rymenhild: A small toddler puppet carrying a bright red letter. (Uzura has a LETTER)
I subscribed to the New Yorker recently, as I'd been running out of free accesses regularly and the introductory subscription price was ridiculously cheap with a .edu email address. One of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how much work I should be doing instead of reading articles) is that the New Yorker sends me emails with links to particularly interesting articles in their archives.

Stage Mothers by Elif Batuman (December 2012) may be the best thing I've read all year, and I just want to talk about it with all of you. Ümmiye Koçak, a peasant woman from Southern Turkey with a middle-school education, saw a school play for the first time when she was in her forties:

Ümmiye had never seen a play before, and it seeped into her thoughts. For a long time, she had been puzzling over the situation of village women—the many roles they had to play. In the fields, they worked like men; in villas, they became housekeepers; at home, they were wives and mothers. "I kept turning it over in my head, how is it that I do all these things," she later recalled. "Then I saw Hüseyin’s theatre. That’s when I decided that the thing I’d been turning over in my head was theatre."


So, naturally, Ümmiye founded a theater group made up entirely of village women, and put on plays about marriage and poverty and domestic abuse inspired by the actors' lives, and performed these plays in front of the village. Then she founded another theater group. She went to Cannes with a documentary about one play. She adapted Hamlet for a Turkish audience, and put on a goatskin mustache so she could be Hamlet herself. I mean, naturally, right?

Batuman's article itself is a magnificent work about what it takes to make art, and the way art comes out of struggle.

Anyway, read the article yourself and then come talk to me about it. You won't regret it.
rymenhild: Korra and Asami, cuddling in a turtle-duck boat (korrasami)
Second review of the day, now with significantly less queer erasure!

Serial Box's Tremontaine (a serial novel by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant) has a delightful premise and terrific setup. In the nameless city of Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, perhaps fifteen or twenty years before Swordspoint, Duchess Diane de Tremontaine is trying to protect her privilege and status. Colliding with Diane's plots are Kaab, a lesbian spy from a chocolate-shipping not!Incan family; Micah, an agender autistic math genius; Rafe, a feckless gay university student; and Tess, a lovely forger from Riverside; and, of course, Diane's husband Duke William.

The plots, the swashbuckling, the queerness, and the postcolonial theory inherent in this collective story are all just the sorts of things I like. I read every entry and enjoyed it. But... (critique; not really spoilery) )

I will be buying and reading Season 2 of Tremontaine, but I hope for more even writing quality in future seasons.
rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
I have been trying to write a review of Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette)'s new novel, The Goblin Emperor, and it's coming out in clichés: A beautiful book, a moving book, a book about loyalty and building cross-cultural bridges and making a place for oneself in a terrifying world, a book I did not want to end.

More detailed comments behind the cut. Some general, unspecific spoilers for Goblin Emperor; some references to plot and character developments in Doctrine of Labyrinths. )
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
This post started out as a comment that I intend to post on Mark Watches later today, when Mark and his commenters discuss Princess Tutu episode 17 (Crime and Punishment).

I tracked down the source of a page of German text on a book Fakir reads in Ep. 17. Drosselmeyer didn't write it. Neither did the Princess Tutu screenwriters. Evidence is behind the cut, along with awful Google Translate German translations that I'd love help with. )

I thought I knew how metatextual Princess Tutu could get. I was wrong.
rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
Seanan McGuire's half-fae San Francisco investigator Toby Daye solves approximately one mystery per book, but she lives in a world with plenty of mysteries left. This post, which I began writing months ago but have been saving until [livejournal.com profile] muchabstracted finished the series, begins to guess at some of the hidden mysteries. Expect major spoilers for all three published books, as well as the sample chapter for the fourth book. Also, be warned that the post is enormous.

Let there be gall enough in thy ink )


I know that posting this on Christmas Eve probably limits my readers, but I encourage everyone who's read the series to join the conversation in the comments, both on LJ and Dreamwidth.
rymenhild: The legendary Oxford manuscript library. Caption "The world is quiet here." (The world is quiet here)
Last night, I dug myself out of a pile of ungraded papers, closed the file holding my unfinished chapter draft, and went to the bookstore. This was certainly a foolish and ill-conceived decision, which I do not regret overmuch.

As you may discover from my syntax, I've been reading Regency pastiche again. Book review behind the cut )

Incidentally, this is a test of crossposting from Dreamwidth. Let me know if the system works.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
(I began this post in November. See, I can finish posts I promise myself I'll write! Sometimes!)

The year is 1910*. You are an Englishman or -woman of no particular importance. Somewhere in Eastern Europe, a small principality has mislaid its rightful prince. Because you are both insatiably curious and lucky enough to be connected to this principality in some way, you find yourself on your way to the principality, about to restore order!

*Or 1890, or Sometime Before 1914.

If this is happening to you, congratulations; you are living in a Ruritanian romance. )

Some examples of the form )

If I've missed any romances, please share; I'm in the market for more imperialist monarchist wacky hijinks.

--

Edit: I was wrong about the name of the kingdom next to Galazon. It's Aravill, not Aravis. All those unpronounceable imaginary foreign names are the same to me. ;)
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Absolutely rage-inducing advertisement of the day, printed in white text on a black background on a poster pasted on a vacant storefront:

Strippers will not tolerate disrespect... HAHA, just kidding!

A website address beneath the text suggested that there may be a movie associated with this poster. I feel that it is not a movie I want to see. In fact, it is probably a movie I want to wave protest signs in front of.

In cheerier news, instead of writing this afternoon (*facepalm*), I ended up in the basement of Local Independent Bookstore reading Sir Terry Pratchett's Nation. (Then I ended up purchasing the book... remind me not to walk into bookstores.) The plot involves an analogue-Polynesian boy and an aristocratic English girl recreating civilization on a tsunami-wiped island, but the plot itself is only a vehicle for an argument about human dignity and faith and belief and rage against the divine. Oh, and there's a postcolonial reclamation of science from imperialism in there: the Galápagos writes back, or even more precisely, we learn, the Galápagos wrote first. I'm trying to avoid an author-centric critique here, but I can't stifle the sense I get that in writing Nation, Sir Terry manipulates his own, deeply personal, rage and desire for dignity in the face of mortal and divine failures.

Not a perfect book by any means; there are subplots that seem unnecessary and moments of tonal dissonance; but a very fine book, worth reading and worth debating. I keep thinking about how it's a direct reply to Lord of the Flies and an indirect reply to His Dark Materials, but since what I should be thinking about is my dissertation, I'm going to stop my post here and invite comments.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
It took me eight years to notice the following echo:

Dumbledore, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone: "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."

Peter Pan, in Peter and Wendy: "To die will be an awfully big adventure."

That moment of near-quotation has to be intentional. What purpose does it serve for Rowling to take the perception of death from Barrie and use it as, arguably, one of the linchpins of the Harry Potter series? Discuss!

ETA: Google confirms that I am not the first to see the similarity. I'm relieved, actually, as it's too obvious for people not to have seen it all this time.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
During a visit to my family home this week, I have accomplished very little dissertation work. I have, however, spent much of the time uplifting my mind and my morals with some edifying words. You see, the local public library had a book sale this week. I acquired, for the price of a single dollar, John S. C. Abbott's enthralling book The Child at Home: Or, the Principles of Filial Duty (New York, NY: The American Tract Society, 1833) (full scan; Project Gutenberg e-text).

I have learned from Abbott that if you take the smallest step off the path of righteousness to pick flowers on the way to school, you will probably be led farther and farther astray until you die and go to hell. If you should play with your little friends and make them laugh, and your aunt should come scold you for making the children laugh so loudly, and you lie to your aunt, saying, "It was not I who made them laugh," be warned. A young girl who did precisely that died at the age of eleven with a troubled soul, and while Abbott does not tell us certainly that she went to hell, it is possible that she may have done so.

I have also learned that it's kind of God to put all the sinners in a permanent prison so that the few who do get saved can live in eternal peace, untroubled by any wickedness. By the way, heaven must be appallingly boring. Anyone who has ever been known to enjoy attending parties or even playing with other little children in the streets is unlikely to go there.

What have you been reading lately, O Friendslist? Is it immoral pap that will ruin your virtue and deprive you of your hopes of heaven? If so, send me a recommendation, because I think I need a change of pace.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] musingsylph: The Golden Compass movie website, newly arrived on the Internet, provides a working alethiometer. (No direct link; click on the button marked "alethiometer" on the page.)

Apparently, one of the meanings of "bread" is "Christ." Obviously, as [livejournal.com profile] bookelfe pointed out when I started discussing the site with her, bread is connected to Christ through the communion wafer. It interests me that the website designers chose to put Christ in their symbol reader. They're clearly invoking the theological underpinnings of His Dark Materials, and yet they're also rewriting His Dark Materials. Pullman's allegorical structure notably lacks a Christ-figure; the role of God is played by a senile being who may once have been God-the-Father and by his regent, the angel Metatron. I've found myself wondering whether the Consistorial Church of Lyra's universe is Christian at all.

In any case, the decision to include theology in the website to a mass-market movie based on a remarkably anticlerical sequence of books pleases me. I have hopes that Pullman's allegories do not all get wiped away in the conversion process.

ETA: One of the crocodile's meanings is "America." Dear programmers, I know that some of the people working on this website have examined Pullman's world maps. I suppose those weren't the people working on the alethiometer.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Dere Maister Chaucer:

Mesemeth that TNH of [livejournal.com profile] makinglight wolde ben a moste fyne drynkynge confrere (consoeur?) for thee. For when shee partoke of her neighboures vodka, shee fel into a moste straunge and lovelie tongue verray muche like unto thine. Povre wif.

Thine admirer,
Rym

In other [livejournal.com profile] makinglight news, if anyone with an interest in the subject hasn't seen the discussion of fanfic yet, and you have an hour or two at your disposal, go read. It's acquired 567 thoughtful and interesting comments so far. Basically, professional writers, fan writers, publishers, lawyers and interested onlookers of all stripes and varieties have shown up to debate the ethics of producing stories about other people's worlds. Some highlights:

  • Jane Yolen argues that works should be copyrighted long enough to earn money for the writers' heirs.
  • Mercedes Lackey admits to writing collaborative MMORPG fanfic.
  • Joss Whedon is, unsurprisingly, awesome.
  • A fanficcer named C.Elisa describes fanfic as "a form of full-contact literary criticism."
  • [livejournal.com profile] rhandir provides the Cliff Notes for the whole discussion.

I can't believe I just went back to find the good parts of that conversation instead of writing more of this thrice-damned paper.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
If you do not want to find out about some of the distressing events in this book, you may wish to avoid this review. )

ETA: As usual, Amazon provides us with reviews that entirely miss the point. One reviewer, writing about the series as a whole, complains, This series is well, pretty undescribable. It's hard to say whether they are excelltent [sic], or just garbage, but I guess it would depend on who was to read them. I strongly suggest these books for the younger readers, it's really not for older teens. The rambling of the author can get a bit old, but you also learn a lot of interesting words (and frankly loads of useless information) from them. Some of the books may seem pointless, maybe they are, but they're for kids, so if you're a young adult or an adult reading them, remember that.

Dear reviewer,

The interesting words, "useless" information, and layers of subtext and backstory which you call "rambling" are the best and most important parts of the Series of Unfortunate Events. The surface plots are merely window dressing, to use a term referring both to adornments that make windows look pretty and curtains that keep undesirable villains from peeking into one's house and spying on one's sugar bowl usage patterns.

Sincerely,
Rymenhild
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
While taking yet another break from the current project, I went looking for an online copy of George Eliot's Middlemarch.

In the course of my search, I encountered a massive work of panfandom crossover fanfiction. Yes, I encounter massive works of panfandom crossover fanfiction all the time. The one I found today is special because it was published in 1890. Andrew Lang, author/compiler of the Fairy Books, wrote a series of letters between fictional characters in Old Friends. Sadly, most of the letters are nearly incomprehensible for readers who, like me, lack a strong background in nineteenth-century popular fiction. (I do recommend the hilarious letter in which Catherine Morland of Austen's Northanger Abbey describes her experience at Mr Rochester's house party.)

The best part of Lang's book, especially for those of us who are otherwise interested in crossovers as genre, is his introduction:

Did the persons in contemporary novels never meet? )

What if the readers aren't familiar with the characters in the crossover? )

(That, of course, is why half my friendslist has seen Firefly and read Dark Tower.)
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Who just got to spend a day transcribing a Latin song about a prior and an abbot getting completely drunk and puking all over the flowers? I did!

Man, I love my job.

Libraries like the one I visited today do give me a chance to practice some of my more unusual hobbies, like staring at other people's books. A woman behind me was looking at a lovely one with huge full-page full-color fifteenth-century heraldic signs. I didn't have a chance to gawk at that one very long, though, because then I noticed a man about my age who was looking back and forth between the manuscript on foam pads on his desk and two modern printed copies of The Book of Margery Kempe. Fortunately I managed to contain my fangirl enthusiasm. The reading room was just not the place for it.

London's lovely, even if much warmer than advertised. I spent last night hanging out with the delightful [livejournal.com profile] gramarye1971. We discussed late twentieth-century Welsh politics, obscure pieces of paper, gratuitous foxes and the joys of geekery. Gramarye, by the way, as I was walking back from the station last night, I happened to pass the Quaker building. The Quaker building has iron gates. The pattern on the iron gates is a circle, quartered by a cross. I was scared.

Also, in the three years since I last stayed in this dormitory, it acquired Ethernet access. (In 2001 it had dialup, and one paid by the minute and through the nose.) The Ethernet access is working. This makes me happy.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Oh dear, Harold Bloom is on his soapbox again. This is never a good thing. (Italicized passages are quotations from Bloom's Wall Street Journal article on Hans Christian Andersen. If you click, you might discover that Bloom has two different spellings for "Andersen". You might also find smoke coming out of your ears. Be warned.)

I myself see no distinction between children's literature and good or great writing for extremely intelligent children of all ages.

So far, so good.

J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are equally bad writers, appropriate titans of our new Dark Age of the Screens: computer, motion pictures, TV.

...I admit that there are many better writers out there in the universe than J.K. Rowling, but Professor Bloom, sir, does the phrase "Dark Tower" mean anything to you?

Outside of Browning and Shakespeare, that is?

Also, Dark Age of the Screens? Professor Bloom, I sit at the computer for hours to read Middle English poetry. I am sure you would not be quite so pleased by some of the other things I read when I sit at the computer for hours, but really, now! Think of the vast quantity of text we are lucky enough to have in this century. Certainly, not all of it is high-quality. Nevertheless, there is quantitatively more high-quality literature, film and drama available today to the average person than there ever was in any other time in the history of the world. Much of this literature, film and drama appears on the Internet. I can't imagine what you mean by "Dark Age."

One goes on urging children of all ages to read and reread Andersen and Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, rather than Ms. Rowling and Mr. King. Sometimes when I say that in public I am asked: Is it not better to read Ms. Rowling and Mr. King, and then go on to Andersen, Dickens, Carroll and Lear? The answer is pragmatic: Our time here is limited. You necessarily read and reread at the expense of other books.

I have read works by Andersen, Dickens, Carroll, Lear, Rowling and King. All but Carroll and Lear I have read in the last two years. I do not feel that I have sacrificed precious Dickens reading time by devouring all seven Dark Tower novels within a month.

That said, I have sacrificed a precious ten minutes of my life reading your appreciation of Hans Christian Andersen today. Our time here on Earth is too limited to waste it on an article containing a few ill-conceived rants about popular entertainment and quite a long discussion of Andersen's sex life. With comparisons to Michael Jackson, G-d help us.

Thank you, Professor Bloom.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I should know by now to expect bizarre websites when doing a Google search on the phrase "Jews poisoning wells."

What? Why are you all looking at me that way? It's a perfectly reasonable thing to google when one studies medieval anti-Judaism!

ETA: [livejournal.com profile] angevin2 found the best footnote ever.

This message brought to you by the Last-Minute All-Nighter-Pulling Procrastinators of America.

Update

Apr. 20th, 2005 08:53 pm
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I have email access from my computer again, but it still goes into repetitive hard drive clicks, followed by freezes, followed by blue screens, at random intervals. Until I figure out what's going on with this machine, I won't be spending extended periods of time online. Also, I am about eighteen midterms behind on my grading, need to clean the apartment for Passover, and have to write my conference paper before the next conference I go to. Therefore, I almost certainly won't be seeing any of you online in the next week or two. Sorry!

While I'm here, I should say that every single one of the Had Gadya interpretations was gorgeous. [livejournal.com profile] daegaer, [livejournal.com profile] navelofwine and [livejournal.com profile] elfsdh stroked their nonexistent beards and payos to provide (respectively, pro-vegetarian, pro-carnivorous and purely literalist) explanations in flawless Yeshivish. [livejournal.com profile] shiduri_sour, in the name of moreinu haRav* Alan Dundes of blessed memory, spoke about the oral fixation apparent in the constant biting. [livejournal.com profile] continuoboy gave us the immoral** of the song, "Things happen, and if the butcher is on top now, it isn't going to be so in the next verse," supplying extra Gothic Archies lyrics for further text study. It's all about Stephen Merrit. [livejournal.com profile] carasfriendmatt explained what I shall call the Big Bang theory of Had Gadya. [livejournal.com profile] mistressrenet suggested a divine resurrection of the dead in the last stanza. [livejournal.com profile] mogget_cat shared a feline perspective on the song. [livejournal.com profile] taylweaver pointed out that Had Gadya is a traditional form appearing in a wide variety of folk sources over the world -- I'd be interested to hear what the Dundes disciples on my friendslist think about that. (By the bye, welcome to LJ, [livejournal.com profile] taylweaver!) [livejournal.com profile] fleurdelis28 and [livejournal.com profile] shirei_shibolim debated the market value of goats. [livejournal.com profile] fox1013 announced her intention to act out the poem with stuffed animals.

Top honors go to [livejournal.com profile] elettaria, for a thoughtful close reading of the Hebrew version I linked, for deep thoughts, and for some gorgeous flow charts. Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] elettaria, for reminding us just how disturbing the little goat's narrative is.

*Our teacher, the rabbi. Professor Dundes was not actually ordained, but he acquired more disciples than any of the rabbis I know. May he rest in peace.
**Wouldn't that be an amoral?
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Many of you are literary critics. Many of you are amateur or professional scholars of Judaism. Most of you are talented at creative, bizarre works of extempore interpretation.

Therefore:

I propose a challenge. It shall be open to every reader of this journal, regardless of religion, race, gender, level of education, sexual orientation or status as a fictional character. (I should note that entries from fictional characters are especially welcome.) It's even open to non-readers of this journal. Advertise the challenge to your friends!

I challenge you to provide an interpretation for the following song:

Had Gadya (One Little Goat) )

A note of explanation: "Had Gadya" is traditionally sung at the end of the Passover Seder, a ritual dinner occurring in a week and a half. By that point in the ritual, everyone is (or should be) drunk and exhausted, and no one quite knows what they're singing or why. The song, as you may notice, has nothing obvious to do with freedom from slavery; it has nothing obvious to do with spring fertility rituals; it may possibly have nothing to do with anything. However, Jews are not content to take "meaningless" as an answer, so we keep making up interpretations.

Some interpretations from Jewish Heritage Online Magazine )

Clearly, we need more explanations for this song. Explain away! Points will be given for creativity, randomness, amusement value, plausibility, implausibility, and my mood at any given moment.

Here's a bizarre 80s Hebrew version of the song, complete with synthesizers and eerie drums, to get you in the mood.

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