Jul 07 2020

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

A fast, funny, incredibly relevant look at teenagers and voting in today’s America. Marva Sheridan is the kind of responsible straight-A student whose entire life revolves around how she can make a difference. She’s super-focused and organized, to the point where her parents wish she would let loose and just be an irresponsible teenager every once in a while. Her boyfriend Alec is the cutest guy at the private school they attend, and though he’s white, he totally understands and supports her political activism. Or so she thought. Because today is voting day and he’s decided he’s going to sit out the election because he no longer believes in America’s two-party system.

Duke Crenshaw just wants to do his civic duty and get on with his day. His band has their first paying gig tonight, plus he’s got a big test at school, but voting is important to his family, so much so that he’s been pre-registered to vote since he was sixteen. He is thus utterly gobsmacked to discover that he isn’t on the precinct rolls at all. Overachieving Marva steps in to help, launching the two on a day-long journey of conversation, self-discovery and romance.

This was such a terrific book, covering so many aspects of being Black and biracial in America, as well as the many complex issues surrounding voting today. Marva and Duke are adorable both singly and together as they race around their county to ensure that Duke gets to vote. It’s the perfect book to spur the apathetic person in your life to go line up at the polls — tho having myself recently discovered the joys of the mail-in ballot, I cannot help but think it the superior way to have your voice heard and opinion count. Being able to sit at my kitchen table and have a cup of coffee while looking up each candidate and measure, and then only needing to mark my ballot once and mail it in at my leisure was pretty freaking sweet. Trying to eliminate this option instead of spreading it is a particularly evil form of voter suppression.

My only issue with the book itself was the fairly short shrift both Alec and Kendall got in the narrative. I know that part of the appeal of The Voting Booth is that it takes place on a single, defining day, but I felt that Alec’s change from awesome boyfriend to jerkface was way too abrupt. Also, having been in Kendall’s position, I feel that she deserved way more from Duke than whatever the hell he managed to say before the gig. Heroes of romance novels shouldn’t fuck around with people’s feelings like that, ijs.

Clunky romantic speed bumps aside, this was a really great book about young Americans voting. It deserves to be read widely, and will hopefully encourage more civic participation from its readers (psst, fellow Americans here at home, also visit Vote.org to check on your own registration and other voting info ahead of November.)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/07/07/the-voting-booth-by-brandy-colbert/

Jul 06 2020

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Look at that gorgeous cover. I want to do up a room of my house with that sort of wallpaper.

And yes, I’m digressing because I want to say something nice about this book before I say something(s) that will likely sound churlish. This is not, by any means, a bad book, but it is basically a primer on colonial thought and philosophy for white girls, or more generously for people privileged enough to have profited off of colonialism while never having to reconcile their nice lives with the suffering inherent in the power structures that have enriched them. I think, perhaps, if I had come to this as a teenager myself, as a nascent political being examining my own relationship with society, with what I’ve been given and what I owe, I would have found this book far more thought-provoking and perhaps less derivative. I know it’s meant to be an homage to the many portal fantasy novels that have enlivened the childhoods of millions, but it felt more like a weird retread of The Journey Of Natty Gann meets A Little Princess with a splash of Marianne Dreams, and I felt that my time would have honestly been better spent re-reading Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, even the irritating In An Absent Dream. I also cringed at the interview included in the library edition ebook, where Alix E Harrow claims that everyone came to portal fantasies from the 1988 TV miniseries of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. I’m hoping she was trying to be funny, because that’s such a bizarre thing to say otherwise.

Even so, this book would have been perfectly fine if it weren’t for the fact that January, our purported heroine, is a total ninny. When bad things happen, she realizes that she’s been conditioned to freeze, and then instead of trying to fight her conditioning, she basically falls back on it as an excuse to not fight back. I don’t need the books I read to be inspirational, but I would also like to feel more than a simmering contempt for the characters I’m reading about. Would 100% have preferred to read a book from the perspective of Jane or Samuel or possibly even Ade or, JFC, even Locke (but definitely not Julian, he sucked.) In all honesty, I feel that January was constructed primarily to advance plot rather than to react to it, which is just bad writing. I expected far better of Ms Harrow after reading her short fiction. And after reading the excerpt of her next book, which felt bizarrely derivative of this book, I’m not sure I’m going to be reading much more of her long form stuff in future.

Oh, I guess I should recap the book itself. In turn of the 20th century Vermont, January Scaller is the young ward of rich Mr Locke, who raises the “oddly colored” girl as a proper American miss while her dark-skinned adventurer father goes gallivanting round the world, bringing treasures back for Locke to either hoard or sell. As she grows, she discovers Doors between our world and other realms, but that powerful forces are attempting to close them. When her father is reported dead while on a business trip, she decides to run away. Adventures ensue. Metaphors abound. January is not very smart and not very sympathetic. More metaphors on how reading is A PORTAL TO OTHER WORLDS, in case you, as a reader, were somehow not already aware of this. Plot twists are telegraphed from at least five chapters away.

This is the kind of book I’m predisposed to enjoying but the execution was just really not great. Maybe if I were younger, less socially conscious and/or less well read. Anyway, that’s two Hugo nominees for Best Novel down. Hopefully, I’ll find one I love in the four to go!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/07/06/the-ten-thousand-doors-of-january-by-alix-e-harrow/

Jul 03 2020

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1) by Arkady Martine

So on the one hand, a tale of courtly intrigue in the dazzling court of a foreign empire as seen through the eyes of a vulnerable young ambassador from a much poorer nation. In space! Based on Aztec-Byzantine history and practices instead of your standard Western Europe-Asian influences!

Mahit Dzmare is from Lsel Station (modeled loosely on Armenia), home to a planetless people anchored in a sector of space next to an important space travel jump point. She’s been in love with the Teixcalaanli Empire since she was a child, memorizing their language and literature and dreaming of one day getting a visa to visit. So when she’s selected as Lsel Station’s next ambassador to Teixcalaan, based not only on her own aptitudes but also on her compatibility with the last ambassador, Yskandar Aghavn, she’s both ecstatic and nervous. It’s one thing to go as a tourist, quite another to go as The Official Representative, especially since no one on Lsel knows exactly what happened to Yskandar to prompt such an urgent summons for a new ambassador from the Teixcalaanli capital. Mahit arrives to find an empire in the throes of a succession struggle and, in the manner of such novels, finds herself a key player in determining the future of Teixcalaan.

For all the sci-fi trappings, this is a surprisingly ordinary tale of diplomatic intrigue. The plot itself isn’t bad. It’s just not, once stripped of the tech stuff, at all unusual, especially if you’re a thriller aficionado like myself. What is unusual and thus of interest to jaded genre readers is the gorgeous, intricate world-building coupled with the incisive eye Arkady Martine brings to, if you’ll excuse the trite late 20th century phrase, cultural imperialism, in all its seductive glory. As a young girl growing up in Malaysia who adored America — and who was very, very lucky to have not only the tempering influence of her native culture but also the countering influence of the British Commonwealth — I felt for Mahit to my core. I understood all the longing for assimilation and, to turn another late 20th century phrase, culture shock of meeting in person what had only been admired from a remove. And this was despite having gone to elementary school on the East Coast for several years before picking up sticks for Southeast Asia. Weirdly, I’ve always felt it easier to adapt to living in Britain, but perhaps that’s because the UK feels less exclusionary when it comes to people who aren’t white natives (but also I’ve only lived in London, however briefly.)

Anyway, my point is that this is a fascinating cultural case study with sci-fi and revolutionary trappings, and is definitely different from anything else currently out on the market. I could have done with about 90% less italics tho. Every other page used italics in the third-person narrative, not to mention within the dialog, making me want to shake an editor.

One Hugo nominee for Best Novel down, five more to go! And they just gave us an extra week for voting, glory be!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/07/03/a-memory-called-empire-teixcalaan-1-by-arkady-martine/

Jul 02 2020

Catfishing on CatNet (CatNet #1) by Naomi Kritzer

This novel ends on a cliffhanger and I desperately want to know what happens next!

Catfishing On CatNet, despite the unwieldy title and weirdly muddy cover, is a cute, deft YA sci-fi thriller set in a near future where CatNet is a sort of social connection site whose members are broken out into groups called Clowders. CatNet is, as we discover within the first few pages of the novel, run by a self-aware AI who loves cat pictures and has a soft spot for the teenagers who come looking for kindred spirits within her virtual chambers.

One of these teenagers is Steph Taylor, whose mother has been moving her from small town to small town since she was old enough to remember. Dana claims that their life on the run is due to a need to elude Steph’s arsonist stalker dad, but now that Steph’s sixteen, she’s tired, not only of their peripatetic lifestyle but also of never forging any meaningful connections with people her age. So CatNet is a godsend to her, a place where she has real friends even if she’s never met them in person and is strictly forbidden from giving away too much identifying information or, worse, ever showing them pictures of herself. As Steph tries to settle down in New Coburg, the latest hamlet Dana has run to, she’s forced to confront her suspicions as to whether her mother is a well woman. The CatNet AI steps in to try to help Steph, but things go horribly awry.

This was a terrific read that champions friendship and diversity in a seamless, excellently paced narrative told from the viewpoints of both Steph and the AI. Our protagonists must work together to find out the truth about their pasts, as well as to escape the dangers of their present, and I was furiously turning the pages to see how it would all shake out. CoCN does resolve its main plot quite well before plunging forward towards the cliffhanger and I cannot wait to find out more! Definitely my favorite of the Lodestar nominees at the Hugo Awards this year so far.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/07/02/catfishing-on-catnet-catnet-1-by-naomi-kritzer/

Jul 01 2020

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

When it comes to children’s books, for me, my most important criteria for judging a volume’s worth lies in whether or not I would give it to my kids to read. The answer in this case is a resounding yes, even as I found it less entertaining for myself due to the same lack of complexity that many kids would embrace as being the lack of a stumbling block to otherwise understanding this very cool universe.

Dragon Pearl is the story of Kim Min, a fox spirit who along with the rest of her family on the dusty, half-terraformed planet of Junjin pretends to be fully human in order to quell any lingering generational mistrust of their species. Fox spirits have a reputation for being deceitful, what with their ability not only to shapeshift but also to Charm the people around them into believing whatever the fox spirits would have them believe. Min’s older brother Jun left to join the Imperial Space Forces so he could see the Thousand Worlds but, as the story opens, an investigator arrives at the Kim homestead, accusing him of desertion in search of the fabled Dragon Pearl. Min knows Jun would never do such a dishonorable thing, and embarks on a quest to find him and prove the truth, using her forbidden powers to help her along the way.

There are several interesting story beats as the novel races along to its conclusion but this is honestly the middle-grade version of your standard space opera, as Min rides her luck in pursuit of her brother. Kids not yet used to having their hearts broken by fiction will love this tale of a spunky heroine who carries the day by virtue of being a good, but not too good person. Fortunately, Dragon Pearl does boast two outstanding aspects that make it a worthwhile read for the more sophisticated reader: the fascinating mythos drawn from Korean culture, as well as the matter-of-fact way non-binary representation is handled. I’m pleased that my kids will be exposed to the normalization of both in the course of this rollicking tale.

And, as always, I’m happy to be reading a new Yoon Ha Lee, even as I shamefacedly admit to not yet having finished his Machineries of Empire trilogy. There are only so many hours in the day! But this was a nice reminder to go do that, as well as a pleasant stopgap to tide me over till I have time to get to Revenant Gun, as Doug has. As this was the first of the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book nominees I was able to read, I’m not sure yet how it’ll fare against the rest of the field, but I’m looking forward to finding out! I would also definitely consider reading more of Min’s ongoing adventures, especially in tandem with my kids.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/07/01/dragon-pearl-by-yoon-ha-lee/

Jun 30 2020

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 9: Okay by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson & Clayton Cowles

Semi-tangent before I get into my review: my 9 year-old and I have taken to saying “okay” to each other in the voice of Princess Daisy from Super Mario Party. It’s a weird in-joke. My kid is the best.

Anyhoo, I had to sit and think about this volume for a while before I could come up with a review for it. Basically, we find out the whole deal with Ananke and Minerva, as several members of the Pantheon make terrible choices and the rest have to either stop them or clean up after them (or, in the case of Baphomet, make the best choices, ilubb!) The Pantheon discover that the only way to beat Ananke is to examine their godhood, leading us back full circle to the first volume’s musings on fame and power.

I wanted to like this. I loved the final issue, knowing that some of our Pantheon get out alive. I love that the book is saying hard work and craft are better than the chaotic energy of getting everything too fast too soon, of dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. But I think that it sorta cheapens, if that makes sense, the very idea of legend and story, of timelessness and enchantment, by turning this into a cautionary tale of pop idols blessed with fame they didn’t work for. Yes, fame is a fickle thing, anointing at random, but I also found the odd subtext implying that young superstars don’t actually work hard to be off-putting, sneeringly condescending, and downright bizarre from a creative team that has shown great love for the music scene. Entertaining looks easy because it’s supposed to look effortless but, to take just one example, Our Lady Britney Spears busted her ass every single day of her adolescence to sing and dance for us. Oh sure, Britney didn’t burn out within the two years allotted to the members of the Pantheon but I don’t think anyone can look back on the toll her career took on her and think she got out unscathed, or that she didn’t work for every minute of it. Or, to take perhaps a more on the nose example, would anyone argue that Janis Joplin didn’t fucking work? Read this article or Google “Janis Joplin work ethic” if you’re even thinking of trying. I get what Kieron Gillen et. al. were aiming for here but IMO they missed that mark by implying it’s a choice between superstardom and hard graft instead of considering the possibility of both together.

Art was terrific, as usual, and I honestly don’t understand the hate that some readers have directed at guest artists filling in on previous issues. Yes, Jamie McKelvie et. al. are amazing artists but just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Anyway, controversial, for me, end to a very interesting series. Overall this volume was, to quote its title in whichever voice you prefer, okay. Given the rest of the series, that can’t help but feel a bit like a disappointment.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/30/the-wicked-the-divine-vol-9-okay-by-kieron-gillen-jamie-mckelvie-matt-wilson-clayton-cowles/

Jun 29 2020

The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 5-8 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson & Clayton Cowles

Post the stunning story arc of Vols 1-4, our Pantheon has now entered their Imperial Phase, at the height of their powers and looking down at a slow decline towards death. With Ananke out of the picture, the surviving gods are free to do as they please… or is there more afoot than our troubled divinities have realized? After all, Ananke has had millenia in which to perfect her plans. Can one spunky god really have turned the tables on her so easily?

Vol 5 begins with the form of a glossy magazine, where Kieron Gillen roped in a bunch of real live journos to simulate interviews with his fictional gods. The Morrigan, Baal, Woden, Lucifer and Amaterasu all get the treatment, shedding more light into their backgrounds and motivations than before. It’s also a chance to showcase some really terrific fashion art featuring our crew before plunging back into the story proper. Perspehone is busy drowning her sorrows with ill-advised hookups, while the Norns are researching the machine Ananke had had Woden build for her. The Great Darkness emerges as something, er, greater than the metaphor Ananke had spoken of to most of the team. The Pantheon is riven as to what to do next, and two of its members lose control.

In Vol 6, the Pantheon hunts down its rogue members. Woden, Cassandra and Dionysus hatch a plan to finally crack the mystery of Ananke’s machine but betrayal throws a wrench in the works. Cassandra and Persephone figure out Woden’s secret even as more of the Pantheon die, and we discover that another of them is hiding the biggest secret of all.

More secrets are exposed in Vol 7, as the history of the first sisters who fought for dominance are slowly unraveled. Minerva is playing a dangerous game while Baal’s secret is finally exposed. The Morrigan and Baphomet split up for good. Persephone makes a life-altering decision that could fundamentally change the very idea of a Pantheon.

Vol 8 is a break from the main narrative, full of all the past bits and the fun bits that there hadn’t been room for till now. As the series draws to a close with Vol 9, the creative team and their invited guests wanted to finish fleshing out their centuries-spanning world before the dramatic climax. And boy howdy do they succeed. One thing I really dig about Mr Gillen’s collected trades is the absolute wealth of extra material in them. This volume is an entire book of extra material. That would seem fairly wanky but succeeds somehow, mostly because the world is so rich that every single story or short told here helps the overarching arc make more sense. My personal favorite was the one which showed how Baphomet and Dionysus first met. I heart Dio, and I’m still mad about what happened to him.

I kinda don’t want to start reading Vol 9 because I know that’s the very last one, but I’m also burning to find out what happens next/in the end. I definitely have theories as to how the sisters are manifesting through time, but I also readily admit that I am bad with visual clues, and have probably missed a lot of those that indicate the truth. It’s 5 in the morning as I type this and I’m super hungry, but should I stay up to read the last volume or go have some dinner (yes, I keep odd hours) and go to bed? Rather, will I stay up to finish the series despite knowing I should be calling it a night? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Plus also, I rather want a The Wicked + The Divine Christmas sweater now.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/29/the-wicked-the-divine-vol-5-8-by-kieron-gillen-jamie-mckelvie-matt-wilson-clayton-cowles/

Jun 28 2020

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

Pacing, and the parts of the story not told, shape The Fated Sky the second book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronauts series. The Calculating Stars ended with Elma York, the series’ first-person narrator, on her way to the moon. By the beginning of The Fated Sky, there is a colony on the moon with enough resources that they are starting to figure out what to ferment for alcohol, and enough of an economy to produce art objects for sale back on earth; apparently they are exotic enough to command a significant premium. York is an experienced pilot on the earth-to-moon route, and routinely shuttles groups of twenty or so to and from the colony.

The Fated Sky

In a very short time, amidst a planetary catastrophe, travel to the moon has become normal — but that is just the beginning. The Fated Sky is mainly about humanity’s first mission to Mars, a mission designed to land people on the red planet and return them to earth, and more importantly to set the stage for rapid colonization.

The best aspect of the novel is that Kowal never loses sight of spaceflight as a human endeavor. Throughout the book, she has command of the details of living and working in space, what’s heavy, how things smell, what common mistakes nearly everyone new to space makes. But these details are never shown off for their own sake, they’re present in how the people going to space relate to each other and what kinds of problems they have to solve. They also show the mundane things that people tend to overlook, and how quickly that can head toward catastrophe in an environment as unforgiving as space. For example, thinking that it’s ok to let a clothes dry run unattended leads to a fire, whose potential consequences on a spacecraft hardly need to be spelled out. Sometimes people having foibles leads to the problem, as when condoms disposed in the onboard toiled clog the plumbing. That one’s more gross than catastrophic, but it shows another axis along which things can go wrong.

And quite a bit goes wrong on the first mission to Mars. Smooth sailing wouldn’t make for a very interesting novel, so Kowal dials things up a bit, not implausibly individually but taken together they do make for an unusually eventful voyage. An outbreak of illness, in a way that is both unique to the enclosed environment and all too plausible, tests the crews’ resilience and shows how hard it can be to solve a problem with a limited number of people.

Nor are larger issues left behind on earth. Structural racism is a theme in both novels. Elma is both the beneficiary and someone working to reduce it from a position of privilege, and she finds out how little she can do sometimes, or how little her good intentions matter. Parker, one of the antagonists of the first book, shows new sides to his character in The Fated Sky, becoming more understandable and sympathetic. I wonder if DeBeer, the racist character from South Africa, will also change over the course of the series; that seems unlikely.

I read The Fated Sky when I was in the hospital back in early May, so I remember fewer details than I would like. It’s fast and snappy, Kowal knows when to skip forward to the next interesting events, and when to slow down and focus on a moment of rising tension. She knows how to use small interactions among the characters to show a small society growing in the crews of the Mars mission, so that readers are worried when things go wrong, and gutted when a few things go really wrong. As indeed they do.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/28/the-fated-sky-by-mary-robinette-kowal/

Jun 27 2020

Die Schule der Nackten by Ernst Augustin

You have better things to do with your time than read this book, or at least the latter two-thirds of it. The first-person narrator, Alexander, is interesting, and a bit odd in an interesting way. He’s a historian of sorts, unattached to any academic institute, specializing in the ancient Near East: Chaldean studies, Aramaic studies, and much more along those lines. He’s 60, though he thinks he can pass for 50 or perhaps a bit younger. He is alone at this stage of life, and he’s wealthy enough to possess a house in a central Munich neighborhood, a house he has decorated in what he thinks is a beautiful fashion but actually just reveals a peculiar devotion to the color moss green. Alexander is full of himself, and not self-aware enough to realize it. Early in the novel, Augustin is having him on every bit as much as he is portraying him as a sympathetic narrator.

The title translates as The School of the Naked, and the first scene shows what Augustin has in mind. Alexander is on the verge of visiting the nude sunbathing section of one of Munich’s outdoor public swimming pools. Nude sunbathing in Germany is known as FKK, “Freie Körper Kultur,” “Free Body Culture.” The movement started in the late 19th century, grew in the 1920s, was mostly repressed by the Nazis, and returned after the war in both East and West Germany. In Munich, naturists colonized parts of the English Garden, a large park in the center of the city. By the 1970s, two large lawns at the southern end of the English Garden were officially recognized as FKK areas, and were not sealed off — as was customary in many other places — by fences or shrubberies. In the years that followed, Munich (as well as other German cities) established nude areas attached to their outdoor public pools, although these were generally set apart by some sort of visual barrier.

Die Schule der Nackten begins with Alexander standing outside just such a barrier at the fictional Jakobi pool, contemplating entering — there’s a very German sign that says “Entry only allowed without clothing — and then losing his nerve. After a day at his studies, he returns to the Jakobi, screws up his courage and enters the FKK area. Whereupon he immediately commits a faux pas by getting undressed inside the gate. Worse, he feels that every eye in the place is upon him. With a little more experience — once committed, Alexander becomes a daily visitor — he realizes that what people do is find a place in the FKK area to set down their towel and only then do they take their clothes off. Further, the way people face tends to move with the sun over the course of the day, so the initial impression he had of everyone watching him had everything to do with the sun and nothing at all to do with him. Lack of self-awareness strikes again, and not for the last time.

The next few chapters collect Alexander’s impressions of people and events at the FKK section of the Jakobi pool. Even with no clothes and very little talking, people’s personalities emerge. Cliques and hierarchies form, social structures accrue even in a realm that is theoretically free of all of that. As anyone who has experience with Germans and beaches will already have guessed, there are fierce yet passive-aggressive struggles about the placement of towels in relation to particularly good spots. Alexander — and by extension Augustin — is a careful observer of the small details that add up to impressions, and he makes the observations interesting. There’s the group of octogenarian ladies that he falls in with many afternoons, who have their own area between nursing home and pool, and who converse much more than the other guests. There’s the square-shaped man who has brief anti-social outbursts. The regulars seem to take it in stride, and even know how often he should take his medications to keep things from getting worse. This could have been the foundation for stories of close observation and human foibles.

Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/27/die-schule-der-nackten-by-ernst-augustin/

Jun 26 2020

Die Rumplhanni by Lena Christ

Rural Bavaria at the outbreak of the Great War still moved to the rhythms of nature and the seasons. Village life revolved around the inn, the smithy, and the farms that surrounded both. Generations shared the same house, the young people paired up early and had little choice but to stick together, and families kept their feuds going for decades at a time.

Die Rumplhanni

Lena Christ starts Die Rumplhanni in just such a small setting, opening with a scene of the village smith and his apprentices, following with a scene at the local inn, and then introducing her protagonist Johanna Rumpl, a serving girl (though she is in her early 20s) at the farm next to the inn. The family that owns this farm has been feuding with the innkeepers since time out of mind, probably because someone tricked someone else into marriage but nobody really remembers for sure.

The title of the book comes from the old Bavarian practice of putting someone’s family name before their personal name, and then often shortening the personal name. Joseph Mayer would be Mayer Joseph, or, more likely, “der Mayer Sepp,” with “der” the masculine article in German and “Sepp” the customary nickname for Joseph. Christ tends to write these names as single words, hence “die Rumplhanni” with the feminine article “die” (pronounced “dee”) and “Hanni” as the short form of Johanna. It took me a little while to catch on to this bit of writing style, and also to recall that it was common to refer to people just by the word for their occupation, in male or female form as appropriate.

Names aren’t even the half of it though. Christ writes all of her dialogue in Bavarian dialect, and even for someone who lived there for ten years, it can be rough sledding. She also writes dialogue with a minimum of indications of who is speaking, so I had to go back and count fairly often to get a sense of who was saying what. Bavarian drops a lot of consonants compared with the standard written German that Christ uses for the rest of the text. Except for the times that it drops vowels instead. Here is a bit of dialog between Hanni and a traveling purchasing agent who buys farm products to take to regional markets.

Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2020/06/26/die-rumplhanni-by-lena-christ/