Friday, October 2, 2015

A Day in Lonesome October-fest, October 2nd

The second entry in the continuing saga of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an eight-year-old, out loud and during the day. 

Lily spent a fair amount of time scrutinizing the cover again. She was trying to pair up Masters and Companions, and puzzling out their relationships. She asked if everyone on the cover appeared in the book and I said that mostly they did. (I never thought about it, but the old woman must be Linda Enderby). She asked if Jill was a gypsy, which is not a question you expect from kids in 2015. I told her, no, she’s a witch. “Oh, she’s young and very pretty.”

I had explained about openers and closers, and she asked me who was on which side, but I wouldn’t bite. She’s very concerned about liking a character who might turn out to be a villain.

With all that discussed, we began reading the chapter. I did the reading, and Lily interjected regularly with questions or commentary. I liked the back and forth, because it helped stretch out the reading of another very short chapter.
Me: "We took a walk last night, acquiring mandrake root in a field far from here at the place of a killing by somebody else."
Lily: I think I know what mandrake root is. It’s a magical plant that screams when you pick it.
Me: I’m pretty sure you saw that in Harry Potter, and it’s not actually true. Let’s figure it out. A drake is another word for a duck, so a man-drake must be some kind of wereduck.
Jen was wandering through the kitchen, and she was able to clarify what mandrake was, so we returned to the text.
Me: The cat Graymalk came slinking about, pussyfoot, peering in our windows.
Lily: Can I see that? How’s it spelled?
There was then a protracted discussion. She thought that the name was Gray-milk when I had mentioned it earlier (Pause for a Simpsons reference) 

and said that Graymalk was a terrible name. I was able to refer to Chris Kovacs’s excellent essay for the likely provenance of the name, and strangely, my eight-year-old warmed to neither a scholarly essay nor Graymalk’s name. I think she’ll come to like the name as we read more about a character she already likes.

For those of you playing at home, this is the first sentence of the second paragraph of the second chapter.

"We have our tasks."
"We do."
"And so it has begun."
"It has."
"Goes it well?"
"So far. And you?"
"The same. I suppose it is easiest simply to ask this way, for now."

This part actually tripped me up, because I lost track of who was talking when I turned the page. I was giving each character a different voice, which is, of course, a big part of the fun in reading it out loud. (I gave Snuff a slightly gruff voice and Grey one that was a little bit detached in what I hope was a catlike way)

Lily liked lines detailing Gray’s cat mannerisms, such as: She tossed her head, raised a paw and studied it.

I’ve always said that I thought Zelazny did a very good job of imaging the mannerisms specific to each animal. I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the essential components of why the book works so well.

Me (reading for Graymalk)  "The owl, Nightwind, consort of Morris and MacCab. I saw him flee at dawn, found a feather out back. The feather is tainted with mummy dust, to do you ill."
Lily: Was the mummy dust going to make them sick?
Me: I get the impression that it’s more that it’s part of a magic spell, and they’re trying to lay a curse on Jack and Snuff.
a little bit later
Me: " I saw Quicklime, the black snake who lives in the belly of the mad monk, Rastov. He rubbed against your doorpost, shedding scales."
Lily: Quicklime. That’s a great name.
Me: Yeah it is.
Lily: Can I call him Monk-Man?
Me: As long as you do it after October 23rd, I don’t think he’ll be fine with it.
And that was it. These early chapters are so short. ( I gave her the option of rereading what we had read before, just to ensure that we weren’t done reading in two minutes, but she declined. She knew there was a cat, and she was very eager to get to that part.) So we wrapped it and reviewed the characters. She went fishing about who was an opener, but I wouldn’t tell her.

She didn’t like Gahan Wilson’s illustrations, and, while it may mark me as a philistine, neither do I. I just don’t dig his particular style. (I do like the one with Zelazny as the Great Detective, but that’s about it.)

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