Jan 14 2015

Book Review: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente


“Things that are unsightly: birthmarks, infidelity, strangers in one’s kitchen. Too much sunlight. Stitches. Missing teeth. Overlong guests.”

Palimpsest is the story of a city that exists between dreaming and waking, full of living trains, mechanical bees, houses grown from trees, rivers made of coats, and other beautiful, ugly, wonderful, and dangerous imaginings. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that access to the city is achieved through sex, as four characters — a woman who loves trains, a man who loves locks and keys, a woman who tends bees, and a man longing for his lost wife — living in different parts of the world discover after chance encounters. As each one longs more desperately to reach the City of Palimpsest, they find they have to put them in increasingly compromising situations with a multitude of complications and consequences.

“Do not ask, he thinks, and tried to clench his throat around it. But the question is a lock and it seeks the key of her and he cannot stop himself, even though the taste of it is like the Volkhov, muddy and reedy and cold.”

The language in Palimpsest is often beautiful, poetic, rich and thick as honey. It’s perfect for the surreal other city of Palimpsest, though for the “real” world it can have feel of distancing, the focus more on the labyrinth of the words than on the characters. At the beginning, when we are just getting to know the characters, I think it creates a distancing effect, making them hard to relate to, their quirks feeling exotic and strange rather than relatable. So, I had a hard time with the novel at first, as it felt more like a complex poem that I couldn’t quite penetrate.

“Every morning she pulled a delicate cup from its brass hook and filled it, hoping that it would be dark and deep and secret as a forest, and each morning it cooled too fast, had too much milk, stained the cup, made her nervous.”

After a certain point, though, when the threads of the characters’ stories began to come together, twisting through the labyrinth of Palimpsest toward the conclusion, I began to really enjoy the novel. I varied between needing to compulsively read and needing to take a break to absorb one or another beautiful phrase. While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I would have liked, this was still a great journey and one I will reread in the future.


Jan 13 2015

Words Inspiring Words

What I’m reading

Finished Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, which was wonderful and I am hoping to have a review for tomorrow.

I’ve started Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. This will prove to be a slow read, but is so relevant right now.

What I’m Writing

Novel in poems progresses. I’ve typed out the first poem and have it “finished”. It came out entirely different than I first imagined it would, as my writing sometimes does. Usually this surprise is for the best, and I feel like this is the case here.

Many more notes and starts of poems were handwritten out.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up two more novel poems. If this is accomplished send out a submission of existing work.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

The act of writing itself, words inspiring words. It feels good.

Opportunity of the Week

WEIRD SISTER is a new literary, feminist, and pop culture blog that my friend Marisa Crawford is editing along with Becca Klaver. The site is looking for “feminist literary and cultural commentary that’s critical, creative, incisive, and playful, sometimes all at once.”

Linky Goodness

In “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This,” Mandy Len Catron describes an experiment in which psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. She then describes going on a date and going through the same list of questions used by Aron, with fascinating results.

How have you been this week?


Jan 9 2015

Favorite New-to-me Movies of 2014

top movies seen in 2014It’s been a weird year for movies for me, as I didn’t go to the theaters much like I normally do. In fact I’ve only seen a few 2014 movies. This may also be a contributing factor as to why our of the 49 movies I’ve seen this year, I outright hated nine of them (high for me), just wasn’t into a dozen more, and liked but didn’t love many others — so, I had a hard time coming up with a top ten and, in the process, of trying to form my list, I realized there were only five that I really loved this year.

The Top Five

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – It’s the group of antagonists become friends become chosen family trope that really gets me here. Plus fun action space story and oodles of fantastic music.

2. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – I love subtly speculative indie films and this one hit all the right notes of heart and humor.

3. The Host / Gwoemul (2006) – Intense, funny, and hiding tons of social commentary, this was a fantastic movie.

4. Planet of the Apes (1968) – While the special effects and movie makeup don’t hold up to modern standards, the story is still powerful, complex, and compelling.

5. Her (2013) — I thought the concept of this movie was strange when I first heard about it, and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did and I appreciated it even more after seeing it a second time around.

Continue reading


Jan 8 2015

Favorite Reads of 2014!

Favorite reads of 2014

The Top Ten

1. The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
2. Among Others by Jo Walton
3. Red Shirts by Jihn Scalzi
4. The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
5. Contact by Carl Sagan
6. The City & The City by China Mielville
7. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
9. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
10. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

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Jan 6 2015

First Update of 2015

Oh, the joys of winter colds. I’ve spent the past three days curled up in blankets, watching TV and trying not to hack up my own lung. I can’t really remember much of my week beyond that.

What I’m reading

I recently finished A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Mystery novels are not my cup o’ tea, but I enjoyed reading about Watson’s first impressions of the great detective and the murder mystery has some interesting elements to it. A fun and fairly easy read.

Now, I’ve started in on Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, which has some beautiful wonderful writing and fascinating moments, but hasn’t fully captured me yet.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been working on my novel in poems, handwriting a new opening poem and editing what will replace the existing chapter one. I’m torn on the idea of whether to call the poems “chapters” or not. At this point, I’m thinking not, simply because coming up with an individual title, rather than a chapter title, helps me to think of each poem as needing to be complete in and of itself.

I poured out a freewrite that should come together as a completed poem and I’ve been creating some blackout poetry, which I’ve posted up at Tumblr.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up and finish two opening chapters of the novel in poems.

Where I’ll Be

If I’m feeling healthy again by Thursday, then I’m planning to attend the the Cito.FAME.Us open mic, starring Q&A on Thursday at Iguanas in San Jose. I’ll be listing to the creepy-sweet tunes of Q&A and will probably bring something to read, too.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

While my feelings on Palimpsest as a whole are mixed, the visual poetic language is triggering my inner poet and has me wanting to play with words. It’s a book I can only read in short spurts, because it has me thinking about language as I read. I find myself reading a page or two only to begin reaching for my own notebook, leading me into my own labyrinth of words and corridors of phrases.

Opportunity of the Week

Far Orbit: Apogee is an anthology of science fiction adventure stories created in the “Grand Tradtion” to be edited by Bascomb James. The covers for past anthologies are gorgeous and though I haven’t read past anthologies by this publisher, they look cool. Payment is one cent per word and the deadline to submit is March 15th.

Linky Goodness

i09 published a list of 67 Science Fiction And Fantasy Movies To Watch Out For In 2015, which has me drooling. Many of these look great, though I’m particularly excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron and the new Mad Max and Star Wars flicks. The list also includes a bunch of indy flicks that look rather interesting, too.