A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 306: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 29

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


The next chapter, “Feathers in a Fool’s Cap,” opens with an in-milieu folk-tale before turning to Fitz’s experience in a mental world created by his donning the Rooster Crown. Fitz is aware of other personae inhabiting him, performers much as the Fool had masqueraded as being, and he contemplates the experience amid his awareness of the Fool’s death and bodily decay. The nature of the personae–performers favored of dragons in the days of the Elderlings–is made clear to Fitz, and he hears the Fool’s own voice, coming from his blood in the Crown itself.

Here it is…
Image from Faceless Frey’s Tumblr, used for commentary.

The performers in the feathers attempt to expel the Fool from the Crown, and Fitz recalls his experience being taken from Nighteyes’s body back into his own. The recollection gives him insight into what he can do now, and he plies his magics in tandem to bring the Fool back to life as himself. The exercise gives Fitz substantial insight into his long-time friend, and in the wake of the working, the two are exhausted. The Fool’s convalescence begins, Fitz nursing him along as gently as he can, contrasting the Fool’s experiences with his own. At length, the Fool is able to eat and drink, and he and Fitz confer about events, the Fool voicing some misgivings about how Fitz arranged matters. And Fitz continues to offer what comfort he can against what his friend has endured.

I remember, back when I was working on my master’s thesis, my advisor, Chris Healy, told me he had read the books about which I was writing–and that the present chapter had stood out to him as doing much to advance the idea of what might then have been and would certainly now be called a queer studies approach to the text. It’s far from the only thing that would, as the Fedwren Project attests and as I’ve commented on more than one occasion before. Somehow, I find myself in mind of the conversation again–perhaps because it has been a decade since my doctorate, now, and fifteen years since mastery.

I don’t have as much to show for either as might once have been hoped.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 298: Fool’s Fate, Chapter 21

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


The next chapter, “In the Realm of the Pale Woman,” begins with commentary about the White Prophets before turning to Fitz regaining consciousness in captivity, bound and brought before the Pale Woman. She is described as Fitz and the Fool are presented to her amid her gathered servants, a dragon in the midst of being carved, and the feral figure of Kebal Rawbread. The Pale Woman laughingly explicates his situation and theirs to Fitz before having them separated and taken to individual cells.

“I am so very sorry. So very sorry.”
Image is from facelessfrey on Tumblr, used for commentary.

Fitz surveys his cell as he is thrown into it, but he is not held there long. Instead, he is conducted to the Pale Woman’s chambers, where she is attended to as he looks on. Reluctantly, he washes and is shaved before sitting to table with her at her bidding, and after the meal, the Pale Woman expounds upon her ideas to him, interleaving her plans with no little inveighing against the Fool. Fitz feels his Skill begin to return among the discourse, and the Pale Woman moves to work her own Skill upon him to seduce him. He resists, however, and attacks her–ineffectively, in the event–when he sees what has been done to the Fool.

Enraged, the Pale Woman has Fitz and the Fool brought to her throne room again, where she sacrifices one of her prisoners to the nascent dragon and to Kebal Rawbread’s hunger. She has the Fool bound for his own sacrifice and tasks Fitz with the killing of Icefyre–to which he agrees, even as the Fool is tortured before him. Fitz is turned out into the snows on Aslevjal and left to find his way again.

There is more than a bit of fanservice in the present chapter, and as I reread it again, I found myself wondering why it was there, why it was so overt. I mean, I get why the Pale Woman would want to seduce Fitz into doing her bidding; a willing participant is better than an unwilling one, the later being likely to look for ways to subvert and suborn even amid coerced compliance. But having the heavy-handed attempt seems…out of keeping for a prophetic figure who would normally be expected to be both long-lived and long-seeing; it doesn’t seem very thought out or thought ahead, and that seems to be at odds with the whole thing of the White Prophets. Perhaps it is a part of what I’ve seen as the primary point where Hobb’s writing falters–the rush to the end, about which I have commented on occasion (April 2013 and August 2015). It’s as if Hobb has an “Oh, shit, I have to finish the novel!” moment, and it still sits less than well with me, a decade later (and more, really). And that’s a shame, because I clearly like how Hobb writes–well enough to write my MA thesis on her work and to return to it after giving up on being a “real” academic.

Loving something doesn’t mean being blind to its problems, though. But at least the problems are as they are and not worse ones…

I do always appreciate your support!

Driving

It was a finely tuned machine
Built in a union factory from Midwestern parts
Serviced regularly and maintained well
Enhanced by the careful attentions of master mechanics
Filled with the highest-octane fuels
And driven hard but with care and attention
Racing down the roads well paved
And venturing off of them into parts hitherto unknown
Marking off a trail that others could follow at greater leisure and
Not having to navigate
They might look at the surrounding scenery
And see something small and beautiful
Somewhere, though, it hit a rock
Larger than had been expected or understood
Perhaps placed there by someone who didn’t want to see the sights
But more likely unhappy happenstance
A stone in the street that might come to be
And it did something to the drive
Threw the wheels out of alignment
Messed up the timing
Damaged the transmission
So that it handles sluggishly
Accelerates slowly and not to as high a speed
And seems to hiccup as it goes along
I have no other car
And I cannot trade this one in
There is no dealer that would take it
But I miss driving what it was
So much

It’s not quite this bad.
Image from
Wikimedia Commons, used for commentary

I could still use your support, particularly as another holiday approaches.

Another Nature Piece

As I’ve remarked once or twice before, I live outside of town in the Texas Hill Country, and not terribly far from a creek, so I often get critters of one kind or another in the yard or in the house. I suppose I ought to mention also that, while my yard is fenced all around, the fencing is of uneven quality. Some of it is simple chain-link–with gaps at the base. Some is tall privacy fence–with gaps at the base. Some, in the back corner, is frayed and faltering wire–with gaps at the base and elsewhere.

White-tailed Deer — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Not quite this majestic, but moving that way.
Image is Chase A. Fountain’s from TPWD, here, used for commentary;
I am given to understand the image counts as public domain since it’s from a government entity.

Now, it is no strange thing for me to see deer in my yard–or anywhere in the area, really. They abound in this part of the world, some years more than others, but there is a reason my old high school and a few others in the area use them–or parts of them–as mascots. So when I saw a young one, spots still showing on its hndquarters, out along the fence-line a couple of days back (as of this writing; it’ll be a while before this gets where other folks can see it), I didn’t think anything much of it. It was one of those things that was nice to note but nothing to stand out in memory, like a sunrise or sunset that strikes the eye but does not linger in the mind so much.

When I noticed the same deer along the fence-line the next day, though, I began to wonder about it. And when I saw it for a third day in a row, it occurred to me–idly, because I had not had enough coffee for the day yet–that the poor thing was stuck in the yard, that it didn’t know how to get out.

Again, though, deer are common enough around here, and it is widely known that they’re unintelligent. There’s a reason “deer in the headlights” is a common description for inability to answer a question. As such, I didn’t really think much about the deer’s plight–until one morning, I was looking out the window with a cup of coffee in my hand, I saw the deer and pointed it out to my wife, commenting that I’d seen it in the yard across several days. She came to the window, and we watched it for a few minutes, seeing it pace back and forth along the fence-line and try to get through one of the gaps at the back corner of the yard–and fail.

It was when my wife commented on it that something finally clicked inside me, and I went out to open the gates that close off our back yard. I walked around one side of the house, making noise as I did so that the deer would be aware of me and, I hoped, would try to flee, finding the open gate in the process. And that worked, although I saw the deer jump headlong into my fences twice before it sprinted through the gate and out into the road, its hooves clicking on the asphalt as it ran away.

Care to support my ongoing wildlife efforts?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 136: Ship of Magic, Chapter 35

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


The chapter that follows, “Pirates and Captives,” opens on the deck of the Vivacia, where Kyle rages against Sa’Adar as the Marietta draws near to the liveship. The Vivacia panics as the bodies of her former crew are put overboard and the serpents feast upon them; Wintrow maneuvers to comfort the ship as the pirate crew boards and is welcomed by Sa’Adar and his comrades.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/pzo9055_wormwood1_0.jpg
Something like this, perhaps?
Image taken from TV Tropes, used for commentary

Wintrow’s presence is noted, and he dickers for his life and his father’s with Kennit, aided by the angry intercession of the Vivacia, herself. Neither Sorcor nor Etta are entirely pleased by the situation, but Kennit seems pleased with the spine Wintrow shows and agrees to decidedly dangerous terms. Kyle is taken into custody again, and Kennit assumes the captain’s cabin as his own after presenting himself to the speaking figurehead of the ship.

Kennit courts the Vivacia audaciously, provoking strange responses from the ship, from Wintrow, and from Etta. He then assumes the captain’s cabin, surveying and inventorying it as Etta frets and fusses. Meanwhile, Kyle lies sullenly in what had been Gantry’s cabin, Wintrow tending his injuries. And the ship considers the sudden shift in her circumstances, taken but now crewed well again, remembering the sweet words Kennit had spoken to her.

The chapters have shortened as the book has drawn to its close, feeling somewhat rushed as they have come to the penultimate section of the novel. Where there has been a series of actions, the shortening makes sense; it reinforces the jagged, choppy nature of many things happening all at once, the layout of the novel reinforcing the effect of the events within the narrative on the reader.

In the present chapter, however, things feel somewhat rushed; for one thing, Wintrow seems to have grown courage and solidity almost overnight, whereas he had earlier been most frequently taken with analysis paralysis or had talked himself out of effectiveness in the name of righteousness. Having lived through puberty (somehow), I can attest that attitudes and emotional states can and do change wildly from day to day and even hour to hour–but even so, the shift seems extreme.

The rush is something I have noted in Hobb’s work before, and it is something I have found annoying in other properties, as well. I will admit, though, that that may well be a matter of personal taste and practice; when I read for pleasure (which does not happen as much anymore as it used to or ought to), despite reading quickly, I like to feel like the writing takes its time. Reading is a conversation, and I like to have my conversations run on at length. It’s something I know annoys more than a few people, though, so, as I note, it may well just be me. But it remains ever so slightly vexatious…

Care to help keep this month going right?

Thirsting

Are my springs drying out
Their aquifers growing empty from
Too many drilled wells
Going too deep
Pumping each more than its portion?
Am I beset by too bright a sun
Subject to too many cloudless days when
What I need is rain?
But if I know well
Who and what
Has sunk each shaft into me
I am far less certain who has assumed the role of
Masaka
Named in revulsion
Before whom do I stand
To be burned away?
Who shines so brightly
So harshly
In my life?
Or is my pale skin
So thin
That it quails even under dimmer lights
That the flesh beneath grows brittle
Under a fading lamp?

San Antonio Provides Financing for Source Water Protection | Conservation  Finance Network
Ahhh. Relief.
Image from the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s Flickr, used for commentary.

Help me drill a new well?

In Response to Eric Weiskott

On 5 July 2017, Eric Weiskott’s “Millennial Bashing in Medieval Times” appeared in The Conversation online. In the article, Weiskott situates himself and his students as the Millennials often focused upon by derogatory opinion pieces and contests the commonplace descriptions of Millennials as shiftless and feckless amid noting their major cultural touchstones before arriving at the crux of his piece: complaints about youth are nothing new. He then references a series of examples of medieval English authors’ complaints about the youths of their own times, moving from Chaucer through an anonymous poet to Langland and Malory. The article concludes with the comment that complaints about youth are symptomatic of continual underlying social change–and that they are not likely to end anytime soon.

I’ve been fortunate enough to read Weiskott’s work on occasion, as well as to hear him speak, and I know him for an excellent scholar. (I also confess to being jealous of him, since he got a position for which I had also applied–but that is another matter entirely.) And his scholarly predilection emerges in the article, wherein he makes several mentions of meter; Weiskott identifies as a metricist (among a few others), so it makes sense that comments about meter would attract his attention. Similarly, his focus on later Middle English literature is evident from the dates of his references; most are in the latter 14th century, with Malory the outlier at the “end” of Middle English. (Indeed, one of the things I could wish to see addressed in the piece, had space allowed, is older responses; what do the Anglo-Saxon scops, for example, make of the youths of their time?) Both were comforts, of course; seeing scholarly focus deployed for a broad audience is a hopeful thing, and my own formal studies tend to focus on Malory, so seeing other Malorian work is emboldening (even if I see it relatively late).

I am also gratified that a point I make often with my classes echoes one made by a more powerful scholar than I. Although I’ve not often been in a position to teach medieval English literature as a primary focus (and will likely never be so again), I work to integrate my medievalist tendencies into my teaching (as I discuss at some length in a chapter I have in the upcoming Ballad of the Lone Medievalist–if I may be forgiven for self-promotion). One of the ways in which I do so is to point out the continuity of language change–something Weiskott reports doing in his classes. And one of the ways I point out that continuity is by noting that the writers of the past complain about the youths of their time as certainly as do the writers of today–as Weiskott points out. So I am in good company, which is always a pleasure.

One of the reasons I feel compelled to point out the changes in language and the complaints of the past about the language of the slightly-more-recent past is that many of my students have internalized the idea that their “nonstandard” usage marks them as unintelligent and unworthy. (I’ve noted it at least obliquely before.) Since those I teach now are non-traditional, having been away from formal schooling for some time and, in many cases, underserved academically when they were in schooling before, they tend to be more convinced than traditional undergraduates that there is something wrong with them because they speak and write in particular ways that are not “what was taught in school.” I face more of a challenge to get them to the idea that the “standards” in place now are wholly arbitrary and reflect the soft power deployed by moneyed interests to keep those without as much money (and the access to resources represented by that money) in their place–and convincing people that they are stupid does much to keep them from looking to change things. The words of the past help me to do so, more than just acting as a salve for the wounds the words of many of my elders inflict. I expect that Weiskott’s students–or those who need it, since he works at Boston College, a situation far removed from my own and those of my students–benefit in such a way, as well.

Here’s some more, different self-promotion, if you didn’t like the other.

Class Report: ENGL 216, 7 November 2017

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of specific technical writing genres (definition, description, process explanation, and instruction), research, and ethics before addressing upcoming assignments.

Additionally, per Dean Grover McDaniel, the following: VETERAN.

The following assignments are soon coming due:

  • Online Discussions, due before 0059 on 13 November 2017
  • Homework (Assignment 9 fm. pg. 238 in the standard course text), due before 0059 on 13 November 2017 as a Word document
  • Course Project Source Annotations, due before 0059 on 6 November 2017 as a Word document

The class met at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the DeVry San Antonio campus. The class roster listed nine students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Of them, four attended, verified informally; student participation was reasonably good. No students attended office hours (online, Mondays from approx. 1830 to 2030).

Class Report: ENGL 062, 21 October 2017

Class time was to be given over wholly to the Week 8 Learning Activity prescribed in the course shell, as class was set to meet for the last time. As such, no assignments are forthcoming, although students are reminded of the following:

  • Any work not submitted by the end of the day today will not be accepted, as the session ends at 2359 MDT.
  • Student surveys, if not already done, need to be done. Student feedback is an important tool in personal and institutional assessment.

Although the class roster listed five students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting, none attended. Given what class was devoted to, it was not a surprise. No students attended office hours.

Another Letter about Points of Departure

Dear Readers,

I appreciate you following along. I really do, and so I hate to disappoint you. Work’s creeping up on me, though, and I have to get it done–which means I can’t give the story the time it needs at the moment. Please check back on Wednesday, 26 April 2017. I should have the next chapter ready by then.

Of course, if I could get enough donations that I wouldn’t need to work…

A guy can dream, right?

Best,

GE