wants his story. He’s reluctant to talk about it, for reasons that become obvious.

When Ernest was raffled off, the madam of Seattle’s finest brothel won him. At first glance this would seem to be a bad thing, but it’s not. For the first time he has enough to eat, and his own room. He’s treated well. He’s expected to work and earn his keep, but he’s not a slave. The other servants and the ‘upstairs’ girls are likewise well treated. Of course, the upstairs girls run the risks of the trade- disease and nasty customers. Nasty customers are barred forever, but nothing stops disease. Madam Flo is the stereotypical hooker with a heart of gold.

As soon as he is won by Madame Flor, he makes the acquaintance of two girls near his own age: one the daughter of the madam, Maisie (although identified to all as her sister); the other is Fahn, a Japanese scullery maid. It turns out he knows Fahn; she was on the same boatful of indentured servants that he was on. Ernest and the two girls become fast friends in the years that they are there.

It’s a heartbreaking story in some ways; in other ways it’s heartwarming. Ford has researched Seattle history; there really *was* a child raffled off at the AYP Expo, although that one was a baby. The brothels of Seattle of course were real, including one very high class one that bribed everyone that needed bribing to stay in business. The girls- many of them Asian- kept as slaves in the low class ‘cribs’ were real.

There is a good balance of well-developed characters, great description of scenes and events, and action. We’re seeing the beginning of the modern age- electric lights taking over from gaslights, automobiles showing up on the streets- and it’s an exciting time. Five stars out of five.
dark_phoenix54: (snooch scream)
Smoke Snort Swallow Shoot: Legendary Binges, Lost Weekends, & Other Feats of Rock ‘n’ Roll Incoherence, ed. Jacob Hoye. Lesser Gods, 2017

This is a collection of excerpts from other books, written in the first person. The author list includes Marilyn Manson, Johnny Cash, Slash, Gregg Allman, Dee Dee Ramone, Lemmy, and many more. It’s tales of their drinking to excess, taking too many drugs, getting obnoxious (to roadies, managers, other band members, fans and others), puking on everything, having sex with everyone, getting clean and then going back and doing it all over again.

Some of the writers have an interesting style. Some don’t. Some have humor. Most don’t. Some learned from what they did. Some didn’t. I found the first part of the book fairly interesting, but as I went on, it was just more of the same things. How many times can the story of looking frantically for drugs before withdrawal sets in be interesting? Sadly, not this many times. Frankly, I got bored with it somewhere around the middle. Three stars out of five.
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dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
How to Behave in a Crowd, by Camille Bordas. Tim Duggan Books, 2017

Isidore Mazel is the youngest of six children. The other five are geniuses; one performs in a symphony and writes music; the other four are intellectually advanced with two defending their doctoral thesis during the course of the novel; one is writing a sociological treatise on the family without them knowing about it; and one heading off for college at the age of 15. That one knows she’ll be a great novelist and has Isidore start on her biography, because she knows it’ll be important later. Isidore is the outlier; he’s never skipped a grade and really has no interest in academics. In fact, he has no real interest in anything.

This family is so dysfunctional that the father is never actually seen in the story, and he is referred to by the mother as “the father”- not ‘your father’ or by name. Mother doesn’t play a very large part, either. The kids all live in their own worlds, mostly reading and writing. The only thing they do together is watch TV shows that they mock. They are insulated from life, living in academics. When one finishes her Phd, she is so unnerved by the thought of going out in the world that she decides to go for a second Phd. None of them have friends. It’s like they’ve been raised by wolves with very, very high IQs.

Izzy (as he would prefer to be known but everyone insists on calling him ‘Dory’), has always been friendless, too. He spends recess in a stairwell, just staying away from the bullies. So he has no idea what to do when another class pariah, the clinically depressed anorexic, joins him in the stairwell. Nor does he have any idea what to do when his sister’s pen pal takes an interest in him instead. He has to fumble his way along in learning to deal with people- as we all do, but he has a bit of a handicap having no examples to work from.

It’s a coming of age in a strange way. Some of what happens to him is quite brutal for someone his age, and he’s a person who finds being kind is the easiest thing to do. I kept hoping for good thing to happen to him, but I have to admit I struggled to finish the book. This book is getting rave reviews from pretty much everyone in the universe, but I seemed to have missed the point. The lives of this family seemed very empty, despite all their reading and studying. The book is black humor, which I enjoy, but not enough of it to make it really interesting to me. Three stars out of five.
dark_phoenix54: (books cats)
Margaret the First, by Danielle Dutton. Catapult, 2016

This is a rather odd little book. Margaret the First is Margaret Cavendish, a duchess that lived during the British Civil War and Restoration. A rather fey child, she became a lady in waiting to the Queen, and stayed such during the Queen’s court in exile. At court she met and married William Cavendish, a man 30 years her senior. It was an enduring love match.

She became noted for her style of dress- she would design her own dresses, taking inspiration from the mossy forest floor or the like. During the time in the Low Countries, she met many noted thinkers, scientists, writers, and philosophers. When they were able to return to London, where there were books written in English, she became an autodidact, reading voraciously. She wrote almost ceaselessly- plays, poems, essays, and a novel or two- but of course she was not widely read; what could a woman write that could be of consequence, after all?

Margaret was a conundrum. She upstaged the first showing of her husband’s play by showing up at the theater topless, and stated that what she wanted was fame. Her conversation- or, more apt, her holdings forth- swung from physics to fairies. She wrote what might be considered the first science fiction novel, and was the first woman (*only* woman for 200 years) invited to a meeting of the Royal Society of London. She ranged from horribly shy to never shutting up. She is almost portrayed as bipolor in this novel, ranging from deep lows to frantic highs.

This is not the kind of historical fiction where the history takes precedence. The focus is on Margaret, with history happening around her in the background. At only 160 pages and with fast paced writing, the book can be read in a few hours. While not my favorite book in the world- I’d give it four stars out of five- it was a few hours well spent.