Harold Ross of the New Yorker

On Never Reading Your Own Reviews, So to Speak

I tend not to follow trans-related news, arts, and media as much as might be expected – not out of any disaffection with the identities or ideas, but more as a sort of not very useful self-defense practice against a number of painful and complex emotions. Anyone talking about trans issues, even talking about them really well, hurts at least a little, for the earth is made of knives. Still, a different habit would serve me better.

The (re-)restriction of trans people in American public space is frightening, yet it's almost background noise to me because of everything else that's happening.

And also of course, as a passing transmasculine person, I am least affected by this violence. It's the trans, agender, and cisgender people who don't fit into expectations of gender presentation that are most at risk, and especially transfeminine people. So a powerful if unstable privilege and the frail membrane between Canadian and US politics create a little space of denial in which I lately crouch. It's easier to worry about other people's problems, and the scale is so much greater.

It is maybe not strange, in some larger analysis of the rise and fall of empires, that this institutional violence intensifies as there is a surge of great thinking and creativity in and around gender and sexual identities -- but it feels strange, like boarding a rollercoaster and then finding yourself thrown through empty air.1

Yet I'm inspirited the recent agender, ace, aro, and fluid writing I've encountered. While my default habit is to worry about the way categories put hard borders on the mutable forms of experience, I feel like a lot of air has been let into the rooms of sex and gender lately via these identifications and discussions, and I'm grateful for that. In particular, it's made me reflect on what my own terms of intimacy might actually be.

So I hope -- I even believe -- there is enough power in these movements, these people, these ideas, to keep it all going until -- I guess until the rollercoaster can be rebuilt -- but right now I am ill in body and in spirit.

Um, so, I don't know -- any good fic recs?

{rf}

1. And look, in the final analysis, I refuse to believe in some absolute or causal connection between increase in personal freedom and incipient societal collapse. (I don't buy that goofy story about the granaries either.)

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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Beauty and Frustration

And some attempt at measure.

Beauty: A walk and an opera

The OperaCollapse )

A pause to take stock: Operas I Have Seen and How they Made Me FeelCollapse )

The WalkCollapse )

And frustration: I'm sick again

I thought I'd recovered...Collapse )

I wander foggily, coating everything in the Beautiful Shed with a thin film of Vicks VapoRub.

{rf}

NOTES

1. I say "them", but the primary singers generally come from away, so we heard entirely other voices last time.

2. Opera dates from http://www.pov.bc.ca/repertoire.html

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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

The Owl Service (minor books post)

This isn't so much a post as an excuse to show you a paper owl.

I went to Russell Books today and -- inspired by Backlisted, my new podcast boyfriend -- hunted up Alan Garner's Red Shift.1

The Owl Service was also on the shelf, which let to this fruitful use of my afternoon:

Cut for OwlCollapse )

I like very much that Garner makes his books into puzzles, without its being coy or forced. I am trying to hold off on decoding the ciphered message at the end of Red Shift until I've actually read the book. No spoilers please.

So far I like The Owl Service -- the only thing that makes it a young adult book is the way it leaps immediately into its weirdness, rather than easing you through a process of deduction the way a book with aspirations to a certain kind of maturity -- to creating a realistic unreality -- might.

{rf}

0. I looked for, but did not find, the edition of Woolf's The Waves with the absurdly patriarchal back cover copy mentioned elsewhere.

1. I am still compiling the list of essential books recommendations from friends (old, new) and helpful strangers, so right now my reading looks like this: Owl ( Red ( Recommended ( Party (Howards End) Going) Mystery Book ) Shift ) Service, with books for teaching in their own noble stack at my left hand.

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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Late-20th-Century Material Culture and My Copy of Howards End

Herein I attempt some deduction.

My edition of Howards End is a decaying Penguin Modern Classics paperback once owned by a Warren Cocking. I don't think he would mind my publicizing this, since he wrote his name the inside front cover, followed by both his address and his phone number.

In which our hero spends a perhaps surprising amount of time describing a hypothetical felt pen.Collapse )

What I really came here to do, though, was to talk about the blurb on the back of the book.Collapse )

I can see what the blurbist is going for: you are meant to really value and appreciate this book, not just consume it. It's just that they seem to be telling you this while backing away, slowly and mournfully, into the void.

Here is someone else's entertaining mention of the self-same blurb (on a slightly earlier edition). In this blog post, Robin Stevens mentions "the 60s, era of charmingly hilarious back-cover blurbs", and a similarly misguided blurb for The Waves.3

Was that a thing? Was it just a Penguin thing? A British thing?4 I don't remember my other paperbacks of the era having anhedonic and passive-aggressive blurbs.

What I'm asking is -- where can I find more?


{rf}

more footnotesCollapse )
3.So far searching for strange old book blurbs just finds me many, many sites about how to write a catchy blurb for your self-published book, and searching "The Waves back cover" gets me illustrated phone cases.
4. It seems very British indeed, in reflecting that distinctive double-negative-for-positive phrasing, e.g. "not unpleasant".

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writing

Friday Story

It's been a long time since I wrote any fiction, so this is an exercise more than anything: physio for the imagination. A ten-minute story that assembled itself while I was in the shower.

I did not explain about freezers, but somehow the rumour reached the snow-personCollapse )

{rf}

Crossposted from Dreamwidth (http://radiantfracture.dreamwidth.org/3110.html), where there are comment count unavailable comments. Comments either place are great.
Harold Ross of the New Yorker

Writing Seeking Reading

What books are you most glad to have read?

What books are you most glad to have in your mind as objects, if that's how you have books-- to revolve and contemplate --

or as nodes in your web of thought, if that's how you have them -- for their connections to other books or for their illumination of you know Life or science or art --

or as blotches of blurry colour, if that's how you have them -- for the pleasure or surprise or wonder they gave you?

What books would you most wish never to forget? Which have lodged in your spine and made it stronger? The really key keys to your mythologies. The non-negotiables.

I wish to plan my reading better this year, but while I have perhaps two hundred unread books lying about desperate to be taken up, I have limited time and there's a snowy blank where the urge towards the next book might usually be found. (And a snowy blank all 'round.)

So -- off the top of your head -- through old habits of mind or new revelations or sheer perversity -- what would you most not want not to have read?

Sans advice, I will finish Howards End and Party Going and probably go on to Red Shift, since that's what Backlisted recently covered (in n extraoooordinary [DING DING DING] episode, found here.

Cheers for any thoughts at all you care to share.

{rf}

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  • Current Music: Backlisted theme song
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Harold Ross of the New Yorker

A Sleepy Sunday and an Explantory Note on my Housekeeping Arrangements

Just a quotidian report, for those who like dailiness, and to remind myself that such exists.

Reading, walking, shopping, and SuperbowlsCollapse )

I should perhaps sketch our domestic arrangements.Collapse )

As I walked home tonight, it was snowing in minute grains, almost rain, yet not at all sleety -- just a fine particulate crystal on the edge of its melting point.

I am disappointed, obviously, at the symbolism of the Superbowl outcome, but it is in keeping with the register of the year so far.

{rf}


1. As I was writing this, I realized that "I made some progress with Howards End" or "I got a bit further into Howards End" and any other metaphors of progress were all going to come out sounding wrong.
2. Though to be fair, "recently" probably means something like 2011. Gah.
3. !!!

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john simm

Spring as such

I saw the first cherry blossoms of 2017 yesterday. These clusters of bright pink, with their peppery scent, are my yearly marker of endurance. They signal the possibility of spring, hope, returning light, and not feeling dead inside. "We made it. We survived. Better times are coming": this is the yearly message of the ornamental cherry tree.

However, since I saw the blossoms during a snowstorm on the way to an anti-islamophobia vigil, the effect was somewhat blunted this year.

Turnout at the vigil was disappointing, but this is partly because it was the second vigil this week — the city held a brief gathering on Tuesday, and that one brought about 3000 people. This was maybe 10% of that at peak. I think it was organized by a very few people, though, acting quickly, and in that it was impressive. One of my former students played an honour song. His youth and enthusiasm, responsiveness and commitment -- that does lift my spirit. That might have to be my cherry blossoms this year.

{rf}

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writing

BPAL Reviews - Yules

I don't just write lengthy opinions of books; I write lengthy opinions of perfume oils too, often when I really should be writing something else.

Yet there's something so pleasurably difficult about trying to summarize your sense impressions of something as elusive and under-reported-upon as scent.

I often think I'd like to write short stories in the form of reviews (or other formats I find myself using often), but these are just reviews.

Pognophobia (Fear of Beards)Collapse )

Salted Caramel ShortbreadCollapse )

Socerophobia (Fear of Parents-in-Law)Collapse )

A new BPAL perfume oil is like a new poem to read, one in a language I only partly understand. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab was something I heard about on LiveJournal and coveted for years before I took an active role in smelling things with clever names. I keep promising myself I'll retire from buying any more -- save for old age and such instead -- but then the Halloween and Yule releases almost always ensnare me anew.


(Also posted at bpal.org)

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