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Showing posts from 2020

To “Fall from Bias of Nature”: A Dissenting Opinion on Good Cordelia

There is an old German saying that an apple generally does not fall far from its tree. A pure nature versus nurture argument, it is usually reserved for decrying unpleasant traits inherited by a wicked person’s offspring, but this philosophy has uses for dramatists too; and in King Lear, Shakespeare often paints Goneril and Regan with the same brush. In the flattery contest of the opening scene, for example, they echo each other in manner and deed. Regan even makes the point that she is “made of that same metal as her [older] sister” (Lr 1.1.69). Younger Cordelia, may appear as an anomaly, claiming to be selfless and true, however a closer analysis reveals she shares many of the same characteristics with her sisters, especially in her capacity to petrify and emasculate, suppressing King Lear’s masculinity (not necessarily a bad thing) as she asserts her sex. Edgar, ironically by using deception, manifests a truer more selfless love. Cordelia is a sympathetic character who values hone…

“By the Strength of Their Illusion”: Reflections on the Scottish Play

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although the signifier “mirror” is absent from Macbeth, and “glass” only appears twice, once as a prop instruction and once in dialogue, The Scottish Play fairly bristles with reflections, though like the mirrors of its time, they are somewhat deceptive. First, of course, is the mirror in the apparition shown by the three witches to the haunted king. Macbeth’s vision of Banquo’s kingly successors, especially “the eighth [who] appears, …bear[ing] a glass… show[ing]… many more” dooms his erstwhile ally (Mac. 4.1.118). The doctor and gentleman who watch Lady Macbeth sleepwalking in Act V, Scene I, are another mirror, this time reflecting the play’s audience. Finally, there are the transgressive mirrors addressed by Garber, those “taboo border crossings” (91) “between a thing and its reflection,” (93) such as “sleep/waking, male/female, life/death, fair/foul, heaven/hell, night/morning,” which pervade Macbeth, seasoning it with Umheiml…

A Book About John Bolton's Dereliction of Duty.

The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John R. Bolton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It is truly appalling that someone who purports to be a public servant would maintain silence in the face of so much corruption going on in the same room, however this review is not about John Bolton, but this book he has written. Bolton's perspective comes with the assumption he is the smartest person in the room. Everyone else is a dummy, inexperienced, or otherwise lacking the ability to perceive the nature of evil in the world. That may be what he is going for, but he just comes off as a monstrous, spiteful, warmongering chickenhawk. All of his choices rely on using sticks, and he has no flexibility at all. Therefore, as a diplomat, he is a useless ass, but there is such a lack of self-awareness that you watch him patting himself on the back with "clever" tactics to avoid responsibility and accountability, dodging here and there, always aiming higher, always just a little bit s…

Finding Redemption in the Deep

The Deep by Rivers Solomon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trying to do this without spoiling it for you, so bear with me. I'm not going to reveal too much more than the synopsis.

First, I really liked the root concept of the story, the origins of the Wajinru, the merpeople. Solomon creates a compelling story of their parallel development with the "two-legs" (humans) and puts her main character Yetu in a predicament that defines whether her species will survive. The story raises many questions about the role of history in indigenous people, and even the survival of languages and artifacts when all the people are gone.

Second, I love the gender bending romance in the middle. It added a necessary stake after the story had stalled for reasons better left to Yetu to explain. I had difficulty connecting with Yetu, but she is, after all, an alien, because I am a Two-leg, so this is actually an example of good writing making me uncomfortable.

The only issue I had with the story is how it …


Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die."

The Call of Cthulhu is a feast of creepiness told in colorful language, which is only flawed by Lovecraft's primitive obsession with physiognomy and base racism. I view it as funny, because they are (to quote HP himself) "obsolete and ridiculous," but I sympathize with people of color who read this and have to deal with dismissive references to such things as Negro fetishism. The story itself is almost without a plot, just a report of a horror of the odious being that the sailors rouse from its sleep. The prose is circuitous and leisurely, but Lovecraft's imagination is perturbing and vision resolves clear in the end, and it's scary. Really scary.

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Pornland is Informative But Also As Boring As Porn

Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Dines's book is an excursion into the destructive nature of pornography on our society. It hits some of the problem on the head, especially the violence of the gonzo olympics. However, the book is flawed in that Dines enters the discussion with a set of beliefs about what is normal/anormal, right/wrong, and acceptable/unacceptable. Sex is fuzzy and illogical, and there is no one qualified to set moral standards. Also, part of the problem is how society treats people that pass through the mill, and, honestly, this book doesn't help. I would prefer the judgmental aspects about which acts are barbaric or not to have been left out, because it gets preachy fast, and who am I (and who is Gail Dines?) to tell someone about their sexuality? When the book discusses the violence, the exploitation, and the capitalistic drive of the industry, it does a lot better.

I took a full star away, because after such…

Leviathan Wakes (First story of The Expanse)

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A good story set against a brilliant vision of the future solar system. I love the setting so much, especially all the political interplay. The characters were a bit of a reach for me at first, especially Miller's obsession with the dead girl. I get the career cop angle, the need to solve the case, but sometimes it got a little creepy, especially because Miller was so damaged.

By the middle of the story, after the arcs come together in a moment of delicious pov storytelling (master stroke!), the focus resolves better, and Miller ascends. Holden's crew is great too, and I like Fred & Julie too. Suddenly I'm really enjoying the story (with all the political machinations and interplanetary stratagems) because of the characters and their motivations.

The story takes off at this point, and you must grip tight. It's really impossible to put down, and I am so excited, because... there are so many more stories in th…