March 26th, 2017

cass, can you not

Books! (Monsters and Empires Edition)

Anno Dracula 1899 and Other Stories (Kim Newman, 2017/#19): A mostly delightful set of short stories, intertextual to the point that a couple of them are not even thinly disguised comic book fanfics.

Strangers No More (various, 2017/#20): A collection of short sci-fi stories from the 1950's, penned by the usual suspects. Uneven and not really subtle, but (most of them) fun to read.

Galactic Empires (Ed. Neil Clarke, 2017/#21): A very good and relatively diverse set of sci-fi short stories, with the common theme of one form or another of galactic (or at least multi-system) empire.

God, Space, and City in the Roman Imagination (Richard Jenkyns, 2017/#22): Full of interesting ideas and observations about how the Romans thought about politics, religion, and the city of Rome itself. Some points of interest: conspectus (in the usage of the book, the idea of being visible as one of the basis of social practice, the way differences in the height at which you lived codified political power, the importance of having your own crowd, the uses of colonnades, and a very long et cetera. Much recommended.

Furta Sacra (Patrick J. Geary, 2017/#23): I came to this book, unsurprisingly, through my interest in the theft of the corpse of St. Mark by Venetian merchants in the IXth century (something that sounds like a medieval Leverage AU). Turns out it was something of a medieval tradition with a very stylized (and usually highly fictional) literary representation, the translatio. The power of relics isn't as important to Christian practice (I think?) as it used to be, but at the time it was central to it; popular piety found a more practical locus on the bodies of saints, who were thought to still have identity, agency, and power.

Sexuality and the Gothic Magic Lantern (David J. Jones, 2017/#24): I hadn't known of the cultural impact of magic lanterns before cinema (it'd be interesting to think about why some obsolete media are remembered, and why some others aren't). Granting its popularity and disquieting characteristics, the author's argument that it influenced contemporary Gothic literature (and, given the way magic lanterns where partly used for risque and outright pornographic materials — that old "new media is always used for porn sooner rather than later" rule of thumb — some of the ways in which authors approached the very charged issue of sex in Gothic fiction) is absolutely believable, regardless of how much of the details I found too Freudian to fully trust.