May 18, 2007

Two Short Stories and a Meme

Yesterday’s short story was “Orm the Beautiful” by Elizabeth Bear. I don’t know anything about the author, and this was the first story of hers I’ve read. I chose to read it because I found it on the Clarkesworld Magazine website, and the first few lines caught my eye:
Orm the Beautiful sang in his sleep, to his brothers and sisters, as the sea sings to itself. He would never die. But neither could he live much longer.
I liked this story a lot. It’s a dragon story, and that alone is a plus for me. But it’s also beautifully written, and it’s told from the dragon’s perspective (well, most of it, anyway), which is always interesting. It’s not a very long story and it’s quick to read, so if you have nothing to do for the next 20 minutes or so, consider reading it. You can find it here

This morning I read “Cancellanda” by Marina Warner. My interest in Marina Warner comes from her book From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers. After reading it, I tried her fiction with Indigo, or Mapping the Waters.

This book, partially a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, left me with mixed feelings. It starts by telling a contemporary story of a West Indian girl who moves to England with her family. Then the story focuses on a Caribbean island shortly before Colonial times, and it retells the lives of Ariel, Sycorax and Caliban, among others. In this story, Sycorax belongs to a native tribe that is unfortunately wiped out with the arrival of colonial traders. I absolutely LOVED this part of the book, and I found the first part interesting as well. The third and final part, however, in which the story returns to the contemporary characters, was a little disappointing. I think the story lost its focus by the end, unfortunately. But the book is still very much worth reading, if only for the middle section.

Anyway, “Cancellanda” is a powerful retelling of the Biblical tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, on a more or less modern setting, focusing on the perspective of Lot’s wife. I will let my favourite passages speak for themselves:
Lot says I mustn’t look back, on our life here, ever, that we’re embarking for a new world, arranged according to the will of God, where everything will be clean and pure and strong, not like Sodom, not like our slovenly, womanish ways. But I am not sure what’s happening to us and I can’t believe that we are really leaving home, this place I’ve lived in all my life, first as a child then as a wife and mother and, as I was hoping so hard, a grandmother. Like my own granny whose smile was the portrait of love for me. I remember her … But Lot says I mustn’t reminisce, that it saps the will, it’s a softness of the brain. He puts his hand across my mouth as if to gag my thoughts whenever I start again like that, saying, When I was young, I remember… The truth is that I can only understand what I am and what we have become and who others are through my connections to our old ways, to our houses and our streets, to the home I’ve always known, and I feel that if they vanish, I shan’t be held any more in the mesh of the past. It will tear and I’ll fall out of it.

What I ask is, Can we remain when all around us is different? Will I be what I know when all of it – the past, the stories we lived, the stones we touched and wore down with our footsteps – exist only in memory? Can I live and still be me when my history has been …cancelled?
This story does what I love the most about mythological retellings very well: it adds a human perspective to an epic tale. You can read it here.


Chris tagged me for this meme:

“You simply have to grab the book nearest to you (no cheating here), turn to page 161, and post the text of the fifth full sentence on the page along with the body of the instruction on your blog. Then you tag 3 people.”

The book that is currently next to me on my computer desk is a book I’ve been using to write a paper for university: English Society in the Eighteenth Century, by Roy Porter. So I imagined that my sentence would not very interesting, but what I found is a little unexpected:
Public-school culture was an initiation into the life of a gentleman: boys drank, gambled, rode, fought, and grained precocious bisexual experience.
I have no idea who to tag, so if anyone wants to do this, feel free. It would be interesting to see what you all find.


  1. LOL..You definitely got the most interesting line out of the bunch. Don't know what kind of public school the author of that book went to.

  2. lol, it makes one wonder indeed.


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