Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Revising Utopia Project, part X

(It may be helpful, if you do not know what I mean by Utopia Project, to read the brief synopsis. And there's something for the really curious.)

My last post on my progress revising the Utopia Project was in July.  Since then, I have (re) learned some things it would have been better for me not to forget in the first place.

Scenes finished: 6.  In story time, about a day and a half.  But important things are happening: consolidation of captives, division of groups.  A glance at Conflagra's mind (hint: it's not pretty).

What have I learned?

1. Have a schedule.  In the summer I tried to stick to a goal of writing three times a week.  It didn't always happen, but most of the time I made it - and I wrote a lot more frequently than when I didn't have any goals.

2. Be prepared to revise your expectations.  I started school officially on the 16th.  Since then, I have only written once a week.  I'd prefer to write more, but once a week is better than not at all.  It's a start.

3. Shout down your cast.  "The characters took on a life of their own."  Yeah, but for the ones who didn't, who are not adding anything to the plot - those are the ones you can control.  Consolidate characters who fulfill the same role.  Fewer people to keep track of = good.  (I know the perils of an overlarge cast firsthand.  Seriously, take a look.  Those are just the most important.)

4. Murder your darlings.  Right now I'm realizing that the scene I'm writing is not going to work, that the captives from Krev have entirely the wrong dynamic.  To make it work, I am going to have to cut one of my favorite characters out of the main storyline, rewrite a few previous scenes, and - urgh, it is not going to be a whole lot of fun.  Apologies, Lieutenant, but you're just going to have to take one for the team.

5. Make dialogue multitask.  Confession: I abhor dialogue-heavy scenes, yet I find that I write them a lot.  Going back to revise, I often skim them.  To make them more useful (and less boring, hopefully), use the dialogue to show character.  Character X would not talk like character Y, but character Z would match X's tone because they are both confrontational.  But even they would sound different because X is belligerent and stubborn while Z is more snide, mocking.

6. Good surprises happen.  Utopia Project used to have the working title "Bone", after Bone Maron, who used to be its main character.  Shiny new characters made me think Bone was terribly boring.  Earlier this month, however, I discovered that he is actually easy for me to empathize with and that he has a more complex inner life than I gave him credit for.  I did not expect this to occur, but when your story throws you a bone, take it. (trolololol pun)

7. Leave room.  Are you going to be essentially the same person tomorrow as you are today?  Probably.  How about a year from now?  Probably not.  Same thing with characters.  When you have multiple books over which to stretch the character development (or in Connie's case, deterioration) (that's not a spoiler, it's pretty obvious she's not all there), you can afford to take it slow.

--

Unrelated question: about which civilizations do you most like to read?  Also, as a heads-up, I've been contemplating changing the design for a while.  I may just get around to it soon...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blue Butterfly Intrigue

The Blue Butterfly Inn is renowned for its prompt, polite service.

When you open the door, you will see why.  The receptionist, who bears a pleasant, welcoming smile, will ask you what kind of room you want and, like as not, tell you that one such is available, and it has a splendid view of the town - which, as you know, is most quaint and picturesque for being in such close proximity to a cursed tomb.

Your rooms will be clean, the bed neatly made.  All the furniture is old, but it's well cared for and solid.  After you dump your bags onto the freshly laundered sheets, you might decide that there's enough time for exploring the town and surroundings tomorrow, you might as well get some dinner in the restaurant downstairs.

There, the good service continues.  A respectable-looking young man will greet you and show you to a table.  Like the furniture in your room, the tables are old, but they too are sturdy.  What a nice change, you would think, from the tables in the shady taverns of the Metallic Citadel.  No profanity carved into the wood.  The patrons, too, seem a cut above - you glance around surreptitiously and note that while no one looks noble, at least you can see everyone's faces.

You will place your order with one of the waitstaff.  This will come after much deliberation, because everything on the menu sounds very good.  Well, you decide, I'll just have to eat in for the rest of the trip - or make another trip sometime.

A young woman will come carrying your food, and as you look up you might feel a flicker of recognition.  You've seen her somewhere, she was important (though not to you), she's familiar...

Her long sandy-clay hair is probably tied back so that it can't get in the food (the Blue Butterfly Inn is very hygienic), and her green eyes will be more like grass than emeralds.  She's freckled and reasonably tan, though you can tell that naturally she would be pale.  Not a common look, but not uncommon either.

"Do I know you from somewhere?" you might ask.

"Perhaps," she would reply with a winning smile, and put your food down.  As she did so, you would catch a glimpse of her name tag.

Chelsea.

This may or may not help you.  Here, why don't I give you a clue?  Think back to political upheavals in the south several years ago.  Does that help?

Your eyes will go wide is realization.  This is none other than Lady Chelsea.  Do you remember her now?  The little noblegirl whose family was killed six years back?  She is the missing one, for whom the new Lord of the Southmarsh will pay two hundred pieces of gold, alive or dead.

--

Need: a new title.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Look, Shiny

Have I got some shiny things to share today!


The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

This video is just gorgeous.

Writing-related morsels:

A highly relevant post about finding beauty in your manuscript again.

Theodora Goss talks about writing despite it all - meaning, making your writing important to you.  More Goss posts: The Inner Life and a discussion of Quality.

I also like her poem, "Witch". Goss' witch seems to have a sort of fierce sad lonesomeness.

PCWrede has a post about Surprise and Suspense.

Holly Lisle has completely revamped both her website and her writing career. Check it out.

Some tips for the artists among us:

Caitlyn Kurilich, or flakycake, gives advice about shading. She's probably one of the artists who has had the most influence on my style.

Tracy J. Butler, creator of Lackadaisy (a webcomic about Prohibition-era talking cat rumrunners), has construction advice.

A very moving comic about being an artist. Found via Terri Windling's site.

Inspirations:

The artist Claire Hummel, or Shoomlah, is pretty darn incredible. Her historical Disney princesses series is both well-researched/thought out and lovely.

Okay, this one is old: ages ago in April I bookmarked a The Ruined Majesty of Cerreg Cennen, which has breathtaking pictures of an old Welsh castle.

Here's a picture I stumbled across a while ago on Tumblr. Watercolor gorgeousness right there.

Disassembly. Isn't there something beautiful about the dismantled guts of a machine laid out neatly?

A Mermaid in the Attic's Talesingr series is simply mesmerizing.

Some awesome/creepy sculpture/art fixtures found through an old Goss post (can you tell whose blog I follow?): Daniele del Nero's architectural models and the Underwater Sculptures of Jason de Caires Taylor.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

18 Favorite Historical Books

After almost an hour of AP Euro homework, it should be no surprise that I would choose to post a list of historical books that I'd recommend.  No historical fantasy - I have enough "favorites" of those to do a separate post.

1. The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane

What it's about: A youth named Henry encounters battle for the first time.  Read it for the realistic war scenes or for the slanted insights on how the ideals of courage and honor stand up in practice.

Time period: Civil War

2. Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes

What it's about: Johnny is a promising silversmith's apprentice, but when an accident cripples his hand, this avenue is closed to him.  Good thing his friend Rab has a job lined up for him - a job that will put him in the orbit of Revolutionaries.

Time period: American Revolution

3. The Slave Dancer, by Paula Fox

What it's about: Jessie Bollier, a boy with a fife, is kidnapped to work on a slave ship.  His experiences - from playing his fife to make the slaves exercise to even worse - are horrifying, heartbreaking, and powerfully written.

Time period: ~1840; the transatlantic slave trade

4. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

What it's about: Jean Valjean is a peasant who was imprisoned for many years for theft and attempted escape.  For a time he makes a new life for himself, but an old nemesis from his past shows up - Inspector Javert.  And then the other 90% of the book happens.

Time period: 1815-1832; includes a student rebellion

5. Pagan Chronicles, by Catherine Jinks

What it's about: Pagan Kidrouk becomes the squire of Lord Roland de Bram in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade.  Seventh grade history should tell you how well that works out.  Their adventures continue in Europe.

Books in series: Pagan's Crusade, Pagan in Exile, Pagan's Vows, and Pagan's Scribe

Time period: Third Crusade and onward

6. Ben and Me, by Robert Lawson

What it's about: Amos the mouse narrates his life as Ben Franklin's advisor and friend.  For younger readers.

Time period: Ben Franklin's life

7. Call of the Wild, by Jack London

What it's about: A dog named Buck is kidnapped to be a sled dog in the Yukon.  He goes through a string of owners, some good and some awful.

Time period: Klondike Gold Rush; 19th century

8. Breath, by Donna Jo Napoli

What it's about: Fairy tale retelling without fantasy.  Salz is an ill but intelligent boy who is one of the few unafflicted by a mysterious plague of madness/rats.  Fortunately, this means he has a shot at finding the truth.  Unfortunately, the good people of Hameln think it's his fault.

Time period: Middle Ages Saxony

9. A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park

What it's about: Tree-ear, an orphan, becomes apprentice to a short-tempered master potter.  Obstacles aplenty follow.

Time period: 12th-century Korea

10. The Chosen, by Chaim Potok

What it's about: Somewhat Orthodox Jew Reuven Malter becomes friends with Super-Orthodox Jew Danny Saunders, who, as part of his rabbi training, is shunned by his father.  World events and their families' opposing views on the creation of Israel cause more tension.

Time period: WWII as seen from New York

11. Pirates!, by Celia Rees

What it's about: After Nancy Kingston's father dies, she is sent to live in Jamaica.  That, however, does not last long: she and a slave, Minerva, run off and become pirates.  Better than it sounds.

Time period: 1724; pirate age

12. Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve

What it's about: A demythification of the tales of King Arthur.  Orphan Gwyna is taken in by the bard - and, supposedly, magician - Myrddin and witnesses firsthand how Arthur, the most thuggish of a band of thugs, can be turned into a legend through the power of storytelling.  Lots of action.  Not for the faint of heart.

Time period: 5th-6th century Britain; soon after Rome collapsed

13. The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

What it's about: Daniel bar Jamin, a smith, joins a band of outlaws who want to drive the Romans out of Israel.  He meets Jesus.

Time period: circa 20 CE

14. Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare

What it's about: When Matt is left to guard his family's homestead, he expects only hostility from the native Americans.  Instead, they befriend him.

Time period: 1769; early settlers in Maine

15. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

What it's about: Huck Finn and a runaway slave, Jim, go down the Mississippi River on a raft and have adventures.

Time period: ~1840

16. Montmorency series, by Eleanor Updale

What it's about: After his release, a petty thief uses the sewers to steal stuff and thereby creates two new lives for himself: one as the gentleman Montmorency, and the other as Montmorency's servant Scarper.  Later books also involve anarchist plots.

Books in series: Montmorency, Montmorency on the Rocks, Montmorency and the Assassins, and Montmorency's Revenge

Time period: Victorian England

17. Shadow of a Bull, by Maia Wojciechowska

What it's about: To borrow from the last time I recommended this book, "Manolo’s father was a great bullfighter, and it seems everyone wants Manolo to take his place. Everyone, that is, except Manolo."

Time period: to be honest, I don't know

18. Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen


What it's about: Rebecca goes to Poland to find the truth of her Holocaust-survivor grandmother's stories about Briar Rose.  Poignant and haunting.

Time period: Rebecca's part is modern, but it's about WWII

--

What are your favorite historical books?  And (ooh, look how sneaky I am, gathering data for another post) about which civilizations do they tend to be?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Report on the Soul

Before the first week of band camp, I wrote why I fear school will steal my soul.

With just one week of sophomore year proper down, it is too early to say, definitively, whether I will win this fight.  But I am using methods I did not use last year to ensure that school (to me a symbol of all things regular and mundane and non-magical) encroaches on my time as little as possible.

I shall:
  • Organize myself during precalc (my last, slow-paced class) for maximum efficiency.
  • Do easy (and easily concealed) homework in aforementioned last class.
  • (At home) finish as much homework as I can at my desk, away from the computer.
  • Bring only essential papers to the computer when I do go to it.

These measures do nothing to make sure I spend my time on the computer productively, but I'm working on it.  I need to.  My creative output this week has been small - I've only written for the Utopia Project once so far.

But I am keeping my soul fed.  I read two children's books - they make me feel happier and safer than YA books do.  I stood out in my yard with my cat prowling around, feeling how autumn is coming.  I reread my favorite poems and listened to my favorite songs over and over.  While doing homework at my desk I looked up and stared out the window at the trees and buildings outside.  I dream.

I am filled with these thoughts, these colors, these intangible imaginings that I long to commit to paper or screen.  I must get them out, send them into the world outside my head.  I can't afford not to.

Kept inside, they will wither away and drop, gray petals into gray soil.

--

This is the second time this week I've been late on a post.  Not good, not good.  It probably will not happen again, as the circumstances leading to the delays have terminated.  My sincere apologies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Was it Worth It?

How will they know you don't belong?

What will give it away?
Will they notice your snout is a trifle long
Your eyes yellow not brown?
What will betray you?
Will your fur be too coarse
Your teeth too sharp?

When will they figure it out?
When will the screams rise?
How will they know
That they let a wolf in with the dogs?

Who will seize you
Drag you out of the ring of firelight
Beyond the walls that lie "safe"?

What is the price for straying
From the night and the trees
And your family, your pack?
Will you regret your curiosity
As you look into those steel eyes?
Can your animal-heart feel such things?

Will you whimper mercy?
Will you be brave?

How loud the rifle's report?

--

In the dream that inspired this poem, it was a TSwizzle song.

--

I didn't mean to miss yesterday's post.  My house has been invaded by my parents' friends and it did not seem good form to be on the interwebz while they are here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Oneiroi, part II: Dream-Catching Method

How do you catch a dream?

--

Most importantly, you must:

Write down your dream as soon as you wake up.  If you wait, you will almost certainly lose the dream.

This holds especially true if the dream was good.  Disturbing/unpleasant dreams are easier to remember, whereas good dreams leave only the feeling. 

--

Some materials to keep within easy reach from your bed.

  • Notebook
For me, the ideal dream notebook is small and spiralbound, with hard covers. That way I don't have to get up to a desk to write the dream down.

  • Pencil
It should be blunt, since when you're fumbling around for your dream-catching implements you don't want to stab yourself.  Eraser is optional - I just cross stuff out.

  • Paperclip  (optional)
This is to hold your page in your notebook.  I used to dog-ear the current page, but I stopped after I wrote one dream right over another.

--

Additional:
  • Draw a heavy line after each dream if you want to fit multiple dreams on one page,  - one that's easy to see if you hold the page close to your eyes in a poorly-lit room.
  • Write the date before/after your dream.
  • Don't fret if you lose a dream or two or more.  Your subconscious is not so finite - there's plenty more where that came from.
  • The jury (me) is still out on whether or not it's helpful to collect your memories of the dream before writing it down.  You can still leave things out either way.
--

Remember:

This is what works for me.  And, as I am fond of reminding people, not everyone = one person.  Likely the optimum methodology will be different for everyone.  Just keep going and you'll find out what's best for you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Welcome to the Besen Institute

Look at that building.  Isn't it nice?  Very tall, with imposing stone walls; vast grounds, plenty of well-stocked practice fields, gardens in many styles.  In good weather it looks palatial, in bad weather it looks forbidding.

Ask any of the students walking along the cobblestone paths, How do you like Besen Institute?

"Oh, it's wonderful," some will say.  "You learn so much.  Why, did you know that the death rate of Besen graduates who fought there is half that of the overall rate in that famous battle of the Field of White Lines?"

No, I did not know that.  How interesting.  What else can you tell me?

"Orsolya Markov, the one known as Lady Demon, is planning to visit Besen in the spring.  Everyone's thinking of ways to get her to give autographs."

Isn't that exciting!  Besen must be a great school to attract such luminaries.

"Yes, of course.  You can form all sorts of connections here.  I've been here since I was ten, of course, and second year my roommate was the son of Kornelia Gemeinhardt - the Kornelia Gemeinhardt, you must have heard of her, she's famous, head of the peacekeepers in the Metallic Citadel.  I've met her personally, she says I'd be perfect for a peacekeeping job."

Well, that's certainly fascinating -

"By the Wise One, you are stupid.  Everyone involved in the Field of the White Lines is dead by now; Orsolya's visiting because she's my half-sister and I haven't seen her in years, she's been too busy rescuing that daft lord Nikodim; and Mrs. Kornelia wouldn't consider me a peacekeeper for a minute, not when I'm getting hauled in by the soldiers every other week.  Though it is true that I roomed with Gunther - he kept beating me at chess.

"Oh yeah, and Besen is a hellhole.  I don't know what you're doing here, but you'd best get away, far away, before it chews you up and spits you out.  Though, by the look of you, you think I'm just trying to psych you out, you're probably going in anyway.

"Worse for you.  But you seem dumb, so it's not much of a loss.  Look, you've wasted enough of my time already, I've got to get to my Advanced Tier Magic class.  If you need help, don't ask me.  Bye."

You have just met Thaddeus MacGregor.

--

An experimental piece from my GW story, which still has no plot.  Should I continue it?

--

As this post goes live, I will either be eating free food, drinking free soda, talking with my band friends, or swimming. :)


Part II of the Oneiroi coming on Sunday.


Also, you may notice a new page called "Creations."  There you'll find short stories, poems, and information about my WIPs.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Oneiroi, part I: Why Catch Dreams?

Dream: a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.

--

Should you catch dreams?

--

Maybe not.

It's difficult. Even with four years of experience I lose or do not chase dreams all the time.

Do I really need to do this? I think. Why don't I just roll over and go back to sleep? Or: Argh, I need to hurry up or I'll be late. Can't take the time to do this.

Why bother?  The chance of one dream changing your life is slim.  Only a couple out of hundreds have found their way directly into my art.

Not very substantial things, dreams.

--

But then again, maybe.

Dreams are a gold mine of ideas and inspiration. Much of my dream records have been as yet un-utilized, it's true, but simply having proof of that connection we all have to another side of our mind, to the mysterious depths of our consciousness, makes me feel more capable of creating art.

My dreams let me describe things I have never experienced waking.  I have never flown on my own power, but in dreams I have done so (or tried to) often enough.  I've never jumped off a cliff to catch someone dropped by an enemy, but still I know what the edge of the rock feels like under my feet when I push off.

Also, my unconscious knows me better than I do.

For example: last Monday I had a horrible, horrible nightmare that had me curled up with my eyes squeezed shut for the rest of the night. The image of a building burning straight down through the foundation was what comforted me.

And now, a week removed, I can say that I will use this somehow. I will create something in which a run-down gray roadside building turns out to be a hospital turns out to be an evil-nest of vengeful spirits.

Gathering this image turned me back into the kid who was scared of the monster under the bed.  But I never would have realized how deeply the notion of evil spirits - how do you fight against that which exists on a different plane of existence? - struck at the core of my terror without that nightmare.

I don't believe in fortune-telling via dreams (called oneiromancy), but I do believe that dreams can tell you things.  Listening to your dreams is like being on the other side of a thick glass wall that at once obscures and makes clear, listening to a clearer-eyed version of yourself.

To me, that voice is worth hearing.

--

What say you?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Birthday luck sure is something! I log onto Blogger today and find out that the wonderful Alexa of Illiterations has given me an award! *-*


The award is given to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, and the rules are:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!
My five picks are:

1. Elentari (J. F. Kirk) of Tari's Tales, who writes amazing stories that you all should go read.

2. E. M. Lawrence of Winter of Her Discontent, who has amazing art.

3. Caitlyn Kurilich of Scrawlogy and Never Stop Drawing, who also draws beautifully and whose style has had a great influence on mine.

4. Anna Lyndon of Up in the Clouds, who not only draws a fantastic webcomic, but also has a great sense of style

5. Lisa Grabenstetter of the Magnetic Crow, who is also a fantastic artist.

You know, I'm actually not sure if those last two have fewer than 200 followers. Certainly all the people I've featured deserve much more than that.

Again, thank you, Alexa!

--

Have a good weekend, everyone!  I''ll be back on Tuesday with the first post in what will be at least a two-part series about dreams.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Read in July

This month was heavy on fantasy and mythology.

I read three books in the "Legendary Past" series:

Russian Myths (Legendary Past Series)Norse Myths (Legendary Past Series)








Russian Myths, by Elizabeth Warner; Persian Myths, by Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis (couldn't find the cover picture); and Norse Myths, by R. I. Page.

The Russian myths were concise and interesting; the Persian myths were confusingly laid out; and the Norse myths managed to funny as well as informative. All in all, a good way to get a broad and shallow overview of unfamiliar myths.

--

I also read some myths in story format.

First was a collection of the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, which I checked out for the pretty Kay Nielsen illustrations. It's a little surprising to see how casually murderous people are. Example: King asks his three sons to find the prettiest maiden in the land. When the youngest brings back the most beautiful, the other ladies are cast into the ocean to drown. Say what now?

Russian Fairy Tales (Everyman's Library Children's Classics)









And then some Russian Fairy Tales, written by Gillian Avery but more importantly illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. I never wanted to return this one.

Is Koshchei the Immortal's soul like a Horcrux?

--

...and I read about magical creatures in Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings.

The Book of Imaginary Beings








I really liked this book. It seems to aim more for breadth than depth, but I can't complain because it's given me plenty of avenues for further research. Many of the descriptions seemed to click for me, and it would make a good volume to have on hand for instant inspiration. One particularly resonant line: "For the dignity of science it was essential that Salamanders exist."

--

I've been following Terry Windling's and Theodora Goss' blogs for a while now, and this month I finally read some of their publications.

The Wood Wife









First came Windling's The Wood Wife. Was it magical realism or modern fantasy? Whatever this was, I enjoyed it immensely. The picture of everyday life was drawn as convincingly and meaningfully as the supernatural elements. I am not one who loves the desert, but this portrayal of the desert's beauty and its hidden magic (though that word seems too ostentatious for the spirits who move in this book) was elegant and enjoyable.

--

However, I must say that as much as I liked this book, I loved Goss' short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting even more.

In the Forest of Forgetting









The cover is amazing and the stories inside were just as good. Many of them I wish were longer, because I still have so many questions. The writing was exquisite, magical.  Here was another book I never wanted to return.  I kept it for days after I finished it, rereading "Lessons with Miss Gray" and "Professor Berkowitz Stands on the Threshold".

--

I read The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Hound of the Baskervilles









I absolutely loved the edition of the book I read. It was the kind of book where the cover is blank, where the title is embossed on the spine. A small, fat book, with the thickest old-book smell.

The story inside was just as good. I haven't read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories, but I think I shall because the writing, while infused with all the charm of that era, moved along quickly and never obscured the story. It being a detective story, I didn't expect poetry, but the descriptions of the moor made my breath catch a little. It being a detective story, I expected an intricate plot and a thrilling cat-and-mouse game of clues and hints and such. I certainly got that.

--

Then I read a collection of Robert Louis Stevenson stories, the main one being The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde









That particular tale was less scary than I'd imagined it to be. Kind of boring, actually - and the same could be said of most of the others.

"Markheim" was my favorite.  The ending line was BAM.

This is my first brush with the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson and I must say he has not come off it quite favorably. Jack London + fantasy - my reader-loyalty = him. Well, I should reserve judgment until I've read a few more of his works. But as first impressions go...could be better.

--

A book I picked up on a whim: The Plague, by Albert Camus.

The Plague








As with the Hound of the Baskervilles, it was the binding that sold me (hardcover dust-jacket-less books rule).

I liked it. Some characters got on my nerves because they were useless. I'd say that the others - Dr. Rieux, Tarrou, etc. - were admirable if not for the passage wherein the author points out that they are not heroes because to deem them such is to say doing the right thing is uncommon enough to be rewarded. What surprised me was how orderly the town was even in the depths of the plague. A line I found amusing: "Stupidity has a knack of getting its way".

--

Do you really want to hear about the books I read and didn't like? No? Yeah, I thought not.

--

On the last day of July I finished two books.

The first was Outside Lies Magic, by John R. Stilgoe. It was recommended to me by Alexa of Illiterations (hi Alexa! To the rest of you, if you want a shout out you gotta do more than lurk :P).

Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places









The subtitle is important: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places.

I found the writing style a smidgen too obviously eloquent for my taste, but it complemented the subject matter perfectly. That is to say, it suited a book about discovering how interesting everyday places are, how rich a history they hold.  At times during the reading, I wanted to put the book down and go out for a walk, maybe trespass a little to get behind the surface of things.

--

Sooo...how many of you knew that I'm interesting in behavioral economics? Well, I am, and so I read Superfreakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance









In every way it was inferior to the original (Freakonomics). However, their work makes me think that I might not dismiss economics as my future out-of-hand: behavioral research like this, that could potentially help people, is a noble enough cause, amirite?