the Martian

could-we-really-mix-feces-into-martian-dirt-and-grow-potatoes

I loved this book. I started reading it at work, tried to keep reading it on the bus even though I knew I would give myself motion sickness, got home and finished reading it before I went to bed. It’s so funny, and so smart, and so unrelentingly positive. I’m not usually big into hard science fiction, because I don’t care if things work, I care if they’re cool, and this is so cool. It makes science exciting!

I went and saw the movie as soon as possible after finishing the book. It was the first movie I’d seen in 3D in years, because I’m very cheep, but I thought it deserved the whole experience. It was worth it. It was beautiful, funny, and absolutely lovely. The whole cast was excellent, but especially Donald Glover, who was a beautiful charming mess. The fact that they gave Sean Bean the line about the Council of Elrond was perfect.

Everything looked incredible, but also messy and casual in a way that sci-fi doesn’t usually manage. So often sci-fi films are interested in making things look shiny and futuristic, which can be super cool, but it makes a movie where everything looks more-or-less like it would actually look, designed for practicality not aesthetics, really refreshing. And the space: wow the space. Mars looks amazing.

As much as I loved the movie, I think the book might be even better. It’s half told in journals, and that strong point of view is so much fun to read. Also, the book has a few more challenges to get through at the end, making it even more intense. I understand why the movie streamlined it some, but the full trip was still fantastic. Also the book digs into the science a bit deeper, really showing off how incredibly thoroughly well done hard sci-fi it is.

Absolutely one of the best books I’ve read in ages, one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. I’ll be totally fine if this wins tons of Oscars, as expected. It’s smart, and kind, and tons of fun. Go read the book, go see the movie, enjoy your life.

constantly cold, occasionally asleep

this whole not sleeping thing is some self destructive bullshit, and like, I know that, but I’m still not going to sleep right now. I’m tired, sure, but no. There are other things I could do. like slouching in my desk chair and thinking things.

this hasn’t been a great week for writing, but it’s been a good one for knitting, and for eating responsibly. I finished the christmas stocking I’m making for my baby cousin, and immediately started making myself a hat. I like having my hair short, but my ears are constantly cold — really, my everything is constantly cold, which I’m pretty much resigned to.

I made jam bars this week, an old favorite recipe, something my best friend’s mom made all the time when we were kids. for the first time ever, I made my own jam to put inside. making jam was way easier than I thought it would be, and it turned out delicious, and even set up right. I made cardamom berry jam, and I couldn’t stop eating it, spooning it from the pan over my fingers to lick off, still warm, straight from the pan.

this week I read Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal which only encouraged the good food thing. I also finished rereading Everything on a Waffle, by Polly Horvath, one of my favorite young adult books, which I don’t think I had opened in about a decade. They’re both great books that include recipes as part of the story, and use character’s relationships with food to understand their relationships with other things. it’s gotten me thinking about how people interact with food in my fiction, and has been a fruitful storytelling direction. I haven’t written a whole lot lately, but a fair amount of it has had to do with food.

the idea of anyone looking at my relationship with food and drawing conclusions about the rest of my life… well, they wouldn’t be wrong conclusions, but I don’t love what it says about me.

I know that I do better with eating right if I’m cooking and baking, enjoying myself and being creative, but it’s not a thing where I can make myself cook or bake more to eat right. I have to string together a decent run of not being nauseous and feeling human enough before I can get interested enough in food to think about preparing it. I’ve cooked for dinner parties while nauseous and completely uninterested in food, and it was miserable.

hopefully this week will have more baking, and more writing too.

I told an old friend I’d make him maple shortbread with candied bacon, which should be interesting if nothing else. and I have a bunch of books I’ve read and movies I watched that I want to write about before the experience gets too far away. I’m never going to be a reliable blogger, but I should be able to manage better than this.

I should actually sleep now, but god, I don’t want to. but it’s like Mick Jagger says — you can’t always get what you want. True enough. But I don’t have any plans for tomorrow, the only think stopping me from staying up is how my head is starting to ache and my eyes are growing tired. I hate feeling both tired and like sleep’s impossible. rock, hard place, etc. too tired for more articulate words.

goodnight.

Counternarratives by John Keene

John Keene has created a wonderful eclectic collection of short stories. No two story is the same, all playing with different styles and voices. There are stories presented as historical records, and as dialogues. It’s a very poetic book. At times the prose barely holds together, collapsing beautifully into a stream of phrases and ellipses.

Most stories connect back to something else, often something tangible and real — a piece of history, a historical figure that’s recognizable, or just a time period. One of my favorite stories is about Jim, from Huck Finn, catching up on his story after the Civil War.

The experiemental style and the historical grounding work excellently together. There is always something familiar to hold onto. Some of the more mystical tales are told in the most straightforward style. Keene masterfully mimics the voice of old primary sources, creating the illusion of history and authenticity.

The book is called Counternarratives for a reason — Keene is telling stories that work against what’s usually told. Different stories deal with race, colonialism, sexuality, and gender in different ways. It’s all interesting, and all feels fresh. It’s a very 2015 book, and I mean that in the best way. While it’s historical fiction it feels new, both in terms of the ideas presented and prose style.

Highly recommended. I can’t wait to return to these stories again after some reflection. There’s a lot there to dig into.

The Viscount’s Prey by Julia Leijon

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this up. It’s a smutty little thing, and this is a blog that my mother has been linked to. So? That’s weird?

But I also don’t have anything to say about the sex or romance. It was fine, whatever.

What struck me about The Viscount’s Prey is how it was a note perfect Dracula pastice. The tone was entirely in line with what I remember of the novel, the changes made to make it into a m/m romance were well chosen and didn’t interrupt the style.

Dracula is one of those great stories that’s multiplied in a thousand ways. I read it several years ago for school, and I didn’t love it, but I loved how I could see its influence everywhere. This is Nosferatu, and the overblown 90s movie, and the first episode of season five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Simpsons parodies, and a million other things. This story is soaked into our cultural DNA. The Viscount’s Prey isn’t much, but it’s a worthy edition to the collection of weird crap playing with the Dracula story.

how big is the sound of 2015

It’s really interesting. We’re getting towards the end of the year, and I’m starting to think about my list for the best of 2015. Or like, I’ve been thinking about that since June, but now it’s December and I have a better idea of what that list looks like. A lot of my favorite albums of the year are big albums, statement albums, a couple double albums, big chunks of music. This is so different from last year where my two favorite releases were slim little EPs. You could listen to my favorite release from last year, Divorcee’s EP four times in the same time it takes to get through To Pimp A Butterfly once. Tenement Predatory Highlights is just as long. Titus Andronicus’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy is even longer. The Hamilton soundtrack isn’t really comparable, but it’s really super long.

One release from this year that I’ve really enjoyed but keep on forgetting about is Wavves and Cloud Nothing’s collaboration, No Life For Me. It’s only twenty minutes, but that’s all it needs to be. It’s really good. It doesn’t need to be anything more. It’s twenty solid minutes of energetic interesting punk songs. While I love this little thing, it seems slight in comparison to some of the year’s other releases. It’s small. And that’s one of its strengths, it’s concise, like a good punk song should be. It gets what it needs to get done, and then it’s over. It’s only compared to some of the magnum opus’s I’ve been listening to this year that it gets dwarfed.

I don’t have a big conclusion here, I just think it’s interesting. Something to think about.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I don’t know what this book was, but I loved it. I need to read it at least three more times, and discuss it in a classroom setting, and make my sweetheart read it, and discuss it lying in bed with her. I want to soak up this book more, and carry it around with me, underline parts, and write notes in the margins. I’ve read it through once, pretty much straight through during a shift at the bookstore, with a break in the middle to get a slice of pizza, and that isn’t enough interaction. That was enough to know this book means something, that it could be important to me, but not enough to break down the hows or whys.

The way Nelson weaves through theory and autobiography is mesmerizing. Far too often there is a divide between theory and life, which kind of defeats the point. Nelson’s living her theory, trapped by it sometimes, changing it to face the reality of day to day existence.

Nelson is writing about family, especially motherhood, especially what it means to be a queer feminist mother. Nelson is figuring out what it means to be a part of queer family when family means two parents and children, like a “normal” family, instead of the vastness of queers as family that is a common metaphor. This naturally leads to writing about homonormativity, which is something Nelson doesn’t want to be a part of, even as that conflicts with her desire for a comfortable domestic life.

Queer’s one of those big words that means a thousand different things to a thousand different people, which means it always has to be defined. Nelson’s definitions really worked for me. I really wish I had written it down before I had to give it back to the library. I appreciated her perspective about what it means to be queer, and what it means to navigate a partner’s queerness when it’s different than your own, which can be something really big, and is something I’ve been thinking on, but isn’t something I see discussed very often.

Nelson is simply a great writer. I wish I could write like this. It’s a perfect mix of passion and honesty with academic writing. That’s very close to my ideal prose style. There are moments, especially early on, where things seem confused, and it isn’t clear who she’s writing to, but it gets more sure as things go on. Overall the cut and paste nature of the text adds a lot. It makes the book more playful and less predictable. I really need to read it again. I’m not done with this book, not even close. I have more things to say about it, and it has more things to say to me.