wordweaverlynn: (reader)
• What are you currently reading?

Nonfiction: My bedtime books these days are about baking, notably Rose Levy Berenbaum's Bread Bible and Peter Hamelman's epic Bread (second edition) both of which I recommend unreservedly. I'm finding Peter Reinhart's books (The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Whole Grain Breads) much too focused on how wonderful and famous he is and not sufficiently focused on the dough. The Hamelman book is telling me exactly what I need to know -- not just recipes, but how the underlying physical and chemical processes determine bread quality. Holiday gift from the estimable [personal profile] wild_irises, who also gave me Cheryl Strayed's wise, heartbreaking collection of advice columns, Tiny Beautiful Things.

Also [personal profile] oursin mentioned Alex Comfort's 1967 book, The Anxiety Makers, about the ways in which the medical profession has encouraged weird fears (sexual, fecal) so I ordered it from interlibrary loan. Delightfully snarky and also a bit scary, since we're going through another wave of everything-is-poisonous food anxieties.

Also Ian Pickford's book, Antique Silver; I do not have the money or desire to collect silver but I wanted to understand the development of flatware for the nineteenth-century novel I'm working on. (Obsessive? Me?) Seriously, the dinner table changed enormously during that remarkable century. Mostly it had to acquire much stronger weight-bearing members, because the simple flatware of 1812 multiplied into a monstrous array of luncheon forks, dinner forks, salad forks, lemon forks, oyster forks, pickle forks, fruit knives, fish knives, salad knives, meat knives, round-bowled spoons for clear soups, oval-bowled spoons for cream soups, tiny spoons for demitasse, medium spoons for tea, large spoons for dessert, small knives for dessert, and pierced spoons for berries and absinthe. Also multiple special serving tools for various types of food and carving forks with a kickstand. No, really.

• What did you recently finish reading?
Nonfiction: Cynthia B. Herrup, A house in gross disorder, which casts a completely different light on the infamous prosecution of the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven for rape and sodomy. Highly recommended.

Stephen Trombley, The execution protocol, a somewhat outdated yet vividly horrifying look at the execution industry in the US.

Jennifer Reese's delightful Make the bread, buy the butter. She spent several years testing which things are better homemade (home-grown), which can better be bought at a supermarket. Lots of recipes and some rueful anecdotes. The difference between her and Reinhart has a great deal to do with self-deprecation versus self-aggrandizement.

The full run of the Aubrey/Maturin novels -- second read for them all. Delightful but occasionally too painful to read.

The earliest and latest of P.D. James, which show both her great talent and her serious flaws. "Cover Her Face" is viciously classist. It reads like a defense for the killer. Also, I find it creepy that Adam Dalgleish picks up women at crime scenes. Isn't that unprofessional? Also, given that he was 40ish in 1963, when A Mind to Murder was published, he probably shouldn't be all excited about fathering another child 45 years later. Anyway, he dislikes children. OTOH, it was quite amusing to read Death Comes to Pemberly, her Pride and Prejudice fanfic, which reads like the hero is Adam Darcy or Fitzwilliam Dalgleish but makes a number of errors in Regency culture, Jane Austen lore, and basic storybuilding.

This sounds like I dislike P. D. James. I don't. I just find the great novels of her middle period (Shroud for a Nightingale, Death of an Expert Witness, and so on) far superior to her earliest and most recent work.


• What do you think you’ll read next?
The Compleat Boucher (SF and horror stories) and a compendium of four of his mystery novels. He's Ghost of Honor at FOGcon this year. Also, I adore his work. Looking forward to rereading some lovely old friends and discovering stories I've never read before.

What are you reading?
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
These fine queries are from [livejournal.com profile] juliansinger, who included the last set of unanswered questions she had asked as well as some newer ones.

If you want to play along at home, you know the drill--ask if you'd like me to interview you, and I will come up with five questions.


1. What don't you have in your life right now (I mean, that you want)? Is there a way to get it? (This can be either minor or major.)

What I need and don't have is a reasonable balance of job, home, love, self-care, and work (i.e., writing). Love seems to be where I'd like it to be. The job is swallowing too much of my time and energy, and home is not getting enough. Neither is writing, though that seems to be changing. As for self-care, there has to be a better way to live than mainlining caffeine all week and sleeping all weekend.

1a. Tell me about a book that has profoundly touched your life in some fashion.

Although I cut my teeth on nineteenth-century novels, Jane Austen came as a revelation to me. I didn't read Pride and Prejudice until I was 16. When I did, I closed the book and said in wonder, "All you need to be a great writer is to see clearly and speak honestly." (See my profile for what a lasting effect that insight has had on me.)

I was stunned by the vigor, humor, and simplicity of her writing—quite different from the high Gothic Brontes in both style and subject. Now that I think about it, Jane Austen is considerably closer to Louisa May Alcott than she is to the Bronte sisters. Alcott is also truthful, though generally less acerbic, about domestic conflicts. And both Alcott and Austen are merciless enough to let their heroines humiliate themselves. Jane Eyre suffers, but she doesn't make a fool of herself.

I recently reread Pride and Prejudice for the first time in ten or fifteen years, then watched the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth production, which was superb. What struck me this time around was how very daring, almost outrageous, Elizabeth Bennet was. When I was growing up, young ladies could say disrespectful things to the powerful. It might not be encouraged, but it was conceivable. In the context of her time, Elizabeth's sarcasm, even her willingness to stand up for herself, were astonishing.

The underlying anger in Jane Austen was always clear to me. She didn't pretend home life was particularly happy, nor did virtue guarantee a happy outcome. Most of the women (and some men) in her novels were caught in situations where they generally get screwed over whether or not they behaved decently. Having money was the only guarantee of freedom, and there was nothing one could honorably do to get money except marry. Charlotte Lucas, who married a pompous jerk in order to get a home of her own, survived by encouraging him to spend his time in the garden or his study, leaving her the rest of the house. Nevertheless, she still had to endure his sexual gropings—by the end of the book, she was about to present him with a little olive branch.

The BBC production was, of course, beautifully done. Colin Firth, who seems to have made a profession of playing jerks, is superb as Darcy, and Jennifer Ehle’s expressive face and inward merriment make her the benchmark Elizabeth.

2. What would be your incredibly-minor-but-useful superpower?

Oooh, good question! Make everyone around me use their turn signals? Not minor enough. Instantly find what I'm looking for in the fridge? Not a big enough annoyance.

I've got it: know the contents of any digital storage medium just by touching it, instead of having to mount it and read the filenames.

3. What /are/, say, three of the (physical) places that are important to you? (This can mean entire towns/cities/regions, but since I do know the general regions (or I like to think so), I'm actually thinking more of specific buildings/copses/coves/fields/trees.)

a. The first house I really remember living in was a hundred-year-old farmhouse high on a ridge in Columbia County, PA, surrounded by pastures and fields of corn and wheat—each field with its lone apple tree, where the plowman could stop for lunch. A bank barn across the road housed pigs, dairy cows, a few beeves, and some chickens. (The barn has since burned down.) The house had a summer kitchen—a two-story outbuilding attached to it by the porch—where I used to play, and a wooden screen door to the kitchen we used to swing on. Just a square, solid, white clapboard house, with lilacs, a black walnut tree, a sour cherry tree, an ash heap out back. (The house was heated by coal, which had to be shoveled into the furnace by hand, and the ashes raked out.) But it was perfectly set on its lonely road, with magnificent views across the hills and fields, and it’s where I spent the years when I was 2 to 6. I remember the moon rising behind the house, and the sunsets, and the flagstone paths, and the trumpet vines growing over the old outhouse. The interior was spacious and well-designed, with pocket doors, a dumbwaiter, and a wall of double-fronted cupboards between the kitchen and dining room. I’m imprinted on that place, and I’d buy it in an instant if it were ever available.

b. Rte. 280 has been called the most beautiful highway in the world, and I can’t imagine that many other roads can equal its lovely scenery. (It’s also well-engineered and usually not too jammed.) If you turn off at Woodside to take 84 west into the Santa Cruz Mountains, you first pass through the genteel speed trap of Woodside itself. Then you start climbing and climbing—a steep, twisting, badly cambered, narrow road often crowded with bicyclists and motorcyclists. On one side there is a cliff; on the other a steep ravine. In some spots you can see all the way across the Bay and into the heart of Hayward. In others, all you can see is the dense redwood forest, from which you may emerge into a hairpin turn and a dazzle of western sun full in your eyes.

But, if you’re me, your heart lightens with every foot upward. The self-conscious old-money beauty of Woodside also includes some groves of eucalyptus so fragrant that they leave their scent in your car for days. And as you climb into redwood country and away from the valley, the deep velvet strength of the forest calms you. Skylonda is a crossroads with gas, a couple of restaurants, and the beginning of a better engineered segment of road. In La Honda there’s a little grocery store and a bar/pool hall—and the memory of Ken Kesey. Turn left at La Honda onto Pescadero Road, and you’re going even deeper into wilderness. And then, at the last great turn before the swoop downhill into Loma Mar, there’s a place where the whole world is open before you—a view that looks southeast over chamise, oak knolls, redwood forest, and toward the rising full moon. There you can shut off your car in the middle of the road and be utterly alone and at peace under the stars.

c. The dream country.

or 3a. Coffee, tea, or cocoa?

Tea.

4. Did you always see the Stuff That Happened To You As A Kid as abusive? What was the process of figuring it out? How did PTSD come into the picture? (I mean, that is, after the stupid fucking doctor who said you couldn't be having flashbacks, how did you figure it out and/or integrate it into your perception of yourself? I ask because I've read (some of) the Stuff That Happened, but not the process to address it later on.)

This is an enormous question, which I will answer in a separate post.

or 4a) -- Talk about your spirituality some. How'd you come by it? How's it feel? Or is it primarily intellectual?

As far as I can tell, my spirituality is innate and experiential—a direct mystical sense of the Divine, particularly as revealed in the natural world.

5. (Stolen from someone else.) You are walking down the street when an old woman asks you for some food. You share your food with her, and poof! Just like in the fairy tales, she reveals herself to be a witch or fairy or some other mystical creature, and offers you a reward for your kindness. She will give you an absolutely true, certain, and definite answer to any one question. What do you ask?

Hmm, you mean like, "What is the meaning of life?" I know what the meaning of life is. (According to onty Python, "Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.")

I don't know if I want answers; I like questions. But now that the murder of Julia Wallace seems to be solved, I might ask who killed the Bordens.

or 5a. Do you ever describe things synaesthetically? ("This tastes like a warm fall day looks.") Do you ever /experience/ things synaesthetically?

I'm not a full-fledged synaesthete. What I usually say when I'm tasting or smelling or feeling something that really appeals to me: "It's like sex!" To which certain people respond, "You haven't been getting any lately, have you?"
wordweaverlynn: (reader)
I found this meme while I was scrounging around in my hard drive for a different file.

1) Select 5-10 (or so) books you love. 2) Post the first line from each of them. 3) Don't mention the title or author. That's for everyone else to figure out. 4) After someone correctly identifies the book, update the original entry to reflect that fact.

For the purposes of this meme, I'm skipping epigraphs and going straight to the meat of the book. Unfortunately, many of my favorite books have giveaway first lines. (I think we all know what book starts out: "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.) So I grabbed some books from the nearby shelves and from my internal library. I've included fiction and nonfiction, old books and newer ones.

1. Dante stared and stared at the corpse, but a blindness waited behind his eyes.

2. My bandana is rolled on the diagonal and retains water fairly well.

3. All day it has been windy--strange weather for late July--the wind swirling through the hedges like an invisible flood-tide among seaweed; tugging them, compelling them in its own direction, dragging them one way until the patches of elder and privet sagged outward from the tougher stretches of blackthorn at either side.

4. There was no possibility of a walk that day. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte -- recognized by [livejournal.com profile] oursin

5. The bells of St. Mark's were ringing changes up on the mountain when Bud skated over to the mod parlor to upgrade his skull gun. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson -- recognized by [livejournal.com profile] hobbitblue


6. I have not been in a battle; not near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath. The Face of Battle by John Keegan -- recognized by [livejournal.com profile] beckyzoole

7. The American handed Leamas another cup of coffee and said, "Why don't you go back and sleep?" The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John LeCarre, recognized by [livejournal.com profile] imnotandrei

8. Don't get me wrong: I love the restaurant business. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, recognized by [livejournal.com profile] irontongue

9. In a starless May night the town slept and the river flowed quietly through shadow.

10. Now read on. . . .

ETA The unidentified first lines are revealed in this entry.

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