Tags: reading

calvin & hobbes

book stuff

I'm only three chapters into Under the Dome, but I'm enjoying it thus far.

(The reason I'm only three chapters in is because it's hardcover and over 1,000 pages, and thus weighs a ton, and there's no way I'm lugging it to work with me to be my commute/lunchtime book. I'm only reading it at bedtime, and taking other things to work with me.)

If you want to see what else I'm reading, have read recently, or plan to read in the near future, check out my GoodReads account, and if you're over there too, friend me if you're so inclined.

...Or post here and tell me about what you're reading, have read recently, or plan to read in the near future.

Health report: I'm still congested, but still feeling better overall. As one of my co-workers pointed out, today was the first time since we all got back from vacation that I didn't spend the entire day with a scarf wrapped around my neck. Progress.
stella in sunglasses

good vs. bad

The good: I will be going to visit scarletts_awry five weeks from today! This isn't a moving-related trip, but a short vacation that I'm taking over Presidents' Day weekend. We will go out for sushi and listen to music and go to the place where I can have grits for breakfast and go shopping, and it will be awesome.

The bad: I have Captain Trips beriberi the Martian Death Flu a respiratory ailment of undetermined origin. I have had this for a good ten days now, since I got back from New York, and even while I was still back East over the holidays, I was beginning to feel rundown and like something was coming on. At which point I began obsessing over not wanting to get sick and taking large doses of Vitamin C and various cold medicines, none of which did me a damn bit of good.

It's not even the kind of full-blown cold in which one goes through a box of tissues in a day or is constantly coughing. I do have an occasional cough, but mostly I'm just constantly congested and my throat hurts and I'm feeling generally Not Well. Which, from talking to other people who I know are sick right now, seems to be how this year's post-holiday bout of ick is manifesting itself. And I am done with it.

The good: My manager recommended yesterday that I take Tylenol PM before I go to bed, and he is a freaking genius. Not only did it let me sleep for more than a few hours at a stretch, but I felt better today than I have since I got back to L.A. Still congested -- the ick isn't gone -- but better.

When I woke up this morning, I did feel, a little bit, like tweety birds were circling my head, but it's totally worth it.

The further good: the library sent me a notice that they got in my hold copy of Stephen King's Under the Dome, which I will pick up on Saturday. I've been disappointed by his work more often than not in the latter half of his career, but I loved the short story collection Just After Sunset, so I remain hopeful.
leverage hardison

other things

I got to spend a long weekend with scarletts_awry a few weeks ago, and it was amazing. We went to the symphony and the botanical gardens, and had sushi one night, and held hands while we drank beer and watched Leverage, and went shopping, and did lots of other things. And I tried grits for the first time and they were amazing.

We are definitely going to do this again as soon as possible.

I've gotten a Dreamwidth account. As of right now, I haven't started cross-posting, and I haven't yet decided what I'm going to do with it, but if you're over there and you feel inclined, add me. I want to be able to keep track of people no matter which way the winds might blow.

I also have an account on Goodreads, which I have been using and which I've grown quite fond of, so if you're over there and/or you like the idea of the site and want to see what's on my various bookshelves, go check it out.
leverage sophie

various things

1. Happy belated birthday to afteriwake! I hope you had a lovely day.

2. I have notes for a review of "Help," although I have not yet been able to transform them into a coherent whole. I have not yet watched "Rush to Judgment."

3. Although it was probably evident from my recent post, I don't think I've mentioned here that I've started watching Leverage. I've seen all of the episodes except for "The Two-Horse Job," and I love it to pieces. Furthermore, as I noted to scarletts_awry during one of our discussions about it, there are plenty of shows that I like and am fannish about to one degree or another (The Middleman, Pushing Daisies, Doctor Who, Eureka, et al), but Leverage is the first show since CSI:NY that has made me want to have continued and in-depth discussions about it. A show hasn't pinged me this hard in a long time. If I were still writing, I would also want to be writing fic for it.

4. My very favorite things about Leverage are:

a. How much fun the capers are, and how, at the same time, the writers are doing very good character work.

b. Nate Ford and his Issues, which scarletts_awry and I have decided deserve their own billing -- i.e., Leverage, starring Timothy Hutton as Nate Ford and Nate Ford's Issues. There is one specific aspect of this, in particular, that the writers, and Hutton, are handling with a startling amount of subtlety, and for that, I love it so much. (scarletts_awry and I have also belatedly discovered, after not having an opinion about him one way or the other prior to this, that Timothy Hutton is seriously hot and seriously charming.)

c. Sophie and her amazing awesomeness. She's smart, tough, and gorgeous. She's also in a position where all of her choices are shitty ones, which makes for painful but compelling viewing.

d. Hardison! Oh, Hardison. He is so made of win. He's also smart, and he's a geek in all the best ways. The names he comes up with for their fake IDs kill me. He's also very kind and observant, and, in some ways, probably the most sensible member of the team. After "The Mile High Job," it's also quite possible that he's made of magic as well as win.

e. The extreme competency of all the characters. They're all smart and good at what they do. I have more than a bit of a competency kink; Leverage satisfies it immensely.

5. I've started my reading for 50books_poc, and I'm having a great time with it. I also need to finish replying to comments on that post; I started to do so earlier this week, and then work, as it has a habit of doing, got hectic, and time got away from me.
stella black & white

project: 50books_poc

I was thinking the other day that we need a version of the Bechdel test for race, and then I discovered a good discussion of that here and a more general discussion about other versions of the Bechdel test on the NPR site here, which includes several race-related suggestions, including one from The Middleman's Natalie Morales.

Both of those discussions gave me a lot to think about, which is a good thing.

I've recently joined the community 50books_poc, a challenge community in which the goal is to read 50 books by people of color. And so that's what I'm going to do.

(I was originally under the vague impression that this was to be done within the time span of a year, and I was going to say, "Well, I probably won't make the deadline, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway," but rereading the community info page now, I see there's no such requirement. Score!)

I've been making a list of books I might like to read for this challenge, and this is what I've got so far:

1. Fledgling by Octavia Butler
2. Kindred by Octavia Butler
3. The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissack
4. Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson
5. Mojo: Conjure Stories edited by Nalo Hopkinson
6. Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters edited by Carla Kaplan
7. Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston
8. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston
9. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
10. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
11. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lord
12. The Viking Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader edited by David Lewis
13. The Good House by Tananarive Due
14. Letters to a Young Brother by Hill Harper

If you have suggestions, throw 'em at me. I've got a good start here with African-American authors, but I want to read books by other people of color as well -- Asian, Latina, Native American, any writers you may know of. (Can anyone recommend books by Australian Aborigines? I recently read Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, which sparked my curiosity.)

Oh, and so that I can do the project and still stick to my budget and savings plans, I'm going to finally break down and get a library card, which should help mitigate spending impulses, although some of these I own already, and some I'll probably go ahead and buy if I decide that I want a copy of my very own.

I'm excited about this.
stella black & white

talking about it

So that last post of mine got linked on metafandom. Which has never happened to me before, and which was simultaneously terrifying and kind of awesome. And despite some comment kerfuffling that made me raise my eyebrows real high, almost everyone who responded had smart and fabulous things to say.

More importantly, I realized afterward that I had survived being linked on metafandom and dealing with said kerfuffling. (I hate kerfuffles. Really. I do not want them in my journal. I want discussion.) I had gotten through all of that, and it was okay.

That, of course, got me thinking. Actually, what I thought about had been building in my head for awhile, but this all kind of solidified and clarified it for me.

I do read a lot of the posts that get linked on metafandom, and I read the International Blog Against Racism Week posts when ibarw, um, week (redundancy, yes) is running, but I've never commented, much less done any posting about these subjects myself. But I've been doing more and more thinking about, and scarletts_awry and I have been having more and more conversations about, these issues: the purpose of writing and reading in general terms as well as topics like racism and sexism and homophobia, and assumptions, and how these things get reflected or dealt with, or not, in the books we read and the shows we watch.

I've never written much about any of these things, though. In particular, I've never posted about the latter, both because it's scary and because I didn't think I had the knowledge or the smarts to talk about it as well or as thoughtfully as many of the people whose posts I've read. Consequently, I kept my mouth shut.

But now I've hit some kind of breaking point, or something has shifted inside me, because I feel like I no longer want to keep my mouth shut. I feel like I no longer can. Not that I have any Grand Statement to make; don't get me wrong. I just want to talk about these subjects, and now I feel like if I can, I should. Making the choice to not talk about sexism or racism or homophobia is a privilege, but I think it's a privilege that I should stop taking advantage of.

And, of course, I also want to talk about writing and reading, which can also be fraught at times, but is still much less...challenging? Scary?

Maybe the shift has happened because we've been talking about these things for so long. Maybe it's because I'm slowly going through the coming-out process in my personal life, telling people I know that I'm bisexual and in a relationship with scarletts_awry, and that I love her.

I guess what it comes down to is this: writing and reading, and talking about the ways in which people of color and women and GLBTQ people are portrayed in these stories that we write and read and watch, is important to me. I want to acknowledge it, and I want to talk about it.

Because I think it comes back, for me, to what I said in that previous post: It's important to have the conversation. It's important to keep having the conversation.
stella sultry


(Note: Throughout, when I use the word "story," please read it as a general term applying to television and movies as well as to books.)

Words are important.

Stories are important.

Talking about stories is important.

Stories cannot be dismissed with statements like "Oh, it's just fantasy" or "Oh, it's just a TV show" or "Oh, it's just fanfic."

Statements like that imply two things: one, that if the work in question is "just" [whatever], that talking about it at all is unimportant; and that, two, anything that happens within that work is, in and of itself, unimportant. And that, therefore, talking about what happens within that work is unimportant. Which is to say that not only is talking about general issues like characterization and setting and theme unimportant, but so is discussing how the work in question deals with race, or with gender, or with sexual orientation/identity. This, in turn, devalues both story itself and the broader social issues that may arise from that story.

As a writer, I have a responsibility to consider how I'm using my words. I'm not, for a second, suggesting that every story needs to have a moral, or that it needs to be uplifting. What I am saying is that I need to consider what my story is saying, and I mean that in several senses. I need to think about the story I want to tell and if I'm telling it well; I need to think about the characters and about whether I'm writing in a fashion that's true to them; I need to think about what my story is saying the subtextual and metaphoric level as well as what's happening in the surface action of the story; and I need to think about whether I'm making any unconscious assumptions regarding gender or race or sexual identity that I did not intend. I need to look at the story through a broader lens.

On point three up there, regarding subtext and metaphor, I should clarify that I don't consciously write either of those into a story, nor do I go into writing a piece with the idea that I'm going to write about a particular theme. That's a really good way to be didactic and/or to end up writing something where the characters are bent, and perhaps warped, in service of the story, instead of the story existing in service of the characters. However, when I'm working through later drafts of stories, I do see metaphor and subtext begin to emerge, and when I find those things, then, yes, I do want to work to bring them out more strongly. If all that is happening in a story is the surface action, and nothing but the surface action, then I've failed in what I set out to do.

As a reader, I have a right to consider how other people are using their words. I have a right to look at the deeper implications of a story and to consider what's going on there. I have a right to talk about, for example, how depictions of race in some television shows have been problematic, or about how depictions of gender in a book are equally unsettling. I also have a right to talk about TV shows and books who get it right, who strive for better depictions of people of color and women and GLBTQ people. I have a right to talk about the too-prevalent invisibility of GLBTQ people in primetime television.

I also have the right to talk about more general story-related issues, about character and theme and setting, about how a story deals with these things, about how its subtext and its symbols work (or fail to work), and how thematic throughlines strengthen a story when they're in place and when they're consistently developed.

I don't want to say it's every reader's responsibility, because some people just want to engage with a story for the exciting plot developments or for their favorite characters, and that's fine; we all seek out what we need from a story, and hopefully we find what we're looking for. However, for people who are interested in discussion of any of the issues I mentioned above, it is vitally important that we have these conversations, both because conversations about race and gender and sexual identity need to happen, and because conversations about theme, etc., need to.

Depiction of race or gender does not become unimportant because "it's just a story." To say that is to assume that a story has nothing to do with the real world, and that's simply not true. Stories reflect real-world attitudes and beliefs, and one does not have to be actively racist or misogynistic or homophobic in order to end up with some unsettling or problematic depictions of these subjects in one's story. That's why the conversation is important to have; it's important to unpack a story to see what its base assumptions are, and that we talk about these things.

Talking about the other aspects of a story, the characters and setting, the theme -- stories are how we construct our world, and how we define it. Ultimately, they're about how we construct and define ourselves, too. We make and remake the world in our own images, and in those of others, via the stories we tell. Stories are our bridge to the past and to the future, and they're the bedrock upon which we settle, upon which we build our lives, in the present. Without stories, we have no past and no future; we have no identity.

Words are important.

Stories are important.

Talking about stories is important.

It's not "just a story." It never is.