As I was talking with coworkers, I was reminded of today’s observance, something that had otherwise slipped my mind amid the other things I do day to day to day. Normally, I’m reasonably good at marking such events, having grown up in the family and part of the world that I did, so to have had the Day that Shall Live in Infamy escape me in such a way is…surprising and unsettling. For a moment, I wondered–had to wonder–if I was losing something else, the progress of my years slowing recall. (The old joke applies, I think, about not remembering what goes away as you get older.)
In the event, though, as I talked with my coworkers more, we hit on the idea that it is simply a matter of the passage of time. The attack on Pearl Harbor remains in living memory, yes, but less firmly so than before; eighty-one years is longer than many live, and many of those who were alive then cannot remember it–either because the memory is lost or because they were so young that the memory never formed. For me, it is a thing of my grandparents’ days–and I’ve only one of them remaining. For my daughter, it is even more remote, and I know that many of my contemporaries have children old enough to have children of their own, for whom the event is yet more distant.
Admittedly, I remember and mark many things that are older yet than the Second World War. I do not seek to excuse the lapse in attention. Thus I write this, recalling the perfidy perpetrated then and what it has led to, for good and for ill. And I note to others that they might well do the same.
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With more tidings passing between bird-keepers, these unpleasant, “Horns” begins with Alise rousing to the sounds of active dragons. The sounds of the approaching Tarman soon follow, and the reuniting groups compare notes about who has been found–and who has not. Greft again attempts to assert some measure of control, finding himself annoyed not to be lauded, and again nettled when Alise points out Thymara’s efforts to provide for the keepers.
Leftrin, hearing Carson’s signal, exults as he rehearses findings to that point. He urges the Tarman to caution and the barge-crew to action as the ship reaches the keepers and their dragons. Greft, when he comes aboard, attempts to forestall further searching, only to be reminded that Leftrin, not Greft, is the captain of the Tarman. After Greft’s dismissal, Leftrin hastens to welcome Alise aboard, but their reunion is shadowed by concern for Sedric, Leftrin’s own guilt, and the crew’s questions about provisions.
Alise retires to her cabin and considers the likely loss of Sedric, as well as her complicity with the same. Her guilt at feeling for Leftrin emerges, as well, and she assesses herself. After, she determines to set Sedric’s possessions in order, finding among them a locket that turns out to be from Hest. Her mind shies away from possibilities.
The keepers and dragons confer, somewhat tensely, over the disposition of the fallen. The dragons assert their right to consume the corpses of their keepers, with the keepers refusing. Leftrin notes that any bodies would have to be given to the river, and the keepers agree to be given to their dragons–save Thymara, who argues against Sintara’s claim. She watches and considers her place and ill fit as rites are conducted, and she and Tats confer about relative standings and politics among the keepers. Tats echoes some of Greft’s rhetoric, occasioning upset no less than his reports of more of Greft’s decision-making. Their continued conversation is interrupted by the return of another dragon and keeper, and Thymara finds herself considering Tats closely. She kisses him suddenly, leaving him uncertain of her intent.
My comments about Greft that accompany my summary of the previous chapter…do not go far enough in the event. He’s not some image of the putative evolutionary biologist or incel, but of a cult leader of the sort depicted in Netflix series and true-crime documentaries. The manipulation of events to ensure the “protection” of a younger woman among the keepers is…chilling. Despite the usual publication disclaimer–“Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental”–it is all too easy to find real-life parallels, and ones recent to the context of composition for the novel, as well as close enough to where Hobb lives (near Seattle/Tacoma, per her website over the years). Too, Hobb is open about working from real-life inspiration, not on a person-per-character basis, but certainly with an eye toward how things are in her readers’ world (here it is). So there are enough parallels to point out.
There are more than enough.
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Following another part of the ongoing exchange among bird-keepers, “Rescue” opens with Thymara assessing her situation, which is described in detail. The losses the keepers have suffered begin to tell upon them, fatigue setting in, and Thymara goes out to forage for food. Her efforts yield some success, and she brings a small load back to her fellow keepers, who are themselves at work ensuring food is available for them. Thymara does have a tense exchange with some of her fellows as she goes about her business, and arguments about how to divide what provisions are available ensue. Greft attempts again to assert authority and is met with stubborn resistance by some. Distraction from the conflict is welcome, and Alise suggests asking the dragons if they know the whereabouts of their fellows as some keepers anguish over not being able to feel their dragons.
Alise assesses herself and her situation as she remains among the keepers in the wake of the flood. She eats and frets about what has been lost, but she takes some comfort from conversation with Thymara. Others join in on the conversation, and the group begins to take stock of how it will proceed. Various alternatives are proposed, and the decision is set aside in favor of attending to immediate needs. More tension emerges over who will accompany Thymara as she goes out to forage again, and Alise becomes aware that more is going on among the keepers.
Elsewhere, Jess presses upon Sedric for aid in slaughtering and processing Relpda. Sedric decides to aid the dragon, and melee ensues. Sedric acquits himself ably for one with limited experience, but Jess soon gets the better of him and begins to throttle him. Relpda saves Sedric, however, eating Jess and delighting in the meal.
As Thymara stalks out to forage, she considers the romantic entanglements at work among the keepers and assesses her own feelings toward those involved. The pair return to where the keepers, rejoined by the dragons, are bivouacked for the night. Accommodations are described, and in the night, Greft approaches Thymara again. He broaches the topic of who she will take as a lover, brusquely explaining his reasoning and noting that he and Jerd are expecting. Thymara rages at the implications, but Greft presses, on citing ostensibly biological justifications for his policies as he proposes founding a new settlement where the flood has marooned them. Sintara, however, commends Thymara’s thoughts on the matter.
As happens so often, I find myself reading with current events in mind. The exchange between Greft and Thymara at the end of the chapter is…chilling in light of putative evolutionary psychologists and the incels who idolize them. It is the kind of rhetoric–coercive if not outright threatening, and presented as a “natural” inevitability not far out of line with Hobbes–that is all too frequent among execrable groups and people. It is the kind of rhetoric that points toward (young) men being owed sex, an attitude that is unfortunately common and all too often reinforced by the works of media consumed and held up as being worth consuming.
Given what else is in the chapter and what else is in Hobb’s work, and given the usual separation between authors and the narrative personæ they necessarily adopt, it would be folly to ascribe to Hobb the kind of belief Greft presents. (More indication of that incorrectness will emerge as the reread continues, as well.) But it is also the case that many who make arguments in favor of the kind of rhetoric and underlying beliefs that Greft voices refuse to recognize larger contexts; it doesn’t matter that the next sentence is “And that is wrong,” only that the present one is something they can use. They’re not alone in such things, certainly, but the fact of prevalence isn’t proof of correctness. Nor is it proof of goodness, maugre the heads of many who would say otherwise.
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After a missive that remarks on the flood and its effects, “Partners” opens with Sedric coming to his senses in the mouth of the dragon Relpda as she swims upon the swollen, caustic river. The two continue their mental communion, and Sedric begins to despair as he assesses their situation. Sedric prevails upon Relpda to put to shore, albeit with some difficulty on both their parts, and as they struggle to reach land, Relpda presses upon Sedric for more, effectively making him her keeper.
Aboard the Tarman, Leftrin gives orders to secure against the results of the flood and maintain both a vigil and a signal for survivors not yet recovered. Assessing the losses–which appear to include all the keepers and Alise–his thoughts darken, and Carson offers to assist in the search for survivors. Carson heads out to search, and Leftrin and his crew continue their efforts, Leftrin berating himself against the flood and its effects.
Sedric and Relpda continue to struggle together, Sedric realizing that the effort of preserving him is costing the dragon dearly. Sedric shunts aside thoughts of returning to Bingtown and bends his mind to how he might help his benefactor, making some headway to that end despite his overall physical ineptitude. As he does, however, he is surprised to be encountered by Jess. The two assess their improved prospects, and Jess discusses killing Relpda to sell her parts–alongside Sedric. Sedric takes some time to realize the proposal being made to him, and when he does, Sedric considers the offer, moving to pacify Relpda as Jess approaches.
The present chapter certainly makes much of pathos, emphasizing it through the burgeoning connection between Sedric and Relpda. As I reread, I find myself in mind of animals being led off to die, and the thought occurs to me that the present text might well be read as a musing on animalism or sentientism. As with many, many things, however, I am insufficiently versed in either philosophical approach to do more than recognize that they might apply; I must leave to others the work of explicating any such thing.
More and more, such is the case. I am some time away from academe at this point, and it is increasingly clear to me that I should be away from it. Even recognizing as much, however, I am called to continue such projects as this (even if with some pauses and hitches and false starts). I know there are still things for me to say about these works and about works like them, things that I can recognize and point out to others so that they can build upon what I find to learn yet more about the works and about the worlds they depict and in which they exist.
Such action, looking at what people make to better understand the made, the maker, and the world, is a goal of literary study, generally. Even though I no longer participate in that field professionally, I still think it is a worthwhile thing.
Year after year The call came Claiming with increasing dudgeon that Our way of life is under attack Although never saying whose it is Making sure we all already knew
This time Though The thunder of the guns is muted And the banners not unfurled so often Propagandists not hawking the tawdry wares They have been paid to sell
Is it that there are no buyers for them anymore Those who would purchase already owning “We’ve got it at home already; we don’t need another” Those who would not being unconvinced They will ever need to lift up arms in the war Some have claimed has been on since They got ideas about what they deserve?
Or is it the case Instead That the front has crossed me too far now And I am so far back that Struggle is but rumor?
Despite how much of my life I have spent with My hand wrapped around a certain cylinder Leaving traces across the sheets from how my wrist moves Repeating its course often enough that I am Never quite not sore
Many have said that my words are Hard to read And when they do so from my typing I know it is Because I flaunt what I learned in years of study Poring over others’ words in attempts to make my own And delighting in seeing their traces spread around Drinking them in deeply A common enough conceit
That’s not always what it is Even though I have been told The tracing lines I leave behind are Lovely and worthy I have also heard from many mouths that Eyes reject the work of hands And so I am concerned
As croaks the one who gave the bullfrog’s name,
I propose words that call for rightful blame,
Though I to righteousness can make no claim.
Yet never does the pot err in the hue
I calls out for the kettle, though it, too,
Is of the color that it names, and who
Is absent fault? Yet failure must be known
If it will be avoided by those prone,
As many are, to it. ‘Tis thus I hone
The edge of tongue and point of quill to chide
The Stupid God, whom all ought to deride,
Yet in whose spreading shadow many hide
And fall into the hole where that God treads,
Emptying their hearts to match their heads.
I have remarked once or twice on having drafted assessment practices for a younger tutee who needed to get acclimated to testing culture. I may have remarked, as well, that a fair bit of the freelance work I’ve done has taken the form of writing assessment materials. In one instance, I was hired by a college to help write an end-of-course exam that every student would be expected to take. In several others, I drafted rafts of 180 or more multiple-choice questions, as well as 60 or more short-answer and 20 or more essay questions, focused on recalling and interpreting novels and other longer works. It’s not hard work, though it takes some doing.
That work is proprietary, though, and the passages that underlie the earlier assessment examples were drafted with assessment practice in mind. It occurs to me that an example taken “from the wild” might be in order–and, since I do occasionally write some things that I do not initially intend to put to that purpose (for whatever value my intent might have), using one as such an example suggests itself. Thus, the following.
Read “Hymn against the Stupid God 192.” Use that text to answer the following questions, selecting the best or most accurate response from among those provided.
1. Which of the following forms does “Hymn against the Stupid God 192” take? A. Clerihew. B. Roundel. C. Sonnet. D. Villanelle.
2. Which of the following occurs most frequently in “Hymn against the Stupid God 192?” A. Couplet. B. Triplet. C. Quatrain. D. Quintain.
3. Line 4 of “Hymn against the Stupid God 192” offers an example of which of the following? A. Ekphrasis. B. End-stop. C. Enjambment. D. Euphemism.
4. Which of the following does the narrator of “Hymn against the Stupid God 192” seek to resist? A. Business. B. Empathy. C. Industry. D. Laziness.
5. With which of the following does “Hymn against the Stupid God 192” conclude? A. Couplet. B. Triplet. C. Quatrain. D. Quintain.
Answers: 1, C; 2, B; 3, C; 4, D; 5, A
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