An Announcement for the Week of 25 November 2019

I need a break. It’s a holiday week, and I’ll be traveling anyway, so I’d not be able to get as much done as I’d like, anyway, and I’m tired. So I’m going to take this week off, more or less.

I expect to resume next week as normal, and I thank you for your continued reading!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 50: Royal Assassin, Chapter 25

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Buckkeep,” opens with a brief note on the inland town of Tradeford. It moves thence to the return trip from Neatbay, during which Nighteyes is noticed by some in the contingent. Burrich warns Fitz against the occurrence and rebukes both wolf and man sharply. That night, Fitz dreams of Molly.

Farseer-Separation by HitomiTatsuyo on DeviantArt; image used for commentary

Along the way, the contingent is greeted by messengers from Buckkeep. They deliver a missive that Verity is dead, and they return to the castle solemnly. In the ensuing fuss, Fitz learns that the news of Kettricken’s pregnancy has spread, and he and Burrich confer about the possibility that the news is a forgery by Regal. Implications follow, chilling Fitz. Burrich bids him confer with Shrewd and offer to Skill with him; Fitz attempts to demur, but relents.

As Fitz goes about the castle after, he learns that Regal’s takeover is more or less complete; Shrewd is written off as effectively a dotard, with Regal seen as governing in his stead and name.

Later, Fitz is visited by the Fool, who echoes Fitz’s conceit that Verity is not dead and presses him not to kill Shrewd. Fitz is aghast at the comment, but he again follows the implications and recognizes that he cannot stand aside as the Fool asks him to do.

A feast follows that evening, highlighting Regal’s mastery of political theater and Kettricken’s honesty. Regal uses it to undercut Kettricken further and to announce a transfer of the Six Duchies’ seat of power to Tradeford. A chance comment from an addled Shrewd confirms that Kettricken will accompany them, and it appears entirely that Regal has his desires ready to hand.

I am not able at this point not to read the text in light of current circumstances, somewhat anachronistic as such a reading must be. I cannot but read Regal as grossly misogynistic and exhibiting unfettered, unchecked privilege in his manipulations of the court and his treatment of both Shrewd and Kettricken. It points to the kind of thing I’ve discussed about Regal elsewhere, and if it is the case that none of the royals are exactly “good,” some of them at least try to be so, and most have a sense of obligation to their nations as a whole–while Regal seems either not to or, at best (and entirely unlikely), a much more restricted sense of who his nation is than his brothers and kin.

Surely, surely there are more parallels to a spoiled manchild scheming his way to power so that he can get his way, taking credit for others’ work, and mocking those who actually do the work as somehow fools than what is going on in the world even now. Surely, too, there are other parallels to the hangers-on who cling to such schemers in the hopes of finding some fortune before they, too, are cast aside as being no longer of use. And surely, there is some resolution in this world as in the narrative Hobb writes…

With the approaching holidays, any support is appreciated.

Sample Assignment Response: Persuasive Writing and Counterargument Case Study

Another assignment required of students in ENGL 135 during the November 2019 instructional session at DeVry University is a short paper that explicates one argument and offers a refutation of that same piece; the paper will form the basis of a graded presentation later in the session. Students are asked by the University to select “a scholarly article from a reliable source that relays a strong position on a debatable topic” for treatment. A further refinement specific to the class advises students that a set of topics will not be acceptable for treatment (i.e., papers treating them will be refused or awarded failing grades):

  • Abortion
  • Gun Control
  • Legalization of Marijuana
  • LGBTQIA+ Rights
  • Political Ideology
  • Religious Ideology
Image result for game of thrones
An indication of the topic treated…
Image taken from, used for commentary

The paper is to be some four to five pages, or 1,300 to 1,625 words, exclusive of title and references pages, formatted and copy-edited to align to APA standards. It is also to address a University-provided series of questions that presents a serviceable outline for a short paper; in brief, they ask for an introduction to the selected article, a summary of the selected article, a short rhetorical analysis of the same, presentation of one or more counterarguments, and an explication of the writer’s own position on the selected topic (with the tacit acknowledgement that the position may well have changed in the course of doing the reading and drafting for the paper).

In preparing an example of such a paper for student use–whether my own or others’ who may happen across such things–I began by selecting a topic to consider. Most of those occupying current news headlines have not received formal scholarly study such as would be printed in academic journals, so, for me, recourse to my own more scholarly interests seemed to be in order. Much of my work focuses how the medieval is mis/used by later periods (i.e., medievalism, as distinct from medieval studies), so I figured to look at some of the ongoing scholarly arguments in that area. Knowing that the piece to be written is fairly brief, I figured that more involved scholarly treatments would not be ideal for me to select, so I thought to turn to The Explicator, which focuses on presenting shorter pieces of literary explication.

Neither the University library nor my local library had access to The Explicator, however, so I expanded out from the specific journal to the Academic Search Complete database that both have, using my local library (which I find easier to access) and entering the term “medievalism” as a general search parameter. The search returned a total of 555 hits, so I moved to narrow my search parameters. First came restricting results to peer-reviewed full-text articles, which trimmed the results down to 209. Next, I restricted results to the previous ten years–2009 to 2019; 107 results remained. I did notice, though, that the database offered another search limiter, restricting to academic journals only; I selected it, narrowing my search results to 60 sources–a much more manageable number than the original set of results.

Skimming the 60 results, I found a couple of articles that appeared to directly address medievalist texts with which I have had some engagement. Both were longer, perhaps, than I had originally intended to treat for the present project, but my familiarity with the subject matter of both suggested that they would be relatively quick reads for me. I looked at their references lists to see what lines of argument they would be engaging, and one made more use of secondary and critical materials with which I am familiar than the other; I chose that article, printing it out for my own ease of reading and notation.

Having pulled down the article, I did as I had done with the earlier current event assignment, setting up a Word document in which to draft my sample and inserting the article’s APA-style citation into it immediately so as not to forget to do so later. Then I read the article, making marginal notes (and benefiting from wide margins on my printed copy) as I did.

After reading the article, I stubbed out a prospective paper structure in my set-up Word document, following the general structure lined out by the University. With that structure in place, I began working towards a thesis statement, knowing that a fair bit of the material I would compose in the process of arriving at that thesis would need to be discarded as I worked on a fuller draft of the sample assignment. It does not pay to get too attached to words amid drafting; they are supposed to change in revision.

When I arrived at a working thesis, I followed my common composition practice of copying it, pasting it to the end of my working text, and highlighting it in green–something I do to help keep myself on target while reminding myself that I need to delete it later. For me, it’s like scaffolding when building; it’s needed to get the building up, but once the building’s up, it needs to be taken down. Once that was done, I started drafting, working backwards from the thesis to flesh out the introduction and then moving forward through the paper.

A couple notes about that drafting need making. For one, I did not work linearly through the draft. I rarely, if ever, do so when I am composing with a keyboard. Instead, I stub out bits to ease transitions into parts of my papers, and I halt work on one part when I have an idea about another part. I am usually able to get back into my own head when I read what I have written, but I lose track of ideas easily if I do not write them down, so I spend a fair bit of time jumping back and forth as I put words on the page, working to smooth them together as I go and in revision. I suppose that I make some small, repetitive use of what Asimov discusses in “The Eureka Phenomenon,” namely letting my subconscious mind address issues while I attend elsewhere.

For another, I did not have the luxury of sitting down to compose in the same place where I have my standing research apparatus. Over years of study, I’ve put together a workable library of scholarly texts, most of which are not open-access, and all of which have my marginalia throughout; even where the texts are now in the public domain, my annotations are not, and I use my annotations a fair bit. Consequently, as I drafted, there were several points at which I noted that reference to other sources would be useful. Following my long-standing practice, I made in-text notes about them, highlighting the notes in teal so that they would attract my attention for fleshing out and removal.

When I had fleshed out a draft, I saved it and sent it where I could supply the references that were yet missing. Once I had filled those gaps in the paper and expanded somewhat, I reviewed my draft for ease of reading; once again, considering the needs of the audience for which I write it, I strove to peg its reading level late in high school, perhaps early in college. Finding some success in that, and having proofread for adherence to APA usage conventions as I did so (again, with the note about the problems in doing it so close to having done the writing), I rendered the paper into a form accessible to readers. I present it here, hoping that it, and my efforts more generally, will continue to be of some value: G. Elliott Sample Case Study.

I shall thank you for your support as I move towards new endeavors.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 49: Royal Assassin, Chapter 24

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The Farseer Trilogy Book 1: Assassin's Apprentice - Chade
An image of the Pocked Man from John Howe, used for commentary

The next chapter, “Neatbay,” begins with a reminder of the Six Duchies figure of the Pocked Man. It moves swiftly to a gloss of events through more of the winter, and Fitz finds himself decidedly isolated and in foul humor. Burrich fares little better. Buckkeep follows in kind, its provisions sent to the Inland Duchies while the Coastal Duchies languish.

Fitz seeks to drown his sorrows in bad brandy one night–a night Chade sees fit to summon him to aid nearby Neatbay. Fitz rushes off to summon official assistance, and while it goes well with Kettricken, it goes less well with Shrewd, who still struggles against ailment and enforced intoxication. Fitz is able to deliver his message, but Regal soon intervenes and orders him bundled out. Kettricken intercedes in turn, and Shrewd finally manages to assert himself and order Neatbay defended; Kettricken makes to join the efforts, bringing Fitz along. There is some dispute at the gate about Fitz leaving Buckkeep, but he is released to go.

The issue of Fitz’s Wit-bond with Nighteyes arises again as Fitz and Burrich ride to accompany Kettricken. It takes them two days to reach Neatbay, and when they do, they find the town besieged but still defended, and they move to besiege the besiegers. An uncomfortable wait ensues, broken by a nighttime raid from the Red-Ships crews that have invaded. Fitz falls again into a savage berserker state, from which he only emerges fully long after the battle has ended. He debriefs with Burrich after the battle, and they note the oddity of the Raiders’ deployment. In the end, though, the action was a success, even if there is still a sense of foreboding about things.

The present chapter makes much of calling back to an early incident in the previous novel, and the characters involved–Lady Grace and Fitz–seem to reminisce comfortably about it and about the changes to their lives that followed. It is good to see that ideas are carried forward in works, that the changes characters make in the lives of others within the milieu are not elided or ignored–and that the changes that happen away from the “main” action of the plot carry forward as much as do those in the main line of action. Having such helps enrich the narrative world, making it more compelling because it comes across as more authentic.

As to the scare-quotes about the “main” action, while it is the case that the narrative of the Farseer novels focuses on Fitz and his doings, there is a sense that what would traditionally be the focal action is elsewhere–namely, with Verity, who pursues a quest to invoke the aid of ancients that is reminiscent of Tolkien’s Eärendil and his mission to Valinor. Like that antecedent, though, Verity’s mission is largely known in glimpses rather than in detail, which is an interesting bit of Tolkienian tradition to pass forward.

I could use help to keep doing this.


A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 48: Royal Assassin, Chapter 23

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Threats,” opens with a gloss of the declining state of Bearns Duchy and the Six Duchies, generally, following Brawndy’s visit to Buckkeep. It moves to Fitz seeing to Burrich’s billeting amid the too-empty stables. When Fitz checks up on Burrich later, he finds Molly tending to him–with some annoyance, as he has been drinking–at Patience’s request.

Image result for medieval guard post
It’s easy to imagine this kind of thing being a barrier.
Image from Susan Solo, here, used for commentary

After Molly leaves, Fitz and Burrich confer about the present states of their affairs. Burrich purposes to guard Kettricken’s door against the news that she is with child; Fitz resists for a bit, but relents and secures Kettricken’s permission for it. When he makes to return to his chambers after, he finds Serene and Justin, Skill-users who revile him, emerging from it. Fitz confronts them, forcing them to back down from him, but he realizes they are looking for Chade.

Fitz purposes to head to Buckkeep Town afterwards, but he is stopped at the gate by guards who have been ordered to deny him passage. They continue to do so when Molly comes back up the road, exhausted and frightened, but others gather her in. She tells Fitz of her assault, and he realizes that the warnings he has been given about her are entirely accurate. When he proposes separation to help keep her safe, she reacts angrily, pushing him away and berating him for a coward before she stalks off.

Early in the chapter, the issue of Molly’s abuse at the hands of her drunkard father is brought to attention again. In my current position, I work at a substance abuse treatment center, and the substance we most commonly have reported as a problem is, in fact, alcohol. (Marijuana and methamphetamine are the next in order, if you’re curious.) No few of the clients we see come in are referred to us because they have, in their drunkenness, struck their loved ones, or driven on the rural Texas roads that lace across the Hill Country–dangerous at times on their own, and more so when drink is added to them. I have seen the lingering problems of such drunkenness in scores of people, and I am somewhat taken aback by Burrich’s reaction to Fitz’s revelation of Molly’s history.

Burrich is not presented as a genteel man, to be sure; there is a rough brusqueness about him throughout the novels. But he is also generally presented as a good person, solid and reliable. For him to be so dismissive of Molly’s reactions towards him in the chapter strikes me as odd. Burrich does seem, though, to embody a traditional Western masculinity that may be good in the main but clearly has toxic elements to it; his “resolution” with Galen in Assassin’s Apprentice is but one example, while his denial of how his actions could reinscribe trauma is another. Of course, one of the virtues of Hobb’s writing is exactly that she presents flawed, nuanced characters, and it is always useful to remember that even a good person can be yet better.

Since I’m shutting things down, I could use your support here.

Another (!) Rumination on Teaching

I wanted to be a teacher when I was the age my daughter is now. I went through high school thinking I would be a teacher. I went through most of my undergraduate study thinking I would be a teacher, though the subject I thought to teach would change. I went into and through graduate school thinking I would be a teacher, if at a different level. I spent my early career years–and that’s a strange phrase for me–thinking I would be a teacher. I’ve spent the past few years clinging to that thought, holding tenuously to the notion that I should spend at least part of my time at the front of a classroom, trying to help bring others along.

the hobbit work GIF
Image from, used for commentary. Clearly.

At this point, though, my grip is slipping–and not because I am holding on with one hand to keep my bloated self from falling into a pit from which there is little chance of escape. No, it is because I am struggling to hold what I realize has been an increasing weight off of the ground, one that I have been carrying for years in no small part because I have been too stubborn to put it down. I have tried to do well at the work, tried to be responsible and responsive, tried to make some difference. And perhaps I have done those things in some small way; I do, from time to time, hear from one student or another, and I am gratified by it.

More, though, I have made excuses for remaining in the college classroom, as a glance back across this webspace will make clear. I have tried to justify my continued presence in a system that has made clear it has no permanent place for me, even as I have found what seems to be a permanent place outside it (and one that does, in fact, allow me to make good use of the skills and expertise I developed during my formal education, if perhaps not as I might have expected and not as well as others with more focused training might have done). And it is clear to me that the excuses no longer work; it is time for me to put the weight down.

Given the academic labor market (about which, perhaps, this and this), I am certain that others will soon pick up the weight I set down. And it is possible that I will need to pick it up again, myself, in time to come. But for now, so far as I can see, I am ready to leave it. I am ready to let go my grip and finally straighten a back that has bent at such work, usually hunched in a chair in front of a computer not unlike what results in this present piece of work, drafting things that will not be read. But at least such work as this is work that I enjoy, and I can no longer say the same for what I do in the classroom, despite years of making a go at it.

Thirteen years of it is enough of a sample, I think.

Even now, I remain thankful for what you give.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 47: Royal Assassin, Chapter 22

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The chapter that follows, “Burrich,” opens with a brief note on Lady Patience, the former Queen-in-Waiting of the Six Duchies. It moves thence to Fitz waking somewhat confusedly in bed with Molly; they evidently had a tryst, of which Fitz remembers nothing. Molly departs his chambers, and Fitz responds thereafter to a summons from Chade.

Commande - Lady Patience pour FlorenceIl va encore me falloir quelques essaies avant de maitriser correctement les peaux foncées à l’aquarelle, elle a l’air bien blanche quand même. Merci pour cette commande, j’aime beaucoup ce personnage et la...
Commande – Lady Patience pour Florence by Aadorah on
Image used for commentary

Fitz reports in detail to Chade and, with the older man’s premission, voices his suspicions of Regal’s plotting. Chade accepts the explanation as a possibility and affirms that he will work from his own resources to confirm or deny the explanation. He also voices concern that his secrecy is not as secure as once it was.

In the coming days, Fitz is wary, particularly of the Skilled ones Serene, Justin, and Will. And on one day, he is summoned in haste to the stables. Burrich has returned, injured and thinking that messages have gone before him. They have not arrived, and he has Fitz help him to report to Shrewd. The Fool greets them and, seeing Burrich’s condition, moves to assist. At length, Burrich is admitted to Shrewd’s chambers and reports of the difficulties that faced Verity’s party along their path, including a curiously well-disciplined and -equipped group of bandits that focused their attentions on Verity near Blue Lake.

Shrewd dismissed Burrich, who is taken aback by his king’s condition, and Fitz takes Burrich to his own room to tend to him. He goes out in search of medicines, leading him to Patience. She quizzes Fitz as she makes ready to tend to Burrich herself. Burrich rouses during her ministrations and argues with her, but relents and accepts her care. Kettricken arrives and lends her own supplies to the efforts, the specifics revealing that she is pregnant–and Fitz begins to worry for the child yet unborn.

I once again find it hard not to reread the text against the current political climate, I really do. But even if I am successful in not doing so, Hanlon’s Razor comes to mind as a factor in the current chapter, one which Chade appears to prefer as an explanation and that Fitz rejects. Said Razor is the warning against attributing to malice what stupidity can easily explain; that is, if someone could be ignorant or a jerk, that person is probably ignorant. It is an ultimately optimistic explanation of things, assuming that people will be good if they but know what the good is.

Experience and a quick glance at the world suggest that such an assumption is a dangerous one. While some might argue that making any assumption is fraught, and there is merit in such an argument, it is also the case that an assumption always has to be made about how a given person will re/act–and that it always is so, even if tacitly. And when a person has demonstrated a tendency towards being venial or malevolent, it is far safer to assume that the person will continue to do so than that they will not.

I remain thankful for what you give.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 46: Royal Assassin, Chapter 21

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Dark Days,” opens with a rumination on the political future of the Mountain Kingdom during the conflict between the Six Duchies and the Red Ships. It moves on to treat the continued tension surrounding Duke Brawndy of Bearns, whom Regal is slighting. Kettricken meets with him, showing him great honor and mollifying him substantially in doing so. But the slight from Regal remains.

Image from Prophets become Warriors, Dragons Hunt as Wolves on Tumblr, here
Image used for commentary

The slight is compounded when, days later, Brawndy is summoned to Shrewd’s chambers and afterwards departs with news of no forthcoming aid. Kettricken intercedes, acting on her own initiative and in her own prerogative to gift Brawndy with significant monetary aid. Fitz finds himself obliged to pay court to Brawndy’s daughter, Celerity, and he observes as the Bearns party makes its way away from Buckkeep.

After, Fitz calls on Shrewd. Following an awkward physical encounter, Fitz finds himself serving as a Skill-bridge between Shrewd and Verity. He is made aware again of Shrewd’s bodily condition, and he is privy to Shrewd’s messages to Verity–tidings which he vehemently denies. Verity seems to take his side and pleads to have Fitz tended against his exertions.

In the wake of those exertions, both Shrewd and Fitz are exhausted. Regal barges in and takes Shrewd in hand, bidding the Fool, who is customarily present with Shrewd, to tend to Fitz. The Fool does so, staying with Fitz for a while for their mutual safety. When the Fool leaves to retrieve medicine for Fitz, the Skilled Serene and Justin enter Fitz’s room with ill intent. They psychically assail him, and Nighteyes psychically leaps to his defense. The Fool’s arrival dissuades any further action, and Serene and Justin depart in anger, leaving Fitz to his pain.

There is much that can be said about Fitz’s construction as a liminal figure. He operates in several grey areas: as a royal bastard, as a sanctioned assassin, as an informal advisor, as someone who is and is not adept with multiple magics. His liminality in those respects, while allowing him more freedom of motion than many other characters might have, also serves as a set of in-milieu reasons to hold him in low regard. He can be read–and perhaps should be read–as problematizing many of the traditional aspects of fantasy literature. He does not only nuance the warrior-hero that pervades Tolkienian-tradition works (despite the primacy of Frodo and Samwise), but he calls into question the stability of such categories. Fitz is far from the only character to do so, of course; there are frustrations of archetypes even in such characters as Malory’s Arthur and the Classical Hercules. But fantasy literature tends to operate in terms of such types (with a few notable exceptions, as Shiloh Carroll and others discuss far more eloquently than I am apt to do), and having such a character as Fitz, who almost fulfills the demands of many types while conforming to none of them, remains, to my mind, a refreshing thing.

Your ongoing support is kindly appreciated.

Sample Assignment Response: Analyzing Debatable Claims

Another of the assignments students are asked to do in ENGL 135 in the November 2019 session, following a course redesign, is an analysis of debatable claims. (A previous assignment is discussed here.) Students are asked to “select a TED Talk that presents a persuasive argument on a debatable issue,” record its identifying information, and draft a two- to three-page (so 650- to 975-word) summary that addresses a number of points evocative of other classes’ rhetorical analysis. To continue my practice of providing models for students to follow, I offer what appears below:
Image taken from the thumbnail on the TED talk treated in the present sample, here, used for commentary

As with earlier sample work, the first task is to select a subject. To do so for the present sample, I went to and ran a simple search for one of my major areas of interest, using the search term “medieval.” Doing so yielded 92 results, which is a larger set than admits of effective parsing within the confines of the session and its demands. Accordingly, I restricted myself to the first page of results returned–which, at 30, was still a fair number. Given that the assignment calls for only two to three pages of work (plus title and references pages), I determined that the talk I would treat should be a shorter one. I was fortunate that two of the first three results returned fit that criterion, and I decided to treat the less formal of the two, since I want to make my work as fun for myself as I can reasonably do.

With a subject selected, I went ahead and set up my document, stubbing out a title page, main text, and references page and ensuring that the document as a whole was set to double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I also inserted running heads and page numbers as appropriate. I also made sure to enter an APA-style reference entry for my selected TED talk to make sure that it got done.

To help keep myself oriented in what would come, I copied and pasted the series of questions from the University’s assignment materials into my document. I then highlighted it in green so that I would remember to remove it later; I tend to give myself writing targets (such as theses for more formal work) in my documents, coloring them thusly so I know what I need to write towards and that I need to get rid of it later. It is a method I recommend, though I know others’ results will vary.

That done watched the talk, doing so twice. The first time was simply to get a feel for the talk as a whole. The second, though, I took notes, using the assignment questions as a guide. It made for somewhat jerky watching, to be fair, but it did allow me to get a basic outline down of the sample assignment.

With my notes ready, I began drafting. The first pass consisted mostly of expanding my notes into cohesive, coherent sentences and paragraphs, as well as adding introduction and conclusion. Revision ensued thence, focusing mainly on smoothing out transitions among materials–I opted to retain the order of the assignment’s questions in large part, mostly for ease, though I did alter their groupings somewhat–and on making the language accessible to student readers (as determined by Flesch-Kincaid grade level).

All that done, I reviewed my draft to make sure it adheres to usage standards that will be applied to student work. Once done with that, I rendered the draft accessible; it appears below, iteration of my continued hope to be of use to others: G. Elliott Sample Debatable Claim Analysis.

I still continue to appreciate support for drafting new teaching materials.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 45: Royal Assassin, Chapter 20

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Mishaps,” opens with accounts of the hardening of attitudes and Chade’s findings on an expedition to the Outislands. It moves to Fitz calling on Shrewd; the latter has the Fool serve tea that contains an addictive herb, upon which the Fool comments acerbically. Regal soon inserts himself into the meeting, taking the chance to upbraid Fitz with his manufactured financial crisis. As Shrewd slips into addled delirium, Regal intensifies the personal attack on Fitz, taunting him to physical assault; Fitz stops himself and excuses himself from Shrewd’s presence, beginning an anxious wait for a summons from Chade.

Fool by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

When the summons comes, Fitz answers it with many questions for his mentor. They are uncomfortable questions, and Chade’s replies to trust in the system and the wisdom of the nation’s leadership do not satisfy. Nor yet does the revelation that Chade has been providing certain chemicals to Shrewd for reasons that he refuses to discuss. Nor still does the line of reasoning to which Chade leads Fitz, that the Red-Ship Raiders want only to instill terror, that Verity’s mission to the Elderlings is their only hope.

Fitz’s narrative resumes days later, when Duke Branwdy of Bearns arrives at Buckkeep. He describes his experience of the necessary festivities to welcome the duke and his entourage, as well as the calculated slights offered them by Regal. Too, he has some contact with Celerity that makes him uncomfortable.

After the welcoming dinner, Fitz retires to his chambers, where the Fool awaits him with a sensitive question. Fitz turns to strike the Fool in his anger, only to see that the Fool has already been battered–by Regal’s thugs. As a chastened Fitz makes to tend the Fool’s injuries, he asks why the Fool asks after whether he has fathered a child; the Fool explains as he is able, which is not necessarily clear to Fitz. He also warns Fitz that attempts on Kettricken are likely before making his exit.

After the Fool leaves, Fitz calls on Molly. He asks her if she is with child, and she denies it–but quizzes him on what he would do if she had affirmed being pregnant. Fitz has no good answer and stammers through a poor one. Molly rebukes him for it, using Patience and Burrich as an example of what she means; Patience hates Burrich, she reveals, because she had loved and been spurned by Burrich in favor of his sworn service. The revelation gives Fitz pause and more to consider than he had thought before.

The strangeness of gender norms and expectations comes to mind in reading the present chapter. Fitz is, admittedly, not in a position to have much of a sense of family, given his circumstances, but even so, the dichotomy between his perception of service’s demands and Molly’s protestations about family are striking. There is more to untangle in them that I can give space to here–but there is always another venue for such discussions.

Molly’s protestations line up reasonably neatly with things I have spent a perhaps unfortunate amount of time considering, given my own history trying and failing to make a career of academe. I am recovering now, but earlier in my life, I spent a lot of time trying to be something…other than I am, thinking it somehow of paramount importance that I do. I fear I much neglected my family in making the attempt. Even now, when I give my time to outside concerns in the community, I worry that I am misspending my time. I like to think that I am doing some good in the world, I am told that I am, and I know that my daughter needs to have an example of a parent who tries, at least, to work to the betterment of the community. But I also know that the time I spend on such things is time I am not with my wife and daughter, whom I profess to love; how much love do I show them, being away? At least when I am secluded off, working on some freelance project or another, I am contributing to the support of the household, but when I work with the local PTO or band boosters, I cannot claim such a thing.

It is never an easy calculus to figure out, and my skills at math are less than they perhaps ought to be. But, as Chade points out in the chapter, “Thinking is not always…comforting. It is always good, but not always comforting.” And I have much on which to think.

It’s my birthday, precious. Send me a gift?