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Oh, and I've been reading some things. As one does.


The Year of the Book and The Year of the Baby, Andrea Cheng, the first two installments of a middle-grade series about an American-born Chinese girl (her father is also ABC, mother is from Shanghai) struggling through friendships and family relationships. Anna is, btw, excellently bookish, and there are many shout-outs to other children's books. (Disclaimer: I am an outsider to Anna's situation, but FWIW many details resonate with things I've seen and heard of through connections made as the parent of a China-born adoptee.) Low-key, well-written, and addictive: we have two more at home, and I'm starting #3 as soon as I can pry it from Janni's hands.

Monkey King vol 4-6, adaptation by Wei Dong Chen, art by Chao Peng -- which takes us through chapter 27 of Journey to the West, with the Avengers party fully assembled in volume 5. So far so good, and TBD is requesting repeated rereads.

In progress:

The Avalon of Five Elements, Fang Xiang, to chapter 241. There was a pause there when I got irritated at an out-of-character decision by the MC apparently done only for the plotting -- it's not that it couldn't have been sold as in-character, but no selling was done -- but I pushed past it. So still bounding along with the weird adventure, though there's been rather more body horror than I was expecting.

To Be a Virtuous Wife (何为贤妻), Yuexia Dieying (月下蝶影) -- like the author's Eight Treasures Trousseau, this is a Chinese pseudo-historical webnovel with a modern female lead reincarnated-with-memories into the body of a woman married into the imperial family -- in this case a complete doormat who, two months after becoming principle wife of a prince, had failed to establish control over her household and her social position. This changes quickly. FWIW, the setting's template is mainly Ming dynasty with some Qing details,* and the translator provides extensive cultural notes with pics, which very much help. Slightly longer than ETT, but at 120-odd chapters still easier to swallow than fantasy epics. Am up to chapter 49, so almost halfway through.

On hold:

Village Girl as Family Head (农女当家:捡个将军来种田 -- the subtitle means something like "a general comes planting the field," though there's probably an idiom I'm not grasping), Yiyi Lanxi (依依兰兮) -- another historical novel of the reincarnation-into-the-past sort, but in this case the "host" is no one important: the orphaned teenage daughter of a village farmer with three younger siblings. Her "new" personality is also anything but a doormat, is excellent at family scheming and invective, and -- possibly most significantly -- was an agricultural researcher in the present day and so knows Improved Farming Techniques. It takes her a while, however, to get a handle on all the things she should know about the present era but doesn't (unlike Yuexia Dieying's protagonists, she doesn't have memories from her host body, just her previous life). I suspect I'm doomed to perpetual disappointment here as the original is long-ass and the translator very slow: I caught up with it at chapter 41. Enjoyed just that much, though, even in very rough fan translation.

The King's Avatar, Butterfly Blue -- Caught up to chapter 1056 and the conclusion of the story-defining comeback tournament. Mind, this brings me to the 2/3 point of the novel as a whole. But back on hold this goes till a significant backlog gets translated.


The Undefeatable Squirrel Girl, volume 7 -- even though there are dinosaurs and robotics competitions and a sweetly awkward romance, this somehow didn’t catch my interest enough to get through it before I had to return it to the library. Maybe there wasn't enough time travel to ancient China.

* Only without foot-binding -- I've yet to meet a pseudo-historical popular novel that includes it.


Subject quote from The Progress of Error, William Cowper.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/678041.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


TBD is five years old. *deep breath*

Achievements unlocked this past month: strategy for Uno (I have to play seriously to win even half of 1:1 games), grid coordinates (in the form C4). Achievements greatly expanded: playing alone or with friend without grownup interaction, spelling more words, deliberate puns.

A small update, with only a couple concrete observations—the general sense, though, is that TBD is now a (small) autonomous person.

The birthday party was survived. As we left the venue (a converted warehouse with a variety of jumping castles and inflated play structures) TBD said, “This was a great party,” which pretty much defines it as successful.

Motor skill advancements: deft hands at Stack the Bones (a Jenga-type game), throwing well enough for “basketball” played with a parental-arms hoop.

Regarding the deliberate puns: after the new cat, Sam, was with us for a month, TBD announced that he has additional names -- his full name is Sam Wukong. (This reflects a growing interest in the Handsome Monkey King: we've been (re)reading the first 6 books of a 20-volume manhua adaptation of Journey to the West found on our library's shelf of children's graphic novels -- I need to order some more.)

In other media, a milestone: watching episodes 4-7 of Star Wars, some parts several times. TBD likes the ewoks. As a break from Junie B. Jones, Ivy + Bean audiobooks are now the default request in the car. A couple collaborative board games among the birthday presents were immediately glommed onto, which is promising.

Some bits of talking, talking I managed to get down:

“I like my birthday because I get presents, and so instead of old junk I have new junk.”
(said well beforehand)

“I know how to spell ‘one.’ O N E.”

“Does college have recess?”

“You mean the rebel allowance?”

“Ask me to tell about myself.”
“Tell me about yourself.”
“I will tell you about myself (dramatically) in song form. (sings the Alphabet Song) Did you like my song?”
(Moana reference FTW)

Did I mention watching Moana six times in the last five weeks? Because there was that too.

*deep breath*


Subject quote from To Young Leaders, Guante & Big Cats.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/677866.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Aye, capt'n, Sea Poetry Monday keeps sailing steady as she goes.

Hastings Mill, Cecily Fox-Smith

As I went down by Hastings Mill I lingered in my going
To smell the smell of piled-up deals and feel the salt wind blowing,
To hear the cables fret and creak and the ropes stir and sigh
(Shipmate, my shipmate!) as in days gone by.

As I went down by Hastings Mill I saw a ship there lying,
About her tawny yards the little clouds of sunset flying;
And half I took her for the ghost of one I used to know
(Shipmate, my shipmate!) many years ago.

As I went down by Hastings Mill I saw while I stood dreaming
The flicker of her riding light along the ripples streaming,
The bollards where we made her fast and the berth where she did lie
(Shipmate, my shipmate!) in the days gone by.

As I went down by Hastings Mill I heard a fellow singing,
Chipping off the deep sea rust above the tide a-swinging,
And well I knew the queer old tune and well the song he sung
(Shipmate, my shipmate!) when the world was young.

And past the rowdy Union Wharf, and by the still tide sleeping,
To a randy dandy deep sea tune my heart in time was keeping,
To the thin far sound of a shadowy watch a-hauling,
And the voice of one I knew across the high tide calling
(Shipmate, my shipmate!) and the late dusk falling!

Cecily Fox-Smith (1882-1954) also wrote novels and children's books but was noted mostly for her maritime poetry, often of an imperialist bent. Hastings Mill was the main lumber mill and shipping warf of Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, where she worked for a year in 1912-13 (aside for a stint there and in Alberta, she lived most of her life in England).

(Of note to [profile] puddleshark: also by the author)

Subject quote from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage canto IV st.178, The Byron.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/677464.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


A bit of bonus content for Story Lines.

In the Introduction, I mention several poems that AREN'T in the anthology -- ones that didn't make the final cut. As I put it there, “These were all dropped because of size, incompleteness, or similarity to another selection, rather than quality, and I encourage seeking them out if you want more of this sort of stuff.”

Length was actually a big thing, despite the expansive space of an ebook -- I wanted to include only a handful of poems over 1200 lines, which is roughly how much I can readily read in a single sitting, and eventually settled on an upper limit of 3000. So longer poems had a higher bar to clear, especially when they had style or content similar to something solidly in.

So in more detail, why each of these poems landed on the cutting-room floor:
  • Specimen of an Intended Rational Work by William and Robert Whistlecraft, John Hookham Frere - incomplete, length (though it would have been fun to include it as the inspiration for “Beppo”'s manner)

  • Peter Grimes, George Crabbe - too many other other domestic tragedies

  • The Witches of Fife, James Hogg - similarity to “The Witch’s Last Ride,” plus otherwise too much Hogg

  • The Lady of the Lake, Walter Scott - length, similarity to “Mador of the Moor” (which, no, isn't exactly fair given Hogg was imitating it), plus is readily available

  • Psyche, Mary Tighe - length

  • Anster Fair, William Tennant - length, similarity to “Mador of the Moor,” “Beppo,” and “Tam o’ Shanter” (it was such a near thing to include it anyway, given it provided the epigraph to “The Culprit Fay”)

  • The Charivari, George Longmore - similarity to “Beppo” (which again isn't exactly fair, given this is explicitly influenced by that -- but between this and “Godiva,” the latter got the nod)

  • The Two Broken Hearts, Catherine Gore - similarity to “Jacqueline” and “The Fairy of the Fountain”

  • The Three Wells, Letitia Landon - similarity to “The Fairy of the Fountain” and “Paradise and the Peri”

  • Evangeline, Henry Longfellow - length, plus is readily available

  • Prince Adeb, George Boker - skeevy orientalism (admittedly not one of the reasons listed in the intro) (so why did I mention it at all?) (good question)

  • The Rhyme of the Lady of the Rock and How it Grew, Emily Pfeiffer - length, form (it's mixed prose and verse)

  • At the Cedars, Duncan Campbell Scott - similarity to an episode in “Malcolm's Katie” (while not being as good)

  • Snow, Robert Frost - similarity to “Home Burial”

A little something about what went into creating the anthology.

Oh, and one criteria I haven't mentioned: “The Lady of the Lake” also didn't make the cut because I deliberately excluded poems that valorize warfare or violent conflict. (“Sohrab and Rustum” is an arguable exception, but I read it as depicting a toxic consequence of the warrior ethos.) There's more than enough good stuff to read without 'em.


Subject quote from The Daisy, Alfred the Tennyson.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/677337.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


(Okay, so this makes it three book announcement posts in a row. Sorry not sorry.)

I should also mention that I’ve released a second edition ebook of my translation of One Hundred People, One Poem Each. There’s no substantive changes to any poem, but I did clean up the formatting and commentary plus gave it wider distribution.

Available from all the usual fine ebook purveyors: Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Smashwords | et cetera

(Note: The print version of the first edition remains available at Lulu. I haven’t updated this yet because life, but didn’t want to hold the ebook up just for that.)


Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/676930.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

(This is the second book announcement post—first one was here.)

I am pleased to also announce the publication of Story Lines: A Book of Narrative Verse, also edited by myself. This is a collection of narrative poems I like to read and reread, including several I’ve talked about here over the past couple years—bundled together so that others can readily read them as well. Poets range from Chaucer to Masefield, writing everything from rousing adventures to domestic dramas&mash;by turns heroic, comic, tragic, romantic, enigmatic, mythic, and erotic.

The glossing is more comprehensive than in Important Beyond All This, including endnotes with potted biographies and brief critical comments. Most selections are between 100 and 1200 lines (good single-sitting lengths), with a couple shorter and longer ones to round things out. The full list:

83 poems makes for a long TOC, so under a cut it goes.Collapse )

For whatever it’s worth, that’s 14 by women and 22 by non-Brits (though the latter’s a fuzzy number given immigration). Arrangement is almost chronological by birth: I jiggered the order a couple times where it made for better transitions—after all, this is a reading anthology, and it darn well ought to read well.

Available cheaply from all the usual fine ebook purveyors: Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Smashwords | et cetera

(Reviews are appreciated. So are mistake/oops/gotcha reports. Review copies can be arranged.)


Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/676781.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


(This is the first of two announcement posts, so stay tuned.)

I am pleased to announce the publication of Important Beyond All This: 100 Poems by 100 People. This is the book version of the proposed contents, with a few substitutions and rearrangements, I originally posted here. The cover description
“A single poem each by a hundred different poets writing between the late 15th century and 1922, selected to best represent each author. This collection of classic poetry—some anthology staples for good reason, while others deserve to be—in a variety of subjects, styles, and lengths is perfect for pleasure reading.”
The title, if you’re wondering, comes from the final poem.

The selections take advantage of the laxer size limitations of ebooks, to vary up the evenness too common in poetry anthologies: five poems are over 1000 lines long, and another five between 500 and 1000—anchoring the collection with meaty material. On the other end, 27 are a sonnet or shorter, including a couple couplet epigrams. I tried to arrange poems so that each leads into the next by association or juxtaposition, creating a pleasing variety of styles and lengths as the conversation eddies and flows.

If I have any hesitations, it’s whether I should have kept my original Swinburne—“Anactoria” had fit so well between “Goblin Market” and “The City of Dreadful Night,” but I really do prefer “A Forsaken Garden.” But regardless, it’s time to live with my choices.

Available cheaply from all the usual fine ebook purveyors: Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Smashwords | et cetera

(Reviews are appreciated, as always. So are mistake/oops/gotcha reports. Review copies can be arranged.)


Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/676556.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Another installment of Sea Poetry Monday:

Tacking Ship Off-Shore, Walter Mitchell

The weather-leech of the topsail shivers,
    The bowlines strain, and the lee-shrouds slacken,
The braces are taut, the lithe boom quivers,
    And the waves with the coming squall-cloud blacken.

Open one point on the weather-bow,
    Is the light-house tall on Fire Island Head?
There’s a shade of doubt on the captain’s brow,
    And the pilot watches the heaving lead.

I stand at the wheel, and with eager eye
    To sea and to sky and to shore I gaze,
Till the muttered order of “Full and by!”
    Is suddenly changed for “Full for stays!”

The ship bends lower before the breeze,
    As her broadside fair to the blast she lays;
And she swifter springs to the rising seas,
    As the pilot calls, “Stand by for stays!”

It is silence all, as each in his place,
    With the gathered coil in his hardened hands,
By tack and bowline, by sheet and brace,
    Waiting the watchword impatient stands.

And the light on Fire Island Head draws near,
    As, trumpet-winged, the pilot’s shout
From his post on the bowsprit’s heel I hear,
    With the welcome call of “Ready! About!”

No time to spare! It is touch and go;
    And the captain growls, “Down, helm! hard down!”
As my weight on the whirling spokes I throw,
    While heaven grows black with the storm-cloud’s frown.

High o’er the knight-heads flies the spray,
    As we meet the shock of the plunging sea;
And my shoulder stiff to the wheel I lay,
    As I answer, “Ay, ay, sir! Ha-a-rd a lee!”

With the swerving leap of a startled steed
    The ship flies fast in the eye of the wind,
The dangerous shoals on the lee recede,
    And the headland white we have left behind.

The topsails flutter, the jibs collapse,
    And belly and tug at the groaning cleats;
The spanker slats, and the mainsail flaps;
    And thunders the order, “Tacks and sheets!”

’Mid the rattle of blocks and the tramp of the crew,
    Hisses the rain of the rushing squall:
The sails are aback from clew to clew,
    And now is the moment for, “Mainsail, haul!”

And the heavy yards, like a baby’s toy,
    By fifty strong arms are swiftly swung:
She holds her way, and I look with joy
    For the first white spray o’er the bulwarks flung.

“Let go, and haul!” ’T is the last command,
    And the head-sails fill to the blast once more:
Astern and to leeward lies the land,
    With its breakers white on the shingly shore.

What matters the reef, or the rain, or the squall?
    I steady the helm for the open sea;
The first mate clamors, “Belay, there, all!”
    And the captain’s breath once more comes free.

And so off shore let the good ship fly;
    Little care I how the gusts may blow,
In my fo’castle bunk, in a jacket dry,
    Eight bells have struck, and my watch is below.

Which is yet another 50+ line poem, so maybe I should change that rule of thumb? -- dunno. Aside from his apparent familiarity with ships in the age of sail, I know nothing about the poet except that he was (according to the anthology I found this in) born around 1825. (Eventually I'll get around to reviewing said anthology, but the tl,dr version will be The Home Book of Verse is better.)


Subject quote from Poet and Lark, Mary Ainge De Vere.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/676349.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


That moment when ...

... your language lesson asks you to translate "I don't like to eat noodles" and you blank it out of incomprehension.

Don't ... I ... whaaa?

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/675906.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.


Oh, yeah, Reading Wednesday. I should get on that bandwagon. Memeward ho!

Finished since last update:

World of Cultivation, Fang Xiang -- I can't help comparing this to I Shall Seal the Heavens, the other Longass Chinese Fantasy I've finished, especially as to how larger scales and stakes are handled. On the one hand, this one does a better job of weaving earlier plot details into the resolution, so it feels better plotted; on the other, in the last third, with the transition from warlord to kingdom, the larger political scales make things less personal, whereas ISStH instead shifts the scale to cosmic. It doesn't help that during that part, many of the MC's power-ups and setting shifts feel somewhat gratuitous, and the overall storytelling more sketchy. So: the ending is carefully set up but comes rather more rapidly than expected. One way this is distinctly better than ISStH is female characters: there are many women with power and in power, none of whom are denigrated or otherwise humiliated for being powerful. (For being silver-spoon brats, yes, in all but one instance grouped with similarly arrogant male peers.) Their number is nowhere near parity with men, but they're present through most of the story. Also, there's very little sexualized violence, which frankly is refreshing in a Chinese work.

Gentleman Free-Flowing Cloud (闲云公子), Yu Qing (于晴) -- a wuxia Romance originally published in Taiwan. It's got wuxia sect shenanigans, it's got ridiculously competent martial artists (including ridiculously effective disguises), it's got a heroine escaping from bondage (with all the twitches expected in her type of survivor). At 10 chapters, it's also pretty short as such things go, so it makes a decent sampler for the genre. Content warning: characters with multiple, often similar names.

In progress:

Monkey King, adaptation by Wei Dong Chen, art by Chao Peng -- a manhua retelling of Journey to the West, though as of the end of volume 3 we are still assembling the party (no Piggy or Sandy yet). Read aloud a couple times through to TBD, who is confused by parts but enjoying it even more than picture book and story book versions we've done in the past. It's a pretty faithful version so far (I'm pleased they retained Sun Wukong's pissing on, as well as writing his name on, Buddha's finger). We'll see how it handles some of the gorier bits to come, and how comprehensible Piggy's chronic backstabbing is. Finished volumes 1-3, in the middle of 4.

The Earthly Paradise, where I finished "Bellerophon at Argos" and "The Ring Given to Venus". The former is far from the most briskly paced verse narrative I've read, but it's in no way flabby. The pacing is controlled, like the pacing of a panther, and there's hardly any fat on the bones. I'm rather impressed with Morris's craft here. It is, however, only the first half of the story -- another tale (just started) covers the "kill this messenger" letter.

The Avalon of Five Elements (五行天, lit. "five-way heaven," and I want to know how the translators decided on the title change), Fang Xiang, another xuanhuan (Chinese-source fantasy) webnovel that's something of a sequel to World of Cultivation, albeit set in a far future where the world has greatly changed. This one starts out as a straight-up magic academy story, though it will no doubt shift genres as the scale opens out, as it will have to do given length. The MC is an outsider student who picked up a few survival practical skills but is utterly lacking in basic theory for the five-element magic system, and unconcerned about anything but making up for his deficiencies. There's a lot of broad humor in the opening chapters, but given WoC I'm willing to stick with it as of chapter 169. Fair warning: it's still ongoing in China, currently around ~730 chapters, though the translation is slowly catching up (FWIW, most of the author's books have been 800-900 chapters).

On hold:

It's Not Easy to Be a Man After Travelling to the Future (穿越未来之男人不好当), Madam Ru (汝夫人), another Chinese webnovel with reincarnation, this time science fiction: Ling Lan, dying young, is reborn female (with full memories) in the far future and raised male in order to inherit her father's military benefits. There is institutionalized gender essentialism. There is xianxia-style cultivation guided by AIs. There are mecha. (There is also heavy-handed Chinese nationalism, with Japanese cartoon villains.) Fair warning: it's slow-paced, with short chapters each covering few events -- by chapter 100, MC has just turned 7, at which point we're alligator-deep in magic military academy tropes. (I don't think there are any tropes specific to magic military academies, but if you take the union of magic academy tropes and military academy tropes, you won't be far off.) On hold because I caught up with the translation at chapter 177. Still ongoing in China at 1450-odd chapters.

Also, returned to The King's Avatar, Butterfly Blue, because I was in the mood for something where everything is explained in detail instead of needing interpretation between the lines, and because almost 200 chapters had been translated since I left off. Ye Xie is just as excellent as ever at controlling the aggro of others, both PCs and NPCs. Caught up at chapter 1018, in the middle of the final match of the tournament arc we've been building towards for the better part of 800 chapters.


Subject quote from Epilogue, Robert Browning.

Originally posted at https://larryhammer.dreamwidth.org/675531.html (where it has comment count unavailable comments). You can comment here or there.

... a place for posting bits of fluff caught in my filters. Warning: I list "very bad poetry" among my interests.

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