Sunday, August 9, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: August 2nd to 8th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by posing my dog beside every book I read, barring the digital comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: the first two issues of THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL hit Marvel Unlimited, so I dove in and fell in love. This book is so cute.

I also had a great time with STAR WARS #1 and the beginning of the Secret Invasion part of MIGHTY AVENGERS. I've been dancing around Secret Invasion for nearly a year now, so it's nice to finally get the core story.

On the manga front, I made it a bit further through my stack of FRUITS BASKET. It continues to move and delight me.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lays on a red tapestry comforter, head raised. In front of him is a trade paperback copy of The Outside Circle. Its red cover features a black and white line drawing of a young First Nations man with his right hand pressed over his left arm, which is bleeding. He also has a prominent scar cross his nose.

I began the week with THE OUTSIDE CIRCLE, a comic written by Patti LaBoucane-Benson and drawn by Kelly Mellings. It's deals with Canada's shameful history of destroying Aboriginal families and placing Aboriginal children in places like Residential Schools, where they endured terrible physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. LaBoucane-Benson and Mellings demonstrate how this legacy plays out for one young Alberta man who enters a healing program as part of his prison sentence. While the transitions are sometimes choppy, the comic's core tells a deeply important story that pulls none of its punches. Characters speak of how the government's policies affect them on both a personal and communal level, and it is brutal.

If you're not Canadian want a sense of how brutal before you actually read the comic, be aware that South Africa got the idea for apartheid from how Canada handled affairs with our First Nations population.

Yeah. It's fucking terrible.

I don't feel qualified to comment on the story itself, seeing as how I'm a white Canadian, but I encourage you read it. It's important and it's powerful.

Remember, too: all this stuff is still going on. The last Residential School may've closed (in 1996, not even twenty years ago), but the effects will linger for generations and racism is rampant in Canada. I mean, we have over a thousand unsolved cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and our prime minister says it's "not a priority." He's that fucking flippant about it, and it's hardly the only issue First Nations people grapple with every single day.

We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves, and books like this one can play an important role in that.

Murchie lays outdoors, head raised and front paws on the rim of a soft-sided dog bed patterned in pink and beige stripes. His tongue is extended and curled back to touch his nose. In front of him is a paperback copy of The Mirador. Its red-tinted cover features a pale-skinned, dark-haired woman in a sleeveless black ball gown. She carries a candle and stands in a tomb.

Okay. On to lighter fare (ie, a dark fantasy), and also an adorable dog tongue.

THE MIRADOR and I have a bit of weird history. I loved it right from the first time I read it, but I didn't love it as much as the first two books.

Then I reread it, and I was shocked with Past Memory because it was awesome. This was also the case when I reread it for the third time, but Reread #4 brought it back down to its former "I love this, but not as much as the rest of the series" status. I bumped it from my Top 9 list and everything.

I am Very Serious about my Top Whatever Number lists.

But now it's back on my Top 12 because it's back to being a six-star read. Hurray!

Now, I've tried really, really hard not to go all tl;dr on you with these books, but I've also spent a lot of this reread (meaning this reread of the series, not just of this particular book) thinking about why I love Felix so much and I want to tl;dr about him today. Whenever I recommend these books to anyone, I warn them they're liable to hate Felix, but I myself never have.

I wrote this whole big thing about it that maybe got a bit too personal, but what it boils down to is that Felix is an asshole and he fucks up a lot. When he fucks up in his professional life, he'll do pretty well whatever he has to do to fix it, but when he fucks up in his personal life he has none of the emotional tools he needs to deal with it or to make restitution to the people he's harmed. It's a fascinating divide, and it makes him a fascinating character.

He does do seriously terrible things throughout all of this, and his actions aren't something every reader will be able to get past. I've talked to quite a lot of people who're like, "I tried to read those books you love, but I couldn't get through them because I hated Felix." I myself was hypercritical of him for a long, long time, in large part because he's the literary character I relate to the most. So often, I can see how he could at least start to work towards something better, and I get frustrated with him for shying away from healthier pathways in favour of harmful behavior. But I also get why he behaves this way (which was the maybe-too-personal part of things), and even at his worst, he's more than just an asshole. He's also curious and driven and deeply interested in How Stuff Works, and in the idea that Stuff might not Work the same for everyone (because metaphors), which is my favourite. He takes ages to make any real progress, but he's absolutely worth it in the end.

Plus, he can shoot fiery bolts out of his fingers. Y'all know I'm biased towards people who can shoot fiery bolts out of their fingers1.

And he's got me thinking about the Apollonian and the Dionysian with regards to his madness and the whole noirant/clairant thing. And I love the Apollonian and the Dionysian just as much as I love How Stuff Works.

Tl;dr, Felix Harrowgate is my very favourite queer asshole because of reasons. (Sorry, Ronan Lynch. You're my second favourite queer asshole.) And while Mildmay is still my favouritest of favourite literary characters, I don't think Felix is so far behind anymore.

Murchie lays on a fuzzy, cream-coloured pillow, head down. His hair has been clipped short and he wears a blue and white striped t-shirt. In front of him is a red-bordered iPod with Barrayar's orange-tinted cover on its screen. It depicts a spaceship moving through an indistinct but presumably terrestrial landscape.

Murchie got a new haircut last week, and I got a new audiobook.

I'd planned to listen to Kevin Kwan's CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND next, but Scribd got grumpy while I was out on my walk and wouldn't let me open it without an internet connection, even though I'd spent for bloody ever downloading it to my iPod. So I started BARRAYAR instead.

And we're back in time again to Cordelia's early days as Lady Vorkosigan. I'm only about halfway through, listening time having been at a premium last week, but I'm as fascinated as ever at how Bujold handles the contrast between what the publication-order reader knows and what Cordelia knows. Hurray!

I love how Cordelia doesn't take any crap when the doctors want to abort Miles, too. She's just like, "Nope. Going with a replicator. Don't care if he's born disabled. End of discussion."

Murchie lays on his fuzzy pillow, head raised and ears perked as he looks at something outside the frame. In front of him is a white Kobo with Fool's Quest's cover on its screen. The cover features a dark-haired white guy in vaguely medieval dress wielding an ax. Ghostly wings emerge from his shoulders.

Here's a better shot of Murchie's new haircut. He's all set to cosplay Tramp.

I didn't think I'd actually manage to start FOOL'S QUEST last week, seeing as how THE MIRADOR took me right up until Friday (sob!), but the stars aligned in my favour and I dove in yesterday.

And wonder of wonders, I'm reading at a halfway decent pace! As I write this, I'm more than a hundred pages in, and I think I'm good for a fair chunk more before this post goes live.

Fitz and the Fool are two more of my favourite literary characters, and I'll save my tl;dr for the inevitable review. It won't be ready for the book's release on Tuesday, but I should have something for you the Tuesday after that.

Next week: Probably THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, since I'm buddy reading it with some buddies and I've gotta get on a move on there. CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND, too, if I finish BARRAYAR. Maybe another comic or two. Hopefully at least the beginning of CORAMBIS.

  1. My parents showed me all three Star Wars films when I was eight years old, and that scene where Emperor Palpatine shoots lightning out of his fingers made an enormous impression. I promptly decided I wanted to grow up to shoot fiery bolts out of my fingers, too.

    This did not happen.

    At least, it hasn't happened yet.

    And yeah, okay, fire and lightning aren't exactly the same thing, but if Princess Azula has taught us anything it's that they're related. We couldn't possibly have figured that out on our own.


  1. I'm shaking my head at you sadly for not loving Ronan Lynch enough. Did you end up sorting out an adequate list of queer lady assholes?

    1. Madame, you must never, ever doubt the depth of my love for Ronan Lynch. Never, ever. I love him enough for any five characters who aren't on my Highly Exclusive List of Favourites. Nay, for any ten.

      I got quite a lot of suggestions for queer lady assholes, but I hadn't actually read about or watched very many of them so it's gonna remain an in-progress project.