Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 30

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 30

This is a bit of a breather chapter, much like October 28th had been. It's essential, in that it fills a little more of the background and sets up the events that will occur in the climax, but it's not all that engaging when taken on its own.

However, my daughter and I had flown down to visit my mom, who is also reading the book, and we read this chapter together, so it had a certain special meaning for us.  Lily is really getting into it. She says we need a new family rule that we should read ANITLO to anyone born into our extended family on or before that child's ninth birthday. I'll let you know how that works out. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 29

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 29

This is my friend JL’s favorite chapter, and I like it a lot too.

Following lunch at Jill's place, to which Bubo was also invited, having finally acknowledged Graymalk to be a cat of a different category, I took a walk back to the ruin of the Good Doctor's place.
Lily: Heh, Boobie.

The meal had had an almost elegiac quality to it, Jack having asked outright whether she'd consider switching, Jill having admitted to a conflict in her sympathies now, but being determined to play the Game through as she'd started.

I defined elegiac for Lily (something that has the characters of an elegy, like a song or a poem, where you’re remembering something that’s lost or gone. Like an angel or a dog.)

"So it seems someone's killing openers." 
"Rastov was a closer." 
"I think Owen talked him into switching." 
"No, he tried but he didn't succeed." 
"How do you know that?" 
"I used to get into Owen's place through Cheeter's attic hole and listen to them talk. I was there the night before Rastov was killed. They were drinking and quoting everybody from Thomas Paine to Nietzsche at each other, but Rastov didn't switch." 
"Interesting. You sound as if you're still in the Game." 
There came a faint sound from below, just as [Needle] said, "Oh, I am, Get down! Flat!"

Lily was almost entirely disinterested in this revelation, because it was eclipsed by my Linda Enderby voice.
I knew that I was right when I heard the vicar utter an oath. I descended one more step. . . . Then I decided I could risk no more. I pushed myself backward, letting myself fall the rest of the way, recalling things Graymalk had said about always landing on her feet, wishing I'd been born with that ability, trying to achieve it this one time, anyway. . . .

I tried to torque my body in the proper direction, along the long axis, relaxing my legs the while.
Lily: Heh, torque.

She still remembered my definition from the earlier chapter, and for a magical Victorian era talking dog, Snuff sure uses “torque” a lot. For comparison, the word “October” only appears 35 times, and 32 of those are chapter titles or the name of the book itself.

Snuff says “I like being a watchdog better than what I was before he summoned me and gave me this job” and what he was before Jack summoned him was a high school physics teacher.
The bolt passed well above me, from the sound I heard of it striking wood. But the man was already cranking the weapon again as I hit the ground. I did land on my feet, but they went out from under me immediately. As I struggled to rise, I saw him finish cocking the thing, now ignoring the black form which darted before him. My left hind leg hurt. I pushed myself upright, anyway, and turned. He had the quarrel in one hand and was moving to fit it into place. I had to rush him, to try knocking him over before he succeeded and got off another shot. I knew that it was going to be close. . . .

And then there was a shadow in the doorway at his back.

"Why, Vicar Roberts, whatever are you doing with that archaic weapon?" came the wonderfully controlled falsetto of the Great Detective in his Linda Enderby guise.
Some people are good at voices. I have no particular talent in that arena, but there is one voice I can do consistently. It’s a warbling falsetto, if Julia Child were playing the role of Mrs. Doubtfire. It’s great. Lily thinks it’s hilarious. I used it for Linda Enderby, and added to what was already a great chapter.

The vicar hesitated, then turned.

"Madam," he said, "I was about to perform a community service by dispatching a vicious brute which even now is preparing to attack us."

I began wagging my tail immediately and put on my idiot slobbering hound expression, tongue hanging out and all.

"That hardly seems a vicious beast to me," the voice of the lady stated, as the Great Detective moved in quickly, passing between the vicar and myself to effectively block a shot. "That's just old Snuff. Everybody knows Snuff. Not a mean bone in his body. Good Snuff! Good dog!"

The old hand-on-head business followed, patting. I responded as if it were the greatest invention since free lunch.

This whole thing had Lily giggling hysterically.

"Whatever made you think him antisocial?"

"Madam, that was the creature that almost tore my ear off."

"I am certain you must be mistaken, sir. I cannot conceive of this animal as behaving aggressively, except possibly in self-defense."

The vicar's face was quite red and his shoulders looked very tense. For a moment I thought he might actually try angling in a shot at me, anyhow.

"I really feel," the Linda voice went on, "that if you have any complaints concerning the animal you ought to take them up with his owner first before embarking on a drastic action that might well draw the attention of the Humane Society and not rest well with the parishioners." 
"That man is a godless jackanapes . . ." he began, but then his shoulders slumped. "Perhaps, however, I acted hastily. As you say, the parishioners might view it askance, not knowing the full measure of my complaints. Yes. Very well." He lowered the weapon and released its tension. "This will be settled," he said then, "in another day or two. But for now I accept your counsel and will do nothing rash." He put away the quarrel in a case slung over his shoulder, slinging the weapon, also, moments later. "And so, madam, I thank you again for those cookies you brought by, which I found quite tasty, and I bid you a good day."

"I trust your daughter enjoyed them as well?"

"Indeed she did. We both thank you."

This is another great part. The Great Detective catches the vicar in a lie, which he attempts to cover, but the Great Detective knows.  He didn't share those cookies at all! The vicar is outstanding as a villain, so big and so small in all the right ways.
"Snuff, I know more about him than he realizes, and I have experimented with many sorts of drugs myself over the years. I know that his intent is to rescue Lynette on the night of the ceremony, but I do not believe that he has sufficiently refined the dosage which he feels will carry him past the moon madness of his affliction. And whatever the case, Vicar Roberts is aware that there is one of his sort involved, and he has melted down a piece of the rectory silverware to cast a bullet for a pistol he will be carrying with him that night."
Lily gasped softly and her eyes got wide. Kids, in general, are kind of annoying, and mine is no exception, but it’s really been a lot of fun reading this story with her because of moments like these.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 28

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 28

Not many revelations in this chapter. I had filled Lily in on the details beforehand, and she had figured out the rest over the course of the book so that her only takeaway was that Jack was a lot older than Jill, and if they wind up as a couple, it may cause issues down the road. Keep your May-December romances out of her October!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 27

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 27

There's nothing a smart kid likes more than being right about something, so Lily was, of course, overjoyed at this chapter, having speculated several days ago that the Good Doctor wasn't really a player.  Fortunately, she celebrated with quiet good grace and kept her victory strut under five minutes.

We enjoyed the dialogue with Gray and Boobie Bubo too:
Graymalk immediately moved near and asked, "Was the Good Doctor an opener or a closer?" 
"Please," he said, "let me be. I'm just a simple pack rat. Snuff! Don't let her have me!" 
"I've already eaten," she said. "Besides, I owe you courtesy as a fellow player." 
"No you don't," he said. "It's over. Over." 
"Just because your master is dead doesn't mean I should treat you as anything other than a player." 
"But you know. You must know. You're toying with me. Cats are that way. I'm not a player. I never was. Have you really eaten recently?" 
"That's worse then. You'll toy more." 
"Shut up a minute!" she said. 
"See? There goes the courtesy."

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 26

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 26

Not a lot going on in this chapter. It reminded us of the older ones back in the beginning. Lily's reaction to the wolf was "Meh, that's weird, I guess", though she did wonder how it knew Snuff's name when Snuff never mentioned it. 

She was surprised when I stopped reading at the end of the chapter, certain there must be more. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 25

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 25

This chapter has my mom's favorite line:      Growing moon.  Angry cat.  Feather on the wind.  Autumn comes.  The grass dies.

Also, of note, I took Lily out Trick or Treating, and she said to her friend, "I'm reading a really good book with my dad, Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October? Have you ever read it?" While I'm afraid my immediate circle of friends has given her a distorted impression of Zelazny's popularity, I am very pleased to be raising a second generation Zelazny evangelist.

Lily had a lot of questions about the specifics of the shadow ritual, which I was't able to answer beyond "That's just how it functions." We also had this interesting exchange.
"Are Morris and MacCab openers or closers?" I asked.

"I'm pretty sure they're openers," Graymalk said.

"Yes," Cheeter agreed. "They are."

"What about the Good Doctor?"

"Nobody knows. The divinations keep going askew for him."
Lily: Is he even a player?
Me: What do you mean?
Lily: He doesn't seem to do anything. He just hangs around on the outskirts.
Me: *steeples fingers*

Her attention wandered a bit during the shadow ritual, and I do think it is a bit longer than it needs to be. Still, we enjoyed it.

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 24

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 24

Lily called this chapter "action packed". She was still worried about Lynette, but she agreed with Larry's reasoning that it was better to rescue her closer to Halloween.

The chapter had a lot words that I thought she might not know, so I was regularly stopping the narrative to interject with definitions. Port wine (didn't know it but was able to get it from context), incandescence (knew it already), torque (new word, I defined it for her as rotating around a fixed point),  fluoresced (I knew she knew it because she defined it for the tour guide when we went on a tour of Lost River Caverns last weekend), ubiquitous ("everywhere", also noteworthy because I first began employing it after reading it in the ADRPG, though I initially thought it began with an "ooo" sound and not a "you" one), and tableau ("in this context, it means the scene"), feinted (had to clarify that Snuff was faking out the monster and not looking for the fainting couch), sherry (got it from context, figured it had to be another wine if they were drinking it in lieu of the port) and manumission ("The act of freeing from servitude").

I also filled her in on the background of the poem Snuff references as the the Things burn. 

A good chapter. Action packed, informative and funny ("What I'm wondering most, though, is what you're going to do with them now." Hm," he said, toying with his glass. "It's rather far to the river." I nodded vigorously.) What more could you want?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 23

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 23

This chapter.


This chapter, man.

I love October 23rd. It's got three memorable scenes, and I would love it for any one of them.

Lily loved this part:
Up in the morning, out on the job. I hassled the Things, then checked around outside. A black feather lay near our front door. Could be one of Nightwind's. Could be openers on a nasty spell. Could just be a stray feather. I carried it across the road to the field and pissed on it.
She also had a strong reaction to Snuff's throwaway reference to Rocco.
He reminded me of someone I once knew: Rocco. Rocco was a big, floppy-eared hound, always happy, bouncing about and slavering over life with such high spirits that some found it annoying, and he was very single-minded. I called to him one day on the street and he just dashed across, not even paying puppy-attention to his surroundings. Got run over by a cart. I rushed to his side, and damned if he still didn't seem happy to see me in those final minutes. If I'd kept my muzzle shut he could have stayed happy a lot longer.
She was crying after this bit, so we took a short time to recover. We progressed on to Snuff's investigation into Rastov's murder, and she seemed to be in better shape, as she was pretty indifferent to Rastov, but when Quicklime started talking about him, she started crying again.
"I think I'm done with the Game. He was a good man. He took good care of me. He cared about people, about the whole world. What's that human notion, compassion. He had a lot of that. It's one of the reasons he drank a lot, I think. He felt everybody else's pain too much. No. I'm done with the Game. I'll slip back to the woods now. I still know a few burrows, a few places where the mice make their runs. Leave me alone here for a while now. I'll see you around, Snuff."
 "Quicklime loved him so much!" 

Just like Rastov, she's poisoned with compassion. 

We moved on to the vicarage. She liked it when Lynette was petting Gray, because she could imagine her own cats performing those same actions.

"I'll go rub up against her and let her pet me," Graymalk said. "That makes people happy. You can be looking at the chain while I do that."

It was actually the locks in which I was most interested. But even as I advanced to do that I heard the distant clopping of a horse's hoofs, approaching at a very rapid pace.

"Uh-oh," Graymalk said amid purrings, as the girl stroked her and told her how pretty she was. "Tekela must have seen us come in, flew off and given alarm."

For my part, I like Snuff's simple declaration "If Graymalk were dead, I was going to kill him." It's so Zelaznian in a lot of ways, but it also shows just how much Snuff cares for her. Throughout the entire book, he's talking how important it is to abide by the rules of the Great Game, and here he is willing to cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil" 

So they get away, ride into town and before the vicar can ask, "Snuff, does this smell like chloroform to you?" Snuff is captured and delivered to vivisectionists. 

Now, I'm not a pet person. I'm never cruel, but my preferred interaction with animals is not to interact with animals. Lily loves every kind of animal. So while the description of the lab was just flavor text to me, I knew as I was reading that she could see each and every one.

I could hear whimpers, growls, a pathetic mewing, and faint, sharp barks of pain from many directions.  When my sense of smell began to work again, all manner of doggy and catty airs came to me.  I raised my head and looked about and wished I hadn't. 
     Mutilated animals occupied cages both near and far, dogs and cats without tails or the proper number of legs, a blind puppy whose ears had been cut off, a cat missing large patches of her skin, raw flesh showing at which she licked, mewing constantly the while.  What mad place was this?  I checked myself over quickly, to make certain I was intact.
Fortunately, Jack arrives on the scene in short order.
There came a loud pounding upon an outer door...It came again, more heavily; this time it was obviously the sound of someone kicking upon the door...The third time that the knocking occurred it seemed as if each blow were performed by a strong man striking his shoulder against the door, attempting to break it down.
     The shorter man took a single step toward the entrance when a splintering sound reached us from the next room, followed by a loud crash. 
     Heavy footsteps crossed the outer room.  Then the door immediately across from me was flung open.  Jack stood upon the threshold, staring at the cages, the vivisectionists, myself upon the table.  Graymalk peered in from behind him.
That was a great detail to include, and I'd even go so far as to say that the scene, as perfect as it otherwise is, would not work if Gray were not there, peering from the threshold.

     "Just who do you think you are, bursting into a private laboratory?" said the beefy man.
   ". . . Interrupting a piece of scientific research?" said the tall man.

    ". . . And damaging our door?" said the short man with the wide shoulders and large hands.
   I could see it now, like a black tornado, surrounding Jack, settling inward.  If it entered him completely he would no longer be in control of his actions.

     "I've come for my dog," he said.  "That's him on your table."

That last line is one of my friend Frederick's favorite lines of the entire book. I'm inclined to agree with him.

A great chapter from a great book. Not an easy chapter, if you're nine and you love animals, but still a great one. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 22

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 22

This chapter.


This chapter, man.

I'm a longtime and enthusiastic fan of Roger Zelazny's work, but people who have been reading the blog know that I certainly have my hobby horses. Chief among them are the character of Merlin (he sucks) and Chapter 22 of A Night in the Lonesome October

We had to break this chapter into two parts. I read the first part before school and stopped after Graymalk and Snuff had been sucked through the portal. When we got home and homework was finished for the evening, I gave Lily the following choice.

Me: So the next part is Graymalk going into a trance and reciting five pages of boring poetry. Read it, or skip past it?
Lily: Oh yeah! Read it!
Me: Fuck.
She was kind of distracted, and I took advantage of that. She's usually very astute about noticing when I'm something, but she was finishing up an art project, so I would read something, skip to the next paragraph. I think I skipped an entire page near the end.    ". . . And there is Urg of the low domes, a stop on the way to Inquanok, frequented by onyx miners..." flip flip flip ". . . And there is Sarkomand, beyond the Leng Plateau." flip flip flip " ". . . Coming at last to fair Celephais in the land of Ooth-Nargai on the shores of the Cerenerian Sea. . . ."

Next time, I'll just dig out my audiobook copy and let Zelazny read the chapter for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 21

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 21

This is the first chapter we had to break into two parts,.
"I was out last night," he said, "and I hung myself in a plum tree I'd learned Needle frequents when he feeds. When he came by I said, 'Good evening, Needle.' 
"'Quicklime, is that you?' he answered. 
"'Indeed,' I replied, 'and how go your farings?' 
"'Well. Well,' he said. 'And your own twisting ways?' 
"'Oh, capital,' I answered. 'I take it you have come to feed?' 
"'Yes. I always come here last, for these plums are my favorites and put a fine end to a harvesting of bugs. I prefer saving the best for last.' 
"'As it should be,' I said, 'with all endeavors. Tell me', for I was wise in these ways now, having lived with Rastov, 'have you ever sampled the long-fallen plums, those which look wrinkled, ruined, and unappetizing?' 
"'No,' he replied, 'that would be silly, when so many good ones still hang upon the tree.' 
"'Ah,' I told him, 'but looks may be deceptive, and "good" is certainly a relative term.' 
"'What do you mean?' he asked. 
"'I, too, enjoy the fruits,' I said, 'and I have learned their secret. Those over yonder on the ground are far better than those which hang yet upon the limbs. 
"'How can that be?' he said. 
"'The secret is that as they lie there, cut off forever from the source of their existence, they draw upon their remaining life to continue a new kind of growth. True, the effects wither them, but they ferment from their own beings a new and special elixir, superior to the simple juices of those upon the tree.'
Lily had her head tilted, and she was listening, trying to figure out what Quicklime was up to, when her mom just said it outright. She really enjoyed the scene with that knowledge.
" They taste a lot better?' 
"'No. They do not. This goes beyond mere taste. It is a thing of the spirit.' 
"'I guess I ought to try it, then.' 
"'You will not be disappointed. I recommend it highly.' 
"So he descended to the earth, came upon one of those I had indicated, and bit into it. 
"'Agh!' he exclaimed. 'These are no good! Overripe and… ' 
"'Give it a chance,' I said. 'Take more, swallow it down, and then some more. Wait just a bit.' 
"And he sampled again, and again.  
"A little later, he said, 'I feel slightly dizzy. But it is not unpleasant. In fact...’ 
"He tried another, suddenly more enthusiastic. Then another. 
"'Quicklime, you were right,' he said after a while. 'There is something very special about them. There is a warm feeling...’ 
"'Yes,' I answered. 
"'And the dizziness is not quite dizziness. It feels good.'
"'Take more. Take lots more,' I told him. 'Go with it as far as it will take you.'
"Shortly, his words grew harder to understand, so that I had to slide down from the tree to be sure I heard everything he said when I began, 'You were with the Count when he created his new graves, were you not. . . ?' 
"And so I learned their locations, and that he was moving to one last night," he finished.
I really appreciate how well-crafted Quicklime’s plan was. He traded for Needle’s feeding route, but in such a way that his true use for it would not be clear.
"Does Rastov drink like that every day?" I asked.
"No," Quicklime replied. "He only started on Moon-death Eve."
"Has Linda Enderby visited him?"
"Yes. They had a long talk about poetry and someone named Pushkin."

Lily: Who?
Me: A famous Russian writer.
Lily: Ah.
Me: Have you ever heard of Boris Badenov, from Rocky and Bullwinkle? 
Lily: Not once ever.
Me: It's kind of funny, because Boris Badenov is a play on Boris Godunov, probably Pushkin's most famous work.
Lily: Wow. How very interesting.

"Do you know whether she got a look at the Alhazred Icon?"
"So you know we have it. . . . No, drunk or sober, he wouldn't show it to anybody till the time of its need." 
"When I was looking for you earlier, I saw him holding what looked like an icon. Is it on wood, about three inches high, nine inches long?" 
"Yes, and he did have it out from its hiding place today. Whenever he feels particularly depressed he says that it cheers him up to 'go to the shores of Hali and consider the enactments of ruin' and then to contemplate the uses he has for it all." 
"That could almost be taken as a closer's statement," I said. 
"I sometimes think you're a closer, Snuff." 
Our eyes met, and I halted. At some point, you have to take a chance.
"I am," I said. 
"Damn! We're not alone then!"
Lily was happy to learn this.
I approached to sniff about the thing. What odors I might have sought, I'm not sure. The Count had been scentless on the night we had met, a very disconcerting thing to one of my temperament and olfactory equipment. As I drew nearer and my vision cleared, I wondered why he had left the lid open. It seemed most inappropriate for one of his persuasion. 
Rearing up, I placed a forepaw on the casket's side and looked down into the interior.
Quicklime, nearby, said, "What is it?" and I realized that I had made a small woofing sound. 
"The Game has grown more serious," I answered.


"I heard someone crying upstairs. So I made my way up the siding and looked in what seemed the proper window. I saw a girl on a bed. She had on a blue dress, and there was a long chain around her ankle. The other end was attached to the bed frame." 
"Who was it?" 
"Well, I met Tekela a little later," she went on. "I don't think she was too eager to talk to a cat. Still, I persuaded her to tell me that the girl is Lynette, the daughter of the vicar's late wife Janet by a previous marriage." 
"Why was she chained up?" 
"Tekela said that she was being disciplined for attempting to run away." 
"Very suspicious. How old is she?" 
"Yes. Just right. Sacrifice, of course." 
"Of course." 
"What did you give her for the information?"
Lily: Why didn’t Graymalk rescue her?!
Me: Because she’s an eight pound housecat?
Lily: *sulks*
Me: Gray and Snuff break into the Vicar’s house later to rescue her.
Lily: *Smiles* Gray and Snuff are the best people in the story. And they’re not even people!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 20

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

   October 20

I had been wondering for some time how Lily would react to the following line:

     "I hunted rats and ate out of dustbins and saw my kittens killed and was hung by my tail and abused by wicked urchins," Graymalk said suddenly, "before the mistress found me.  She was an orphan who'd lived on the streets.  Her life had been even worse."

I was reading to her as she was getting ready for the day and the cat was right next to her. She said, “I need a hug, Lucy,” and gave the cat a big hug.

     "Sorry," I said.  "I've seen some bad times myself."

     "If the way is opened, things should change."

     "For the better?"

     "Maybe.  On the other paw, if it isn't opened, things may change, too."

     "For the better?"

     "Damned if I know, Snuff.  Does anybody really care about a hungry cat, except for a few friends?"

     "Maybe that's all anybody ever has, no matter how the big show is run."

We talked a little about this, how sometimes people in a bad situation will try to change it, thinking that any kind of change would be an improvement.

     "Checking out our new neighbor, Snuff?" came a voice from a tree to the east.

     "It never hurts to be thorough," I replied.  "What about you, Nightwind?"

     "The same.  But she's not a player.  We're almost sure of it."

     "Oh?  You've met?"

     "Yes.  She visited the masters yesterday.  They feel she's harmless."
Me: Also, they’re pretty sure she’s a woman.
Lily: Come on! You’re animals! Use your nose!

     "Strange.  Bubo have anything to say about this?"

     "Bah!  You ought to send Graymalk after him, if I don't get him first.  Rats aren't as salty as bats.  Tougher, though. . . . He's worthless for information.  Won't trade for anything.  Either he's stupid, ignorant, or just closemouthed."

Lily: *giggle* *snort* Boobie.

     "Her servant spotted me, on a sudden return to the kitchen, and she heard me call out.  She came back and called me by name.  She was very nice.  Even gave me a saucer of milk, which I felt obliged to drink.  Who'd've thought anyone would look at a cat well enough to recognize her later, not to mention remembering her name?"

     "Maybe she likes cats.  Must have, if she wanted to feed you."

     "In that case, you'd think she'd have one of her own.  But she doesn't.  There were no signs."

     "Just has a good eye and a good memory then, I guess."

I’ve since adopted Zach’s interpretation of this as my own, that this is the point when Graymalk realizes that humans can be kind as well as cruel.

     Then he turned his attention to Graymalk, and moving with a speed that belied his earlier gesture, he snatched her up from the ground and held her to his breast.      "Kit-ty," he said then.  "Pret-ty kit-ty."      Clumsily, he moved to stroke her with his other hand, rain streaming down his face now, dripping from his garments.      "Pret-ty...”      "Snuff!" Graymalk wailed.  "He's hurting me!  Too tight!  His grip's too tight!"      I began barking immediately, hoping to distract him into relaxing his grip.      "Hello!" came a call from the man at the farmhouse.  "Come back!  You must come back now!"      I kept barking, and the man dashed outside, rushing in our direction.      "He's let up a little, but I still can't get free!" Graymalk told me.      Apparently confused, the huge man turned to the approaching figure, and back again.  It appeared to be the Good Doctor headed our way.  I kept up the barking, since it seemed to have worked.      When the Good Doctor came up beside the giant he placed a hand upon his arm.      "Raining cats and dogs, I see," he said.      I stopped barking as the giant turned his head and stared at him, doubtless at a loss for words in the face of such a sallying of wit.
Bah! There’s nothing worse than a snobby dog, Snuff. That was freakin’ hilarious!
     "The doggy wants you to put the kitty down," he told him.  "The kitty wants to get down, too.  Put her down and come back with me now.  It's a bad night to be outside, with all this rain."

     "Bad…night," the big man responded.

     "Yes.  So put the kitty down and come with me."

     "Bad…rain," rejoined the other.

     "Indeed.  Cat.  Down.  Now.  Come.  Now.  With me."

     "Cat…kitty…down," said the big fellow, and he leaned forward and deposited Graymalk gently on the road.  His eyes met mine as he rose, and he added, "Good…dog."

     "I'm sure," said the Good Doctor, taking hold of his arm with both hands now and turning him back toward the farmhouse.

     "Let's get out of here," Graymalk said, and we did.
I liked this part too. It paints the Good Doctor in a good light. He shows a tenderness when dealing with the creature, and he seems genuinely concerned about both his creation and Graymalk.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 19

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 19

It was a fine, crisp morning, of sunlight, breezes, and leaves crunching beneath my feet. A line of caravans was passing on the roadway, men in sashes and bright headcloths, Gipsies, all, walking beside or driving, headed, I guessed, for one of the open areas between us and the city, off in the direction of Larry Talbot's place. 
"Good morning, Snuff," came a voice from the roadside weeds. 
I walked over and investigated. 
"'Morning, Quicklime," I said, when I spotted his dark sinuosity there. "How you feeling?" 
"Fine," he replied. "A lot better than the other day. Thanks for the advice." 
"Any time. You headed anyplace in particular?" 
"I was following the Gipsies, actually. But this is far enough. We'll get word where they camp, by and by." 
"You think they'll be stopping near here?" 
"Without a doubt. We've been expecting them for some time."
"Oh? Something special about them?" 
"Well. . . . It's common knowledge now that the Count's in the area, so I'm not talking out of class. The master spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe, where he learned something of his ways. When the Count travels, he's often accompanied by a band of Gipsies. Rastov thinks he came here in a hurry when he determined where the locus would be, then sent for his band."

Lily: Is Rastov an opener?
Me: No, he’s a closer.
Lily: Oh, I thought Quicklime might be a closer, but he’d be an opener because he’s such a bad master.
Me: Wait, Rastov’s a pretty nice guy. Why do you think he’s a bad master? Sometimes he just has too much to drink and he vomits up the talking snake he keeps in his belly.
Lily: (Meaningful look)

"Vicar Roberts," I said, "has a good disguise as a fanatic churchman. . . ."
"What do you mean?"
"He's a player."
"You're joking!"
"No. He holds midnight services to the Elder Gods, right there in the church."
"The vicar . . . ?"
Lily: Isn’t he actually a churchman?

That’s a thing that bothered me too. I mean, the impression I got was that it wasn’t actually a disguise; he really was the lawfully ordained vicar for that parish, just one who happens to have an extracurricular interest in inviting nightmare tentacle-monsters into our dimension.

And re-reading my previous Lonesome October series, I see that I came to that conclusion last time.

I quitted my place of concealment in a stand of shrubs and headed that way, in time to see the coachman help an old woman to descend from the vehicle. I moved nearer, passing among a few ancient trees, upwind of them, as the lady, with the assistance of a blackwood cane, made her way to Larry's front door. There, she raised the knocker and let it fall.
Lily: That’s the Great Detective, right?
Me: Why would you think such a thing?
Lily: It is. You already told me that he disguises himself as an old woman.
Me: *grumbles*

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 18

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 18

First time out yesterday I got him farther through the muck, but he was still in it when I left him. I was tired. Jack was sequestered with his objects. The police were about, searching the area. The vicar was out, too, offering exhortations to the searchers. Night came on, and later I made my way back to the muck, chasing off a few vermin and beginning the long haul once again. 
I'd worked on and off for over an hour, allowing myself several panting breaks, when I realized I was no longer alone. He was bigger than me even, and he moved with a silence I envied, some piece of the night cut loose and drifting against lesser blacknesses.

I’ve always loved that line, but Lily was pretty indifferent to it.

He seemed to know the moment I became aware of him, and he moved toward me with a long, effortless stride, one of the largest dogs I'd ever seen outside of Ireland. 
Correction. As he came on I realized he wasn't really a dog. It was a great gray wolf that was bearing down on me. I quickly reviewed my knowledge of the submissive postures these guys are into as I backed away from the corpse.

I had to get into the whole wolf pack offering the throat submission, because she wasn’t familiar with it.
Only a few people, one woman, the rest of them men, were present, occupying the front pews. The vicar stood before the altar, which I noted to be draped in black, and was reading to his congregation. He squinted through his square spectacles, as the flickering light was not very good, all of it coming from only a few black candles. Larry pointed out that the cross was upside-down, but I'd already noticed this myself.
"Do you know what that means?" he asked softly. 
"Religious distress signal?" I said. 
"Listen to what he's saying." 
So I did. 
"'. . . Nyarlathotep,'" he read, "'cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. He is like a many-legged goat, and he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice, horned in glory. Nyarlathotep spake, and he said, "Rise up, my dark one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is nigh and the cold rains fall. The flowers have died upon the earth, and the singing of birds is done. The turtle lies slain. The fig tree withers, as do the grapes. Arise, my dark one, and come away. . . ."'" 
The woman had risen to her feet, swaying slightly, and had begun to disrobe. 
"You've proved your point," I said to Larry, memorizing the faces of the parishioners, whom I suspected to be the crossbow crew as well.
Lily wasn’t familiar with the concept of a Black Mass (I know, I’ve neglected her education), but she comprehended the general situation well enough. This scene wasn’t necessary for her, because she already had the vicar pegged as a villain and a player.

If neither Talbot nor the vicar were technically involved, I'd a good candidate for the center. And if only Larry were involved, it still held. Though I was leery of the Count, it would have to be checked out. But the vicar was also a wild card. If he were to be counted, but not Larry, an equally good candidate for center came into existence, one I had even visited recently. If he _and_ Larry were both to be counted as players, though, a third possible site of manifestation was created, to the southeast, I hadn't quite figured where yet. I moved in a big circle about the hilltop, pissing on stone after stone as I calculated, partly to keep track of the lines, partly in frustration.
You’d better believe a nine-year-old liked that part.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 17

  The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 17

If yesterday was our vocabulary chapter, today was the anatomy chapter. She learned femur, patella and vertebrae. (She also learned what a sexton was, making this a little of a vocabulary chapter.) While the lines about trade unions went over her head, she enjoyed the reappearance of the old graveyard dog.

It's a fun chapter, and I enjoyed giving different accents to each of the speakers.

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 16

  The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 16

This was our vocabulary chapter.  Lily learned "gauche" and "urbane". She couldn't hazard a guess for gauche, as the context didn't give her a lot to go on,  ("Larry," Jack said suddenly. "I confess that I really don't understand your part in this. That you are knowledgeable is obvious, that you know what you are doing, I am certain, and that you've been helpful, I can't deny. And I am grateful for it. But you haven't apparently been collecting the items necessary to assemble a structure of power to be focused one way or the other. Now, I admit that when you came out that first day and as much as proclaimed yourself a closer, I thought it a bit gauche. But even that, I suspect now, had a method to it. Still, so far as I can tell, you have done nothing that would further that end, let alone assemble defenses against the days ahead. If this be true, you are inviting disaster by announcing affiliation and continuing to reside in the precincts of the Game.") and she guessed "urbane" meant "subtle".

I thought "forte" would be a new word for her, but she already knew it. She pronounces it for-tay, like just about everyone else, and I wavered back and forth about telling her the proper, but never used pronunciation ("fort"), or just letting her go with for-tay. (Interestingly, Roger Zelazny pronounces it properly in the Amber audiobooks, and if anyone was going to say it the right way, he'd be the one. I'm reading ANITLO out loud this year, instead of listening to the audio book, but I assume he pronounces it properly there as well.) Eventually, I decided to tell her that "fort" is technically correct, but rarely used, and that most people say "for-tay", and let her use her own discretion. I'm pretty sure that the proper pronunciation of forte seldom comes up for nine-year-olds.

She was a little concerned when I read "Tomorrow it dies.  No hard feelings, however things go." because she loves all the characters, and doesn't want any of them to die, but I explained that it was just the moon. I tried explaining the phases of the moon, but, as her mom is quite the amateur astronomer, she knows them better than I do.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 15

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 15
I made my rounds again, then went off to drag the inspector a little farther along. Having done it both ways, they're easier when they're stiff than when they're limp, and he was limp again.
Lily was confused by this, so I explained the process of rigor mortis to her. (And algor mortis and livor mortis, because I paid for that degree in forensic chemistry, and I'm goddamned well going to use it)

An eyepatched man with shaggy hair, a terrible limp, and a withered hand staggered by, selling pencils from a tin cup. I went on point even before he emerged from the fog, recognizing from the scent that it was the Great Detective in disguise. Jack bought a pencil from him and paid him handsomely for it.

He muttered a "Bless you, guv'nor" and limped off.
Lily really likes the segments where the Great Detective is disguised as someone. She's going to be in for a treat over the course of the month.

I predicted in an earlier post that she would warm to Graymalk's name the more she liked the character, so I asked her what she thought of the name. I mentioned that she possibly comes from the play Macbeth. She knows who Shakespeare is, but wasn't familiar with Macbeth, so I told her a little about it, and reassured her that both Jill and Gray make it to the end.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 14

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 14
Graymalk had just finished digging something up and was dragging it to the house when I entered her yard. I brought her up to date on last night's events, and while she cautioned me never to trust a bat she acknowledged the seriousness of the threat presented by the vicar and his crew. Someone had apparently taken a shot at them from the top of a hill as she and Jill passed overhead last night, causing them to veer and experience an exciting moment or two near a chimney.
We talked about this for a bit and concluded that what really happened here was that Jill was hanging out behind the vicar as he was addressing his congregation, and mimicking his movements, but playing innocent as soon as he turned around to see what they were laughing at.

Lily really liked the voice I used for Graymalk, "It's like you're a cat and a woman at the same time!"

Now if I can only do something about my unfortunate Needle voice.

The rest of the chapter was mostly about the logistics of disposing of the body of a dead cop, which is the kind of thing that can upset little kids, but her only question was "Was the police officer a man or a woman?"

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 13

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 13

Lily dug this one. She caught on to the theme of the Great Detective's assistant suffering unfortunate mishaps with distressing regularity, and she thought that was funny. 

Somehow my voice for Needle wound up sounding suspiciously like Mickey Mouse's, but I couldn't stop doing it once I started.
     I'd seen Vicar Roberts many times on my rambles, a fat little man, dundrearied, and wearing old-fashioned, square-lensed, gold-framed spectacles.  I'd been told that he often grew very red of complexion at the high points of sermons, splattering little droplets of spittle about, and that he was sometimes given to fits of twitchings followed by unconsciousness and strange transports.
I explained what dundrearied meant (having conspicuous sideburns) and she'll thank me when it comes time to take her SATs. 

I've mentioned that she was not a fan of Gahan Wilson's artwork. I usually share her opinion, but I happen to like this drawing of the Vicar.

Lily: What is this?! 
Me: I like this picture.
Lily: He looks like a potato. 
Me: What? 
Lily: (pointing) Here. Potato body, potato face, potato hands. 

It's hard to dispute that. That jaw sure looks like a sideways potato. 

The Vicar's pretty fun to read if you ham it up and I sure did when he was shouting about Creatures of the Night and Unholy Practices and Living Blasphemies and Things Like That.

She dug the chapter. Never once did she consider the possibility that he was a misguided zealot; she jumped immediately to the conclusion that he was an outright villain. 

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 12

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 12

I didn't think anybody was actually reading these until a friend contacted me to ask where October 12th was. The answer is that Lily was staying overnight at her grandmother's house, because she had off of school on Monday for Columbus. Consequently, we didn't get around to reading this until today.

And I'm glad I have that story to tell, because there is otherwise nothing to say about this chapter. Lily thought it was amusing-in-the-abstract how Quicklime got dumped in the Thames, but that was about it. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 11

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 11

I was trying to sleep in this morning after being up late last night, but the first thing I saw upon waking was Lily, who said, "It's 8 in the morning and you haven't read to me yet."

She was a but disappointed that this was such a short chapter. (She's going to be really upset tomorrow.) 

This is the chapter where the Great Detective recognizes Snuff upon meeting him again. I gave him an exaggerated Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins accent.  

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 10

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

First off, I would like a record of the fact that I poured myself a bowl of delicious Frankenberry cereal, and, while I was talking myself hoarse to read this to my child, she ate all the marshmallows out of it. Bad child! Bad!

Lily dug this chapter, even if she wasn't overwhelmed by the look of the Thing in the Circle, which, she said, looked like a cross between a turd and a turnip.

It's hard to dispute that.

     "Hey!" cried the Thing.  "Cut that out!  This was meant to be!"     "So was this!" I snapped, and I turned over and rolled in the puddle itself, soaking myself as I tossed and wriggled, absorbing a great deal.     I moved off to a far, dry corner then and turned over several times on the floor there, spreading the moisture about in a place where it would evaporate harmlessly.     "Damn dog!" it snarled.  "Another few minutes and I'd've made it!"
I suggested that the Thing would have gotten away with it if not for that meddling dog, and she agreed.

I've always liked this part, because it showcases something I really like about Zelazny's writing. He  was always very good about grounding his fantasy within the larger mundane world.

 I'm never sure how much she's following, because, like me, she keeps her cards close to her chest. When I asked her if she understood what happened when the large bat went behind the tree, and the cloaked man emerged, she replied "Do I really need to spell it out for you?"

She has warmed to the Count, whose words I read in a Bela Lugosi accent, simply because he was nice to Snuff.

Friday, October 9, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 9

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 9

Lily didn’t really have much of an opinion on this chapter. Neither liked it nor disliked it. I tried to tell her how clever the "Something's afoot, I daresay” line was, and she seemed barely able to restrain herself from rolling her eyes.

I thought she’d be excited about the revelation of Larry Talbot’s identity, since she'd been so curious yesterday but that didn’t really do it for her, either.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 8

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 8

Fun chapter with a decent amount of stuff going on. I gave Lily a preview of this last night, because she was really interested in the story. So I read the bit where the Thing breaks out of the wardrobe.

She had fun trying to guess who Larry was. I knew the first time through, because I happened to know that was the same name of the main character from the Wolf Man (and I only happened to know that because I bought a couple packs of the Vampire: The Masquerade card game and wound up with a copy of Talbot’s Chainsaw. I suspected the name must have been a reference to something, so I did a little digging.)
Then came a terrible crash from the attic.
I departed the room immediately, bounding up the stair, swinging around corners. Up another stair. . . . The wardrobe doors were open. The Thing stood before it.
"Free!" it announced, flexing its limbs, furling and unfurling its dark, scaly wings. "Free!"
"Like hell!" I said, curling back my lips and leaping.
I caught it directly in the midsection, knocking it back into the wardrobe again. I slashed twice, left and right, as it sought to seize me. I dropped down and bit one of its legs. I roared and threw myself on it again, slashing faceward.
Lily: Is that all it had to do to escape? Sounds like wardrobe wasn’t very secure.
Me: Yeah, well, he got caught up having tea with Mister Tumnus.
It drew back, retreating to the rear of its prison, leaving a heavy scent of musk in the air. I shouldered the doors shut, reared up, and tried to close the latch with my paw. Jack entered just then and did it for me. He held his knife loosely in his right hand.
"You are an exemplary watchdog, Snuff," he stated.
A moment later Larry Talbot came in.
"Problems?" he said. "Anything I can help with?"
The blade vanished before Jack turned.
That always reminds of Jack of Shadows. There’s a trick question for Zelazny trivia night. Which novel features a character named Jack whose knife disappears before he turns around?

"No, thank you," he said. "It was less serious than it sounded. Shall we return to our tea?"
They departed.
I followed them down the stairs, Talbot moving as silently as the master. I'd a feeling, somehow, that he was in the Game, and that this incident had persuaded him that we were, too. For as he was leaving he said, "I see some busy days ahead, before this month is out. If you ever need help, of any sort, you can count on me."
Jack studied him for several long moments, then replied, "Without even knowing my persuasion?"
"I think I know it," Talbot answered.
"Good dog you've got there," Talbot said. "Knows how to close a door."
I added a little extra emphasis to “close”, and she just got so excited. Her eyes got wide, then narrow, and she asked “Is he the Count?” I told her that he wasn’t. I would have let her know if she had guessed correctly, as it’s more or less spelled out in the next chapter, but she didn’t hit on it.

Owen tries to poison Snuff, but Snuff recognizes the poisoned meat and doesn’t fall for it.

"Bravo!" came a sibilant voice from above. "I didn't think you'd fall for that one."
I glanced up. Quicklime was coiled about a branch overhead.

Lily: Can snakes really climb trees?
Me:…I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.

I looked it up later. The answer is yes, but not easily.

Quicklime tells Snuff some important news.
"The crazy witch's companion may be running out of steam about now."
"What do you mean?"
"'Ding, dong, dell.'"
"I don't follow you."
"Literally. Pussy's in the well."
"Who threw her in?"
"MacCab, full of sin."
"Where is it?"
"By the outhouse, full of shit.
Do I really need to tell you that Lily loved that line? She got very nervous about Greymalk’s fate, too. “Promise me that she doesn’t die?” She was very relieved when the cat climbed out of the well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 7

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 7

We were fine, right up until this exchange, about halfway through the chapter.
"And what may I call you?" "Bubo," he replied.

Lily: *hysterical giggles*
Me: Yes?
Lily: *giggles* Bubo.
Me: *eyebrow*
Lily:*giggles* It sounds like “boobies”.

And no matter how smart and inquisitive she is, she’s still nine years old.

I got some flak for occasionally dropping my rat voice. I tried to make Bubo sound like Templeton from Charlotte’s Web, but I don’t think I quite pulled it off. I don’t think that’s quite right for the character anyway. I think I’ll try for a Steve Buscemi voice next time.

Me, reading as Snuff talking to Bubo:"Then you must know that entering another player's home without invitation lays you open to immediate reprisal."

“Oh, so the game has rules to it. I like that.”

She also really dug the part about Snuff being able to talk to Jack at midnight. I don’t know what it was, but she really liked the concept. I think it works for the story that companions can talk to each other at any time, but to humans only during one specific hour, but it didn’t find it otherwise remarkable.

When I read It was time to visit Growler, for a workshop in advanced stalking. Soon the world went away. She wanted to know what that was about, so I told her about Growler. She didn’t believe me at first, though I can’t say I blame her. (“When Snuff goes to sleep, he visits an mythical Ur-Dog named Growler, who gives him lessons on how to be a dog.”)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 6

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 6

Excitement. I heard the mirror crack this morning, and I ran and raised holy hell before it, keeping the slitherers inside. Jack heard the fuss and fetched his mundane wand and transferred them all to another mirror, just like the Yellow Emperor. This one was much smaller, which may teach them a lesson, but probably not. We're not sure how they did it. Continued pressure on some flaw, most likely. Good thing they're afraid of me.
As I was reading this section, Lily was making the face that people make when they’re listening to something they don’t understand, but which they hope will become clear later in the conversation. I was going to explain about the Yellow Emperor, but we got distracted and never returned to it. It’s not essential to the appreciation of the story, and you can certainly get the gist from context, and this goes back to my earlier point of just how good Zelazny was at writing a story that could be appreciated on many different levels.

Jack retired and I went outside. The sun was shining through gray and white clouds and only the crisp scents of autumn rode the breezes. I had been drawing lines in my head during the night. What I'd tried to do would have been much easier for Nightwind, Needle, or even Cheeter. It is hard for an earthbound creature to visualize the terrain in the manner I'd attempted. But I'd drawn lines from each of our houses to each of the others. The result was an elaborate diagram with an outer boundary and intersecting rays within. And once I have such a figure I can do things with it that the others cannot. It was necessarily incomplete because I did not know the whereabouts of the Count, or of any other players who might not yet have come to my attention.

This is what distracted us. Lily made that same face again, so I told her that Snuff was trying to find the location of the final ritual, which will be at the center of the pattern of the players’ residences.

She still seemed confused, so I just told her that Snuff was employing Common Core math.

Hey, Grey doesn't get thrown down the well for another two chapters!

She then asked if Sherlock Holmes was a real person, and I told her that he was fictional, but that he was based on an associate of Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Joseph Bell.

I then mentioned that ACD *hated* writing the Holmes stories after a time, and that his real passion was writing his boring Napoleonic War books. Lily thought this was the most fascinating bit of trivia imaginable.

We talked about this at considerable length. She also really enjoyed the bit at the end of the chapter:
Down in the cellar the Thing in the Circle had become a Pekingese.
"You like little ladies?" it asked. "Come and get it, big fella."
It still smelled of Thing rather than dog.
"You're not really very bright," I said.
The Peke gave me the paw as I departed, and it's hard to turn your leg that way.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trent Zelazny interview about Lonesome October at the Lovecraft eZine

I would assume that anyone who reads this blog would know about this through other channels, but if not, Trent Zelazny was interviewed on the Lovecraft eZine Talk Show last night. This page has a couple options for listening to the show.

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 5th

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

October 5

With the exception of some commentary from Lily about how she pictures our cats when I describe Graymalk, I read this chapter without almost no interruptions until the end.

Me: Nightwind said, "For three nights now a small, hunched man has been raiding graveyards. I saw him on my patrols. Two nights back I followed him by the full of the moon. He bore his gleanings to a large farmhouse to the south of here, a place with many lightning rods, above which a perpetual storm rages. Then he delivered them to a tall, straight man he addressed as the 'Good Doctor.' It may be they are seven, or perhaps eight."

Lily: Is the Good Doctor Sherlock Holmes?

Me: No, they call Sherlock Holmes “The Great Detective”. The Good Doctor is Doctor Frankenstein.

And we had a lengthy digression about Frankenstein. She was better informed than I had expected, and she complained that people should call Frankenstein's monster "the monster" or "the creature" I fear I was in danger of being out-pedanted by a nine-year-old. We got in a discussion about Victor Frankenstein, and she became very passionate about him, and wanted to know why people got so upset when he was just trying to make something. "You don't get mad at people when they make babies the regular way!" I didn't offer much of an opinion, as I was more interested on hearing her expound on her observations.

I'm a big fan of Frankenstein, so this was of particular interest to me. My story, Mother of Monsters, is a very direct homage. I've long thought Mary Shelley a very admirable person, and I decided I wanted to be the kind of parent her father was to her when I read this quote, where he described her at fifteen, as "singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire of knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible."

Lily pursued the Frankenstein angle at some length, even pestering her mom for an opinion, and growing irritated when she, inexplicably, in Lily's mind, didn't have a strong opinion on the morality of Frankenstein's actions.

After the digression, we finished up the chapter. She really appreciated the fact that this one was a little longer than the previous ones had been.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 4th

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

October 4th

Snuff makes his rounds. Lily is certainly capable of reading the book on her own, but I do the reading, so I can omit any of the minor bad language.

I skipped past the line where the Thing in the Circle says "Son of a bitch!" to Snuff, but somehow she intuited that something was missing and peered over and looked at the page, and giggled at the transgressive language. 

Cheeter showed up, and Lily asked if every chapter would be introducing a new animal and I said that we were just about done with that part of the book. We decided that my Cheeter voice was a little too much like my Needle voice (rapid and high-pitched), so Lily suggested that I go slow and deep, "just to be ironic" and I did.

At the end of the chapter I read the part that went "and somewhere in the distance a howling rose up. No one I knew. I wasn't even sure it was a dog. It said a single word in the language of my kind, a long, drawn-out "Lost!" My hackles rose at the sound of it." and said to Lily,  trying to get her to speculate on what it might be, "What do you think that was?  It sounded like a dog, but not exactly-" and she interrupted with "Daddy, we're reading a horror book. It's obviously a werewolf." 

Nobody likes a smartass. 

A Day in Lonesome October-fest, October 3rd

Reading a Night in the Lonesome October out loud with an eight-year-old, one chapter a day

October 3rd

I wouldn't call Lonesome October a comedy. While it has funny moments, certainly, and the idea of Jack the Ripper's talking dog is an absurd premise, it's a premise played more or less straight, and I think the phrase that best describes the book is from the Publisher's Weekly review "good-humored".

That said, when I read: "They had already been out. The broom beside the rear entrance was still warm", Lily absolutely cracked up.

This wasn't written as a children's book, but Zelazny was very good about writing stories that could be appreciated on several levels,so if you missed the references to the Revenger's Tragedy in Nine Starships Waiting, you could still enjoy the work as a straight adventure story. Likewise, this is a story for adults, but it's very accessible to kids, too. (I'd put it ahead of A Dark Traveling, which was intended as a children's book) I ran it through Word's readability metrics, and it came back with a Flesch–Kincaid grade level score of 3.9. That's primarily because Snuff narrates in short, declarative sentences, as is his nature, which, almost incidentally, makes for a book that's very easy to read.

We read through the rest of the chapter, and she had no other comments.

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.)