Readings in Old and Middle English

While randomly browsing YouTube the other  day, I happened across this video:

It’s a reading from an associate professor at MIT, reading some lines from Beowulf in Old English. It’s quite incomprehensible to my American-English trained ears. It’s hard to believe this is what English sounded like once upon a time.

The associate professor also reads Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in Middle English and this I can understand somewhat. A little bit, if I listen closely.

It’s really amazing what English used to sound like.

Friday Flash: Moving On

I pushed aside the canary yellow silk curtains and looked out over the city through clear modern panes of the balcony doors.

My balcony was made of black, wrought iron, like every other balcony in this city, decorated with fanciful shapes of flowers and butterflies.

Beyond the edges of my apartment, steel and brass towers speared into the sky. They were silver and dun gold, like drops of metal fallen from the sky. On the eastern shores of the island, barely visible from here, were several equally tall and massive trees. Some sported hundreds of flowers; others had only plain dark green leaves; and one bristled with sharp, piney needles.

Hotels, businesses and homes, they housed the most powerful covens to claim a place in this city. Less powerful ones contented themselves with steel and bone-wood homes.

My permanent home, now. Somewhere in the teeming mass of people was my soul-bonded. He wouldn’t welcome me, that I knew. I’d betrayed him. My fingers tightened on the cool silk curtains.

It hardly mattered that the betrayal wasn’t what he thought. I didn’t deserve his forgiveness.

The balcony door panes blurred with water droplets. I glanced up at the sky. Still a clear, hard blue.

I jerked the curtains shut. I didn’t need to see this, didn’t need to think about this. There were other things in my life, now.

The Wine-Dark Sea

I read Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher last week.

In it, he says something surprising, that the phrase “the wine-dark sea” from Homer’s epic is not poetic license (it certainly looks like poetic license to me!) but straight description. And not even description of the color of the sea – the Ancient Greeks apparently had no word for the color blue – but a description of the darkness of the sea.

And not just sheep, but oxen, too: the wine-dark oxen.

Also, Homer also apparently uses violet to describe the sea, sheep and iron.

I was really quite astonished. The idea of describing how dark a color is instead of the specific color strikes me as odd.

But if you have no word for blue – blue things being rare in nature; the color of the sky and ocean are vastly different from each other and change based on the time of day anyway and weather. With such few blue things around you, maybe you don’t need a word for blue. And how would you then describe the sea or the sky?

Teaser Tuesday: Night Blooming

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

Should be interrupt her praying?”

“If we wait for her to finish, we may be here well past nightfall, and you will not have that banquet that your cooks are preparing for you even now,” said the Priora, who knew enough about the Bishop to be certain of his evening plans. “You have musicians and jugglers at your villa, have you not?”

– Night Blooming by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Favorite Childhood Reread

I reread a favorite childhood book last book: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

And it came to me: the book was written in a 3ed person omniscient POV.

I knew, of course, that it was written in 3rd person POV. But I haven’t read it in years and I’d somehow thought it was written it 3rd person limited.

I don’t know why. Maybe I am just so used to 3rd person limited. And back when I first read it, I didn’t know the difference between 3rd person limited and 3ed person omniscient.

The difference is so striking now, such a change from the usual stuff. It wasn’t confusing at all! But it is still as good as it was when I first read it.

I quite enjoyed it.

Teaser Tuesday: American Elsewhere

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teasers:

Her mother was wearing a teal bathrobe and her hair was wet, and Mona remembers how embarrassed she was when he wind rose and the bottom of her mother’s bathrobe lifted up and Mona saw coarse pubic hair and realized her mother was nude under that robe, just naked as a jaybird. Her mother called for her to come, and Mona obeyed her mother knelt and whispered into Mona’s ear that she loved her, she loved her more than anything, but she couldn’t stay here, and she was so sorry.

– American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Action Scene on Page 1

This thought occurred to me today: It’s been a while since I’ve read a book had an action scene on page 1.

The last one was probably an urban fantasy several years ago. Even that went like this: stalk, stalk, fight scene.

Is that weird? I don’t feel like it is. But I am also considering rewriting the beginning of my WiP to an action sequence and I don’t think that is weird, either.

Is there some sort of unwritten rule that says: Thou shall not begin with an action scene?

I feel like I am breaking some sort of rule by wanting to start with an action scene. Well, more like a training/sparring sort of scene, a test of sorts for the main character.

And books start all the time with tests. Still. It would be all action, complete with a chase and a sort of explosion (a weak explosion. very weak).

Friday Flash: Lost

I wrote this real fast and I’m not sure how it came out so . . . here you are!!!

She eyed the mob screaming on the palace steps and fingered the gold ring in her skirt pocket.

Oh, this was bad. Very bad. Not that she could understand what they was saying, but it couldn’t be good.

Good thing she wasn’t responsible for this; she’d only arrived in the country just three days ago.

She rubbed the distinctive flat head of the ring. It was all good, she reassured herself. Everything was fine. She would get out of this.

“What they saying?” she asked. For a boy who thought they was twins, he sure was stupid.

He smiled at her, happy as a child with a handful of sugar. “Do you recall the temple we visited yesterday? A . . . an artifact, I suppose you would call it, disappeared from there yesterday.”

Horrified, she looked up into his bright purple eyes. How had they discovered it so soon? She had stolen it only hours ago, right before dawn. “But I thought . . . guess you was wrong about only the royal family being able to touch it. Just silly folktales afterall.”

He smiled, shook his head. “Come. You were stolen so young, you still don’t understand our ways. Your ways. Mother wishes to see you.”

Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Blurb from GoodReads:

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

 

I really enjoyed The Ghost Bride. The concept is new to me, a living woman married to the ghost of dead man.

The villains: stalker ghost and his deceased family.

My favorite: the afterlife.

Things I expected, but didn’t get:

  • From the blurb, I thought she was a ghost bride. She got a proposal, but there was no wedding.
  • There was a trial of the villains and I would have liked to see it. I guess only the results mattered to the main character, but the omission of the trial disappointed me.

Things I Liked Least: the romance wasn’t especially convincing.

The afterlife in this book is complicated, complete with bribery and corruption, demons and dragons who serve as minor government officials. I loved it. But I really love ghosts and dragons.

The ghost stalks her from the afterlife, and had he lived, I cannot think he would be much different. If he had lived and she had married into the household (their fathers had a childhood arrangement for her marry the cousin). I think he would have been an awful in-law, the kind who would hit on her and retaliate when she refused.

He haunts her dreams and insists she marry him. He sets up a party in her dreams, complete with unappetizing spirit food, and is upset when she rejects him.

She goes to see a medium, who gives her some medicine to keep the stalker ghost away. But one day it stops working, so she takes a lot more and gets so sick her soul is ejected from her body.

That’s when the book gets interesting. She meets hungry ghosts, a dragon, and she goes to the Plains of the Dead. The Plains is the underworld, with little villages and cities of ghosts. It is wonderful. This portrayal of the spirit world was amazing. This is my favorite part of the book.

The character comes into her own here. It stands in her good with her romance with the cousin of her stalker.

So . . . Girl sees boy; girl thinks she’s in love with boy. Truthfully, this romance never worked for me. I mean, he’s a good guy. But it just happened so fast. She visits him in his dreams and he burns a horse for her (she finds it very helpful in the Plains of the Dead). So I can’t see the romance was useless. But I think it was more lust at first sight rather than love at first sight.

In fact, I think, she fell in lust with the dragon, too. Who can blame her? And no human can compete with a dragon. She left with him in the end, but I don’t buy she’s is in love with him. Plus, he rescued her. So he’s a good guy, too.

In the end, I really, really enjoyed the books. The descriptions were marvelous. The story moved forward at a fairly brisk pace. It was well-written. You should read it, especially if you like ghosts.