Saturday, June 11, 2011
Hardcover, 368 pages
From the cover:
...with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.
In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.
Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.
When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.
The children of the embassy all saw the boat land. Their teachers and shiftparents had had them painting it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. It’s been centuries since any voidcraft vented fire, as they imagined this one doing, but it’s a tradition to represent them with such trails. When I was young, I painted ships the same way. opening
I could see her thinking, You chose, and it was true. I’d been going to leave, until half a year before, until the last miab had descended, with the shocking news of what, who, was on the way. Even then I’d told myself I’d stick to my plan, head into the out when the next relief came. But it was no real revelation to me when at last the yawl had crossed the sky and left it howling, and I’d realised I was going to stay. Scile, my husband, had probably suspected before I did that I would. pg. 5
At this edge of town the angles and piazzas of our home alleys were interrupted by at first a few uncanny geometries of Hosts’ buildings; then more and more, until our own were all replaced. pg. 10
It was a Host. It stepped to the centre of the carpet. I stood immediately, out of the respect I’d been taught and my child’s fear. The Host came forward with its swaying grace, in complicated articulation. It looked at me, I think: I think the constellation of forking skin that was its lustreless eyes regarded me. It extended and reclenched a limb. I thought it was reaching for me. pg. 13
The indigenes, in whose city we had been graciously allowed to build Embassytown, Hosts were cool, incomprehensible presences. Powers like subaltern gods, which sometimes watched us as if we were interesting, curious dust, which provided our biorigging, and to which the Ambassadors alone spoke. pg. 14
Look instead at a map of he immer. such a big and tidal quiddity. Pull it up, rotate it, check its projections. Examine that light phantom every way you can, and even allowing that it's a flat or trid rendering of a topos that rebels against our own accounting, the situation is visibly different.
The immer's reaches don't correspond at all to the dimensions of the manchmal, this space where we live. The best we can do is say that the immer underlies or overlies, infuses, is a foundation, is langue of which our actuality is a parole, and so on. pg. 31
What we do, what we can do - immersers - is not just keep ourselves stable, sentient and healthy in the immer... pg. 33
"This is the third universe," I told Scile. "There've been two others before this. Right?" I didn't know how much civilians knew: this stuff had become my common sense. "Each one was born different. It had its own laws - in the first one they reckon light was about twice as fast as it is here now. Each one was born and grew and got old and collapsed. Three different sometimes. But below all that, or around it, or whatever, there's only ever been one immer, one always." pg. 34
Ultimately, as a carta-carrying Embassytown native immerser, crewing and vouching for my fiancé, it only took tenacity to get him the rights to entry, and me to reentry. Scile had been preparing for his work there, reading, listening to recordings, watching what few trids and vids there are. pg. 40
A classic unspoken agreement among escapees from a small town: don't look back, don't be each other's anchors, no nostalgia. pg. 53
"Everything in Language is a true claim. So they need the similes to compare things to, to make true things that aren't there yet, that they need to say." pg. 56
It felt like being a child again, though it was not. Being a child is like nothing. It's only being. Later, when we think about it, we make it into youth. pg. 66
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Crown Publishing Group, May 2011
Hardcover, 464 pages
The saga of an American father and daughter who in July 1933 suddenly found themselves, and the rest of their family, transported to the heart of Hitler's Berlin. The father was William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered history professor from Chicago who, much to his surprise and everyone else's, was chosen by Roosevelt to be America's first ambassador to Nazi Germany; Dodd's daughter, Martha, was 24 years old and came along for the adventure, and to escape a dead marriage. At first this new world seemed full of energy and goodwill, nothing like what newspapers back home had portrayed. But slowly a pall of intrigue and terror fell over the family--until the cataclysmic weekend that changed them all forever.
Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported from their snug home in Chicago to the heart of Hitler's Berlin. They remained there for four and a half years, but it is their first year that is the subject of the story to follow, for it coincided with Hitler's ascent from Chancellor to absolute tyrant, when everything hung in the balance and nothing was certain. That first year is a kind of prologue in which all the themes of the great epic of war and murder soon to come were laid down.I have always wondered what it would have been like for an outsider to have witnessed firsthand the gathering dark of Hitler's rule....Hindsight tells us that during that fragile time the course of history could so easily have been changed. Why, then, did no one change it? Why did it take so long to recognize the real danger posed by Hitler and his regime? (pg xiii)
....as their first year reached its end, and event occurred that proved to be one of the most significant in revealing the true character of Hitler and that laid the keystone for the decade to come. For both father and daughter it changed everything. (pg. xiv)
There are no heroes here, at least not of the Schindler's List variety, but there are glimmers of heroism and people who behaved with unexpected grace. Always there is nuance, albeit sometimes of a disturbing nature. That's the trouble with nonfiction. One has to put aside what we all know - now - to be true, and try instead to accompany my two innocents through the world as they experienced it.These were complicated people moving through a complicated time, before the monsters declared their true nature. (pg. xiv)
This is a work of nonfiction. As always, any material between quotation marks comes from a letter, diary, memoir, or other historical document. (pg. xiv)
While I did not realize as I ventured into those dark days of Hitler's rule was how much the darkness would infiltrate my own soul. I generally pride myself on possessing a journalist's remove, the ability to mourn tragedy and at the same time appreciate it's narrative power, but living among the Nazis day in. day out proved for me a uniquely trying experience. (Sources and Acknowledgments, pg. 369)
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Knopf Doubleday, 2008
Hardcover, 304 pages
From her lookout in the crumbling mansion that was her childhood home, Ginny watches and waits for her younger sister to arrive. Vivien has not set foot in the house since she left nearly fifty years ago; the reclusive Ginny has rarely ventured out, retreating into the precise routines that defined her days, carrying on her father's solitary work studying moths.As the sisters revisit their shared past, they realize that their recollections differ in essential and unsettling ways. Before long, the deeply buried resentments that have shaped both of their lives rise to the surface, and Vivien's presence threatens to disrupt Ginny's carefully ordered world.Told in Ginny's unforgettable voice, this subtle and chilling debut novel tells an extraordinary story of how families are capable of undoing themselves - especially in the name of love.
It’s ten to two in the afternoon and I’ve been waiting for my little sister, Vivi, since one-thirty. She’s finally coming home, at sixty-seven years old, after an absence of nearly fifty years. opening
Did I tell you that Vivien said in her letter she was returning for good? For some final peace, she said, because now, she said, we ought to be keeping each other company for the rest of our lives, rather than dying lonely and alone. Well, I’ll tell you now, I don’t feel lonely and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m dying, but even so I’m glad she’s coming home. Glad, and a little nervous - a surge of apprehension is swelling in my stomach. I can’t help wondering what we’ll talk about after all these years and, I suppose, if I’ll even recognize her. pg. 4
She is late, however. I look at my wristwatch—the digital one on my left wrist. Her letter most specifically read one-thirty and, believe me, it's not my timekeeping that's gone awry. I keep a number of clocks just so I can be sure that, even if one or two let me down, I can always find the correct time. When you live by yourself in a house that you very rarely leave and is even more rarely visited, it's essential that you don't lose track of the time. Every minute lost - if left uncorrected - would soon accumulate to an hour, and then hours, until - as you can imagine - you could easily end up living in a completely erroneous time frame. pg. 4
It was a childhood in perfect balance, so I’m wondering what it was that came along and changed everything. It wasn’t just one thing. There’s rarely a sole cause for the separation of lives. It’s a sequence of events, an inexorable chain reaction where each small link is fundamental, like a snake of upended dominoes. And I’ve been thinking that the very first one, the one you push to start it all off, must have been when Vivi slipped off our bell tower and nearly died, fifty-nine years ago. pg. 5
Truth be told, it was Vivi who dreamed and I who listened, enraptured, for I was very aware that it was a gift she had been given and I had not. pg. 13
...at the time neither of us realized the rue significance of her accident. Only that she'd been so incredibly lucky. pg. 21
I wonder what Vivien's left behind in London; I wonder if this is the start of another special bond, like the one we had many years ago. Most of all I wonder why she's decided, finally, to come home. pg. 31
I can mimic the scent of a flower so that a moth will direct itself towards the scent, even if I have made sure that in doing so it goes headlong into a wall and kills itself. Each time each moth will kill itself. It is this constancy that makes them a scientific delight - you do not need to factor in a rogue element of individuality. pg. 55