With Whom We Have To Do

I was tagged the other day by the blogger over at Fullness of Joy.  It is not a very in-depth tag: really more of a getting-to-know-you-better sort of tag.  I know I don't tend to want to know a lot about authors because I am aware of the disconnect between the person you see and the book you read; but I do like to know the little quirks that make people who they are.  Operating under the assumption that you, too, might like to know quirks about this particular author, I am going to join in this questionnaire.  The following will be two groups of eleven questions each: the first group will be points about myself which I feel might interest or amuse people; the second group are questions which Joy (who tagged me) wrote and wanted me to answer.  But the question I really want an answer to is: why eleven?

I thought you might like to know...

1.  I was supposed to be ginger.  Ginger runs in my mother's side of the family, and she and I do have natural red highlights in our brown hair, but all the ginger traits got inside me and shaped, not my hair colour, but my personality.  I dare say that explains a lot.

2.  If you gave me the choice between a hard-cover book and a soft one, I would choose the hard one.

3.  As a child, my imaginary friend was Oliver Cromwell.  As a child, I was very free with history, so I'm afraid my imaginary friend did not accurately represent the original; but we got on well enough all the same, he and I.

4.  I have a cup of tea every morning.  It is so much a part of my regular routine that, if my husband and I have to leave the house unusually early (for me), we plan ahead to determine at what time I have to rise in order to brew and drink my cup of tea before bolting out the door.  I don't think the caffeine does anything for me: I think it is almost wholly psychological.  Or psychotic.

5.  I was in my early to mid-teens when I wrote my debut novel The Shadow Things.

6. I keep a journal styled in letters.  It should make for interesting reading if it is published after my death.

7.  When my husband's professor asked me what I study, I informed him that I have graduated highschool and am now free to study whatever I like without paying tuition to anyone.  He was evidently quite tickled by this defiance.

8.  Two things, which go hand in hand: I discovered that I sit and gesture just like my father while having a debate, and also that, in the midst of a serious discussion, I don't get jokes.  I will recognize jokes, I will recognize that they are funny, but the hilarity will almost always bounce right off me.  Serious-serious.

9.  Perhaps I have said this before, but I am not usually consciously logical.  I am typically a subconscious thinker, and intuitive.  Which means that I may be a genius sometimes, but I never know it.

10.  I said that I see emotion as colour, but here I feel I can explain further: I don't see colour the way some people see colour triggered by a sound, or a number.  To me defiance is a feeling the colour of a hawk's eye; high freedom, the kind that breaks something in your chest, is a feeling the colour of a pale sky.   Companionable silence is the colour and softness of a panther's coat.  That's what I mean by feeling colour.

11.  I communicate by letter with my friends.

What someone else thought you might like to know...

1.  Who are your top three favourite classic fiction authors and which are your top three favourite modern fiction authors?

I had to go and look up the definition of "classic."  I'm afraid it has been somewhat misunderstood, judging from the dictionary.  If you were to assume the definition that anything "classic" is the exemplary item of its kind, then it would follow, logically, that all modern literature is rot.  For the sake of this question I'm going to go with the definition "an artist or artistic production considered a standard."  I think we can work with that.

For my three "classic" authors I must say Jane Austen, because of her wit and insight into the everyday life, who helps me see beyond my intuition to the frank faces of people; G.K. Chesterton, who takes you

up through an empty house of stars
being what heart you are
up the inhuman steeps of space
as on a staircase go in grace
carrying the firelight on your face
beyond the loneliest star

and understands that my heart is hammered of phoenix feathers, ready to burst into flame.  And for my third I think I have to say E.R. Eddison who, though I have only read one work of his, blew me away by the grandeur of his people who, bigger than life, with blood like fire, whirled through the massive plot and the little me like a maelstrom of aching memories.  Even the white feather of his book was a man I liked greatly.

I have few favourite modern authors who are still alive.  I know, I'm like the Janette Oke novel of readers...  Since she was still alive in my early years, I feel no qualms in naming Rosemary Sutcliff as foremost among my modern favourite authors.  Runners up are Diana Wynne Jones (who just recently died, and I had nothing to do with it) and Harry Blamires, though he and I differ greatly on some points.  He, at least, is yet living.

2.  Which character in John Bunyan's immortal classic Pilgrim's Progress do you identify with most?

Abigail mentioned this question when she read it and asked self-deprecatingly, "What if I identify more with the villains?"  Honestly, it has been too long since I read the work to recall the numerous cast of characters found in it.  I think I identify with many of them in parts and portions, and in various places in life.

3.  In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, we see that Sam's and Frodo's responses to Gollum-Smeagol are different.  If you were in either character's position when they had a chance of killing him, would you have done so and rid yourself of his wickedness and treachery , or would you pity him, having carried the burden of the Ring yourself, known its temptation, and shown mercy?

I have to say Tolkien was a genius here.  If I were Sam, and Sam were me, I confess I probably would have tried to do away with Gollum.  I am strongly vindictive of nature and my mental reactions are usually violent.  But all the same, when I can empathize, I can understand, and perhaps I, too, would have shown mercy to Gollum if I had been in Frodo's place.

4.  Which do you enjoy more: reading a book or watching a movie?

I think I probably enjoy reading a book more, but I don't think the comparison is entirely fair since literature and films are two different mediums of art.  The point of both (assuming it is fiction) is to tell a story, but neither approaches story-telling the same way.  I enjoy both venues.

5.  What is your favourite kind of music to sing, hear, and play, and who do you think was the greatest music composer of all time?

I enjoy singing whatever my narrow vocal range can manage and my tiny memory can retain, mostly hymns and a few snatches of Disney songs I remember from my youth; due to their eclectic nature and little space I can't reproduce the songs I like to listen to, and I can't play anything.  As for the greatest musician of all time, I would greatly love to have listened to Jesus singing the Hallel on the Passover of his death.

6.  Which two books of the Bible do you tend to read the most?

Perhaps it is by some strange subconscious quirk of my own name, which starts with a J: I read the First Epistle of John and the Book of Job most.

7.  Is there a figure in history (outside of the Bible) that you love the most?  Why?

Athanasius.  Because his stalwart figure, obscured by little learning and long ages, appears as a hero to my eyes.

8.  Is there a book or a movie that you have recently been exposed to that you felt should have been done differently?

Oh dear.  This is a dangerous question for an author.  One must give allowance for differences of situation and temper...  But I did recently read the book Fairest by contemporary author Gail Carson Levine and felt that there were several points which could have had more justice done to them.  As for films, there are a lot of scenes in which I would have had the main character look up.  No one ever looks up.

9.  What are your two favourite scenes in C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia?

My father is currently reading through these books with my six-year-old niece, and on occasion I will be on hand to listen.  I confess, I can't sit through a session without crying.  Too much beauty and too many memories are tied up in those words for me to sit it out dry-eyed.  I have to give you three scenes: The Magician's Nephew, in which Digory, without hope for his mother, looks up into Aslan's eyes and finds great, horrible, shining tears there; in The Silver Chair, Aslan's discourse with Jill at the outset:

"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer.  "I suppose I must go and look for another stream."
"There is no other stream."

And in magnificent conclusion, Aslan's benediction at the end of The Last Battle, which we all know, which is like the last trumpet-note of the most beautiful song you have ever heard, hanging on the air, leaving everything behind in shaken splendour.

10.  What are some of the books (fiction and non-fiction) or movies that have inspired and changed your life?

"I could no sooner choose a favourite star in the heavens."  Foremostly I name the word of God, and I publicly thank his grace and the Holy Spirit (but I repeat myself) for bringing me alive to that word.  As for the rest, I could not possibly name fifteen years' worth of books.  They all had a part in my shaping.  I imbibed them, I fought them, I debated them, I embraced them: each book, each conversation, each story,  each place, each soul, has impacted my life in a way only the Last Overview of Time could show.

11.  What do you love most about the place where you live?

My people.  All places are much the same, some better, some worse, some lighter, some darker: it is one's people that make it home.

And now you know.

"Are You Slain?"

Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the living Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

Gunga Din, Rudyard Kipling

I don't exactly belt and flay them, though I did toss Kipling across the room on his face, poor fellow, and the Brothers Grimm were dumped unceremoniously on a chair (it turns out, I needed Hans Christian Anderson instead). I love my books and I take care of them, but the ones I love most do tend to take a beating. It puts me greatly in mind of a conversation one Old Skin Horse had with one Velveteen Rabbit about being loved and becoming Real... The book always makes me cry. But the principle remains: the books I love most, use the most, reference the most, paw through and reread the most, show the signs of my thumbing. Needless to say, The Silver Branch is very worn indeed, The Last Battle likewise, and thank goodness Chesterton is hard-back otherwise he would diminish quickly. Which is funny, if you think about it...

You probably know, from my brief introduction of myself or from personal experience, that I like stabbing people in the heart with words. I love making people soar, or cry, or rage - I love making them feel the worlds in my head as truly as I feel them with all their swirling pomp of colour and emotion and vivacity. When people can look up from my writing and blink in surprise at the image of the kitchen counter with its coffee maker percolating, when they had expected to see a torrent of alaunts on the flanks of a boar, with the hue and cry of the huntsmen in their ears, then I know I've won the day. When I can turn a person's heart in my hand with words, as you might turn a chess-piece, I know I've penslain them.

But what about me? Who slays the Penslayer? I try not to read often below my level. I don't mean this snobbishly, not at all. There are numerous beautiful, charming, inspiring, well-written stories out there that I missed in my childhood and now have to go back and catch up on. But when they say the mind is a terrible thing to waste they don't know how seriously they need to mean it. So I always try to read someone a little harder, a little deeper, a little further up or further in, someone who tests my mettle, someone who challenges me. So how about it? I know a few people who have managed to really deliver a blow with the beauty of words and with the glory of truth. There aren't many yet because I want my Penslayers to really and truly slay me. Here are a few of the works of literature which have managed to pen-slay the Penslayer.

The Worm Ouroboros - E.R. Eddison
The Ballad of the White Horse - G.K. Chesterton
The Last Battle - C.S. Lewis
The Inferno - Dante Alighieri
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
Horatius - Thomas Babington MacCaulay
Simon - Rosemary Sutcliff
Knight's Fee - Rosemary Sutcliff
The Land - Rudyard Kipling
If - Rudyard Kipling

I don't want you to think I'm a hard reader to please. I have enjoyed over twice this many books in the past six months, but these are books I've read which really gripped me with their powerful prose or turns of lyric, with their ability to throw you off the edge of the world into heights unknown. I love these poems and stories. But one more author needs to be mentioned and I save him for last for several reasons. One, I feel he deserves the close of the post as an honour; two, because I'm not sure I actually have the words to describe his penslaying. He so totally penslays me that all words vanish. The more I read him, the more I am convinced: no one could say it better. I deny all accusations of the cliche or the hollowly sentimental. That author, frankly, is Jesus. I say author, perhaps orator is a better term. But what a wordsmith! If I could penetrate the movements of man's mind and heart a fraction so well as he I might do better at my own smithing. If I had half the compassion, half the justice, and an abundance of the Holy Spirit, I could make the words of my characters sing across the ages with truth. As an unrequited lover of just the right word at just the right moment, I can only sit back in a breathless thrill of wonderment as I listen to Jesus' speech. I strive to bring my words to life: his are living already. On a level where life and godliness and history and heroes and the love of words all collide into one thing, I find him there. I find him and I'm penslain.

"O Juss," cried Brandoch Daha, "thine own breath lighteneth at it, and thy words come more sprightly forth. Are not all lands, all airs, one country unto us, so there be great doing afoot to keep bright our swords?"
The Worm Ouroboros, E.R. Eddison

Beautiful People - Skander & Woodbird

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

Harp Song of the Dane Women, Rudyard Kipling

In honour of the first anniversary of Beautiful People, Sky posted a new series of questions which deals with the relationship of two characters - any two characters, so long as they happen to interact in some critical way. This was challenging and a lot of fun, especially since I needed to take a good look at the relationship of two of my Plenilune characters. I won't keep you long. These two, whose names you have heard before, are

Skander Rime and Woodbird Swan-neck

1. Do they believe in anything that most people think is impossible?

“To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are…” It depends on who one means by “most people.” They believe in God, they believe in angels, they believe in original sin, the depravity of man, redemption, resurrection, a judgment to come… Those seem to be the great stumbling blocks of humanity. As for ordinary impossible things, Skander is typically one to take things carefully in stride, testing the ground beneath his feet as he goes. Woodbird has a strain of the fantastic in her and rather relishes a good impossibility.

2. Are they strong, or the "damsel/knight in distress" sorts?

Once again, it depends on one’s definition of “strong.” Both Skander and Woodbird are capable people, physically. Skander has a naturally big build and good height, which he puts to good use. Woodbird, tall (which gives the appearance of being slender) and sturdy, counts herself one of the best sword-maidens in Thrasymene, with good reason. In disposition they are similar: steadfast, slow to temper but quick of wit, and will long hold both grudge and loyalty.

3. Do they have a special place?

Since she was a girl Woodbird’s favourite place has been Ringsbarrow, a high lump of land atop one of the many fellspurs in Thrasymene. From there she is afforded a good prospect of her Honour and a view of the awful things in time. Skander, whose life has been happier and who is less disposed to brooding, has always preferred the south apsis sunroom and study of Lookinglass or (even better) the back of a horse on a hunt par force.

4. What occupation do they have, or plan on having?

Both Skander Rime and Woodbird Swan-neck are born into positions of power, and fill those positions. Woodbird is the third and youngest of a female triumvirate, Skander is the sole head of the Honour of Capys. Neither of them have ever considered having any other occupation, though in her younger years it never occurred to Woodbird that such a responsibility would fall on her. But there is enough variety in each of their occupations to keep them from growing bored or stir-crazy. Life is never dull.

5. Describe their current places of residence.

After all its curtain walls Margaret had almost expected the House itself to look somewhat small and ridiculous—a small thing couched defensively behind a mind-numbing tonnage of stone. So she caught her breath in spite of herself when they passed up through the last gate of all—guarded by watchtowers and garlanded in hoarwithy—and came under the light-spangled shadow of the House.

Ah, this means I get to describe one of my favourite locations thus far. Skander Rime, Lord of the Honour of Capys, makes his home (as his ancestors have made their home since long ages past) in the House of Lookinglass, only a day’s dusty ride up Glassdale from where Margaret is forced to reside. It’s a big place for a single man to rattle about in, but Skander, somewhat reclusive by nature, is also by nature honest and friendly: his people look up to him and, in turn, he depends heavily on them. They make an odd but comfortable sort of family.

The late light, caught up here like yellow wine in a glass, struck off the House’s numerous windows and scattered it brokenly all over the courtyard. Here the gold air was embroidered with silver. The House itself was loftier-built than Marenov√©, which was squat and somewhat sullen of appearance: it had the delicacy and liveability of a working cathedral with its soaring gables and pinnacles, its ramparts decorated in verdigris copper.

Woodbird Swan-neck lives in the long house of Thwitandrake in Thrasymene, and whether the old name means “Duck” or “Dragon,” no one really knows. Despite its long years and numerous additions attached to it, the building remains roughly axial, rich in hand-worked design, and a growing museum to the Thrasymene heritage. It does not grow very quickly, of course. Thrasymene is not a great Honour on the map.

6. Explain their last crisis. How had they changed when they came out of it?

Their last crisis together would not reflect very well on either of them. Observing the family feud of his neighbouring Honour, Skander’s father took the side of the family member Woodbird least liked. Her sisters have not forgotten this (nor has she), but while Woodbird was willing to exempt young Skander from his father’s alliances, her sisters were not. Their childhood romance was cut short when Woodbird was persuaded by her sisters to refuse Skander’s proposal. Since then both of them have been confused, awkward, angry, and not at all sure if they are willing to break years of bitterness and hurt to restore their relationship.

7. If they could ride any kind of horse they wanted, what would it be?

Well, Skander has the pick of any horse he wants. The horse of his choice and gem of his heart is Blue-bottle Glass, a blue roan courser with a blood-line tracing back to the Carmarthen steppes horses. He has had his courser since it was born and, though their natures are rather divergent (Blue-bottle Glass can have a temper), the two are a perfect pair.

Woodbird, on the other hand, does not care quite so particularly about her mounts. She prefers them skittish and chancy with excellent stamina and a heart for a fight, but colour and breed do not matter much to her. Two horses she cares about: her grandfather’s ancient war-horse, long past its prime and retired to the Thwitandrake paddocks, and her customary flea-bitten mare who, after the nature of most ginger girls, has a quick temper and a fierce bite.

8. How do they deal with change?

Contrary to his attitude on remarkable happenstances, Skander doesn’t like change. He resents it sullenly, and I confess he almost—almost—pouts. He takes change in stride, of course, he’s man enough for that, but he doesn’t like it. (The near-pout only makes an appearance in sullen instances. He looks rather terrible when he is actually angry.) Juxtaposed to his attitude, Woodbird sweeps head-long into change, backed by a giddy wind.

9. If they had to amputate one body part, which one would they choose?

They would both choose the left hand. If at all possible they would keep their legs for walking and riding, their right hands for swords, and, in a pinch, the stump that remained of their left forearms could be trained to hold reins and would be wrapped to carry a hawk. They would get on, Skander and Woodbird.

10. What would their favourite be at the local coffee shop?

Skander and Woodbird enjoy the popular coffee liqueur; Woodbird will have coffee with cream and sugar, or tea, if coffee liqueur is not available, but Skander, cheated of his favourite beverage, will take his coffee black.

11. How did they meet?

They met as children at an influential and singular Moot which I will not go in to, since the children cared little for politics at that time and the whole thing largely passed over them. They were of the same age, they were both stubborn, they both agreed passionately on the subject of kennel construction, and the childhood romance bloomed instantly, putting out a single defiant blossom. Over the years the plant has grown somewhat thorny, but the roots have driven deep.

12. How do these two deal with conflict?

In the throes of conflict Skander has two normative reactions. He will either grow very quiet and contemplative, or, passing beyond that, become sarcastic and even rather witty. Only on rare occasions and with extreme provocation does his usually amiable nature come to a desire for blows. Woodbird plays with conflict the way a cat plays with a mouse, if she feels confident of gaining the upper hand; if not, she shuts up into an awful icy quiet—with her distinct owlish eyes, she makes for an unnerving companion when you have angered her.

13. Do they have a special song, phrase, item, or place?

They do not—or none that they have told me of. I gave them “Only the Good Die Young” for a laugh—a laugh without much laughter in it.

14. What kind of things do they like to do together?

Outside observation would determine their favourite pastime to be quarrelling. At the New Ivy gala, for the first time in nearly ten years, Woodbird actually wanted Skander’s company, but perhaps that was only because she was getting out of Rupert’s. It’s hard to say.

15. Describe their relationship as a whole in three words or less.

Prejudiced. Proud. Persevering.

“Why,” said Margaret, turning from the servant who took her wrap, “I had no idea you lived in church.”
Skander’s smile, quick and pleasant, was oddly mirthless. “You think so? Perhaps you’re right.
I had always thought it the other way around…”

The Great Ones

Their footsteps yet remaining do testify that they were indeed holy men who, fighting so valiantly, trod the world under their feet.
Of the Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis

I lay the blame for this once more on Rachel, (who is indisposed at present, mourning the fate of Les Miserables). Due to being out of town for some days and having come to one of those awkward social situations which I am not quite sure how to get Margaret sensibly through, I have been kicking my heels to not much avail. ("It'll come to you. Remember how you got out of that jail!") I'm a great dodger of responsibility, I'm ashamed to say, and rather than plough through the social mess I've slithered out and worked on other parts of Plenilune. One advantage slithering out gives me is that I get to see where characters stand down the road, what their opinions become, and generally what direction they have gone, so that in the present I may help to guide them there. But if I slither hard enough, I'll come right out behind myself in the end. I would like to introduce you now to the cast of Plenilune - or, the cast thus far. I give them no rank besides "Lord" or "Lady;" they wish to remain masked for now.

Margaret Coventry // Rupert de la Mare // Skander Rime // Rhea // Aikaterine // the blue-jay man // old Hobden // Livy // Malbrey // Witching Hour // Thairm // Talbot // Curoi // Dammerung War-wolf // Widowmaker // Gram // Lord Gro FitzDraco // Herluin // Lord Bloodburn // Blue-bottle Glass // Twiti // Latimer // Snati // Mark Roy // Romage // Aikin Ironside // Brand the Hammer // Centurion // Grane // Black Malkin // Woodbird Swan-neck // Altai-tek // Lady Kinloss // Melchior // the Fox // the Great Blind Dragon // Plenilune

These are the people I am working with, or will be working with, or manipulating, or however you choose to look at it. Now that I put them on paper (or blog), they don't seem to be that much. In person they are much more life-like and difficult. Here they are only so many names no one knows.

Your lord and mine are busy,” he said, not offering to introduce himself with anything more than a musing sort of smile; “and there will not be time enough for it later, but if my lady will come up with me on the guardhouse parapet I will name to her the names of the great ones as they pass by.”
plenilune, the blue-jay man

"A Side Wind? What Kind of a Side Wind?"

You know that quote "You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me," attributed to C.S. Lewis? I want to know where that comes from, and if he really said it, because I see it so much that I begin to wonder... I've run across a number of famous quotes of his in Mere Christianity and The Four Loves, and a number of famous quotes of Chesterton's in The Everlasting Man, and I put it to the people who use those quotes to prove to me that they had read those quotes previously in those books, and not that they had merely nicked them off the internet because they thought they sounded nice.

Oh, you are the Inquisition tonight!

I've been rather quiet around here lately, but that's only because I've been out of town and out of my normal routine. Now I am home and kind of recovered, back into the normal way of things, and I've finally come face to face with the truth. There is a saying, "Too many books, not enough time," and I don't have to know who said that because, like Newton's law of gravitation, it doesn't belong to any one person, it's simply a fact of reality. At the beginning of the year I had, tentatively, put forward a proposed list for what I wanted to read this year. It grew, alarmingly, and then...died. This is what my original list, with the additions, looked like before its death:

The Art of Medieval Hunting - John Cummins
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
The Kirkbride Conversations - Harry Blamires
The Everlasting Man - G.K. Chesterton
The Golden Warrior - Hope Muntz
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Discarded Image - C.S. Lewis
Moonblood - Anne Elisabeth Stengl
When Christ and His Saints Slept - Sharon Kay Penman
The Four Loves - C.S. Lewis
The Darkness and the Dawn - Thomas B. Costain
The Conquering Family - Thomas B. Costain
The Improvement of the Mind - Isaac Watts
Sword Song - Rosemary Sutcliff
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun - J.R.R. Tolkien
Purgatorio - Dante
The Song of Roland - Unknown
The Problem of Pain - C.S. Lewis
Starflower - Anne Elisabeth Stengl
God, the Center of Value - C. David Grant
Of the Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
Human Nature in Its Fourfold State - Thomas Boston
The Witch's Brat - Rosemary Sutcliff
Blood Feud - Rosemary Sutcliff
Jesus Among Other Gods - Ravi Zacharias
Gleanings From Paul - A.W. Pink

I have read several of these. The Kirkbride Conversations, The Everlasting Man, Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, and Sutcliff's The Witch's Brat are all completed. But then I went and read The Ballad of the White Horse, by Chesterton (in case you couldn't tell), and a Lord Peter mystery called Clouds of Witness, and the two follow-up books to Howl's Moving Castle: Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. These were not exactly on my list. There is nothing like making a list to get other things done. I'm not really strict about my lists: they are structures for me, if I need structures. And this list in particular seems to have imploded under its own weight and begins anew to look more like this:

The Art of Medieval Hunting - John Cummins
The Golden Warrior - Hope Muntz
The Discarded Image - C.S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain - C.S. Lewis
Moonblood - Anne Elisabeth Stengl
The Darkness and the Dawn - Thomas B. Costain
The Improvement of the Mind - Isaac Watts
Of the Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
The Song of Roland - Some French Dude
Purgatorio - Dante
Jesus Among Other Gods - Ravi Zacharias
Blood Feud - Rosemary Sutcliff
Bonnie Dundee - Rosemary Sutcliff
The Napoleon of Notting Hill - G.K. Chesterton
Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
Centuries - Thomas Traherne

That is still somewhat lengthy for my reading pace. Some books, like Of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis and Centuries by Thomas Traherne, will take a long time to finish, as they need to be read only a little bit at a time. I am proud to say that I am nearly finished at last with The Art of Medieval Hunting. I really am enjoying it, but it is long and I am a slow reader. I had it the other day when I was with a friend and she asked me what I was reading. Feeling put on the spot, I hesitantly told her, fully aware of how bizarre it sounds for me to be reading a large book on the subject of hawks and hounds. She began with, "It sounds..." "Overwhelming?" I supplied in an attempt to be both helpful to her and gentle on myself. "Boring," she replied frankly. I was taken somewhat aback by this, but I was also thoroughly humoured. I am used to people gentling me with their pitying disinterest in my bizarre, eclectic taste in literature. I know they mean well, but the patronizing begins to gall one after a while. So my friend's bluntness, completely taking me by surprise (she is such a sweet girl, always loath to give any offence), warmed the cockles of my heart.

I have a more manageable list at present. I don't know how long that will last. I do try to keep things mixed - you can see the list is eclectic in the extreme. I have been reading a lot of Chesterton lately, but then Chesterton was missing for most of my life and I am trying to catch up. Thanks, Anna. Also, between Bonnie Dundee, Kidnapped, and my debates about whether or not my six-year-old niece would enjoy Flame-Coloured Taffeta, there appears to be a sort of conspiracy among the Jacobites to get me to read about them. I think they know I'm Parliamentarian.

"The Jacobites are in."


For a long while after that the only sounds were that of Skander’s book falling to his lap and he was quite asleep, and the tinselly rustle of the fire that was slowly putting Margaret to sleep as well...

I'm sure you have at least once in your life experienced that awful moment when, in a hurry, distracted from your book, trying to accommodate the haste of another, you let your book drop shut. Without the bookmark. I'm sure you know that awful moment in which you stared paralyzed at your tome, willing the bookmark to be in the book, unable to actually believe what has happened. Then you click into motion again. Nothing else matters. The scramble for the bookmark ensues, the scramble for your place, the hopeless wailing in your head which only you can hear. You had been wrapped up in the story: you can't remember what page you were on, or what chapter number you had just passed. All that mattered before was the story. Even the book itself had ceased to exist until that fateful moment when you let it close (like locking a door with the keys on the wrong side) without its bookmark in place.

Bookmarks get very little press or appreciation, yet they are so very important. You never appreciate them until they are suddenly not there, and then the fate of the entire world hangs upon the recovery of a small card of paper which your mother may or may not have slipped into the trash, mistaking it for...trash. Nobody else understands, of course. The world is a very hard-hearted place. This is a terror which must be experienced to be understood. Poor little bookmarks. I love them so.

Bookmarks come in a variety of breeds, and they are not a very proud or pompous lot. You can find them in many shapes and sizes. Some are three-by-five index cards. Some are ripped-off pieces of college-ruled paper. Some are napkins folded over and severely crumpled. Some are those sheeny, odd advertisement bookmarks that Amazon and Alibris are fond of stuffing in along with your order. Some are sticky-notes. They could be disused coin sheaths, or a letter from a friend. In short, anything small and remotely papery may or may not be recruited into the ranks of bookmarkery. Oftentimes bookmarks are whatever comes easily to hand when you need to put your book down. They are usually unassuming and not always very pretty, which fact is largely responsible for their being so thoroughly taken for granted.

I have quite a horror of laying books open on their faces. It isn't good for their spines and I like my books to be well looked after and to last long. So I use bookmarks, and I am very proud of my bookmarks. They aren't expensive or grand (in fact, they are a little eccentric), but they do the job and I love them. The one which looks like a calling-card for Hollister Jeans had been keeping my place in Howl's Moving Castle, but having finished that it is waiting for a new book. The advertisement card for Twinings chai tea is matched up with Of the Imitation of Christ right now (the reds and golds look so nice together). The bookmark with the red tassel and the painting of King Peter (the Magnificent) is keeping my place in the first chapter of God the Center of Value, and the tasseled, Celtic bookmark is holding my place in time and bookishness within The Golden Warrior. I discovered that the brand tags for jeans make excellent bookmarks: Red Rivet Jeans is a thick, card-stock fellow with pretty type and a black ribbon: he holds my place in The Art of Medieval Hunting; my grey L.E.I bookmark with its tattered white ribbon is holding place in Blood Feud, and my lace-woven L.A.L. tag is waiting patiently in David Copperfield.

I know them all and I am very fond of them. I am heartbroken when any of them gets misplaced, but thankfully they seem to love me too, since they always turn back up again. They are as dear to me as the books I read, and very much like companions, always there reading with me (though I fear they get a very disjointed view of the content of my books, as I don't insert them in every page as I go). There may be no frigate like a book, but without The American Practical Navigator of bookmarks sailing would be rough.

Appreciate your bookmarks!

Skander's Tone Was Mild But Peeved

God grant every gentleman
Such hawks, such hounds, and such a leman.
With a downe, derrie down...

It's the first of March, which is hard to believe. I was a little turned about on the matter of the Leap Year - I could not recall if it gave February a day or took one away, and how many days February had to begin with, and it all seemed very high-handed and unfair to February, even if February is the Monday of months. Also, I finished a book around 12:30 last night and could not decide if it should belong to February or March... I decided February had got enough books and gave it to March.

Now, to the matter in hand. Katiebug hasn't put up her link to her monthly snippets game just yet, but I'm afraid this is the most leisurely time I will have to participate in it. I have a notion that you might be getting tired of the sheer amount of Plenilune which has been populating The Penslayer lately. Of course, Anna was wrong on that score about The Brew, but people do like change... Unfortunately, Plenilune is what's going, and thank goodness it is going and not spinning its wheels. Now, without further ado (because I can make ado in much quantity) here are pieces of my scribbles:

March Snip-Whippets
(that is to say, snippets from February that I'm posting in March)

...she was joined at her right hand by another woman who had left the dance. Margaret did not recognize her; underneath the plumage of white feathering and chiffon and masque of black velvet and swan’s-down, she did not think she would have recognized the woman if she had been her own mother. She swooped close, paused a moment like a bird stalling in mid-flight, and finally alighted soundlessly in the next chair. Two pale gold, owlish eyes blinked at her out of the masque. Margaret’s face felt naked under that stare without a masque of its own.

Margaret lost sight of him for a while after that. The crowd came between, moving out of the ballroom and down a long, high, dark passage which was full of draughts. Margaret shivered and wished for a wrap, but there did not seem time to get one and she would not have asked Rupert. She went with him silently, shiveringly, until they reached a high beaten copper door, tabbied with red glint and verdigris, and were let out into the dark, windy garden. The wind rushed at Margaret, sending her red skirts dancing, and she clenched her fists to keep from recoiling or being carried off on the gale. What a wild night on which to light bonfires!

They stepped out into the long colonnade along the south wall of the nave and followed it with the fresh, green-purled garden rushing wave-like up to its stone walk; somewhere in the lower barberry bushes a starling was singing, and very strongly, as if it would sing out its heart with its notes. It was always windy at Lookinglass, but the south colonnade was more sheltered than the rest of it and for few moments, as they walked along, Margaret had the sense of being in the curling inside of a whelk-shell, cool and white and flickering with pale colour while the sea-roar of the wind boomed around them.

He comes because I bid him come, and there are yet men who come when I whistle for them. Do you bide quietly now and we will all come up again to see you this evening and fuss and make much of you. Sleep, now.”

To her surprise it was unlovely, a serviceable but battered thing, the sheath plain hard leather casing, its chape and locket of half-heartedly decorated metal; the cross-guard was plain, the pommel sported a mere unimaginative sunburst which seemed mockingly incongruous for a man who might have been Overlord of Plenilune. But the potency had been there—was still there—and the shining of it which Margaret could not see but could feel was glinting on it yet.

"Nay, but it is at high tide that the tide begins to turn."

He appeared that morning, not in grim costume to reflect the fate of Plenilune laid out of the blade of a sword, but in a jacket of sparkling white, pristine, supple, comfortable, and stitched with bravado. The smell that came from him—or was it more of a sense?—was of mingled thunderstorm and spice which made the senses and smells and colours around him pale in comparison.

No doubt he felt her gaze, for presently he turned on one bare heel, very smoothly and like a dancer, and caught her eyes with his—the hypnotic sort, she thought with another little panicked flutter where her heart was: so pale blue they were nearly silver. For a moment his face was only eyes, those witching-blue, hypnotic eyes, and then, suddenly, he smiled—a gash of a smile across the lower part of his face, that was like a spate of rain and a spate of sun at once, a mirthless sort of humour. And about his eyes, when she looked back at them, there were sudden thin, deep wing-lines that were like grief and laughter both at once, so that she could not decide if the light look of mockery was in earnest or only from long habit.

She stared at him carefully between the light-laced edge of the curtain and the amber-coloured background of the room, stared into his harlequin face, half in light, half in shadow…and somehow she knew that it was not merely to settle a score that he chose to stay. She had stayed then because they had both been something like exiles, and so something like friends; and now that the exiling was over—for him, at least—the friendship had remained. So he stayed, and she knew why...

"Is Plenilune a hollow cup for you with which to hold your wine?"