"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · Lit · philosophy/criticism · poet-related · recommend · series · series · Uncategorized · wondermous

{book} my name is mina

Do you ever have the urge to write an author and transcriptionally hug and kiss them because of your profound gratitude for their having been born and having written this one particular book? I usually hug the book instead. And I’ve been hugging My Name is Mina the past few days. I should really write those living authors. I should write to David Almond.

I’d heard of My Name is Mina in passing. I think it was in a manner of whispers from the “Lucky Day” shelf in Juvenile Fiction at the Library. I picked it up the other day. I’m familiar with David Almond, should be good.  On the cover in small print: “One of the best novels of the last decade.” -Nick Hornby. I flipped open the cover and read:

Mina loves the night. While everyone else is in a deep slumber, she gazes out the window, witness to the moon’s silvery light. In the stillness, she can even hear her own heart beating. This is when Mina feels that anything is possible, that her imagination is set free.

A blank notebook lies on the table. It has been there for what seems like forever. Mina has proclaimed in the past that she will use it as a journal, and one night, at last, she begins to do just that. As she writes, Mina makes discoveries both trivial and profound about herself and her world, her thoughts and her dreams.

Award-winning author David Almond re-introduces readers to the perceptive, sensitive Mina before the events of Skellig in this lyrical and fantastical work. My Name Is Mina is not only a pleasure to read, it is an intimate and enlightening look at a character whose open mind and heart have much to teach us about life, love, and the mysteries that surround us. –inside jacket copy

I flipped pages and noted the unusual form. I balanced it on top of my seven volumes of Pluto. I was taking this book home to Natalya, whom instantly came to mind. She and Mina would be friends, minus the tree part. Well, maybe Mina could have talked her into climbing one. To be perfectly candid, I would linger in hopes of an invitation myself.

Then what shall I write? I can’t just write that this happened then this happened then this happened to boring infinitum. I’ll let my journal grow just like the mind does, just like a tree or a beast does, just like life does. Why should a book tell a tale in a dull straight line?

Words should wander and meander. They should fly like owls and flicker like bats and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing.

Sometimes there should be no words at all.

Just silence.

Just clean white space.

Some pages will be like a sky with a single bird in it. some will be like a sky with a swirling swarm of starlings in it. My sentences will be a clutch, a collection, a pattern, a swarm, a shoal, a mosaic. They will be a circus, a menagerie, a tree, a nest. Because my mind is not in order. My mind is not straight lines. My mind is a clutter and a mess. It is my mind, but it is also very like other minds. And like all minds, like every mind that there has ever been and every mind that there will ever be, it is a place of wonder. (11-12, though technically 3-4)

I could stop here, couldn’t I. But I won’t.

I had hopes with the first entry title page: Moonlight, Wonder, Flies & Nonsense. I found poetry upon the first page of written words, and I quickly found love within a short succession of pages; 4 and 5 and 6 pages in, pages 12-14. “I was told by my teacher Mrs. Scullery that I should not write anything until I had planned what I would write. What nonsense! […] I did want to be what they called a good girl, so I did try.” There are people who say they want to be a Writer, and there are people who say that they are. And I’m not mistaking Published Author for Writer and neither should you. My Name is Mina is for Writers, for Artists, Anyone, and for Birdwatchers.

I think people will want to give this book to youth they find “special.” And it is true that Mina is gifted and unusual (I think mostly due to her courageousness). You get that her mother is a profound influence, a mentor and guide; she herself is a Creative thinker. If for no other reason buy this for the sake of its portrayal of a loving, truly nurturing mother. “Raise your child in the way they should go,” comes to mind. Anyway, I think people should want to give this book to any young person. It is true that many people like Mina feel alone in their wondering and meandering and musing about themselves and the world; but the book does not impart a sense of “specialness” upon Mina outside of realizing a very rich character. It would assume every young person has (at the very most) an inner life, a distinction, and a loneliness. My evidence?

Now, I’m not going to say the book assumes absolute familiarity, Mina’s mind would be her own (11), but she will not be wholly unfamiliar on some intimate level (at least I desperately hope not). Better, Mina would challenge the reader to nurture their creativity, their wondering minds. If, like Mina, you’re not going to have it nurtured in a school setting or special programs, or unlike her, at home, be determined and a bit desperate and brave and find yourself an empty journal to meander your way through.

My Name is Mina has these fantastic “Extraordinary Activities” throughout. They are connected to her stories and contemplations where they are exampled, but they are meant to engage the reader, the creative. “Go to the loo. Flush your pee away. Consider where it will go to and what it will become” (124). “(Joyous Version) Write a page of words for joy. [or] (Sad Version) Write a page of words for sadness” (133). N did this one, pausing her reading to do so: “Write a poem that repeats a word and repeats a word and repeats a word and repeats a word until it almost loses its meaning. (It can be useful to choose a word that you don’t like, or that scares or disturbs you)” (97). N’s present essay project on present, future, past tenses: yep, the concrete poem Mina wrote on page 89 and following.

Mina is funny and serious and vulnerable and strong and restless and still and shy and friendly and outrageous and poignant and… I found her a beautiful character with which to become acquainted. Rather importantly, she is not charmingly quirky, or a cute puppy to indulge and smile over. She is deadly ridiculous.

If you’ve read David Almonds 1998 debut novel and awards-winning Skellig, you’ve met Mina. While you needn’t have read Skellig to enjoy My Name is Mina, My Name is Mina is cited as a prequel. You meet Mina from before Michael (in Skellig) moves onto her street. She sees him, occasionally observes, but there is a time before she finally introduces herself to him. Those familiar with Skellig will note references, people, and remember Mina. Those unfamiliar will not feel cheated, nor will they encounter any frustrating sense of inevitability like stories often written with another story in mind. You know those that are written to offer backstory. Mina isn’t a backstory. She is her own story.

When Mina writes that “the journal will grow just like the mind does” the book does take on this characteristic. She doesn’t date entries, but uses creative (summarative) titles. She’ll allude to an ending, and then move back and forth before she reaches it. “Afterwards, Mina tried to think of ways to tell the tale. Then she thought that maybe it’d be best to write it down, which is what she did” (58). She intentionally avoids stories until she feels ready to share them, still distancing herself from their discomfort; she’ll switch from 1st- to 3rd-person for similar reasons.  “Extraordinary Activity: (third-person version) Write a story about yourself as if you’re writing about somebody else. (first-person version) Write a story about somebody else as if you’re writing about yourself” (59). Some of the world about her is captured obliquely, what we learn of her mother’s is created thus. The book is a journal of Mina’s keeping after all, her preoccupations, her confessions, her stories, her own dramatic effects. She yells, she cries, she records poems and blank pages. Mina’s mind may be a mess, as she puts it, but the book is by no means jumbled into indecipherability. It doesn’t even feel unnatural. It doesn’t even exhaust the reader with cleverness–maybe because its less “clever” and more normal. Mina resists conforming, and I’m glad for it.

My Name is Mina culminates into an ending that isn’t remotely forced, or even inevitable for that matter. We have points we are alerted to look for, progressions we would see through, and then it slips into another story: Skellig. I was compelled to turn pages by my desire to spend time with Mina and the world she inhabits in her mind’s eye; to explore ideas of creation and death and life and belonging and cages and nonsense and story; to have fun and be brave and engage in healthy doses of nonsense and sorrow and long walks.

Thank you David Almond for your gift to the world, to my daughter, and to me. Thank you for introducing us to Mina.


recommendation…ages 10&up, human (or beast), lovers of humor, occasional irreverence, poetry you can understand, adventure, birds, nonsense, absolute sense… For those who’ve experienced a loss, a found, an inquisitive mind, an understanding adult, an equally strange friend, the principal’s office

Bart’s Bookshelf did a really excellent (and short) review, which I just found. Check it out.


My Name is Mina by David Almond

Delacorte Press, 2010

hardcover, 300 pages.

"review" · fiction · Lit · mystery · philosophy/criticism · recommend

the sense of an ending

Note: this post is quote heavy, as you can see. it can be (for the most part) read without them; i just chose not to restrain myself.

“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents–were they the stuff of Literature? At best, they might aspire to the condition of onlookers and bystanders, part of a social backdrop against which real, true, important things could happen. Like what? The things Literature was all about: love, sex, morality, friendship, happiness, suffering, betrayal, adultery, good and evil, heroes and villains, guilt and innocence, ambition, power, justice, revolution, war, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the individual against society, success and failure, murder, suicide, death, God. […] Real literature was about psychological, emotional and social truth as demonstrated by the actions and reflections of its protagonists; the novel was about character developed over time.” (16)

What if that isn’t entirely true? Or what if it is; yet drawn in the most unexpected and subversive way? Julian Barnes upends many things in The Sense of an Ending. I feel like maybe he is giving Literature the finger and smirking while doing so, widening into a grin as he receives prestigious awards for doing it.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
hardcover, 163 pages

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he’d left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre. ~publisher’s comments.

Have you read a book you felt you should read? And not for a class, for a grade. We all have those. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes won the Man Booker prize this year. At 163 pages, I thought, “Why not?” I need to keep my literary self well nourished, don’t I? That must have been what I was thinking. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I was doing. The book was altogether a frustrating experience. And I hate that the more I think about it after, the more I admire the damn thing.

“We were book-hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchistic. […] Yes, of course we were pretentious–what else is youth for?” (10-11)

The Sense of an Ending is about a middle-aged man revisiting his past and the beginning part, “1,” reads like a memoir.* Tony Webster has a story to tell, and one, you soon realize, with a particular focus, “Still, that’s all by the by. Annie was part of my story, but not of this story” (50). And as we continue in a shift to the present in 2 (the remainder of the book), it could be construed the story he was telling was to his then-wife Margaret. The shifting in an out of time and relationship and dialog is primary to the fabric of the novel. Barnes is flawless; his movement and what it illustrates is remarkably fluid.

“That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.” (13)

In the present, Tony is visited by ghosts of the past, the very past he’d just been speaking about. The reader is led to confront the persons and memories in the present as Tony would, as one privy to the events as Tony knew them. Considering the intimacy of the portraiture, we temporarily forgive the  reliability of the narrator. But as evidence and conversation and age come to light, Tony and Reader revisit what was thought to be known. And little surprise that a shift in perspective is necessary, reliability interrogated. We were warned all along with the contemplations on time, how history is recorded, on memory, and accumulation. But we are never warned how it might come together.

The Sense of an Ending has one of the best last sentences I have ever read.

“I remember a period in late adolescence when my mind would make itself drunk with images of adventurousness. This is how it will be when I grow up. I shall go there, do this, discover that, love her, and then her and her and her. I shall live as people in novels live and have lived. […] However…who said that thing about  “the littleness of life that art exaggerates”? There was a moment in my late twenties when I admitted that my adventurousness had long since petered out. I would never do those things adolescence had dreamt about. Instead, I mowed my lawn, I took holidays, I had my life.” (102)

Tony Webster’s life shouldn’t make for good Literature. He is perhaps the most boring protagonist ever. He is painfully normal, from a young man who masturbates frequently to a middle-aged man who still depends on his ex-wife for emotional well-being. He admits to wanting more for himself in his youth, but finds his peaceable existence not unsatisfactory. He is tepid. The most passionate and mysterious time of Tony’s life comes into focus, and to what avail? No, Tony Webster’s life should not make for good Literature, but Julian Barnes makes him so. It is disgusting how well he does this. I even found Tony’s dealings with the Insurance company riveting. [and hate myself a little for it.]

“I’ve been turning over in my mind the question of nostalgia, and whether I suffer from it. I certainly don’t get soggy at the memory of some childhood knickknack; nor do I want to deceive myself sentimentally about something that wasn’t even true at the time–love of the old school, and so on. But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions–and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives–then I plead guilty. I’m nostalgic for my early time with Margaret, for Susie’s birth and first years, for that road trip with Annie. And if we’re talking about strong feelings that will never come again, I suppose it’s possible to be nostalgic about remembered pain as well as remembered pleasure. And that opens up the field, doesn’t it? It also leads straight to the matter of Miss Veronica Ford.” (89)

“You just don’t get…You never did, and you never will.” Veronica repeatedly tells Tony over and over (past and present). I wanted to punch her in the face. Why? because I didn’t get it either. And I was worried I never would. And I’ve yet to, by the way. Veronica is an elusive memory, an elusive relationship, and never easily deciphered. She is a painful figure of the past, who, in the present, continues in much the same vein.

“There were some women who aren’t at all mysterious, but are only made so by men’s inability to understand them” (86). Veronica illustrates this beautifully. Tony doesn’t understand Veronica, his first serious relationship. However, his ex-wife Margaret feels she understands Veronica well enough, “She’s a fruitcake.” And this hard to dispute, actually. Even without Tony’s vague speculation that Veronica was “damaged” (46). And we come to use Margaret the same way Tony does, as the one who knows Tony well enough to make good objective assessments of the situation at hand. He tells her something, she runs it through a filter based in experience and returns with good advice. Not that he is obligated to take it.

“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but–mainly–to ourselves.” (104)

The visit of his past intrigues Tony enough to pursue a sense of closure, to reconcile memory with actual event, and to finally make sense of an otherwise senseless act. The Reader who hasn’t thrown the book aside pursues the same ending—only to find a sense of it. However, the mystery is not as compelling as the discussion on time, history, memory, responsibility, and accumulation.

Like the very first page, which read’s like a scavenger hunt’s list, the novel returns us to impressions, to marked images, at the end. In the “search for for possible hidden complexities” (5) in all we had come to study and learn, we are left (if not returned) to a feeling that is unpretentiously ascribed to and by the novel. The ending might not be the tidy one you want, but what you will get is a perfect one.

If you’ve a few hours an afternoon, you may want to give The Sense of an Ending a go; especially you Writers, and readers of Literature, and anyone over age 55 who’ve had a few good experiences with Literature. I didn’t read the novel in a single sitting, though I think, since it is possible, it is the best course: The Sense of an Ending is an incredibly well-crafted piece and the elements move in a conversation best held close in mind from beginning to end.


Notes: I know this was a quote-heavy post. but for all the frustrations with unlikable characters and the occasional difficulty sussing interactions, the contemplations were interesting, if not endearing.

I survived. “He survived to tell the tale”–that’s what people say, don’t they? History isn’t the lies of the victors […] I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.”(61)

“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.” (88)

What had Old Joe Hunt answered when I knowingly claimed that history was the lies of the victors? “As long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated.” Do we remember that enough when it comes to our private lives? (133)

one of my favorite:

“When people say, “She’s a good-looking woman,” they usually mean, “She used to be a good-looking woman.” But when I say that about Margaret, I mean it. She thinks–she knows–that she’s changed, and she has; though less to me than to anybody else. Naturally, I can’t speak for the restaurant manager. But I’d put it like this: she sees only what’s gone, I see only what’s stayed the same. her hair is no longer halfway down her back or pulled up in a French pleat; nowadays it is cut close to her skull and the grey is allowed to show. Those peasanty frocks she used to wear have given way to cardigans and well-cut trousers. Some of the freckles I once loved are now closer to liver spots. But it’s still the eyes we look at, isn’t it? That’s where we found the other person, and find them still. The same eyes that were in the same head when we first met, slept together, married, honeymooned, joint-mortgaged, shopped, cooked and holidayed, loved one another and had a child together. And were the same when we separated.
But it’s not just the eyes. The bone structure stays the same, as do the instinctive gestures, the many ways of being herself. And her way, even after all this time and distance, of being with me.” (81)

* I dislike memoirs and was annoyed to be reading about someone with whom I had zero vested interest. I mean, that is why we read memoirs, right? out of curiosity of a particular person who had an interesting life? Barnes must be gleeful having won an award with Tony Webster.

"review" · fiction · Lit · mystery · philosophy/criticism · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy

“Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.”

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

(w/ a new intro by Harry Harrison)

A Byron Priess Book (First Vintage/Random House), 1996 edition.

Originally published (serially) Galaxy magazine in 1951; first book form, 1953.

243, Paperback.

Sean highly recommended The Stars My Destination, I read it and wanted more Bester. This was his next recommendation, an earlier novel, and companion to the aforementioned.

Literature, Philosophy, Science Fiction

In 2301 A.D., guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen. In 2301 A.D., homicide is virtually impossible—but one man is about to change that.

In this classic science fiction novel, the first to win the prestigious Hugo Award, a psychopathic business magnate devises the ultimate scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the order of his society. Hurtling from the orgies of a future aristocracy to a deep space game preserve, and across densely realized subcultures of psychic doctors, grafters, and police, the Demolished Man is a masterpiece of high-tech suspense, set in a world in which everything has changed except for the ancient instinct for murder. ~back cover.

Something has to be done about Craye D’Courtney, the head of the D’Courtney Cartel, Ben Reich’s enemy and only real competitor. D’Courtney is outstripping him in every department, on every level. Reich sees his world disintegrating around him. So he turns to what he sees to be his only option after D’Courtney rejects the last ditch effort. But how does one commit murder when surrounded by “peepers” who even at their lowest levels would read murder on his mind? What does one do when they come up against one of the most masterful Espers (peepers) of them all, the level 1 Police Prefect Lincoln Powell?

“Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.”

Society isn’t the police state that you find in Minority Report* where a few invasively read you before you commit murder. The ethics outlined by the Esper guild and the laws work differently. While the threats an Esper might impose is considered, their function is quite benign. It is their ubiquitous presence, however, that causes citizens to reconsider the pre-meditated sort of murder—the kind Reich is bent on committing.

“Tenser, said the Tensor. Tenser, said the Tensor.”

 Alfred Bester delivers not only a wonderfully inventive future landscape, but a suspenseful crime thriller to match.  We follow Reich as he formulates a plan and daringly follows through. Admittedly, at points, I found myself cheering him on, holding my breath to see how he could possibly pull it off. The third-person-limited artfully moves to Powell and we get a closer look into how the Esper part of society functions. It is hard not to like this character almost immediately. He is incredibly intelligent and endearingly humorous. I was channeling Sherlock Holmes as played by Robert Downey Jr. here—though taller. There is a snag and Powell is called in. A chase ensues. Reich must evade and escape. Powell must follow all his leads and build a case. The basic plot would be interesting on its own, but mix in the human psyche, futuristic capabilities, and Besters ability to negotiate the twists and turns of his own mad imagination and voile The Demolished Man.

Eight, sir; seven, sir;

Six, sir; five, sir;

Four, sir; three, sir;

Two, sir; one!

Tenser, said the Tensor.

Tenser, said the Tensor.

Tension, apprehension,

And dissension have begun. (43)

This was created to catch in the mind, like those infecting advertising jingles. It works. And it is also perfectly applied throughout the rest of the novel. “Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.” Bester is clever with the building of suspense. And even as he disorients the Reader, an explanation will come—eventually. I found myself confused at times, not understanding even the explanations provided. The necessarily cryptic statements were occasionally dizzying. Most was returned to an upright state by the end, but I’ve a few lingering questions.

I told Sean that I need to brush up on my psychoanalysis, because I was referencing a lot of my lessons on Freud and following. Sean nodded, yes, that and Nietzsche—the “uber mensch” and “will to power.” If any such references mentioned excite you, this is a fantastic read. Bester frequently enters the inner human landscape, delving as deep as the Id. He constructs, and demolishes, and re-constructs. His ideas and depictions are intriguing. And the implications are compelling.

“Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.”

Bester imagines a future where humans are much more liberated sexually—as if this goes in hand with a technological revolution. Duffy is both intellectually gifted and sexually aggressive, forthright in her basic desires. Actually, all the female characters in the novel are much more transparent and proactive in their needs and desires than the men. Both Reich and Powell come off as downright prudish most of the time. I love that Powell even knows how to blush (can anything be more appealing in a man?). If Bester is creating an externalized landscape not unlike the internal one, what is he saying about males and females who populate it? Because Bester is re-creating the internal landscape in the external setting. There are sequences where the reader is not clear on whether they are inside or out or if both are one in the same. He is as convincing as Philip K. Dick is when he does this.

The paralleling of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego on the societal level helps communicate the real threat Reich imposes, the one that occupies the later pages of the novel. I had a hard time figuring out said threat until I started thinking about the parallels and the functions of each level.

“Tension, apprehension, and dissension have begun.”

I didn’t care for how the women were carried off, and I’m a bit disturbed by Powell and Barbara. I’m sure Freud or other has something to commend it. The only flaw in the novel is how tidy a bow was at the end. But we all like a little romance, eh? Um… I appreciated how the women were empowered, but not how they were insatiable to the point of pathetic weakness with regards to the sensuality.

I did care for how Bester writes his male characters. I enjoyed Reich and Powell, even though at times Reich was troublesome. Bester doesn’t cast him aside completely because he isn’t easy, because he does bad things.  “If a man’s got the talent and guts to buck society, he’s obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you’ve got left are sheep.”  Cultural critics will feast on some of the social commentary found in The Demolished Man. The novel is a pleasure on so many levels.

Bester creates a thrilling ride in The Demolished Man. It isn’t the most easily negotiated, but it is so gorgeously imagined. Alfred Bester was a truly gifted writer. I look forward to the next recommendation, am thinking of hunting down some of his short stories.

Alfred Bester pre-dates cyberpunk, but fans of said genre would be remiss to have not read him. Philip K. Dick fans will note Bester’s influences. Psychological fiction readers should enjoy this foray as well. I am not one who reads a lot of Science Fiction, am fairly reluctant with the genre, really, but Alfred Bester excites me. He’s more than literary enough for genre snobs, and his writing invigorates the imagination as well as the pulse. I would recommend The Stars My Destination first, but you can’t go wrong with either.


* Philip K. Dick’s short story, or 2002 film from Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell

Note: I do think familiarity with Freud and following’s school of Id, Ego, & Superego, and Nietzche would help the reader negotiate the novel more easily and perhaps enjoy it more. Just the same, I would hope unfamiliarity would not deter a body from finding some enjoyment. The author does his best to provide explanation amidst the clever wit and futuristic climes.

past ramblings about The Stars My Destination

fiction · juvenile lit · Lit · Uncategorized · young adult lit


I am currently working through two books, or three if the one with Natalya in the evenings counts (which I suppose it does).

Natalya and I are reading Frances Hardinge’s Fly By Night. This book is one of my favorites of all time. I read it a couple years ago and I have been waiting for the short one to get old enough to enjoy it. Why do I like it? I shall count all its ways at some point. I can start with a few appreciative remarks on which I was dwelling aloud last night, and, okay, one from a couple nights ago.*

Hardinge’s treatment of setting:

The path was a troublesome, fretful thing. It worried that it was missing a view of the opposite hills and insisted on climbing for a better look. then it found the breeze uncommonly chill and ducked back among the trees. It suddenly thought it had forgotten something and doubled back, then realized that it hadn’t and turned about again. At last it struggled free of the pines, plumped itself down by the riverside, complained of its aching stones and refused to go any farther. a sensible, well-trodden track took over. (34)

Anything can become animate at will.

Her descriptions of people. One from last night’s reading:

Mosca and Clent were led to an unsmiling little man of fifty with a gnawed, yellow look like an apple core.  The little man’s mouth was a small, bitter V shape, and seemed designed to say small, bitter things. His wig frightened Mosca: it was so lustrous and long, so glossy and brow, one could think it had sucked the life out of the little man whom it seemed to wear. (133).

Yes, this is usual to all her introductions of characters, especially characters of interest.

And her diction. The vocabulary is incredible, and, of course, the vocabulary is important to the book. I will randomly pick two pages we’ve read thus far.

page 78, where Mosca and Clent argue; words:

wincing, exotic, cant, moldering, treacherous, hoard, keyhole-stooping, depravity, aspersions, overzealously, absurd, ethically pusillanimous compromise.

page 128, Mosca and Clent at the marriage house, directly following their agreement; words:

ballad, cuttthroat, ewer, diligence, explode, gripped by fits of poetic rage, unsuited, lithe, writhe, repetition, smooth his hair as if combing his thoughts, scanning a scribbled paper like a mother looking for signs of sickness in a newborn baby.

And there are the numerous moments of alliteration that make a tired or hurried tongue twist. Frances Hardinge crafts lovely sentences.

*First Harper Trophy edition, 2008 (paperback).

Back to the other two books. Both authors’ last names, my husband noted the other evening as I set them aside into my I-am-reading-these-presently stack, begin with Z and end in K. Their names even have the same number of letters, and vowels and consonants in the same positions. One is known as a philosopher and the other philosophizes.

Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Once I read more of Zizek, I may form more coincidences. At present, I have perused Zizek’s text, and dipped into it a bit. I am just past half-way with Zusak’s book.

Really, I could have finished reading Zusak if not for drifting in illness induced coughs and whining. And then there is the part that the writing requires pause. When I do finish it, I will write more–though most everything has been said, as this book has gotten a lot of attention.

With Looking Awry, I have a note pad and pencil: not something I do with all my reading (unless I know I have to write an essay for it and will only be able to read it once before a professor’s deadline). I have been exposed to more Lacan than Zizek, but what I have read of Zizek I have enjoyed; and then there was that YouTube video I watched…should hunt that up.