Nov. 18th, 2018

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The colder weather seems to have done wonders for my writing productivity: I've finished my Yuletide assignment, and made a good start on a second treat. That wasn't all the writing I got done over the weekend — I also found the time to write a longish review on two Iliad retellings and Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation. You can find the review here on Wordpress, but here's a brief excerpt:

I never had much interest in the long recitations of characters’ ancestry, names of warriors killed on the battlefield, wooden horses or lucky arrows shot through vulnerable heels. Instead, I focused on the story that whispered in the margins: the calamity of war to the women and children it made most vulnerable, the ways such women coped with the ever-present threat of male violence, and the simmering presence of this violence even in ostensible peacetime, in spaces where women were surrounded by their own families. I sought out retellings of the Iliad that brought this story to the fore.


I should note that because the two retellings focus on the character of Briseis, the review involves discussion of rape and slavery, so consider this a content warning. I also get pretty ranty about The Song of Achilles, so if anyone feels like venting with me about that book, feel free to join in in the comments (and if you like it ... I'm sorry).

Also over on Wordpress, I reviewed Aliette de Bodard's In the Vanishers' Palace, a Beauty and the Beast story where both characters are female and the Beast is a dragon. You can read that review here.

This being an Aliette de Bodard story, there are all the familiar and fabulous features that I’ve come to expect in her work: loving and mouth-watering descriptions of food and cooking, a refusal to flinch away from the devastating effects of empire and colonialism, and an intricate exploration of the different ways survival can look. This last is crucial, and resonates deeply with me. De Bodard rejects an individualistic interpretation of heroism, where a lone, special individual bravely solves the world’s problems alone. Instead, courage in her writing is all about (inter)dependence and community building — the little acts that forge and strengthen networks, reinforce familial and non-familial bonds, and the way that sometimes merely surviving and helping others survive is its own victory.


I'm now taking a break from all that writing with a bit of reading. I've just finished Leah Cypress's 'Timshala', the last in the Book Smugglers' 2018 series of short stories on the theme of 'awakenings', and I definitely think it was the best of the bunch. Their short story series tend to be pretty hit and miss with me, but this one — part Ancient Egypt-inspired death cult with religious controversies and political intrigue, part exploration of determinism and free will — was excellent. It's available to read for free online here.

Having finished 'Timshala', I've now moved on to Girls of Paper and Fire, a novel by Natasha Ngan which I've wanted to read since I first saw Samantha Shannon posting on Instagram about reading an ARC of the book. This was months and months ago, and I'm glad to finally have a copy in my hands. I think I'll curl up in my wing chair and read it, watching the sun go down and the darkness fall through the garden window.

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