Willis, Connie. “Ado.” The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories. Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2007.
Reason read: June is short story month.
Imagine a world where everything you could possibly say or do offends someone on some level. We are approaching that world fast and furious but Willis suspected its arrival thirty-one years ago. “Ado” is a tongue in cheek look at political correctness gone way too far. She uses the example of teaching Shakespeare to a group of students as an example. To teach the Bard the main protagonist must run it by the principal, take the particular play out of a vault, allow for students to refuse to attend the class, and then wait for the special interest groups to protest loudly. There is a computer that reads the Shakespearean text line by line to look for offensive material so that for example, a play like ‘As You Like It’ can be subject to a restraining order by the group Mothers Against Transvestites. The only safe subject is the weather. It’s such a ridiculous society you cannot help but laugh out loud while secretly shuddering over Willis’s apropos vision.
Author fact: I have more than a dozen Willis books on my Challenge list but she has written so much more.
Book trivia: The Winds of Marble Arch was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.
Nancy said: Pearl called “Ado” a “sly appraisal of where political correctness is taking us” (Book Lust p 247).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).
Willis, Connie. “At the Rialto.” Impossible Things. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.
Reason read: June is Short Story month.
Dr. Ruth Baringer, a quantum physicist, runs into obstacles everywhere she turns trying to attend a conference in America’s playground, Hollywood, California. She can’t even check into her room without it becoming a major event. Trying to attend different events at the conference become confused and convoluted. Even trying to connect with her roommate is impossible. Everything is insane. Meanwhile, a colleague wants her to go to the movies instead…after all, they are in Hollywood.
Story trivia: “At the Rialto” won a Nebula Award for best novelette.
Author fact: Willis was given the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 2012.
Nancy said: Pearl said Willis also wrote “wonderful” short stories and mention “At the Rialto” as one not to be missed.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: To Good To Miss” (p 246).
This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:
- Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
- Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
- Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.
- Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
- From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.
- Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
- Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
- Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.
Short stories for National Short Story Month:
- “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
- “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
- “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
- “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
- “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
- “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.
- A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
- The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
- Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch
- ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn
- The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
- The Turk by Tom Standage
- ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett
Early Review Program for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg – not finished yet
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – not finished yet
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – not finished yet
Willis, Connie. Fire Watch. New York: Bluejay International, 1985.
Reason read: to make up for the missed short story in Time Machine, the anthology edited by Bill Adler, Jr.
Fire Watch is made up of twelve short stories. It is her first short story collection. The stories are as follows:
- Fire Watch – favorite line, “The past is beyond saving” (p 35).
- Service for the Burial of the Dead – imagine attending your own funeral. This is a dark story and probably one of my favorites.
- Lost and Found – line I liked, “What else had he missed because he wasn’t looking for it?” (p 76).
- All My Darling Daughters – probably the most disturbing short story in the entire book.
- The Father of the Bride – the other side of a fairy tale.
- A Letter from the Clearys – read this one two or three times!
- And Come from Miles Around – everyone gathers for the eclipse of the century.
- The Sidon in the Mirror – a creepy tale about copying someone to the point of being twins.
- Daisy, in the Sun – a family copes of post-nuclear war.
- Mail-Order Clone – you know the saying, “if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”? Well, this is the blind leading the blind.
- Samaritan – can you baptize an orangutan? The church treats him like a human so why not?
- Blued Moon – a comedy of error after error about coincidences.
Author fact: Connie Willis went to the University of Northern Colorado.
Book trivia: There is a scene in the movie American President (starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas) when Douglas wants to send Bening flowers; specifically the state flower of Virginia where Bening’s character is from. He ends up sending a dogwood which is reported to be a tree and a bush (“sir”). I was reminded of that scene when I found out there are two Fire Watch publications. It’s a book and a short story. I was supposed to read the shorter version in December, but the book is also on my list so what the hey.
Nancy said: nothing specific about Fire Watch.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).
Adler. Jr., Bill. Time Machines: the Greatest Time Travel Stories Ever Written. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998.
Reason read: December is Star Man month and that makes me think of time travel.
Time Machines is made up of twenty-two really diverse short science fiction stories all centered on time travel or time machines.
- A Shape in Time by Anthony Boucher – Agent L-3H is hired to prevent marriages until she fails to seduce her man. This story has one of my favorite quotes, “Temporal Agent L-3H is always delectable in any shape; that’s why the bureau employs her on marriage-prevention assignments” (p 1).
- Who’s Cribbin’ by Jack Lewis – someone from the past is stealing a young sci-fi writer’s work. Who is the plagiarist?
- The Business, As Usual by Mack Reynolds – a 20th century souvenir hunter visits the 30th century.
- The Third Level by Jack Finney – Somewhere in the bowels of Grand Central Station there is another level which will take you to 1894 New York.
- A Touch of Petulance by Ray Bradbury – what happens when you meet your future self and he tells you you will murder your wife.
- The History of Temporal Express by Wayne Freeze – what if you could go back in time to meet a deadline you previously missed?
- Star, Bright by Mark Clifton – a widower’s child, abnormally bright, learns how to transport herself through time but her father isn’t as smart. Interestingly enough, someone drew a Mobius slip in the book possibly to illustrate the phenomenon of a one-sided plane.
- The Last Two Days of Larry Joseph’s Life – In This Time, Anyway by Bill Adler, Jr. – Two roommates watch as their third roommate quietly disappears.
- Three Sundays in a Week by Edgar Allan Poe – Two lovers get around the stipulation they can only marry when there are three Sundays in the same week.
- Bad Timing by Molly Brown – an archivist in the 24th century falls in love with a woman from the 20th century but he’s a bumbling idiot when it comes to time travel. As an aside, this story reminded me of the movie, “Lake House.”
- Night by John W. Campbell – a pilot testing out an anti-gravity coil has an accident and he needs the help of aliens to get home.
- Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt – a crazy story about a man who has two deaths.
- Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation by Larry Niven – what if time travel doesn’t work?
- What Goes Around by Derryl Murphy – a ghost from the future comes to help a washed up actor.
- You See, But You Do Not Observe by Robert Sawyer – Sherlock Holmes visits the future to find alien life.
- Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey A. Landis – a man tries to flee his own destiny by using a time machine but keeps returning to the same moment when he is to die.
- The Odyssey of Flight 33 by Rod Serling – an airplane en route to New York curiously picks up speed and somehow lands 200 million years ahead of schedule.
- Fire Watch by Connie Willis – not read (on Challenge list elsewhere)
- What If by Isaac Asimov – not read
- There and Then by Steven Utley – not read
- Wireless by Rudyard Kipling – not read
- The Last Article by Harry Turtledove – a sad tale about the nonviolence moment being unsuccessful against the Nazis of World War II.
Author Editor fact: Adler has written a few books of his own (including a short story in Time Machines.
Nancy said: Time Machines was in a list of other books about time travel the reader might enjoy.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220).
I opted out of the cutesy title for this blog because…well…I simply wasn’t in the mood to come up with anything clever. What was December all about? For the run it was a 5k that I finished in “about 30 minutes” as my running partner put it. I also ran a mile every day (from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day). I think I’m satisfied with that accomplishment the most because I ran even when we were traveling, even when we were completely swamped with other things going on, even when I didn’t feel like lifting a finger. Despite it all, I still ran at least one mile.
Enough of that. In addition to running I read. Here are the books finished in the month of December. For some reason I surrounded myself with some of the most depressing books imaginable:
- Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild – read in two lazy afternoons
- Fay by Larry Brown – devoured in a week (super sad).
- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (AB/print) – confessional: I started this the last week of November fearing I wouldn’t conquer all 600 pages before 12/31/17 but I did. (again, super sad book).
- Wanting by Richard Flanagan (really, really sad when you consider Mathinna’s fate).
- Between the Assassinations by Avarind Adiga (sad).
- The Beach by Alex Garland (again, sad in a weird way).
- God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories by Tom Bissell (the last of the sad books).
- Nero Wolf of West Thirty-fifth Street: the Life and Times of America’s Largest Detective by William Stuart Baring-Gould.
- Iron & Silk by Mark Salzman – read in three days. The only real funny book read this month.
- Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha by Dorothy Gilman – read in the same weekend as Ballet Shoes.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Brain Food: the Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi (started).
- Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor.
Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. Read by Jenny Sterlin.
Reason read: Connie Willis was born in the month of December. Read in her honor. Confessional: this book is nearly 600 pages long so I decided to start it early.
I don’t know why I get so nervous about reading science fiction. I really shouldn’t when it comes to Connie Willis. I have enjoyed everything I had read from her so far and Doomsday Book is no different. In a word Doomsday Book is brilliant. Young and ambitious student historian Kivrin has been eagerly preparing to leave her 21st century world for that of fourteenth century Oxford. Wearing a costume proper for women of the era? Check. Middle English language lessons completed? Check. Customs training for her alibi for a woman traveling alone? Check. Proper inoculations for illnesses of the day? Check. Or it is check with a question mark? Her instructors back in 2054 had made painstaking calculation to ensure she would arrive decades before the Black Death, but is it possible she slipped twenty eight years passed the targeted date? Did she arrive at ground zero at the exact wrong time? Strangely enough, the 21st century is suffering an epidemic of its own. Modern day Oxford is quarantined and fear bordering on panic runs rampant.
This is a story of parallel tragedies and the human nature that transcends all time…despite being “sci-fi.”
Author fact: at the time of publication Willis lived in Greeley, Colorado. Such a beautiful place!
Book trivia: Doomsday Book won both the Hugo and Nebula award for science fiction.
Nancy said: in Book Lust, “many people believe Doomsday Book Willis’s most accomplished novel (p 246). In More Book Lust, nothing other than to list it as a time travel book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246). Also from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 221).
Here’s something of a shocker. I am running a 5k during the first week of December! Actually, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise because I mentioned signing up for it in the last post…just yesterday. But. But! But, enough about the first week of December. Let’s talk about the last week of December! I am looking forward to a week off from work with nothing to do except read, read, read. Another opportunity to gorge on books is a six hour car ride when I won’t be driving. A perfect opportunity to finished a shorter book! And speaking of books, Here is the list:
- God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories by Tom Bissell ~ in honor of a day in December as being one of the coldest days in Russian history.
- Fay by Larry Brown ~ in honor of December being Southern Literature Month.
Fearless Treasureby Noel Streatfeild in honor of Streatfeild’s birth month. Actually, no library would lend Fearless Treasure without charging an ILL fee so I am reading Ballet Shoes instead. Good thing I wasn’t looking forward to reading fantasy!
- Wanting by Richard Flanagan ~ in honor of Tasmania’s taste fest which happens in December. To be honest, I don’t know how I made this connection.
- The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis ~ in honor of Willis being born in December. Confessional: this is a huge book so I started it a little early (AB & print).
- The Beach by Alex Garland in honor of Thailand’s Constitution Day observance in December.
- Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman ~ in honor of Mark Salzman’s birth month being in December.
- Nero Wolf at West Thirty Fourth Street: the life and times of America’s Largest Private Detective by William S. Baring-Gold ~ in honor of Rex Stout’s birth month.
- Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Buddha by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents’ month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- I was supposed to receive Jam Today by Tod Davies last month but hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe I’ll get it this month.
- I am also suppose to receive Pep Talk for Writers by Grant Faulkner by Dec 29th, 2017. We’ll see about that!
- Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor ~ because I’m still trying keep running.
If there is time:
- Between the Assassinations by Avavind Adiga ~in honor of Vivah Panchami
- Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich ~ in honor of Woolrich’s birth month
Willis, Connie. Impossible Things. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.
“Ado” is a super short story about an English teacher trying to get her class to study Shakespeare. The problem is this, every play is contested by some watchdog group. Mortician International takes offense to the word, “casket” in Act III, Students Against Suicide protest Ophelia’s drowning, and so on. Even the students are allowed to refuse to learn a subject. Willis prefaced the story with an explanation, “political correctness is getting out of hand” (p 115).
“At the Rialto” had me laughing from the very first pages. Dr. Ruth Baringer is a quantum physicist attending a chaos conference in Hollywood, California. Only she can’t even check into her room because her name isn’t in the registry. In fact, nothing is where it’s supposed to be. Rooms where lectures are supposed to be occurring either have talks on channeling or stand empty. To make matters worse there is a colleague who is hell bent on trying to distract Dr. Baringer from attending a single lecture even if it is the wrong one. The chaos is just trying to attend the conference on chaos.
Reason read: June is National Short Story month.
Author fact: Oddly enough I couldn’t find an award for Impossible Things which seems entirely impossible because Willis has won awards for nearly everything else she has written.
Book trivia: Impossible Things is made up of eleven stories of which I only read two.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 247).
Willis, Connie. Bellwether. Read by Kate Reading. Blackstone Audio, 2009.
Funny. Funny. Funny. Sandy Foster is a sociologist working at the research corporation, HiTeck, studying trends in the form of fads. Just how do they start? When we first meet Sandy she is trying to deduce when the fad of hair bobbing first erupted. It’s a conundrum. But, the bigger conundrum is Sandy’s work relationships. While Flip is the most annoying mail clerk known to mankind Sandy finds herself quoting her. While Sandy is practically engaged to a sheep ranger she finds herself drawn to a fad resistant coworker studying chaos theory.
I don’t know what it is about the most recent audio books I have chosen to listen to but I’m on a roll picking humorous ones. The Galton Case by Ross MacDonald was great and so was Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers. Bellwether by Connie Willis is just as good, if not funnier. Listen to it. Seriously. But, make sure you are listening to the version read by Kate Reading. She is hysterical as Flip.
Reason read: Willis was born on the last day of December…
Author fact: If you check out winners of the Nebula award you will see Connie Willis’s name a few times. She’s won it at least five or six times.
Book trivia: The title of the book is really clever. Bellwether refers to the practice of putting a bell on a castrated ram who leads his flock of sheep. This bell ringing allows herders to hear them coming before they see them. So, the phenomenon of bellwether is the creation of an upcoming event or trend.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246). As an aside, Nancy Pearl says her favorite Willis book is Bellwether.