Abigail is constantly singing, often to a tune only she recognizes. But most of the time she’s at least going for a real song. Like tonight, before bed, she was singing, “To-ah hoo-nee HA,” which, naturally, was her version of “Toura Loura Loura.”
When she’s not singing on her how, she’s listening to music. While she likes all the children’s songs, those aren’t the ones she frequently requests. Lately, our most asked for song, heading to the top of the Abigail Charts, is “Maggie’s Song,” or as the rest of you know it, Elevator Love Letter by Stars. You just can’t get enough of her singing, “Elevator, Elevator,” let me tell you.
It became Maggie’s Song because the first few times we played it, the dog was ordered to dance with us as well. This largely consists of reinforcing very bad canine behavior like jumping up and licking faces. You know, dancing.
Now that I think about it, Abigail’s most requested songs usually don’t come from the children’s category. There was Can’t Get You Out of My Head by Kylie Minogue. Dueling Banjos actually offered a bit of a challenge at the beginning because when you start the song again – after the inevitable request of “Again!” – she just refused to believe it was the same song. We had to tell her to start out by saying, “soft, soft” until the music picked up. She had a very brief fascination with Build Me Up, Buttercup. And then there’s the classic track of Abigail’s young life, Dance, Dance, Dance by Lykke Li. She already knows that music is best when it’s Swedish.
I found myself without another BFSA Award nominee to read until the shipping gets shipped, so I decided to start in on the Nebula Award nominees. I’d already read The City and The City, the only book nominated for both awards, so I started reading Christopher Barzak’s The Love We Share Without Knowing. You might ask why I started with this one, and then I’d point out to you that it’s called The Love We Share Without Knowing. Not too many science fiction award nominees have names like that.
The opening tempered my enthusiasm a little. He starts with a little rant about how he’s not going to make you feel good or answer any questions with this book. I thought this was unnecessary and unhelpful. First of all, he doesn’t step into the narrative like this again at any point and, if anything, this opening detracts from the elegant, almost breathtaking book that follows. If there’s one thing I could change about this book, it would be that first page.
Actually, I was pretty unimpressed through the whole first chapter. I didn’t like where the plot seemed to be going. The language seemed to flow between barely sufficient and overwritten. The main character was too angsty by half. All in all I had it pegged as a young adult book with some magical undertones.
And then the second chapter was completely different. And I mean completely, with a new character, a new voice, a completely different direction. The book (which I’ll call it because I don’t want to keep writing that title and you don’t want to keep reading it) jumps from perspective to perspective, giving you different insights into life in modern Japan, through the eyes of the Japanese, as well as several Americans that temporarily make the island nation their home.
Barzak rarely returns to the same character twice, but rather inhabits many different people, finding the exact voice and style to tell their tale. It’s a dark story, full of loss and sadness and grief, covering suicide and sex, fidelity and hopelessness. There are elements of magic and mysticism in the book, suggesting a spirit world that runs alongside modern life in Japan. But the spiritual elements don’t offer much wonder or joy. They even seem to add to the world’s burden.
This is a heavy book and not one I’d normally expect to see on a list like that. It’s also a spectacular piece of fiction that I’d highly recommend.
I’m hoping the rest of the books this year live up to the lofty heights of these first three books I’ve read. I’m not sure if it’s been a spectacular year for science fiction or if I just should have started reading something other than the Hugo nominees years ago.
There’s a time-honored tradition of storytelling in my family. Well, at the very least, my father did a lot of it. We would ask him for a story and he’d make one up on the spot, almost always a tale of his childhood. The kicker was that my brother and I would be able to pick the setting, the cast and the major plot points, often as he went along. So, if halfway through, we wanted to know if they had to parachute out of the plane, my dad would just say, “it turns out we did,” and he’d have to figure out where they landed and how to make the original story work with the changes. Not too different from being a Hollywood script writer, really.
So we’d listen to the adventures we had with his friends “Skinny” O’Detts, “Washbucket” Miller and “Fats” Malone. Oh, and Mike. Dad never had a nickname, which we never caught on to until late in the game.
So this week I’ve started this tradition up with Abigail. She wasn’t interested in reading books tonight, so I decided I’d make up a story for her. She’s not so good at offering plot points yet, but I think she’ll get the idea soon. This story was about her stuffed tiger, Bengal, and how he spent his childhood. I set the scene and Abigail helped me choose another animal to be involved. Alligators were rejected right off the bat, but we eventually settled on an otter.
Here’s how it more or less unfolded:
When Bengal was a tiny tiger cub he lived in a cave in the jungle with his Momma and his four brothers and sisters. Their cave was next to a pond and Bengal would dive in, trying to catch the fish in his strong jaws. But they were too fast for him and they’d swim – swoosh! – away from him.
There was an otter who lived in the pond and he saw Bengal trying to fish. The otter was very old and he couldn’t swim all the way to the bottom any more. He said to Bengal, “If you go to the bottom and bring back some clams and oysters (this was a very special jungle) I will catch you some fish.”
Bengal thought this sounded like a good idea so he took some deep breaths and swam to the bottom. He found some clams and oysters and used his sharp claws to pull them off the rocks. Then he swam back to the top and gave them to the otter.
The otter was so happy that he ate the clams and oysters right away, before diving into the water to catch fish for Bengal. The fish were still fast, but the otter could swoosh, too, and he caught a few and brought them back to Bengal.
Bengal said thanks, and then put the fishin his mouth and swam to shore. That night, he shared his fish with his Momma and his four brothers and sisters and they all slept well with their full bellies.
I’ve taken the plunge! This blog is now Nonsensicles, providing pretty much the same content with a name that – with an ample amount of irony – makes more sense.
More content to come, I totally swear.
And I’m taking suggestions for how to change my image at the top. Might need to change more than that. Again: suggestions.
If you were in the vicinity of my kitchen last night, you might have overheard the following exchange:
“Mac and Cheese! Mac and Cheese! Mac and Cheese!”
“Mac and cheese,” said with a smile.
“Mac and Cheese! Mac and Cheese! Mac and Cheese!”
“Heh, heh, heh. Mac and cheese.”
“Mac and Cheese! Mac and Cheese! Mac and Cheese!”
Silence. And then, “I is going to have some macaroni cheese.”
Abigail just doesn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm for the it that I do.
For reasons I’m not going to go into it here I’m tired and a little cranky. However, these reasons are what lead me to think about what I’m about to go on at length about here. How’s that for an unnecessary preamble?
We have a cat, Henry, who constantly knocks things over. He wanders into things, stomps you inappropriately, lands heavily on you and is generally a banging, squalling nuisance. However, Henry is not a clumsy cat. I’ve had a clumsy cat, years ago. Otter would walk into things as well, but always, not just when it was advantageous. She would jump up on chairs just as I was moving them out of the way, a look of bewilderment on her face as she plummeted through the now empty space. Her primary method of lying down was to walk next to the spot she wanted to lie in and simply fall over. I feel that she was just giving in to the inevitable.
Henry on the other hand, is intentionally clumsy. He is essentially using a wrestling move, one that you rarely see in the professional game, but which is all to common in the amateur arena: the oh-n0-I’m-tripping maneuver. Younger siblings will be very familiar with it. You walk up to your opponent and then feign tripping, unfortunately falling on top of your – usually much smaller – adversary. It’s most effect it it’s followed up with the I-can’t-see-to-get-up gambit.
While the objective in the sibling example is to … well, to sit on top of your sibling, Henry has a different goal. His assault begins the same, usually knocking something over, preferably something metal that will make a nice sound on the tile floor. Or he might stumble across your lap, pausing just for a moment to put all his weight in the least convenient of places. What he wants is for you to notice him and then realize that, instead of whatever you are currently doing, you should be either feeding him or letting him out.
There are times when the clumsy maneuver just doesn’t work. These are all the times. The clumsy maneuver doesn’t ever work for him because the clumsy maneuver pisses everyone off. As does another feline classic, the low-mournful-mew-designed-to-wake-the-baby. These are ways to get shot in the face with a spray bottle, not to get dinner.
In closing, I don’t really have a point today. I just was thinking about Henry’s clumsiness and thought I’d share.
“Did you enjoy your grilled cheese?”
Abigail was unresponsive. While the sandwich had clearly been torn into tiny pieces, it wasn’t clear how much, if any had been eaten.
“You ate the sweet potatoes and turkey at least.” I tried to pull her attention away from making designs with partially chewed bread. “Do you want something else? You want some apple sauce?”
“I want some yogurt,” she said, with a nod.
“You had a lot of yogurt at breakfast. I could get you some apple sauce.”
“I want some cream cheese!” It’s important to really stretch out the “e” and “s” sounds when you hear the word “cheese” in your head. She had a lot of enthusiasm for the cream cheese.
“Just cream cheese? You just had a grilled cheese. I’m not going to make you more toast.”
“Want cream cheese!” She sounded alarmingly close to a near tantrum.
“You want some apple sauce instead?”
“How about some yogurt?” She said, matter-of-factly.
I laughed. “Okay. Yogurt it is.”
On a totally unrelated note, here are several ways to store and organize your cats.
When I think of the phrase “transcends the genre,” one of the first people my mind goes to is Ursula K. LeGuin. I don’t mean that I think she’s better than straight genre writers. In fact, I like the genre; I am a straight genre writer. I just means she rises above the category. Lavinia could be considered fantasy. Or it could be considered literature. Or it could be considered a scholarly piece, an extrapolation of a tiny piece from an epic poem.
Lavinia won’t be for everyone. It takes a fairly narrow path, following the life of the title character, a life that she knows is largely planned out for her. Despite the massive implications of what is happening in the world around her, the novel remains grounded in the everyday world of Lavinia. Epic wars may rage around her, but Lavinia remains a rock, aware that she is riding a narrative written for her.
It’s all expressed beautifully, with precisely the right words. I thought this summed up the main character’s approach to her own narrative:
It has not been difficult for me to believe in my fictionality, because it is, after all, so slight.
That sentence says so much within the context of the story and yet probably doesn’t mean a thing to someone who hasn’t read the novel.
I found Lavinia to be a page turner, but barely. LeGuin held my attention with exactly the amount of effort required to keep me reading and no more. There’s nothing flashy or explosive about the novel. It was the depth of the main character that kept me glued.
Lavinia is a novel that will stay with me for a long time. I’m not sure what gives it that lasting quality, but I know that I’ll think of Lavinia and her life repeatedly over the next few years. The story is simple, running it a straight line without straying too far from the life of the protaganist, but it cuts a deep furrow.
Abigail demanded that I wear my Fulham jersey this morning. Well, it wasn’t so much a demand as the one she selected – after much consideration – from my closet this morning. She is sometimes in the habit of picking out my clothes, but this one was a particularly interesting choice since I had forgotten that Fulham was playing Juventus in the Europa League today. Abigail also insisted I wear my Grumpy hat today, but that is in no way related to this story.
A quick aside to Funtime Jessica: Pbbbbbt!
To understand the Fulham game, you need to understand the Europa League. It’s one of those European soccer tournaments you qualify for if you do well enough in the home league, like the English Premier League, where Fulham plays. The top teams from each league go to the Champions League. The slightly less top teams go to the Europa League. In this round, Fulham was playing Juventus, a storied old team from Italy.
We calls teams “storied” when we mean “not as good as they used to be.” It’s just more polite.
The way the competition works is they play two games, one at the home stadium of each team, the team with the most goals after two games wins. Fulham went to Italy a couple weeks ago and were beaten 3-1 by Juventus. This was not the result they were looking for, but that’s okay, they’ll just take full advantage of home field in today’s game.
Fulham went down 1-0 in the second minute of the game. If they had been a livejournal blog, they would have changed their mood to “sad” or “discouraged.”
To turn about 80 minutes of a 90 minute game into one short sentence, they got the three goals they needed to tie it up, against all odds. Then Fulham brought on their American midfielder Clint Dempsey, who is only just back from injury. Not long ago, we were afraid he would miss the World Cup. Now he comes back in a huge game and does, well, this …
If you’re wondering who that doddering old man on the sidelines is toward the end of the video that’s Roy Hodgson, the Fulham coach. His reaction kind of says it all.
So, Fulham is through to the quarterfinals of the Europa League and it’s all thanks to Abigail, who picked my Fulham jersey and thus provided the luck the team needed. It’s elementary sports science.
I told you to ignore the Grumpy hat.
This video kind of sums up what this site should be about. Science. Exploring a fantasy world. Teaching kids. Little girls with wings.
On a completely unrelated note, I love that the words “Branding” and “Cassie” are right next to each other in my tag cloud.