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I ended up reading three books about Paris and Parisian artists up through World War 1. And one science fiction novel.

Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends Through the Great War by Mary McAuliffe. A fascinating look at Paris and Parisians during a time of artistic, cultural, and scientific ferment. Each chapter covers a year between 1900 and 1920. Characters enter and exit, all their lives intertwining, feuds and love lives stopping and starting. I never knew Marie Curie and Albert Einstein met and went hiking together. I never knew how influential Gertrude Stein was. The war years are sad, but the chapters did give me a firmer grasp of how World War 1 affected the French. I liked that she stayed focused on Paris. The city itself is a character in the book. She did some very careful research and the approach is quite scholarly. It’s well worth reading.

Paris at the End of the World: How the City of Lights Soared in Its Darkest Hour, 1914-1918 by John Baxter. It’s a somewhat interesting read but not at all what it is billed to be. The story focuses as much on the search for his search for his grandfather’s history as it does on Paris. The sections on Paris are less about the war and more about people’s sex lives, focusing on prostitutes and gay men. Salacious is the word for it. It was odd reading this one right after Twilight of the Belle Epoque because they are so different. I hardly recognized some of the same incidents, they were described so differently. Many of the illustrations are from the tabloids of the time. I haven’t read any of the author’s other books. This book makes me think I haven’t missed much.

Liberty’s Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell. An interesting book about how the Statue of Liberty came to America. It’s an icon now but it’s surprising how many people were indifferent or hostile to the project. The opening chapters focused on Bartholdi’s history, including his mother’s influence, his trip to Egypt and his involvement in the disastrous Prussian conflict. He conceived the project and then spent years in fundraising and trying to get the support of influential people. Joseph Pulitzer spearheaded New York fundraising efforts, Gustave Eiffel created the skeleton, Victor Hugo supported the project. Emma Lazarus wrote her famous poem as part of a fundraising effort. It’s very well researched but the stories about the fundraising got a little repetitious. It did make the point that projects unpopular at the time can go on to be roaring successes. And that difficulty in execution is no bar to success.

Transhuman by Ben Bova. My fiction book of the week. This is an excellent combination of speculative fiction and suspense. A biologist working on gene manipulation thinks he’s discovered a cure for cancer. The government and the corporation funding the research want to control it. A little girl’s life depends on it. It’s well written and worth reading.
vamysteryfan: (books)
Via [personal profile] twistedchick, I was introduced to "Welcome Home" by Janis Ian. She wrote and performed it when she was toastmistress at a Nebula Awards Banquet. Janis' website has links to an unplugged version and one with a band, as well as annotated lyrics.

I think I've read 90 percent of the authors she referenced. I plan to read the others, since they are in such good company. We must be roughly the same age bracket, since I did read so many of them

I got a little teary-eyed listening to the song. I started reading science fiction when I was in elementary school. It definitely wasn't cool. As uncool as being interested in the science classes. Girls weren't supposed to like astronomy and chemistry. If I hadn't read science fiction, I wouldn't be as technically savvy as I am.

The song is set to her famous "At Seventeen"

Annotated lyrics back here )
vamysteryfan: (books)
NPR recently polled its listeners on the top 100 science fiction/fantasy books of all time. The list is here I've read nine of the top ten, 38 of the top 50, and 60% of them all.

I've read most of the classics, but am behind on contemporary fantasy. Still, a few authors look intriguing.

My reading this year tended towards mysteries and nonfiction. Total books for the year: 187. Some of my top ten authors are Terry Pratchett, Louise Penny, Stuart Woods, and Donna Leon. Getting cleverer every day!
vamysteryfan: (Default)
My roommate was away for the weekend. It poured rain off and on, so I stayed home and got a fair amount done domestically. I cleaned many of the things, did some hand laundry. I did some cooking too, including a tasty batch of summer vegetable pasta sauce. I even roasted my own red peppers, which is way too labor-intensive. The best was making waffle brownies. I forget whose LJ I nicked the recipe from, but they turned out pretty well. My waffle iron makes heart-shaped ones, so they were cute.

I don't know how many of you have been following Martin Firrell's MetaSciFi project. He interviewed scifi TV stars like Joe Flanigan, Nathan Fillion, Kate Mulgrew, Claudia Black, and others about being a hero. He did a long podcast about the project and talks a lot about the contributions from Joe, Tori Higgenson, and Nathan as well as Eddie McClintock (Warehouse 13). Science fiction isn't culturally respected when it first comes out but it's a great device for exploring issues. The podcast is available free on iTunes from Handsewn Audio. Or from their website
vamysteryfan: (Default)
and she was NICE!

The SFWA is meeting in Crystal City, a hop, skip and Metro ride away. Friday evening they had a massive booksigning with many well-known authors. My friend Katherine and I both love Connie Willis' books so we decided to head over. We were first on line for her. She was very friendly, let us take pictures, and signed my book "Here's to the impossible."

I am wearing my monster t-shirt )

And I've found my "only in DC" for any June visitors. Artomatic returned after three years. They've taken over a ten-story building for the month, with all kinds of art on display. There's performance art, wearable art, etc. It's nonjuried so it can be a bit of a mixed bag. Katherine and I looked at three floors before getting overwhelmed. It's maybe two short blocks from Crystal City Metro, so is easily accessible for visitors.

Me eying some art )

All in all a really nice Friday evening!


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