Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day By: Seanan McGuire Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.
But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.
I read her novella Every Heart a Doorway (review) last year and greatly enjoyed it. In waiting for the second book in the series, this book came out; the premise piqued my interest and admittedly I had planned on holding off from picking it up but in the end I caved in and picked it up 😛
Voronezh Notebooks By: Osip Mandelstam Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Osip Mandelstam is one of the greatest of twentieth-century poets and Voronezh Notebooks, a sequence of poems composed between 1935 and 1937 when he was living in internal exile in the Soviet city of Voronezh, is his last and most exploratory work. Meditating on death and survival, on power and poetry, on marriage, madness, friendship, and memory, challenging Stalin between lines that are full of the sights and sounds of the steppes, blue sky and black earth, the roads, winter breath, spring with its birds and flowers and bees, the notebooks are a continual improvisation and an unapologetic affirmation of poetry as life.
Like Anna Akhmatova (see review), Osip Mandelstam is another poet and writer whom I wrote about when I was writing my Masters thesis but didn’t really read much of his works from, maybe a poem or fragment of work here and there. So when I saw this collection on the shelf during one of my many trips to the bookstore, I picked it up immediately.
Launched in 2003 Tolkien Reading Day event has sparked interest in reading and reading groups across several nations and ages, from primary schoolchildren to university students and library users of all ages. 25th March has significance to Tolkien’s readers, as it is the day of the Downfall of Sauron at the conclusion of the ‘War of the Ring’ in The Lord of the Rings.
According to the Tolkien Society, the theme this year is ‘Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction.
Interesting topic for this year’s Tolkien Day seeing as poetry and songs make up such a huge part of Tolkien’s fiction: The Lord of the Rings (review #1, #2, #3) alone is filled with both folk songs and ancient hymns, and all of the recently published, incomplete poems with his take on Beowulf and King Arthur shows just how steeped in old poems Tolkien really worked from. It’s quite informative reading these titles (see author tag) even as it can be frustrating that they are incomplete! He really loved old tales and mythologies, as he expressed in his essay about The Kalevala (review; and which I found myself nodding in agreement), and his love of these tales really shows in the poems he produced in his own works.
Oh, and if writing poetry and songs isn’t enough, he also writes them in the Elvish languages that he created, Sindarin and Quenya! I’m always in awe that he did this, it adds further depth and richness to the world and the story he created. One of my favourite poems from LOTR:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
A Elbereth Gilthoniel
o menel palan-diriel,
le nallon sí di’nguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos!
(O Elbereth Starkindler,
white-glittering, slanting down sparkling like a jewel,
the glory of the starry host!
Having gazed far away
from the tree-woven lands of Middle-earth,
to thee, Everwhite, I will sing,
on this side of the Sea, here on this side of the Ocean!
O Elbereth Starkindler,
from heaven gazing afar,
to thee I cry now beneath the shadow of death!
O look towards me, Everwhite!)
Oh, and for fun, here’s an audio of Tolkien reciting “Namarie” sung by Galadriel in LOTR:
I suppose one can go on and on talkin about the poems and songs that Tolkien wrote about, as well as those old mythologies that he loved so much and attempted to re-write in his own perspective and grasp of language. And I guess that’s the root of it: not just his love of mythology and old stories but his deep grasp of language. It really reflects in his works (see: his version of Beowulf (review) compared to the version accesible to most).
What do you think of poetry and songs in Tolkien’s fiction? How will you be celebrating Tolkien Reading Day? I’m not entirely sure how I’ll be celebrating today; I’ve been wanting to re-read LOTR for some time now but with all the books on my TBR queue and some other books on my re-read queue I haven’t quite wiggled around some time to re-read LOTR. Maybe later this year? In the meantime, maybe I’ll re-read Bilbo’s Last Song, a song Tolkien wrote on Bilbo’s voyage to the Grey Havens and off to the West. Seems like the perfect way to celebrate this year’s theme 🙂
Anna Akhmatova: Poems By: Anna Akhmatova Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase
A legend in her own time both for her brilliant poetry and for her resistance to oppression, Anna Akhmatova—denounced by the Soviet regime for her “eroticism, mysticism, and political indifference”—is one of the greatest Russian poets of the twentieth century. Before the revolution, Akhmatova was a wildly popular young poet who lived a bohemian life. She was one of the leaders of a movement of poets whose ideal was “beautiful clarity”—in her deeply personal work, themes of love and mourning are conveyed with passionate intensity and economy, her voice by turns tender and fierce. A vocal critic of Stalinism, she saw her work banned for many years and was expelled from the Writers’ Union—condemned as “half nun, half harlot.” Despite this censorship, her reputation continued to flourish underground, and she is still among Russia’s most beloved poets. Here are poems from all her major works—including the magnificent “Requiem” commemorating the victims of Stalin’s terror—and some that have been newly translated for this edition.
So I was introduced to Anna Akhmatova when I was completing my first two degrees, and actually wrote about her as part of my Masters thesis. Funnily enough though I never actually read any of her work, maybe a poem or two as I was researching. So when I was perusing through the poetry books, I decided to finally pick up her poems to read.
Worst. Person. Ever. By: Douglas Coupland Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Worst. Person. Ever. is a deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value. Raymond Gunt, in the words of the author, “is a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure id.” He’s a B-unit cameraman who enters an amusing downward failure spiral that takes him from London to Los Angeles and then on to an obscure island in the Pacific where a major American TV network is shooting a Survivor-style reality show. Along the way, Gunt suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to reenact the “Angry Dance” from the movie Billy Elliot and finds himself at the centre of a nuclear war. We also meet Raymond’s upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, as well as Raymond’s ex-wife, Fiona, herself “an atomic bomb of pain.”
Even though he really puts the “anti” in anti-hero, you may find Raymond Gunt an oddly likeable character.
One of the earliest Canadian authors I read growing up was Douglas Coupland. With a novel titled All Families Are Psychotic, how can one not pick up the book, you know? 😉 Anyways, I read that and Eleanor Rigby when I was in high school/early university and loved them both, but I never got around to reading anything else by him for…a decade? So anyway, this book was on sale so I figured it was time to read another book by him.