I just finished reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which has made me want to revise all my Julian novels to make them big fat novels filled with flashbacks and historical/political texture. Why didn't I do this? I kept fuming, as I read. Why didn't I do that? Writer's envy: a certain sign that you are reading a fine writer.
(A mediocre writer you keep thinking, well, okay, but it would work better if she did this; a bad writer, you do not think at all. You just gag and fling it against the wall.)
I think I would have enjoyed Wolf Hall even more if I had known even the smallest bit about the period -- 1530s England, which is way outside my realm (my era, the era I wrote my dissertation on, was 1st century Rome and 7th century Greece -- comp lit, remember -- the nature of translation, fap fap fap -- but I've been teaching Chaucer, along with the Victorians, long enough to have picked up a bit about 14th and 19th century England, and who doesn't know a bit about early 2oth century England; but the rest? It's a dark and undiscovered country, as far as I'm concerned. I had to keep asking Herr Doctor Delagar questions. "This Jane Seymour," I would say, "is she going to be important?"
(No, I'm not kidding. Somehow I made it to my advanced age without knowing all the names of the six wives of Henry VIII.)
I also didn't know Thomas Cromwell was related to Oliver Cromwell, though now that I do know it it's way cool.
Phyllis Schlafly talks again, assuring us that because her mama went to college in 1920, no women were oppressed ever, or are oppressed now. Because Sarah Palin was nominated for VP, there isn't any sexism or oppression now. Anyone who claims otherwise is, in fact, says Ms. Schlafly, just trying to oppress women.
Well, it's...I won't say it's an argument, but it's clearly some sort of speech act.
It started snowing around one today and it has not stopped. About four inches on the ground so far and more coming down. I cannot tell you how gleeful this makes me and the kid. (Herr Doctor Delagar does not like snow. He is grumpified.) We just went out for a very long late night walk around the snow-deep streets of Fort Smith, which have never looked more lovely. The kid was wobbly with delight. (I'm serious. She nearly fell over several times.) Well, so was I.
"Look! The trees are covered with snow!"
"Look! The fireplug is wearing a hat!"
"Soft ice! The sidewalk is covered with soft ice!"
"Hey! Snow in my socks!"
"It's so quiet out here! Why is it so quiet?"
"Look here!" (Whap!)
That last was the kid hitting me with a snowball and then giggling wildly.
Almost no one was out -- we saw maybe five vehicles, driving very slowly, and two other people, boys about ten, wandering the streets like we were -- and the snow fell steadily, thickly, heavy as rain.
"What if it snows forever?" the kid asked blissfully.
Icing and sleeting here. The university has just cancelled all classes from 1:00 on (yay!), which gives me an unexpected writing day. I have made a huge pot of coffee and settled in.
I've just finished revising the lizard story, which I plan to submit soon (I have the magazine picked out). I patched the problem, I think, and cut another 500 words. I'm starting work on another short story, thinking about Book V of Martin.
Michael Berube amuses me, as much as anyone can amuse me about what has been happening to what used to be my president, who is rapidly turning into, as Herr Doctor Delagar has started calling him, Herbert Obama (short for Herbert Hoover Obama):
Look, people, the proposed “budget freeze” is not a “freeze.” It’s more of a “chilly wind” or a simple “breeze,” like a “fudget breeze.” It’s not as if Obama gave us all a pony, and then there came a killing frost. The “fudget breeze” will not affect most of your favorite federal programs, such as defense, Medicare, foreign aid, Homeland Security, weapons development, Medicaid, the Pentagon, fruitbat subsidies, Social Security, stuff having to do with veterans’ services, and the Department of Blowing Shit Up.
I made dinner tonight, b/c Herr Dr. Delagar took the kid to Aikido. I made a fine recipe Zelda gave me, involving chicken, sweet potatoes, cumin, olive oil, and slow baking. Filled the house with an excellent smell.
So after dinner I ask HDD, "How'd you like dinner?"
"It was really good," he says, sounding utterly sincere.
One long beat.
"Next time let me cook," he adds, with no change in tone at all.
This one, South Carolina Lt Governor Andre Bauer, who is running for Governor, BTW, wants to cut school-lunch programs -- stop feeding poor children if their parents miss PTA meetings or other benchmarks.
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed," [SC Lt Gov. Andre] Bauer said, according to the Greenville News. "You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
They're all vehemently Pro-Life so long as the fetus is still pre-born. Once the little nipper's out & running, hah, you're on your own, you little stray!
It's been my experience that those who don't work in higher education have no idea what this world is like, though nearly everyone is sure they do, and wants to tell us all what we're getting wrong and why us in our Ivory Tower need to be schooled about politics and economics and how our fancy ideas would play out in the real world (because, as we all know, college professors don't have paychecks or power bills, we don't raise kids, our cars don't break down, our rent never comes due, we've never volunteered for a political campaign or served on a committee, we just sit about penning sonnets and thinking deep thoughts in a fine Utopian landscape, with now and then a lovely forty minutes in a rustic classroom, where we stroll about, chalk in hand, declaiming sonorously whilst fourteen undergraduates listen with rapt attention, absorbing with unquestioning diligence our every syllable).
Dr. Crazy, adding to an on-going debate on the wicked job market and the idiocy of those who would enter graduate school in such a market, speaks a more realistic version.
(My favorite graph:
I am entirely against the idea of equating education with job training. I know that's how it works in the corporate economy of contemporary universities, but I think it's disgusting to do so. And also really short-sighted and stupid.)
Crossed Genres starts the serialization of its first novel tomorrow. You have to subscribe to have access, so now would be a good time, if you haven't jumped in. Not only can you access this novel, which is going to rock, but you'll be helping to support one of the best independent SF magazines around. (Yes, I'm the assistant editor, but I held that opinion even before they came to their senses and asked me to join them, so you can overlook that certain bias.)
Also! Look at the number of women writers they publish. That should yank out your credit cards if nothing else does. I'm just saying.
And not too pricey, either, btw: less than ten dollars a year.
So I'm talking to the kid the other night, and I point out that you know, technically, according to Xtian's own rules, Jesus is illegitimate, and --
What? she demands.
Well, God never married Mary, did he? So--
Which isn't really as bad as the whole adultry thing, I added, thoughtfully, since, under the rules of the time, Joseph being betrothed to Mary, that's the same as being married, and God's slipping around with someone else's wife, so--
MOM! You're giving me all these moral dirtclods, and you KNOW I can't throw them!
(I have forbidden her to raise these issues with teh Xtians at her school.)
Which makes this really unkind of me. But I have to show her this article:
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and He took the bone of Adam’s penis and made him a woman.”
Er, wait, wasn’t it from one of Adam’s ribs that Eve was created?
Not according to Ziony Zevit. A professor of Semitic languages at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles Zevit posits that the Hebrew word tsela (literally “side,” but traditionally translated as “rib”) employed in Genesis refers in fact to Adam’s member.
Leaving aside political cynicism, this entire affair proves that the GOP is not simply still infected with the vestiges of white supremacy and racism, but is neither aware of the infection, nor understands the disease. Listening to Liz Cheney explain why Harry Reid's comments were racist, was like listening to me give lessons on the finer points of the comma splice. This a party, rightly or wrongly, regarded by significant portions of the country as a haven for racists. They aren't simply having a hard time re-branding, they don't actually understand how and why they got the tag.
These guys are lost. But Michael Steele's "off the hook" strategy will, presumably, point the way back. Not for nothing, I offer the wise and venerable words of my people: Negro, please.
Here, right here, besides a wryly droll picture, we have a post that distills the true nature of the American Right -- the reason so many of us dislike and distrust it so deeply, as well.
People who lived in freer societies (little or no slavery) with more democratic governments (annually elected local officials) were more comfortable with taxation than people who lived in less free societies (lots of slavery) with less democratic governments (appointed local officials). Liberty and democracy actually produced better and higher taxes in early American history!
During winter break, I spent some time with my family, during which I did my very best not to get in any fist-fights. This is difficult, as I am, as readers of this blog know, an atheist and a socialist, and many of my relatives are fairly far to the right, not to mention fucking Christians -- or, even, those who aren't fucking a Christian, Christians themselves. It's a dread neighborhood.
But I drank a certain amount of rum and bit hard on my tongue and behaved. No, really, I did.
It was only this one incident....one conversation...where I was informed that certain relatives of mine using the n-word, that was no different that me and my friends using the f-word. Just a difference in fashion, see? It was the fashion in my circle to say fuck, and it was the fashion in that other circle to call people n*gg*rs and what was the difference? Nothing, and I was an idiot if I thought otherwise.
I recollect a time when my kid was a toddler, when one of my brothers said fuck around her. "Oops," he said. "I guess I shouldn't say the f-word around your kid."
"Say fuck all you like around her," I said. "Just don't say the n-word around her."
Because there is a difference, frankly, between these two words, and it has nothing to do with fashion, though yes, it does have to do with the ethics and the mores of the two social circles. I don't deny that.
One circle -- that would be mine -- has stopped fretting about using words that are marked as vulgar due to class. These would be words like shit and fuck. They also don't worry about words that are marked as obscene for religious reasons.
The other circle would never use low-class words like fuck, though I imagine they might say shit if pressed. Probably they don't take Jesus's name in vain. Laws no. But racist words are dandy. God, you see, outranks them. Brown people are below them. It's all status to this lot, I suppose.
This is why I believe they're wrong: they're creating harm in the world with their racist epithets. When they use those terms, they teach their children, and each other, that (brown) people have less value than other people: that it's all right to denigrate them. Each time they use these terms, they devalue the common humanity of their fellow humans a bit more -- I know probably they don't actually believe black and brown people are human; not they way they are human and their children are human; but this is why they don't believe it: because they talk this way, and were raised and encouraged to talk this way. That is what is wrong with that sort of speech.
Anyway. I didn't launch into this diatribe at the time, as much as I wanted to, because, well, what would have been the point? And I didn't want a fight. But I've been sulled up about it since, so.
So y'all had to listen to it, like you need to hear it, I know.
Tomorrow is our Pre-School conference; Monday, Spring Semester begins. Since I am not hardly done with revising the novel I wanted to finish revising (though I did finish and submit one short story, and not only revised but submitted and had another totally rejected already -- yay, me!) I am grumpy.
Also, what a bitch this semester looks to be. No writing days at all, and Herr Dr. Delagar is only barely part-time. I will be over-worked, he will be underpaid: poor and exhausted.
But I'm teaching Chaucer, and I found a new HEL book. And the revision is going well, so when I find a few hours to work on it, I'll be able to work. So.
Brilliant post by Paul Campos over at LG & M today on another problem with the War on Terror (not to mention the war on drugs, etc).
The typical Congressional subcommittee chairman or cable news anchor or syndicated columnist can’t really imagine not being able to afford to take his child to a doctor, or being wrongly convicted of a crime, but he is quite capable of imagining being on a Paris to New York flight that’s blown out of the sky.
I spent the day doing laundry, cleaning house, and writing, and feel amazingly virtuous in consequence. Nothing like an absence of clutter to fortify the soul.
In between emptying litter baskets and scrubbing out sinks, I lolled about eating bagels and cheese and reading Larry McMurtry's ancient and massive novel, Moving On, which I read a billion years ago when I was in graduate school and only recently rediscovered on the shelves of the Fort Smith Public Library (where, as Herr Doctor Delagar likes to comment, you can find any book you want, so long as it is a best seller from 1977).
I had forgotten how good McMurtry used to be. This and Lonesome Dove were my favorite books by him; and this, I think, is his best. It's about a billion pages long, mind you (in contrast to his first novel, Horseman, Pass By, which was, I believe, six pages long), but not only does it contain wonderful and wonderfully brief descriptions of the American West, and American Westerners (I love Jim's step-uncle, Roger, out on his ranch), it contains what may be the only realistic portrayals of American marriages I've ever encountered in a novel.
It also reminds me -- and given that McMurtry was also in graduate school, I'm thinking this is deliberate -- of Chaucer's marriage group.
Anyway, if you have the patience, and the upper body strength, it's worth the read.
The weather guy once again predicts snow for our little river valley. Hah, I no longer believe his coy promises. It will be more drizzle and sleet.
Meanwhile, Herr Dr. Delagar made the best Sole Meuniere I have ever eaten for dinner last night, even if he did have to use cod rather than sole, sole not being available in Pork Smith.
(What is available in Pork Smith? So glad you asked. We went out yesterday afternoon to use the kid's book card, at BooksAMillion, that being nearly the only bookstore in town, but of course it did not have the book she wanted. Six rows of Bibles of various sorts, yes, four shelves of Science Fascism, mais oui, but a copy of Cressida Cowell's new book, no. Though I was interested to discover two shelves of shrink-wrapped Yaoi among the manga. Hmm!)
We all have mild colds, relics of our travels. I plan to spend the day working on my SF stories and drinking coffee. The kid is playing with her paper kitties (she has drawn dozens of small paper cats, like paper dolls, only cats, which she keeps in an empty Russell Stover box, and constructs elaborate narratives around. Lately I find 3 or 4 of these kitties in the hallway, outside her room. "There are kitties in the hallway," I comment. "Those are the bad kitties," she tells me sternly.) as well as keeping up with her RPGs and online chatgroups and RW friends. She has a very busy life for an eleven year old, and is deeply distressed that school takes up again on Monday.
"Maybe I'll be too sick to go," she said hopefully, as I gave her her cold medicine this morning.
It's the first day of 2010 and a new issue of Crossed Genres is out. Since this is the first issue for which I served as assistant editor, y'all should definitely link over and read. Excellent stories this month.
Also! Soon the novel will be available for serialization, only to those who have subscribed, so if you haven't subscribed yet, dudes, what are you saving it for, beer money?
Here at chez delagar, the bagels were excellent. I made both poppy seed and sesame, and we had them with what passes for lox in Pork Smith. It was our New Year's Eve celebration. Then I drank ginger ale and rum while HDD had his red wine and the kid drank water from a wine glass and by ten p.m. we were in bed. Yeah, we're bad.