Thumbs up for As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe. Fantasy.

A typical fantasy quest story with atypically excellent writing. The main character, Crow, a thief, is a beautifully-drawn combination of neurotic, clever, avaricious, devout (in his own way…), snarky, and just plain funny. If you like fantasy with a memorable first-person narrator, don’t miss this. (One caveat: the female characters are all given extremely short shrift, but I don’t know if that’s typical in the author’s novels or if this book is an outlier.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones. Nonfiction/writing.

The problem of a collection of essays and speeches by one person on a single topic is immediately obvious: the content becomes repetitive. The story of Diane Wynne Jones’s early childhood is now ingrained in my mind, because I’ve read it five or six times. But it’s unfortunate that that is what I now first think of when I think of Reflections, because the non-repetitive bits are filled with such wisdom and cleverness and humor.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. History.

No, I am not one of those people who reads histories of Rome so I can point at current political events and say “See, this is just like that!” Comparing, say, ~240 years of American power to ~2,000 years of Roman power shows a problematic understanding of scale.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Fox’s Tower and Other Stories by Yoon Ha Lee. Science fiction and fantasy short stories.

I’ve raved about Lee’s work here before and will do so again. If you’re not ready to commit to his bizarre and wonderful trilogy about starship warfare based around calendars, try The Fox’s Tower. Most of the stories are at most a page or two, poetic and strange and warm.… >> Read more

Balthazar, before the lunch rush hits

Last night I lamented to a friend that so far the best food I’d tasted on my vacation was my friend Mandy’s homemade pot roast (which is, I grant you, hard to compete with). He suggested Balthazar. Why did I not just ask him to begin with? Balthazar was amazing – the latte, the food, and the service were all miles better than everything I’ve had so far.… >> Read more

Manhattan, Day 4

Today was my Met day. The friend I’m staying with lives in Midtown, so I decided to walk up through the park rather than take the bus. Of course it decided to rain buckets and buckets and buckets and I did not dry out in the four hours I was in the museum. Water even got inside the sleeves of of my heavy lined wool coat and my knee-high leather boots.… >> Read more

Manhattan, Day 3

Drew, the brother of my friend David, generously showed me around town today. First Central Park, then up to the Met Cloisters (which was never a monastery, but contains the cannibalized bits of several).

Then after some fuss with trains, down to Greenwich Village in the blinding rain to meet David and watch The Seventh Seal, as one usually does on vacation.… >> Read more

Walking up to the Strand

Yves Tanguy – Extinction of Useless Lights Vasily Kandinsky – Picture with an Archer Frantisek Kupka – Mme Kupka among Verticals Francis Picabia – I See Again in Memory My Dear Undnie Henri Matisse – The Blue Window Henri Matisse – The Red Studio Claude Monet – Agapanthus (detail) Cy Twombly – The Four Seasons (Winter) Nosebleeds at the Lyceum to see The Play that Goes Wrong

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