TWIR: Small bites

A few articles I have enjoyed this week, as I try to make my Instapaper backlog less atrocious (it’s still atrocious):

Black Girls Hunger for Heroes, Too: A Black Feminist Conversation on Fantasy Fiction for Teens: This interview is short and great. There were moments that were a bit of a wake-up call for me, in that these two ladies noticed issues in The Hunger Games that completely passed me by. I suppose I was caught up in the thrill of it, and the thrill of seeing explicit class issues in a YA book.

IBI: Reading [The Hunger Games], I had to wonder why the hero didn’t come from District 11 if they’re the most oppressed. I remember thinking Rue’s role in the whole novel is what this comic book writer calls “fridging.” Women in comic books serve to bring out the male hero’s deep humanity. The woman dies and then the hero taps into—

ZETTA: His sense of justice.

A Tentacled, Flexible Breakthrough: Robot octopi! Tell me so much more. Can I have one as a pet?

They aim to replicate the key features of an octopus: eight arms to provide an almost infinite range of motion; the ability to squeeze through any opening larger than its chitinous beak; and an unusual nervous system in which the arms are semiautonomous and the central brain is thought to do little more than issue general commands (“Arms, let’s go catch that crab!”).

Monsters at the Door: Yes, I’m still reading about Emily Carroll. I love her. In a completely appropriate way.

My day with Emily Carroll passes in the presence of the moth; I’ve never seen a bigger one. “It’s so meaty,” she says, sounding gleefully disgusted.

TWIR: Margaret Atwood and mermaids

Cover of Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Lucky me.

A few weeks ago I received a package in the mail, and made an ungraceful sound when I realized that inside was an advance copy of Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. It doesn’t come out in the U.S. until next month, and I got a copy in my grubby little hands early. The problem is that I don’t have much to say about it! I liked it. I liked every story in it. Through it all runs a thread about aging, with grace or without, with humor or without. There are characters I liked, and characters I didn’t, but most of all I simply enjoyed it.

I always like when Atwood embraces an element of the speculative in her stories, even if it might only be figurative. But mostly she draws people so well that it doesn’t matter if she’s taking you to a place where friends reincarnate themselves to protect you from yourself, or only to a place where plain, dirty vengeance is enacted with a stone.

Atwood shapes a short story very well, packing a lot into a few dozen pages, so I guess what I’m trying to say is this is good.

Cover of Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea
All of the type and illustration is stamped into cloth!

The other book I finished is a YA novel by Michelle Tea, called Mermaid in Chelsea Creek. It’s entirely possible my expectations were too high for this book, based on the cover and title. I had dreamed it into being something that it didn’t end up being. It was fine. The characters were good, especially the way the friendship between Ella and Sophie was drawn. Some beautiful imagery, and I like that so far, there’s no hint of “she thinks she’s plain but she’s really beautiful” that you get a lot in YA books. Sophie has ratty hair and a long face, and no one pretends that she’s the one the boys look at (that’s Ella).

And there’s a seed of something interesting, these fairy tale elements that could build into a great world, but… This book was all background to the story I wanted. It was a third of the book it should have been, spread out into its own book. All of the “This is why you are the chosen one,” but never moving past that.

I’ve since learned that it’s supposed to be the first of multiple books, which, of course it is. The second book was supposed to come out in June of 2013. No, July of 2014. No, some future unknown date. It’s not out now, at least.

I’d probably pick up the next book, to be honest. The lack of plot/action isn’t enough to put me off of the rest of it.

Other reading

A Rational Conversation: Will Bikini Kill Ever Make The Rock Hall Of Fame? YES let’s all talk more about riot grrl and lady-fronted bands. Constantly!

I was drawn to those bands because they were the girls I wanted to be; or they were the girls that looked like and sang about stuff I was interested in and wanted to be a part of, but wasn’t sure how to find it. (Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson)

The Last Halloween by Abby Howard. I hadn’t been reading this, and then I caught up all at once this morning, whoops! It’s really great, and creepy, and funny, and gross.

The Last Halloween title card
Creepy crawlies, sass, and darkness.

TWIR: Judging books by their covers

Some weeks I get to Friday and realize I’ve not actually read that much. I’ve done a good amount of cooking, gone to the gym, edited a satisfying amount, and, of course, watched a few episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, but not so much with the curling up with a good book. The sensible thing to do would be to read the Kerry Greenwood books that the series is based on, but I haven’t gotten my hands on those yet.

There are a bunch of things that I’m in the middle of, but as a small follow-up to this post I’ll mention that I finished Ombria in Shadow and put a review up on Goodreads. While there were great aspects to it, the cover was in fact a good indication that it wouldn’t be quite my thing. Still good! Not my bag.

Judging books by covers: Completely valid.

Cover of Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders

To judge Civilwarland in Bad Decline by its cover, it seems a lot more sedate and serious than the contents of the book are turning out to be. I’m only a few stories in. I was going to work my way up to Tenth of December (also a sedate cover!), but I might have to skip to that next. It received such praise on release that I wonder if it’s much different from what I’ve read so far. I’ve read a few other things by Saunders, the odd short story in an anthology. I thought The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil was awful, too much a product of a brief period in time, and trying so hard to be satirical that it lost sight of anything else. These short stories aren’t like that, but… I still don’t quite know what I think of Saunders yet.