esmenet: rain on the garden that is movie-Akio's grave (rose garden)
I never actually replied to [personal profile] maat_seshat's comment from, like, three months ago (sorry!) but I did go and see what I could find of the recommended translations. The local college library has a surprising amount of them, and I am reading them all (though very slowly).

The only one I've finished so far is Electra, the Anne Carson translation -- from the Greek Tragedies in New Translations series, though I picked it up because I like her poetry. I'm so glad I went straight for that one, because my favorite lines here are positively dull in the other translations I've looked at.

I feel very much for Elektra herself; she has all this anger, all this burning rage and grief, but she's trapped; all she can do is scream. I don't know that I like her, but her feelings are so raw and clear that I want to reach out to her. Elektra, my heart, my dear. I am sorry about your father.

Clytemnestra, here, is so much less sympathetic than in Aeschylus'Agamemnon (which I am in the middle of) I scarcely recognize her. But looking at what I have seen of her Agamemnon self, I do wonder how much Orestes takes after her in attitude.

quotes to encourage everyone to read the Anne Carson version, there is some very pretty language here )

Those are the only quotes I have saved; I returned the book a week ago, and wish I had my own copy. Ah well.
esmenet: Little!Anthy with swords (Default)
Can everyone help me put together a reading/watching list of decent stuff where all/most of the main characters are queer? like, not necessarily in an ‘everybody’s dating’ way but more in a ‘do cisgender heterosexuals even exist’ way.

It doesn't have to be like an actual published book or anything, a link to somebody rambling about their OCs is fine. I just want stuff like that to look at when I'm feeling down.

So far: sailor moon manga, young avengers v3, utena

(I'm putting off today's december meme post for tomorrow, on account of I don't feel like doing it before bed.)
esmenet: Kanae standing at a window (kanae)
Today I came across a post about how Lev Grossman's The Magicians is a flawless allegory for grad school. Not having been to grad school, I couldn't tell you one way or the other whether this is correct, but I can definitely say I don't want to read that book or anything like it again to check.

I'd rather go to grad school, I'd rather go to ten grad schools. Better have your own shitty experiences (and maybe get something out of them -- education, networking, nervous breakdowns, anything) than spend time reading about someone else's.
esmenet: Pinkie Pie with stars in her eyes (*stars of glee in eyes*)
Portland: surprisingly reminiscent of Kyoto! As far as I've seen on today's short walk, at least. I suppose it's not really that much like Kyoto, but it makes me think of areas like Arashiyama and some of the neighborhoods on the edge of that city. Absolutely gorgeous, loads of plants (everybody gardens, it seems like) nice little shops. I thought it would be like Indianapolis, where everything's really far away from everything else and it's difficult to get around without a car, but I was pleasantly surprised. It seems like the kind of place I'd like to live.

Speaking of tiny shops: I bought books! Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes is one I've been looking for ever since [personal profile] rushthatspeaks posted about it, so I'm super excited to have it now. Other finds include: Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red (which you must read, though it deserves some warnings first which I will give once I've read it again — it is genuinely one of the best things I have ever read), a new translation of Herodotus, and A History of the World in 12 Maps, which looks like decent pop history and is probably a suitable jumping-off point for me to begin taking an interest in cartography.
esmenet: rain on the garden that is movie-Akio's grave (rose garden)
Is there a Helmet of Horror fandom? Is that a thing which exists?

This post brought to you by the fact that, although after this latest reread I feel I understand the novel in question quite well, it is entirely impossible to explain it to anyone else, since the book itself is the explanation. There is no way to remove the events from their structure without causing a catastrophic collapse of the entire thing.

And I want other people to talk about that with.
esmenet: Kanae standing at a window (kanae)
So I have finally read another novel: Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone. And I am starting to wonder if I am doing something wrong, because I know several people who really liked this book, but (as with Cinder, as with very nearly every novel I've tried to read lately) I kind of hated it.

I don't even want to go into detail, really; let me just say that if it had had a more cohesive theme or mood or . . . whatever it is that lets me enjoy a book as a whole, I would have liked it better. As with Cinder, I would say this book does not quite hang together as well as I would have liked.

Look: you can write a book about living semi-unwillingly under someone else's control, you can write a book about choosing your own master, you can write a book about discovering how to be master of yourself. But you have to stick with it. You can't take all those themes together and jumble them up in different orders without committing; it just doesn't work.

Shadow and Bone has a twist that is only really a twist if you read nothing but young adult romances, and is not terribly well executed. If the author had taken that twist and then used it to do something else, I would have enjoyed the book much better than I did.

For instance, (mild spoilers which will probably tell you whether or not you want to read this book) )

I dunno, a lot of popular/semipopular novels read like absolute dreck to me lately, it's weird. I may simply be reading in the wrong genres; I know it's not 'popular things are bad' because I started reading The Book Thief and that completely lives up to its hype. I think I may need to go read nonfiction for a few weeks before trying any new novels.
esmenet: Two of the Shadow Girls (aka the Greek Chorus) from Shoujo Kakumei Utena (shadowgirls)
I've been putting off talking about Marissa Meyer's Cinder for a while because it makes me unreasonably angry. The bare-bones plot points are great -- Cyborg Asian Cinderella! partially inspired by Sailor Moon! What's not to like?

When it comes to the execution? ...everything, it turns out. )

I feel like Cinder, as a book, is a mish-mash of tropes that could theoretically have been done well, written by someone who has only a shallow understanding of the things she's trying to draw on.

I'm being unfair to this book. You know what? I don't care.

Bottom line: It was way, WAY less awesome than ANYTHING with the premise 'cyborg Cinderella' should be.
esmenet: Fuu, Mugen, and Jin, all doing that ridiculous peace-sign-over-eyes pose (*dorky pose*)
Eek, I have already fallen behind on my (already postponed) December memeage! Lately all I've been doing is hiding in my room & knitting, idk.

Monday's topic, from [personal profile] maat_seshat: reading in Chinese/Japanese & habits/opinions thereof!

My Chinese and Japanese are not actually that good -- I read somewhere that once you get to a certain point in language learning, you no longer have a language learning problem -- you have an adult literacy problem. And I think that's true, because I keep picking up novels in Chinese or Japanese and reading them for a bit and then going '...this is too hard' & going off to do something else, even though I know just pushing through and reading as much as possible is the one thing I can rely on to help me improve.

For Japanese novels (as opposed to manga) the one thing I can read with decent success is Murakami, because he favors short sentences and doesn't use that many difficult words, unlike most of the novels I really want to read (e.g. Twelve Kingdoms).

I actually find Chinese novels a bit easier to read, because Chinese sentences require you to hold fewer things in your head at once, so it doesn't matter as much if I miss a few words. Chinese YA novels can be HARD, though, because they do use a lot of difficult words & slang. On the other hand, they have titles like 'The Interdimensional Music Maniac Union', which make everything worth it. (And I will admit that a lot of them put the hard vocab up front, b/c they're explaining the backstory, which is cool but also a big hurdle to jump at the beginning of a novel.)

I will say that reading both comics and novels in Japanese & Chinese has made me much less sympathetic towards translators. It would be very easy to do a better job than most of them are doing! (Even professional translators -- just look at the huge botch job TokyoPop made of the Twelve Kingdoms novels.) However, it's also given me plenty of respect for Chinese translators of foreign works: I've found the Chinese version of Invisible Cities just as beautifully incomprehensible as I would expect, and Howl's Moving Castle is so far matching just the flavor I remember from the original.

(Sidenote: subway bookstores in Shanghai are AMAZING, particularly if you're feeling like some foreign philosophy/politics/literature in translation. Lots of good stuff; the one at Line One's South Shaanxi stop has a whole shelf of Italo Calvino, a bunch of Banana Yoshimoto, and I picked up a copy of Edward Said's Orienalism as well. I found it much better furnished than the nearby English-language bookstore, though of course everything was in Chinese.)

All of which is to say that I don't think I've been reading widely enough in either Japanese or Chinese to really develop different habits than in English, except for getting intermittent rage at bad translators when I'm reading something unrelated, and I'm really curious to see what habits I do develop.

--And that I should have bought more books when I had the chance, goddammit.

This post is part of the Delayed December Post Meme. Ask me to post about more things!
esmenet: a rainbow rose (rainbow rose)
Since I have started reading novels again, it's time for some good old-fashioned booklogging! First up, Robin McKinley's Spindle's End.

I love this book. I read it years and years ago, and then just last week something reminded me of it and I dug it out to read again.

Let me say that this is one of the few heroine-talks-to-animals books I really enjoy! A lot of novels tend to either over- or under-play it, or both at once, so the heroine can spend hours talking to her Amazing Animal Friends and being linked to them by destiny or innate goodness or something and then never talk to them again unless it's relevant to the plot. This is not one of those novels. Rosie talks to animals all the time, because honestly why wouldn't you. (Also it is part of her job. She loves her job.)

I love the worldbuilding in this book. There's a fair amount of exposition, but it's interesting exposition, and I could read five hundred pages about all the stuff ordinary people do to handle living with so much magic that will do anything if given half a chance. (You have to say "bread, stay bread" before you cut it unless you want to end up cutting into a flock of starlings! THIS IS SO INTERESTING TO ME.) And spindles! There are so many spindles and talking about spindle-making in this book, but it is NOT ENOUGH.

What really surprised me on this re-read was how many lady characters there are! Katriona and Aunt and Rosie and Peony and Pernicia and Sigil and the Queen. The only human dudes are love interests and Ikor. Oh, Ikor. He gets a bit of a bad rap because he's the bearer of bad news, and Rosie doesn't really get along with him, but I love him a lot and I wish we got more of him, though there isn't really room for it. We should have a spin-off book! IKOR: Tales of Being the One Black Dude in Pseudo-European Fantasyland.

Anyway: I enjoyed how the most important relationships in this book are between ladies, particularly between Rosie and Peony, who are quite different people who accidentally became best friends. Peony is so suited to being a high-class lady, and Rosie is so emphatically not (people try to mess with her by going YOU'RE JUST A LOW-CLASS UNCULTURED HORSE-LEECH and she's like YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I AM) and their relationship is the lynchpin of the whole story.

My very favorite thing (I am lying; everything I've talked about in this post is my favorite) are the descriptions of people falling in love, or being in love, or realizing after a long time that they've been and are still in love. This book is not really about the romance, which is very refreshing, so there are only a couple of them; but they're very striking, and something of their essence has stayed with me for years.

...this is not really a coherent review, but I'm just gonna leave it there and go to bed.
esmenet: Pinkie Pie with stars in her eyes (*stars of glee in eyes*)
I have been re-reading Keturah and Lord Death (a good book that I like probably rather more than it deserves) and I cannot stop imagining Death as being played by Sinqua Walls. He's probably too muscley for the role, but WHO CARES.

Book recs?

Jun. 27th, 2013 04:22 pm
esmenet: Kaitou Kid grinning (:D no snipers this heist!)
In about two weeks, I'm going to Japan for fiveish days. My mother has most of our travel stuff planned out, but my #1 plan is to buy a lot of books, haha. However, my knowledge of Japanese books is sadly lacking, so this is me asking for recommendations!

Favorite genres: anything with lots of ladies, literary fiction that isn't just pointless navel-gazing (see Invisible Cities, The Helmet of Horror, etc.), history, myths/folklore, adorable slice-of-life, queer stuff, fiction about domestic stuff and school, the kind of horror where you are 100% on the side of the monsters, and language/linguistics/literary nitpicking.

--In other words, rec me all your favorite Japanese books! And please pass this post around to your friends as well, I need all the suggestions I can get.

(Also: I was going to say 'but no manga', since I basically know what I want on that end, but then I remembered that there are lots of lovely josei manga that never get noticed by uploaders or translators -- I mean, we're damn lucky that someone picked up Gold Rush 21, and even that's probs because of the author's more conventional series -- so if you have any favorite josei one-shots/short series or authors, pass 'em along!)
esmenet: the castle in the sky where eternity dwells (Utena) (the castle in the sky where eternity dwe)
I finally got a hold of Viktor Pelevin's book The Helmet of Horror! I read it almost all in one go, and it gave me a total bookgasm. And a conceptgasm. And a realitygasm.

What I'm saying here is that this is precisely the kind of book I love, the sort of thing that's turtles all the way down. Structurally a bit like Utena but in text. It's also the sort of book I have the most lofty of ambitions to write, someday, when I'm much, much better. But I can't even be professionally envious, because it's just that good.

Hot damn. I simply cannot even.

[personal profile] quadruplify, when you finish this, give me a heads-up so we can talk about it. (Anyone else who's read it or is going to read it, we should also talk!)
esmenet: the castle in the sky where eternity dwells (Utena) (the castle in the sky where eternity dwe)
Finally finished Invisible Cities. Hot damn.

now please come and talk about it with me.
esmenet: the castle in the sky where eternity dwells (Utena) (the castle in the sky where eternity dwe)
So I finally finished Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad!

It was amazing, and you should read it.*

spoilery thoughts )

I walk upon this sundered earth in darkness, beneath the dome of distant stars perhaps long dead, beneath the neon glare of artificial spirits pulsing with electron blood. I walk in darkness upon this sundered earth, its schism into soilworld and asphaltworld, my roots in one, my leaves in the other.

I am home, in a home no longer home.

There are fourteen men and seven women upon the street of the four blocks visible to me. Among them, thieves, hustlers, whores, homeless, hopeless.

Mmmm. Now that's writing you can sink into for days.

Especial thanks to [personal profile] kaigou, without whom I would probably never have heard of this book, and who particularly recommended it as the antidote to Lev Grossman's The Magicians, a book I am still angry at today.

*unless you're not good with violence/body horror. then probably not.

book recs?

Apr. 16th, 2013 07:08 pm
esmenet: Aki Natsuko from Re: Cutie Honey, looking stern (*glasses check*)
Okay, this is me giving in: please recommend me all the Chinese novels you can. Japanese, too, but preferably not light novels as the bookstores here almost never have the first one. There also seem to be quite a lot of German and French novels in Shanghai's largest bookstore (translated, ofc) so I suppose if you have any great favorites I can go have a look.

The usual caveats: lots of ladies if possible, bonus points for music, and also I just bought all nine books of Legend of the Sun Knight so that is already covered. My chinese is pretty bad so easy stuff would be great, but I suspect I will not get this chance to buy large amounts of books in Chinese super cheaply again, so anything is good.
esmenet: Korra kicking ass from the LoK trailer (korra kicks ass)
So, I just accidentally the first two Hunger Games books! They're that sort of book, you know the one, where it's hard to be sure of the actual quality one way or another, but you sure as hell can't stop reading.

Non-spoilery notes:

I hope the fandom is full, absolutely full of ridiculous high school AUs, in which people go on long holidays and worry about tests and nobody gets injured or dies at all. An Azumanga Daioh kind of thing. <--This is always my reaction to things where lots of characters die.

I love President Snow. He does evil dystopian politics like I would do evil dystopian politics! Straightforwardly and with infinite amounts of class.

Katniss and Haymitch are a perfect match; they were both positively born to be bitter old bastards. It's kind of really great. It also hits one of my ship kinks, the age-difference pairing in which it feels like there is no age difference at all, due to the younger partner being one of those people who are just born to be fifty years old.

I have tried to stop reading novels lately, mostly because they're total time-suckers. But also I feel like most of the teen adventure novels I used to love (quite similar to THG, most of them) are incredibly predictable, which wouldn't be a bad thing except they are also completely lacking in style and theme. Apparently what I want out of books is either a) Wizard of the Crow, or b) the Utena movie except with words instead of drawings. Hmm.

Also I have watched the new Korra trailer about fifteen times now. I just thought I should make a note of that.
esmenet: Korra kicking ass from the LoK trailer (korra kicks ass)
So, I just got the copy of Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad I ordered! I have read the first couple pages, and realized that this is a book I will have to hide from myself for a while so I don't accidentally die of too much awesome. You know, that kind of book. ♥
esmenet: Little!Anthy with swords (anthy~)
It was worth reading. Lev Grossman's prose has sparks of absolute beauty in it—descriptive moments especially— and he writes excellent action scenes. The final Alice-vs.-[spoiler] scene was wonderful to read; I immediately forgot all the things I hated about the characters and just enjoyed. I loved watching her fight for and with not love & justice but anger and skill. Positively badass. The end of the fight, though . . . let's just say 'not to my taste' and 'rather problematic' and leave it at that. Combined with the book's other issues with female characters, it feels like a retreading of an old sexist trope. And everything after that was pretty much downhill; I ended up hating Quentin even more. What a jerk.

Also, I can't help but reflect that the thing Elliot does at the end of Book 3 would have been profoundly satisfying and not a little triumphant in something like Utena or Princess Tutu. (There's a quote from the Utena movie I want to compare it to, but it's kind of a spoiler for this here book.) It was written to be painful and hollow and it does read that way, but that's not at all how I am used to reading that sort of thing. Nor the way I like to.

I did enjoy Elliot's "I thought about being a queen," and [spoiler]'s reappearance at the very end, though.

Verdict: Lev Grossman should write lots and lots more books, provided we can get someone else to do the plotting & characters.
esmenet: Yuki Onna from Nurarihyon no Mago blowing through her first two fingers (yuki onna fuck yeah)
I really, really hate characters who don't care about anything. Like, you could give me the evilest dictator in the world and I would not hate them that much. I think it's partly a) why should I care about someone when they don't care about anything at all? and partly b) ye gods, do you even have the tiniest inkling of all the awesome things I could do with your resources? With your life? No, you obviously don't, because otherwise you would be doing them.

In related news, Penny has reappeared in The Magicians and I have something about that book to enjoy again. This is the man who just walked up and punched someone in the face because he was angry at them! That was such a departure from the rest of the book, someone actually having serious in-depth emotions and acting on them. It was very enjoyable. So you can see: SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Possibly even something exciting!

I think I'm going to need some A:TLA or something on hand to dose myself with, though, because this book is just so full of white people, it's disgusting. The only magical school in North America and it is like all white people. Eugh. (And don't think I didn't notice the serious lack of East and South-East Asian languages in all those magical incantations, book. Or African ones, either. Or, really, anything not European or 'Near Eastern'. When the book whose plot hinges on the total nonexistence of Native Americans is better at multicultural representation than you, you'd better believe you're doing something wrong.)
esmenet: Anthy, with swords (pink!Anthy w/swords)
I just spent about an hour and a half articulating to myself why

1. I intensely dislike media that prioritize a magical world over a real one—the real world has all the stuff I care about in it already, and if your shiny cool magic world is full of sparklies but not one goddamn personal conflict I will not give a drop of ink for it—and

2. Real conflict is not in events but in how people react to them.

Piece of articulation I am fairly proud of, considering the lateness of the hour:
I don't care about your huge fireballs and your dragon-slaying and your oh-so-special self who is so privileged to be in this oh-so-special world. I care about fights between friends and social (in)justice and household chores and academic research and culture clash, I care about actual difficulties that have to be dealt with.

It doesn't matter if it's physically impossible, so long as it's real.

Not entirely unrelated to this: The Magicians is a very good book so far, and the author seems quite aware of what he's doing, but I kind of hate Quentin a lot of the time. And Loveless is fast becoming my comfort manga for not-enough-internal-conflict media. INTERPERSONAL DIFFICULTIES WHAT HO. (Other things good for this: [profile] gateway_girl's Blood Magic, [personal profile] dolores_crane's In Loco Parentis, [ profile] kirinin's Secret of Slytherin and Geas of Gryffindor, and all things Utena.


esmenet: Little!Anthy with swords (Default)

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