As my time on the Aegean wings to a close, I’m enjoying some roof-top writing, watching the sun set behind black pines -not Pinus nigra, but the irregular, unstately Pinus brutia– “their fretted summits tipped with cones“. Writing in unusual places could certainly become a divertissement, if not a competitive sport. I wonder what cognitively poetic effects sitting on the edge has on one’s writing; perhaps the thrill of almost losing your pen or your perch translates into a teetering, titillating suspense on the page, for instance? Perhaps being high above the houses leads to loftier thoughts?
The other day, as I contemplated these and other useless theories, I suddenly found myself engulfed in a collective buzz and threw myself indoors, making a beeline in inelegant haste. When I looked back, I saw the tail-end of a swarm of bees undulate once over the terracotta and disappear into the woods. A swarm in july is not worth a fly, so the saying goes.
Despite their crooked silhouettes, the pines conspire (with aphids) to secrete a delicious honeydew, which is transmuted into pine honey by Apis mellifera and sold at roadside stalls by apiarists. There are not enough flowers in this area (except for the ever beautiful, poisonous oleander) for the light, amber flower honey, but one beekeeper I talked to today told me that he takes his skeps to Mount Ida in spring so that his bees can feast on chestnut blossom and produce rich, dark, chestnut honey. Can consuming honey make one honey-tongued (mellifluous)? I feel it is worth a try. Until I return to blighty & pine…
I have lapsed into a summer of storms, nabokov, lana del rey, latin grammars and long nights of macaronic mediterranean converzatione. Ada or Ardor is a pleasure I have deferred; speculative fiction & sparkling prose. Every few pages there is a perfect sentence which I feel ought to be copied out onto propisi and properly savoured:
The windows of the black castle went out in rows, files, and knight moves.
Adada Ada or Ardor, да! “Ada” means island in Turkish, and I am lapping up literature on the littoral margin of one insular Cunda, beyond the geography of Antiterra. The “or” translates with a wonderful repetitiveness (almost better than the English): Ada ya da Arzu. Eliminating the first space makes it adaya da arzu, “ardor for the island, also,” appositely summing my sentiments. And as both Ada and Arzu are common girls’ names here, I’m sure even Nabokov would have been satisfied with the title’s connotativeness.
I’m very picky with my contemporary reading choices, and my steampunk preferences tend to run contrary to the current paranormal trend, but happily there is now so much indie fiction available for consumption (combustion?), that I do find some great reads. Here are a couple of steampunk novellas (the first of their respective series) which I have recently enjoyed and heartily recommend. Both are set miles away from dreary, gaslit London…
The Author’s explanation of the series from the Amazon US page is nicely elucidatory:
These books are set in the Voidships Steampunk world.
What’s Steampunk? The quickest answer is “Victorian Science Fiction” and the pretentious answer is “Retro-futurism”. But more importantly where the “steam” part represents science and industry, the “punk” part represents rebellion. Steampunk stories tend to involve people breaking out of the strictures of society, and who needs to break out more than women?
What’s Voidships? It’s just a word we use to describe an entire world where, in 1843, Faraday demonstrated the partial nullification of gravity – and everything else is alternative history.
As someone who struggles with plot and politics, I could appreciate Turnbull’s skill in both. I think he’s chosen an excellent character to explore a complicated empire, and I’ve already begun reading the second novella in the series, ‘Blood Sky at Night’.
This is the first (free) novella in the Flash Gold Chronicles. Set in the Yukon, it’s a fast-paced adventure with zeppelins, gunfights, and compelling characters. The heroine, Kali McAlister, is an outcast in her small town, and also the keeper of her Father’s powerful invention, the eponymous ‘flash gold’. She enters her steam-and-flash-gold-powered sled into a dogsled race, hoping that the prize money will allow her to leave town for good.
The writing could use a little polishing, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Buroker is particularly clever to use a race to frame the story, as it adds its own impetus, suspense and resolution.
I hope you pick them up for your digital library! I welcome any recommendations on Twitter.
I’ve been waiting patiently for the end of the year in order to begin my One Line a Day diary, and after a fortnight of writing, I love it! Not only the idea of a condensed five-year record, but the book itself. The cover is blue-green with gold lettering, the pages are nicely laid out in blue and gold, and the ribbon is a peachy-pink. The gilt edges throw out a golden nimbus around the book, like a long-lost tome in an adventure film.
Each page is dedicated to one day, and has blanks for five years. Contrary to the title, there are 5 lines for each day of each year, which is very welcome given the book is a diminutive 10cm x 16cm. Writing the entries is an exercise that can be rendered as precise and poetic as you please.
According to Wikipedia, the phrase “nulla dies sine linea” (no day without a line) is attributed to the painter Apelles via Pliny. Henriette Klauser mentions the epigram in Writing on Both Sides of the Brain: “I have the motto, in Latin, as a deliberately florid plaque above my desk and writ in large letters across the front of my PL [Progress Log]. Every day I write something, and that something often develops into the unexpected.” I decided to follow suit and designed a simple A4 poster to remind me of my commitment. The typeface is the beautifully linear Didot, and I printed my poster on blue paper. There is an interesting class on Skillshare that covers the basics of typography design, if you would rather create your own.
Another quotation that comes to mind is Seneca’s (slightly paraphrased) “propra vivere et singulos dies singulas vitas puta”: hasten to live, and consider a single day, a single life. What if you wrote your diary first and then lived your day? When you re-read your entires five years later, will you want truth or entertainment? I have a short memory, I’ll go for the latter.
I’m not sure what makes a proverb more pithy in Latin. Is it due to a characteristic of the language, like its declinability, or the lack of articles? Is it the association of Latin with scholarship and science? Or is it simply the foreignness of the words, which same impulse leads people to tattoo curious Chinese calligraphy on their bodies? Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
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