Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dean's List, Part 1

This is for dean's litcritters but since I'm not part of his workshop, I thought I'd just post it here.

It's actually quite fortuitious that the same time I read a couple of stories that the litcritters are taking up, I was also reading gabe's exposition on critiques/reviews. Mind you, both sections are a bit long but that's gabe for you. (More thoughts on that later when I get to it.)

I had to mention the above because-- like most of the reviewers' replies to gabe's rant-- I also lack the critical skills needed to fully dissect the said stories. That being said, I still can do a small review with the appropriate commentary:

  • Anne Harris' Still Life with Boobs is a hilarious story of a young woman who discovers her breasts have started gallivanting on their own on nights on the town. I thought it somewhat predictable in that it's very Freudian (i.e. repressed = problems). However, Harris got me going with its engaging story and sympathetic protagonist. Moreover, the writer avoids being raunchy due to bizaare scenes wherein male and female body parts get it on in the darkness of secret parties. Likewise, despite the possible erotic assumptions of such a story, she actually tones it down on the masturbation and actual consumation scenes and relieving most of the sexual overtones.
  • On the other hand, Kij Johnson's Fox Magic is a lyrical tale of a female fox who falls in love with a human being and the resultant tragedy that brings when the illusory nature of fox magic is called into play. I'm actually familiar with Johnson as her story forms the basis of her novel, The Fox Woman. Fortunately, this is one of stories that I also find predictable-- i.e. you know the story's going to end badly-- but the writing's so good you can't stop reading. The last time I felt like that was while reading Patricia McKillip's classic The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
  • Unfortunately, I've never got into Margo Lanagan's Singing My Sister Down despite the fact that a lot of people love this story (including dean). The long and short of it is, this touching story of a family who have to witness an execution of one of their own has-- given my weakness for lyrical prose-- writing that's somewhat off-putting. This is sad because the prose is actually excellent for its setting (post-apocalyptic? dawn age?) but rough on my mind's ear. This also explains my reluctance to read similar works like Russel Hoban's classic Ridley Walker.
  • Last but not least, Rudyard Kipling's The Recrudescence of Imray is a perfect example of stylized prose that still rings true despite its eccentric flow. Sentence forms are convoluted and topsy-turvey; and yet despite its almost purple prose, Kipling's story of the disappearance of a minor Indian bureacrat and the role of two Englishmen in solving this mystery turns almost into a song. At least it reminded me of the tempo of Kipling's poems.

On a last note, Lanagan's prose reminded me of certain books wherein a hidden typo would reveal itself and expel me from the flow of reading a story. Unfortunately, Lanagan's prose-- though perfectly stylized-- did the same for me to the point that I couldn't empathize with the emotions supposedly generated by the story. Alas and alack.


Der Fuhrer said...

read Fox Magic. Heheh. Sad and beautiful. Reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha and Watership Down.

sky said...

Read Anne Harris before. Hilarious. Still Life didn't strike me as erotic but I think it's a metaphor of latent desires, e.g. the genitals dancing amongst themselves can signify an orgy. Everything is very much detached from anything else. There is also the thought that sexuality drives us to seek out companionship and we don't want to admit it, e.g. breasts coming home with a penis.

The narrator reminds me of Desperate Housewives' Susan Myer. She's always in the way of disaster. That's what makes the story relaxed amidst the sexually-charged premise.

My friends and I have this running scene if our genitals were detachable. The forgetful one would leave her vagina on the laundry. And I would lend mine to whoever is willing and there'd be no issue of fidelity.

Dean said...

Thanks for your thoughts, BC ;)

banzai cat said...

fuhrer: Whoops. Haven't read either of the two. Nor watched the movie either. But yep, too true.

sky: Your term 'detached' was the exact term I felt about the story: Harris had excellent control methinks. Though I was wondering if this was beneficial to the stor or not (a moot point though). Likewise, I thought it was more of repressed rather than latent.

I also try not to see things metaphorically on my first read. I suppose it's because I've never taken a lit crit class in my whole life.

As for having detachable genitals, I assume this was a product of too much alcohol on the table? ;-)

dean: Not a problem. Hope my reasoning on Lanagan was clear enough. :-)

Charles said...

-gasp- The Forgotten Monsters of Eld.

sky said...

Haha! No, we were sober at that time. I shared an incident in which a scatterbrained housemate would leave her bloodstained knickers for us to discover. One of the mothers who came to visit, vulgar woman that she was, commented that if she had a detachable vagina she would forget it on her way to work.

And then the scenes started from there.

banzai cat said...

Heh. Sorry 'bout that. My brain just slipped a gear.

banzai cat said...

sky: Oy, waaay too much informatin! 8-o