quillori: man reading (from the Haft Awrang) (theme: reading)
([personal profile] quillori Jan. 1st, 2013 02:41 pm)
I still haven't read anything like all the stories I might - indeed I haven't read any Fairy Tales or Mythology at all, except for ones tagged with another fandom as well, or ones where I was following someone else's rec. Nor have I necessarily yet read all the stories in any given fandom. Nonetheless, sneaking in before the reveal, my first rec set. Unless otherwise stated, these are all suitable for people who don't know the original fandom well / at all.

To start with, two stand-outs:

The Wanderer's Reply to the Seafarer - The Exeter Book
Forþon siþgeomorne      yfer saelade
langoð laecþ mec      mine lisse to secanne.

Therefore longing seizes me, journey-weary, to seek my rest across the sea-course.
Fanfic for The Exeter Book, written in the original Old English. Need I say more? Well yes, I should probably add that the helpfully provided English translation is beautiful and worth reading for its own sake.

Contagious fogs - Midsummer Night's Dream
He noted it all down. The district full of empty grey boxes. Shelves filled with dingy bits of string, each tagged with their own cataloguing number. Maps so big that they covered whole floors. The blooms of mould and the books that shed their covers in his hands, moulting for the winter. The paper on which he should have been writing his essay soon became smudged with the dust of leather, telling its own story on its own terms.
On the day before his tutorial Robin finally made his way to the very top of the library, a tiny reading room sitting jauntily on the roof of the New Pond. Its windows overlooked the spires of the pearly grey city. Robin peered through the drops on the pane, squinting through his fingers, but the shape of the city remained stubbornly indistinct, just beyond his grasp.

After the chill of the stacks, the reading room was unnaturally warm. No one at the issue desk, where a calendar showed a date nine months earlier. No readers at the long tables, where signs forlornly warned that books were not to be left overnight. They had been ignored. Although the shelves of the reading room were empty, its tables were piled high with leatherbound volumes, some no bigger than a hand, all of them with spines hanging loose, covers askew, crumbling away into dust. It seemed that the reading room was abandoned.

Robin yawned and curled up in a corner like a cat. Here there were no librarians to roust him out. Here all the books were written in alphabets that he couldn't read, artfully shaped characters freighted with an obscure significance. A book open on his lap, shedding companionably onto his corduroys, and he drifted off to sleep.

He was woken again by voices. Two people strolling slowly into the room, the swish of academic gowns. Robin crawled under the nearest table, screened from view by the stacks of books.

"It's a tragedy," said a woman's sombre voice. "I crossed India and all of the Orient collecting these books on behalf of the Pondeian, on behalf of this library. And now it's all being broken up and scattered, for no reason other than that he wants to demonstrate his power over me."

Another voice, older, male. "Is that what it is?"

"What else could it be? Reasons of sound scholarship? Modernisation?" She laughed bitterly. "No one has ever advocated modernity in Oxenfloode without having a powerful ulterior motive."
I confess I almost didn't read this, for college AUs and I do not get along, but this is a University AU, which is apparently quite different so far as my reading tastes are concerned. One of the best stories, possibly the best, of Yuletide this year, I think. Perhaps the last part is not quite up to the promise of the rest, but the rest is so good, and the last part suffers only by comparison. How I would love more of this, preferably novel length.

I was also very taken with a couple of other stories.

All the Old Knives - The Kalevala, Finnish Mythology
She said to the woods and she said to the water. She told them, I tell you, my name is Kyllikki.
Haunting and raw, with some beautiful lines and a lovely use of repetition.

Songs for the Jingwei Bird - Liáo zhâi zhì yì | Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Then from somewhere above him came the sound of laughter, and the peddler craned his neck to see the Eight Immortals settled quite peacefully on a bamboo leaf that was bobbing precariously, even as small as they were. There was Lady He, carrying a miniature lotus and minuscule bamboo ladle; she appeared to be laughing at a scowling Iron-Crutch Li. The other six Immortals were still sleeping, their eyelids no bigger than a grain of rice.
This is the story written for me, and I think it stands quite well enough on its own to rec here, even though for me one of its great pleasures is seeing how the author took elements from the Tales, and from the traditions the Tales draw on, and put them together to create a different type of story: the same raw materials, many of the same themes, but a story recognisably in the Western tradition. I am fascinated by how stories are transmitted from storyteller to storyteller, period to period, culture to culture, and how the same story can be refracted in a hundred different directions depending on the context in which it's told.

As a Blind Man Gropes in Darkness - Swan Lake
He doesn't know what to expect when he sinks his shaking fingers into the pile of feathers. Bones, maybe, hollow and made for flying, or a stiffening body that rocks under his insistent hands. Perhaps he will bloody himself against the sharp edges of broken teeth. Perhaps there will be nothing there at all.
Disturbing and well written version of Swan Lake

Various other stories of various types:

Run Red - Rotkäppechen | Little Red Riding Hood
She took a few steps forward, then hesitated. For some reason, her pulse once again thundered in her ears. She looked closely at the man, at his dark hair and bright eyes, and his clean, broad face. Something – something was...

The woodcutter smiled. It was a wide smile, but it still did not seem to fit all of his teeth.
Interesting take on Red Riding Hood, playing around with story elements and fitting them back together in new and interesting ways, just as I like.

At the End of Your Name - Fairy Tales & Related Fandoms
He hears the almost-swallowed final syllable like a flame against his chest. A name he has not heard since he was a boy, when the birds used to gift his clothes with their feathers and the Winter seemed to breathe that loving word as sweetly as the family he used to have.
Long and unusual 'what happens afterwards' of The Firebird, featuring the wolf and the oldest brother.

Springtime Will Kill You - Greek and Roman Mythology
It was the hottest May anyone in Hollywood remembered, and I was feeling as rich as the sun was bright.

I'd just finished up a plush cheating-wife gig. Aging director, bathing beauty—you get the picture. He got the picture, too, just as quick as the film developed. I'd consoled the fellow by relieving him of two hundred dollars, and I was sitting with my feet propped on my desk, trying to decide whether to spend the cash or fan myself with it.
Here I don't think I can do better for a quote than the actual opening lines. This is Hades and Persephone (and Orpheus and Eurydice) done noir style.

Odinstattur - Norse Mythology
"Why Odin All-father, it appears you have lost your manhood – did you lose it among all your skirts?"
"I was waylaid! Set upon by a thief!"

"Foolish enough to seduce a witch," Rán countered.

"That wasn't a problem with the others," Odin said.
Both amusing and true to the more ribald moments of its source.

Two Study in Emerald fics this year, both worth reading if you're in the fandom; the first has some fine moments of horror even if you're not.

The Case of the Limping Doctor - A Study in Emerald - Neil Gaiman
These characteristics usually guaranteed safety, for the most part. John’s family followed these traits to the letter, though they had vanished into the many streets of London long before John’s discharge and return. He hoped that they simply moved and are living healthily if not happily, though he feared (knew) that one can respectable and safe up until the moment that an Old One’s interest is piqued.
Pray your gods - A Study in Emerald - Neil Gaiman
It was understood that regardless of what case Lestrade brought us in the meantime, when She sent her envoy, it would be my friend's new focus.

He slept feverishly that night, and I did not sleep at all. There were half thoughts, fringe memories of that flat mirrored lake and the slick of incomprehensible eldritch limbs against my skin. I gave up on sleep, made tea in the kitchen and doctored it with laudanum, serving the both of us.

Somehow - The Bagman's Gambit - The Decembrists
The man – Stanisław – laughed, a short exhalation of amusement, and put his fedora on, tipping it over his right eye. “I hoped you were a spy.” He picked up the briefcase that had been resting between his feet. “My first week here. Catching one would be an excellent start."

His enthusiasm was difficult to fault. “My apologies,” Francis said.
A vintage spy story.

The Winebearer - Classical Greece and Rome History & Literature RPF
Nicomedes watched. Caesar waited, his bearing military: he hardly swayed, despite the wind whipping Bithynia’s famous fine sand in misty swirls around him. Most visitors to Bithynia found the blue-green planetshine from the gas giant Bithynia X orbited unnerving; even jaded smugglers shivered when the sand screeched, banshee-like, against the sheer glass cliffs, as it did today.

And most smugglers did not crash their ships three clicks distant from Nicomedes’ compound, as Caesar had on his return.
As the author's summary says: Julius Caesar, emissary from Rome, brings wine to Nicomedes of Bithynia. In spaaaaaaaace!

A Quite Different Case of Identity - Hark! A Vagrant, Sherlock Holmes, Raffles
So comfortable was I that I felt myself very close to sleep. However, no sooner had I closed my eyes than a knock on the door startled me fully awake. I leapt up, knowing that we were expecting no visitors and presuming this person to be a client. It was only once I had opened the door that I remembered. I had sent Stupid Watson to buy a turkey.
I think the generally consensus in the comments is 'Poor Bunny'. Anyway, I imagine if you're already familiar with fandoms, which you would have to be for this one, you have already read it, so there probably wasn't any point in my mentioning it here, however, for completeness...

The Resurrection of William of Lanchester - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Thomas, for his part, knew such entreaties would not work on the King, for he'd known the man in the brugh, and human kindness was no longer part of his character. He watched as the King's grave-diggers burrowed through the earth towards the corpse of their friend, and remembered how the pretty miller's daughter had wept at his grave three months prior.
Another one for fans of the book only, I fear.

this obsessive idea - Literary RPF (Baudelaire)
It is odd that Édouard should capture the half-forgotten memory of her so well, that Pigallese fille en carte. He has given her a name and a position, and an orchid in her hair that you are not entirely certain is actually present, or whether you have dreamed it repeatedly, but it is undoubtedly her. You are certain that if you could remember her more precisely, or perhaps see her again, the hazy memory would resolve in a face that is not Olympia, and not your Vénus noire, but another's face entirely.
This prompt was on my treating shortlist (until I came to my senses and remembered I'm not actually a huge fan of Baudelaire's poetry, certainly not enough to immerse myself in it long enough to write a story). But look! Someone else did it for me. Fever and opium dreams, probably, or perhaps how the world really is?

Best Served Hot Master Li and Number Ten Ox - Barry Hughart
There was a fetching creature at the door, her face only halfway concealed by the veil she’d drawn over her face and the hat that shaded her aristocratic brow.
“Describe our new client,” Master Li asked. “You are a fantastic judge of character.”

“It’s…it’s a woman,” I said. “She’s…not very tall," I managed.

“Well, Confucius tells us that the gods accept the blemished and unblemished cattle alike. Let the lady in.”
A nice, long casefic. (Well, that 's what I had in my notes, but I've just checked and it's only 5800 words, so a nice mid-length casefic?)

Vigil - Measure for Measure - Shakespeare
His faults are here also his virtues: he would not trust the night’s disguising blackness, but would listen for the voice, however little was said, would trace his fingers over her face to read her features, touch the hands he had already held and would not be deceived by an impostor.
An interesting take on the end of the play, looking at Isabella / Duke Vincentio and not going the obvious route of making it a disaster of forced consent and mismatched characters.

The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning - Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
It was a classic tale about a poor but clever lad. How clever? Well, clever enough to realize that being stalwart and good and noble was far more likely to win him a knife to the back than it was a pocket full of riches.
I think perhaps this one is just for people who have read Neverwhere, but it's an enjoyable read if you have.

Hearts of Oak - Robin Hood (Traditional)
“It rained quite often,” he said simply. “And I suppose you were very bored, in the castle. I didn’t think you would have taken up with someone like Robin, if you were very satisfied with how your life was.”

She gave him a considering look. “I always thought he was frightfully optimistic about your intelligence. But perhaps I was wrong.”

“He always said you and I had much in common. I always thought he was full of shite.”

“That he was.”
Nice characterisation of Will Scarlet and Maid Marian over the years, and their relationships with Robin.

The Ballad of Bold Teuber the Robber - Settlers of Catan
The word's gone out from the golden plain where the nodding wheat stalks grow
The word's gone up the mountain rocks where the sparkling freshets flow,
The word's gone into the forest, where the woodsman toils in the glen,
Of Teuber, Teuber the Robber - bold Teuber has moved again!
A Settlers of Catan ballad - whatever will they think of next?
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] lnhammer

Concur about "Contagious Fogs" -- best-written fic I've met so far this season.

phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)

From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist

Thank you. I rely on you to tell me what to read from the archive, especially since I'm actually more anxious about trying things from sources I care about than I am about those with which I have vague cultural familiarity but no emotional engagement. Which means that I would never have even looked at the Exeter Book piece if not for you. And I wouldn't have known enough to be sad about it, but that would have been a sad thing for me even unknowing.
phoebe_zeitgeist: (citygates)

From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist

I actually like the original better than the translation, which I suspect may be something the author intended -- to me at least, the translation has the distinctive flavor of the kind of academic, literal rendering that you basically use to make sure you haven't completely misconstrued any of the grammar, and have the sense of the thing right. But some of it's also the nature of the language, and of the particular poetic tradition: it's so highly figured, like the kind of intricate work in silver that has dragons coiling all over each other, and so dense, that it's hard to render into modern English in a way that captures the feel as well as the literal meaning. It's easy for translation to tip into a kind of clunkiness -- or at least, into what feels to me like clunkiness, especially in comparison to the leanness and resonance of the original. All too easy, in fact: I almost never see translations from Anglo-Saxon that quite keep that balance. Strangely enough, the closest I've ever seen may be something that didn't attempt to be a true translation at all. The retelling of Beowulf in Alice and Martin Provensen's Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends comes closer, for me at least, than many true translations: "The billows were breaking, sea against sand, as they boarded the vessel. Snugly they stowed their trappings and battle gear. Then over the wind-whipped water the sea-wood sped like a bird with breast of foam. And already on the second day, the warriors could see the shining headlands of Denmark." There are a lot of classic texts in the language where I've never seen any translation I'm happy with. (Very much including my own attempts at it. Some years ago a friend was doing a script for a radio show that cited Caedmon's Hymn, and I was so unhappy with what was available that I retranslated a number of the lines for her -- and then wasn't satisfied with that version, either.)

But having said that, I am sad to have to disavow any claim to competence in Anglo-Saxon. Reading this has demonstrated to me that more of the language than I would have liked has vanished into the chemo memory hole. I can still read it, but I'm doing it with the dictionary at my side, and with a truly annoying sense of images seen dimly through a mist. Anglo-Saxon poetry is oral-formulaic in structure even when it's written, and I should and sort of do recognize some of those formulae from other poetry. Someone really on top of her game would see every use and variation on a known construction, which would make the whole work even better. I may need to set myself a remedial course, so that I can go back and read this properly. (And if that remedial course would ultimately mean rereading all of Beowulf, well, how we suffer. Next it will be being forced taste a lot of late-harvest Mosels, to make absolutely sure I can still recognize the distinctive flavors.)

I'm reasonably sure I would not call your assigned recipients sinned-against: I would argue, in fact, that one of the specific pleasures of fic as a literary form is the density of reference it can and (ideally) does use to create complex layers of meaning. So I think your sense of guilt here is misplaced: your recipients are fortunate to have work that can be lingered over and savored, and that will continue to open out on rereading over time. Still, I'm glad you mentioned it, because otherwise I'd have assumed that having found a story you wrote for this year's exchange, I had found all of them there were. Obviously not, and it makes me very happy to know that I can go back to the archive and find more. It will be a little internal fight to decide whether to hoard them against leaner times or to go read them all at once, but the simple knowledge that I get to have that fight is filling me with glee right now.

I believe I have mentioned before my complete lack of talent for languages.

And we have another eerie similarity. I may have mentioned before that I can only begin to cope with languages that are so dead that I can count on them staying on a page and not moving around at all. And even then, the coping is limited; Anglo-Saxon is the only one I've ever been good at, even temporarily, and it's close enough to English to almost not count.

But somehow I had pictured you as being completely fluent in dozens of languages: all of the Romance and Germanic languages, plus Arabic, Turkish, Russian, and probably Mandarin. You probably did tell me otherwise, but my impression to the contrary was too strong to be overcome by actual facts.

on the other hand I always feel rather embarrassed explaining how much I love things, even when it's completely true, and all the more so when 'I really, really loved this - perfect' actually means, 'I read it with mild enjoyment'.

Oh, God, how I know. And then there's the extra layer of confusion added by the situations when 'I really, really loved this - perfect' means, 'This is a really interesting response to canon, regardless of literary qualities,' and when it means, 'This is amazing on aesthetic grounds regardless of its relationship to canon, and if we had a better mainstream literary culture it wouldn't just be a handful of discerning fan readers saying so.' But for what it's worth, your impression of my kudos/comments pattern is entirely accurate: I'm a picky reader, and I don't go around leaving kudos to be a good citizen. (I try not to do it at all, because something I like enough to leave kudos on is something that I had a strong enough response to that it calls for some more articulate response to the writer. But where it's taking me time to go from inchoate response to words, and I have any reason to think that a delayed response might mean the writer has cause to wonder at how sincere I am, it's very nice to have the kudos option in place.

The bees did wonderfully this summer, and I harvested about thirty pounds of honey, while still leaving them much more than is generally recommended to get them through the winter. But now we're having a cold snap, and I'm worried about them: what if I didn't get enough medication into them before the cold came? What if I overtreated them for mites, and there were too many casualties? What if I failed to recognize something they needed? It's a good thing I don't have to live by farming: I would cry over every seedling that needed to be pulled to make room for others to thrive. What ever happened to the hard-hearted child I once was?

But all this is much less interesting than your renovations, which are probably hell to supervise and live through, but which promise such wonderful results. I hardly dare hope that you're finished, but have you at least reached a stage where it's practical to move in?

phoebe_zeitgeist: (meta)

From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist

To no one's surprise, I like that kind of precise translation too, and often I actually find it less clunky, as well as more accurate, than attempts at getting at what the translator believes to be the feel of the original. (My very favorite translation of the Divine Comedy remains John Sinclair's. "And he said to me: 'Thou shalt see when they are nearer us, and do thou entreat them then by the love that leads them, and they will come'" -- seriously, what makes anyone think they can improve on that?) But the clunk I was thinking of is specific to translations from the Anglo-Saxon, and probably is therefore an artifact of the qualities of the language itself, or at least of the relevant poetic tradition. And I actually admire Ellen Fremedon (best user name ever, it makes me mildly envious every time I think about it) for reproducing that feeling in her translation rather than going all arty about it: along with the footnotes, it adds the perfect, crowning touch.

Is there any way to encourage you to keep talking about Anglo-Saxon, and your favourite poetry?

I think I've probably just answered that question, and the answer is some variant on hah, try to stop me. So it's sort of pointless to offer to trade for posts about your renovations, and maybe even pictures. But I'm still going to seize the opportunity to say that I would love both. Yes, I admit it will make me all envious despite having a perfectly fine house of my own, but my envy will be offset by my happiness at your having something so splendid. And, of course, by the opportunity to gloat happily over it all without having any of the difficulties associated with it, like waiting for the contractor or learning Italian.

Anyway, now I really do need to go back and re-acquire at least some comfort with the language, because all of this has sent me back to the Genesis B, which I haven't even thought about in approximately forever. I remember loving it, strange little Paradise Lost-in-500-lines that it is, and now I can barely read it, and it's making me ridiculously cranky. If I don't relearn the language, how will I know whether my old feeling about it -- which was that while it's far from the best poetry in the language as poetry, it has a glitter and sweep to it that's like nothing else I know, and that works eerily well with the story of the Fall -- was just a kind of temporary literary crush? Maybe it's like books you love as a child, that you're disappointed with when you read them again as an adult: the sort of thing where it turns out that you brought all the magic in with you. Maybe there's a reason why it's not the very first thing everybody reads. But then again, maybe it really is the strange and splendid thing I thought it was when I first found it. And now, as I said, I'm stuck: How can anyone leave a question like that unanswered, when it is possible to tell oneself that it's just a matter of relearning a little grammar and a whole lot of vocabulary words and dammit I already know better than that, but still?

So, two things I like - Tang Dynasty poetry and an entirely modern work playing with the tropes of an older literary form - what could go wrong? Other than a recipient who was actually a fan of Awesome Ladies who are Awesome in some unspecified way while being oppressed by the patriarchy.

Okay, I will have more to say about this later, but now that I've had a look at the video and the translation provided I think you did a remarkable job under impossible circumstances. As fic for that video, "this place where I linger" is fascinating and evocative, and it provides its own cues to a reader that it's interwoven with a history and literary culture that honestly, I would have expected a recipient asking for this source to know enough about to appreciate at least some of. You may be aware of all the places where it doesn't do what you wanted it to do (I say that because I'm always horribly aware of the places where anything I write fails to do what I wanted it to do, and I assume it's a universal experience for writers of a certain sensibility), but that doesn't mean that it doesn't work beautifully overall, for anyone who isn't you. I sympathize a little if she wanted the Awesome Ladies Being Awesome trope(s), but if so, she should have picked a source that was actually amenable to that kind of treatment. This one isn't -- or at least, I think it only is if you're a writer who doesn't know anything about Chinese history or Tang Dynasty poetry, and doesn't intend to spend all of late November/early December learning about it. And if you are that kind of writer, why would you have offered to write for Tang Dynasty poets?

She said, rhetorically. Yuletide is a wonderful thing, and a remarkable cultural event; but sometimes the way people approach it leaves me utterly baffled.

.,. . Cats? Can you have them, with your furniture and walls? I wouldn't be able to stop myself from feeding them either, so I have no standing to comment at all, but alas, all my experience has been that they're awfully destructive if you let them inside. Of your skin, if nothing else, because they love you and want to be with you and will happily climb right up your skin and clothes if jumping doesn't do the trick. Maybe it's better, though, if they've started life fending for themselves outside?



quillori: Photo of an Intha fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma (Default)

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