Stuff Laura’s reading

I’m reading Dreyer’s English …


I’ve recently acquired a copy of Dreyer’s English, and I’m enjoying it quite a bit so far. Dreyer’s funny, well aware of the foibles of copyeditors and authors alike. His comment about writers’ pet sentence constructions was, like, a huge mental relief, because my until-recently-unconscious love of a particular sentence structure is the bane of my existence right now. It was nice to know I’m not the only writer in the world writing different sentences in the same exact way, over and over again.

Dreyer is not a proponent of two spaces after a period, and that … well. Sorry. I’m old, and I’ve been typing since I was eight, so thirty-odd years of habit are going nowhere.

But here’s a story: I got into a silly Facebook “fight” with someone over the two spaces after a period–one of those silly things that was all in good fun, no big deal.* Except at some point it stopped being fun, mostly because I realized I actually don’t care. Like, I do this out of habit. I was taught to as a kid, whatever. Some editors care, some don’t; the ones who do care are usually kind enough to say so in their guidelines, which means I do a find and replace. Because money will always trump any stylistic preference I have.

I do use the Oxford comma. I do not care. You can tell me I don’t need it. You can bring up AP style. I refuse to skip the comma before the ‘and.’ You and those strippers dressed like JFK and Stalin can go skipping the Oxford comma all you want, it’s cool. I’ll be over here with my babies, tucking them in at the ends of lists.

On the whole, I don’t want to be a dick about grammar. In high school, first quarter I would always get a B in English, and it was entirely due to how the curriculum front-loaded grammar every year. Drove my mother nuts. It wasn’t until I started teaching grammar that I started to really get it–one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it, I think–but I still don’t want to diagram a sentence.

And, you know, nobody has perfect grammar. Nobody catches every typo (I think it was Neil Gaiman who said the easiest way to find a typo in your published book is to open it. Because that will be the first thing you see). But, at least in the case of this book, it’s fun to read about people whose job it is to try.

(Oh, and one of my other favorite things so far in the book: “Sometimes sentences don’t need to be repunctuated; they need to be rewritten” (25). Ain’t that the truth.)

*For the record, the battle lines fell pretty much generationally. Gen X and above are pro-two spaces, the youth of today are all one-spacers. It was kind of hilarious.

Dreyer, Benjamin. Dreyer’s English. Random House, 2019.

All my thoughts on ‘The Haunting of Hill House’

The husband and I watched this series in a mad dash to finish before he left for a week to Tennessee, and we have been talking about it and texting each other links since, like, last Thursday night.

As we all may know at this point, I have a serious love for things that are ambitious but flawed. It, the novel. The Dark Tower series. A couple of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Glee. The Netflix Hill House is definitely on that list.

To boil it down: it was super-cool; go watch it if you haven’t already. But it’s not perfect, and that’s okay–they really went for a vision and they hit most of it.

So, below the cut (assuming I can figure out how to do a cut, as I’m doing this on my iPad) … SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE.

Continue reading “All my thoughts on ‘The Haunting of Hill House’”

So a little bit of self-promotion …

“The Lost Languages of Exiles” has been chosen for The Best of Metaphorosis 2017!

It will be coming out February 1st, and I’m thrilled to have “Exiles” included.

Two artists whose work survives into the universe of “Exiles” and Dropping Slow are Tom Jones and Ursula K. LeGuin.  There’s a reason Lia reads A Fisherman of the Inland Sea in “Exiles,” and of course the reason is the last story in the collection.

I wrote this on Facebook today:

She was a difficult, thinking, demanding writer whose books taught me a lot about earned endings and the intricacies of tracing people’s interior lives. She was not afraid to look at her old work and grapple with it to make it better. She was a foundation of my genres, better than just about anyone else in them—the world is better because her books are in it, and lessened by the loss of her.

I think everyone seems to be linking to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” and that is an amazing story.  But I would send you to “Another Story OR A Fisherman of the Inland Sea,” The Tombs of Atuan, Four Ways to Forgiveness, and The Word for World is Forest.

The unexpected sweetness of Sandman Slim

I’ve not made it a secret that one of the things that’s gotten me through the past six months of general “what in actual hell is going on?” has been catching up on Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series via audiobooks in my car.

I started reading these shortly after the first one came out–I checked it out of the library along with In Cold Blood and another book with a climax that involved the main character walking barefoot through Hell (I think it was an Orpheus retelling, maybe? But with more blood and demons).  That was quite the month of reading, let me tell you.

But I dug Stark and his revenge quest, so I kept reading them.  And then for whatever reason I got behind on the books, and it occurred to me to see if the library had them on audio–and they did!  Like, all of them!

And McLeod Andrews is exactly what I imagined Stark’s voice to sound like.  (I’ve read a number of news articles about the president in that voice, and as I said on Twitter, if this is the end of democracy, at least it’s being narrated appropriately.)

So I’m on The Perdition Score now, and there was a scene I heard last night that struck me …

(and there will be spoilers below, so tread carefully …)

Continue reading “The unexpected sweetness of Sandman Slim”

stuff Laura’s read recently: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashanti Wilson

I got Kai Ashanti Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps after reading a review of the second novella (which I just started).

A caravan and the mercenaries protecting it arrive at the last stop before they head into the wildeeps, which is a dangerous, magical wilderness.  The Sorcerer is a new guy (or it seemed so to me?).  He uses big words that don’t exactly translate, has a bag that’s bigger on the inside, and he and the Captain are different from the rest of the group.  They have special talents and abilities, and though these abilities aren’t identical, the fact of their having them sets them apart in the same way.

There was a lot I liked: the language, which has been touted all over the internet, is a really interesting (and fun, nobody mentions how much fun it is as it bounces around) mash up of high fantasy, slightly more regular English, and African-American dialect/slang.  There are also multiple languages being spoken, and even though they’re all expressed as English, I really liked how our main character goes from sounding perfectly fluent to completely not when he’s speaking an unfamiliar language.

The worldbuilding is also the sort that I love–drop us in the middle and let us sort it out, with a bonus of our being able to sort it out fairly easily.  And I’m very interested in this world.  It’s one of those “science fiction world has evolved into fantasy world” universes, which I’m always up for.

The characters are all POC, the main character is gay; about my only complaint is no women except for wives at home and the main character’s aunty (who, I admit, was awesome when she was around) but considering how much it’s already got going, I’m willing to take Aunty and be content.

I will say that I’m not sure Wilson stuck the landing at the end–I could see how it was supposed to be emotionally affecting, but the ambiguity didn’t help me feel it.  And I don’t think I ever got invested enough in the characters to feel how I was clearly supposed to when I hit the last sentence.  I’m not sure if that was a flaw of the book or if it was my being distracted by cool worldbuilding, though.

Still, very much worth the $2.99 I paid for it, and honestly, I’d have paid more.

Stuff Laura’s read recently: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

So Sarah Monette does the Unread Book Challenge, and one of the books she blogged about was Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me.  And I decided to read it.

Everyone remarked on my reading this book–Jason asked me why I was reading it, Scott asked me why I was reading it–hell, even my nine year old kid asked me why I was reading it.  And to be honest, I’m not totally sure?  

I’m from Florida.  I remember listening to the radio the day Ted Bundy was executed; I was on my way to school.  My father and I talked about it–my father has read a bit of true crime in his day; it’s not a Thing for him the way the Kennedy assassination or Steve McQueen is a Thing for him, but he went through a phase–and one thing I remember is my father saying that Bundy really screwed up when he tried to grab a cop’s daughter, because she’d been taught about this sort of thing and was smart, and she told her father when she got home.

That really stuck with me, a lot: be smart, don’t trust the guy trying to coax you into the van, and tell a grown up.

I’d also read Small Sacrifices and found it pretty compelling.  Granted, that was sometime in college (I think?) so many years ago, now, but I remember the thing with folding the towel to figure out the blood stains, and learning about narcissism, and those kids … and Ann Rule hadn’t actually known Diane Downs, so surely the book about the serial killer she’d worked with would be even more compelling.

Um.  No, actually.

It is definitely a product of its time.  Diction, sentence structure, word choice.  I also found it kind of coy, but I think that’s a problem that stems from hindsight.  We know Bundy confessed, but when the bulk of this book was published, he hadn’t (there are three updates at the end of the book, one detailing the time before Bundy was executed).  Rule was convinced he was guilty, he was convicted.  But the book separates his movements and the murders.  It feels like we’re supposed to wonder if he did it.  And maybe that last shred of “maybe” is why she wrote it like that–or maybe she was ordering this book by her own discovery of the murders and her eventual conclusion that he committed them?  But either way, it really didn’t work for me.  I felt very distanced from it all.

And my father’s story about the cop’s daughter didn’t include her brother showing up and scaring the guy off, nor that they followed the van (and got the license number?  I think?) before going home and telling their father–and I wonder now if he did that on purpose.

2 week blog run: day 9

Okay, books in my to-read-next pile are …

Ragnarok by AS Byatt

The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling

(Do not spoil me for Cursed Child; I already know half the fans hate it, shhh!)

Lots of short books on the list.

Wondering now if the kid’s going to change his mind and request an iPad when he finds out about the Pottermore Presents ebooks.  My son is a Harry Potter nerd, which tickles me.