Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Just Say No to Loki

January 2018 @ Karen S’s House w/Mary, Liz, Marie, Sue, Kitty, Shelley, & Yours Truly

  • SPEED PREP CHAMPIONSHIP STATUS – Karen S. continues to hold the title after  arriving home 10 minutes before Go Time and barely batting an eyelash. It’s all in the prep work and established routine. Delish stew! Another win for Karen S!
  • BEST ENTRANCE EVER:  Shelley in Viking helm with ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’ blasting
  • BEST WINE SAVE EVER:  Kitty (ahem…finally) arrives with white wine, but top is misaligned and won’t unscrew. After several great minds (ahem) & rubber-gloved hands attempt feats of strength, Karen S. operates successfully – with the $hitty knife – to ‘slice’ open the perforations. Happiness ensues.

    Bootleg wine surgery 2018.jpeg

    Successful wine bottle surgery. Don’t try this at home (unless it’s Karen’s home).

General Stuff

  • 4 dogs, count ’em:  4 (good night to miss, Karen C). Well, you can’t count the littlest; she’s hiding upstairs. And Maverick’s glued to Shelley as she fusses and photos him all night. The other 2 are on floor, ball, and bark patrol. Dog-sitting  is what happens to Karen S. when she sends both Daniel (+ all her men) to Montana and Kelsey + Grand Baby to KY. Actually, it first happens upon sending Daniel to college… Liz had cane at the ready, but she’s actually a dog person now (#Boomer).
  • Fashionable, ‘hot executive’ attire vs. business clothes. Discuss. Or just go to Shelley’s shop to find ideal-fitting options.
  • Mary’s Michael is happy, esp. when carrying 10-foot PVC pipes through Manhattan. Catherine is happily ensconced with a roommate (cousin of a friend, yay! #connections #vetted) in Chicago. Loooong commute to current client, but otherwise fine. IKEA furniture worked; Mary’s extra day (snow cancellation of flight) got things started. “First, you  label!” Says Mary, always…
  • IKEA Hack:  Promise to just do the step you are on and it all works out beautifully. Most fun is assembling ONLY with the hex wrench (do you have the right sizes?). If you must, skip it and buy ‘generic’ from a resale shop.
  • Sue wants to retire. For the zillionth time – we support her. PICK A DATE, already! Feb. 2nd:  Florida grandbaby birthday & maybe new property fun. Dogs seem healthy as can be – still!
  • Kitty moves in <10 days to a one BR apt. in the BEST location in Bethesda. Will she and Barry survive the tiny space living? Work on the house, list it by March 1st, and hopefully buy something in Annapolis soon.
  • Book Donations:  WJ needs them & takes boxes. KP Library ditto on need, not on boxes. NIH Patient Library would love actual CLEAN ones (but too few understand what the word ‘clean’ means).
  • Liz’s boys each have a favorite part of Mary Poppins – how practically perfect of them. Megs is an A student again & working PT for her bro at Sysarc (you know, the place with the really cool office & genius pit). Hip is better, but a ways to go. Work is a #(%storm of hiring/firing – she can see the fun stuff, just blurred behind the dust not quite settled on other debacles. Does this constitute a Failed Retirement?
  • We’re pretty sure Shelley’s kids & life are fine. And she’s well accessorized (see above) and looks great, as usual. Nothing’s confirmed though, as she’s quite focused on making memes of Maverick.
  • Marie was in San Diego – sans cool black jeans but also sans the flu (after a wise 4 days of pre-travel recovery). It was fantastic from A to Z – girlfriend, location, her welcome, Robert’s happiness, the weather (‘only’ 65, but it was 6 OR 5 here), and event the travel. Margaret says Robert will marry only when GF is pregnant. WHAT?? Odd trend:  weddings are so ‘hard/grand/pricey,’ this is the ‘solution.’ Not just Robert, but ‘everyone.’ Yeesh.
  • Katie’s birthday dinner outing odyssey:  Silver Diner cuz it’s yummy. [Side bar:  ‘Silver’ is overpriced says the Peanut Gallery] and mostly b/c restaurant Week & its extension hindered the big trip to Barrel & Crow. It’ll happen. Bootleg Birthday cake (with an icing book!). Thanks, All! Tip: DO go to Jenny Cakes for more of the same yumminess. Don’t necessarily consult with Liz on flavor of finishing mixes… #overwhelmed (for the record:  final result was perfect).
  • Other books to try:  My Life with Bob; any others? Katie seeking ‘good nonfiction’ on Ghandi (she just saw the movie). Somewhat more current movies were discussed by those who viewed them:  3 Billboards in XYZ, MO; The Post; and [Something Else]

THE BOOK

Katie chose Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because:Norse Mythology

  1. He writes so well and typically puts an intelligent, off-kilter twist on everything.
  2. Family connections, so curious about how Norwegian history/culture survived and/or  was conveyed via the myths.
  3. I read some of Snori Sturlurson’s versions and it was a bit of a slog -wondered if it was the translation or just me.
  4. I like the Justice League, Thor, etc. sci-fi movies & wanted a comparison, esp. with the upcoming release of Ragnarok.

 

DISCUSSION
with My Reading Arc (only b/c I made notes before) & Gaiman interview bits:

  • 6 of 8 read all (Karen S. even drove to Olney for her copy!). One read “67%” after deciding it was survivable to go more than halfway. One read none percent (but she still knows the author, of course….).
  • First 30 pages:  This is tedious and lacks rhythm. Bootleg is going to kill me.
  • The glossary was great! Learned so much about word origins. Pretty cool how so much lasted from the misty past. But do all the weekday names really track (e.g. Sunday)?
  • Bonus for word lovers:  Shelley’s pronunciation guy (link below).
  • Am I missing something or are the Norse gods a bunch of dolts who depend on the apparently smarter elves and esp. the dwarves? And what about the clearly more-powerful giants?
  • Why does everyone keep believing Loki?
  • Man, is Thor dumber than we ever thought.
  • Cool to know that Loki is really Odin’s blood brother.
  • Or maybe…  Do the gods just hang out ‘like normal folks’ until their true selves are actually needed? Cuz it’s more fun or relaxing that way?
  • Great reading this after reading Gaiman’s American Gods. So much more makes sense and that book seems even better now.
  • Some discussion on if these myths DO or DO NOT explain how nature works or came to be. After a few examples (water, volcanoes, etc.) we seemed to tilt toward YES, the myths have a consistent thread of explaining nature.
  • This is not to be overshadowed, however, by the preponderance of 10-year-old boy potty humor. Examples galore. Oh, goody.
  • What is it that today’s oh-so-hip/sophisticated Norwegians & their somewhat recent/modern generations find so compelling about these myths and gods? Do they evoke pride or other positive vibes? They just don’t stack up – character-wise – to Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, Paul Bunyan, etc. Not to mention other world  myths clearly conveying wisdom or morals. And narrative flow is stilted (is that just eons of translation tics?). [Related note from the Gaiman interview (link below]:  These myths don’t explain Nature. They do tell who the Vikings were, the original storytellers. Told in a setting of extremes (light/dark, feast/starve, party/kill). Vikings have ‘good death’ (battle & Valhalla…daily valor) or ‘bad death’ (age, birth, illness, weakness & Hel’s kingdom…gloom). Peaceful co-existence and endings don’t exist in the Norge of 1500 years ago.]
  • Reads quickly. Or at least you can set it down feeling progress was made. Easy to get back in, even after pausing a bit. Didn’t call to be read obsessively, but certainly picked up flow and appeal by ~1/3 of the way through. Then ended with a bang.
  • Almost done:  Still not sold on literary niceties, but overall, there is insight and commentary on foibles of man as reflected by goofy, greedy, violent, illogical gods. But still seems less than godlike.
  • Some discussion on if females kept getting short end of the stick. Loki always at the center of trouble, so in some ways the answer is yes simply because of him. But consider Freya, the giants. So maybe not.
  • Seems to be equal opportunity for highs and lows across male/female and different levels of godliness. So that’s good, I guess.
  • Loki. He’s terrible. Is he created that way and has no choice or does he do it because he likes it? Or is it the only way he sees clear to the ultimate power grab? Are they forgiving him between episodes? Forgetting (how much time passes for them anyway)? Or biding time & tolerating him – as in, better the devil you know than the one you can’t see (butchered metaphor…deal with it).
  • LOKI – Why do they tolerate him? Why so many chances? So much power? Is it intentional or lack of ANY short-term memory? There’s nothing redeeming about him…is that his Giant side or just Loki? Is he just a ‘poetic/mythic device’ so “they” can create absurd adventure tales that are very memorable? So many questions.[Interview note:  Movie version is this somewhat appealing god of Mischief/Evil/Tricksiness. ‘Real version’ has more layers; thinks he’s cleverer than he is; gets gods into trouble all the time; a blowhard sneak who has to back peddle a lot; gets darker & darker]
  • Nordic people had LOTS of dark, so maybe they just wanted crazy plot twists. As in, trying to get a rise or a gasp out of listeners in the murky dark. This is far different than trying to teach lessons.
  • Also, our centers don’t align. Their norm is ‘boring violence’ (going to Hel) or ‘fun violence’ (going to Valhalla). That mindset must create a different lens than our for appreciating/understanding these myths. (Well, except for 10 yo boys)
  • Finally starts to read like a novel in the last fifth. [Interview note:  Gaiman wrote the stories out of order, as the muse struck. After writing Ragnarok story he realized there was a novel structure & he re-ordered accordingly.]

Related Resources:

NEXT BOOK:
Karen S. picked is Hotel on The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford

  • Marie is a LIBRARIAN, for goodness sake… Listen to her (IF you can hear her…without a Viking helm hearing horn) when she names the book’s author.

NEXT MEETING:  TBA (Kitty may switch months with somebody since she’s  moving)

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Happy Families

November 2017 Nobody Hosts Meeting @ Liz’s
– A recovery set back…we switched from Chinese restaurant to delivery at her home
– Karen C., Marie, and Viviane were missed (to manage their family priorities).

FRONT MATTER

  • Katie brought electric tea kettle and Chinese green tea to keep with the original (location) plan. Mary brewed it up ever-so-nicely.
  • Oh, dang it! most of us forgot our homework – a title for the January Read draw. Mad searching on Liz’s (weird, slightly uncooperative) laptop and other phones
  • This set up various sidebar conversations & levels of focus that lasted until we sat down, so not all interactions will be noted.
  • Also, Yours Truly took over ordering for everyone. There was some general head-nodding and calls of ‘chicken’ or ‘not too spicy’ with one definitive ‘my kids like Happy Families’ (not a philosophical statement, but a favorite menu item…& now, an appropriate blog post title), but the process again took away from general chatter recording. #excuses #legit
  • Who watched Gilmore Girls & was it because your girls did? (Pretty much, yes). What other shows were family favorites? (a mixed bag)
  • Liz’s Injury Recap:  hip painkillers masked chronic back warning twinges >>> back pulled while making bed (proposal: that bed is dangerous; burn it). And, yes, she’s overdoing it as a general state of being.
  • Sue’s Retirement Mansion in Florida – a few more details…the more we learn, the better it sounds. C’mon, Steve…get ready to retire soon.
  • Mary’s Catherine moving to Chicago by January. Moving ‘everything’ in the car & driving her out. Oh, the fun.
  • Karen S’s Christopher back from a NZ adventure. Harvey being fabulously Harvey.
  • Some crazy boys (KS’s Daniel, Liz’s David, & anyone else from Bootleg DNA???) going Wild Boar Hunting somewhere in Appalachia #ofcourse (which state?) with a ‘responsible, adult’ guide. #ihearbanjoes
  • Kitty’s house goes on the market in ~February. They’ve seen great options in the Annapolis area. Local goal for the work week:  Bethesda digs within 2 blocks of Kitty’s office. All the better for Kitty to continue to NOT go out with the ‘hundreds of millenials’ she works with (and who continue to invite her).
  • Katelyn finishing NYC Marathon (with Katie & Catherine & others) cheering her on. [Katie didn’t make the entrance lottery; she did her 26.2 race in DC the week prior.]
  • Shelley making various funny comments all while madly trying to find ‘a Canada book’ for the January pick in honor of Kirstie staying in the Great White North (well, Toronto).

THE BOOK

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss hearts of horses molly gloss

Katie picked it because:

  1. Volunteering at Gentle Giants triggered a Renaissance of All Things Horses for Katie.
  2. Didn’t want to read Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, War Horse, or anything that dwells on the ugly. Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes (Me Before You) seemed just a bit too chicklit for Katie & Bootleg.
  3. Just read The Summer Before the War by Simonson and …Horses is of a very similar era and focuses on similar yet very different kind of young women in a very opposite setting from The Summer... upper class Edwardian England. So the compare/contrast was a rich opportunity.
  4. Katie had just watched ‘Buck’ about the real horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman, and wanted more horse life & training insights like this (but couldn’t find any of his nonfiction books in the library).

Discussion

  • Everyone read at least most of it. Karen S. couldn’t get a copy in time but plans to read the copy she finally got. We did a pretty complete plot summary.
  • Overall, thumbs up from everyone. Even Viviane made a point to share positive comments (after the meeting). It’s such distinct slice of American life and time. The ‘realness of real people’ struck all of us (in a manner akin to The Bartender’s Tale).
  • Family dynamics & fortitude also reminded us of The Glass Castle and even more directly of Half-Broke Horses, both by Jeannette Walls.
  • PHEW! (says Katie) – It was a huge risk doing a ‘horse book,’ esp. with Kitty sounding an email alarm about fearing a sobfest. But while this one did not shy away from harsh realities and how some so-called horsemen broke horses, it did a great job of staying with Martha’s methods and demeanor – esp. when sharing details and horse development
  • We enjoyed how ~90% of the book had an easy, looping style of present, past, future – no rush to share details, but all attended to and accounted for (like Martha Lessen)
  • The last bit just before she agreed to marry certainly was faster than the rest. Was this a page count thing? Or did it reflect Martha’s pattering heart or some other aspect of her transition to community & happy family life?
  • Martha’s appearance, ‘style,’ goals, and book-loving ways = so appealing
  • Horse how-to info very satisfying and inspiring; yet also not all prettied up or modernized. Ugly reality laced in (but not overwhelming)
  • Great contrast to The Summer Before the War (several of us had read this independently of Bootleg); & similarities like women’s rights, patriotism, hardscrabble life of the un-rich, freedom from negative family, local politics, charming romance
  • Tom/cancer- painfully accurate (Katie had to skip a lot); horrible and beautiful
  • Riding the circle to train horses was a cool concept and also a great writer gimmick to bring in all the families
  • Changing POV was good
  • Eastern Oregon – ‘wild west’ is less wild than Martha wants, but still wild. Does this reflect Martha, too? She vows to never marry & seems rather rough, but she actually segues into community life and romance quite readily. She keeps her standards, but is somewhat surprisingly quick/quiet to acquiesce on some issues (esp. marriage & continuing to ‘ride out alone’).
  • George & Louise Bliss, El Bayad, Will Wright, the old sisters Emma Adelaide & Aileen, Henry Frazer (beau), German family (Belgians over the cliff with wagon), Rumer (?) family (ptomaine poisoning & broken arm; drunk) – All these characters were well-liked (or thoroughly and appropriately disdained) by us. Their arcs were real. Dialogue was, too. Each brought out another facet of Martha and of life in that setting, time, place.
  • Insights on medicine (cancer, doctor’s hours, awaiting help, birth/delivery) were distinct yet integral to plot and/or character development. (Yes, there was a birth, Liz). Such an interesting period of some knowledge, but mostly hardscrabble grit as a key part of the ‘healing’ process.
  • Title okay, but did not really delve into the horses’ hearts – saw some good evidence, though of this (e.g. the German couples’ horses that had fallen off the road…no panic, strength, patience).
  • Martha’s romance – really was sweet (even the rather obvious foreshadowing didn’t ruin it). The dance, the skating party & hike to Native Am art – all good scenes. But, did she enter too easily? Give up too many dreams? We think not and the ‘epilogue’ seems to confirm that it works out.

BACK MATTER

  • Yours Truly must say so herself:  Dessert was awesome. Fresh, triple chocolate brownies with 3 toppings choices:  whipped cream, caramel sauce, and/or homemade maple icing (thx, Katelyn E). We all had it all. #yum #dangerous
  • Picking the January Title
    • Several cries of, “You all are going to be so mad if you pick mine!”
    • Same exact pieces of paper (thx, Mary). But, wait! How do we fold them to be identical. One fold? Two? Origami (you’re so funny, Karen S.)?
    • Pick #1:  Mary selects. She passes it for another to read, but… ACK!!! Two papers are slotted together. Mary is vindicated; the multiple fold is in order.
    • Pick #2:  It’s Shelley’s pick! She’s happy! She’s worried! It’s so new, she knows nothing about it. Tension builds as Sue checks…it’s NOT in the library. Alas.
    • Pick #3:  All goes well. It’s Katie’s pick & she’s not even sure if it’s a full Gaiman story or an anthology of myths that have been Gaiman-ized. We all shall see… NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman
  • December:  Liz had wanted to do a Bootleg Bookless Tea again. Her status may preclude this. So, we are awaiting a Last Minute Call (if she feels up to it). Also… for those of you who actually read these minutes… Katie could host a Tea. Comment or email, if this appeals.
  • January:  Date tbd. It seems Katie and Karen S. (host) need to decide on it. Anyone know when a winter storm is predicted to come?