solitary_summer: (Default)
# So, another three weeks of radio silence (sorry!), but I really didn't have the energy. I actually started to write this post two weeks ago after I'd passed the final ECDL Core module and celebrated by letting G. drag me to one of his friends' birthday party, drinking a bit too much, almost getting lost on the roof of the WU building, and coming home at 3 am. Fell asleep every time I found myself in a horizontal position on Sunday, and as a result never managed finish the entry, and this weekend wasn't much better. I've passed Word Advanced on Friday, but it left me in a weird state of mind, completely wired and exhausted at once, unable to relax, even though I'd been looking forward to a free weekend. Went for a 5 1/2 hrs. walk today to get the jittery restlessness out of my system, which did help, but I'm already resisting the urge to stop writing and lie down. More personal stuff & ECDL woes. )

# That said, I really do miss fanish discussions and writing rambling meta. I re-read parts of my last Jack/Ianto meta recently, and leaving aside the irony that I wrote it at a time when there were all of ten people left in the fandom interested in both the ship and a take on it that didn't dismiss CoE, there are bits there that I'm really proud of, and I do miss that feeling of ideas clicking and coming together. So the plan is to pass the ECDL Advanced exams for Excel and Access over the next four weeks, and then I'll give myself the rest of the year off, because it's not as if I'll have the time or energy to do any serious studying before Christmas anyway, watch the MD DVDs and (hopefully) get some writing done.

# Reading, not that much of that is happening at the moment. Re-read the first two books of Clive Barker's Abarat series, because after a seven year hiatus my memories were extremely sketchy, and am about two thirds through the third book now. spoilers )

Also read F. Zwingtman's Ich, Adrian Mayfield, which I picked up at work (the children/YA section does have its perks...), and promptly bought the two follow-up volumes after I'd finished it, but am stuck somewhere mid-second volume now, because I made the mistake to glance at the ending, which, as it turns out, isn't the happily ever after I was stupidly hoping for...

And because I'm apparently completely crazy and over-ambitious, I've started to read The Master and Margarita in Russian. I'm still missing a lot of words (which makes me feel guilty all over again for neglecting Russian so much at the moment), and have to go back and reread sentences, but it's enough to follow that plot and catch the tone and style, which maybe isn't so bad for not even four years of learning?

# Speaking of Clive Barker, I came across this poem of his while browsing in David E. Armstrong's book Rare Flesh, and it made me think of Jack, Torchwood and the whole death/immortality theme...

There'd be no love... )

# Another of these strange connections... A few weeks ago Ricardo Pinto blogged about his plans to travel to Iran since his next novel is set in Achaemenid Persia, and putting off the journey because he was invited to attend a conference about Persepolis in Edinburgh, and I clicked the link and looked at the conference program and... it doesn't even make sense, it's been almost ten years that I haven't done anything at all, but for a moment I still felt a stab of pain and regret that I gave up all that. (My diss was supposed to be about greco-persian art, that is, the art of the western satrapies of the Achaemenid empire and the mingling of the various influences, Greek, Persian, and local, in style and iconography.)

# TV. Actually, mostly I'm looking for something to feel genuinely fanish over again. I'm still watching Merlin, and I'm probably not giving it up anytime soon, because I want to see what happens when Merlin finally reveals his magic, which is bound to be fairly epic, given the ever-increasing amount of lies and complications, but apparently S3 and the way Morgana's arc was handled has irreversibly soured the show for me. Spoilers for 4.01 - 4.04 )

With DW I didn't even finish the season. I stopped watching after Let's Kill Hitler, mostly because I didn't have the time anyway and haven't been interested for a while, but really, if you keep emphasising that time can be rewritten at every turn, then you better come up with a very, very convincing reason why in this specific instance it can't, or why the Doctor doesn't even bother to try. I know people found MD offensive for using the holocaust as a history-repeating-itself analogy, and I can understand that, but personally I find LKH rather more distasteful, because MD at least kept things firmly in the realm of analogy and fiction, while LKH blithely plays around with over 60 million dead, effectively using them as a backdrop for the latest instalment of the Doctor/River romance...

In conclusion, wanted: a new show and some fanish enthusiasm. Or I'm just getting too old and cynical?


solitary_summer: (...singen die sirenen)
Much better now. Friday evening I thought I simply wasn't going to be able to do this for another two weeks, physically or mentally, but what with the rain yesterday work was mostly (minus a bit of dusting and some 30 for the most part and not counting that annoying German couple who wanted recommendations for children's books five minutes before closing time, non-complicated and non-offensive customers) six hours of comfortably sitting around and reading. Walked home through a drizzle since I haven't had time yet to collect the bike (although OTOH I'm seriously considering at least occasionally leaving it at home in the future and walk, because that means some 80 minutes of Russian vocabulary on my iPod per day...), dinner, an ill-timed nap from 7-9 pm, after which I felt strangely dislocated and spent a good part of the rest of the evening watching bits of a German soap on YouTube.

Was supposed to see the new Almodóvar film with R. today, but since she's still sick took myself off to a long walk in the late afternoon, heading straight out of the city through the 10th district, then along the Liesingbach, finally ending up in Oberlaa, through the park, towards Simmering through the vineyards in the evening sun, and suddenly so full of energy that I didn't take the underground back, but walked all the way home again, almost bouncing along the Simmeringer Hauptstrasse with JB on the iPod, happier and more energetic than I've felt for a very long while. Some 4 hrs. all in all. Also, map, because I clearly have too much time on my hands.

Finished Everville and started rereading Galilee, and sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person who's reading Clive Barker because he invariably makes me feel better about myself, the world, humanity, ever since I bought Sacrament years ago when TR mentioned Barker in an interview and like the good NIN fangirl I was at the time I promptly went to some bookstore (pre-amazon days, or at least pre-me-&-amazon days when you still had to rely on whatever novels the English section of a Viennese bookshop would carry; sometimes it's downright scary how fast things are changing...) and picked up the first, er, only, CB novel I found there.

I don't know how he does it, but somehow he makes my too-literal and completely-lacking-in-imagination brain that ran smack! into some mental wall every time the therapist asked me to imagine myself in some kind of different situation, happily follow him as he anihilates all the borders between the real and the fantastic, horror and mystery, the physical and the transcendent, and effortlessly makes me - atheistic, über-realistic me - almost want to believe that the world is really such a miraculous place. Or at least that our minds can be.

(Also, I love his female characters. Coldheart Canyon isn't my favourite novel, but how many novels are there where overweight, obsessive female fans are sympathetic co-protagonists with a journey of their own?)

I also kind of wonder, sometimes, why every single author who's had a major influence on me, from Oscar Wilde to E.M.Forster to Virginia Woolf to Marguerite Yourcenar to Derek Jarman to Clive Barker to Thomas Mann has been (more or less) gay. Not that I think this is a bad thing, obviously, but I do wonder what exactly is the pattern here...

And speaking of books, there's finally a new one out by Eva Menasse, but (*sigh*) it's a collection of short stories. Confession time - I hate short stories. However well something is written, unless I get at least a few hundred pages to immerse myself in a story and its characters it just never seems worth bothering.

solitary_summer: (Default)
yesterday )

[/ aestheticist elitist bitch mode] m'sorry.

Didn't even go out with the camera today because I decided I needed a lazy, peopleless, phoneless day at home. In a brief burst of energy I did an hour of belly-dancing practice; it felt good to exercise my body again, but it left me disproportionally tired and with Sunday afternoon depression beginning to settle in. Crawled back into bed and continued to read Leyla by Feridun Zaimoglu, which (so far) has been compelling with a language that is absolutely stunningly beautiful.

I've also picked up Jane Eyre again recently, which I haven't read for long enough to appreciate it with a fresh eye & mind.

rereading Clive Barker, which always make me ramble )

Then, while I was waiting for [ profile] alex_beecroft's Captain's Surrender (which is brilliant and I absolutely recommend to anyone with an interest in the Age Of Sail and m/m romance) to be ready for download I downloaded Lee Rowan's Ransom (another Age of Sail m/m romance which I'd seen positively recced somewhere, so I thought how bad can it be)...

cut for light snark )

Also [::points to music::] - pretty awesome, and probably not something I'd have picked up in a record store anytime soon. It took me a while to warm up to iTunes and routinely buying music by downloading it instead of in CD format (LPs. Tapes. Videotapes. I feel old sometimes.), but... definitely warmed up now. :)

solitary_summer: (Default)
Quick summary of, er, since I last updated. (Funny how every time I make a big dramatic post about OMGjournalingblock&self-hatred, updating suddenly becomes easier...)

Around All Saints Day I took a couple of days off for a four days trip to Salzburg, where I took a lot of walks as well as a lot of photographs, and felt, if not exactly happy, at least mostly relaxed and content and a bit more like breathing freely.

a few more pictures )

Also watched S5 finishing my B5 marathon and I cried through the best part Sleeping In Light from the moment Susan gets Sheridan's letter, which must be a new record. One might think I'd have become a bit desensitised by the third or fourth time, but apparently I'm getting even more sentimental in my old age. ::sigh::

Surprisingly enough I found I liked - the telepath[s of the very glossy hair, and does it come with the gene?]-arc aside - S5 best of all, maybe because it's the most grittily realistic. Maybe I've become too old and cynical, or maybe it's the spirit of the time and we've all become harder and more disillusioned, but at times throughout the earlier seasons I caught myself thinking that this would never work out, people are just never that idealistic, self-less and heroic and not the least bit corrupted by the power the wield. (And I guess MJS must have been aware of that potential problem, or he wouldn't have gone to such lengths to establish Sheridan and Delenn's personal integrity, not to mention Sheridan's personal memento mori.)

The character I most identify with is still Garibaldi, Sinclair can be surprisingly, dare I say it, hot on occasion, and somehow Ivanonva doesn't live up to the memories I have from when I watched the show on tv.

reading: Naomi Novik: Empire Of Ivory, Perihan Maǧden: Two Girls, Clive Barker, Mister B. Gone )

Since then, work, procrastinating (as usual), two birthday cakes (cheesecake for B. and M. at work, apple cake for my father), a bit of a lingering cold, more work with books arriving at the last possible moment or later, skipped Spanish class & belly dancing class this week because I was too tired and sick, with a sudden pain in my back/right hip to add to the general miserableness, snow, cold, heat in my apartment not working when I tried to turn it on Saturday (repair guy comes tomorrow), being wrapped in blankets with a hot water bottle as a result, starting to watch the Hornblower DVDs I bought a while back, and while it's a bit like O'Brian light, the boy is ridculously pretty as well as heroic, and it's fairly enjoyable to watch...
solitary_summer: (Default)

Life of Pi (Y. Martel). I hate when that happens. Initially liking a book, really liking it, only to end up very much resenting it. Couldn't even bring myself to finish it, read the first two hundred something pages, after which in exasperation I skipped to the ending/revelation, and then browsed through the rest.

Maybe I'm stupid, maybe I'm not open minded enough, but I don't get the hype about this book at all.

He first alienated me when the protagonist summarily condemned agnostics, and lost me when he then proceeded to be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim all at once. Too much religion - a rather wishy washy brand of religion -, followed by too much gratuitous, voyeuristic violence, a plot too artificially contrived, all serving the purpose of a symbolism laid on too heavily for my taste.

There's something slightly obscene about the mixture of it.

Come to think of it, perhaps it's the ex-catholic in me that makes me resent martyrdom, violence and death for the sake of a higher purpose.

Still, it'd be tolerable, if there at least was a point - which there isn't.

Now personally speaking I'm an atheist on some days, an agnostic on others, and moving from one to the other was a conscious step for me, and I think one in the right direction, because it meant opening my mind to something I'd prefer not to have in my world-view; but if I were to chose any religion, it'd be Buddhism. My issue with all theist religions is that while God can be seen as something more abstract and symbolic, more often then not they simply reflect very mundane social structures with all their inherent issues of power and authority, their pettinesses and prejudices.

However. Maybe that's the ex-catholic talking again, but if I were to believe in god (not the god of one particular religion, but one self-aware power, creative force, whatever term you prefer behind the motions of the universe) the point would be to assume that this god was real, wouldn't it? Strive for proof of its reality, if possible, or at least be convinced of it?

How exactly is this book supposed to restore your faith in god, if it reduces god to the 'better story', something to prettify an ugly reality and make it more interesting? Not even tolerable exactly, not more purposeful, merely more interesting.

And what, after all, is 'better story' supposed to mean? Every X-file-esque conspiration theory is a better story than the sad reality that humans are often stupid, greedy, short-sighted and generally have the tendency to mess up things. That life often sucks, even when no one's to blame.

God (if there is such a thing), and I think most religions and a few philosophers would agree on this, even if they disagree about most of everything else, would be an absolute, something transcending the limits of human perception and prejudice.

This book sums up every argument of my younger self why god is nothing but a human invention.

I don't have anything against imagination. I love Clive Barker's book exactly for their scope of it. But Barker's imagination - or, you might say, spirituality - is something powerful, inescapable, it is real, without any qualifications. It saves his protagonists in an entirely different sense; it is never reduced to 'the better story', because in Barker's universe there is no other story.

[/rant] Shower. Work.

For a moment there I sorta, kinda thought I got what he was aiming at; the equation between atheism and religiosity addressed early in the book, both the atheist teacher and the devout Muslim seeing the same reality, the same beauty in a zebra, mostly because it reminded me of something Posa says in Schiller's Don Carlos, but it's not really that, because in the end the story with the tiger is presented as the better one...

[ETA: ::sigh:: And promptly, post-shower, the more rational part of my brain kicks in and, yes, obviously the whole argument depends on what your image/definition of god is. ]
solitary_summer: (letheo (© clive barker))

Someone tell me I don't have to work tomorrow. Pretty please? Where did the weekend go so fast...

A propos the last entry: It's funny how the memory/subconsciousness stows away things and brings them up again, neatly by-passing the conscious mind:

The deeper they ventured the more it seemed he was treading not among the echoes of the world, but in the world itself, his soul a thread of bliss passing into its mysteries.

He lay with a pack of panting dogs on a hill overlooking plains where antelope grazed. He marched with ants, and laboured in the rigours of the nest, filing eggs. He danced the mating dance of the bower bird, and slept on a warm rock with his lizard kin. He was a cloud. He was the shadow of a cloud. He was the moon that cast the shadow of a cloud. He was a blind fish; he was a shoal; he was a whale; he was the sea. He was the lord of all he surveyed. He was a worm in the dung of a kite. He did not grieve, knowing his life was a day long, or an hour. He did not wonder who made him. He did not wish to be other. He did not pray. He did not hope. He only was, and was, and was, and that was the joy of it.

[from Clive Barker, Sacrament]
solitary_summer: (collar ((© clive barker)))

Finished Clive Barker's Abarat 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War yesterday, after having re-read the first part, and... ::conflicted sigh:: I generally love Barker's writing, and as with the first part, the artwork alone is worth buying the book, but it's impossible for me to appropriately review a children/young adults' book in the way it deserves to be reviewed; I can't help my age... much of what I might say would effectively come down to complaining that it isn't an adult novel. (Or, more precisely, that it isn't the third of the Books of the Art, which I really, really wish he'd get around to writing some day, and which I feel the world of the Abarat is perhaps closest to.)

The problem thing is, however colourful the worlds he creates and the creatures he peoples them with, in all of Barker's novels his philosophy, or worldview, whatever you wish to call it, is very much in the foreground: it dictates his plots and he arranges his characters accordingly. As a consequence, there are quite a few archetypes, varied to a greater or lesser degree, and in the Abarat books, which to a certain extent lack the details and psychology of his adult novels and in comparison occasionally appear a little sketchy, almost rushed, this is more readily apparent. It's delightful to read, but there are many echoes, a recurring sense, not quite of déjà vu, but something very near. Not so much in the physical aspects of his world-building, though at times one is reminded of the worlds of the Imajica or the Books of the Art, but on the spiritual level.

I liked reading it, but only towards the end was I really drawn into it; then again, at thirty-two I'm obviously not part of the target audience. None of the characters so far have really fascinated me, or made me care for their fate, with the exception of Christopher Carrion. As a rule, I'm not automatically drawn to the villains of any given book, but he is by far the most psychologically complex and most interesting character here, and the only one to evoke any real sympathy in me. Not that I expect a happy ending for him (indeed at this point I'm hoping that Barker has not, in fact, already killed him), but I kind of wish he might be granted a Barker-esque final moment of insight and be allowed to see beyond the limitations imposed by his mind and his pain. On the other hand, Finnegan, for all we're being told what a wonderful a man he is, so far has left me singularly cold, and I can't help wondering whether Barker will maintain his interest in the Finnegan/Boa-Candy romance any more or any longer than in the Howie/Jo-Beth romance of The Great and Secret Show, thoroughly de-constructed in Everville. Somehow I doubt the final book will end with wedding bells.

But in spite of all this, one thing I always admire in Barker's writing, apart from its genuine spirituality, is the sheer scope of imagination, the careless ease with which he breaks through all conceivable boundaries: of life and death, imagination and reality, gender and species. I'm very simply in awe of the infinite variety of shapes and colours of the worlds he creates, because this kind of imagination is something my mind totally lacks; I'm thankful I can at least appreciate it. My mind (by nature, through education, or both) works along too rigidly logical, too scientific lines. I've never really been tempted to write fiction of any kind, and in the one or two cases where I played with a fanfiction scenario in my mind, it was because a character's psychology or the psychology of a relationship, insufficiently explored by the show, fascinated me: and there's the analytical approach again. I can't seem to escape it.

On a side-note, Barker will know best what he's doing, but personally I can't even begin to imagine how this will translate into a Disney movie, of all things. The criticism of capitalism, sterile rationalism, uniformity and death of imagination personified by the book-burning Rojo Pixler, who is presented as a worse threat to the balance and continued existence of the Abarat then Christopher Carrion's plots for eternal midnight... And in view of the climate prevalent in the US today, I certainly don't envy him the decision and struggle with the Disney executives of whether or not to include not only an explicitly (rather than subtextual) gay character, but a practically married gay couple. I wonder, what, if any, photograph, Two-Toed Tom will be allowed to show in the movie...
solitary_summer: (Default)

For many, many years he had been unable to open his mind fully to any man or woman at all, and at times it seemed to him that candour was as essential as food or affection: during most of this period he had used his diary as a kind of surrogate for the non-existent loving ear - a very poor surrogate indeed, but one that had become so habitual as to be almost necessary. He missed it now, the close-written coded book, and having stared at the fire for a while he turned full to the table. His indifferent eye fell on the note, addressed in that familiar hand, and he drew a sheet of paper towards him.

'If I no longer love Diana,' he wrote, 'what shall I do?

[Stephen in O'Brian's The Fortune of War]

"And so do you really think they're still out there, loving each other, and then being separated, and him finding her again, only to be separated again?"

"Yes. I do," Finnegan said.

"What a terrible way to live."

Finnegan considered this for a moment. "Love makes its demands, and you listen. You can't bargain with it. You can't fight it. Not if it's really love."

[Clive Barker, Abarat 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War]
solitary_summer: (candy (© clive barker))

That's all I have to do, she thought to herself. All I have to do is open my eyes.

The idea was so simple it made her weep. She could feel the tears pressing between her locked lashes and running down her cheeks.

Open your eyes, she told herself.

Clive Barker, Abarat, & probably not making much sense out of context.
solitary_summer: (Default)

Is Christmas depression finally catching up with me?
Woke up in a very melancholy mood...

Sometimes I feel very alone. Not so much in the big ways - (:: shrugs ::) I've kind of got used to it and If I were to be honest more often than not I like it that way - but in small, stupid ways, like when I find myself picking up on aspects of things that no one else seems to notice or attach the same importance to as I do. Wanting to share something and finding no one who feels the same way; ending up posting a wordy lj entry that is as much self-assurance as message in a bottle. Sometimes it feels like I've constructed this elaborate universe for myself to live in and it's entirely subjective... and there's this lingering fear it might easily collapse again, because it's only a figment of my imagination, after all...

I don't even know why this should matter.

[After encountering your typical goth horror-obsessed Clive Barker fan (and nothing but that type) over and over on the internet I had this intense moment of, not even so much satisfaction, but reassurance and relief that I wasn't entirely imagining things, when I read this D.Winter's Clive Barker biography.]

Oh, and... this was not triggered by every one else's gushing over the RotK movie (even I am not that insecure), but my own reaction and criticism were rather symptomatic. I never really fit in anywhere, with any group. Not with the fangirls and not with the Tolkien nerds, for that matter. (Even during my Tolkien fan days I never made it through the Simarillion, because I couldn't really be bothered with the pseudo-mythology of a fictional universe.) And while I'm aware it's unrealistic hoping to find someone with whom you'll agree on everything (or even on most of the major points) - the whole soulmates kind of thing -, especially when you're not 18 any longer, but have lived your own life for more than a decade longer, going to places, some obscure or at least not exactly popular, collecting memories and experiences, still lacking a lot of others that might be considered prerequisite... sometimes there's just this irrational need I can't quite help.

Is there even a point to all this? I usually don't have a very strong sense of wanting to belong, but sometimes it catches me unaware... and yes, there's a world out there beyond the internet... but if it comes down to it, it's even harder meeting similar people there... ?

:: headdesk :: ...yet *another* thing I didn't like about the LotR movie-verse: Arwen... )

Will go my nerdy ways now & read a bit, then watch the next couple of B5 episodes.
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[ profile] 50bookchallenge: #1: Clive Barker, Abarat
(a more formal and spoiler-free review for 50bookchallenge)

However much I love Barker's writing, in some respects it's difficult to talk about a children's / young adults' book and really do it justice, when you're past the intended age-range and have been for quite some time...

For perhaps about the first half of the book I couldn't really shake off the uneasy feeling that this was too much of an edited-for-children, simplified version of the other magical worlds Barker has created - the quiddity from The Great and Secret Show / Everville and the five dominions from Imajica. The heroine's transition from a dreary 'normal' life to some magical universe where she (re-)discovers her identity, destiny and strengths: there is, of course such a thing as an author's personal mythology, but the resemblances were a little too close for my taste. But as the world of the Abarat unfolded, the story developed a life of its own and drew me in.

It has all the things I usually love about Barker's books: the creation of a magical dream-world that isn't derived from pre-existing mythology (like Tolkien's universe) or all-too-obviously based on some historic period, like so many Fantasy worlds are; with creatures that defy species, rationalism or probability, without even trying to explain or justify this to the reader. This may sound strange coming from my mostly very (too?) rational self, but to me there's always something wonderful and inspiring about Barker's way to imagine worlds that break boundaries without even trying and defy about everything possible: laws of physics or biology, social conventions of gender roles or traditional definitions of good and evil (the latter without ever drifting off into nihilistic immoralism).

So many colourful details, such beautiful creations here... John Mischief and his brothers, Malingo, the telepathic binocular squid Squiller (:: sniff ::)... Speaking from a woman's point of view it's also extremely gratifying to have a female saviour-to-be/heroine.

Sadly it's a WIP, so to speak, barely setting the stage for Candy's adventure and introducing the protagonists. Not that I'm exactly on the edge now, waiting for the the next volume, because it's well worth reading for itself, but still... September 2004. Ah well.

Taking an educated guess at this point Candy is the reincarnation of Princess Boa, but knowing Barker, it isn't going to end with anything as straight-forward as a happy re-union with the lover of her former life, even though this is a children's book. Being familiar with Barker's work one can also tell from the beginning before it's actually being pointed out to Candy by Jimothy that the true threat isn't Christopher Carrion, disappointed, bitter and twisted by self-hatred, but ultimately capable of love (at least once) and feelings, part of the balance between light and dark, but Rojo Pixler with his ambition to define everything in terms of buying and selling and his intent on erasing the magic from the Abarat.

The book is worth buying for the artwork alone, which is simply awesome, each picture a joy too look at in its own right, not just as an illustration to the story....
solitary_summer: (Default)

35 degrees... :: fans self ::

recent reading, extremly random & i very much need to take some more thought provoking novels with me on vacation... er.

Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart; Cabal; The Thief of Always: so-so, mostly. Personally I prefer his longer novels. Then again I never much liked short stories (or short novels, for the matter) by any author. To me there's something intensely unsatisfying about this genre.

The Hellbound Heart is rather elegantly minimalist, the style oddly formal for the subject; very moral, almost like some medieval tale.

Cabal is rather bleak, and much more ambiguous. The obvious message is that those who style themselves the guardians of order and normality, all the while ignoring their dark sides or keeping them divided from their public selves (like Decker and his 'mask' - 'The thought of his precious Other being confused with the degenerates of Midian nauseated him') are the real monsters and all the more cruel for their denial.

Nor are the Nightbreed idealised ('He was no longer innocent. With this slaughter he became the killer Decker had persuaded him he was: in murdering the prophet he made the prophecy true.'), but with the world being what it is, dark, cruel and less than ideal, some darkness, some cruelty even, is preferable to the soulless kind. Cleaner maybe. Acceptance of one's darker side may be a painful process, but at least it isn't a spiritual dead end. Decker is left rotting, food for the flies (like Lori's saw herself in the vision that made her change her mind), whereas Boone (forced by Lori) can accept and forgive himself for things beyond his control and accept responsibility for his (albeit involuntary) destruction of Midian.

In a way it's a metaphor for the necessary process of growing up, even if that means moving into uncertain territories ('But she could learn to understand. In a real sense she had no choice. She'd been touched by a knowledge that had changed her inner landscape out of all recognition. There was no way back to the bland pastures of adolescence and early womanhood. She had to go forward. And tonight that meant along this empty street, to see what the coming night had in store'). Growing up together, too - Boone's and Loris's relationship, that is full of love, but despite that uneasy with lies and pretences to the point of almost killing that love (Boone, pretending to be alive for her and at the same time realising that she isn't part of his new life any longer) until Lori learns the truth and accepts him for what he is and forces him to do the same. Romantic, without falling into the usual gender clichés.

Clever and rather intriguing how the Christian myth of resurrection is woven into the tale, not even subverted as might have been the obvious thing to do, but in an almost sincere way, making the priest Ashbury instinctively reconnect and change sides, even if it almost costs him his life in the end.

The end feels cut off rather abruptly, as if this were barely the beginning of a much longer tale.

The Thief of Always : a children's book, obviously, with a rather unambiguous moral, put perhaps a little more bluntly than Barker usually does (but after all it was written for children) about cherishing what one has got and a warning that nothing comes without a dark side or a price to pay. There's the maybe less obvious message that Harvey can beat Hood because his experience as a vampire made him aware of his own darker side.

The regret about wasted time is very much an adult concern, of course, because as far as I remember as a child I was hoping to grow up as fast as possible and the fear that time might be limited never even occurred to me. But a nice read, beautiful artwork.

Picked up at work...

H. Mankell, Vor dem Frost, borrowed not bought. For some reason I do find his slow flowing, dark prose oddly comforting, or as far as this can be said, seeing as I read only the German translation. And the switch to Wallander's daughter Linda is rather clever, as it allows him to take a different perspective on his characters, as well as dispense with descriptions the regular reader would find boring by now, but doesn't force him to change his style and personal entirely.

What continues to irritate me is the occasional unevenness of the novels, the way the different elements of the story seem to exist almost independent of each other. Mankell is good with characters and descriptions, both of scenery and moods, but for some reason he chose crime as a genre to voice his concerns about the problems of the modern world and crime demands - at least to some extent - action, which isn't his strength at all. That his plots tend to have a very abstract, academic element despite their often rather lurid farfetchedness, that almost turns the novel into a philosophical or social treatise, i would even consider an attractive element, but that he apparently derives his 'action' sequences from American movies is more jarring. D. Leon, who has similar social concerns she builds her novels around, at least strives for a certain amount of realism and plausibility, but then again her series is already way past its expiring date. Borrowed her last novel from work and already have problems remembering what it was about.

David Liss, A Conspiracy of Paper: lengthy, as a historical crime novel maybe not so captivating plot wise, but an interesting view of the development of modern economy and living as a Jew in early 18th century London. Capturing the tone of the time perfectly, as far as I can tell, without making the prose stilted of laborious to read. A conflicted and rather interesting hero, and thank god, the obvious romance didn't happen. Not even in the epilogue.

About a third into Ann Rice's Merrick, without much desire to continue. I picked it up from our English paperback sale for nostalgic reasons and found myself bored more than anything else. I'll still admit without (much) blushing to having read and liked the first few books of the Vampire Chronicles, but somewhere after 'The Tale of the Body Thief' between the increasingly mystical/religious plots and less than interesting prose she lost me. She used to do well with Lestat's voice, but the more recent books feel slapdash, almost like she's writing her own fan fiction, and not in a good way at all.

Either she isn't aware of her limitations or she simply cannot be bothered any more, but the sameness of her style for people who came from widely different ages and backgrounds is annoying. David Talbot's character had possibilities, but he turns out supremely uninteresting and it almost makes you cringe to read this over-emotional, lush prose that just doesn't sound at all like a British gentleman born in the last days of the empire would, vampire or no. With Lestat she at least at some point offered a reason as to why he didn't sound like a 18th century French nobleman. :: sigh :: Sad. All for money, one presumes.

Then again maybe it's just my taste that's changed and I'm being unfair.

Browsed through Manfredi's Alexander Trilogy yesterday at work out of boredom. Much talked about, though personally I haven't been able to see its merit. Either it's the prose itself that's awful, or it's the translation, but as I don't read Italian well enough that's neither here nor there. Full of sappy (heterosexual) romance, and he seems to be intent on keeping the main characters very, very straight. Personal reading preferences aside, writing Alexander a hundred percent heterosexual to the point of inventing a female character for the sole purpose of emphasising this, is stretching credibility a little to far and makes it pretty obvious it's the authors issues talking here rather than his analysis of the sources. Sad, considering he is an archaeologist. I'm wondering how the movies will turn out...

For Alexander novels I'll stick to Mary Renault and Gisbert Heafs... widely different, but both better in every respect...
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Finished D. E. Winter's, 'Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic', mostly at work (the last two weeks were incredibly slow due to the heat). Insightful in a respectful way (the author being a close friend of his 'subject') his focus is mainly on Barker's writing and artwork and its interpretations rather than personal gossip. Nothing i found particularly surprising or revealing after having read most of the novels, rather it fits well with the image i had in my mind, nicely filling in some blanks.

What was satisfactory on a personal as well as an intellectual level, was to find out that i'm, after all, not imagining things. With most amazon reviews i kept thinking who are those people and have they been reading the same book as i have, and, if so, how can they miss the very soul of it? - to the point where i was wondering if it wasn't rather me, missing the point entirely and seeing what i wanted to see. Turns out i was not wrong, after all (up to and including my random guess at the 'Orlando' aspects of 'Galilee'), even if my focus in some cases differs from Winter's interpretation. The concern with metaphysics, spirituality, the meaning of things, the quest for self-discovery... it's there.

My advantage was probably that i've been reading from 'Sacrament' backwards rather than starting with the 'Books of Blood', and i've yet to see any movie either by Barker or based on his work. So once i bypassed the (in)famous and over-quoted 'future of horror' comment by Stephen King, which had kept me from picking up his novels for the longest time, because at that point of my life i simply wasn't interested in 'horror' any more, i could approach it with an open mind, without having first to readjust my perceptions. (On a very random sidenote, when i finally picked up the 'Books of Blood' i was surprised to find out that 'Sacrament' hadn't been, after all, my first real exposure to Barker. It appears that at some point, though it utterly escapes me when or where, i must have come across a comic version of some of the stories, i distinctly remember 'In the Hills, the Cities', maybe 'Rawhead Rex'. Funny how things come back to haunt you... i'd forgotten all about that.)

According to Winter, Barker himself isn't too happy with the public horror, goth & gore image he's stuck with, despite his artistic change of direction since. At one point Barker's lover is quoted on how the public only sees the weird persona, rather than sensitive, gentle man he knows. My instant reaction is, how can they not? The underlying warmth in spite of the horror was one of the first things that struck me and drew me to the novels. I'm not interested in an ideal universe of shallow niceties and superficial happy endings, but i can't bear a world that is devoid of thought, meaning and kindness. Imo King (at least in his early work, i haven't really been keeping track of his more recent stuff) is more effective as a horror writer, because at least in his writing (as opposed to his private persona, that obviously i don't know ) he is much colder.


Browsed through E.Schlosser's 'Fast Food Nation', also at work. Disturbing, even if only half of what he writes is true (and somehow i doubt that). In many respects it's a sick, sad world we're living in, and what i find especially frightening is how neatly we're all made part of this system, upholding it. Even if i rarely, if ever eat at MacDonald's or any of its equivalents, i do shop at h&m and the like, because of a limited budget and a personal vanity that makes me rather unwilling to dress in ecologically & politically correct, but rather sack like, pieces of hemp-clothing.

Makes you wonder how much of the alleged freedom we're supposed to have is real, or rather how little we chose to make of it. How we're being manipulated and to what extent consumerism and economy have replaced religion and fixed social hierarchies as absolute, unquestioned values. If you question the basics rules of this system rather than demanding minor (cosmetic) adjustments, economists and politicians will start screaming blasphemy, in sentiment, if not in so many words. But it's the same unchallenged acceptance of a system that much like religion is after all not something supernatural or a law of nature, but made and upheld by humans. By us. Maybe we should remember that the world hasn't come to an end either with the discovery that the earth rotates around the sun rather than the other way round. Or that social hierarchies and exploitation aren't the will of god, after all. That there even hasn't got to be a god, and still western civilisation doesn't collapse.

:: wanders off to make a greek salad for lunch ::

solitary_summer: (Default)

[and how long can it take to type out a single entry. this has been sitting on my hd for almost a week now in various stages of coherency. my brain cells must have evaporated in this heat...
speaking of which... :: does a rain dance :: the tiny shower a couple of hours ago wasn't nearly enough]

Finally finished re-reading C. Barker's 'Imajica'. I didn't like it all that much when I initially read it, but thought maybe that was due to circumstances, like me finding the 2nd volume only significantly later than the 1st... back in the pre-amazon & pre-credit card time of my life. Ah well. I kept thinking that with the novel being as long and complex as it is, maybe i was missing out on essential messages.

However, i have to admit it's still not my favourite novel of his. I concede that this may very well be partly or even entirely due to the fact that the christ mythology has only a very limited appeal to me (artistic or otherwise) and even today most artistic renderings simply fail to touch me. (This goes right back to primary school religious education where i preferred drawing pictures of the old testament stories, rather than the new testament ones.) With most christian - themed art i cannot see beyond the primary religious level to some broader humanitarian one. An image of christ to me simply doesn't transcend to some more generalised metaphor for human suffering, i'm either indifferent or irritated.

Barker's Christ figure, Gentle, is not a hero i can much sympathise or even connect with, which probably isn't the best starting point. (For me it's also an exception to the rule, because Barker generally treats his characters, however monstrous or just humanly blind, with a sort of warmth that makes it very hard not to establish some sort of connection or at least feel sympathy for them.) Most of the time his continuous shift between (unconscious) arrogance and humility subtly irritates me, and Judith's scepticism and occasional irritation with him are emotions i can very much relate to. On an intellectual level i can see what Barker tries to do with this figure, jerking him out of a life of sensual self-indulgence, mindless materialism and self-imposed blindness and sending him on a journey of revelations and self-(re)discovery, that will ultimately strip away every certainty and pre-conceived notion, but on an emotional level i just cannot connect. Although i keep thinking this just might be intentional, we're supposed to feel ambivalent about him as long as he's subject to his self imposed blindness, and (unconsciously or willingly) fulfilling his mission as his father's son.

But while my judgement may be biased by (anti-)religious prejudice, i still think it's possible that 'Imajica' might be a little overburdened by the abstract ideas and philosophical and religious constructs behind it. Now i usually enjoy a story that can be read on more than one level (in another medium entirely, 'The Cube' was such an elegantly simple, if also extremely bleak metaphor for life) and generally love about Barker's writing that for all the fantastic, colourful images his stories are always also part metaphor, but 'Imajica' despite the richness in detail strikes me as just a little too academically abstract, and (to me) never quite flows on the simple level of story telling.

There's the main story line, a somewhat disillusioned and certainly less than holy re-working of the Christ myth, only it doesn't end with the canonical sacrifice and promise of salvation that modifies, but ultimately only continues the prior system of belief. Rather he takes the story a little further, reflecting the dissatisfaction with christianity's (or maybe rather the church's) principles and the loss of faith the western world has experienced both on a collective and an individual level. The god finally revealed isn't the embodiment of perfection, rather he is cruel, destructive, stereotypically male and only all too human. He isn't, it turns out, the path to salvation, but rather blocks and obscures it.
Here the son doesn't die for the father, but in what in freudian terms would probably be called an oedipal conflict, but really might also be an act of emancipation kills him. (Or, to be precise, is content to stand by and watch God being destroyed by the consequence of his own action, failing as he did to understand the nature of the world he aspired to rule.) So man kills god, but the mere act of dispatching him, while necessary, doesn't bring happiness or salvation either. But the nihilism, over-rationalism and spiritual bleakness that might follow isn't a solution to be aspired in Barker's vision. He offers a gruesome visual rendering of Nietzsche's famous quote: god is dead and, quite literary, rotting in the first dominion, threatening to taint the whole of the imajica. Only at the very end of his journey of self-discovery, stripped of human arrogance and pretences and divine missions, as an agent of the female forces rather than one male god, Gentle is given the means to really complete the circle of the imajica and create a new beginning from the wreckage both for himself and the world.

Inextricably woven into this is the theme that is a main concern throughout all of Barker's novels, the need for self discovery and self-knowledge and the hurt we inflict on ourselves and others if we lack the means of will for it. Gentle's struggle to face the past he chose to hide from himself and all the existential question he was never forced to ask himself, as well as his darker side in the person of his unintended doppelganger Satori. This is reflected to a lesser extent in the stories of Judith and Quaisoir, Pie 'oh' Pah, Dowd and Celestine, who all in some way struggle (some succeeding, others failing) to define their identities in the face of social demands and expectations, gender stereotypes and supposedly pre-set fate.

Gender issues and gender stereotypes are another major concern, on the human as well as the supernatural level; Judith created as an immortal carbon copy to serve the Godolphin family, goddesses forced into hiding by Hapexamendios, their worshippers persecuted. Coming from a male writer, the novel takes a surprisingly feminist stance, not unreflectingly so - neither his women not his goddesses are perfect - but the message is pretty unequivocal. For humanity to move on spiritually, traditional hierarchies, here exemplified by organised, patriarchal religion or stereotypically male heterosexual behaviour must be overcome. The waters that symbolise the female powers modify or sweep away the hierarchical architectural structures both of Satori's Yzordderrex and, later, the remains of god's own city.

The recurring metaphor of the circle. Ambivalent parent-children relations enough to make any freudian-oriented psychologist probably very happy...

Fuck. I still can't get a grip, i still keep thinking i'm missing something essential. Several somethings.

:: sigh ::


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March 2013

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