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I'm not going to wait until Wednesday to post about recent reading and writing. May as well strike when the iron is hot. Well, sorta. It's mostly ambient heat from summer. So, Recent Books in My Basket:

American Savage by Dan Savage. I always enjoy Dan Savage, even when I think he's full of shit, as sometimes happens. He is in the peculiar position of being asked to delineate and clarify public sexual ethics for the new age, and Dan was raised a good Catholic boy, so he does it quite ably, actually. He's also very funny. This book is a compendium of DS's thoughts on recent developments in LGBT issues as well as guns, parenting, his mother's death, and his relationship with the church.

Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King. Had fallen behind in reading the Russell books, but now that I'm armed with a library card, I've gotten caught up. I still enjoy the first canon I participated in online fandom for, but a bit more casually these days. LRK has taken to lampshading a bit more blatantly, I note -- "What, are we in an Ethel Dell novel now?" Ali complains -- but I've always liked Russell and her energetic competence, and I liked this installment too. One thing that caught my attention was the assumption that in international affairs there is no question of whether to torture and extort, only how much, and you pick the good guys out by whether they do less of it, and with what level of distaste. I am sure this is a longstanding attitude in post-colonial politics, but I'm determined to write against it however possible. If my characters can manage to combat torture and yet avoid naivete, I will have done a great feat. Courtesy or bust, is my motto, as see below.

One Was A Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Also got caught up on the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. This one was quite painful, but very good. I always do admire how JSF can layer complex psychological strata within and between people and make it part of a juggernaut plot -- it's a real talent. I'm also glad she didn't zoom out far enough from her Iraq-War-damaged characters to highlight the fact that they're all going through this suffering because of a lie, because that would have been just too much. The characters are fiction, but the suffering's real, and happening all over, and that's just untenable if you think about it too much. In this book too I found something I want to write against: there's an almost universally accepted trope that romantic love is the pinnacle of overwhelming grace, and JSF plays it to the hilt. Very well, mind you! But I want to read a book once in a while in which friendship is not just a stepping-stone to romantic love but a real breed of love in itself that also is a gateway to redemption. It's nice to read that someone was pulled back from the brink because they found a lover: but sometimes they're also pulled back because they have a Friend. In OWAS, Eric observes toward the end that "one another's all we have," but he's also losing his marriage, so he has grace enough to get by, but not the Best Kind. There's plenty of psychological truth there, but all the same I don't like that, Sam I Am. There are assumptions that need to be questioned, not least because questioning them leavens the melodrama a bit, which doesn't hurt.

The Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr. My local bud [profile] notabluemaia recced NB to me, so I gave Anna Pigeon a whirl. I like the spare prose and the straightforward, rough passage of both the character and the plot. Intrigued enough to try some more.

Meanwhile, on the Writing Front I am still laboring on Ryswyck Chapter 5. Have had to do a lot of backend character-drawing, because now that I've set up the initial main conflict and brought in most of the dramatis personae, I need to sift their motivations so as to get the plot track laid out straight. This is where I envy JSF her ability to weave plot and character and make it look seamless.

But, now that I'm into the laborious middle (and the extra-laborious summer season), I decided to post the second and third chapters to AO3, just so that my readers (and potential readers) can see what the conflict is going to look like. What I hope is that people can see in the first three chapters both the kill and the cure. Well, we'll see.

(crossposted from LJ)


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