Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2011, part 20: Kate Schaefer

Books and Television I Enjoyed in 2011
by Kate Schaefer

Books I particularly enjoyed in 2011:

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing - re-read in grief after Joanna’s death, in fierce joy at her words. I’m grateful to get mad all over again as she reminds me of all the ingenious ways in which women’s writing is suppressed, minimized, and forgotten. I’ll always remember her writing, as long as always lasts for me.

Margo Lanagan, Tender Morsels - read for the first time just before Margo taught at Clarion West, shared with a granddaughter who wants happy endings for everyone, even for the bad guys. Sometimes especially for the bad guys; she feels sorry for them and wants them to be redeemed. I know more things happened to those people after the book ended, she said.

Ysabeau Wilce, Flora Segunda and Flora’s Dare - re-read, and again shared with that granddaughter, who was indignant that the third volume isn’t out yet.

Paul Park, Soldiers of Paradise, Sugar Rain, The Cult of Loving Kindness, A Princess of Roumania, The Tourmaline, The White Tyger, The Hidden World - much of this Park orgy was re-reading, but I hadn’t ever finished the Roumania quadratic equation before this summer. Damn, that man writes good.

Cat Rambo, Eyes Like Smoke and Coal and Moonlight- collected short stories; I’ve been a sucker for Cat’s stories since the first time I read “The Dead Girl’s Wedding March.” I’m a sucker for her titles, too.

Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, Writing the Other - another re-read. I’m not writing the other, myself, but I’m constantly reading the other. This little book has much useful info packed into it.

Michael Swanwick, Stations of the Tides, Vacuum Flowers, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, The Dragons of Babel - all re-reading except The Dragons of Babel, which I’d been saving until the ink didn’t smell so new. The two older books made me so happy that I wrote Michael a fan letter thanking him for writing them. We should all thank authors we like from time to time; it encourages them even more than buying their books.

N. K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - the newest book I read all year; I look forward to reading lots more of Nora’s work.

Television I enjoyed in 2011:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Joanna Russ used to say, If you don’t watch television, you’re out of touch with popular culture, and you don’t understand the society you live in. She was shocked and appalled that I didn’t have a television; she scorned my intellectual snobbery toward TV. In later years, I was taken aback that she was a rabid fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now that I have a television and am watching old shows via DVDs borrowed from the library, I know what she was on about. Buffy is brilliantly written and well worth watching, though I’m still only partway through the first season. All of you people who are in better touch with popular culture, you can scorn me now.

Xam’d: Lost Memories – one of the best anime series I’ve ever watched; well-written, beautifully drawn and animated. The opening sequence alone is a lovely set of meanings conveyed through characters’ glances and gestures, an abbreviated ballet.

Princess Tutu – anime for small children, about a girl who is really a duck and also has a secret identity as a magical ballerina who fights evil and saves a handsome prince. It’s astonishingly good. Uses lots of classic ballet music and breaks the fourth wall to great effect. Ballet fight sequences refer to the swordfighting sequences in Revolutionary Girl Utena; those references should have gone over the heads of the intended original audience, but undoubtedly kept the show’s creators entertained.

Revolutionary Girl Utena – weirdest damn anime I’ve ever watched, and definitely not for small children. I’ve watched this series three times now, and I’m still not sure what happens in it. It’s about religion, power, manipulation, cliques, sex, abuse of all sorts, student councils, incest, cows, and the power to bring about world revolution. It has the most powerful use of repetitive, static animation I’ve ever seen, with bonus Indonesian shadow puppet characters acting as a chorus in every episode.

Kate Schaefer previously worked in a lumberyard, wrote budgets for a no-longer-extant bank, researched quotations for one of Ronald Reagan's speechwriters, wrote code that ran on mainframe computers, won awards for Latin oratory, served on the Clarion West board of directors, chaired the
Tiptree jury in 1998. Now she makes cocktail hats, lifts weights, raises money for writers, votes Democratic, remembers very little Latin and hardly any JCL.

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