Death is before me today

Sep. 22nd, 2017 09:50 am
missroserose: (After the Storm)
[personal profile] missroserose
I find myself wondering about humanity. Their attitude to my sister's gift is so strange. Why do they fear the sunless lands? It is as natural to die as it is to be born. But they fear her. Dread her. Feebly they attempt to placate her. They do not love her.

Many thousands of years ago, I heard a song in a dream, a mortal song that celebrated her gift. I still remember it.

"Death is before me today:
Like the recovery of a sick man,
Like going forth into a garden after sickness.

"Death is before me today:
Like the odor of myrrh,
Like sitting under a sail in a good wind.

"Death is before me today:
Like the course of a stream,
Like the return of a man from the war-galley to his house.

"Death is before me today:
Like the home that a man longs to see,
After years spent as a captive."


I never got to meet Jim Rothfuss in person, but through an odd turning of fate we've exchanged Christmas cards and letters these past several years. I can only say that the world needs more souls of his gentle and kind nature, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to know some little portion of his life, completely separate from my great enjoyment of his son's work.

Go easily and well, Mr. Rothfuss. And thank you.

(Attribution, and for the poem.)

Wednesday book meme thing

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:36 am
missroserose: (Joy of Reading)
[personal profile] missroserose
What I've just finished reading

I've spent a decent chunk of time reading this week - I'm about three-quarters through The Sundial - but due to the way it's been split I haven't finished anything this week.

What I'm currently reading

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin. Like most children of my generation, I read "The Lottery" in school and was thoroughly traumatized by it. It's one of the few pieces I've found to be genuinely shocking, and all the more so because of the craft involved: you realize, looking it over, exactly how well all the pieces are put in place, how consistent the tone and character of the village, and how inevitable the ending is, even though your well-adjusted brain won't let you put the pieces together, except in retrospect. In a way, reading it is an act of complicity; you participate in the same self-delusion as the villagers, your observation of the ritualistic nature of the gathering fueling your assumption of people's fundamental decency and blinding you to the warning signs around you, until things are too far gone to stop. It's not a wonder the story generated more mail than almost any New Yorker fiction piece - people hated it, unless they were one of the minority who were certain this was an actual event and wanted to know where they could go to witness it.

All of which is to say, I've long had a great admiration for Jackson's writing; at her strongest, she has an uncanny ability to balance the best of human intentions with the darkest in human nature, and demonstrate how our fundamental insecurities cause our darker sides to manifest themselves. So when this biography came out, to some acclaim, I was very interested in it.

So far, I'm only a little way in, but Franklin makes an excellent case for the origins of Jackson's obsessions. Born a plain, awkward, introverted daughter to a beautiful California socialite, much of her childhood was spent alternately bowing to and fighting against her mother's criticisms of her dress, her ambitions, and her deportment. Her few friendships tended toward the tumultuous and her (prolific) letters and diaries suggest that she suffered from an onset of depression in her first year of college. She's just met her future husband, and it's not hard to see the attraction - he's witty, intelligent, and a great admirer of her mind and work, providing much of the affirmation her mother was unable to give. Of course, even only knowing the bare outlines of her life, there's more than a little foreshadowing of future dysfunction.

The Sundial, by Shirley Jackson. Having only read "The Lottery" and We Have Always Lived In The Castle, I figured it would be interesting to read another of Jackson's books while listening to her biography. This one, about an extended aristocratic household that lives on an estate set apart from the local village (large houses, usually haunted, feature in most of Jackson's books; Franklin points out that her great-grandfather was a celebrated architect Gilded Age San Francisco, although most of his buildings perished in the Great Fire) and becomes convinced that the world will end, sparing only those who live in the house. I don't think it's as strong as Castle; there's a little more emotional remove from the characters, who feel more like stand-ins than fully-developed human beings, and thus it's harder to sympathize with them. Still, the portrayal of complementary dysfunction is stark and believable - there's Aunt Fanny, the disempowered poor relative who finds new respect as the recipient of the Revelation; Mrs. Halloran, the tyrannical head of the family whose belief in the Revelation seems questionable but who is clearly enjoying the opportunities it gives her to manipulate those she lives with; Essex, the jack-of-all-trades being preyed upon by both Aunt Fanny and Mrs. Halloran who nonetheless finds the idea of himself as Father of Future Generations (as opposed to the unremarkable life he might have outside the enclave) too alluring to resist; and various other hangers-on with their own agendas. I'm tempted to say that people who are curious how cults get started should really give this a read.

What I plan to read next

Feeling pretty saturated book-wise recently, but you never know...

Happier things

Sep. 14th, 2017 09:17 am
missroserose: (Show Your Magic)
[personal profile] missroserose
--It's taken me about six weeks, but I feel like I'm finally on a more even keel, emotionally. I want to say "I feel more like myself again", but I think that perpetrates an unhealthy tendency to reject our darker and more unpredictable emotional selves; the fact is, bad things happen sometimes, and who we are while we're processing that is no less a part of our self than who we are when things are better. Regardless, I'm glad to feel more upbeat and optimistic, and especially grateful to my friends who've supported me while I dealt with a couple of profound social disconnections. I'm much more used to being the supporter rather than the person in need of support, and I can't even articulate how good to feels to know people are there for me too. I guess that's always the silver lining to Bad Things when they happen.

--Last Monday I taught my third C2 class, and it was the first one where everything really clicked. A good chunk of that, I think, was precisely that sense of connection; a few of the students were ones I'd had for my CoreRestore or C1 classes, and I could tell they were really rooting for me to succeed. It also helped that it was a big group that flowed well together; people listened to the cues and the sequence, everyone worked hard, the timing with the music worked out damn near perfectly, and I got a round of applause (!) after I finished. Best feeling.

--I've got a trip to Alaska coming up at the end of the month. It's not long - just a week, or really five days after flying - but I'll get to see my mother and my hometown and the mountains and maybe Leilani if I'm lucky. My mother's also bought a massage table and supplies and booked a couple of her friends to work with me, so I'll have a bit of extra income, which is nice.

--Speaking of massage (and yoga), I've finally set up a Facebook page for my massage/yoga business. There's not a whole lot there yet, but I'm planning to post my weekly yoga-teaching schedule, as well as links to interesting body-related stuff I find online and maybe the occasional special. And at the very least, it's a link I can point people to when they ask about my services.

--CorePower is doing one of their take-20-classes-in-a-month challenges for September. I completely missed the first five days and I'm going to be leaving on the 27th, so that puts me at a week's handicap already - but for the past week I've been killing it. I'm very tired, but pleased - hamstring strain aside, I can feel how much better my body's doing for regular practice. Definitely time for a rest day, though.
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
[personal profile] missroserose
Posting late again - between Sculpt in the morning, errand-running all afternoon, and teaching class in the evening, my Wednesday filled up quickly. Today I'm much less busy, but one of the squat exercises from yesterday did a number on my right hamstring. Luckily I have today off, so I'll forego the biking and hope it's just a mild strain...cross your fingers for me?

What I just finished reading

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. I wanted something lighthearted and fluffy, and a story of romance and magical intrigues set in Regency England seemed likely to fit the bill. I absolutely adored Cho's novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, especially its matter-of-fact portrayal of life as an ethnic minority in 1920s England and its strongly-drawn protagonist.

I'm pleased that I got some of the same here; the two protagonists are both ethnic minorities, and the narrative explores the fraught history and circumstances thoroughly while managing not to fall into maudlin character-defined-by-their-hardships territory. Unfortunately, the greater narrative is somewhat less well-drawn; the middle act in particular, where much of the juicy intrigue happens, feels rather jumbled and unfocused, with many excellent opportunities for worldbuilding ignored and a general feeling of narrative Calvinball. This isn't precisely helped by Zacharias being a frustratingly passive main character; he keeps hearing about these various machinations being fomented against him, but he never seems to do anything about it. By midway through the book I was genuinely wondering at the source of his confidence, and whether he was a champion minimizer or in active denial.

Luckily, things pick up towards the end, and the denouement nicely ties up all the loose ends. My one other complaint is that the two main characters are both so emotionally closed-off that, while I could see thow they would admire each other, I wasn't really buying the romantic angle; they simply hadn't grown emotionally close enough for the sort of love they were professing. I feel like that might have been better saved for a sequel, when the two of them have spent some time together that isn't taken up with politicking or putting out magical brushfires. Still, I enjoyed the story on the whole, and I hope Zen Cho continues to write.

What I'm currently reading

The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea. Still enjoying this trek, even if I'm not sure where it's all going. At one point, one of the characters talks about how he's reading Don Quixote, and that set off a ping of recognition in my brain - I've never read the whole thing, but I seem to remember that it's written in much the same style, a string of anecdotes that combine to (in theory) produce a greater narrative. The atmosphere here continues to be all-encompassing; I swear there are times reading it when I can feel myself in the Sonoran desert again.

What I plan to read next

So many options! I'm leaning towards a genre trilogy of some sort; I've been hearing from all sides that Leckie's Ancillary books are amazing, but [personal profile] ivy recommends Jemisin's The Broken Earth series. I may do the latter in audiobook form and the former on paper (the Ancillary audiobooks are notoriously awful); I'd taken a break from audiobooks while I was mainlining The Adventure Zone, but I've listened through their entire first campaign. (How did a podcast of three nerds and their dad playing Dungeons & Dragons make me cry. How.) So, as usual, we'll see!

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