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A New Person November 15, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Real Life.
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My cousin had her baby today! Squeee!

And birth still boggles my mind. All of a sudden there’s a person, a unique human being, where there wasn’t one before.

 [Reports that superfastbaby can already read may be exaggerated.]

Sensawundameter: Pegged out

The Six Swans November 4, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Books.
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I do tend to gravitate toward novels based on fairy tales. Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier, is one of the better of that subgenre. It’s based on the folk tale “The Six Swans.”

The appropriate key moments have a true Grimm Brothers feel to them. The passages that have a more contemporary-fantasy feel to them don’t detract from that—the bardic voice holds for the most part.

The flaws were few but glaring. The slow beginning almost lost me; the protagonist was impossibly precocious; and the villains were over the top.

Still, once I slogged through that beginning and got into the meat of the story, it became less and less put-downable. I liked that it didn’t mess with the underlying fairy tale too much—it only expanded upon it. I’ve read other novels based on fairy tales that got all pop-psych with the supposed Freudian meaning of the fairy tale. Bleah.

I also liked that even though Marillier sets this in Ireland at a time when Christianity had only a toehold there, and the protagonist is a follower of the “old ways,” she doesn’t bash Christianity. In fact, the most prominent Christian character is a friend and helper.

Daughter of the Forest is book 1 of a trilogy, but it feels complete enough in itself that I just might veer off to some other book in my TBR stack rather than feeling compelled to dive straight into book 2. I like that. There’s enough to pique my interest (hm! wonder who the “Son of the Shadows” might be?) without having to have a blatant cliffhanger.

Sensawundameter:woodwand.jpgwoodwand.jpgwoodwand.jpgwoodwand.jpg

Am I reading too many things? October 4, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Uncategorized.
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Once or twice when I was a kid, Mom gave me a hard time for reading more than one book at a time. Well, Mom, I’m still doing it. Here’s what I’m reading now:

Juliet Marillier, Daughter of the Forest
Søren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity
Julie Morgenstern, Making Work Work
Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle (audiobook)
Henry Ketcham, The Life of Abraham Lincoln (audiobook)
Not to mention assorted magazines and scanning the local newspaper.

I think it’s just that I don’t finish one thing quickly enough and get interested in the next thing. I don’t have any trouble keeping things straight, but I guess I’d have to say this might be a factor in it seeming like it takes forever for me to finish any one book. 😉

Do you do this? Why or why not?

How sensawunda makes us feel September 29, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Sensawunda 101.
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In memory of Madeleine L’Engle, who died on Sept. 6, here is a “sensawunda” quote from her marvelous book of essays, Walking on Water.

We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with the sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.

Realm of Disappointed Yawns September 12, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Books, Hall of Shame, Not Sensawunda.
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In his novel The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks draws upon the very archetypes of wonder—and renders them banal.

To be fair, I had better disclose that I consumed this novel as an abridged audiobook. It’s possible that the abridgement process stripped out the beauty. It did remind me of The DaVinci Code, which I also listened to in abridged form.

Except John Twelve Hawks’s Wikipedia entry mentions that, because he’s such a recluse, people have speculated that he’s just a pen name for a known author—and Dan Brown was listed as a possibility. Twelve Hawks has specifically denied being Dan Brown. But this does suggest to me that the resemblance isn’t just an artifact of abridgment.

John Twelve Hawks seems to be a conspiracy-theory aficionado, so here’s my conspiracy theory: I think there’s a conspiracy among publishers who hawk [get it???] bestsellers. They’re taking the classic sources of sensawunda such as mythology, spirituality, and mysticism, and sucking them completely dry of all wonder and even interest (beyond the synthetic rhythm of formula suspense).

THAT is why his book reminded me of The DaVinci Code.

They both attempt to provide rational explanations for the transcendant. And the sad thing is, I think they both think they are adding wonder to the ancient traditions, with their tales of secret societies and centuries of war waged under the very noses of unsuspecting Muggles (oops, wrong genre).

Twelve Hawks makes a big deal of living “off the Grid,” as if he really believes in the Matrix (which he calls the Vast Machine—he even managed to make that banal). I can’t help wondering how far off the Grid he really is if he’s able to tap into the trend started by Dan Brown, but that’s neither here nor there. Again, it seems to be another attempt on his part to add sensawunda. But he only succeeds in making himself look like a Howard Hughes with no sense of style.

Indoctrination August 26, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Books, Memes, Sensawunda 101.
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…from Booking Through Thursday (via superfastreader)

When growing up did your family share your love of books? If so, did one person get you into reading? And, do you have any family-oriented memories with books and reading? (Family trips to bookstore, reading the same book as a sibling or parent, etc.)

From as far back as I can remember, through at least the age of ten, I went to the town library every so often with Mom and my brother. She would check out a stack of books, and we were each allowed to get a certain number. We also had sets of children’s classics at home. I think she had bought them before we were born, for her future children. One set I loved in particular—it contained an eclectic mix of fables, fairy tales, mythology and excerpts from children’s novels, all accompanied by reproductions of the illustrations from the original editions. That set more than any other shaped my literary tastes. I’m still a sucker for anything illustrated by Arthur Rackham or his present-day heirs.

Mom read to us too… and even though I could already read to myself faster than an oral reading (having “forced” her to teach me to read when I was 3, she says), I still enjoyed following along, snuggled up to her right side on the sofa while my younger brother snuggled up to her left.

Dad’s influence came later. He introduced me to science fiction. He had a complete (up to that time) set of Larry Niven’s Tales of Known Space, and I read them all, including the short stories. I can still name the shorts that impressed me the most. “Bordered in Black”… “All the Myriad Ways”… “For a Foggy Night”… “Safe at Any Speed.” And, for good or ill, Dad took my brother and me to see Star Wars when it first came out.

In college, someone once asked me how my parents got me interested in classical music. I shrugged and said, “They enjoyed it themselves… and they had records that children could enjoy, like Peter and the Wolf and the 1812 Overture.” It’s the same with reading.

All Harry, All the Time July 19, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Books, Memes.
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Here’s a meme I’m crashing, from Booking Through Thursday.

1. Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it?
2. If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties?
3. If you’re not going to read it, why not?
4. And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to?

1. Yeah, duh! As a matter of fact, I’m rereading the whole series in preparation.

2. No midnight parties… I preordered from Amazon, so with 1.2 million other Amazon customers I’ll be waiting for the brown lorry. Will read as soon as possible, but that might not be the minute it arrives… see, I have to share it with my husband. Also, at the rate I’m going, I may not have quite finished Half-Blood Prince yet when UPS shows up on Saturday. If that’s the case, I’ll let hubby read the new one while I finish up… he’s gotta sleep sometime. 😉

3. Huh? Not read it? Non sequitur… your facts are uncoordinated.

4. I’m actually looking forward most to finding out which side Snape is really on! My husband and I disagree. We haven’t gone so far as to bet on it though.

Meme of 8 May 20, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Memes.
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My cousin has tagged me for my very first meme! I think it’s cool that it’s about 8s. A bit of Bible analysis that has stuck in my head for years is that seven is the number of completion… but sometimes scripture goes even beyond that to eight, for special significance. For example, Ecclesiastes 11:2—”Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Ever since then I have thought of eight as the number of transcendence. And we like transcendence, here at Sense of Wonder!

Here are the rules of the meme:

1: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3: At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4: Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Seven random facts about me, yea, eight as random as I can get them:

1. I play solitaire on my PDA obsessively.

2. A friend once called me a “closet exhibitionist.” Oxymoron???? It was at the time… but doesn’t it sound like a blogger?

3. I spent the summer of 1986 in China on a college exchange-program-type-thingie. I’m strongest in shopping vocabulary. Duoshao qian yi jin?

4. I LIKE airplane food. (Alas, they don’t serve it any more.)

5. My great-grandfather played 4 instruments, led a polka band, and held Saturday night dances in a dance hall in the corner of the pasture on his Nebraska farm. I inherited his fiddle. It has a hand-carved tailpiece that appears to be made of cow horn.

6. My brother and I used to rescue frog eggs from a pond we knew would dry up in the summer. We put them in a fishbowl and watched them hatch and grow from tadpoles to tree frogs. Then we released them at a shady stream.

7. In the rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula, when I was in the 6th grade, I saw a snake swallowing a frog. The frog was calling, “eep! eep!”

8. People often say to me, “You’re tall!” My reply: “I know.”

Now for the tagging. Thing is, I can’t think of eight bloggers I’d feel comfortable tagging. So much for transcendence. Here’s who I’ve got…

John at Dark Fluidity

annette at Fulcrum Freestyle

Hello flat world! May 6, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Books.
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Where were you when you realized the world is flat?

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman has permeated business thought to the point where it’s alluded to in an IBM television commercial.

Waitaminnit, you may be thinking. Business? What’s that got to do with sensawunda?

I’ll tell ya. You may have heard that you “should” read this book. I’m here to tell you why I’m actually ENJOYING reading this book!

What makes this book interesting is how it shifts my weltanschauung. He shows how several well-known but seemingly unrelated events of the last twenty years have combined to create what some are calling the “new world order”—not one that’s imposed by shadowy men of power, but one that’s growing organically from the soil of the Internet, whether the “powers-that-be” like it or not.

One of my previous posts talks about this… I quoted Stephen Baxter:

Sensawunda can come from changing the reader’s perception, through dramatic revelations of the nature of the new world, from rushes of extrapolation of the central idea, from changes of scale or perspective.

Baxter’s talking about fiction, but this applies equally well to The World is Flat. It jars me into recognition of the new patterns of modern life that I had dimly perceived but not thought through. One “a-ha” moment after another, building a grand new vision, adds up to sensawunda in non-fiction.

Sensawundameter:
WandWandWandWand

quick update March 18, 2007

Posted by sensawunda in Other Sites.
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I just found out that superfastreader changed her web address, so I’ve updated the blogroll. The link should work now.