Flip Through

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Read-a-thon, y'all

12:38pm Florida time: progress in Weaving the Visions=page 138. Progress in First Rider's Call=page 40.

Weaving the Visions is excellent. A few passages I found striking below:

"God as Mother", Sallie McFague: "If we are, then, to be concrete, personal, and nonidolatrous in our talk about God, we have no alternative but to speak of God in female as well as male terms, to use "she" as well as "he", and to realize that in so doing we are not attributing passive and nurturing activities to God any more than we are attributing active and powerful activities. Or to say it differently, we are attributing human qualities: we are imaging God on analogy with human beings, and so far that is all wea re doing: God is she and he and neither."

"The Power of Anger in the Work of Love", Beverly Wildung Harrison: "The important point here, however, is that a theology that overvalues static and passive qualities as "holy", that equates spirituality with noninvolvement and contemplation, that views the activity of sustaining daily life as mundane and unimportant religiouosly...could not have been formulated by women." (italics in original)

"Uses of the Erotic", Audre Lorde: "We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings...to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance."

Weaving the Visions is really excellent. It's an older anthology (published in 1989 and updated from a previous anthology, Womanspirit Rising, published in the 70s) but it has some very choice essays that don't read as dated. As a committed feminist agnostic with a booknerd's interest in mythology and pagan religions, this anthology is like soul food. It's pleasantly balanced--some of the essays focus on Christianity, some on Judaism, some on neopagan systems, some on Native American or Afro-Caribbean or Asian traditions--and some of the ideas are downright radical, even for today (I mean...let's face it: we haven't really progressed much, as a society, as far as religion goes since the 80s).

I should be finishing this text sometime this afternoon (as I will be avoiding the mountain of papers to be graded). Then, onto First Rider's Call in earnest! Happy reading, everyone.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

48-Hour TBR Read-a-thon!

Hello chitlins. SO, Unputdownables is holding a 48-hour To Be Read Read-a-thon for this weekend and yours truly will be participating! For those not inclined to click through the link thar, basically it's this: pick a book or two that's been on your To Be Read pile for a while and try to get through it/them this weekend! YAY A REASON TO ENFORCE READING TIME ON MY DEAR MANCREATURE.

My books are: Weaving the Visions, edited by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow (an anthology of feminist/womanist critiques of mainstream religion) and First Rider's Call by Kristen Britain (the sequel to Green Rider, a fantasy title). I'll have a nice bit of hefty theo/alogical philosophizing along with a good, fast-paced fantasy with a cool heroine!

I would encourage anyone reading to participate, certainly. You can sign up at the Unputdownables website and post a link on your own blog. I will be updating a few times this weekend with progress reports (when I find a moment betwixt grading papers and wrangling kittens).

Happy reading!

In other reading news, a new dating site has emerged for booklovers and literature snobs: ALikeWise. You put in all your basic info (sex, desired gender of possible partners, birthday, location) and then proceed to put you and your bookshelves out there for people to admire and click with. Personally, this is probably the only dating site I would ever use, if I needed or wanted to use a dating site. At least, the only one until I manage to create my own for librarians: Dewey Dating System.

Friday, July 23, 2010


As you have probably heard by now, Inception is fucking superawesomedelicious. If you didn't already have a huge middle school hard-on for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I DARE YOU to go see it and walk out unmoved.

It also has some interesting schtuff about dreams. But mostly...
Ok, ok. You want film review, you say? Well, like I said, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is sex it's pretty trippy-cool. And, if you have any interest in lucid dreaming or astral projection, not actually that implausible. Ellen Page is adorable and has great hair and scarves. Tom Hardy is charming. Leo--well, come on, he's LEONARDO DICAPRIO. Ken Watanabe bought a fucking airline, bitches. Michael Caine is to Christopher Nolan as Johnny Depp is to Tim Burton, which I'm pretty sure is fine with everyone. People walk on ceilings (see above), freefall in vans for half an hour, WHICH WAS AMAZING AND SPINETINGLING AND ACTUALLY MADE ME NERVOUS, get kicked into bathtubs full of water. Marion Cotillard is delectable and creepy, Cillian Murphy is creepy and delectable. What more could you need?

(macro credit goes to the lovely narfzz)

Friday, July 16, 2010

You sound like a revival meeting, Valancy said

So by now, dear readers, you have probably gleaned that I am obsessive about a great many books and authors. One that I have not yet discussed is the incandescently awesome L.M. Montgomery. O Lucy Maud and I have had a long and faithful love (to gank a notable quote from another awesome YA author, Madeleine L'Engle), and I am sure that reading her books at an early age had some effect on my suddenly-no-longer-latent desire to move to Canada (as I have always been fascinated with the country, particularly Prince Edward Island, of course). Anne Shirley is one of my life models and I was always a teensy bit sad that her name wasn't Diana (why couldn't the nice but sort of boring best friend have been named Anne?? OH RIGHT THAT WOULD HAVE DEFEATED THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF THE FIRST NOVEL RITE).

However, the topic of this post is not any of the Anne books, nor the Road to Avonlea offshoots (which, is it just me or do some of those novelizations actually plagiarize L.M. here and there??), or the Emily books nor the Pat books...my she was prolific! No no. Our subject today is the superawesomedelicious Blue Castle and its fabulous heroine Valancy, and, most specifically, Montgomery as a protofeminist.

Now, don't get all pithy and point out that Gilbert and Anne are Conservatives (does anyone even know what that meant in fin-de-siecle Atlantic Canada? I don't), or that the bulk of Montgomery's plots revolve around someone getting hitched. I CARE NOT, I SAY. (And also that is a topic for another post, because her MO regarding marriage plots is interesting)

The Blue Castle is an interesting text for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it is the only one (I think) that takes place somewhere other than Atlantic Canada--it's set in Ontario. For another, Valancy is an older heroine, not quite the youthful spritely girl we're used to seeing (she's all of almost-30 when the book opens). Third, Valancy's reasons for getting hitched are...interesting. I mean, who gets the news that they have a terminal heart condition and responds by marrying the town dastard? On second thought, most people probably would respond similarly--NOW. But THEN, the idea of a "good girl" from a "good family" (and o, how good the Stirlings are!) up and ditching her mother, keeping house for a drunk, caring for a consumptive loose woman, not going to church, and PROPOSING TO THE TOWN DASTARD (I mean really, he didn't even ask her! SHE asked HIM! no wai), was nigh on unheard of, in the prim West. Presumably readers were a bit shocked when the book was released, at first because Valancy dared and then because she was happy with the results of her daring. I have no qualms about putting Valancy forward as an early feminist heroine.

L.M.'s intentions with the book, of course, are up for discussion. In this case we may have to get into the murky area of allowing a writer's personal life to seep into their writing. However, it is probably not too much of a stretch to speculate that Montgomery's unhappy marriage affected her writing of the book--Valancy and Barney have an ideal year in their Blue Castle, free as the wild things around them, with no need to regard the feelings of society or church. Valancy experiences sexual passion (in so many words) for the first time, and pampering, and pretty clothes. It is quite idyllic. And yet the ending, when Valancy finds that she is NOT going to die of heart failure, changes the tone of the story notably. Suddenly her perfect year of love and free living with Barney is ruined--her future with him uncertain at best, and at worst, the subtext seems to be that she doesn't want a future with Barney. The frustration Montgomery felt in her marriage and, theoretically, in the general existence of women at that time and in that place, comes through clearly throughout The Blue Castle, with its subtle indictment of religious patriarchy and "family" values.

Valancy is an early feminist heroine and Montgomery as her creator an early feminist writer. The catalyst for Valancy's change is a radical and perhaps improbable one; yet its effect on her is profound, moving, and realistic. Her actions to shift her life in the direction she wants are inspiring, derived from a place of will and passion. And though the trappings of Valancy's life are today dated and old-fashioned, the story of her life remains fresh and recognizable to any woman who has broken a path for herself.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Where does your heart live? (again)

Several people, presumably sick of hearing me rhapsodize about The Best Place On Earth, have said, But Diana! You LOVE Florida! How can you even think of moving somewhere else?

It's true. I do love Florida. Occasionally it feels like I'm the lone soul in this Bible-thumping, hellishly hot, tacky, swampy, lousy-with-Northerners, sandy-soiled oasis who really enjoys being here. I am a second-generation Floridian, which is only impressive if you consider that about 80% of the population here is from somewhere else, and my third-fondest wish (first-fondest: the offer of a librarian position in the London library and a flat in Bloomsbury; second-fondest: guaranteed expatriation to The Best Place On Earth along with a librarian position in Victoria) is for the clan house in Merritt Island, which currently belongs to an aunt and uncle, to be willed to me. I love marshes, loud birds, really hot sunshine, citrus fruit, narrow old roads, mocking tourists, slow rivers brown with leaf-mold, abundant seafood, heat lightning, water prairies, Disney World, and Florida's greatest treasure, cold springs. By the way--if you have never been in 72-degree crystal-clear spring water, YOU HAVE NOT LIVED. So see to that.

I don't love awful traffic, religious fanatics, bizarre and terrifying zoning laws which allow for uncontrolled urban and suburban growth, interstates, anti-pedestrian cities (did you know that the top four worst cities for pedestrians are all in Florida? Be proud, Tampons! We're number three!), the destruction of a beautiful and unique environment, a hideous attitude toward immigration, the giant Confederate flag flying at the junction of I-75 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, despicable medical laws, and being sunburned in the ten minutes it takes to walk across my college campus.

I am not under the illusion that The Best Place On Earth is perfect. However, it is leagues closer to perfection than my dear home state, or any other part of the United States that I have been in. What can I say beyond "I'm in love"? It is true that part of my heart belongs to London and the UK in general, and always will, but my brain has accepted that immigration to Britain is a pipe dream. Immigration to Canada is not. It's within my reach and I want it. My core values and concerns are represented better by Canada in general and British Columbia in particular, and the United States doesn't seem concerned with changing that. A reasonably common subtext to the But Diana! You LOVE Florida! concerned queries is But why would you want to live anywhere other than the United States? I really don't think the concept of immigration occurs to the bulk of white middle-class Americans; they're in the US, and the US is where immigrants come, and that's the extent of immigration for the majority of US citizens. Little thought of themselves going anywhere else.

"Anywhere else" is, I feel, where my destiny lies. Across the continent, three time zones and a country away. I'm almost there.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Matter of Britain

I think it's time to talk about my addiction. Well, one of them--I have many: potatoes, Tamora Pierce fandom, STAR WARS, Joss Whedon shows, sleeping.

But today is an Arthur day. Arthur Arthur Arthur.

No, DR SHE BLOGGO, I am not talking about your car.)

KING ARTHUR, PEOPLE. THE MAN HIMSELF. Maybe it's a sentimental attachment to the legends due to my grandmother, who bequeathed me her editions of The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlin, as well as three of Mary Stewart's Merlin books. I read the latter until they fell to pieces sometime in my fifteenth year (and recently replaced them with four first editions found at St. Petersburg's antiquarian book fair! Noice). Maybe it's a childhood love of the (really horrific) Disney version of The Sword and the Stone. Maybe it's my teenage protofeminist's love for The Mists of Avalon.

Whatever the root, I am a big, big, big fan of Arthur. As Missy Elliott would say. I've read every version I can get my sweaty paws on, including the romances (Tennyson, Malory, de Troyes), the "historical" (Whyte, Stewart, Cornwell), the children's/YA versions (Cooper, Barron, Alexander, Sutcliff, Yolen, Morris), the female-centric ones (Bradley, Miles, Woolley), the ones that defy description (Lawhead, Elliott)...I spent a good chunk of my youth reading everything I could find about King Arthur. I even read every damn book Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote AFTER The Mists of Avalon (even the really shitty recent ones by Diana Paxson "as" Bradley). I read nonfiction, too--anything about Roman Britain, anything that verified the existence of a historical Arthur. I tried to read The Mabinogion when I was about 13 and kept a book called The People Who Came Out of the Dark checked out of my high school library until it was overdue (it was about Celts).

And then there are the moving-picture adaptations. Ohhhh the 2001 made-for-TV version of Mists. It stands out for me as the best of the bunch, and I confess that Julianna Margulies is who I see when I envision Morgan le Fay. The awful 2004 film with Keira Knightley and Clive Owen, I saw just so I could smack my smarmy friend down about how historically inaccurate it was. First Knight, I was disgusted by even at age eleven. The Last Legion was turgid and dull despite its reasonably excellent cast. The TV series Merlin I have a few problems with; mostly I think it's boring (although, hai @Anthony Stewart Head!). And now--NOW--now I hear that the good folks who made my personal favorite Showtime porn, The Tudors, are helming a project called Camelot, with Eva Green as Morgan and that kid who's playing Grindelwald as the young Arthur.

ZOMG SO ON BOARD. The allure is incredible. I can't wait. Even if it's the opposite of my dreams.
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