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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

My small but perfectly formed Readercon schedule
Actually, not that perfectly formed, as I can't imagine many people are in the mood for a reading at 9.30 on a Saturday. But if anyone is, I expect they'll be at Readercon.

Saturday July 13
9:30 AM VT Reading: Cathy Butler. Cathy Butler. Cathy Butler reads "A Dog Is for Life", forthcoming in the collection Twisted Winter.

11:00 AM F A Visit from the "Suck Fairy": Enjoying Problematic Works. John Benson, Cathy Butler, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Yoon Ha Lee, Adrienne Martini, Kate Nepveu. Encountering problematic elements within fictional works isn't uncommon. As readers develop awareness of racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism—development that occurs on both a personal and a cultural level—they may be appalled to stumble across bigotry in childhood favorites or long-lauded classics, or struggle to appreciate a book that everyone around them is enjoying. Can you still love a work after you've seen something horrible within it, or does continuing to enjoy it mean tacitly approving of not only that specific work but problematic works in general? How can we make room for complex reactions in conversations among critics and readers?

Sunday July 14
10:00 AM RI Gender and Power in Literature and Life. E.C. Ambrose, Cathy Butler, Eileen Gunn, Rose Lemberg, Daniel José Older (leader), Sabrina Vourvoulias. This workshop, led by Daniel José Older, is a critical look at different ways that gender and power shape our realities and experiences of the world. With examples from the writing process and fantastical literature in particular, we will deconstruct dynamics of power and privilege on the gender spectrum.
Saturday July 13

"I don't know - I've never kippled."
"What is the lesson of history?" asks the marginal note on the last substantive page of A History of England by C. R. L. Fletcher and Rudyard Kipling (1911). I received my copy a day or two back - a large-format first edition, twice the size of the school edition published at the same time, though the content is the same. Admittedly it's not mint: it has been read by children - specifically B. Eversley, into whose hands it passed on 25th September of that year - but it's still complete, and a definite bargain at £0.99 on Ebay. I particularly like this impression of the south-east coast in AD 43:

AD 43

The books ends with a comparison of the authors' own times and those of a century previously - which is naturally of interest to a reader from a century further on. I won't quote the whole thing, but I was struck by their comments on the cheap cost of modern postage: "Letters [in 1815] cost twopence apiece for the smallest weight and the smallest distance; a single-sheet letter from London to Edinburgh cost 1s. 1d." News to me, I must admit.


The first railway was opened in 1829 between Liverpool and Manchester; already people are wondering when the first service of passenger airships will begin to cut out railways for long journeys, as electric tramways and motor-cars have begun to cut out horses and railways alike for short ones. The first steamship began to ply the Clyde in 1812; it was of three horse-power and moved at five miles an hour; the Mauretania, of 30,000 horse-power, now crosses the Atlantic in five days. During the Great War [i.e. the Napoleonic Wars] a system of wooden signals from hill-top to hill-top, worked by hand, would carry a message from Dover to London in about an hour; now the electric telegraph flashes messages round the world in a few minutes.

Do we hear the accent of the eugenicist, or merely of the cynic, in this remark?

The discovery of chloroform in 1847 has reduced human suffering to a degree which we can hardly conceive; and the other improvements in medicine and surgery have saved and prolonged countless useful, as well as many useless, lives.

We end with this peroration, which made my mother scoff when she looked it over yesterday. But if we may have counterfactual histories, counterfactual futures should need no justification.

In the common sense of the word 'happy', these and and a thousand other inventions have no doubt made us happier than our great-grandfathers were. Have they made us better, braver, more self-denying, more manly men and boys, more tender, more affectionate, more home-loving women and girls? It is for you boys and girls, who are growing up, to resolve that you will be all these things, and to be true to your resolutions.

Navigating to Greenwich
How would it have joyed brave Talbot, the terror of the French, to think that after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times) who in the tragedian that represents his person imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.

Thus Thomas Nashe in Pierce Penniless. I feel rather the same way about my grandfather's memoir of the Destruction of the St Cuthbert. As I mentioned a little while ago, the National Maritime Museum has expressed interest in this document; and now the Archivist has recommended acceptance to the acquisitions committee. It's not a done deal yet, but it's looking very promising. I think it would have joyed my grandfather to have his memo book take its place in Greenwich.

My grandmother was apparently fairly dismissive of his literary efforts - and indeed in later years she used the back of the same memo book in order to tot up the accounts of Wrexham Golf Club - which are also, by this happenstance, quite possibly destined to become part of Our National Story. But then, my grandfather never had any literary pretensions. My mother tells me that when he was courting my grandmother in the early 1920s he used to put a row of full stops and commas at the top of his letters with the suggestion that she place them as she saw fit. I'm not sure whether that was a joke or a sincere invitation, but either way it's rather charming.