Tweetie and I finished our read-aloud of Rising Storm
by Erin Hunter, and before she could throw another Warriors book on the pile, I quick-whoosh
picked up The Willoughbys,
written AND illustrated by Lois Lowry. To my chagrin, I have now realized that I mistook this book for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
by Joan Aiken. WOE and ALAS! The Lowry book is not at all bad though, and Tweetie is not complaining or rolling her eyes. It's a slim book, too, so no harm no foul. Or, No farm no howl, as I first typed.
I zipped through Blood Waters
by Chaz Brenchley, a collection of short stories that I liked an awful lot. A blurb on the back cover reads, "Like a diamond dropped in a pool of sump oil" and that is accurate. I feel as if I could pick Brenchley's work out of a line-up. He has that distinct a voice. Some storytellers sound good to the ear but don't work on the page. Brenchley has a firm grip on both sides of the craft.
These stories came from Brenchley's time as a crimewriter-in-residence for a public sculpture project. If I had any complaint, it'd be that the overall tone seemed one-note, a bit depressing even for someone like me. But just when I began to think there were no happy endings in Brenchley's world, I came to the concluding novella, "My Cousin's Gratitude." It feels like a creative "remix" of an earlier story, "Pawn Sacrifice", and it contains its share of ugliness--child porn, abuse, neglect, and drug use, for examples. But in "My Cousin's Gratitude," our antihero does an about-face, reclaims his humanity, and foils the really
bad guy. If it's not a happy ending, per se, it's at least a triumphant one. It catapulted me out of the book in a good mood, so I look forward to reading more of Brenchley's work!
Online, spurred by a particularly bigoted review, I read "We Are the Cloud
" by Sam J. Miller, which is a near-future science fiction story in which young men in the foster care system are used as human beacons to provide a city with wireless access. The main character experiences aphasia as a result of "clouddiving," of opening his mind to the data that's constantly routed through him. The story hit my soft spot for big guys who aren't too good with words, who are seen as threatening even when they are in fact the victims.
I liked that story so much, I clicked on to read Miller's Shirley Jackson award-winning story "57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides
." That horror-fantasy was stylistically marvelous, but I confess, I didn't enjoy it as much because I didn't sympathize with the main character. Normally I don't see that as a requirement, but here the main character tested his power out on animals first, and though no harm comes to the animals and it's all described very circumspectly, I was too squicked out to really trust the character anymore. That combined with Miller's facility at conveying the character's guilt and self-hatred turned me off.
I've now started reading On the Rim of Mexico: Encounters of the Rich and Poor,
a collection of nonfiction essays about the US-Mexico border, by Ramón Eduardo Ruiz. The first essay, about the devaluation of the peso and its effects, particularly in the 1980s and '90s, was a little hard for me to follow. It felt like, "you would think the result would be X, and it sort of was X, but it was also anti-X and some Y and Z, too." Economics: not my strong suit. But I've moved on to the next chapter, so we'll see.