Thursday, April 29, 2010

A MAN'S CASTLE IS HIS HOME! Building the modern medieval fortress in France; and in the Ozarks.

Links via the Rattus.
P IS FOR PUS. Saint Catherine of Siena drank pus!

Among other things she did.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"The only thing worse than losing this war would be to win it. God has saved us from that."
--Torma the teacher, in Janos Nyiri, Battlefields and Playgrounds, tr. Nyiri and William Brandon

Monday, April 26, 2010

LORD GOD HAVE MERCY--ALL CRIMES ARE PAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIID!!!! On Saturday the Rattus and I went to New Britain, CT, to see the Hole in the Wall Theater's punk-themed production of Richard III. I was expecting cheap thrills, something a bit chintzy but still fun.

And sure, okay, some of the acting was wobbly. But mostly this was super extra awesome! And smart, too--there were genuine insights and smart choices here. I feel like I understand the play better now, plus it was so much fun that I almost exploded. I really wish I'd seen it earlier--we went to the very last performance. I'll definitely be checking out what this theater is doing the next time I'm in sunny New Haven.

So some thoughts: First, the punk theme isn't quite consistent or really very thematic at all! That's fine--I don't think a one-to-one, "everyone is corrupt and their level of punkosity signals their level of corruption" thing would work, nor would a more explicitly '70s Britain "winter of our discontent," nor would a "Richard III is the story of England going crazy" thing. Instead, the punk theme was basically an excuse for lots of hilarious and terrific visuals. I mean, if you don't love Richard of Gloucester spray-painting an anarchy sign on a wall, you basically hate freedom.

The Richard was fantastic: Nick Pollifrone, who trained at RADA. He's having an immense amount of fun, and he sells the various choices about when to yell and when to slink. The seduction of Anne is hard to mess up, but this guy was even able to handle the really clunky "Richard is Richard; that is, I am I" speech--he spends the first half of it reflexively sarcastic, self-lacerating and self-ignoring, and then slowly becomes completely unhinged.

The cross-gender casting was also really well done. Catesby (Amanda Ratti) was a groupie-ish girlfriend type, violent and lost; Ratcliffe (Katie Corbett) was a dead-eyed and intermittently thuggish blonde (throughout her first scene she did this terrific, drugged-out stare, with slow, mindless blinks every ten seconds or so); and Hastings (Barbara Gallow) was an older feline. All of Richard's minions captured the variety of motives you need to explain how he hung on to anybody after he started killing off his supporters. Buckingham (Ed Bernstein) is naively ambitious and a bit flighty; Hastings is overconfident in her own abilities, especially her ability to read other people; and Catesby and Ratcliffe are in it for fun, for a nihilistic, ecstatic anti-joy.

Richmond (Kenneth Semerato) was a sleek corporatist. Both he and Richard play their "rally the troops" speeches as rallying the audience, which I expect is a normal interpretation even though I don't recall ever having seen before, and which totally took advantage of the tiny theater space. The fight in which Richard is killed was furiously physical, and there's a nice, nice moment when Richmond limps away, echoing Richard's own limp. (Also, most of the Battle of Bosworth Field is scored to my actual favorite Sex Pistols song, "Sub * Mission," with some very cool choices in pairing action with song. In general the song choices here were absolutely stellar--Ratty pointed out that this was clearly a labor of love.)

The production notes were hilariously in the tank for the historical Richard. There was even an ad! YORKISTS 4EVA.

So yeah: I'm really just posting this to tell you to keep an eye out for Hole in the Wall if you're in the area. The Rat and I were surprised and thrilled.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

J. JONAH JAMESON IS ON TWITTER. Bless his old husk of a heart!
IT'S 4/20. Go to church!
THEY RECOGNIZED HIM IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD: Over the weekend I finished the first round of edits on my novel. The working title is New Wineskins. It is 64,618 words long (about 108 pp in 12-pt Times New Roman) and is the achingly sincerist story of a transgendered Yale student who becomes unintentionally pregnant. It is Catholic--mackerels snapping left and right--and desperately undergraduate. There's lots of discussion of feminism also. Despite these facts, I think it's pretty awesome.

I realize that the target audience for this novel may consist of: me. But I hope that's not true! I really, really, really need extra eyes for this, so please PLEASE email me at if you want to read the draft. I promise it sucks less than at least 80% of the bestseller list, no lie. Also I think people who have edited my stuff before will tell you that I take criticism well. I've been astonished at how gentle people think they have to be w/fiction criticism, when journalism is basically about your editor telling you precisely where and how you suck. (And sometimes being wrong, but not mostly.)

Also, if you a) think a friend might be interested in the draft (esp a transgendered friend or a friend who has been pregnant), PLEASE PLEASE TELL THEM--I would really love as many different perspectives on my handling of Other People's Experiences as possible and I am working hard to make sure that I have readers who will be able to tell me when I'm being an ass,

and b) relatedly, if you or your friend are not sure you can look at the novel until you know more about it, EMAIL ME and I will answer any questions. E.g. I totally know that people might need to know where the protagonist ends up in terms of gender and/or religious identity before they can settle in to reading the draft.

And finally, if you ask for the draft, I do NOT expect you to read it or comment. I mean, I really, really hope you do! That's why I'm asking. But if you get bored, or get distracted, or don't have anything to say except :/, or whatever, THAT IS OKAY. Asking me for the draft is NOT a commitment of any kind, to any action.

So yeah. No pressure, just a potentially-awesome novel which needs your help to be made less stupid.

If you feel like circulating this plea to more readers, I will think you are cool and also say a prayer for you. To... hm... let's say St. Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists.
MADAM CHAIRMAN, I AM CONFUSED. Why do people think official recognition and funding is a good thing for their organization? Surely we all know that having a bad reputation is the best way to attract the kinds of people a Christian would prefer!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

HE WALKED DOWN PICCADILLY/WITH A POPPY AND A LILY: Lovely photo of Wilde's grave. (Scroll down.) Santo subito!

Via Rattus.
CHEAP TRAGEDIES: Noli Irritare Leones has a brief reply to my red/blue families post; here are three quickish points.

1. Right, all of us live in a "contracepting culture," I wasn't clear about that. I made it sound like I thought the basic divide was between people who don't believe in contraception and people who do, which would be a ridiculous claim about contemporary America. I was more referring to the reasons people might be less consistent/diligent about contraception, which includes stuff like mental health and general risk-aversion but also--and this is the real point I was trying to get at, sorry!--how much you feel like your future is in your own hands. People with less of a sense of control or agency are IMO likely to have a more Roman-hands-and-Russian-roulette attitude toward contraception. I may be overly influenced by pregnancy center counseling, but this doesn't seem unlikely, and seems very obviously class-linked rather than e.g. about whether you voted for Obama.

2. A related and perh more interesting point: The more I think about this red/blue families thing the more it seems like the r/b narrative and the "marriage gap" narrative are like those pictures which are a vase, but also two faces; or a duck but also a rabbit. The r/b narrative is the liberal one (not Left, but liberal) and the marriage-gap one is conservative. The r/b narrative promotes one set of solutions and the marriage-gap narrative promotes a very different set. The r/b narrative seems to emphasize politics and religion in its framing, while the marriage-gap narrative emphasizes poverty and race. Both often pay lip service to class (the intersection of economic status and culture, or the culture created by economic status) but really downplay it... which leads me to suspect that class is one of the biggest drivers of this divide. (Here's Jonathan Rauch on the marriage gap as a class gap.)

Anyway I'll probably end up writing a longer thing about these two competing narratives--with any luck, playing them off of each other will illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of both--ideally for money....

3. I am not sure how to flesh out what's essentially an aesthetic argument, but my problem with many of the red/blue commentaries recently is not that they're polemical but that they're pharisaical. "I thank God that my sins are not as the sins of this Republican" and all that. Thus class gets elided, for example, in favor of charging evangelicals with hypocrisy. (I don't think NIL is doing that! Just that it's the attitude which spurred my earlier post.)

...Also, though, a reader sent me this essay (PDF), which is a very early use of the r/b phrase and which I remember thinking was quite good. Still obviously from a liberal perspective but I seem to recall it as a fruitful and provocative one, rather than a self-comforting one. Will re-read shortly.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

FINAL GIRL FILM CLUB: SPIDER BABY. All the linkalicious Spider Baby love you can handle--and more, much more....
Of course, you can't talk about this film without talking about the humor. Well, you can, but you'd be neglecting a large part of its charm. The opening credits, featuring a "Monster Mash"-style theme song sung by Chaney himself, clue us in that we're going to have fun with these kooky cannibals. And we do: they crack jokes and even bizarrely mug at the camera. It all works so well thanks to the performances. Everyone dives into his or her role with complete abandon and glee; the Merryes are hilariously over-the-top, while Chaney turns in a surprisingly heartfelt performance as their kindly, long-suffering caretaker. There's an Addams Family vibe to the entire affair, and in the end we're left to wonder who's more horrifying: the sadistic, murderous family on the hill, or their greedy, square, city-dwelling relatives.

more! more! more!

Monday, April 12, 2010

"THIS HOUR AND WHAT IS DEAD": An amazing poem.
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?


Sunday, April 11, 2010

"JOKING, OF COURSE": Three more quick thoughts about The Comedians and "Greeneland."

1. Honky-Talk Heroes: It's possible that you've heard the phrase, "What these people need is a honky!" It's usually used to describe a particular kind of movie--I haven't seen either of these, but Dances With Wolves and Avatar are pretty frequently cited as culprits--in which a nonwhite or coded-as-nonwhite culture can only stand up to its oppressors once it's been shown the way by the white-ass honky man. He is the best rebel of them all!

The Comedians both exploits and subverts this cliche, and I'd say it's about 30% exploitation and 70% subversion. So if you're interested in how white-dominated/mainstream movies presented race in the '60s, this is an Interesting Case. This is not the movie a black Catholic would make, and I think that's pretty obvious just from the casting and assumed audience. But it's still pretty intent on subverting this specific trope.

2. He Do the Priests in Different Voices: Graham Greene is really hard to take seriously. He gets overpraised by Catholics who envy the mid-20th-century moment when we seemed to be gaining the literary respect we really deserved in 1890. He then gets underestimated by people who think he's just a catechism with moving pictures.

What he really is, I think, is good enough. The basic elements of the Greene novels I've read are: This world is absurd and cruel, and you are helpless against its cruel absurdity; England is Haiti is Africa is everywhere, there's no geographical escape and white men are just scraped black men; justice is Hell; the Eucharist is mercy, but mercy must be accepted freely; the Catholic Church is the universal cynosure and everyone in the whole wide world thinks She's important.

Some of these points are obviously controversial! And I get that the specific way in which Greene lays the Church on with a trowel alienates many readers. It often doesn't work for me, because he tends to move too quickly from the character point--this actual character would say this actual prayer--to the symbolic. I'm hoping that I've learned from him, in my own Catholic novel (of which more in the next couple of days), how to integrate what characters do and what authors cry for.

But honestly--if nothing in Greene's Catholicism moves you, I think you are missing some basic point of philosophy, some basic moment in what it is to be human. He is not a zoetrope catechism. He's a Catholic man of the twentieth century, with all that implies. He's a weird man who wants to be a weird saint but can't figure out how; he's a person who wants to be real.

3. Does Anybody Remember Laughter? I think I would pay huge amounts of money I don't have to anyone who would compare and contrast the use of "comedy" and "comedians" in this movie, vs. the use of ditto in Watchmen. Because I'm honestly not joking (...of course) when I say I think they're doing the same thing. Both works are, I think, assertions--in Greene's case explicit, in Moore's case denied--of meaning against the obvious sick joke of this world.

The punchline, which comes like a gut-punch, is: There is a God.

ETA: Argh sorry, that was overstated and misleading. Of course Watchmen is an atheist comic book and an anguished one. But I do think that among the various philosophical stances its characters put forward, there's a strong assertion that justice is more than the exercise of will, and therefore meaning is given rather than created. And I don't really think that stance makes sense without God, as I've said a bunch of times, even though again, Watchmen doesn't go there. But anyway, just wanted to clarify what I meant. I'm more interested in the compare/contrast in the use of "comedian" imagery, & shouldn't've overstated the rest of it....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Are you gonna go to the Sodom and Gomorrah Show?
It's got blogwatching you need for your complete entertainment...

Crazy Bus Stops. I want to catch the s4 from a peach or a watermelon! Or a swingset, wow. What a completely different understanding of public space is implied by that concept. I love it so much. And so I don't mean to chastise whoever thought of it. I think it's great. But honestly--if bus stops are your refuge, is this the framework you'd choose? ETA: What I mean is, if I slept in bus stops, I really wouldn't want them to switch to swingsets. Because you can't sleep on a swingset.

Plan a Roadtrip With Southern Foodways. OM NOM NOM NOM!!!!

Peculiar British Pubs.
CINEMA PURGATORIO: Lots of quick film notes. I wish I had something more substantive to say about all of these, and welcome your thoughts.

The Comedians: An all-star cast does Graham Greene's Haiti novel. Masks are what we have instead of command; masks are what we have instead of peace. Haiti is shocking and it isn't much prettified. (I don't know where this was filmed.) The Catholicism starts to feel strenuous--even in Haiti, I'm pretty sure you can invoke the Virgin without showing us part of a Hail Mary scratched into a prison cell wall and then talking about it--but the underlying conviction that this life is a dead-baby joke, and yet somehow, somewhere, things must be put right... that basic Catholic sense of the horror of justice comes through. One of the points I wanted to make about Brown Girl in the Ring, but forgot, is that justice is horrifying to watch no matter how much you want it and know it needs to happen (to someone else, but also to you, when it happens to you).

Anyway, I think the cruelty and absurdity of this movie, and its bone-deep conviction that this world is not enough, mark it as Greeneland. Recommended.

Brighton Rock: One of the first (the first?) Greene adaptations for the silver screen. What's weird is that the novel is in some ways more cinematic than the movie. The novel's first and final thirds are both incredibly tense, suspenseful, freighted with obvious but still powerful theological weight.

The movie is way too quick at the beginning--I went with someone who hadn't read the book, and basically just missed the essential ten-second shot and dialogue which explained the entire setup--and the movie is badly hurt by the cardboard placidity of its Final Girl. If her love for the Catholic-diabolist gangster Pinky doesn't make sense, then the whole movie suffers, because she serves as the audience identification character, I think.

The good news (so to speak!) is that Richard Attenborough, I am not making that up, is an amazing Pinky. He is young and cruel and charismatic, and he's able to convey exactly as much depth as the story needs--you can see him dipping his rosary into the Styx.

I think the gay couple who exited the movie ahead of me and my friend pretty much summed up the weaknesses--and the weird, indefensible strengths--of this otherwise studio-standard working-class noir: "I really wasn't expecting all the Catholic stuff. That came out of nowhere--it was really bizarre. I mean is that normal?"

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I don't know if there are points to be made (scored?) from reviewing this movie. Richard Burton was amazing in The Comedians, and he surpasses himself here. Liz Taylor was acceptable in TC, and gouges a handhold in my heart with this performance. I like Albee anyway, but this is also good filmmaking: The long shots and the space this movie takes up should let you know that dir Mike Nichols is making choices for a reason.

This is one of the movies I started playing, thinking, "Hey, it's basically dialogue. If it gets boring I can read something cheap while it plays." And I watched and gasped and whimpered all the way through.

Butterfield 8: Taylor as doomed girl with damage. Soapy and gross and fatalist and really no fun (except for the bitchy neighbor lady). Suds gone wrong.

The VIPS: Suds gone right! Absolute soap opera of various characters dealing with shifting power relations in their business and marital and extramarital relations, as they wait in the Heathrow VIP lounge in the sexy Sixties. Yet more Taylor/Burton, and I loved both of them. (She was also great in Butterfield 8. The fact that I hated that movie isn't about her performance, which was committed, and mannered in the good way.) This is unnecessary fluff, but utterly painless. And really, we all need soaping once in a while.

The Conformist: Fable of Italian fascism. Astonishingly beautiful to look at. (There's probably a paper still to be written about the differences between aesthetic fascism and aesthetic anti-fascism.) The understanding of sex is Freud plus slut-shaming all sprinkled with holy water, so if you cringe when you see the name "Maria Goretti," this movie will hurt. Similar issues w/r/t gay life. Still, it is stunning to watch.

Elevator to the Gallows: I'm pretty sure I Netflix'd this because of a horrifying article you can find among the awful links here, about a man who was actually trapped for an entire weekend in a corporate elevator. I honestly don't know why this article still shakes me so badly. But the man had what sounds like a serious nervous breakdown, so he needs your prayers.

ANYWAY, this is a cute French caper film in which a man does in fact get stuck in an elevator. I loved it! It's fast and fun and sexy. The gamine is ridiculously cute--like, I lost IQ points just looking at her pixie face--and Jeanne Moreau is amazing. She's alternately, shot to shot, the most beautiful woman you've ever seen in your entire life, and a potato-faced castoff. Apparently the movie was controversial for shooting her in this no-Vaseline style, but really she makes the film. She exemplifies my dictum that most men are average, but most women are beautiful. A lady who can look lumpy-faced and bag-eyed under one kind of lighting is the absolute avatar of Venus under another.

She, uh, also acts well. But she doesn't have to, is my point: The camera acts for her. I was five kinds of blown away.

The Lost Boys: This may be the first R-rated movie I ever saw (at a friend's sleepover). I'm deeply irrational on this subject. But I loved this.

I mean come on: Knockoff Madonna from Like a Prayer needs your help to keep from becoming a vampire! Your only allies are your adorable little brother (their relationship really rang true to me, with a special kick because they clearly are bonding after their mother's divorce) and the inherent awesomeness of your late '80s Venice Beach carnival setting. The logic works (what appear to be plot holes really aren't if you watch carefully, which admittedly I don't know why you would), the carousel horses are creepy, the Echo and the Bunnymen is awesome, and the taxidermy is hilarious. '80s horror-comedy at its second-best (after Gremlins).

Kiefer Sutherland is in this, and yet his scenes are all stolen by Bill from Bill and Ted. I... I have no idea if this movie works for people who were still teething when the Cold War ended. But if you're wondering whether The Lost Boys is really awesome, or if you were just eating maggots all along, I can tell you: IT'S BLOOD, MICHAEL.

What Have You Done to Solange? So the thing about gialli, and movies in that tradition (Italian gruesome horror), is that some of the movies are astonishing artistic achievements in which the grue and the sex are used to transfix the viewer while the real horror happens in the warping of our sense of reality. Suspiria, you know, or even Phenomena which I didn't much like. Or even Demons, which was hilarious and silly and gross.

And then there are the movies which are rape festivals interspersed with shower scenes.

And amazingly, you can't tell which from the descriptions at mainstream movie sites. So just an FYI: Despite the beautiful, transfixing credits sequence, with lovely camerawork and music by Ennio Morricone, Solange is the latter.

I know I defended Deadgirl for being about misogyny, and said it wasn't itself misogynistic. I think I should probably expand on that here. Deadgirl provides exactly no escape from a horrific conception of what it means to be a man. There are no alternatives. No women really have agency in the movie. And yet it still seemed to me to be a movie I could understand, enter into, relate to as a woman, because it never once (IMO) presented the dead girl's violation as anything other than a horrific encroachment by human monsters. When she was simply touched, the camerawork and color control and acting made it clearly a desecration--if you're Catholic, a desecration of the temple of the Holy Spirit, this creature's body. In the end I didn't think Deadgirl--despite its advertising--presented rape as titillating or deserved or natural.

Solange is... in some ways the opposite. Watch the first five minutes or so of this--and then write your own movie, better.
PLAYING SPIDER: ZOMG you guys you guys!!! The Final Girl Film Club is this Monday, and I get to be in it... because they're doing Spider Baby!!! You can play too; click here for details, but basically you just watch the movie, which you can do online, and then post something about it.
IN STENCIL on the mudflaps of a passing truck, Scott Circle: SAFETY IS JOY.
THANK GOD FOR MISSISSIPPI: There is a fun meme called "red families vs. blue families." This Seussian formula may not be especially based on the book of the same name, which I haven't read and which I therefore don't want to assimilate to the sins of its followers. But the meme itself is not really new.

The idea is that families in "blue states" are relatively adept at transmitting some aspects of a marriage culture to their children. Massachusetts, e.g., is home to families where the children mate for life. Meanwhile "red states" produce children (they produce more children, usually, by the way) who marry in haste and repent in somewhat-delayed-haste, lots of divorces and out-of-wedlock births and similar signs of family-values hypocrisy. When I say "this isn't new," I mean, "I got 10 cents off my Caribou coffee by knowing that Mississippi has an extraordinarily high rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies more than a year ago."

These are facts, and there are a lot of ways of responding to these facts. You can explore ways in which the contemporary economy and culture, by (for example) prioritizing postsecondary education and stigmatizing living with one's parents, has made it extraordinarily difficult to sustain a culture of more-or-less postponing sex until marriage. You could criticize the notion of marriage as the capper on life's to-do list, to be sought only once all the other boxes are checked and you're "stable," rather than a foundation for a later stable life. You could, in other words, ask why a consumerist culture is so hostile to a communal and marriage-based way of life.

You could maybe talk about Protestantism! Catholic states tend to have very different problems from Protestant ones: They tend to be aging states--whether we're talking about Massachusetts or Italy--where divorce is rare but birthrates are low. What can the competing Christian cultures teach one another?

You could look for institutions and traditions within so-called "red state" cultures which promote lifelong marriage and serve to more-or-less-okay manage the problem of intercourse. You could find heroes and show how "red state" life works, when it works, and which conditions need to be in place for it to work.

These are all things you could do.

The other really fun thing you could do, though, is blame "red state" families for being Not Our Kind, Dear. It is just so sad that their pathetic religious delusions make them slutty hypocrites. (Yum, by the way; I think hypocrisy makes your breasts bigger.) You could argue that they're really promoting abortion, 'cause it's their fault they haven't adapted to the contracepting, college-educated ways of the elite. It's not about poverty, or the fatalism it breeds, or the terrifying knowledge of how close you really are to falling off the ladder. It's about Baptists suck.

You could wage class war, in other words, on the side of the privileged. You could focus on shaming people who are really different from you, and not on figuring out how marriage and family life can be strengthened across a variety of religious and moral beliefs and a variety of class and cultural backgrounds.

Of course, if the (for example) Catholic view of marriage is simply doomed and pathetic, then I guess it's just ripping off the Band-Aid quickly to say so. But I really think if you spend any time with actual humans actually trying to make decisions about their sexual lives, their unborn children, their religion, and their relationships, you will not sound the way a lot of the "red vs. blue families" commentators sound.

Friday, April 09, 2010

...The main difference, though, is that Tariel is not a fully-fledged monk, but a prisoner now serving out his sentence at the Father Ambrosi Khelaia monastery near Tbilisi.

Having spent four years behind bars and barbed wire, he is now allowed to roam the calm surroundings of a pine forest on the outskirts of the city, as one of the first candidates in a government-led rehabilitation programme.

A devout Orthodox Christian, he shows me around the monastery, explaining his daily ritual.

"I start every day in prayer. Then I feed the chickens and sheep. During the afternoon I usually sit together with the other monks and we discuss our faith. At 2130 we rest."

He says he also takes part in Bible study, bee-keeping, gardening and playing with the monks' pet bear.

more (via Ratty)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Don't, my son, look back,
or bother with right and left;
and don't say, "Tomorrow I'll die
so why should I walk around bereft?"

Remember the day to come
when your flesh will be eaten and gone,
when over your head the plows will plow
as farmers make their furrows long.

You sinned well enough in your youth.
Don't drag its legacy on.

--Solomon Ibn Gabirol, tr Cole

Thursday, April 01, 2010

TELL MY HORSE: Nalo Hopkinson's first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, comes with cover blurbs from Octavia Butler and Tim Powers; and if you like either of those authors, you should definitely check it out. It's set in a future-Toronto urban wasteland, with goats cropping grass in the parks and feral children living in the subways. A Caribbean-Canadian mother and daughter fight to save the daughter's lover from the clutches of the local gang kingpin, with the equivocal help of the orishas, the spirits of syncretic Afro-Western religion.

This book is so refreshing. I could listen to these characters talk all day long. They behave like actual people I've known from roughly-similar backgrounds: The flaws are as recognizable as the strengths. The love and resentment feel completely real. I will be bitter enough to add that the genre is also neither urban fantasy (aka pasty-faced pseudo-Celtic) nor magical realism (aka sentimental spilt-religion), but instead pretty much what I have been missing in both genres. There's also a recurring theme of conflicted or unknown paternity, which of course I found really compelling.

This is fantasy of salvage, where the losses have real impact on both the characters and the reader. People make really horrible decisions, and then don't conveniently die; they have to be lived with, and they have to learn to live with themselves.

There are some flaws. The ending includes a bit of policy-wonkery which I think is intended to be egalitarian (and needs to be egalitarian to function symbolically in the novel) but which is... not, really. There's a related Afterschool Special bit in which the line, "Excuse my bluntness, [Previously Amoral Character], but when did you develop a social conscience?" is used without irony, which is just teeth-grittingly painful.

There's an overreliance on "she just knew, and acted on instinct," which seems to be a deliberate philosophical choice on Hopkinson's part but which made it hard for me as a reader to relate, since it denies the pleasure of coming up with what you hope the characters will do and then being surprised when your own expectations are surpassed, or watching their thought processes and then being devastated when a plan you understood turns out to be useless. I can't think with a character who is deliberately rejecting thinking, you know? And I can't even really feel with her either, not in the moment in which she's ascertaining where her instinct leads her. It makes the character's actions feel deus ex machina and/or random.

Those points aside, though, this was a suspenseful read, brimming with ideas and unexpected twists on traditional imagery. I'll definitely be looking out for more by Hopkinson.
They asked me as though they were mystified:
Is it true your friend's hands are like clouds?
And I told them: They were tied for being too open,
and for goodness of heart of hunger he died.

--Solomon Ibn Gabirol, tr Peter Cole