Books In

Bought some books this weekend!

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
I’ve enjoyed all of James Lee Burke that I’ve read to date. All of them have been Robicheaux books – well written, dark, violent stories about Dave Robicheaux, a cop (ex-cop?) in Louisiana. He’s an author who can write beautiful prose. When I bought this one, I thought it was standalone, but Goodreads says it’s Book 1 of a series called The Holland Family. I’m 100 pages in, I’m enjoying it but am not ready to call it terrific yet. Not like any Burke I’ve read to date so far.

Don Quixote by Cervantes
I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time. Barnes and Noble has these classics – if you buy 2 you get one free. My daughter got Edgar Allan Poe and H.G. Wells, I got Don Quixote.

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
Recommended to me by Bryan Alexander, I found this one online and it arrived this weekend. The first paragraph of the description:

The act of reading is a miracle. Every new reader’s brain possesses the extraordinary capacity to rearrange itself beyond its original abilities in order to understand written symbols. But how does the brain learn to read? As world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist and scholar of reading Maryanne Wolf explains in this impassioned book, we taught our brain to read only a few thousand years ago, and in the process changed the intellectual evolution of our species.

Analog, November 2014
Next up is the latest issue of Analog Science Fiction Magazine. I recently subscribed again – in print – but my copies haven’t started arriving yet. Robert R. Chase has one in here, and the cover story looks interesting.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
I looked for this at the bookstore because Orson Scott Card mentioned it in a column. Mark Lawrence is a research scientist in the Artificial Intelligence field, and this is a fantasy – I think. From what Card said, I expect blurred genre lines. I read the first two pages in the bookstore and was hooked. Love his style.

On the shelf they go!

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Malad, September 2014


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Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin Buffalo GalsThere are times that I can clearly see the box I live in. Reading a flummoxing story often helps me do that, and “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight” is one of those. The story has a mythic quality, and my limited knowledge of myth (Native American myth in particular) may be keeping me from grasping a point larger than “western culture has it wrong when it comes to nature”.

Surely, though, that viewpoint is a big part of what Le Guin offers here. In the introduction to the Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences collection, she says:

By climbing up into his own head and shutting out every voice but his own, ‘civilized man’ has gone deaf. He can’t hear the wolf calling him brother – not master, but brother. He can’t hear the earth calling him child – not father, but son.

That we are deaf, I have no doubt. Striving to hear voices other than one’s own may be the main point of Christianity! It reminds me how much different traditions have in common.

The character of the coyote (or is it Coyote with a capital C?) is a key. The coyote figures prominently in Native American myth, but Le Guin is offering her own version. A bit of poking around on Wikipedia tells me that in Navajo mythology, Coyote is a trouble maker, and in other Native American traditions the myths and legends vary widely. The character is usually male, also says Wikipedia. Le Guin’s Coyote is female, and sometimes turns into a human.

Which is right around where I lost connection with the story. The coyote is a coyote, then a human, then perhaps both, then a coyote. What the heck is going on here? Then I remember: this is only as flummoxing as the Trinity.

Thanks to Jenny for discussing this story with me.

And hug your animals, folks!

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A Duck in my Front Yard

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Jeffty is Five by Harlan Ellison

THe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1977 - Special Harlan Ellison IssueIf you are a Harlan Ellison fan and haven’t heard him read one of his stories, you really owe it to yourself to find one of them. After hearing “Jeffty is Five” (again), I wonder why more audiobook narrators don’t read like he does. Intensely personal and passionate – a listener can’t help but to listen. “Jeffty is Five” is contained in the audio collection Voices from the Edge, Vol. 2: Midnight at the Sunken Cathedral, which is available at Audible.

I’ve also got a copy of the magazine where this story first appeared: the July 1977 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is the “Special Harlan Ellison Issue”. It was the tenth issue of the magazine to be dedicated to a specific author. Love the Frank Kelly Freas cover. Click it for a larger version.

I love this story. Hits me right here, every time. A quick poke around the internet shows me that some think it’s just a pile of nostalgia, but is an Ellison story ever “just” anything? He uses the nostalgia to reveal a much deeper truth. I’m almost 50 years old (oh, the humanity!) and I still struggle with some of the issues he is able to illustrate in this story about Jeffty, who magically remains five years old while his friend Donny, the protagonist, grows up and starts dealing with things we grown-ups need to deal with. Every transition in life, not just the one from childhood to adulthood (which I plan to go through any day now), contains elements that I’d rather not leave behind, even if I desire to move forward. All too often the past and the present do not, CAN NOT, co-exist.

I deeply felt Donny’s nostalgic joy, and because of those deep feelings the rest of the story is powerful.

Yeah. Hits me right here. Every time.

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