Narnia: Foolish Rabadash

[Narnia Content Note: Racism]

Narnia Recap: Shasta has reunited with Aravis, Bree, and Hwin and now they are returning to King Lune and Narnia. Obligatory note about racism, intent, and Lewis is here.

The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 15: Rabadash the Ridiculous

Many, many, many days ago, I said: I'm going to pause here because (a) it's late over here in my time zone and (b) I want to give Rabadash's "trial" its own post. Then I got flu, bronchitis, book edits, and a Laura Ingalls Wilder biography, and time passed as it is wont to do! But let us roll up our sleeves and continue on with this book.

When we last left our royals, they had decided to put Rabadash on trial. I'm frankly not sure how this is supposed to work? Lune cannot possibly be an impartial judge, given that he was just invaded, and he doesn't have any authority over Rabadash.

Open Thread: Ice on Wood


The eve of Christmas Eve was marked by the worst kind of precipitation.  Freezing rain is basically how nature responds to the laws of physics pointing out, "You can't drop black ice out of the sky."  Liquid water falling from above when it's so cold that a drop will turn to ice the moment it actually hits something.

While its hazards are many, the results are actually fairly pretty.  Somewhat difficult to get decent pictures of, though.

Basically, adding ice to trees results in every branch turns into a larger branch that's partially made of ice.  For big branches that just makes them shiny, but for smaller branches, like most of the ones pictured here, there's actually more ice-branch than there is branch-branch.  Thus you get the clear branches with off-center wooden cores seen above.

We have a special open thread set aside for discussion of The Last Jedi.  Please take any spoiler-having discussion of it there.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Orange Glazed Brick


Continuing the brick theme of last week, I give you the interior of the Oak Grove station on the Orange Line.  This picture was specifically lined up to capture the reflective quality of the glazed bricks.

We have a special open thread set aside for discussion of The Last Jedi.  Please take any spoiler-having discussion of it there.

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Prairie Fires: Chapter 14 (Part 3)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 14

(Tweet Link: Part 14) I read somewhere once that astronauts sometimes struggle with depression when they return to earth. They've achieved something amazing, visited somewhere wondrous, and now that's over and they can never return. As we near the end of this final chapter of Prairie Fires, I feel like an astronaut, my friends. This has been the most amazing, most surreal, most unexpectedly wild ride. Where will we go after this? I don't know. I can't say. But we're here together now.

When we last left off this chapter, Rose had died and been buried with a quote selected by her libertarian grandson that was the first argument for social security. We have to ask ourselves, did he really not know that? Was this his final, fitting revenge? We also have to ask: why does autocorrect want to replace "libertarian" with "librarian"? Could it be that even machines know libertarians are bad, and they try to replace them with good librarians?

Prairie Fires: Chapter 14 (Part 2)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 14

(Tweet Link: Part 13) #PrairieFires Alright, y'all. Are we prepared? Part 13.

Meanwhile, this is awesome. Y'ALL HELPED DO THIS.

 Metropolitan Books‏ @MetropolitanBks  @AnaMardoll Hopefully this brightens your day: PRAIRIE FIRES is one of the @nytimesbooks 10 Best Books of 2017! Thank you for sharing your reading of it. https://nyti.ms/2kcxzTh  @carolinefraser

If you want to pick up this amazing book--and I totally encourage you to, because I've really only skimmed the surface--here's an affiliate link to the kindle and paper versions on Amazon. If you've been meaning to pick up the Little House books themselves, they're also on Amazon. With the pictures in! They look really pretty.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 14 (Part 1)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 14

(Tweet Link: Part 12) #PrairieFires Part 12. Chapter #14. Let's get as far as we can.

 Dr. Ghost Buster‏ @PlasmaGrrl Replying to @AnaMardoll  My brain keeps parsing the hash tag as "PraireFaeries" and making me think of your awesome books. Seriously, though, your live reading on this is amazing!

Hahaha, omg, #PrairieFaeries would not be wrong, no. Bless, I needed that chuckle.

Chapter 14 opens with Rose being awful, and I mean. Are we even surprised at this point? She's just turned 70, Laura has died, so obviously the reasonable thing to do is leave town to go pal around with friends.

Open Thread: The Last Jedi


Star Wars thoughts go here, so as not to take over the other open thread.

Open Thread: Snow on Brick


When the snow first falls, the bare ground is usually too hot for it, and it melts.  A stick or leaf may provide sufficient separation from the ground to allow it to collect.  Thus there are often random islands of snow.

However not all ground has the same thermal properties, and in certain cases we get patterns.  the gaps between bricks provide safe harbor for snowflakes even as the bricks themselves melt the flakes into oblivion.
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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Prairie Fires: Chapter 13 (Part 3)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 13

(Tweet Link: Part 11) #PrairieFires Part 11, and here we need to revisit some of Rose's stuff from last night because holy shit. @Shaker_aphra has noted that the Pittsburg Courier, the African-American paper where Rose landed a column, was a big deal.

@Shaker_aphra And it's a BIG paper. 3rd largest AA paper by circulation, IIRC. It was the paper that invented the "Double V" campaign.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 13 (Part 2)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 13

(Tweet Link: Part 10) #PrairieFires, Part 10. Proceed with caution.

Rose urges Herbert Hoover to find Rexh Meta. She fears that her "vindictive personal enemies among communists" are causing her requests to be ignored. Does... she think Hoover is a communist? She doesn't find him (he's apparently/probably in prison) and laments forever that he totes would've been rescued if she'd been a member of the communist party. Okay, like, if you really believed that, wouldn't you join up????

Reader's Digest wants to run Hurricane. She meets with the editor and he brings his 14yo son Roger to meet Rose. While he is in high school, Roger regularly spends evenings and weekends at Rose's house. That's all the details I have on Roger MacBride at the moment. I will report as the situation develops.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 13 (Part 1)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 13

(Tweet Link: Part 9) Okay. Let's... let's gird our loins. Deep breaths. Chapter 13 of #PrairieFires. Part #9 in my series of threads. I'm gonna admit to being a bit exhausted. I will continue because I don't like leaving things unfinished, but... these are awful, depressing people. Genuinely, I had to go take a break after Part #8.

Laura and Rose are some kind of case study in how traumatized people can turn around and absolutely terrorize others in an attempt to assert control over their lives. Rose is the most obvious problem, what with the "adopting" and abusing of young boys, and sucking up to famous friends only to castigate them unfairly when they fail to perform to her fantasies.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 12 (Part 2)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 12

(Tweet Link: Part 8) Part #8 of #PrairieFires, here there is only rage.

[TW] After Rose alienates Don and Ruth Levine, Rose turns suicidal again, but I have zero sympathy for her and I say this as someone who struggles with suicidal impulses. You sympathize with Hitler, Rose. You ought to feel bad! Feeling bad is the correct reaction!

In an argument about politics, John Turner (adopted son; probably abuse victim for 6 years) storms out of the house and joins the Coast Guard. She will basically never see him again, feeling that he had gone over to the enemy by enlisting in government service.

Open Thread: Water under the Bridge


This is what happens when I can't think of a decent name for a picture.  There's a bridge.  There's water under it.  There's an idiom that goes "It's water under the bridge."  Thus: title.

More of me being enamored with reflections.

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Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Review: D'Lish Deviled Eggs

D'Lish Deviled Eggs: A Collection of Recipes from Creative to ClassicD'Lish Deviled Eggs: A Collection of Recipes from Creative to Classic
by Kathy Casey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

D'Lish Deviled Eggs / B00AZKUERY

I love this cookbook so much and I keep coming back to it again and again. I know that seems silly, like, what more can you do with deviled eggs than the basic recipe? But this book has the best base recipe *plus* awesome variations with pulled pork, buttered corn, pimiento cheese, and a zillion other flavor combinations. For someone who really likes deviled eggs and has a lot of picky eating issues, this cookbook is great because it's good at presenting ideas (with gooooorgeous pictures) and letting you experiment with those ideas. "Hmm, what if Classic Picnic with Bacon Cheddar?" WHAT IF, INDEED.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Cheese and Beer

Cheese  BeerCheese Beer
by Janet Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cheese and Beer / 1449421849

Be aware right this is a *pairing* book. It's not about cheese and about beer, it's about cheese-and-beer together. That wasn't quite what I was looking for, but that's okay! Pairing books are important too.

This is a gorgeous book with a lot of beautiful pictures and a huge variety of pairing suggestions. I've seen another reviews complain that the selections are too easy to find, but I think that's going to vary widely--I'm in Texas, not California, and even the nicest grocers around here don't serve half the cheeses in this book. Fortunately the pairing suggestions are very versatile so you're not going to be "trapped" into being unable to use half the book. The instructions for storing and serving cheese are especially good to know; I'm kind of a foodie when it comes to cheese and I still learned stuff which is always awesome.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Amish Friends Cookbook Desserts

Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook: DessertsWanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Cookbook: Desserts
by Wanda E. Brunstetter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amish Friends Cookbook Desserts / 978-1616262921

There's nothing really wrong with this book, but there's also nothing really right. There are almost no pictures for the recipes, and it's not clear whether these even *are* pictures of the recipes or just generic stock photos of "apple pie", "pumpkin pie", etc. The recipes are short and sweet--about the size of a recipe card, which is convenient for storage but not if you want any kind of in-depth instructions. But if you're an advanced chef, I feel like you already know about these recipes; there's very little in the way of variety or invention. If you have even a single church cookbook from the past 30 years, you have most of these recipes already. If you don't, then I guess this is a decent collection? But don't expect instructions or pictures to help you out.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Open Thread: Something Purple


Yeah . . . I got nothing.  Could show up as pink depending on local conditions.

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Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Review: Holiday Cookies

Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the SeasonHoliday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season
by Elisabet Der Nederlanden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holiday Cookies / B01N6FSVZB

I seriously thought I reviewed this months ago, but it turns out I got lost in cookie making and forgot! I picked this book up on NetGalley thinking "oh, Ana, how many more holiday cookie books do you NEED when you own so many already" and it turns out the answer was "AT LEAST ONE MORE".

I love this book. I love the recipes; they're simple, and easy to read and follow. I love the pictures, oh gosh, the pictures. There is a picture for each recipe (as god intended for recipe books!) and they are all so gorgeous I want to lick the page. I love the variety; oh sure, we start with gingerbread and pinwheels and chocolate chunk but in no time whatsoever we're serving up cookies from Sweden, Italy, Austria, South America, Denmark, Mexico, and so forth. It's largely a very European selection and I would've loved to see more global variety (maybe for a sequel? please?) but what we have here is scrumptious, yummy, and there's almost certainly something here that isn't already on your cookbook shelves.

There's also some amazing decorating work on the pages, and some creative ideas like cookie place cards (for settings at the table) and one of the prettiest 3-D Christmas tree cookies I've ever seen. The section on gingerbread houses comes with guides for you to trace and cut out on paper. (Though this won't be much use, probably, to kindle users. I wish cookbooks would start writing the measurements on guides now that tablets are becoming ubiquitous.) If you love winter cookies--and these are definitely winter/yuletide/christmas cookies, don't be mislead by the "holiday" in the title to think there's a Labor Day cookie in here--this is a great book for your collection.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: QUESO!

QUESO!: Regional Recipes for the World's Favorite Chile-Cheese DipQUESO!: Regional Recipes for the World's Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip
by Lisa Fain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

QUESO! / B01MT4WC2K

I feel like I should like this book more than I do, and I've been sitting on this review for awhile but I need to post it and get it out of my system: this is a good book, but it's not quite the book I wanted.

I thought I was picking up a cookbook... and I was... kinda. There are a lot of chile con queso recipes here, there's no doubt about that. There's only pictures of about half the recipes, which is never a bonus in my book because I want pictures of *all* the recipes. On the one hand, these are queso recipes so the pictures aren't going to vary a whole lot from each other until we hit the more complicated fare. On the other hand, there *is* more complicated fare deeper in--queso with pork and corn and mushrooms, and vegan queso--and yes, I want pictures of those. The pictures which are on the page aren't labeled (or weren't in the Advance Review Copy I received) which means that every 3-4 recipes there's 1-2 pictures and you have to try to match the pictures to the recipes. For a book that I want to browse through when I have a hankering to throw cheese in a pan, that feels like more work than I'd wanted.

This is also a touch of a history book... sorta. The author grew up in Texas (as did I) and was raised on the Velveeta-and-Rotel recipe that white Americans grew up on in the American South back in the day. Then she started branching out and researching the roots of the recipe and visiting different Texas towns to gather regional samples. She's looked into fondues and rarebits and other melted cheese dishes. All of this research has gone into little 2-3 page "histories" before each section of queso recipes, along with little paragraphs of historical context with each recipe.

I love food history so I feel like I should like these parts more than I do. There's a distressing shallowness to a lot of the history, like there's a deeper story and we're just getting a couple condensed sentences that would go on a Wikipedia stub until someone fleshed the material out properly. And the history we do get feels very much like a white outsider peering in--and sometimes in the wrong directions. From the very beginning, the author explains that her trek-for-queso took her from El Paso to Corpus Christi to Austin to Houston to San Antonio. I would've expected at least one jaunt over to Mexico while she "drove along the Texas-Mexico border". The first section of queso recipes features recipes from Los Angeles, Boston, San Antonio, El Paso, Arkansas ("Arkansas Cheese Dip"), Lubbock (a Velveeta-based recipe), and Lady Bird Johnson's Washington Post recipe.

Those feel like very unusual choices to set the stage for a book that is trying to be a history of queso. I feel almost like I'm reading a gentrification of queso--the Arkansas Cheese Dip is called "the term preferred by folks in Arkansas". Do you mean white folks in Arkansas? Because you can say "white folks". I'm assuming Spanish-speaking Arkansans still just called it chili con queso. (Though they probably didn't make it with "1 pound yellow American cheese" and ketchup, so maybe "Arkansas Cheese Dip" is the better term after all.)

I dunno, I feel like I'm being mean. As a coffee table book for Christmas, I think this is perfectly adequate. As an addition to your cookbooks to flip through when you want cheese to nosh on, I think it works. If you're interested in the history of chili con queso in America as adopted as part of the American culture, I think this is an interesting read. If you go into the book with that mindset, I think you won't be disappointed.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Baking Class

Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake!Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake!
by Deanna F. Cook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Baking Class / B06XPQX1ZC

This is an extremely cute little book which I think would be great for small children wanting to get into baking--especially if they've been watching cooking shows for years (like my nephew) and wanting to dip their toes in the water. The graphics are colorful and helpful, and the steps are easy to follow. I love how all the helpers in the book are kids (with a good variety in racial representation!) because it really emphasizes that yes, kids CAN do these recipes and so can the kids reading along at home.

The selection of recipes here is not the widest or most diverse. The bread section is loaf bread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, etc; the cookie section is chocolate chip, oatmeal, sugar cut-out, snickerdoodles, etc. I do feel like a follow-up book could branch out just a wee bit into some more multi-cultural directions than just what would've been incredibly safe and familiar to me as a white American kid. I don't think this is a point of criticism for the book, just something I wanted to note for potential buyers.

This is definitely a book for KIDS, though. Some baking 101 books are accessible for adults, but this one is geared strongly for the under-12 age crowd. As a birthday or holiday present for a kid wanting to get into baking, though, I think this would hit the spot. Helpful, colorful, cheerful, and creative within the confines of the "safe" recipes served up on the page.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.

~ Ana Mardoll

Prairie Fires: Chapter 12 (Part 1)

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 12

(Tweet Link: Part 7) If you're just joining us, this is a completely accurate summary of Rose Wilder.

 novemberness‏  @Laura_the_Wise  Let's see: -con artist -exploits ppl -serial sexual abuser -fake news -a racist superficially admiring of other cultures -pretends to be rich but rly in debt -many failed building projects -dates younger men -mom issues -vain af -fascist  It's. She. She's Trump. Rose is Trump

Can I just say that I re-read the first chapter of Big Woods last night and I can 100% see why I like/d it. The food descriptions are amazing and Laura is really good at making shitty things seem like amazing adventures. This was apparently a real-world talent of hers which Rose scorned, so it's interesting to see how that plays out in her writing. I really would love to know what Rose thought reading/editing her stuff. Reading between the lines of their letters, she wasn't thrilled.

Chapter 12 promises us that we're entering "the most editorially incestuous phase of their relationship." That's never a good sign.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 11

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 11

(Tweet Link: Part 6) It's striking to me that Laura's writings are about hope and joy and beauty even in hard times, while Rose's writings are about grim unhappiness in relative wealth. (The Depression is happening and she never misses a meal; she's relatively rich.)

Rose joins the local men at foxhunting (further alienating the wives) looking for new story material to gather. She mocks their dialect to her literary friends. Similarities of scenes and turn of phase between Little House on the Prairie and Willa Cather's 1918 novel My Antonia are noted along with the fact that Rose was very familiar with Cather's work.

Oh shit.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 10

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 10

(Tweet Link: Part 5) Part 5, in which the books are written and I assume everything goes horribly right.

Chapter 10 opens with Laura and Almanzo taking a road trip to De Smet (Charles' old town). They're horrified by the ruination of all the farm country (crop prices tanked due to over-growth) and everyone is losing their farm to taxes. I can kind of see why farmers would gravitate to anti-tax positions when they associate taxes with foreclosure and those taxes have never been used to properly safety net them. Sigh.

Laura's manuscript for Little House in the Big Woods is accepted, but Knopf folds because of the Depression before she can sign. (Sorry, to be clear, Knopf folds the children's arm of the publishing company, not the entire company itself.) Rose insists the Depression will be brief, nothing is wrong, people are just being cowards. She's $8,000 in debt.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 9

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 9

(Tweet Link: Part 4) Rose Wilder has invested all her money into the stock market and is planning a palace with servants and guns to keep out the riff-raff.

[TW: Self Harm] When you're being Dramatic Online: [Rose's article] appeared under a sensational title: “I, Rose Wilder Lane, Am the Only Truly HAPPY Person I Know and I Discovered the Secret of Happiness on the Day I Tried to Kill Myself.”

Oh my god, I cannot summarize this article of hers. I am screaming. It is the most dramatic childish thing ever. It is 100% the slow-faint-on-the-stairs-lady gif.

gif of a lady on a fancy staircase, pretending to faint in dramatic slow motion

Writings: Release


[TW: Death of a Parent, Failed Pregnancy Attempt, Talk of Self-Harm]

I wrote this many years ago after two failed IVF attempts with my spouse, during which one of my parents (survived) a bout with cancer. I wanted to reconcile myself to loss--both the upcoming one I foresaw when my parents died, and the loss of dreams and the future I'd planned as I acclimated to the fact that I was infertile.

I sometimes tell anti-choice trolls that I lost "thirty babies" during IVF, which is not incorrect per their worldview, as thirty fertilized eggs stopped developing one by one. But though I don't feel like I lost thirty children--and am squicked out by fundies who insist I'll meet my excessively large brood in heaven--I do feel I've lost one child. Not a child I carried, but a child I'd planned a future around and towards. This story is my farewell to that child.

This is also a ghost story, which seemed fitting for October and All Hallows' Eve.

Prairie Fires: Chapter 8

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapter 8

(Tweet Link: Part 3) Rose is touring Europe in the wake of a world war and briefly toys with the idea of adopting a "war orphan" but she gets and discards another boyfriend instead.

Laura is classist again, fretting that the recent women's right to vote will only be utilized by "rougher classes" of women while "home-loving home-keeping" women stay home from the polls.

Caroline dies and it is sad. I hated her in the books, but here she benefits next to everyone else being way worse. Rest in peace, Caroline.

Btw, if you're liking this live read, you've got to check out the Prairie Fires book because there's a lot of wild stuff I just don't know how to summarize. Like Rose Wilder's angsty Twilightesque self-insert sexual escapade fanfic.

Good morning, everyone. Laura resigned her column after her mother's death, writing one last paean to Caroline and another to Almanzo and that time he took her home for Christmas.

Rose ping-pongs about Europe, fetishizes Albania and Albanian men, considers adopting a 15 guide (she's...40?), and claims an Albanian bey (leader) proposes to her mid-gun battle. She becomes so absolutely annoying about her fetishization of Albania that her best friend's husband writes an Annoying White Lady caricature of her in his books and I'm here for it.

She gets... wow. Really awful.

[TW] Rose is proud of the fact that Americans killed the indigenous people over land, rather than religion, and scorns the Europeans for not having the same "clean" reasons for killing. She approves of killing! Just not the reasons.

In a deep depression, Rose goes back to Rocky Ridge and Laura. Laura is 57 years old and struggling to keep doing all the farm chores she'd done all her life; she's described as old and unwell. Rose moves into her old bedroom and turns her old Jack London stuff into a "novel" about him (instead of a biography) and fuck you, Rose, fuck you forever.

Rose hates farm life and manual labor of any kind, which tells us volumes about what kind of traveling companion she was in the Albanian mountains, I feel.

Rose refuses to save money and grows more disconnected from financial reality. "With fantastic optimism, she estimated that she could sell a hundred stories over the next five years at five hundred dollars each, an output scarcely suited to a temperamental writer." 100 stories in 5 years, at $500 each! For what would be thousands of dollars in today's money! Writers, here is the part where we throw back our heads and laugh.

Rose is outraged when Laura points out that a story might not sell, or Rose might become too sick to write or suffer an accident, etc. SPOILER: THIS WILL DEFINITELY HAPPEN?

Man, I have every mixed feeling about their relationship because Rose is basically Ayn Rand but worst, but I too would not like living with Laura? Like, I am wincingly sympathetic to the whole "MOM, I am a cosmopolitan WRITER and you married at NINETEEN and chair a bingo parlor slash masonic lodge."

I don't honestly think Rose understands her own impulses. "[Rose] was publishing a rhapsodic tribute to rural farm life in Country Gentleman, while declaring privately that her parents should sell the farm and move to England. Supremely confident in this decision, she nonetheless expressed bafflement how they could find income there." Like. 'Mom, you should sell your home and source of income (eggs, butter, etc) and move to England where you will have no income whatsoever.'

Laura runs for office and fails, so turns to writing; she asks her aunt to write down everything she can remember from childhood and send the stories back to Laura for her to use as raw material.

Rose buys her parents a Buick; Almanzo crashes it and sends Rose flying through the windshield. "Accustomed to driving a team of horses, he had braced his foot on the gas pedal while pulling back on the steering wheel, saying “Whoa!” Lane went through the windshield, leaving her with glass in her face, a crushed nose, and two black eyes." Ouch.

"In her enthusiasm, [Rose] pulled her parents into the [stock] market along with her. “Stocks are leaping around like corn in a popper,” Rose wrote to them. “Fortunately, we can’t lose.""

OH GOD NO.

Rose cannot keep a dollar without spending it, but is commissioning plans for a palace and servants. "Lane paid their Russian tutor, a former architect, to design a new home on the Adriatic, in the “pure Arab style.” The sketch showed a lavish colonnaded affair with a walled garden, swimming pool, terraces, defensive gun emplacements, open courtyards, and a servants’ court."

GUN EMPLACEMENTS AND A SERVANTS' COURT. LIBERTARIANISM.

I... I don't know how to deal with this, I am losing my shit. How do you pay your Russian tutor to design a feudal palace for you? She has no money, I have to add. She can't keep herself from spending all of it instantly.

Prairie Fires: Chapters 6-7

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapters 6-7

(Tweet Link: Part 2) Okay, when we left the last thread: Laura had grown up and gotten married and had Rose before her husband got very sick and had a stroke that left him disabled. They are now replicating the bad decisions of her childhood: Hole up with a financially stable family, gain a few belongings and a foothold, sell everything, move to the latest land-grab in an attempt to strike it self-sufficiently rich, fail.

There are a few genuinely sad things here. One, Laura's white family is a cloud of locusts driving indigenous people from their homes and destroying the land. Two, the lack of real safety nets for disabled and impoverished people is the gale wind behind the white locusts. The people getting rich off the land-grabs are (a) the government and (b) the railroads and (c) the people selling farm equipment. That's pretty much it. Everyone else loses.

Prairie Fires: Chapters 1-5

[Prairie Fires Content Note: Racism, Settler Violence, Nazis, Child Abuse]

Prairie Fires: I started and stopped a Little House deconstruction awhile back, but the subject matter stayed with me. This book--a new and informative expose on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane--was recommended to me so I picked it up on a lark. I was not prepared. This is a record of my live-read on Twitter.

Prairie Fires, Chapters 1-5

(Tweet Link: Part 1) Wow, I'm really liking Prairie Fires so far. (New... expose? biography? of Laura Ingalls Wilder.) "Showing American children how to be poor without shame, she herself grew rich." I wish the author had specified white American children. I hope race is explored more, because it's inextricable to the Wilder legend. Her mythic story is a white story.

Chapter 1 is about how the Wisconsin "Big Woods" farm, land, and maple sugar trees featured in the first book were freshly stolen from indigenous people. Like, extremely freshly. I knew that the other books (Silver Lake, Prairie, etc) were about LIW's white family stealing indigenous land, but I hadn't realized Big Woods was part of that pattern as well.

I'm not sure yet when Pa's family shows up, but noting that he was born in 1836, the 1855 German and Bohemian settlers migrated into the Big Woods by moving into indigenous homes while the owners were our hunting, then refusing to leave when the owners came home.

Open Thread: Bookstore Pillow


After bringing primary computer in to be fixed (in theory) I stopped by a bookstore before heading home.  This bookstore sold pillows.  This is the pillow that caught my eye.  Lacking money with which to buy such a thing, I snapped a photo.

-

Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Reverse-Engineering Eternity: The Puzzle of the Snow Queen



[Ana: Today we have a guest post from Benjanun Sriduangkaew about her upcoming book, Winterglass. For those who haven't read Andersen's The Snow Queen, a Project Gutenberg link is here.] 



Reverse-Engineering Eternity: The Puzzle of the Snow Queen

Content warning for discussion of misogynistic abuse, sexist false dichotomies.

Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen has the distinction of being the one western fairytale that's ever had lasting effect on me — I never did warm to Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or even the rest of Andersen. Mostly Disney's fault.


There's the exotic world which The Snow Queen presents, the frozen Lappland, the forever winter, the peculiar imagery of the snow bees, that compelled me more than the generic dark forests of Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast. And part of it was, inevitably, the Snow Queen figure — immaculate, beautiful, limitless. Long before I came to frame all my writing (and I do mean all) through queer lens, she was compelling and magnetic. While a lot of us gravitate to the malicious stepmothers and the evil witch-queens, creating for them a sympathetic perspective or origin story, the Snow Queen has always been ambivalent. Unlike the wicked stepmothers and the witch queens, she's never shown in defeat. Her hold on the boy Kay is a spell done in absentia, an offering of a beautiful puzzle—we never hear from her again past a certain point in the story. In absentia, eternally unattainable, impossible to defeat even by the most pious of Christian girls.

Piecing the Mirror Together

When you rework a western fairytale, you run into the risk of retreading old ground: most have been retold to death or have received the unfortunate Disney treatment or both. The Snow Queen has eluded Disney, but she's been places (and how odd, how interesting, that it is the queen who's usually central rather than Gerda or Kay). Lumi of the Fables comics, Arianrhod of Joan D. Vinge's Snow Queen Cycle, Princess Kaguya of Sailor Moon: Kaguya-hime no Koibito, the White Witch Jadis of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Freya from The Huntsman: Winter War (2016). But the source material is still interesting to me, and I wanted to give it a try.

Winterglass isn't an exact retelling. Most keep the core concepts: a boy is corrupted into the worst version of himself, is seduced and taken away by the wintry sorceress-queen, an innocent girl — usually his childhood sweetheart—sets out on an adventure to rescue him and free him from the queen's grasp. That I had to jettison immediately, as I don't find much of interest in a heterosexual love story. The aspect of this story that often plays out as Gerda and the queen vying for control and (sometimes romantic) attention of Kay doesn't interest me either.

Gerda's defining trait, the one that lets her free Kay, is her purity of heart, her innocence, in so many words.

“But can you not give little Gerda something to help her to conquer this power?”

“I can give her no greater power than she has already,” said the woman; “don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her. Two miles from here the Snow Queen's garden begins; you can carry the little girl so far, and set her down by the large bush which stands in the snow, covered with red berries. Do not stay gossiping, but come back here as quickly as you can.” Then the Finland woman lifted little Gerda upon the reindeer, and he ran away with her as quickly as he could.

It's a very Christian story (Gerda literally dispels the Snow Queen's enchantments with Christian prayers). The Finnish woman doesn't remark on her endurance or strength: it is Gerda's purity alone that she praises, and Gerda's purity alone that — she asserts—compels and charms all into serving Gerda. Vinge has an interesting take on this, where her Gerda figure Moon Dawntreader does win through kindness and empathy rather than purity, and there's mileage to be had from stories where kindness and empathy are the guiding principles (Steven Universe, Puella Magi Madoka Magica). But so often what happens is that writers position Gerda as the virgin, the queen as the whore, the way it happens in any story where a powerful woman is pitted against a younger, naiver one: just look at Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Disney's own take on Snow White (1937) or Sleeping Beauty (1950) or The Little Mermaid (1989). Even Vinge's rendition falls into this trap: Arienrhod is defined by her ambition and sexual appetites while her clone Moon is younger, sweeter, kinder and most importantly more innocent (she has sex with one man at a time and only with a deep emotional connection while Snow Queen Arienrhod throws orgies: how scandalous). Sailor Moon plays it straight: an astronomer boy is seduced by the icily beautiful, cruel Kaguya-hime. She is defeated by the titular Sailor Moon, a young woman empowered by her innocence and purity.


So many reinterpretations of the Snow Queen fixate on her having been abused by men into bitterness, even though Andersen's never was— his Snow Queen is a figure of elemental force and alien motivation, untouched by men and untouchable. Freya in The Huntsman: Winter War, Lumi in Fables, one way or another all have been shaped by patriarchal malignancy, by male entitlement. Elsa of Frozen's catalyst is the threat of power-hungry, treacherous men seeking to exploit or remove her. Vinge's Arienrhod is spited one last time by a man— her discarded former lover—as she is thrown into the sea to drown alive. Men, it seems, are inescapable.

This inescapability has something to do, possibly, with the idea that the appeal of The Snow Queen lies in being a story where the girl rescues the boy. While Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty are passive, Gerda adventures. She strives, she endures, and she overcomes. There's certainly something to be said for that, but it's still a girl and a boy. It still confines and, fundamentally, it places supreme importance on the boy as a person so worthy and precious that a flawless, morally impregnable girl beloved by all she comes into contact with will go through hell to regain him. To me this wasn't a fantasy of female empowerment: it is a fantasy of male all-importance.

When I started writing Winterglass with the intent of basing a story on the Andersen, I was faced with a few options.

  1. Gerda and Kay are both girls, they are lesbians. The Snow Queen is also a woman, older and sexually voracious in contrast to Gerda's and Kay's inexperience.
  2. Gerda and Kay are both girls, they are lesbians. The Snow Queen is a man, he is a sexual and sexist threat, an embodiment of patriarchal power that suppresses queer women and threatens them with corrective rape.
  3. Gerda is a boy and Kay is a girl.

And so on, and so on. (Putting them in an American high school or college is, naturally, right out.) Number two goes out the window fast: Andersen's story doesn't have a sexual assault component to it the way Grimm's tend to, and I'm not desperate to introduce any. Making the Snow Queen male would also center a man, and I just don't find that — even when the man is an oppressor — all that interesting; 'darker, more adult' fairytale retellings which play up sexual assault are a well-trodden territory, sometimes to ridiculous excess (take Anne Rice's regrettable The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty).

Another factor is the characters' ages, which is more crucial than you would expect: in the original they start the story as children, and in most retellings they begin their journey as teenagers. I didn't care to write an ingenue who is led by her naivety and who triumphs because of it, or an innocent who falls afoul of icy seduction. I very specifically made Nuawa and Lussadh experienced (in all ways) and accustomed to violence, with Nuawa in her thirties and Lussadh in her forties. Setting next — fairytale retellings are often quite white, with Vinge's The Snow Queen set on a sea planet populated entirely (and improbably) by white Celts. I could set Winterglass in a similar analogue, or a secondary-world mishmash of medieval Europe and Britain, but the Winter Queen's threat seems much more interesting and terrifying as a literalization of colonialism. Sirapirat is not a direct analogue of any one city, but the shape and origins of its culture should be obvious, and I want Nuawa's relationship with her city to be unambiguous: her opinion of Sirapirat would have been very different had she been a person of color born and living in a white-majority country.

I am not actually that enamored of the Andersen story.

It made an impression on me; I felt the images in it were beautiful, more distinct and concrete than anything in Grimm's, more particular. But if pressed I wouldn't, now, name it as something I necessarily love. Andersen provides me with a structure, a few images I like, but I don't owe him or his story any debt. I'm sure I loved it when I was much younger—I looked up every retelling I could find, and was incredibly into Vinge's version—but it's not just that Andersen's story is deeply white, I also don't believe in what it believes: that resistance through innocence suffices or even works. The Gerdas of the world, in their white purity, may be able to get what they want through demonstrating that they have beautiful hearts and sterling character. But for people like Nuawa, women of color subjugated by imperialism, that will not get us very far at all. We know that we're born screaming, and to our graves we'll be screaming still, fighting to breathe and to die with dignity. Prayer is for white girls whose innocence will be believed, whose goodness is assumed and whose socialized position is ever on pedestals.


Vinge's Moon Dawntreader is chosen by the closest thing to a god and taught from childhood to be kind and loving, because in both her world and ours, the compassionate heart of a white girl is an assumption supported by universal consensus. Andersen's Gerda dispels the Snow Queen by Christian prayer; animals love her, people cannot resist helping her, and to the end she and Kay remain 'children at heart', pure and therefore fit for God's light. Nuawa survives to adulthood on a terrible sacrifice, raised and forged to be a weapon who will burn her heart out if it means overthrowing a tyrant.

And this, to me, is what it means to reconfigure a fairytale through post-colonialist lens: not just by making the characters of color rather than white, but by upsetting completely the worldview and assumptions of the white original. It is to relocate everything from the pale, frozen lands of Europe to a country all your own, and it is about — most of all — fighting with everything you have, even if it becomes your undoing, because you know no alternative exists and no gentler options will be offered.


Winterglass is a lesbian epic fantasy based on 'The Snow Queen', set in secondary-world Southeast Asia, out December 2017, and available now for pre-order.