More Links

Via Melissa at The Feminist Texican Reads, Edwidge Dandicat tells stories and talks about Haiti. As Melissa says, it’s long but worth it. My favorite bit, which is from her second story, “I dreamed of telling you a story. And since this story would be my last, I wanted it to be a perfect story. Not perfect in execution, but perfect only in intent.” The first bit is edited a bit, to shorten it to get at what really spoke to me, so you’ll have to listen to the whole thing to get the real version. But seriously, ugh, I love that so much. Do you ever get stuck on/fall in love with bits of writing? I think the only time I believe in love at first sight(/hearing/reading) is with art.

Via Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland, two writers read The Giver for the first time as adults. I know Mia also first read it as an adult – how does your experience relate to theirs? A non-spoilery quote (don’t read the piece if you haven’t read the book – just go read the book):

Kate: I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one sitting; I got two pages in and moved my towel under the umbrella and finished it there. It’s so lean, the pacing is so good, and it’s brutal and unrelenting and all those words that sound like movie blurbs. It lacks the romance or the humor or anything that would be that spoonful of sugar, but that’s a testament to how perfect a piece of storytelling it is.

 

Both Mia and I will be participating in the A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour, hosted by Aarti at BookLust and others. All that you have to do is read a speculative fiction novel written by a person of color. Right now I’m thinking I’ll reread Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, which I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while, but the siren call of authors or books new to me may prove irresistible. Sign-ups are open until September 12th, so I encourage you to go sign up!

Lastly, a pretty thing via Design Milk:

Link Roundup 8/27/12

via The Atlas of True Names

+ An article on defictionalization and the crossing-over of products from the fictional world to the real world, over at Overthinking It. 

+ A The Giver tattoo at The Word Made Flesh.

+ Nisaba Be Praised favorite Shannon Hale, on why boys tend not to read “girl books.”

+ Comicker Lucy Knisley’s reasonably-priced food-focused Tanzania travelogue. If “free” is more your style, you can also preview her upcoming (delicious-looking) book Relish.

+ The gorgeous book-spine parking structure for the new Kansas City downtown library.

+ Comicker Dylan Meconis’ response to a slightly scare-mongering article on comics in the classroom.

+ The Atlas of True Names, which “reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today’s maps of the World, Europe, the British Isles and the United States.” I live near Consecration! And…Oakland. Okay, they’re not all terribly exciting, but places like “Stink Onion” and “Abundance of Apples” more than make up for it. You can buy the maps!

Justine Larbalestier Rocks My World

I have a few reviews I could write (and many more books I could read), but instead I’m going to talk about how much I love Justine Larbalestier and how glad I am she is blogging again.

Justine is a YA novelist who has written a number of books including the Magic or Madness Trilogy, How to Ditch Your Fairy, Liar, and the recent Team Human. (I’m too lazy to link to all of them, but as Team Human only came out in July, I thought a link might be handy.) I’ve enjoy all of her books that I’ve read, most particularly Liar (which Mia and I never reviewed! For shame!), and I really, really appreciate her dedication to representing people of color in her books though she is white (all of her books have major POC characters).

But mostly I love her brilliance (she started out as an academic and has a book about feminism and science fiction), which she regularly displays on her blog. It’s been one of my favorite blogs for quite a while and I was so sad when she stopped blogging due to her development of RSI and SO HAPPY that she has returned at last to us*.

So happy, in fact, that I felt the need to write this blog post, and tell any of you out there to go check her blog out. She is smart and clever and SMART and CLEVER and I’m honestly about to swoon. Seriously, go check it out.

*She’s been blogging since the beginning of July, so you might ask why I didn’t make a post back then. I’m not entirely, to be honest. Maybe it’s just that now she’s been blogging for almost two months, I feel confident that she’s sticking around.

Booking Through Thursday: Selection Process

Booking Through Thursdays‘ questions this week are:

Pooch asks:

Overall, what factor most influences your choice of your next read?

Sefcug asks:

What is it that makes you want to read a book by an author you have never read before?

1) Oftentimes, I’m very flighty when it comes to choosing my next book. I’ll pick one that I bought very recently and got excited about recently, rather than something that perked my interest a while ago. Or I’ll pick up a book that I borrowed either from a friend or the library. Sometimes, though, I do go through my shelves and pull out one of the many that I’ve left languishing.

2) Recommendations. Period. Either from friends or blogs or blog friends! I rarely rarely read a book by an unknown author that hasn’t been recommended to me.

Thirsty, by M. T. Anderson

Thirsty

by M. T. Anderson

“All Chris really wants is to be a normal kid, to hang out with his friends, avoid his parents, and get a date with Rebecca Schwartz. Unfortunately, Chris appears to be turning into a vampire. So while his hometown performs an ancient ritual that keeps Tch’muchgar, the Vampire Lord, locked in another world, Chris desperately tries to save himself from his own vampiric fate. He needs help, but whom can he trust? A savagely funny tale of terror, teen angst, suspense, and satire from National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson.” (via Amazon)

[REVIEW CONTAINS VAGUE, NONSPECIFIC SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK]

Good Things: I’ll cut to the chase, guys: Thirsty is a pretty bleak book. Chris, a high-school freshman living in Massachusetts, lives in a world where vampires, changelings, and other nonhuman beings are real. They are hunted down and killed by humans, who fear for their own survival among the inhuman. One day, Chris is approached by a being who says he is with the Forces of Light, who needs Chris to help save the world before the annual Sad Festival of Vampires happens, and at the same time, Chris realizes he is becoming a vampire–the whole book is about his struggle to do the right thing and to resist his thirst for blood, to stay human. Ultimately, though, it’s something of a tragedy; the ending is somewhat ambiguous, but it sure ain’t happy. I don’t think I’m really spoiling anything by saying that, although I went into the book with absolutely no knowledge of the contents other than 1) that it was by an author I already like and 2) it was a vampire novel. So I don’t know if knowing that it’s a bleak book will affect your reading experience–well, scratch that, it probably will. I guess what I mean is that I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. I had pretty complex feelings immediately post-read, and I couldn’t have told you if I even liked the book or not, but now, a couple of days later, it feels weirdly satisfying, like putting your tongue where a tooth used to be and feeling the sore rawness of the space.

There’s a lot of good, dark, dry, almost-not-there humor that I’ve appreciated in Anderson’s books in the past. The dialogue is interesting; it’s stilted, due in part to the characters’ non-use of contractions, but the boys still call each other “buttplug” and “peckerhead,” etc. etc., so I’m inclined to call it a stylistic choice rather than any lack of knowledge about those damn teenagers and how they talk these days. I guffawed aloud at Lolli’s multicolored note to Christopher (C-R-E-M-A-T-E-D :( ), among other scenes. Thinking about it, the book reminds me of Etgar Keret’s novella “Kneller’s Happy Campers,” or Junji Ito’s series Gyo or Uzumaki (although, unlike the latter two, I would read Thirsty and “Kneller’s Happy Campers” again).

Bad Things: I don’t know if I can properly enumerate things that I found bad about the story, but I can talk about why other people might not like it, and why I understand the contentiousness of such a book. I’ve been thinking about this since I read the book two days ago, and I keep coming back to one of Joey Comeau’s posts about his own book, Bible Camp Bloodbath. If you haven’t read it, it’s a semi-comic horror story where there the murderer wins, there are no survivors, and the story ends on a pretty tragic note; in the later post, Comeau talks about how he stayed true to his original vision of a horror story where the murderer “just runs out of people to kill,” but ultimately regretted the resultant hopelessness of the story, and has plans to rewrite and republish it.

Thirsty is one of those books where readers are going to have to weigh its purity of vision versus its hopelessness for their own preferences, and I’m sure a lot of readers may find it coming up too hopeless. It’s a pretty gutsy thing, to write a whole book that ultimately resolves in ambiguous hopelessness; you see writers take that risk more often with short stories, because the readers don’t have as much invested in a twenty-page story versus a three-hundred-page novel, and for a lot of people, a truly hopeless ending to a novel can feel like a betrayal by the author. But here, I think, it fits. Anderson creates this world–this cold, grimy, tinny world that’s hardly worth saving in the end, and the hopelessness feels…right. There was no other way it could have happened.

In the author’s notes, Anderson is quoted as saying, “I grew up in a suburb very much like Chris’s. It seemed to me that there were always a lot of kids struggling with the isolation of wanting to do the right thing when there was no right thing to do.” I don’t think anybody can articulate it better than that.

Overall: A complex, bleak book; not for everybody, although I thought it worked well, with a terrible, funny sadness. Probably good for fans of Etgar Keret, Junji Ito, and M. T. Anderson’s other works. For maximum impact, read in conjunction with a novel that is of the vampires-are-glamorous-and-sexy school.