raven: (stock - roses)
[personal profile] raven
Thank you all again for the congratulations you left on my last post(s). I say this so often, but I never stop being surprised at the warmth and kindness of you all.

Wedding planning has begun, though it really does seem like a rehearsal for all the rest of my life in that everything about weddings is culturally dictated, and if you happen to hail from more than one then congratulations, it’s time to feel really bad about yourself. (This is exaggeration. Kinda.) There are some small delights about wedding planning though: reading through all the poetry you ever heard of to try and find a reading, and not finding one, but feeling washed clean and translucent with joy because hey, you just re-read all the poetry you ever knew; discovering that the General Register Office for Scotland has many obscure requirements for a marriage but operates in the warm shadow of Scottish marriage reform; learning that your mother-in-law can, without fuss and fanfare, cast precious metal.

(I am not really sorry that I don’t do family law, mostly because I hear from people who do that it involves cowering under meeting room tables as clients’ chairs are thrown, but that said I find the law concerning births, marriages and deaths an oddly poetic area. Like any area of law where the public intersects with the private, it has to tread softly, and has that fascinating side-effect where purely legal text is transformed into something rare and poetic. (Witness this sentence from the GRO website: where no name was recorded for the still-born child at the time of registration, a name can be added at the request of the parents. There’s a whole novel to be written based on that sad little registrars’ note.) On that topic, people have used Goodridge v Massachusetts as a wedding reading, and I think that’s lovely, but appropriative in my case. Back to the drawing board.)

Life continues, otherwise. I have about a month left in the current job, with no word on where they’re putting me in September, and there’s a chance I may be responsible for a first-year trainee which bothers me greatly (I am a year into my training, which doesn’t seem long enough for me to have any sort of responsibility for anyone else); Shim passed his driving test first time (hurrah! I no longer have to drive anywhere okay that might be a lie, also I love my little green car); and, very excitingly indeed, the South African Siren is coming to see me! I have missed her so – for new readers, she was my dearest friend for the time I lived abroad, and I haven’t seen her in more than a year – and she will be HERE and we will have COCKTAILS and yes.

And in the meantime, I have been getting really, really excited about the Olympics. I’m not at all interested in sport for four years and then suddenly I really really am. I mean I watched Ruta Meilutye win the women’s 100m breaststroke and teared up (she is so cute! Look at her Lithuanian flag nail polish and total disbelief at her own success! Even the reporter gives up on getting anything sensible out of her and says, “Well done, darling!”) and then I watched the drama in the men’s team gymnastics (silver! No, bronze! Oh, the poor Ukrainians) and then I was done and properly hooked. So now I am watching anything that’s on when I get home from work, which approach got me there just in time to see Gabrielle Douglas win the women’s all-around gymnastics. Somehow watching a sixteen-year-old black woman smile shyly while The Star-Spangled Banner is played in her honour before the eyes of the entire world brings out the sniffly idealist in me. I love the Olympics. On Sunday Shim and I are going to see the inaugural women’s boxing. It is the coolest.

When I am not watching the Olympics, I’m reading again, which is nice. I just finished Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein - a purportedly YA novel (purportedly! I was harrowed!) about two friends, a Scottish aristocrat and a mill girl from Stockport, in the Second World War. And I’m going to say now that this is a wonderful book and you should all read it but practically everything about it is a spoiler.

Other reviews of it - [personal profile] skygiants? –[personal profile] musesfool? - that I’ve seen have pointed out something I was subconsciously aware of – that Verity with her wit, her bottomless charm, her competence, her blonde and aristocratic beauty, is a female version of the character archetype best expressed by Lord Peter Wimsey. And it’s amazing how much I love that. I mean – I do. I didn’t know until I had it in my hands that I wanted this, the beautiful charming aristocratic hero who is a woman, and her story is her own.

Does Maddie become Harriet, then? I don’t really think so. But she is the one who does the bravest thing in the novel – brave like standing trial for murder. For Yuletide this year I would absolutely love something Maddie’s Jewish heritage and how that affects how she deals with Julie’s death. If I had any personal knowledge of Jewish custom and tradition I’d want to write it myself. Or maybe something about Maddie, Jamie and Esme Beaufort-Stuart? Oh, this novel, this novel, I put it down just utterly broken. It’s so good, and its women are characterised with such deftness and skill that it shows up in sharp relief how godawful most writing about women is. Maddie and Julie are so real, so fleshed-out, so frightened and so brave and so competent – god, writers and publishers, give me competence! Give me women who are fabulous at what they do! (I feel so often that people – by which I mean mainstream producers of fiction and media, who are mostly men – genuinely believe that it’s unrealistic and contrived for a woman to be talented, competent and respected in her field without having some sort of secret weakness or tragic romantic backstory (I love narratives where this is subverted, though: there’s Amy Pond, who always seems to skirt close to this line – I like the the way “Amy’s Choice” deconstructs it, but then it seems to come back in full force later; and Dana Whitaker, oh Dana, whose whole arc is about discovering that there is no reason to be ashamed of her talent and brilliance, there is no there there.)

And maybe the Machiavellian Intelligence Officer is meant to be Lord Peter Wimsey anyway? Something about the writing suggested that to me, and then Maddie picked “John de Balliol” as her pseudonym for him and I was like… yeah. But oh this book. I am filling this box with these half-baked inanities because I want to talk about it, but it so completely did me in that I can’t even do the thing with the words. Oh, this book.

Next up: The Scottish Prisoner, the latest Lord John Grey book, out in paperback. I have it, but haven’t started yet because to be honest I am afraid this is going to be a Jamie Fraser book (I was suspicious after she dropped “Lord John and” from the title!). And what I love about the Lord John books is that they are not Jamie Fraser books. Urgh.

Tomorrow, to London. Right now I just ate my whole weight in barbecued tofu and things are okay.

on 2012-08-03 08:45 pm (UTC)
musesfool: river and kaylee (no power in the 'verse can stop me)
Posted by [personal profile] musesfool
JUST FLY THE PLANE, MADDIE!

*gross sobbing*

on 2012-08-04 03:51 am (UTC)
lemon_badgeress: basket of lemons, with one cut lemon being decorative (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] lemon_badgeress
. . . so what you're saying is that I shouldn't plan on finishing this book on my lunch breaks at work. (I just started it)

(I glanced at the end because I suck at suspense and the narrative tricks gave away the main spoiler for me almost immediately and I was right, which is the only reason I'm in your comments)

on 2012-08-03 09:36 pm (UTC)
isis: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] isis
Trying to avoid your spoilers, as I do plan on reading CN:V. Alas, Scottish Prisoner is at least half a Jamie Fraser book. The audio version has two readers, one for John's POV (the delectable Jeff Woodman) and one for Jamie's. It's not bad, but I would have been happier with more John and less Jamie; and the M/M sex scene is rather laughable. (Not John/Jamie, no!)

on 2012-08-03 09:36 pm (UTC)
rhivolution: Uhura from Star Trek TOS, leaning over and laughing (oh hell yes: Uhura (TOS))
Posted by [personal profile] rhivolution
A belated congratulations! Part of the reason we didn't get married here in Scotland was indeed the esoteric nature of the regulations, I must admit.

on 2012-08-03 11:01 pm (UTC)
rhivolution: David Tennant does the Thinker (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] rhivolution
It ended up being more practical for multiple reasons for us to get married in the US (M has less family and friends, and they're better able to travel, as well as cost and planning considerations), but we did look into it.

I remember boggling at the necessary paperwork here, though, and I wish you the best with it, and with the planning--it is epic, but the day really does end up being lovely.

on 2012-08-04 02:57 am (UTC)
starlady: (shiny)
Posted by [personal profile] starlady
I was just at a heterosexual wedding with a reading from the Massachusetts decision. It didn't feel appropriative - afterward my friends said that there's a push for people in general to use it at their weddings, and the decision does have some very lovely language about what marriage is. But of course YMMV, it's your wedding, and you should do what you want!

on 2012-08-04 02:13 pm (UTC)
applegnat: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] applegnat
Oh, congratulations on the happy news!

on 2012-08-04 10:13 pm (UTC)
skygiants: a little girl spreads out arms and wings and beams up towards the sky (wings glee)
Posted by [personal profile] skygiants
What I love especially about Verity is that it's not just the wit, the charm and the competence, even -- it's the foibles, the babbling and the random literary references and the tendencies to be too clever for their own good -- and even when women get to be witty and charming and competent (in other people's stories, always in other people's stories) they don't get those foibles; they get broken-bird kind of tragic flaws instead, as you say. I LOVE those foibles. I love that Verity gets to have them.

I think Maddie is more of an Inspector Parker than a Harriet, in a way -- the solid, sensible companion from a completely different class background who serves to ground the protagonist -- but gets more her own story than Inspector Parker ever did, and I love that too.

And the Machiavellian Intelligence Officer is totally Lord Peter Wimsey. His wife went to Verity's college! OF COURSE.

(PS: belated congratulations! :D :D :D)

on 2012-08-03 08:56 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] hathy-col.livejournal.com
Scottish law has the massive bonus of no banns! Also, if I can manage the form you'll breeze through!

on 2012-08-03 09:07 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] loneraven.livejournal.com
Scots law just seems more sensible on every account. It's marvellous.

on 2012-08-04 12:18 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] hathy-col.livejournal.com
It's eminently sensible; I hid from the forms for months and in the end the trickiest bit was making sure to list everyone's job title correctly and remembering Dad's middle name.

on 2012-08-03 09:22 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] littlered2.livejournal.com
The Scottish marriage reform news is so great. Hurrah for them!

I was watching some of the Olympics coverage this evening, and it's so engrossing! I saw Missy Franklin (she's only 17!) break the world record for the women's 200m backstroke, and female athletes competing in the 100m heats while wearing gold jewellery and bright red lipstick, and it is all so great. (I also just watched your men's gymnastics video: wow, Dan Purvis going straight into a forward roll from a backflip!)

That book sounds excellent! I have a soft spot for seeing my name turn up in books, and I love reading about the Second World War, plus my ancestors worked in the cotton mills of Lancaster and Cheshire, so yay for reading about such things.

I hope the delights of wedding planning are greater than the hardships of it.

on 2012-08-03 10:42 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] loneraven.livejournal.com
Me too, me too! Somehow it's the ordinariness of them that makes them so extraordinary - that a girl who likes sparkles and lipstick, and has a Twitter, and goes to school is an Olympic gold medallist! She's sixteen and she is the best in the world at what she does. It gives me so much uncynical joy.

The book is excellent and I thought of you while I read it! If you would like to borrow it when you come up, you should.

on 2012-09-01 01:28 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] littlered2.livejournal.com
I have finished the book now. IT MADE ME CRY ON THE TRAIN. Oh god, poor everyone. (On the plus side, books about the Second World War at least don't have the thing that upsets me the most about books about the First World War - that in twenty years' time there'll be another one, and all of the characters who survived and had children will be seeing their children go off to war. It turns out it is very difficult to accept happy endings to WW1 books when you have this in mind.)

Maddie and Julie are so real, so fleshed-out, so frightened and so brave and so competent – god, writers and publishers, give me competence! Give me women who are fabulous at what they do!

Competence is my absolute favourite thing.

on 2012-08-03 11:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] anotherusedpage.livejournal.com
I saw the women's 100m pre-heats qualifications live today. The runner from Iraq qualified for the olympic finals. I cried, cos I'm just that much of a liberal leftie softie.

There were also a good couple of athletes competing in headscarves.

on 2012-08-04 09:59 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] littlered2.livejournal.com
I cried, cos I'm just that much of a liberal leftie softie.

You say that like it's a bad thing. :)

I found myself getting quite emotional when Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon earlier. Too many feelings!

on 2012-08-03 09:34 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] highfantastical.livejournal.com
I'm not an Olympics person at all but I saw Gabrielle Douglas's win on Tumblr and it was so great & made me so happy.

on 2012-08-03 10:40 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] loneraven.livejournal.com
Isn't she astonishing. I held my breath.

on 2012-08-03 10:54 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] alittleacademe.livejournal.com
I AM SO EXCITED about your wedding-planning, IOAN. Literally no detail will not fascinate me, I adore weddings. :D I get bits of it are probably crap/insanely stressful, but still yay. *hugs you*

on 2012-08-03 11:41 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] anotherusedpage.livejournal.com
I am very tired and not up to commenting properly but I have so many thoughts on mixed cultural marriage ceremonies that they come out of my ears. It's one of the reasons R and I have put it off so long.

(My Jewish family would almost without exception for one reason or the other hate the idea of Jewish content in a marriage ceremony of mine; either because they are assimilated and westernised and kinda heritage-hating or because it wouldn't be proper Jewish... )

(Mixed cultural adoption, also, for further down the line. I mean, I would/will feel like such a fraud asking to bring up Jewish babies. What could I offer them from my assimilated self that could possibly make up for the stigmatism they would recieve in parts of the Jewish community for not doing it properly?)

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