nancylebov: blue moon (Default)
The man greets Awd Mally, who is something like a woman and something like a stone. "She had never spoken to him; she was not always there. Some said she walked the moors, peering and prying into sheepfolds, owling after souls."

From the Word Hoard: owled after: To hunt as the owl does, silently, stealthily, and with a sudden swoop upon the prey.

"But he thought that she alone stood unmoving, though all else turned: hills, clouds, and reeling stars."

This echoes Charles Williams' Greater Trumps, in which the only real Tarot deck has a matched set of figurines. The Fool is either the only one that's still, or is constantly dancing with all the other figurines.
stars, dialect, dream, candlemas, downs... )
nancylebov: (blue moon)
There's a new section called 0:Hallows. The other sections are sequentially numbered with roman numerals.

From The Word Hoard: Hallows: All Hallows Day, when Annis wakes and hunts souls. November 1 or Samhain, depending on which calendar one uses. Hallow means holy or sacred; but to hallow is to chase with shouts or even to rouse to action with a sharp cry.

So I wasn't procrastinating on doing this update. I was waiting for the appropriate day.

"He walked in the Cloudwood that they were to fell, had felled long since...." Time is strange here, which could explain the out-of-sequence numbering.

"And wandering, he pulled and plucked the hazelnuts, the brown and starry beechmast, ash-keys, acorns, letting fall as many as he took, so many hung and ripened, fell and leamed among the leafdrift, far and farther still." Anyone know about the starry beechmast? A reference to the boat with a tree for a mast? I was wondering if beech leaves were star-shaped like maple leaves, but they aren't. Also, what does leamed mean?

"Birds sang, but flurried, shrill, it being fall of the year. They waked; and through the branches of the trees, the wind spilled leaves of light and shadow, leaves of dust, like the souls of all the birds since Eve." The birds and their shadows (possibly also the shadows of the leaves) are part of the echoes and shadowing in this chapter.

"All afternoon he lay beside the water, and watched the leaves rising from the dark to touch their falling shadows from the air, bright, haily. Being still where leaf and its foretelling image met, he did not know if he rose or fell through time." More doubling. I don't know what 'haily' means.

And he got his coat from a scarecrow, but he's like a scarecrow himself.

"Times changed, as time did not. They who had slain children in the fields, sowing blood with corn, hung garlands; still the seeds grew tall and winter died. Come wakenight, they stoned the wren, poor Jenny Knap, and hanged it in a crown of green, with rimes; they fired thorn, kept lightfast and langnight, so the sun would turn. They danced the years and died."

That last sentence is one of the very good ones.

Wren Day is on December 26, but the unnamed man is trapped in the fall. He's got a very bad sort of immortality. I'm also hearing a little echo of Lewis' "Always winter and never Christmas."

"Once, from the nuts he had gathered had sprung a hazel tree, and branched from his side, and borne and withered, in the space of a dream." The Celts believed hazelnuts gave one wisdom and inspiration. The man is just trying to survive, he's not learning anything trapped in autumn in the Cloudwoods, and perhaps it's not a coincidence that he sleeps through the life of a hazel tree. Sources from google give answers for the lifespan of a hazel tree of 20 years from one place and 70-80 years from another-- and just as well really, this isn't the place for precise world-building.

"The cup turned all to shadows. Lying by the water now, held it, wood and handworn. Fitted hand, he thought: his own and other's. Lad at given it were lightborn. Last. Not see'd him sin, nor any face i'Cloud."

Here's my guess at the meaning of the second half of the paragraph. "The lad that gave it was of fairy. (I have no idea what "Last" means in this case.) Haven't seen him since, nor anyone in Cloud."
nancylebov: (blue moon)
"One page was all a maze of umber sketches--hands, leaves, stones, strange leering faces--all in Sylvie's nervous line, at its heart, no right way in: a weird luminous painting. Night: an endless branching passage, wood carved with moongrey faces, woods turning hall, with queer worm-eaten faces in the bark. A child walked, her hand outstretched on nothing, far beyond, her clew of cobweb glinted in the moonlight."

Here we have mazes, woods, and spiderweb... but it's Sylvie's drawing, not Ariane's.

"'Are you doing the Curdie books?'" This is a reference to The Princess and Curdie and probably also to The Princess and the Goblin.

"Nan's great ebony and silver teapot, black but comely...." Song of Solomon 1:5-6.

Ariane joking about what else might be in the teapot. "Valentines," said Ariane. "Soldiers' buttons. Small change in faery gold. The odd ring of power." Faery gold turns to dried leaves or something else worthless at midnight. And a LOTR reference, though it would surprise me if this ring wasn't in the count of Rings at the beginning of the book.

"There, no bigger than a hazelnut, O there, green-blue, unearthly, sailed the Ship, its mast a tree, great--rooted, and its leaves far-drifting stars. It sailed in the winter sky, a constellation in Cloud, of the Nine Worlds: one of theirs."

This is probably a reference to a verse of The Lass of Loch Royal (mentioned in the previous entry):
But I'll take down that mast of gold
and set up a mast of tree
For it does not suit a forsaken maid to sail so royally
There's a shift of tone, though-- in the song the mast of tree (probably mere wood) is acknowledgement of lower status or perhaps a bit of passive aggression, but it's not something wonderful.

I'm also seeing a little echo of Tolkien reading MacBeth, "Tolkien the boy thought it was a total cheat that the witches' prophecy about Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane was fulfilled by boring old men carrying branches: "I wanted to devise a setting by which the trees might really march to war." " Quoted from Dave Langford.

"A dry red leaf, like an old mitten." Just a nice phrase. Any ideas about what sort of tree it might be from?

"...the cat came and crouched on the book. Stone, said his gaze, I am stone. A cromlech. One of Maire's Long Meg's, she remembered: Timour the Tartar." And it turned out that Tim[o]ur the Tartar is Tamerlane, and also a fiddle tune-- playing at speed starts at 1:30. You have no idea how grateful I am for google.

Sylvie looks at Ariane, who's happily eating bread with jam: "There's Ariane gone full moon, she thought, looking shrewdly at her face: all crazy and bright, but she never stays. She sickles. Eats herself up."

This is the moon symbolism again, but now it's in the mind of a character. And it's a reference to Ariane cycling in and out of depression-- her moods shift very quickly. I wonder if this will lead me to a non-theraputic way of thinking about Ariane's emotions.

"...her long-remembered Arden. She'd arrived, as always, somewhere else, (On a boardwalk in Bohemia?)" As You Like It is set in Arden, A Winter's Tale is set partly in Bohemia. Would someone who knows Shakespeare care to help out with what the references might mean?

"It was always farther in." "Farther in" is a phrase which has been used a number of times, and I keep hearing it as an echo of "farther up and farther in" from Lewis' The Last Battle.

Sylvie thinks about Ariane: "Air comes and goes. Watching and wanting. Not the moon, exactly--ghostly." Well, here's another angle on the symbolism-- Ariane isn't just the moon, apparently.

And I made a mistake in an earlier post-- Sylvie is the artist, Ariane is the writer.

"Deea. You kept that?" 'Deea' has appeared at least once before. I assume it's dialect.

A photograph: "Sylvie, slouching barefoot in the cold early spring, farouche and flighted, with her elsewhere gaze; Ariance, scowling in a cloud of hair--quadrocento severity--in a draggled flouncing skirt, and rose-wreathed broad straw hat. The Silly Sisters. The sisters Grimm."

Farouche: Fierce, wild. Also, of withdrawn and shy temperament coupled with a cranky and even sullen fey charm.

French, from Old French faroche, alteration of forasche, from Late Latin forsticus, belonging outside, from Latin fors, out of doors, from the free dictionary.

Quattrocento: the cultural and artistic creations of 15th century Italy. Quattrocentro images don't strike me as especially severe-- perhaps Gilman had a particular artist or painting in mind.

Ariane: "There. See, it's really me, I didn't fall at Waterloo. Or Flodden. Take your pick." I don't know what this is a reference to-- perhaps legends about ghosts coming back from battles, but I'm guessing.

"On her hand lay a silver ring, bent and blackened; she had found it writhen in an oak root. Its stone was elsewhere, was the star of the Nine worlds." I believe this is a plot point.
nancylebov: (blue moon)
Ariane played croquet with Sylvie, Thos, and Cat: "...ah, but she would never know them, they were elsewhere, sliding from themselves to other selves, three and many and one mind, teasing her with an uncomprehended joy. "Look! A falling star!" they cried. And she, her own cloud, had run after, never quite seeing what they saw, but ecstatic with the rumor of transcendence." This strikes me as having echoes of the Christian Trinity, but I'm reasonably sure that no real world religion has a strong presence in the book. On the other hand, it also wouldn't surprise me if Annis and Malykorne get invoked now and then by neo-pagans.

"....Ariane thought, O but I never heard her when she sang; it was like those falling stars, gone before I could say, how beautiful, beautiful in going." I'm going to assume this is a literal description of how Ariane experiences the world. Her memories are vivid, but her current sensory experience (possibly just for hearing and kinesthesia) is apt to be vague. This probably has something to do with her clumsiness, but she sees her clumsiness as a background fact, a personal defect that there's no point in thinking about. Of course, I might be projecting here-- let's see how sensory experience is portrayed for Ariane and for the other characters.

"In remembering Sylvie's voice, she heard it rise, travelling as if through years, like starlight from a long-cold, hanging stone." This took me a bit to figure out, since I don't normally think of dead stars as hanging stones. My first thought was that it had something to do with the lintels at a stone circle like Stonehenge, but clearly not.

Ariane remembers Sylvie singing: "Now open these windows, open and let me in: The rain rains on my good clothing..." [elipsis in the text] The lyric is from Lass of Loch Royal, which was on Silly Sisters-- the album whose name is used for the section of the book.

"Ariane was silent, neither song nor shadow, but the glass in which they meet--O now the I is crystal". I assume the glass is a mirror rather than a drinking glass.

It's tempting for me to focus on Ariane's problems, but her nature also leads her to be able to do extraordinary things.

"What's this?" Ariane tweaked the wet bundle under Sylvie's arm. "Lord Gregory's kid?" From the "Lass of Loch Royal".

""I like the coat," said Sylvie. "Like a highwayman." "The woman they couldn't hang", said Ariane;" Presumably a reference to John Babbacombe Lee, the man they couldn't hang. After the trapdoor on the gallows failed three times, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Fairport Convention made a rock opera about him, and at least some of the songs are available at youtube.

..."then wheeling, "Stand and deliver!" She snatched the loaf. "Ha! 'Tis Fitzgranary. The Scarlet Pumpernickel."

I have no idea whether Fitzgranary is a reference to anything in particular or is exuberant nonsense. The Scarlet Pumpernickel is a reference to The Scarlet Pimpernel, and is a surprisingly memorable pun.

"The ash-witted antiquarian for whom Ariane had so long and so painstakingly collated folklore had died, in mid-fascicle, leaving no scheme or sense of her entanglements, that her presence had made scholarship as a spider makes its web. Not being formally ararchnid, Ariane was severed--snip--and so turned out, an unpapered alien." A fascicle is a bundle.

I'm not sure whether "made scholarship as a spider made its web" is sarcastic-- whether it was incoherent work which was declared scholarship, or whether the antiquarian inevitably made scholarship out of clutter.

In any case, the theme of abandonment echoes with "Lass of Loch Royale".
nancylebov: (blue moon)
Sylvie's ancestors are Herons and Farranders. Farrander shows up in Cloudish Word Hoard: "Farrander: The adjective “farrand” applied to a person means comely, handsome, well-favored (applied to an object it means becoming, dignified, and pleasant); so the Farrander family may be construed to be well-beloved by their author."

Farrander is an actual name.

"blood of nightingales scabrous rug": "blood of nightingales" seems to be a dye (Gilman also uses the phrase in Cloud and Ashes, but a fast search doesn't turn up anything more.

Thos, like Sylvie, is one of Nan's grandchildren. (The other one is Cat.) Would anyone know how it was likely to be pronounced?

"Ghostly, fleeting, she saw Thos again"-- as in the description which compares the slightly changed room to musical chords, Ariane has an excellent visual memory. This may be connected to her being an artist.

"long thieving Rackhamish fingers": Have some reasonably long-fingered Rackham. As I was reading the phrase, I imagined (vaguely, since I don't have Sylvie's visual memory) any quantity of very long-fingered Rackham fae crowding a page, but a fast hack through google images didn't turn up what I think of as archetypal Rackham.

"...she touched the dusty workbox, horn and ivory.": Gates of horn and ivory I knew that the phrase was about true and false dreams, but I had no idea it so old or based on Greek puns. I'd heard of windows made of flattened translucent animal horn, iirc in a book about colonial America, and I assumed that was the source of true dreams while opaque ivory supplied the false dreams.

"The mirrored hall was empty where Nan strode, tall and witless in her hundreds, like an oak unleaving, stern and dry and rattled by the wind. She'd died of a lightning stroke within, and Sylvie'd gone on and kept house, and her hundred acres, and her kingdoms: all wood."

I'm quoting this because tying a medical stroke to a stroke of lightning is so excellent.

hundred acre wood might be a reference to Winnie the Pooh.

"Wood" means mad as well as forest.

UnLethe: one of Ariane and Sylvie's imagined worlds. Let's keep an eye out for whether this has something to do with remembering what has been forgotten.

"the bounding, wind-berzerking linen": great phrase for laundry in a high wind.

I'm somewhat foggy-minded from a cold, and I feel like I'm missing some good stuff in the last few paragraphs (up to the croquet game) but it's not coming into focus. I hope you guys will take a crack at the passage.
nancylebov: (blue moon)
My original plan was to have a community that would crosspost my posts to livejournal, but apparently things don't work that way.

So, since I have different people who prefer to read at livejournal or at dreamwidth, I've got a community at dreamwidth, and I'm individually posting my posts to livejournal. I'm not making a community at livejournal because I'd either have to pay for another account or have ads on it.
nancylebov: (blue moon)
Greer Gilman's Moonwise is a remarkable book. It's dense, poetic, and has devastating puns. When I read the paperback, I was shocked with admiration for Roc, the publisher-- I've never seen anything like it come out for the mass market.

I've only read it once, and haven't worked up the momentum since. It occurs to me that making it a group experience would supply an incentive and a lot of background information. Practically every paragraph has references to other fantasy, poetry, folk dance, and mythology.

So I've started a reading group: reading_moonwise.

I'm pretty good on the other fantasy and not so good on the other references, so what I'd like is notating the references, sorting out the plot, looking for the larger themes, and noticing the puns.

This group is intended to be a refuge from political discussion as well as an enjoyable place. Please do your bit to make it fascinating.

If the group goes well, we can continue with Gilman's other works set in the same (related?) universe(s).

There are two editions: hardcover and paperback. I'd rather make it easy for people to get their reading material than keep everything perfectly in sync, so there's going to be a little slack about what gets covered at each update. The paperback is cheaper and out of print. The hardcover is more expensive, prettier, and has an introduction by Michael Swanwick.

A Cloudish Word-Hoard, a glossary by Michael Swanwick.

Tentative schedule: 2 pages twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.

Monday, October 15 HC: p. 11, 12 PB: p. 3,4
Thursday, October 19 HC: 13, 14 PB: p. 15, 16

Let me know if a posted schedule helps-- I'm not going to do it if it isn't useful for people. It may make more sense to create a conversion system for the two editions.

It's fine to finish a paragraph even if it's on the next page. Everybody is allowed, even encouraged, to write updates about the current pages.

If you have something substantial to say about earlier pages, please do it as a new post. Comments to old posts tend to get lost. If the conversation in an old post is lively, please make the occasional current post about it.

The size and rate of updates is my guess about what would be reasonable. If it turns out to be too fast or too slow, it will be changed.

Ironclad policies: This is intended to be a pleasant group. No matter how strongly you feel that someone else's errors reflect badly on their intellect and/or character, I expect you to pretend you think it was an honest mistake. I'm sincerely hoping not to need to use moderation tools, but I've got them.

Furthermore, this is a group for appreciating a book that I like. If you feel inclined to do an analysis that's primarily about what's wrong with it and how what's wrong with it reflects badly on the author, please do it somewhere else.

May 2017

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