On Sunday I read the new Sirenia Digest which contained an exceptionally beautiful story from Caitlin R. Kiernan, a story she wrote in 2009 for an anthology in tribute to Robert Silverberg and his novella Nightwings. I’ve never read Silverberg but if his work is anything like “The Jetsam of Disremembered Mechanics”, Caitlin’s story, I’d very much like to. Set apparently in a distant future where place names have changed to just barely recognisable—”Perris”, “Stanbool”—the story follows a “Flier”, a woman who belongs to a humanoid species with insect wings and other, subtler, distinctive differences from humans. Once again Caitlin shows a great talent for creating a character for whom the strange experience (from our perspective) is normal, their actions and behaviour never saddled with exposition or awkward moments where the normal things are newly noticed by the characters. At the same time, the narrative is never confusing, it has that wonderful quality of diving into a strange but also strangely familiar and fully formed world, like the first Star Wars movie. The language used throughout the story is lovely, too.
For New Years, Caitlin posted on her blog a list of the books she read in 2018. It seemed like a good idea so I thought I’d do the same. I’m including here only books I finished reading in 2018—there are a lot of books I read sections of for research purposes. As far as I can remember I read . . .
Le Morte d’Arthur (1485) by Sir Thomas Malory
The Faerie Queene (1590) by Edmund Spenser (re-read)
Paradise Lost (1667, 1672 edition) by John Milton (re-read twice, currently in the middle of reading again)
The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) by Tobias Smollett (re-read)
The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle volume I (1751) by Tobias Smollett
Tobias Smollett (1821, a biography) by Sir Walter Scott
The Pirate (1821) by Sir Walter Scott
The Prince and the Pauper (1881) by Mark Twain
Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson (re-read)
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Milton’s God (1961) by William Empson (re-read)
The Stuart Age (1980) by Barry Coward
Economic Expansion and Social Change: England 1500-1700 (1984) by C.G.A. Clay
The Literary and Cultural Spaces of Restoration London (1998) by Cynthia Wall
The New Milton Criticism (2012) edited by Peter Herman and Elizabeth Sauer
I can recommend all these books, especially Paradise Lost. I’m almost done reading Middlemarch by George Eliot. It’s really good, more psychological than I was expecting, it seems more like a work by Dostoevsky than Eliot’s British contemporaries. I’ve also been reading a lot of short stories, Caitlin’s as well as bits from Yeats’ collection of Irish folk tales. It’s nice how there’s always more to be read.