wordweaverlynn: (reader)
Some of Ann Bridge's books are now available as ebooks, and a few are on sale for $1.99.

This may interest [personal profile] oursin and a few others.
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Stephen Trombley, The execution protocol, a somewhat outdated yet vividly horrifying look at the execution industry in the US.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: (reader)
Joanna Russ died a few days ago. I am still crying for her off and on, but I am also thinking about why, exactly, this grief cuts so deep.

I've written about my discovery of her writing, what it meant to a girl drowning in a culture where even being feminist was unthinkable and being a lesbian was (in Russ's words) "a sin against reality." She gave me the tools to dissect if not dismantle the patriarchy and validated my longing for a woman-centered world. At 14 I was already angry with Tolkien and C.S. Lewis for ignoring or devaluing women; soon I would be annoyed with the early Ursula K. Le Guin for the same reason. (She got better -- a lot better -- and became extremely important to me later on.)

Joanna Russ explicitly said it was OK to be smart, OK to be angry, that I could "love God and art and myself better than anything and still have orgasms." (That's been in my LJ/DW profile for years.) She shaped my thinking. She gave me courage and validation at a time when I was being told in church and at school that as a girl I could never hope to be equal to any man. (I had one teacher who spent a lot of classroom time disparaging women and said upfront that he never gave A's to girls. I had him for English for two years running, the only time I've ever not aced English courses. Yes, this was a public school.)

I needed to hear those words; living as I did in an abusive family, in a country village more isolated than seems possible, in a profoundly fundamentalist church, books were my only freedom. They saved my life. Authors were my (sometimes quarrelling) mothers and fathers. And that's why I am grieving so much for Joanna Russ.

Most of my formative authors were dead long before I was born: Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louisa May Alcott. Even C.S. Lewis died when I was 4, before I became aware of him. But Joanna Russ is the first of my formative authors to die. I'll grieve like this when Ursula K. Le Guin dies, but for very different reasons, and when Barbara Michaels dies. (She dared to hint at an abusive father/daughter relationship in Ammie, Come Home. She was the first writer to say to me, "Father ... hurt" in the voice of a tormented ghost.) And Samuel Delany, who casually included sadomasochistic characters in "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones." Their kink isn't central to the story, but the two of them are, and they're powerful, and they are not serial killers.

Other writers later brought me great treasures, books I loved and love, fresh ideas, beauty, insight. But the ones that formed my lifeline when I had almost nothing else will always matter most. They saved me. Joanna helped save me.

And they inspired in me the passionate desire to do the same thing for other isolated people. At the heart of my burning desire to write has always been the need to reach out to other people. To tell my difficult experiences so they could see that it's possible to survive. To speak out about the hidden things so they will never be as isolated as I was. I was so sure I was crazy and different and alone. Those few voices gave me hope and ultimately led me through the wilderness to this community.

Thank you, dear Joanna, for your words and wit. You saved my life. I hope you have found peace.

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June 2014

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