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Monthly Wrap-Up: June 2021

  • People Like Us by Dana Mele (★★★★☆)
  • For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (★★★★☆)
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen (★★☆☆☆)
  • The Ophelia Girls by Jane Healey (★★★★☆)
  • The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (★★★★☆)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 5
YEARLY SO FAR: 46

I started off the month by almost immediately DNF-ing POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt lmaooo, literally did not even make it 20 pages into the book before I put it down. Pretentious, distant literary fiction works for a lot of people, but it’s just really, really not for me except in a handful of circumstances, and I need to learn to stop forcing myself to try to like it. In any case, one of these exceptions was THE OPHELIA GIRLS, which I picked up completely on a whim after seeing a review on Goodreads, and I enjoyed it a lot even though it does have aspects of pretentious lit fic. It was beautifully written and full of mythological symbolism.

I also got around to reading FOR THE WOLF, one of my most anticipated releases, and I also enjoyed this one very much! It had absolutely stunning writing and immaculate vibes; I think the atmosphere was my favorite thing about it. It’s a very, very slow-paced book, but because the writing was so lovely, I didn’t mind at all. For the book club I read PERSUASION, which I didn’t really like but also didn’t hate; I mostly felt nothing for it at all. With that, I can officially say I’ve completed all of Jane Austen’s works, which feels great! I’ll probably make a post about all of them at some point.

I also read a YA thriller that’s been on my shelves for some time: PEOPLE LIKE US. This was…fine. I enjoyed it, but it was ultimately forgettable, which is not really a fault of the book, but a result of my own preferences. I’m realizing I just don’t enjoy thrillers all that much, whether they be YA or adult. And finally, I read THE RETURN OF THE SORCERESS, a novella by one of my favorite authors, which I enjoyed very much but also wished had been a novel or even a series, because it has so much epic potential.

Clearly, my reading output this month was very little, and I think that was partly due to the fact that I went on a week-long vacation to Maine! I am not one of those people who gets a lot of reading done on vacation; in fact, I think I read a grand total of like 30 pages that entire week lmao. There’s just no time at all when you’re trying to pack so many things into such a short number of days and then you get home and all you want to do is sleep so you can be well rested for the next day! And then also, it’s summer, it’s hot, I hate the heat. Whilst most people suffer anxiety/depression during the colder months, I am precisely the opposite: summer absolutely kills my productivity and mood. Most of the time during summer I’m just incredibly lethargic and all I do is lie down on my bed and stare at the ceiling wishing I lived somewhere like Scotland where the summer temperatures rarely climb above 65 degrees. Alas.

Anyway, I am CURRENTLY READING:

I had no intention of reading THE BLOODY CHAMBER this month, but then Jane Healey’s book featured a quote from one of the short stories in there, and I was like, you know what, I’m in the mood for some decadent prose. I’ve only read two stories in this collection before, both for a college class, so I’m looking forward to reading the whole collection. And of course, SON OF THE STORM is a highly anticipated fantasy release for me. So far I can already tell I’m going to adore the worldbuilding!


Other Reading

HOW TWITTER CAN RUIN A LIFE: ISABEL FALL’S SCI-FI STORY “I SEXUALLY IDENTIFY AS AN ATTACK HELICOPTER” DREW THE IRE OF THE INTERNET. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT — Since this story has just been nominated for a Hugo Award, it’s been making the rounds again, and I really enjoyed this nuanced recap of what happened, and what that meant for Isabel Fall. I haven’t read the story myself, but now I’d certainly like to. I also thought it was really interesting that they brought up the notion of paranoid vs. reparative readings:

“The delineation between paranoid and reparative readings originated in 1995, with influential critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. A paranoid reading focuses on what’s wrong or problematic about a work of art. A reparative reading seeks out what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art, even if the work is flawed. Importantly, a reparative reading also tends to consider what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art for someone who isn’t the reader. This kind of nuance gets completely worn away on Twitter, home of paranoid readings.”

And honestly, YES, this sort of distinction is exactly what gets lost on Twitter, and is really the crux of the issues cropping up around free speech/antis/AO3/censorship/cancel culture and the whole entire clusterfuck rooted in who is allowed to write about what. People don’t read things in good faith, they almost never give writers the benefit of the doubt, and Twitter has a tendency to make people catastrophize and exaggerate in a really weird way, to whit:

“So what’s the worst that might have happened if, somehow, the “Attack Helicopter” detractors were right and the story was a secret reactionary text? As far as I can tell, the worst that would have happened is that another piece of transphobic literature would have existed. To be clear, transphobic literature is worth protesting. I would rather have less of it. But there’s a large gap between speaking out against a work of art you find objectionable and trying desperately to sniff out an author’s true identity, with ever more horrific accusations…A single critical tweet about the matter was not experienced by Isabel Fall as just one tweet. She experienced it as part of a tsunami that nearly took her life. And that tsunami might have been abated if people had simply asked themselves, “What’s the worst that could happen if I’m right? And what’s the worst that could happen if I’m wrong?”

This is something I struggle with regarding Twitter, a platform which I’ve never liked and only grudgingly started using regularly. Everything gets blown so wildly out of proportion, there is no room for measured, nuanced discussion, and influencers with large platforms dominate the conversation. This has happened again and again and again; I’ve been witness to dozens and dozens of Twitter pile-ons, and every single time, I’m floored by the level of unexamined vitriol directed at whomever the targets may be, and at the lack of critical thinking skills and empathy demonstrated by the instigators. Not to sound like a kindergarten teacher, but Twitter makes it so easy to be, well, mean, and snarky, and it’s just…ultimately counterproductive to any sort of attempt at creating a safe community that values restorative justice.

IS THERE A QUEER FUTURE WITHOUT QUEERPHOBIA? — This Tor article talks about something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: queernorm worlds in science fiction and fantasy. Essentially, that means worlds featuring gay people or trans people, but no homophobia or transphobia. There are plenty of SFF books being published today that incorporate queernorm worlds, but it wasn’t always so. I remember reading Amanda Downum’s Necromancer Chronicles series and being utterly floored that it was a gendernorm and queernorm world, and I absolutely loved it, since I was so mired in patriarchal fantasy at the time, but I seem to have swung back around a bit, and I’ve realized I actually prefer fantasy worlds that incorporate sexism and queerphobia, but I always struggled to articulate exactly why, until this article, which states:

“I can’t help but ask what is lost when we write out homophobia and transphobia completely, removing them from our fictional worlds. Pure queer love and attraction are part of my queer experience, yes. And I face the same challenges as anyone else (queer, straight, cis, or trans) figuring out how to be close to other people. But my queer experience is also defined by the fact that it’s counter cultural, made in the image of what it resists. I don’t think queer and trans relationships and people are, no matter how much we want them to be, “just like everyone else(’s).”

And so, I think what’s missing for me—and others can and should disagree on this—is an acknowledgment that we are different. Queer identity involves an active questioning of dominant culture and norms; it blurs and deconstructs binaries and finds gaps in conventional logic and perspectives. To be queer is inherently to challenge dominant culture—but when there’s no dominant cis/straight culture in a book for characters to challenge and respond to, a vital aspect of queer and trans identity is flattened, nuance erased. I don’t mean this as a critique of any of the books mentioned above. I just want to point out that, though those futures are happy ones to imagine, they might not be the only right way to imagine queer and trans representation.”

That is such an eloquent elucidation of my feelings on the matter. To be queer is to be different, to brush up against the dominant culture; that difference is such a significant part of the queer identity that removing it feels like something has been removed from the identity itself. It’s the same when it comes to sexism and misogyny. I forget the name of the feminist theorist who argued that to be a woman is to be part of an oppressed class rather than a gender, and so it is that oppression at the hands of patriarchy that shapes the identity of woman. Without that, does the identity even exist anymore?


Film and Television

MARE OF EASTTOWN

This type of small-town crime drama is exactly my shit, so it’s no surprise that I jumped on it as soon as all the episodes were available. Kate Winslet is spectacular and I love Evan Peters. There were so many little things to like about this, such as Mare’s relationship with all the women in her life (particularly her mother), the fact that she can be such an unlikable and prickly person, her fraught relationship with her grandson’s mother…I don’t usually like it when crime dramas entangle us in the lives of the cop character, but I think it worked well here, fitting in with the downtrodden small-town vibes. The mystery was excellent; I loved that we actually got TWO mysteries here, only you don’t realize it until halfway through. Also, there is one episode that literally made my mom and me scream out loud in shock, which is always great.


FRIENDS: THE REUNION

One thing you should know about me is that I am a HUGE Friends fan. I’ve been watching the show since I was a little girl, and I’ve probably watched most episodes at least six or seven times, and I could still sit down and watch them again. Friends is one of my ultimate comfort shows. So to sit down and watch the cast get back together and reminisce about the old days on set was just so…sweet and nostalgic and I will admit I teared up a lot. Of course I know that this sort of documentary type thing will gloss over any negative aspects of the show or the behind-the-scenes, but you know…it was nice to have something a little glossy and rose-colored for once.


THE LIGHTHOUSE

Okay. So. I loved this director’s other film, THE WITCH. Like, really loved it, one of my favorite films of all time, so I thought I would at least appreciate THE LIGHTHOUSE even if I didn’t love it in the same way. Sadly, however, this ended up being one of the most boring, miserable, nonsensical viewing experiences of my life; I absolutely hated this movie. Like, I’m sure there’s a lot to be said here about toxic masculinity and mythological symbolism, and I did enjoy the black-and-white noir vibe (and the constant foghorn noise that just built up dread), but like…did it have to be so utterly bizarre and boring? I suppose one could argue that the unhinged nature of it all is the point, and I can see why some people will appreciate this very artsy sort of thing, but this just was not for me AT ALL.


EMMA

On a very different note, after having read and enjoyed EMMA, I finally watched the 2020 adaptation! Years ago I watched the BBC series with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, which I ADORED, but I very much enjoyed this film as well! It leans hard into the comedic aspect of Emma and the music is so very fitting. It’s also an utterly gorgeous film; the cinematography made me want to cry. And the costumes! God, the bright colors and the detail that went into those costumes! Actually, the colors and details everywhere were astonishing. One thing I was uncertain of was Emma’s characterization; I think this film makes her a lot bitchier and…weepier than she actually is. I also didn’t love Johnny Flynn as Knightley, but I will say the man is a fab singer and the song Queen Bee has been stuck in my head since I watched the film. ALSO that closing scene, where Knightley and Emma are at the altar cautiously touching one another’s hands, and Emma closes her eyes in utter contentment, and then the Queen Bee song starts up…bliss. Utter bliss.


Writing Update

Uhhh. Like I said, summer is generally not a great time for me, so I think it was optimistic to expect that I would revise a whole entire novel in one summer month. However, I have managed to do some editing, and I’ve added about 3K overall, which is good! It’s just one of those things where I can’t stop researching. The story is historical fantasy that wants to incorporate a lot of real-life historical elements, and I just keep discovering more stuff I want to incorporate in some way, so I keep stalling because I’m just reading so much research.

I also think I don’t need to hyperfocus so much on individual lines at this point, because this is still going to go through so many edits if it gets picked up, so I should just focus on making it structurally sound, but I always get so distracted by wanting to make individual sentences pretty. The plot of this is…not convoluted per se, but the structure makes the plot a little convoluted, so I need to work on making sure it all coheres, and that I believe I can do rather quickly, and if I want to make things prettier and/or incorporate more history later on, that can easily be done. At this point I’d just like to make the story neat enough to be cohesive so I can get eyes on it.

2 thoughts on “Monthly Wrap-Up: June 2021

  1. I’m not jealous at all that you’ve been able to read The Return of the Sorceress. Nope. (The ebook isn’t available in the UK and the hardback is so expensive.) I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!

    Haha I’m always interested in what people think of Persuasion! It was the first Austen novel I read, back when I was 17, and I hated it so much that it turned me off Jane Austen until my mid-20s. I’ve since re-read it and now it’s my favourite Austen novel. The 1995 BBC adaptation is good, if you ever fancy watching it! I loved the 2020 Emma so much – you’re right, the colours are so gorgeous.

    Thanks for linking those articles, I’ll be giving them a read later. It really is amazing, and not in a good way, how so many people on Twitter completely lack the ability to engage in a debate instead of participating in performative activism. It’s a platform I want to use less and less because Book Twitter, in particular, feels so toxic a lot of the time.

    I hope you have a great July!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ahhh yes subterranean press is so weird with their publications; it can be so difficult to get them! i was really happy to have an arc.

      yeah if i had started with persuasion i don’t think i would have continued with austen! luckily i started with pride and prejudice when i was 17, which definitely encouraged me to keep reading her work.

      Like

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