Posts tagged ‘repost’

March 19, 2012

Repost: Coming in mid-May

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Coming in Mid-May 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

I’m very pleased to announce that my translation of Sheng Keyi’s novel Northern Girls, published by Penguin Books, will be on sale in mid-May 2012.

The blurb from the back reads:

China in the late 1990s is hit by a wave of change.  Droves of young people are making the journey across the vast country to the nation’s new cities.

Abandoning her Hunan village in the wake of a family scandal, sixteen-year-old Qian Xiaohong heads for the glitz and glamour of Shenzhen — a place she believes will be the perfect antidote for a young woman seeking to flee a stifling rural community.  But Xiaohong swiftly discovers escape brings its own dangers, and the dual threat of vulnerability and violence, which hangs over the arrival of exuberant young migrants, is brought into stark focus.

Solace and salvation appear in the form of Xiaohong’s fellow migrants — the ‘northern girls,’ also drawn by the neon skyline from China’s hinterland.  Without a safety net of education or state welfare, they must band together or face being sucked into the moral maelstrom that development has unleashed.

In working on the translation, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the characters Sheng has created and the struggles they face.  It is an eye-opening book for those of us who have never known the types of difficulties Xiaohong and her friends face.  Anyone who has the luxury of taking survival for granted  should be reminded, in reading Northern Girls, that not everyone in the world lives with this luxury.  It often takes some finagling just to keep one’s head above water, and those of us who take survival for granted are often quick to look down on those who are cleverest when it comes to finding some way or another to get ahead.   Xiaohong’s story is one that will make many of us think twice before making those snap judgments about others who make their way through life by whatever means they can.  And Xiaohong herself is a reminder that there is often a code of ethics underlying the actions of others that may not be evident to those of us on the outside of the realities of their struggles.

But that’s the heavy side of Northern Girls.  It is, even in the course of addressing this real life situation that many migrant workers in China face, a very funny book.  Sheng Keyi’s use of language is very clever, and her humor comes with a real edge.  Qian Xiaohong has her own way of looking at life, and there are times when her means of expressing those views will make you laugh out loud.  Those who like to read while commuting on the train, be forewarned — you’ll need your best poker face to keep from embarrassing yourself in the rush hour crowds during the commute.  The book is sure to make even the stoniest-faced reader crack a grin, at the very least.

Part of what I love about Northern Girls is how it brings the indomitable nature of the Chinese mindset to the foreground.  For all the myth of inscrutability that the Chinese have been labeled with by many in the West, they are a quick-witted people who have a real awareness of the humorous side of life’s ironies.  They love to laugh, even in the face of a rather bleak situation, because after all, “Life Goes On” (as the book’s subtitle reminds us).  Northern Girls is awash with this particular aspect of the Chinese psyche.

I am looking forward to mid-May.  I am eager to hear feedback from English-speaking readers when the book is released.  I think the tale Sheng Keyi has woven together is one that will both surprise and delight English-speaking audiences.

© 2012 Shelly Bryant

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Friday, March 30, 2012 – 08:32 AM
Thanks, silken!  I’m excited about it.
Friday, March 30, 2012 – 08:40 PM
February 29, 2012

Repost: Hit or Miss, February ’12

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit or Miss, February ’12

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February has been a pretty good month of reading and film for me — not a long list, but mostly good stuff.


Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing over the past month…



Hit List


  1. •Fishbone (Sheng Keyi)
  2. Wreckage (Ha Jin)
  3. •The Heart of Haiku (Jane Hirschfield)
  4. •The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins)
  5. •Apolocyntosis (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
  6. Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  7. •Northern Girls (Sheng Keyi)
  8. •Between Lions and Lambs (N. T. McQueen)
  9. •Bolt (movie)
  10. Crimes of the Heart (Beth Henley)
  11. Antony and Cleopatra (onstage)






Aoife’s Kiss (back issue)







Miss List


  1. •salt (Mani Rao)
  2. The Truth About Jesus:  Is he a myth? (M. M. Mangasarian)






Neither Hit nor Miss


  1. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  2. •Oedipus of Thebes (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)





A bit of a mixed bag this past month.


I’m glad that I managed to make something of a dent in my Fill in the Gaps list.




what have you been reading and watching for the past month ?



2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
salt?! I wonder if that is the same book my son had to read a few years ago for school. it was a miss with him too. I think I read it. very dry but some interesting tidbits throughout. though not really a HIT in the reading. it is no longer required reading at school either!
Thursday, March 1, 2012 – 11:51 AM
I don’t think this is the same one.  I remember talking to him about that one.  This was a poetry collection, kind of.  Some of it was just too random to seem like poetry though.  (And that coming from someone who is very open to all sorts of styles of poetry!)
Thursday, March 1, 2012 – 12:51 PM
February 13, 2012

Repost: Filling in the Gaps, update 2012

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Filling in the Gaps, update Feb 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

I started participating in the Fill in the Gaps 100 Books reading project in 2010.  The idea is to come up with a list of 100 books that will “fill in the gaps” between the reading you “have” to do for one reason or another (like work or studies) until 2015.  I have continued to post my list on the right edge of each entry I’ve made at this blog ever since I started on my Fill in the Gaps list, updating it as I go along.

So far, I’ve found that I tend to make good progress on the list for a while, then lag for a while, then make good progress again.  For some reason, it just seems to go in spurts for me.

From late last year until the beginning of this, I hit a real slow period.  It took me more than three months to read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I think.  After that, though, it sort of took off, and I’ve read a couple more titles on my list since I got back to Shanghai at the beginning of this month.  (A long delay at the airport on the way here helped me finish Crime and Punishment.)

I thought it might be fun to post some thoughts (not reviews, just ramblings, really) about the titles I’ve read recently.  It might also motivate me to keep moving ahead with the list.

Crime and Punishment, for some reason, didn’t work well for me.  I’ve read other works by Dostoyevsky and generally like reading him.  While The Brothers Karamazov is a favorite of mine that really engaged me as I read, Crime and Punishment had exactly the opposite effect.  I labored through it, and found my mind wandering as I read.  I was disappointed with that, because it was one of the titles from my list that I’d really looked forward to tackling.

The Truth About Jesus (M. M. Mangasarian) was another title that didn’t do much for me.  Unlike Crime and Punishment, I know exactly why this book didn’t work for me.  It comes from a time and a mindset that always seems to rub me the wrong way, a time when everything seemed to be expressed in such black and white terms, and when everyone seemed so certain of everything they thought they knew.  (Yes, I am exaggerating.)  I don’t have any problem reading books that express views opposed to Christianity, or that present good arguments that are meant to demonstrate that Jesus was not who Christians claim he was.  Mangasarian’s approach, however, seems to me to meander across too broad a range of things that he considers “Christian” to be of any real value (at least to me).  He conflates issues of what church fathers, church practice, the Bible’s writers, the copyists, and Jesus himself have all done, lumping them together as if they are one organism.  (In fact, reading texts written to address religious debates from an Enlightenment perspective, it starts to feel a lot like the contemporary political arena in America.  Yawn.)  No matter which side of the debate the writer stands on, it’s just too easy to find holes in all that he says, especially because the tendency in these texts is to take what one representative of “the other side” (which is defined in its broadest possible terms) has said and then tear it to pieces.  It’s easy to make a case against a movement if you choose one of the crackpots within that movement as the spokesman for it.  And really…. what movement doesn’t have its crackpots?  Anyway, just to be fair, I’ve read plenty of debates from the Christian perspective that were written during this same era and from the same perspective, and I find them equally irritating and demeaning of “the other side.”  Every now and then, I convince myself that reading another book from this paradigm will somehow be good for me, maybe even challenge my own thinking in some way.  Upon finishing those texts, I usually end up wishing I hadn’t bothered.

Crime of the Heart was the definite highlight of this batch of titles from my Fill in the Gaps list.  I really enjoyed reading the play, and would like to see it performed.  It was funny, and it was poignant too.  I liked the characters, and I liked the way the tension unfolded.  There is much in Crimes of the Heart that scratches the reader in me just where she itches.  I have never had the pleasure of seeing it onstage, but if I get the chance to, I will jump at the opportunity.

Tarzan of the Apes is what I am working on now.  I’m about a third of the way through it.  There’s a lot in the book I enjoy.  I like Tarzan, and it’s fun to see his story play itself out.  There are other things in the book, however, that grate on my nerves.  I’ve had my fill of the superior attitudes of colonialism in recent months, but here I am reading Tarzan of the Apes, which just oozes with that exact attitude.  It’s not even presented subtlety.  The book just blatantly says that Tarzan is endowed with an extra (I’m tempted to call it superhuman) measure of intellectual prowess and moral virtue because he is, by blood, an English lord.  He’s so innately clever that he teaches himself to read English — which he’s never heard spoken — simply by poring over the English primer he finds in the hut where his parents had settled when they were abandoned in the coastal jungle by the pirates.  Oh. Brother.  But still… I have to admit that the story is rather fun, if you can ignore the pompous superiority.  Burroughs always writes a good, action-packed tale, and there’s a reason Tarzan has been such a well-loved character ever since he appeared on the page.

That about does it for my recent burst of energy in pursuing the titles on my Fill in the Gaps list.  If things carry on as they have in recent weeks, I should finishTarzan of the Apes in the next few days, and then I’ll decide what I want to move onto next.

February 1, 2012

Repost: Hit or Miss, January 2012

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit or Miss, January ’12

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January has been a pretty good month of reading and film for me — not a long list, but mostly good stuff.  I especially enjoyed reading Sheng Keyi’s short story “Fishbone,” which I translated for a magazine in Beijing.  It’s a good story.


Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing over the past month…



Hit List


  1. •Fishbone (Sheng Keyi)
  2. •up against the window (Jim Kacian and Bruce Ross, ed.)
  3. •The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook (Suzette Haden Elgin)
  4. •Courageous (movie)
  5. •Cat Country (Lao She)
  6. •Psychoentropy (Julie Shiel)
  7. •Disturbed (Julie Shiel)
  8. •Celestial Bodies (Keith Sikora)
  9. •The Tin Men and other poems (Kendall Evans and David C. Kopaska-Merkel)





Beyond Centauri (the most recent, and 1 back issue); Star*Line; Aoife’s Kiss







Miss List


  1. •No misses this month!






Neither Hit nor Miss


  1. •Idylls of the King (Tennyson)

– I know, I feel terrible!  It was more about my mood than the book, obviously.

  1. •It’s Complicated (movie)
  2. •War Horse (movie)





Another no-miss list.  I love that!



what have you been reading and watching for the past month ?



2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
got mine posted. mostly hits this month
Wednesday, February 1, 2012 – 10:33 PM
Good stuff! I will go have a look.
Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 12:40 AM
January 7, 2012

Repost: Agenda 2012

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Agenda 2012

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I don’t usually have a real agenda for my reading, unless there are certain texts assigned for work.  For the most part, I just make my way through my books (several at a time) as I feel like it.  Recently, though, I worked on a list of things that I wanted to read in 2010, focusing on books that are geared to help me become a better writer (specifically, a better writer of speculative poetry).  I continued the practice last year, and enjoyed the process once again.

I’ve included last year’s list at the bottom.  Here, though, is a new list that I will use for 2012.  I have decided to read a couple of the books that I didn’t get to last year (listed here in brown), and added a lot of new ones too.  It looks like a long list, but a lot of the poetry collections are actually very short, so it’s not as daunting as it seems.

Several of the poetry books are things I’ve ordered.  They’ve not yet been shipped, so I’ll get a bit of a late start on them this year.

Poetry Collections

The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins)  

The Phantom World (Gary William Crawford)

Signs and Wonders (Jennifer Crow) 

Virgin of the Apocalypse (Corrine De Winter) 

Beast (Erin Donahue)

Through the Woods (Erin Donahoe)

VAMPS (James S. Dorr) 

Stellar Possibilities (John J Dunphy)

The Tin Men (Kendall Evans & David Kopaska-Merkel)

21 Novel Poems (Suzette Haden Elgin)

Dreaming of Days in Astophel (Lyn C A Gardner)

To Be Read in 500 Years (Albert Goldbarth)

Selected Poems (Tony Harrison)

The Engagement of the Spur (Janie Hofmann)

Shocks (Aurelio Rico Lopez III) 

Falling Through Nothing (Scott Nicolay) 

Poems (Charles Hamilton Mangrove)

Fair Warning (Susan M Sailors)

Disturbed (Julie Shiel) 

Psychoentropy (Julie Shiel) 

Celestial Bodies (Keith Sikora) 

Unearthly Delights (Marge Simon)

Legends of the Fallen Sky (Marge Simon and Malcolm Deeley)

City of 1000 Gods (Marge Simon and Malcolm Deeley)

Dragon’s Dictionary (Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo)

Dragon Soup (Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo)

Wild Hunt of the Stars (Anne Schwader) 

Idylls of the King (Tennyson) (in progress now) 

Up is Down (Mikal Trimm)

The Handless Maiden (JoSelle Vanderhooft)

Improbable Jane (s c virtes)

Black Maria (Kevin Young)

Collections by Todd Boss ,  Ha Jin , Edwin Morgan


The Rhysling Anthology (upcoming)

Dwarf Stars (upcoming) 

The Essential Haiku (ed. by Edward Hass)

….along with a big stack of back issues of various poetry magazines


The Heart of Haiku (trans. by Jane Hirschfield and Mariko Aratani) 

The Poetry Home Repair Manual (Ted Kooser) 

Biocentrism (Robert Lanza)

Myth and Science:  An Essay (Tito Vignoli)

How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction (ed. by J. N. Williamson) 

The Japanese Haiku (Kenneth Yasuda)

A Backpack and a Bit of Luck (Zhang Su Li)


The Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury) 

The Quinx Effect (Tyree Campbell)

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

The Crater, or Vulcan’s Pride (James Fennimore Cooper)

The Book of Myths (Jeanie Lang)

Last Days of Pompeii (Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton)

Cyberiad (Stanislaw Lem)

The American Cyclops (James Fairfax McLaughlin)

Vulcan’s Workshop (Harl Vincent)

….and something by Michael Crichton , Lao She , Ha Jin, and Jules Verne

Here’s a review of the 2011 list   

Poetry Collections

A Book of Minutes – Cathy Smith Bowers

Blood Verse – Derek Clendining

I Feel so Schizophrenic, the Starship’s Aftbrain Said – Kendall Evans

On Metallic Wings – Angel Favazza

Brushfires – David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Symphony of the Universe – Deborah P. Kolodji

Touched by the Gods – Sandra J. Lindow

The Anatomy Theater – Nadine Sabra Meyers

Oddities – Aurelio Rico Lopez III and Kristine Ong Muslim

ChemiCKal Reactions – Karen L. Newman

Raven’s Runes – Karen A. Romanko

Dark Eden – Lewis Sanders

Cyborgia – Susan Slaviero

Remnants – Eddie Tay

Sometimes While Dreaming – Marcie Lynn Tentchoff

Genesis, an epic poem – Frederick Turner

A Galaxy in a Jar – Laurel Winter

Black Maria – Kevin Young

Collections by the following poets (not yet sure which collection I’ll tackle for each)

T. S. Eliot



The Rhysling Anthology (upcoming)

Dwarf Stars (upcoming)

Up Against the Window (ed. by Jim Kacian and Bruce Ross)

Modern Japanese Tanka

The Essential Haiku (ed. by Edward Hass)

Haiku World (ed. by William J. Higginson)

Out of Everywhere (ed. by Maggie O’Sullivan)

….along with a big stack of back issues of various poetry magazines


The Practice of Poetry – Robin Behn

Ragnarok:  Age of Fire and Gravel – Ignatius Donnelly

The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook – Suzette Haden Elgin

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women – Donna J. Haraway

Science and Poetry – Mary Midgley (in progress now)

Dark Thoughts:  On Writing – Stanley Wiater

The Japanese Haiku – Kenneth Yasuda


The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury

The Crater, or Vulcan’s Pride – James Fennimore Cooper

The Last Dragonslayer – Jasper Fforde

Last Days of Pompeii- Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

The Game – Diana Wynne Jones

Cyberiad – Stanislaw Lem

….and something by J Alan Erwine, Charles Williams, and Philip K. Dick

6 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry

just finished The Hunger Games. really good! and you  have something by Michael Crichton right? really I think my favorite is the first I read Prey. though there are some other good ones. State of Fear is a good one too.

happy reading!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012 – 09:51 AM

I do have something my Michael Crighton. I think I have 3, in fact.  I’m planning to read the one you sent for Christmas.  It looks like a good read.

I’m really looking forward to Hunger Games.  I’ve been finishing up some things I needed to get done, and so haven’t started it yet.  It looks like something I will really like.  Did your daughter like it?

I have a feeling there will be lots of items listed in brown on next year’s list, but this is what I’d like to accomplish this year.  (It’s always better to dream big, right?)

Saturday, January 7, 2012 – 02:12 PM
yes, we have both liked Hunger Games and she can’t wait for the movie. I do think you will really like it. I am on the third book now (so is she) you will prob want to read all three too
Friday, January 13, 2012 – 08:43 AM
I am sure I will.  I still haven’t started it, and may wait until I head up to Shanghai to read it.  I’ve got a few projects piled up right now, and I think if I start this one, I might end up letting reading time eat into work time.
Saturday, January 14, 2012 – 10:39 AM

It’s nice to see that you’ll be reading so many books again this year. At the end of last year, I went through the books I had reviewed and came up with over 40. I was surprised. Goodness knows how many I would have if I made up lists in advance.


Saturday, January 21, 2012 – 10:10 AM

At the rate I’m going, I might not make much of a dent in the list this year.  But I do like how it gives me some focus each year in a specific reading agenda.  There are a number of these books that I ordered and have not yet received.  Since I’m heading back up to Shanghai next week (before they arrive), it will take me even longer to get started on the bulk of this list.

It’s great that you reviewed 40 books last year.  Nearly one a week!

Monday, January 23, 2012 – 09:29 PM
November 8, 2010

Repost: A Review of a Woman in Black

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post (though the comments aren’t showing up at the moment) into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

The Woman in Black

a Shanghai Repertory Theater Production

produced by Rosita L. Janbakhsh

directed by Javier Alcina

written for the stage by Stephen Mallaratt

(adapted from the book by Susan Hill)

performed at Xinguang Little Theater, Shanghai

on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, 7:30 pm



The performance of The Woman in Black was the best I have seen by the very talented Shanghai Repertory Theater.  The entire piece was performed by two actors, Javier Alcina and Joe Rux, and their versatility was one of the most impressive aspects of the evening’s performance.  They played off each other well, making for an excellent dynamic throughout.


The play’s exploration of what it is that happens on the stage was brilliantly handled.  Neither Alcina nor Rux came off as pretentious when discussing the theory of drama and stage acting, even as they were engaged in the whole process for us.  They were very adept at pausing just long enough for the ideas to sink in, and then moving on in just the right meter for the action of the play.  Less skilled actors would have, I think, gotten a little bogged down with the dialogue in the play concerning the process of play-acting and the dynamic between players and audience.  That would have been catastrophic for a show like this, so I was very pleased to see the skill and poise with which Rux and Alcina handled the piece.  Very professional.


The script itself is quite well written, highlighting the whole process of the engagement between the skill of the actors, the appropriate use of the written word, and the imagination of the audience.  It does this even as it displays that interaction on the stage.  The issue of the technology employed in theatrical performance was also a matter of discussion at several points in the play, a point that was, again, demonstrated even as it was being talked about.  This dialogue makes for an amusing performance, and a thought-provoking one, creating an awareness in the audience’s mind that we are complicit in the dramatic process.  It can be hard to sustain one’s participation when attention has been drawn to its necessity, but this script manages it well, never really allowing the audience to fall into the temptation to opt out of its role in creating the drama.


In this production of The Woman in Black, the use of the theater’s space was very well-managed.  Although it initially seemed that the facilities would be a little too big for the crowd that had gathered, the cast managed to use the space well.  It seems to me a difficult thing for two actors to fill up such a large hall with their presence — but then, that’s why they’re on stage and I am not.  (Well, that’s one of the reasons.)


The only complaint I had about the production was the sound.  Because it was performed for a rather small group, the sound was a little too loud for the intimate nature of the show.  It got to be a little grating when there was screaming or other loud, shrill noises.  It was especially noticeable because recorded sound was highlighted in the dialogue several times as one of the bits of theater technology that can be used to provoke the audience’s imagination into action.


But, honestly, that is a very small issue.  When we left the show, my friends and I were all duly impressed with the whole production, especially the fine acting of Alcina and Rux.  Kudos to SRT for putting up such a fine performance.




©2010 Shelly Bryant





January 31, 2010

Repost: Hit (or Miss) List, Jan ’10

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, January ’10

Sunday, January 31, 2010

January was another good month for catching up on a lot of reading I’ve left dangling for a while.  I made a little more progress on my Fill in the Gaps list and on the books I hope to read this year.


Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching in January:



Hit List

  1. •    House of Many Ways (Diana Wynne Jones)
  2. •    2001 and 2010 (movies)
  3. •    The Return of the King (movie)
  4. •    Intrinsic Night (J. E. Stanley and Joshua Gage)
  5. •   The Book of Salt (Monique Truong)
  6. •    Dwarf Stars 2009 (Deborah P. Kolodji and Stephen M. Wilson, ed.)
  7. •    Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster (Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty)
  8. •    Twigs & Knucklebones (Sarah Lindsay)
  9. •    The Rubiayat (Omar Khayyam)
  10. •    The Blind Side (movie)
  11. •    A Freed Woman’s Dance (Doris Cope)
  12. •    The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (Howard Pyle)
  13. •    Voices (Ursula LeGuin)
  14. •    Directed Verdict (Randy Singer)



Catching up on a couple of magazines:

Asia Literary Review, Elixir (back issues)

Star*Line, Scifaikuest, Not One of Us (most recent issue)



Miss List


No misses in January!



Neither Hit nor Miss


  1. •    Mental Fight (Ben Okri)
  2. •    Hum (Ann Lauterbach)





So, what have you been reading and watching this past month?





2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
been keeping up w/ my list this month. am going to post it as soon as I add the screwtape letters!
Monday, February 1, 2010 – 11:03 AM
I’ve been by looking for yours.  I’ll stop by again soon.
Monday, February 1, 2010 – 01:15 PM
January 9, 2010

Repost: With an Agenda

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

With an Agenda

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I don’t usually have a real agenda for my reading, unless there are certain texts assigned for work.  For the most part, I just make my way through my books (several at a time) as I feel like it.


Last year, I signed up over at the Fill in the Gaps blog to join other bloggers in reading 100 books by the end of 2015 (each reading his or her own list).  These books will be for the “gaps” between my regular reading schedule.  I like the idea, and so far have enjoyed the experience of sticking with a loose idea of things I’d like to finish reading in the near future, but without having a precise schedule for when to read each title.  I decided I might like to put together a list of things that I am wanting to read in 2010, focusing on books that are geared to help me become a better writer (specifically, a better writer of speculative poetry).


Some of the titles are on my Fill in the Gaps list.  I only put here those I plan to get to them this year, and of those that I intend to tackle in 2010, I only included those that are focused on helping make me a better speculative poet.


So, here are some of the things I aim to be reading over the next year.  (It looks like a lot, but remember that poetry collections are often very short volumes.)



Poetry Collections


Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster – Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty

The Other Side of the Lens – G. O. Clark

Strange Vegetables – G. O. Clark

North Left of Earth – Bruce Boston

Double Vision – Bruce Boston

Sensuous Debris – Bruce Boston

Intrinsic Night – J. E. Stanley and Joshua Gage

Twigs and Knucklebones – Sarah Lindsay

Genesis, an epic poem – Frederick Turner

Renascence and Other Poems – Edna St. Vincent Millay

In the Yaddith Time – Ann K. Schwader

The Book of Styx – Eddy Styx

Barrow – Bryan Thao Warro

You Are Here and Other Poems – Gene Van Troyer

Ossuary – JoSelle Vanderhooft

Phantasmagoria and other poems – Lewis Carroll



Collections by the following poets (not yet sure which collection I’ll tackle for each)


Ray Bradbury

David Kopaska-Merkel

Wang Wei


W. B. Yeats

Franz Wright

T. S. Eliot






The Rhysling Anthology (upcoming)

Classic Haiku

Modern Japanese Tanka


….along with a big stack of back issues of various poetry magazines






Science and Poetry – Mary Midgley

The Practice of Poetry – Robin Behn

Poetics – Aristotle

Relativity – Albert Einstein

The Book of the Dead – E. A. Wallis, ed.

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women – Donna J. Haraway






Le Morte D’Arthur – Sir Thomas Malory

Looking Backward – Edward Bellamy

A Descent into the Maelstrom – Edgar Allan Poe


Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

Voices – Ursula LeGuin

The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights – James Knowles


….and something by George MacDonald and J Alan Erwine

(that’s two different works, not a collaboration — unless J has some skills in

necromancy that I don’t know about, in which case I will definitely read the





I’m very sure the list will be modified as I go, but for now, this is what I want to aim at for 2010.  It’ll be fun to look back next January and see how many changes have been made.





© 2010 Shelly Bryant

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Your list will keep you busy, I think. I’m involved in the Booker Challenge this year, an attempt to read varying numbers of books that have won the prize. My first one will be “Wolf Hall” by Mantel. Maybe I’ll fill in a few gaps, too.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – 12:53 AM
I know some people who make sure to keep up with one prize list or another, as a way of making sure to keep the gaps filled.  I’ve never been very good about that.

I’m making some headway on my list already, having finished Intrinsic Night and Voices, and finishing Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster soon.  I started Relativity this morning (and expect it to take me a while).

I think that my reading gets a little haphazard when I ravel so much.  I thought setting up a list that I intend to tackle would help keep me a little more disciplined.  We’ll see….

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 – 12:46 PM
January 4, 2010

Repost: Rhysling Eligible Poems (2010)

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Rhysling Eligible Poems, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

With Rhysling nominations open to SFPA members, I thought I would provide a list of my poems that were first published in 2009.

From Cyborg Chimera, a collection published by Sam’s Dot Publishing (poems unpublished before 2009)

Morpheus                                Merlin

A Nightmare’s Whisper           Bill Passed, a Fib

FreeFall                                  Conviction

In Exile                                    Dozer

Orion Out the Window            Watchdog 6.9.2

Unhand Me                            Cyborg Chimera

Avatar                                    Not Programmed That Way

Suffrage                                 Sphinx-Speak

Horrorscope                           Generic

The Sacred, the Savage        Double Helix

Censor Censure Censer        Gone Awry

Id                                            Insomniac

In Aoife’s Kiss

Colonizers (June 2009)

Under Pressure (June 2009)

Fortunes Told (June 2009)

A Note on Her Pillow (December 2009)

In Astropoetica

When the Seeing is Good (Autumn 2009)

In Contemporary Haibun Online

Project (March 2009)

Mr. Lincoln’s Program (June 2009)

In Cover of Darkness (poetry anthology)

Night Falls (May 2009)

In Expressions newsletter

Our Universe Expands (June 2009)

Each Particle Contains the Whole (October 2009)

in early autumn (November 2009)

Night Watch (December 2009)

Ambarvalia (December 2009)

In The Fifth Di…

Dreams of Elsewhere (March 2009)

In The Genesis Project

Visitation (2009)

Men of Renown (2009)

In The Martian Wave

Bypassed (June 2009)

In Mirror Dance

Cave Drawings (Autumn 2009)

Long Compton (Winter 2009)

In Motel 58

Chicago, 1893 (March 2009)

In His Images (March 2009)

In Not One of Us

electrodes hooked up (April 2009)

a bulleted list (October 2009)

In Scifaikuest

Manipulated (May 2009, online)

In Space, Lost (May 2009, print)

always pleased to serve (May 2009, print)

gods who frighten us (August 2009)

Organic Emissary’s Fib (August 2009)

Hide and Seek (August 2009)

beneath icy plains (August 2009)

non-binary codes (August 2009, online)

Harvest Moon (November 2009)

Juno’s Itinerary (November 2009)

elderberry wine (November 2009, online)

In Sloth Jockey

Pellinore’s Dive (Feb 2009)

Faultlines (May 2009)

In Spaceports & Spidersilk

mane proudly shaken (June 2009)

“Manipulated” is the only one that falls in the “long poem” category.  All the rest are below 50 lines.

I will be happy to email the full text of any of these poems to SFPA members upon request.  A few samples are available here.

My contact information:  shellybryant [at] yahoo [dot] com

January 1, 2010

Repost: Hit or Miss, Dec ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.


December was a good month for catching up on a lot of reading I’ve left dangling for a while.  I made a little progress on my Fill in the Gaps list, and read a number of other books for both work and leisure.  It was especially good to savour a number of poetry

collections over the past month, including my own newly releasedCyborg Chimera, which finally arrived here in Singapore.


Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching in December:



Hit List

  1. •    The Evidence of the Senses (Colin Tan)
  2. •    Curse of the Golden Flower (movie)
  3. •    A Cold Coming (Tony Harrison)
  4. •    Memoirs of a Geisha (movie)
  5. •    2004 Dwarf Stars (Deborah P. Kolodji, ed.)
  6. •    Blackbird (David Harrower)
  7. •    George & the Dragon (movie)
  8. •    Silas Marner (George Eliot)
  9. •    The Shack (William Paul Young)

my review is the second one at the linked site

  1. •    several essays & short stories by Washington Irving
  2. •    Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

also a short blog entry at the Fill in the Gaps site

  1. •    The Haiku Handbook (William J. Higginson, with Penny Harter)
  2. •    Brighton Rock (Graham Greene)
  3. •   City of Life and Death (movie)
  4. •    Avatar (movie)
  5. •    Private Worlds:  A Revised Atlas (Scott E. Green)

watch Sloth Jockey for a review, coming soon

  1. •    Peninsular (Darren V. L. Shiau)
  2. •    The Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (movie)
  3. •    Ancient Skies (oino sakai)
  4. •    A Study in Emerald (Neil Gaiman)



Catching up on a couple of magazines:


Books & Culture, Asimov’s Science Fiction (back issues)

Star*Line, ExpatLit, The Taylor Trust (most recent issue)



Miss List


No misses in December!



Neither Hit nor Miss


  1. • The Gospel According to Judas (Jeffrey Archer)

watch Sloth Jockey for a review, coming soon





So, what have you been reading and watching this past month?





2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
you got lots done!
Saturday, January 9, 2010 – 05:11 AM
Yeah, I’ve been trying to get caught up on some things.  I’m now trying to get just a little ahead, as I figure next month might not be one that has a lot of reading time.  You know how it is when guests come…
(Not that I’m complaining!!!)
Saturday, January 9, 2010 – 03:02 PM
December 26, 2009

Repost: Something New for 2010

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Something New for 2010

Saturday, December 26, 2009

For the new year, I am starting a new project.  I will be offering poetry and writing coach services for people who are interested in learning or improving the writing craft.  You can see how it works on the website I’ve set up.


Engaging a poetry or writing coach can be a useful for:


  1. ✦people who have to write as a part of their job and would like to make their writing more effective


  1. ✦“closeted” poets and writers who would like to prepare their work for eyes other than their own


  1. ✦poets and writers who want to learn how to prepare manuscripts for publication


  1. ✦poets and writers who would like to better prepare their writing for publication, in hopes of receiving more acceptance letters


  1. ✦novice poets and writers who want to understand the conventions of writing better so that they can shape their work to interact with a community of other readers / poets / writers


  1. ✦readers, poets, and writers who want a broader appreciation of the tradition of poetry (see poetry courses)


Not every writer or poet is fortunate enough to have other writers with whom they can interact and share the writing experience.  Many writers would like to take their work to the next level, putting it into circulation and seeing it published, but are unsure how to go about the whole process.  An experienced coach can help poets and writers who find themselves in such situations.


I have decided to start offering coaching services because my own blend of skills, experience, and interests suit such an arrangement.  I have always loved reading and writing — the two activities in which every good writer is sure to be absorbed — and also teaching.  I have 6 years’ experience teaching undergraduates in the English literature department of a private university in Singapore, and more than 15 years’ experience tutoring adult students in writing (academic and creative).  I have always preferred individual training sessions to classroom time, as it allows for closer interaction between student and teacher.  In addition, it allows the pair to focus on specific needs rather than simply aiming to cover a set of material.  In one-on-one training, the focus is on the needs of the learner.  And I really like that.


As a writer, I have enjoyed seeing my own work grow over the past several years.  As an undergraduate student (20 years ago!), I was engaged to assist one of my professors in completing two manuscripts that he was preparing for publication.  Since then, I have done professional writing for more than 15 years, developing material for businesses ranging from entertainment giants to shrimp farms.  I’ve written material for historical societies, magazines, corporations, and advertising agencies.  I branched into more creative endeavors roughly 10 years ago, but mostly, at first, only helping with editing and proofreading.  After a while, I began to send out my own poetry for publication.  I currently have about 200 poems, book reviews, and articles in print or accepted for publication.  My first poetry collection, Cyborg Chimera, was released by Sam’s Dot Publishing last year, and 30 of my haiku appeared in dark ‘til dawn, a collection of designer art pieces.  I’ve enjoyed the process of growing as a writer, and hope to share that experience with others who are interested in engaging coaching services.


I am looking forward to 2010 and this new step in my own writing and teaching.  It is nice to bring my professional experience together into one service that I think can be of help to other writers and poets.






©2009 Shelly Bryant





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I hope this works out well for you!
Saturday, January 9, 2010 – 05:13 AM
Saturday, January 9, 2010 – 03:03 PM
December 14, 2009

Repost: Something to Look Forward To

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Something to Look Forward to

Monday, December 14, 2009

This is going to be a good Christmas.  I already know what I am getting from Santa, because my mom needed to ask whether I could make it work outside of the US.  She’s getting me a Kindle Reader from Amazon.  (I’ve borrowed one from a friend who got his for his birthday earlier this year, so I know I can get it to work in Singapore and Shanghai.)  It is going to be so nice to be able to carry loads of reading material with me, without it weighing so much.  Packing for all my travels just got so much easier.  (Thanks, Mom!)


I’m also excited to hear that Jasper Fforde has a new book coming out.  This is not a Thursday Next book, nor is it Jack Spratt.  It’s a new tale altogether, from what I understand, called Shades of Gray.  Fforde is one of my favorite writers, and I am really looking forward to this book, as it promises to be a little darker than his previous works.  A little darker, with all of his amazing humor and outstanding writing?  I can hardly wait.


I’m planning on ordering the Kindle version of Fforde’s new book, which will make a great package for me.  It will be great to have a new toy loaded up with a new work by an old favorite.


Does it get any better than this?






©2009 Shelly Bryant





4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I’m only a little jealous, but glad you’re getting something useful. Good thing you already knew that it would work for you. There are a lot of free books out there for the Kindle too. Just ask Wm. He knows.
Thursday, December 17, 2009 – 08:12 AM
My mom received it today, and set it up with my account.  I just spent the last hour or so sending free books to it.

Can hardly wait for it to arrive in Singapore now!

Thursday, December 17, 2009 – 10:46 AM
So far, I haven’t been tempted. I do see the advantage of being able to read a variety of books while traveling around without having to lug around hard copies. Plus, they show up right away when you find something new and just have to read it right now.

I’ll look forward to your upcoming Kindle reports.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009 – 11:42 AM
I’m loving it so far, Malcolm.  I thought I would mostly want to use it when traveling, so as to lighten my luggage.  But I’ve found that I wanted it with me when I was out of the house doing some work the past few days.  I had access to a couple of reference books, including a pretty nice dictionary, that I normally would have had to wait until I was home to go back and look at what I needed.  The ability to carry so much around in one little device is pretty handy.

And really, I don’t feel like I am looking at an electronic screen when I use the Kindle.  I don’t know how to describe it — it isn’t like paper, exactly, but the quality of print on paper is there.  It is really nice.

And, I like that this version of the Kindle makes it easy to carry PDF files.  I have printed out less material this week than I usually do, as I can store the material as a PDF file in my Kindle instead.  That has been handy for doing some reading of student papers and so forth.  I really hate reading on the computer screen, as it makes the eyes so tired.  This device enables me to read e-material, but without that fatigue to the eyes.  It is as good as advertised.

And the number and quality of free books available for the Kindle is fantastic!  I downloaded over 200 pieces for my mom to set up before she sent it over, and they are really quality stuff.  It’s great for people who like the classics, because there’s so much available for free.  In addition, I read a lot of ezines that make material available in PDF, and I’ve downloaded several of those for reading this week.  If you do much reading of material on the computer screen, then I think you would like the Kindle a lot, because you can read that same material on a device that feels more like a book (to both hand and eye) instead of on the computer, just by sending the PDF to the device.

Pretty great technology, I think!

Thursday, December 24, 2009 – 10:06 AM
November 23, 2009

Repost: Ebook Authors Supporting the Troops

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

E-book Authors Supporting the Troops

Monday, November 23, 2009

I just read an article about something my friend Malcolm Campbell is involved in,sending download coupons for e-books to deployed troops.  I thought it such a great idea that I wanted to give a little plug to the whole project here.


The project started when writer Ed Patterson was chatting with a soldier in the field.  The soldier mentioned the difficulty he had getting reading material for hisAmazon Kindle Reader.  The Kindle currently offers users the ability to get an amazing array of reading material at very reasonable prices — for those in the US.  The Kindle can’t be bought from an overseas account on Amazon (trust me, I know….), and if you buy one while in the US and take it overseas, you won’t be able to access the network.  The soldier, then, had a great product for keeping lots of reading material, but no means of updating his library.  Patterson decided to email a copy of his own e-books to the soldier.


That’s already quite a nice thing to do, but Patterson didn’t stop there.  He began rallying other e-book writers to send e-books to deployed troops all over the world.  My friend Malcolm, author of The Sun Singer and two Jock Stewart books, has joined in the program as well.  According to the article linked above, 60 people have already requested the code for downloading his books.


As Malcolm states in the article, this is a project independent of an author’s view of the war.  It isn’t about supporting a political decision, but about supporting the individuals whose lives are dictated by the decisions made.  I’m really glad to hear that Malcolm and other writers like him are doing this, and hope it will continue to expand.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Thanks for helping to spread the word. I just sent out another e-mail to a sergeant this morning. It’s a great way for them to keep up with their reading under trying circumstances. I’m glad smashwords jumped in to help support the effort.


Thursday, November 26, 2009 – 03:23 AM
Me too, Malcolm.  I think it’s a great project.
Thursday, November 26, 2009 – 11:03 AM
November 9, 2009

Repost: decollection Launches its dark ’til dawn Collection in Shanghai

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

decollection Launches its dark ‘til dawn Collection in Shanghai

Monday, November 9, 2009

Over the weekend, decollection launched its first line of collectible art pieces, the dark ‘til dawn series of designer lamps.  Each lamp is hand-painted and designed by decollection’s Peter Zhou around one of my haiku.  There are 30 pieces in the collection.  Each is unique, and comes accompanied by a birth certificate signed by both poet and artist.

You can download this PDF catalog with pictures of each of the lamps and poems.  You can get a bit of a feel for the whole series from those images.


At the launch, I read from my newly released poetry collection Cyborg Chimera.  The book, published by Sam’s Dot Publishing in October 2009, will arrive in Asia later this month.  Several guests at the launch placed advanced orders.


Excerpts from two of the poems from Cyborg Chimera app

ear in the dark ‘til dawn collection, making for an interesting crossover.  the book is a work of speculative poetry, focusing on cyborgs, hybridity, dreams, the subconscious, and questions of freewill and human initiative.  The dark ‘til dawn collection, on the other hand, features only haiku, and aims for a more soothing effect than what is featured in most of the poems in Cyborg Chimera.  Zhou’s lamp designs and paintings help torecontextualize the poems in a way that suits their new setting, showing the versatility of the written word, particularly when engaged across traditional boundaries of language and culture.

The launch of dark ‘til dawn was a 2-day event held at the decollection office.   Of the 30 pieces in the collection, nine were sold at the event.


If you are interested in purchasing one of the lamps, please drop me an email and I can let you know the prices for the lamp, shipping, etc.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant

October 31, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, October ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, October ’09

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It was a slower-than-usual reading month for me in October, but I did get to read some fun things, at least.  I did not, however, make much of a dent in my Fill in the Gaps list of 100 books to be read over the next 5 years.  I hope to get more of that done in November.


Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching in October:



Hit List

  1. • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
  2. • Night and Day (Virginia Woolf)
  3. • The Lover (onstage, in Mandarin)
  4. • Some of Washington Irving’s short stories:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Spectre Bridegroom, Mountjoy, The Pride of the


  1. •Back issues of The Fourth Genre, Chinese Language Learning and Chinese Literature
  2. •Various Chinese poems (for class)




Miss List

• The Master Builder (onstage)

The performance of this supposedly dense work turned out to be pretty weak



• The Rice Queen Spy (John F. Rooney)





Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. • 《甲申记》(onstage)

good acting, excellent choreography, but something just didn’t work (and I’m not sure I really got the story)







So, what have you been reading and watching this past month?





4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
will post mine soon.
Thursday, November 5, 2009 – 11:01 AM
I’ll be by for a look.
Friday, November 6, 2009 – 06:54 AM
I always like your hit and miss lists.
I look forward to them at the end of every month
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 12:15 PM
I’m glad someone bothers to read them!  I like posting them.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 06:22 PM
October 24, 2009

Repost: Reflections on dark ’til dawn

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Reflections on dark ‘til dawn

Saturday, October 24, 2009

There was really only one thing that ever kept me from becoming a visual artist of some sort — a decided lack of talent.  I don’t have a steady hand.  My fine motor skills are, well, less than fine.  I have never been able to put the pictures in my mind onto the page without recourse to words.  Words, it seems, are the only chance I have at producing art.  I have always felt it a pitiable lack in myself, that I did not have even a shred of talent that would allow me to enter the world of visual arts.


Because of this particular ineptitude that I’ve always known was mine, collaborating on the dark ‘til dawn series with Peter Zhou (周宇) of decollection has been a great pleasure.  The project involved creating 30 designer lamps sporting Zhou’s paintings, with both the design and painting growing out of my haiku.  Each lamp was to be a one-of-its-kind art piece, with a unique design and painting inspired by the haiku.  The idea was to incorporate East and West, contemporary and traditional.  It was a huge undertaking, and I am very satisfied with the job we’ve done, having just completed it this week.


The process began with poem selection.  I went through my existing body of work, and took out several haiku that would form a basis for the series, including some that were previously published, like the haiku portion of the haibun “Blowing Smoke,” still available in the archives at Sloth Jockey.  Haiku seemed to be a natural choice for the form of poetry that would suit the lamps, both for its brevity and for its emphasis on image and “the moment.”


As Zhou and I sat discussing the poems, me trying to translate the ideas into Mandarin for him, we found that the best approach was to first talk image, then move to feel, effect, and associations.   It was an invigorating process, and also quite humbling.  It is very difficult to pick apart one’s own poetry and put it into such bald, exposed terms (though I never mind doing it to the work of others).  Zhou impressed me with how quickly he could capture the ideas and relate them to the pictures floating around in his own mind.


Our next step involved Zhou producing sketches for the paintings and lamp designs, while I put together a few more poems to flesh out the series.  We ended up going through about 45 poems in order to find the 30 that we finally settled on.  Some of the haiku were, typical of my work, first created as works of speculative poetry.  Watching Zhou recontextualize these poems into a more traditional Chinese setting was amazing.  For instance, there is one piece that was written as part of a longer poem, envisioning the view of Earth from space:


compelled by her hues

overlaid by swirling whites

her rich greens, deep blues


Zhou’s image of this poem is a scene of a river gorge cut between two mountains, with the clouds rolling over the waters in the middle of the valley.  It is very typical of a certain style of traditional Chinese painting, and nicely places the words of the poem into a new context that I had not imagined for them.  Similar work of situating the verses into new surroundings happened over and over with the 30 pieces, bringing Merlin into contact with Da Peng Niao, the phoenix with a Chinese sunbird, and meteors with Chinese astrology.  It has been lots of fun watching all of this come together.


Zhou is an amazing artist, endowed with all of those talents that are necessary for one to be successful with the visual arts — a steady hand, a good eye, a cool demeanor, and a quick recall across the huge breadth of images residing in his mind.  It has been a great pleasure to see my poetry being brought to new life by his hand.



By next week, there should be photos and descriptions of the lamps up on the decollection website.  Check back if you’d like to have a look.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant


2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
What fun–and what an inspiring way to create art.


Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 03:12 AM
It really has been fun, Malcolm.  I enjoyed the discussions with Peter (and appreciate him bearing with the roughness of the translations I was able to offer!).  It’s been quite fun for me, working on this project.
Sunday, October 25, 2009 – 08:18 AM
October 17, 2009

Repost: About Free Audiobooks

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

About Free Audiobooks

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It was with some reluctance that I finally began listening to audiobooks.  My dad was probably the first person who tried to convince me that I would love them, but I was skeptical.  After a while, though, I finally decided to give it a try by downloading several titles from and listening to them on my iPod during long flights and my daily commutes.


That was somewhere around ten years ago, and I have listened to a lot of audiobooks since then.  I won’t say I am exactly a convert, or that I am 100% in love with the listening experience when contrasted to holding a book in hand and tackling it at my leisure.  But there have been a lot of fun reading/listening experiences in that time.  Perhaps the best was when I was on a long road trip with two friends, and we listened to one of the newly released Harry Potterbooks together.  The narration was good, and it was a lot of fun hearing the story together in the car, and rehashing when we stopped and got out of the car for one reason or another.


So, as someone who does a fair bit of listening, and who has a liking for older books that are in the public domain, I’ve done a lot of downloading of free books.  There are a lot of spots that offer really good quality, but there are some that can be rather hit or miss.


Most recently, I’ve been listening to several downloads from Librivox.  I usually really enjoy what I download from Librivox.  Right now, I am in the middle of Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day, and the reading is really good.  It is done in a nice, even voice, and the voice suits the text pretty well.  That is quite different, though, from a couple I listened to last month, especially The Aeneid.  I was sad to have to rank it as a miss on my September list, but the fact is that the reading was just not that good.  Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars was, like The Aeneid, split up between different readers, and so each chapter was done in a different voice and different accent.  It was fairly distracting in both instances.  For The Aeneid, it was made worse because several of the readers took on a sing-song type of voice, obviously not knowing how to handle the rhyme and meter of Dryden’s translation well when reading aloud.  It was disappointing.


I have had better luck with ejunto, for the most part.  It is mostly classics there.  You’ll find a lot of good texts in the fields of philosophy, history, science, and literature.  And there are lots of memoirs and biographies available.  I really like the recordings, but the selection is not quite as wide as what you find at Librivox.  But if you find what you are looking for there, you can be pretty sure the quality will be good.  I hope they will continue expanding the list of titles they have available.


One way or another, both Librivox and ejunto offer a really nice means for downloading free audiobooks.  I’ve got an iPod full of them, and still have many hours of listening to do to complete all the titles I’ve got there.


And that’s a good thing.  Something to look forward to on the long flights I’ll be doing before too long.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I have yet to listen to an audio book for I feel that the words in a novel were meant to be seen and not heard. Also, I don’t want the voice of the reader to get between me and the words. My brother and his wife, however, listen to them a great deal on car trips. Neither of them has time to read and sitting for hours in a car with a story suits them very well. I can imagine doing it on flights, but am resisting the idea.


Friday, November 13, 2009 – 03:22 AM
It’s definitely not my preferred mode of experiencing a novel, Malcolm, but I have come to enjoy it.  Like your brother and sister-in-law, it is mostly for commuting, for me, and for long flights as well (though I often turn off the audio book and pick up a “real” book on a plane too).

For the interference of the readers, I’ve actually enjoyed that more than I expected, overall.  On some of the free recordings, it does get irritating, as I noted in the post.  But for the most part, a good reader can add to the story.  I actually enjoy listening to books I’ve read before, and hearing other people’s take on them.  It’s kind of fun, and a good way to get to revisit a book that interested me in the past.  Also, it’s a great way to use the time of a commute (or whatever) instead of letting the mind idle while you just go through the motions of the day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 – 09:59 AM
October 10, 2009

Repost: Upcoming Projects

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Upcoming Projects

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cyborg Chimera

My first poetry collection, published by Sam’s Dot Publishing, has been released.  The poems probe into questions of programming and free will, hybridity, the subconscious, and all sorts of control mechanisms.  You can order your copy ofCyborg Chimera from The Genre Mall.



Speculative Poetry Anthology (a call for submissions)

Firstfruits Publications, Singapore’s most renown publisher of poetry books, seeks submissions for a poetry anthology slated for late 2010. The anthology will aim to introduce speculative poetry to a Singapore audience. We hope that this will generate more interest in genre poetry in the country, and that both poets and readers will seek to experiment more in the field. Our interest runs the gamut from hard science to mythopoeia to horror to fantasy to the surreal. We are interested in

finding a broad range of speculative poetry to introduce to a local audience.


You can send submissions to me at the address listed below. No more than 10 poems (of any length) per poet. If your work is accepted, there is a possibility we will solicit more pieces from you down the road. Submissions should be addressed to project editor Shelly Bryant at shellybryant (at) yahoo (dot) com.  (You’ll have to make that a usable address.)  Please put POETRY SUBMISSION and your name in the subject line, and include the poems in the body of the email. And please remember to include your contact information.  No reprints.  Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please inform the editor if the work is accepted elsewhere.


Payment will be in contributors’ copies, 2 per contributor.



Dark ‘til Dawn

Next month marks the launch of a project I am working on in conjunction with decollection, a Shanghai-based designer of soft furnishings.  The Dark ‘til Dawn series of designer art pieces is a space for the intermingling of my poetry and the paintings of Chinese artist Zhou Yu.  Each piece grew out of one of my haiku, with Zhou’s painting and lamp design developing around the imagery of the poem.  There will be 30 lamps in the collection, each a unique design, with a unique poem and painting hand-painted on the piece.  Each lamp will come with a birth certificate, and will be signed by the artists.


Watch for more information as the launch date draws nearer.



Pocket Guide to Suzhou

I have been engaged by Urbanatomy to write a pocket guide to the city of Suzhou. The book will be released next year, in conjunction with the World Expo, hosted in Shanghai.  Urbanatomy has published guides to Shanghai over the past several years, and is currently expanding its work to include other cities.  Suzhou is a beautiful place, and I am very pleased to be writing about it.


Expect the book to be released sometime in early summer 2010.  I will, again, include more information as we get closer to the release date.





It’s going to be an exciting few months, with lots of new projects on!  Keep an eye on this blog for more updates.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant

6 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Exciting stuff, Shelly!  This should keep you out of trouble for awhile.
Saturday, October 10, 2009 – 11:50 PM
4Keep me out of trouble?  Might have to work harder than that…
Sunday, October 11, 2009 – 01:57 PM
WOW!! what awesome stuff you’ve got going! good for you! would love to see the lamps. is there a website for that?
Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 05:30 AM
It is exciting, silken.  The lamps aren’t quite done yet, as there are a few more to paint.  But, they are supposed to be done this week, and we’ll have the images up with the lamps ready to order on the 23rd, if all goes as planned.  It will be at the link listed above (  There’s a link to the company’s site from my main page, which I’ll change to the lamps’ site when they are done.

I’m very pleased with the way the lamps have turned out so far.  Zhou Yu has done a great job with the art work.  I hope next week, when they are finished, to do a little debrief of the process in an entry here, and will have more to say then.

Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 09:34 AM
It’s been a while since I’ve stopped by…looks like you’ve been busy!

I just ordered my copy of your book and can’t wait for its arrival!  :O)

Thursday, October 22, 2009 – 02:25 AM
Thanks for popping in, Beth, and thanks for ordering a copy of Cyborg Chimera.  I don’t think it is shipping yet, but should be very soon.

I have been very busy, and loving the projects I’ve been working on.  I’m looking forward to seeing things take a firmer shape over the next few months (year, really).  It will be nice if all goes as I hope with each of the projects…. is that too much to ask for????

Saturday, October 24, 2009 – 09:34 AM
October 3, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, September ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, September ’09

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I finally had a little more time for some reading and movie-watching.  I made a little headway on my Fill in the Gaps list in September, which was fun, and also got to catch up on some other reading/viewing I’d left hanging for a while.  And I had a lot of fun catching a few old movies on the MGM channel while I was unexpectedly back in Singapore for a week to settle matters for my China visa.


Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching for the past month:


Hit List

  1. •Quantum Lyrics (A Van Jordan) — see my review at Sloth Jockey
  2. •Velocity (Dean Koontz) — see my response at Fill in the Gaps

this was on my “Fill in the Gaps” list because I’d heard good things about Koontz’s writing; it was better than I thought

  1. •Macbeth (movie)  — 2006 Australian version
  2. •Slipstream (movie)

this was something I’d picked up on DVD some time back, and finally got to watch; very, very good

  1. •Zen in the Art of Writing (Ray Bradbury)
  2. •Dark Nebulae (John J. Dunphy)
  3. •The Mouths that Remain (Gavin Salisbury)
  4. •The Princess of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs) — see my response at Fill in the Gaps
  5. •The Fountainhead (movie)
  6. •Clean Slate (movie)
  7. •A Fish Called Wanda (movie)
  8. •Transformers 2 (movie)
  9. •Rip Van Winkle (Washington Irving) — see my response at Fill in the Gaps




Miss List

•Training Day (movie)

I’m not sure it was exactly a miss, but I really didn’t like it as much as I thought I would – too cliche, I guess


•The Aeneid (Vergil, a Librivox recording)

it’s not the text that was the problem, as I’ve always loved The Aeneid, but the recording; some of the readers just don’t read poetry well, especially Dryden’s rhyme and meter



Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. •The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman) — read my thoughts at Tai Shan

there were some good thoughts, for sure, but I probably waited to long to read it; it’s rather dated already


  1. Director’s Cut (Alton Gansky)





So, what have you been reading and watching this past month?





8 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I would recommend the Swedish vampire flick ‘Let the Right One In’. The story centres on the relationship between a 12-year-old boy, Oskar, and a 200-year-old vampire child, Eli. Not your typical vampire movie. My wife, who has very little time for vampires, loved it.

And I’ve just finished ‘Rhyming Life and Death’ by Amos Oz. It’s a novella where we get to witness the writing process in action as we listen to the stream-of-consciousness narrative describing what goes on in an author’s mind. Next to no plot – and even some of the plot there is might well only be imagined – but I loved it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 05:57 PM
Both sound like excellent recommendations, Jim.  Thanks!  I’m off now to check out both titles.  I have a feeling both will be added to my TBR list.
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 11:02 PM
Interesting list. I haven’t seen any movies, other than on TV, for ages. As for books, I enjoyed Julianna Baggott’s “The Madam” and Pat Conroy’s “South of Broad.” The Conroy book doesn’t seem to work quite as well as his “Prince of Tides.” Right now, I’m reading Roberto Bolano’s very lengthy “2666.” I’m enjoying it so far, but have some 750 pages left to read.

Best of luck with your new book.


Monday, October 5, 2009 – 10:39 AM
Hi Malcolm,

I read some of your comments here or there (or perhaps here andthere) about your reading of 2666.  It sounds like a very intriguing read.  I think I might enjoy it, from what you’ve said.

I have mostly only caught movies on TV or DVD for the past several months, though I actually really love seeing them on the big screen (how old fashioned is that???).

I’m reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell right now.  It’s pretty good so far (about a quarter into it).  It was recommended by a couple of friends, and I am hoping to finish while one of those friends is visiting me here in Shanghai next week.  It’s always fun to discuss a book with the person who recommended it to you.

I’ll keep “The Madam” on my radar too, as well as Conroy’s work.

Monday, October 5, 2009 – 12:10 PM
I also enjoyed reading “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.” If you like it, you might also consider Clarke’s follow-up volume of stories which include one or two about the characters in the novel. It’s “The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.” I ordered a copy of your book! YAY.


Monday, October 5, 2009 – 11:09 PM
If Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell continues along as good as it is so far, I think I’ll be happy to pick up the follow-up volume.  It’s a pretty good read, rather refreshing and fun.

Thanks for picking up my book.  I’ll look forward to hearing your feedback.  I’m anxious to see what real live readers think of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 – 02:29 PM
my list was up. and I am trying to keep up w/ my october one too! all my reading seems to be kid’s books though!
Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 05:27 AM
Nothing wrong with kids’ books— I love them!

I’ll be over to have a look at your list.

Saturday, October 17, 2009 – 09:36 AM
September 26, 2009

Repost: Not Entirely Behind the Times

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Not Entirely Behind the Times

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I don’t quite know how long I’ve been receiving invitations to join Facebook, and assiduously ignoring them.  Things happened recently that made me finally break down and sign up, and so now I am a member of that community, having been brought in almost against my will.


I don’t know how active I will ultimately be over at Facebook.  I have seen some things there that seem to indicate that it is a place full of real opportunity — a place for reconnecting with old friends, a place for keeping up with family, and a place for making new contacts who might prove to be important to me in one way or another at some time in the future.  I see all of that, after having dipped a foot in the Facebook ocean.  It’s a lot like I felt when I first started blogging at a community blog site (now defunct).  There are some excellent discussions going on (like, say, this), and the nature of the site allows for so many different viewpoints that anyone who reads much there is sure to find a new perspective on whatever issue is being discussed.


But I also see here a spot for incredible levels of wastage.  There are so many games, so much nonsense to be discussed, so many loose threads to be pursued… how can you not waste time on the site, once you begin?  How do you keep from answering every tag, responding to every request for participation in this or that event?  How do you balance it all up?  I mean, I know you can block certain functions or users, but then, isn’t that somewhat defeating the community aspect of it all?  I’ve already used the “hide” option once, just because one connection was making updates and comments pop up on my wall every few minutes.  And that when I’ve only been on Facebook for a few days.  I wonder how many other things I will have to choose to cut out, to ignore, to hide, as time wears on.


When Facebook began, it was only open to students, and was by invitation only.  Since it has opened up to the general public, everyone — even me, now — has been joining.  I have lots of friends on the site, even after just a few days, and they range in age from about 10 to over 70 years.  What I like about it that is different from some of the other social sites I’ve experimented with in the past is the way I am connected on Facebook more with people I have “real life” connections with, instead of those I simply “know” online.  I think that is, from what I’ve read, the general appeal of the site.  I have, in these few short days, chatted with friends I’ve not seen in years.  And I’ve enjoyed that.  But I can also see how easy it would be to spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time doing this.  I can’t imagine, as a college student, how much time I might have spent on the site, had it been available two decades ago.  Honestly, I am glad it was not.


It is amazing to me how savvy some of the kids on the site are.  This is their world.  They know what they are doing on Facebook.  It is, it seems, their natural environment.  I, on the other hand, am somewhat overwhelmed.  There’s so much there, so many people to catch up with — so much that could be a distraction, if I let it.  But there’s also a huge potential for making positive connections.  It is, for me, all rather exhausting.


I’m not entirely behind the times, I guess.  I have, after all, finally signed up for Facebook, and begun exploring the possibilities it opens up for me.  I am also, however, not entirely up with the times.  I don’t do this naturally.  I do it because I think I should, because I don’t want to be left behind, and because I can see a glimpse of the world it opens up.


And of course, the biggest sign that I am not yet quite up with the times is the fact that I still think it worth talking about at all.  Perhaps one day, though, it will all become just a part of the mundane world for me.  And maybe by then I’ll have a clear idea for how to balance it all.




© 2009 Shelly Bryant


9 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Yes, I joined too, months ago, but I still don’t quite know what I’m doing there that I can’t do elsewhere and better but it seemed like something I ought to do. Am still resisting Twitter mind.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 01:00 AM
As authors, we’re told we really need to be on these social networking sites if we expect to “get anywhere” in today’s publishing environment. Social networking takes a lot of time, though, and it’s hard to see what part of it is helpful and what part is a waste of time.


Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 03:33 AM
Twitter!  Now I really have a headache!  That’s another I’ve avoided with a very stubborn resistance.  I can’t imagine I’ll be willing to do that, but then, I never thought I wanted to be on Facebook either.  (I will look for you on Facebook, though.  Expect a friend request soon.  ….sigh.  How quickly we get into the routine.)

It is hard to know when it is a waste of time, and what might be useful.  I do think there is the possibility here of informing old friends from high school that my book is going to be released next month, and that some of them might buy it.  I guess that would be helpful, and perhaps even (regarding Jim’s observation) that it might be something I couldn’t do elsewhere.  BUT, one part of me cringes at the thought that all of my friends from high school would know I about my book, and would read it.  I can’t imagine the response it might get.  And that is frightening.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 06:43 AM
Muhahahaha We have you now.
I know what you mean though. EVERY thinking person goes through this when they first join facebook (and eventually twitter)
it’s kind of the “who am I, Why am I here, what is the meaning of life” phase that an android goes through when he/she becomes a sentient life form.

Anyway, Good Luck and enjoy. by the way.. we have wireless at our house now.. you can always come over with your mac  and play with me. we can chat on facebook while sitting in the same room  😉

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 – 04:49 PM
ps. Ultimately facebook is for stalking the people you want to keep up with… without actually having to email them all the time ;o)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009 – 04:50 PM
I almost feel like I am making the opposite journey, Michelle — a sentient life form becoming a droid.  Being so connected all the time…. we’re cyborgs-in-waiting.  All we need is the implants, and it will literally be 24/7.  Talk about overload.

Twitter?  Oh man, my head hurts!

I haven’t tried the stalking feature on Facebook yet, but thanks… you’ve given me some ideas.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 – 12:14 AM
I’ ve avoided facebook too. though sometimes I do log in under my husband’s account, but then that makes him look bad since I ignore those wanting to chat w/ him, etc while he’s on ! 🙂

I hope to avoid twitter too.

good luck to you!

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 06:08 AM
ps-I did actually use facebook this week. dallas theater had a 50% off discount code to their performances of Mary Poppins!
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 06:09 AM
silken, I think you can make it show that you are not online, so if you wanted to log in as your husband, and yet not chat, I think you could.  That’s one of the things I think it is hard to negotiate — when to engage and when to ignore.  In that sense, it is more like blogging at WU than at a site like this.  But still, I suppose there is always an answer, for those who are willing to just turn the computer off.  🙂

In the first couple of weeks of my surrender to the Dark Side, I have to say it isn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe because my “real life” is busy, or maybe because it’s really not that bad… but one way or another, I’ve managed, I think, to keep it all pretty well balanced.

Saturday, October 3, 2009 – 01:28 PM
Tags: ,
September 19, 2009

Repost: It’s Official, I’m an Alien

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

It’s Official, I’m an Alien

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I am now officially an alien.  I even have a license, issued by the China government, to prove it.  It is my “Alien Employment License.”  As an avid reader and writer of all speculative genres (novels, plays, poetry), I suppose I should be thrilled.  Mostly, though, I am just wondering why the word “alien” has an impact that is so completely different than that of “foreigner.”

The little dictionary built into my computer offers these definitions

foreigner |ˈfôrənər; ˈfär-|

(noun) a person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own.

• informal a person not belonging to a particular place or group; a stranger or outsider.

Mostly innocuous, I guess.  Let’s see the comparison

alien |ˈālyən; ˈālēən|

(adjective) belonging to a foreign country or nation.

• unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful : bossing anyone around was alien to him | they found the world of adult education a little alien.

• [ attrib. ] relating to or denoting beings supposedly from other worlds; extraterrestrial : an alien spacecraft.

• (of a plant or animal species) introduced from another country and later naturalized.

(noun)a foreigner, esp. one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living : an illegal alien.

• a hypothetical or fictional being from another world.

• a plant or animal species originally introduced from another country and later naturalized.

Funny how the two words can be so similar, and yet not quite the same.  That little subdefinition in the “alien” listing’s inclusion of words like “disturbing” and “distasteful” seems to make all the difference.

Strangely enough, I don’t feel any more alien here than I do anywhere else in the world, even on the days when I am starkly aware that I am a foreigner.  There has always been something in my experience of life that hinted to me that I was an alien, wherever I might find myself.  I guess I should be grateful to the China government for officially acknowledging the condition, after all these years.

© 2009 Shelly Bryant

Personal Note

I just lost my little friend, Rigley, this week, making me feel all the more alien in this world.  She was a good girl, and will be greatly missed by me and everyone in my family.


4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Sorry to hear about your pooch.  And that you’re disturbing and distasteful.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 03:49 AM
It’s been a rough week, Pinhole.  Losing my friend is hard.  And one never likes to know the unpleasant truths about oneself.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 – 06:30 AM
Sorry to hear about the doggy!


Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 03:29 AM
Thanks, Malcolm.  It’s been hard.
Sunday, September 27, 2009 – 06:47 AM
September 12, 2009

Repost: Fill in the Gaps, Infinite Jest

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Filling in the Gaps:  Infinite Jest

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last weekend, I finished one of the longest titles on my fill in the gaps 100 books list, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  It is hard to say exactly how I felt about the book.  But immediately upon completion, I already knew it was one I would be thinking about for some time.  So, my comments here are not going to be a review per se, but a rundown of my responses to the book, more like what I would record in a reading journal. I begin with last Saturday, Sept 5, the day I finished the book.



Saturday, Sept 5

I’ve been working on this tome since May.  It hasn’t been an easy read, though parts of it were incredibly absorbing.  It took me a long time to get to those parts, but I am not sure if that had more to do with me as a reader and the state of mind I was in, or with the novel itself.  Anyway, the parts that were engaging were worth the read, even though there were large chunks of the book that did nothing for me.


The end of the book frustrates me.  It seems it did not end at all, in fact, and that I could just pick it up and continue reading the same old thing over again.  There is no resolution, which I more or less expected.  But worse, there’s no sense that we’ve come to a stopping place at all.  But then, perhaps that is because we’ve not really had a plot either.  It’s more like a prolonged rambling (in amazing prose, of course) that just comes to a sort of abrupt stop.



Sunday, Sept 6

The notion of Entertainment and its connection to addiction (perhaps only made possible by contemporary consumer culture) is so adeptly explored in Infinite Jest.  I think this is what there is to love in the novel.  When I read about the book, before having purchased it, this was what made me want to read it.  I have to say that the treatment of the theme(s) is somewhat disorienting.  Perhaps that is the way it should be, though, as a sort of representation of the mind-reeling abundance of Entertainment possibilities today.


The treatment of sex, drugs, and addiction as interconnected facets of the Entertainment culture was especially fascinating.  It isn’t so much that that’s a foreign concept to me, as that putting it right up against sports, movies, etc., gave it a whole different perspective.  The intertwining (or entangling) of these elements in the text is probably what I enjoyed most about it.



Monday, Sept 7

Depression.  Who could know more about it than David Foster Wallace?


I am usually not one to read the author in(to) the text he’s penned, but it was hard not to  have thoughts of DFW’s demise enter the head when reading some of the more eloquent passages about depression in Infinite Jest.  Those bits are so well-written, so piercing, so insightful.  Is it authorial intrusion into the narrative?  The modest training I’ve had in critical theory recoils at the suggestion, but the casual reader in me found it difficult not to see a good deal of DFW in those bits of prose that dealt so poignantly with the black dog.


One way or another, the book’s treatment of Depression is elegant.   The descriptions of a despondent mind’s thought processes and the understanding of the impulse that drives the depressed to actions that seem so irrational from the outside (including suicide), are so lovingly presented that it brings the melancholy horror of those feelings close to the reader, simultaneously allowing for empathy and examination.  Anyone who has experienced depression would recognize the truth held in those passages, the first-hand knowledge they present.  Anyone who has not experienced depression would probably do well to pay close attention, if they want to understand it from the inside.


On another note, I finished Velocity last night.  After the long 4-5 months it took me to finish the 6th book from my Fill in the Gaps list, I finished the next in just a day.  Infinite Jest is a demanding read.  It required a lot of slow, careful attention from me.



Tuesday, Sept 8

The whole treatment of Subsidized Time in Infinite Jest is the first thing in the book that really caught my interest.  It is funny.  It is handled with a wry cynicism that is just perfect.  The idea of selling ad space on our marking of time just makes me laugh, and is well suited to the book’s critique of our current situation in which everything is for sale — or at least open for sponsorship.   And, it is quite fitting that most of the action of the novel takes place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.


I just happened across the Infinite Summer website today.  I didn’t know this challenge was out there.  I started a little early, and finished a few week’s before the challenge’s dates dictate.  But I guess I unwittingly joined this community of Wallace’s readers.  Well, not exactly.  But I did more or less follow their reading schedule.



Wednesday, Sept 9

The characters in Infinite Jest are not at all endearing to me.  I’ve read plenty of comments by other readers about the characters, mostly calling them “memorable.”  That might be true, but I don’t feel much for them other than a sort of detached interest.  Hal is, not surprisingly, the closest to a sympathetic character that I find in the novel, but even he is presented in such a way that seems to distance him from the reader.  In this way, the book reminds me of the Gormenghast novels.  There I have a similar feeling that the characters are not at all sympathetic, though Titus does, from time to time, invite you in a  little closer.  Infinite Jest struck me in much the same way.



Friday, Sept 11

One of the things about Infinite Jest that is really well done is the way the book shows the problem of drugs, and of addiction in general, being something that cuts across social barriers.  There are abusers in the book who are young, and those who are old.  Rich and poor.  Various races and backgrounds.  It runs the gamut.  Drug and alcohol abuse play a significant role in exploring the theme, but it is really much wider than these problems.  It is all in the context of addiction to consumption, which covers a whole lot more ground.  And perhaps why it is so all-inclusive.


I also like the way the book handles its critique of various programs set up to help people suffering from addiction.  It is not just the fact that it pokes fun of these things, but that it seems to hit hard at the notion of a system that treats all problems of addiction as a pre-packaged sort of thing, as if all addictions are built on an assembly line.  And, even more insightful, it discusses the way these support groups can become an addiction in themselves.  When one of the characters finds himself in the wrong meeting altogether, this idea is handled especially well.  Our addictions, it seems, can sometimes function as interchangeable parts.



Saturday, Sept 12

I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what all Infinite Jest has to offer.  I think it isn’t a book for everyone, but that those who do read it will find plenty there to think about for a good long time.  I find myself thinking of it several times throughout the day, pondering over little bits and pieces at different times.


I have a friend who has decided to read it, but not necessarily from beginning to end.  She’s more likely to flip through here and there and read whatever jumps out at her at that point in time.  This might be a very interesting way to approach Infinite Jest, as a linear, beginning-to-end reading isn’t necessarily the best way to really get into the book.  Anyway, I am interested in seeing how her reading experience goes.


I wouldn’t recommend the book to just everyone, but would enjoy hearing thoughts from anyone who does decide to tackle it.  There’s a good reason that it was so much a topic of discussion when it came out.  It really has a lot to offer.  Even though there were parts of the reading process that were quite a chore for me, I am very glad I read it now that I am done.





© 2009 Shelly Bryant


4 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
having never read the book, I must say that when I initially read this part of your post:

“The end of the book frustrates me.  It seems it did not end at all, in fact, and that I could just pick it up and continue reading the same old thing over again.  There is no resolution, which I more or less expected.  But worse, there’s no sense that we’ve come to a stopping place at all.  But then, perhaps that is because we’ve not really had a plot either.  It’s more like a prolonged rambling (in amazing prose, of course) that just comes to a sort of abrupt stop.

Sunday, Sept 6

The notion of Entertainment and its connection to addiction (perhaps only made possible by contemporary consumer culture) is so adeptly explored in Infinite Jest.  I think this is what there is to love in the novel.  When I read about the book, before having purchased it, this was what made me want to read it.  I have to say that the treatment of the theme(s) is somewhat disorienting.  Perhaps that is the way it should be, though, as a sort of representation of the mind-reeling abundance of Entertainment possibilities today.”

I thought the Infinite Jest and the notion of entertainment and its addiction were indeed the infinite jest, as well as the part of you never finishing it but could continue on and on and on reading it over and over again. kind of like those “how to keep an idiot busy” jokes (“A small card with “If you’d like to know how to keep an idiot busy for hours, turn this card over” printed on both sides.”) NOT THAT YOU”RE AN IDIOT, it just reminded me of that…his infinite jest….anyway, I thought it sounded funny! 🙂

Sunday, September 13, 2009 – 05:31 AM
That is exactly what it is like, silken.  And I think part of the thing the book is getting at is that we are idiots, an idiot society.  The society that built this whole entertainment culture must be an idiot, not just for building it in the first place, but for falling for the joke we ourselves set up.

In the book, there is a video cartridge in circulation that, once someone starts watching, s/he can’t stop.  THey watch until they die of it, effectively entertaining themselves to death.  Infinite Jest is the title of that film.  I read about this in the introductions to the book before I bought it, and it was this that really made me want to see what DFW had to say, since I always love reading him anyway.

In the end, the ideas were more absorbing for me than the actual reading experience.  But I could sure see how this book could suck someone in, putting the whole phenomenon it is talking about into action, even as it critiques it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 – 07:45 AM
Monday, September 14, 2009 – 06:19 PM
娱乐至死 – that’s it exactly!  Entertaining ourselves to death.  Maybe DFW should have written in Chinese.  🙂
Monday, September 14, 2009 – 11:58 PM
September 5, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, August ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Hit (or Miss) List, August ’09

It’s been a rather slow month for reading, especially because of the huge volume, Infinite Jest, taking up most of my time.  (I actually only finished it today, but am listing it with the August post because that’s when the bulk of the reading was done.)  Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching for the past month:


Hit List

  1. •Grosse Pointe Blank (movie)
  2. •Say Anything (movie)

an old favorite (yeah, I know….); and yes, it was something of a John Cusack phase, with these two titles in there

  1. •Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)

I’ll have more to say about this one down the road, I think

  1. •The Crab Flower Club (onstage)

a nicely put together, ironic piece about the women in a Chinese family who decide to start a poetry club

  1. •The Reduced Shakespeare:  the Complete Works (onstage)

absolutely hilarious performance; if you get a chance to see it, you’ll definitely want to catch it!

  1. •What Day is Today (onstage)

extremely disturbing, and very compelling; the narrative structure was very innovative, and the whole performance was very nicely done

  1. •The 2009 Rhysling Anthology (Drew Morse, ed.)



  1. •various issues of these journals:

Star*Line and Dreams & Nightmares



Miss List

No misses!



Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. •The Crucible (onstage)

not a good performance overall, but there were a few bright spots that redeemed it from being a  miss — & of course the script is amazing





So, what have you been reading and watching this summer?

August 29, 2009

Repost: Filling in the Gaps

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

Filling in the Gaps

When I first heard about the fill in the gaps 100 books blog, I knew it was a place I would absolutely love.  I went over and made up my list right away, and have been reading the books I’ve listed there for the past several months.  Recent progress has been slow, as I am working on Infinite Jest, and it is rather a long read.  You can see my complete list here.


The list works as a means to prompt the reading blogger (or is it blogging reader?) to tackle a list of 100 books that are not currently on her/his TBR list.  The project is supposed to be completed in 2015, I think.  There are some really fun titles to be found on the various lists on the site.  As people are getting bigger and bigger portions of their lists taken care of, the discussions there are getting to be very fun.


I am, sadly, unable to access the site from China for the moment. (It’s rather fickle with access to Blogspot sites over here.)  As soon as I am back in Singapore, it is one of the places I hope to be able to visit and catch up.  All the same, I’m planning to keep up with my own list.  Since I can’t post my reviews or join the discussions there for the time being, I will put up comments from time to time here.  For now, I can say that of those I’ve completed (see the box to the right),The 8th Habit is the only one I didn’t like much.  Siddhartha was quite profound and enjoyable.  Woman to Woman and other poems and Mortician’s Tea are both good poetry collections, with moments of brilliance in each.  Poemcrazy is a fun thought-starter for poets, and maybe writers in other creative-type genres too.


As for the book in progress…  I’m struggling through Infinite Jest at the moment.  I expected to love this book.  Instead, it’s been a fairly tedious read for me all summer long.  I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time getting into it.  I love David Foster Wallace’s writing, and usually love the type of tale he has put together here.  The themes are some of my favorites.  But it just isn’t working for me yet — and I am nearly 600 pages into it (in other words, not quite 2/3 done).  It’s disappointing to be unable to get into a book that I actually thought would be just my thing.  But still… I have a feeling I might be glad I read it when I am done.  My interactions with Wallace’s writings in the past have taught me that much.  Even his simple work, like introductions to anthologies, can be outstanding pieces.


If you haven’t gotten your 100 books list together, you might want to pop by over at the site and sign up.  It is a lot of fun to be in on the project with the others who read and blog there.



© 2009 Shelly Bryant

Saturday, August 29, 2009

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
I ended up not finishing INFINITE JEST. It’s been so long since I had it, I don’t remember the reasons now. Something near the beginning really bugged me, so I was–as I recall–reading with a bad attitude.

The site you mentioned is an interesting concept.


Saturday, September 5, 2009 – 02:33 AM
That’s actually how I felt too, Malcolm, that I was sort of reading with a bad attitude.  I stuck with it throughout the summer, thinking I would finish it before leaving Singapore for Shanghai, but still had maybe 300-400 pages to go when it was time to make that return.  Since I got back, I have just about finished (should be done in the next hour or so).    It is one of those books that I am glad, now, that I’ve read, though I can’t say I enjoyed the entire reading process.  Parts of it have been completely absorbing. The ideas have been engaging.  The writing is good. The topics are of interest to me.  But for all that, the reading has been something of a chore for me.

And yet… I am glad I’ve read it.  There are some good things in it — really good.  And as I’ve talked with a couple of different friends about the book, it’s begun to click for me what I do like about it.  It will still take some time to sort through, but overall I am already starting to be glad this one was on my Fill in the Gaps list.

You might really enjoy having a list like that too, Malcolm.  I know you are a good blogging reader.  The place is just made for that, and I could see you really getting into it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009 – 11:27 AM
August 22, 2009

Repost: Hit or Miss, June-July ’09

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

 Hit (or Miss) List, June-July ’09

It’s nice to be able to catch up on posting my Hit (or Miss) List, even if it is a bit more sparse than usual.  Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching over the summer:

Hit List

  1. •With Christ in the School of Prayer (Andrew Murray)
  2. •All’s Well that Ends Well (William Shakespeare)
  3. •Across the Universe (movie)
  4. •The Cherry Orchard (onstage)
  5. •Timon of Athens (William Shakespeare)
  6. •More of Me Disappears (John Amen)
  7. •Cover of Darkness (an anthology edited by Tyree Campbell)
  8. •King John (William Shakespeare)
  9. •A Closer Look at Science Fiction (Anthony Thacker)
  10. •The Prosody Handbook (Robert Beum and Karl Shapiro)
  11. •The Fisher King (movie)
  1. •various issues of these journals:

Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Poetry, Illumen, 32 Poems

Miss List

No misses all summer!

Neither Hit nor Miss

  1. •Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (movie)

I didn’t think the movie was as bad as the reviews I’d heard, but it wasn’t very good either

I will probably be back to a more regular reading load soon, though the next list (for August) will probably look more like this one, at least in terms of quantity.

So, what have you been reading and watching this summer?

August 15, 2009

Reposting: A Fresh Start

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.

A Fresh Start

I’d like to say that it’s always nice to get a fresh start, but sometimes it’s just not.  Evidence of this rests right before your eyes:  I am getting a “fresh start” on my blog here, but not because I want to.  Instead, I’ve had some difficulties with my computer that ultimately have resulted in me losing things posted at my blog before those problems set in.  Apparently the files cannot be retrieved, and I am an idiot who doesn’t know how to do a proper backup.

And so…

I’ve revamped the site here, and plan to keep this blog as a part of the overall site.  You’ll still find my thoughts on books, movies, music, and everything else that really matters in life.  You can expect me to post roughly once a week.  I’ll have updates of what I am reading and viewing, perhaps some market updates for readers and writers of speculative poetry, and in between you’ll find whatever happens to float through my mind.

Thanks for popping in, and I’m sorry to anyone who has been watching for updates for the past 6 weeks or so.  I hope to see you back soon.

© 2009 Shelly Bryant

Saturday, August 15, 2009

9 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
Nice, clean, well-structured – I wish every site I visited looked this good.
Sunday, August 16, 2009 – 11:49 PM
it looks good. sorry you lost every thing! I had been checking in and it didn’t seem to be gone til I saw it today. but I know it will all be good, just frustrating to have to start all over when you had not planned on it!!
Monday, August 17, 2009 – 06:04 AM
Hi Jim, and thanks for feeding back on the site.  You got here quick!  I just got the new site up and running when you stopped in to comment.  Thanks for that.

Silken, it has been frustrating to lose it, but I guess I should be glad it forced me to change the look of things.  It’s probably better to have it laid out the way it is now.  Hopefully now that I have decided what I’ll be doing here, I can get back to regular reading and commenting at all of my favorite blogs too!

Monday, August 17, 2009 – 08:48 AM
Welcome back.  The place looks real nice.  For what it’s worth…you’re way ahead of me.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 – 04:00 AM
Thanks for stopping by, Pinhole.  I have been toying with the site a bit to see exactly how I want it to look.  I guess the good side is I’ve gotten rid of some clutter.  But I’d sure have liked to have not started from scratch!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 – 11:43 PM
The place looks nice. It’s also nice to have you back in the blogosphere.  It’s less nice to lose stuff posted here that wasn’t anywhere else. Otherwise, I hope you had a good summer.


Saturday, September 5, 2009 – 02:15 AM
Other than the computer woes, it really was a good summer, Malcolm.  I didn’t spend much time at all online (not unusual for me in the summer anyway), but life in the flesh was great.

I’m back in Shanghai now, giving me limited access to some sites.  I don’t know exactly when I will get caught up visiting other sites, but I shouldn’t have much problem posting here for now.  My Peregrine Online site is another story, though.

Saturday, September 5, 2009 – 10:55 AM
Hi Shelly,

Its a pity… I wrote a very deep, meaningful response to your Siddharta piece….warning you off The Glass Bead Game. It was a tiny masterpiece of mine, lost forever.  Good luck with the blog reconstruction …. always enjoy your stuff.

john davies

An Old Student of yours

Sunday, September 6, 2009 – 09:13 PM
Hi John,

Thanks for stopping in, and for taking the time to comment.

It’s been sad to me that I’ve lost the previous blog, especially the great comments that have been left there by some readers.   I guess the good side is that I have learned the trick required to do a full backup using my blogging software, instead of the partial backup that resulted in the loss of all the old material.  Sigh.

I’ve tried to gear the site more toward a writer’s site, and the blog will probably become more of a reader/writer’s blog, with less intrusion from my teaching persona.  I think it was already moving that way before I lost the old material, so I suppose this is a natural progression.

Do feel free to comment any time you stop in.  It’s always good to see you (even if not face to face).

Monday, September 7, 2009 – 08:36 AM