selenak: (Schreiben by Poisoninjest)
[personal profile] selenak
Back when I marathon-read Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, I saw he's also authored a lot of novels for children, and had a new one coming out this month, a standalone called Frederick the Great Detective, which, however, mysteriously seems to be available in German before it is in English. (Mysterious because Kerr's Scottish and writes in English, and the novel, which got released today, is indeed translated from the English original, I checked the imprint.) Anyway, the novel has a very similar premise to a movie I saw at last year's Munich Film Festival, Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday - the review I wrote about the film is here: boy falls in love with Emil and the Detectives, befriends its author, Erich Kästner, in the twilight of the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich ensues, boy tries to maintain ideals of novel versus increasingly awful reality. Having read the novel now, I can add a further parallel: both Friedrich in Frederick the Great Detective and Hans in Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday have an older sibling who is enthusastically joining the Nazi cause. My original suspicion as to why Kerr picked a fictional main character instead of Hans, who actually existed and did befriend Erich Kästner, was because Hans' fate was sealed by history, and that Kerr wanted a better fate for his young hero. Spoilers ensue. )However, by that point, I had already guessed various other reasons why Kerr chose a fictional over a fictionalized "real" main character, and the differences to Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday are instructive here.

For starters, there's the difference in focus: Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday is, as far as Hans is concerned, a coming of age story - he goes from child to teenager and young man in the course of the story - and has Erich Kästner as the other lead, whose perspective through the movie is even the slightly favored one. Frederick the Great Detective, by contrast, has Kästner only as a supporting character, aside from a prologue and an epilogue ends in late 1933/early 1934, and is above all a homage to Kästner's novel in structure, focusing on Friedrich and his same-age friends, who play detectives until it gets lethally dangerous. (The adults, whether benevolent or malignant or in between, are seen from the outside, the point of view is Friedrich's throughout.) For, befitting the author of the Gunther mysteries, there are actually cases to solve. (Though as opposed to Bernie, young Friedrich - who wants to become a detective through much of the novel - gets the point that you can't be a detective in a system where the criminals have taken over when Kästner desperately tells him just this.)

Indeed, while reading I wondered whether the basic idea for the novel might not have been a wish to write a sequel to Emil which tackles how Emil & Co. would act when the Third Reich starts, because Friedrich's gang with its twins has some similarities. Then again, Friedrich has a distinctly different background to Emil (or Hans Löhr) - no working class single parent mother, instead, middle class parents with his father a journalist and friend of Kästner's, which is the original connection, which allows Kerr to depict the way the press lost its freedom within a year. It also allows Kerr to let Friedrich and his parents vacation on Rügen where Friedrich meets Christopher Isherwood and Isherwood's boyfriend Heinz on the beach. (Leading to a charming scene where Friedrich manages to solve his very first case by finding Isherwood's lost watch.) Kerr provides quite a lot of real life characters making cameos throughout the novel - Billy Wilder (during the premiere of the "Emil and the Detectives" movie version which he scripted), Max Liebermann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Walter Trier etc. - but the Isherwood cameo was for me the most vivid of these. (And I'm not surprised, having come across an interview where Kerr says bascially Berlin for him as a reader, before he got there, was invented by two British writers, Christopher Isherwood and John Le Carré.)

Kästner himself lis of course the real life character with the most page time, but he feels more like a generic version of Kästner's author persona than an actual attempt at depiction of the man. (As opposed to the Kästner in Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday.) Meaning: he's a benevolent adult the way, say, Justus the Teacher in "Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer" is, with no hint of any inner conflicts, and Kerr slims down the biographical and authorial data about him to "wrote Emil and the Detective, also works as a journalist"; in this book, there are no mentions of either Kästner's other books for children or his adult novel, Fabian (the one who got burned by the Nazis at the 1933 book burning), nor of his sharp political poetry (which in Germany he was and is almost as well known for as for his prose). (Hence ahistorically Emil ends up as the burned book, when in rl Emil and the Detectives was so popular that it got published, as the only one of Kästner's works, within Germany until 1936. Then it was for the axe as well.) The one biographical background fact about Kästner mentioned in conversation by Friedrich's father is in fact a wrong one, or rather, a wrong assumption, that Kästner's mother, like Emil's, raised her son alone. In rl, not only was Kästner's father around and in contact with his son, but he outlived Kästner's mother. There is, however, a reason why I didn't mind this particular wrong statement, which is: Kästner kept his father and his relationship with him very low key as long as his mother was still alive, while his relationship with his mother was intense and very public, so a colleague from work like Friedrich's father could be forgiven for assuming the guy was either dead or had left the family. ( If you've read Kästner's autobiographical writings, one of the most memorable childhood scenes which makes you cringe in sympathy is his parents' christmas competition about him, when his father, a craftsman, proudly presented presents he made with his own hand while his mother spent all her money on presents, and both parents would regard whichever present their son showed any favour to as proof whom he loved more or a rejection respectively. And thus it went on for as long as Kästner's mother lived.)

What the novel does really well, though, is presenting a group of children responding to their world changing radically, and Friedrich as a likeable child hero who ends up rejecting the demagogery, scapegoating and promise of glory that lures his older brother in because he sees how both people he knows and strangers are abused in its name. Again, in an homage to Kästner's novel which has a memorable dream sequence, Friedrich's ongoing crisis of conscience and wonder how to avoid becoming a Nazi himself climaxes in a surreal dream where the various things he has experienced come together. The lesson he draws from this is simple and profound at the same time, very Kästnerian and indeed great advice in current day circumstances as well, to the question as ow to act: Be kind. Being kind and you can't become what you fear and hate. Be kind.

Mind you, the 1945 prologue and epilogue does spoilery things ) But all in all, Frederick the Great Detective is still a very readable children's novel set in a dark time which also manages to pay homage to a classic while being its own thing.

Reading Friday!

Sep. 22nd, 2017 10:52 am
frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran on a beach reading excitedly (!reading)
[personal profile] frayadjacent
I've been travelling a lot, which means plenty of time for reading but not much for DW posting.

What I've finished reading since my last post:

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. What I thought would be a fun, tight-knit murder mystery turned out to be a big story covering hundreds of years, major political upheavals, and some thought-provoking ideas about clones. I enjoyed this a lot.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. It was a fun book and made me laugh, but as my first Scalzi novel, I can't say it made me want to read more.

The Thessaly series by Jo Walton (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, and Necessity). An interesting series, especially as an exploration of utopia. I never thought I'd read a book that would make me excited about the god Apollo. I found that even though I wasn't enormously taken in by the plots or characters, I couldn't put them down, and I think that's just because the prose is so damn readable. I came to particularly love the character Maia, and was bummed that she wasn't in the last novel.

Lavinia, by Ursula K Le Guin. I've had the e-book for ages, and after I finished The Just City, but before I realised there were two more novels after it, I was in the mood for more Bronze Age fiction. Le Guin's prose is as wonderful as ever, and I loved the use of the device that Lavinia -- and everyone else -- was a character in the Aeneid, not a historical figure. I find Le Guin's tendency toward gender essentialism more annoying than I used to.

The Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton (Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown). Detective noir/political thriller series set in an AU where the UK made peace with the Nazis and the US never joined WWII. In the first book, one of the POV characters is happily married to a man with the same first and last name as Mr. Adjacent, and it was very strange! At several points I thought I'd have to stop reading it because this character was under serious threat and I thought he might die. The end of the series was narratively satisfying but politically annoying. Between this series and the Thessaly series I have read two instances in Walton where the oppressed and their allies basically convinced those in power (or rather, a sympathetic faction of those in power) to stop oppressing them. I'm with Fredrick Douglass on that one.

What I'm currently reading

My Real Children by Jo Walton. Yes, I'm on a kick. I've just started this, but I'm hoping it will be more the intimate, character-driven story that Among Others was. As much as I've enjoyed Walton's books that I've read since then, none of them can hold a candle to that one.

Also, I'm slowly re-reading Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand by Ursula K Le Guin. I read it for the first (and only) time more than 15 years ago, so all I really remember is the overall feel of the book.

What I'll read next

I pre-ordered the new Philip Pullman book, La Belle Sauvage, and it will be arriving in less than a month. I told myself I'd re-read His Dark Materials first. Also, last year I purchased N.K. Jemisin's Obelisk Gate but decided to wait until the third book was out before reading the whole trilogy (including re-reading The Fifth Season). Now the third book is out but I haven't bought it yet. And finally, I have four books on hold from the library and I plan to drop anything else to read them once they become available. In other words, I don't know.

Free book-shaped space

I finally got my account set up to get e-books from the library and my book buying is plummeting (excepting the Le Guin haul, described below) while my reading rate soars. I'm so pleased.

I recently learned that Worldcon 77 (in 2019) will be in Dublin! I really really want to go -- Dublin is cheaper to get to than London and almost as easy -- but it's within a week of my 10-year wedding anniversary, when we are also planning a big trip. I know this is nearly two years away, but August always ends up filled with family travel, so I feel like I do have to plan this far in advance in order for it to happen.

I went to Portland, Oregon in August, for the first time since probably 2003. I went to Powell's and re-purchased many of the Le Guin books I'd gotten rid of in a misguided purge a few years ago. All the books I bought were used -- I prefer to buy used books anyway, but these were necessarily so since I bought out of print books. Anyway, my Le Guin library is slowly being restored. Also, I almost bought a few missing Earthsea novels, but then a guy at the checkout counter told me that next year they'll be releasing a new illustrated version of the series, so I decided to hold out for that. Speaking of, the fancy illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is coming out soon. I seem to be collecting them all, but I'm really curious to see how they'll do the later books, as even The Philosopher's Stone is huge and unweildy.


monanotlisa: (ignoranus)
[personal profile] monanotlisa
Also off my trusty friendslist, here is a dossier on white supremacy in the US -- from a source on the inside who infiltrated key organizations for years.

White Supremacy background and history, plus of course present danger: The International Alternative Right


monanotlisa: Lucca Quinn, centered, looking thoughtful (lucca - the good fight)
[personal profile] monanotlisa
C/p'd from [personal profile] giandujakiss:

The GOP broke off bipartisan talks with Dems to shore up ACA's insurance markets, and now they're trying - again - to unilaterally repeal ACA and take with it a huge chunk of Medicaid (which will, of course, completely destabilize our entire healthcare system, but that's where we are).

You can find more information by googling Graham-Cassidy, but here's one link [on this new attempt to dismantle the ACA].

Apparently, Lindsey Graham - one of the bill's sponsors - got on Breitbart radio (yes, now we're integrating Breitbart into GOP mainstream, fun times ahead) to urge listeners to call in support of the new bill, so it's VERY IMPORTANT that the Senate be flooded with opposition calls.

Here is one script and information resource.

L'shanah tovah!

Sep. 20th, 2017 08:01 am
monanotlisa: (apples how you like dem)
[personal profile] monanotlisa
A little early, but I won't be around later, so: a happy start of the High Holy Days to you, if you celebrate!

My secular Jewish household will mostly eat apples and sweet honey when it comes to action. But both my wife and I will think of the Jewish community, in our different ways as an American Jew and a German Gentile.

Adaptions and remixes

Sep. 20th, 2017 12:07 pm
selenak: (Borgias by Andrivete)
[personal profile] selenak
Two filmed novels in, the tv version of JKR's written-as-Robert-Galbraith mystery novels called Strike comes across as very enjoyable. Holiday Grainger is a delight as Robin, Tom Burke still isn't how I imagined Cormoran Strike, but he's entertaining to watch, and they have good chemistry. Inevitably, characters and subplots were for the axe in both Cuckoo's Call and The Silkworm, but so far they've kept the important emotional beats. In the case of The Silkworm, I'm especially glad my favourite sentence of the entire novel gets to be used in dialogue, though a different character gets to say it on tv: Writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want life-long friendship and selfless camraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels."

Of the guest stars, the actresses playing Leonora and Orlando were especially good. I do notice that some of the sharpness of the novels is lost when it comes to politics. I mean, The Silkworm, the novel, has passages like this: : Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, was announcing plans to slash 350 million pounds from the legal aid budget. Strike watched through his haze of tiredness as the florid, paunchy man told Parliament that he wished to 'discourage people from restoring to lawyers whenever they face a problem, and instead encourage them to consider more suitable methods of dispute resolution.' He meant, of course, that poor people ought to relinquish the services of the law. Nothing like it on tv. But the result still doesn't feel as awfully castrated as the tv version of The Casual Vacancy, which lost all the bite and anger and ruined what might not have been a masterpiece but was a novel with genuine points to raise by turning it into inoffensive blandness, more angry reviews here, possibly because such asides aren't the main issue in the Galbraith novels.

In other news, [community profile] missy_fest has been revealing one Missy story per day-ish. This was the smallest ficathon I ever participated in, but a delight to write and read, and as soon as it's de-anonymized, I'm going to link and talk about the story I wrote. Meanwhile, check out the one I received, which was The Master's Faithful Companion (Forever or Just A Day Remix), which remixed my story Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
The GOP broke off bipartisan talks with Dems to shore up ACA's insurance markets, and now they're trying - again - to unilaterally repeal ACA and take with it a huge chunk of Medicaid (which will, of course, completely destabilize our entire healthcare system, but that's where we are).

You can find more information by googling Graham-Cassidy, but here's one link.

Apparently, Lindsey Graham - one of the bill's sponsors - got on Breitbart radio (yes, now we're integrating Breitbart into GOP mainstream, fun times ahead) to urge listeners to call in support of the new bill, so it's VERY IMPORTANT that the Senate be flooded with opposition calls.

Here is one script and information resource.

15 Characters Meme

Sep. 18th, 2017 01:31 pm
selenak: (uptonogood - c.elisa)
[personal profile] selenak
1. Norma Bates (Bates Motel version)

2. Philip Jennings (The Americans)

3. Missy (aka Gomez!Master) (Doctor Who)

4. Jimmy McGill (Better Call Saul)

5. Rachel Duncan (Orphan Black)

6. James McGraw/Captain Flint (Black Sails)

7. Ahsoka Tano (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

8. Bernie Gunther (Philip Kerr: The Bernie Gunther Mysteries)

9. Sarah Connor (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

10. Alfred of Wessex (The Last Kingdom)

11. Andra'ath/Miss Quill (Class)

12. Londo Mollari (Babylon 5)

13. Phyllis Crane (Call the Midwife)

14. Doc Holliday (Wynona Earp incarnation)

15. Jessica Jones (MCU version)

And you came up with some awesome prompts!

Now the questions: )

recipe weekend

Sep. 17th, 2017 08:29 pm
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
[personal profile] kindkit
Something I've cooked recently: Not a lot. I've been on a mission to eat all the summer peaches and tomatoes, and so there's been a lot of bread + tomatoes dressed with olive oil, and bread + tomatoes and mozzarella dressed with olive oil, and bread + tomatoes and ricotta dressed with olive oil. Also I have been "roasting" lots of red bell peppers under the broiler; I should freeze some, because I don't love the jarred kind.

I have baked a couple of nice things with peaches. Last weekend I made this peach and almond upside-down cake. I made a few modifications, as I tend to do: I increased the almond meal to 100 grams and cut the flour down to 155 grams, reduced the sugar in the cake batter to about 180 grams, omitted the almond extract since I didn't have any, and added about half a teaspoon of cardamom to the batter. It turned out very well despite the changes; the cake is a bit crumbly due to the extra almond meal but I don't mind that, and it's definitely sweet enough for my taste despite the reduced sugar.

Today I finally made a recipe I've wanted to try literally for years: Peach Slump with Ricotta Dumplings, from The Joy of Cooking.

more info and recipe under the cut )

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I don't have any concrete plans, except to keep eating tomatoes and peaches while they last.

Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: tomatoes and peaches aside, I am looking forward to autumn cooking. I want to bake my favorite apple cake again, and maybe a pumpkin roll or pumpkin muffins, and cook chicken with olives and preserved lemon, and make soups and bake bread. And maybe I'll try that Ottolenghi recipe for roasted vegetable tart, although I should probably do that soon while the veggies are still in season.

Surfacing, the real-life edition

Sep. 17th, 2017 10:29 am
monanotlisa: Lincoln Lee against a red jagged background, captioned "mind is a razorblade" (Lincoln Lee - Fringe)
[personal profile] monanotlisa
Let's start with five good things about my life right now:

1. Ask, and ye shall receive. Under pressure at work to put together a presentation in October, I texted one of my non-profit co-founders on a whim, not expecting her to have time or interest in co-chairing a webinar. But she immediately said yes; we're having a planning session tonight. Now I'm both relieved and a little bit excited about the subject of much procrastination.

2. Our wedding celebration preparation is almost done. WHICH IS GOOD, BECAUSE IT IS NEXT WEEKEND. Can't claim I was the driving force here; my wife was much better. But still, I too knocked several preparation points off our list. There's a price to pay if neither you nor your life partner are Planners or Organizers, but we had the privilege to pay in hard coin (i.e. having vendors do more for us) rather than familial currency (i.e. putting it on a date fitting for her auntie, who would have loved to go full Weddingpalooza).

3. The cats are very affectionate these days. Still semi-feral, of course, and not into being petted :( or even touched, although Poppet tolerates it from my wife. But they are social with us, head-butting and nose-sniffing and watching us Do Important Human Things In The Kitchen through the glass without feigning the usual disinterest...okay, fine, sometimes they feign disinterest; they're cats. :)

4. If one door closes, a window opens. (It's small, but it's a window.) I was devastated when the only dedicated gluten-free sweet pastry shop in San Francisco with actually good baked goods (glutless) closed, but they have just re-opened as a delivery-only service for Fridays and weekends. Weekends aren't excellent for someone living in the East Bay, but Fridays, Fridays I shall feast on cake! Except this upcoming one, given no. 2.

5. No periods forevermore, and everything works. Once the non-surgery issues were resolved, for the most part, life without a uterus has been excellent...except on the one day of my cycle when everything is terrible and the world is dull and gray, of course. But even that pleases me conceptually, because that plus the other two signs of an upcoming period mean my left (heh) ovary has taken over the full hormone production, and I don't have to consider HRT.

Unfortunately, like humans are wont to, I make bad decisions in the spur of the moment, so right now I am struggling with an old-new issue. Oral surgery talk, pretty gruesome, so please mind the cut-tag )
selenak: (Scarlett by Olde_fashioned)
[personal profile] selenak
I've acquired new fandoms and revisited some old ones since the last time I did this, thus, from [personal profile] astrogirl:


1) Make a list of fifteen characters first, and keep it to yourself for the moment.

2) Ask your f-list to post questions in the comments. For example: "One, nine, and fifteen are chosen by a prophecy to save the world from four. Do they succeed?", "Under what circumstances might five and fourteen fall in love?", "Which character on the list would you most want on your side in a zombie invasion?"

3) After your f-list has stopped asking questions, round them up and answer them using the fifteen characters you selected beforehand, then post them.

Also, this unique summary of A Legacy Of Spies cracks me up. :)
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
Off the top of my head - Harrison Ford, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss, Richard Pryor ... it's hilarious.

And then there's this

Sep. 16th, 2017 06:47 pm
selenak: (Black Widow by Endlessdeep)
[personal profile] selenak
The other day, I could hear Arundhati Roy present her new novel and talk about the situation in India today in Munich. And reinforced that by now, I'm not just bugged but disturbed by part of Kala's storyline in Sense8, because it's so exactly in contrast to Indian reality, and so exactly what a vicious government propagandist would want people to believe, that I'm starting to wonder whether the reason why the Wachowskis and JMS came up with it wasn't that they otherwise would not get permission to film in India. Spoilers for both seasons of Sense8. ) Why? Because consider the depth of current day Hindu fundamentalism from Modi (the PM) downwards. Arundhati Roy mentioned the saying "there are just two places for Muslims - the grave and Pakistan", which gets said by officials in the country with the second largest Muslim population in the world (Indonesia has the largest). People get lynched for the crime of possessing or eating beef. Modi belongs to the RSS, the same organisation Gandhi's assassin did, and the vocabulary of said assassin is now mainstream politics. A popular taunt makes the word "secular" into "sickular". An MP could say Arundhati Roy should be used as a human shield in the war in Kashmir to punish her dissent, and not get reprimanded but applauded. (For more, check out check out these statements by today's most famous Indian origin writers.) Basically: the kind of story Sense8 tells is about as likely to happen in this India as a story about, say, a rabid atheist rising in Saudi Arabia's government and starting to persecute Muslims would be. Or, to bring it closer to home, a story about a fanatic atheist becoming a US government official and starting to surpress Christians. Which, of course, is what Breitbart & Co. tell their ilk already happened under each Democratic president. ("War on Christmas", anyone?) Which tells you what type of propaganda this is.

Now don't get me wrong: I don't believe the Wachowskis and JMS are aware. At first, I thought it was simply that they wanted Kala to be a faithful believer and needed some type of conflict for her that wasn't about her not wanting to get married, picked Hinduism as the most popular Indian religion (and the one with the film friendly statues), and didn't do much research about the Indian present. But now I wonder whether they did tell some staff member to do research, and that person came back with this storyline, getting it as a condition for the crew filming Kala's story in India. Because it's just too perfect BJP propaganda to come across by accident, my inner conspiracy theorist says.

For distraction, something lighthearted:

Avengers


Up in the air, Junior Birdman: in which the Avengers (plus Maria Hill, Sam Wilson and Rhodey) go camping. Set at some point between the frst and second movie, this Natasha-centric story is ensemble-tastic, and has Bruce as co-lead.
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