Wow, so, hey! What a turn up for the books (pun always intended). Let’s catch you up:
I still haven’t finished Rivka’s Christmas present and her birthday is right around the corner as well. Oops! She’s super into scarves and headwrapping at the moment though so I imagine a couple of lovely layering linens will go down a treat. Or maybe that’s to throw her off the scent and I’m going to buy her books. Or make her something… Hmmm… I guess in a month we’ll find out.
I am still reading. Always reading. Not doing very well with Book Bingo. A lot of the books I have don’t fit into those categories… but I’m working on it. There’s no time limit, right? Right?
I have, however, read an amazing debut novel from Paul M M Cooper. River of Ink is a sumptuous narrative set in Sri Lanka in the thirteenth century. Cooper himself hesitates to call it ‘historical fiction’ (as you can hear for yourselves in the Papertrail podcast interview he did). I can see why: it’s very much a character piece so really the history side of it is just the window dressing. But it’s an extremely beautiful window. The story is told by Asanka the court poet. He is translating an epic saga poem for his new master. The world of Sri Lanka is exquisitely constructed – Cooper has clearly done a lot of research and I think spent time over there getting to know his locations firsthand – and the language is poetic, as you would expect, but not laboured.
Asanka is narrating the tale to his lover, who appears in the tale as well, and his relationship with her also tells us a lot about his character. Asanka is quite set in his ways but if he considers something worthwhile he will stubbornly and doggedly pursue it. He excuses his transgressions on occasion, while being critical of others, but the strength he doesn’t know he has slowly comes to the surface. He is a reluctant hero, and he fights his war with words. Be in no doubt: it is a story of conflict and violence and death, but Cooper weaves those harsh moments deftly through the real point of the story. He clearly very much loves words and language and poetry. Hang on, do I mean Asanka or Cooper? Both. Oh, very both.
I had the joy or reading part of this book in a beautifully painted roulotte caravan and being surrounded by peacock motifs, turquoise, purples and greens while reading on a chaise longue was almost like heaven. I mean, I don’t think I can attribute that to Cooper, but hey why not.
Other than listening to some audiobook Neverwhere (narrated by Neil Gaiman himself who as you know is not always my favourite person but at least he gets to make the characters sound the way he intended them to and he doesn’t do a bad job) I have almost from nowhere discovered podcasts. I know. I’ve always been behind the curve. My friend Jim told me I should listen to Hello, From the Magic Tavern and since I always listen to Jim I did so. Fifty episodes in, I’m now trying to eke them out as I don’t want to catch up so quickly and run out of them! Waiting for a new episode every week is for losers #Netflixgeneration
If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a comedy podcast hosted by Arnie Niekamp from Chicago. He fell through a dimensional portal in a Burger King drive-thru and landed in a magical land called Foon. He hosts the podcast (so lucky that he had the equipment with him in his car!) from a tavern called the Vermillion Minotaur and usually he co-hosts with a wizard called Usidore and a shapeshifter called Chunt. They have local guests and tell stories and Arnie is trying to get his head around life in Foon. It’s mostly improvised and they do try to trip each other up a little, but the continuity is great and they’ve really built a bizarre and wonderful world. My personal favourite episodes usually involve Mittens (the national sport of Foon) and its weird rules, Glenn Miller & Spants the travelling bards, or more recently the episode called Offices & Bosses, which is about a roleplaying game that is popular in Foon. You may not need me to tell you the premise of that. Also any time a wizard introduces themselves they do so with their full name including all nicknames and regional variations. The first time I heard Spintax the Green’s full name I could not stop laughing for a literal five minutes.
It’s rude, it’s bold and it’s hilarious. You currently have 62 episodes to get through. What are you waiting for?
Next projects… well… I’m sewing a manticore onto a cushion cover. As one does. Also trying to be more accountable to my creativeness. I was thinking about this the other day – I will always have projects on the go of one sort or another. I will write, I will stitch, I will take the vacuum apart and put it back together again (guess what I did yesterday?) or occasionally I may even draw. I need those things. But not in the same way I used to. As a teen, I wrote a lot (A LOT) of awkward angsty poetry. I wrote fanfiction. I wrote angry cathartic stories. I did some other things, too, like friendship bracelets and weird sketches and things. All that, I feel, was partly due to my latent personality being desperate for recognition.
Since hitting my twenties, and since finding decent friends and a fulfilling lifestyle, that focus has shifted. I don’t have to pretend to be “normal” whatever that means. No more Suzy-Highschool. So that drive to pour my real self into stories or fabric or drawing (and the odd cringeworthy song) has become less necessary. I am who I am on the outside now. Luckily. I may have a few grey hairs but I’m also independent, employed, in a great relationship… despite being a massive nerd and weirdo. So hoorah for that! Now I get to do the projects I want to do. Make things that are pretty or that I know others will like as gifts. I get to do for fun what I used to do for sanity.
Screw the normals! Well, actually, don’t screw them, because in my experience they’re not very good at it. To mix in another metaphor: I’m not hungry for it any more. My soul isn’t starving. I can nibble, and I want a snack, but I don’t need a big banquet of brain release. I’m happier. So that’s a good thing. Less productive maybe, but I’m productive in other ways. Emotional bridges, a little bit of mindfulness, taking care of my body, just actually chilling out… all the things I couldn’t really do when I was younger. I may be growing as a person. Horrifying.
And now for bacon. And listening to podcasts.