hrj: (doll)

I didn't have the mental energy to do any of the obvious subjects for a random post, and here it is an hour before bed time. So having just opened up the package on my doorstep (how easy it is to lose track of what I've ordered!) and added it to the stack of books waiting to be cataloged, here are some recent aquisitions. Remarkably enough, none of them are intended for immediate projects. More just a matter of background information on topics I might find useful.


Novaes, Catarina Dutilh & Stephen Read (eds.). 2016. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Logic. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 978-1-107-65667-3


Ok, so buying this book was not entirely unrelated to knowing one of the contributing authors. But it's also the case that I've been developing an interest in the history of western philosophy in general, even apart from bits of it that make their way into the deep-background history of thaumaturgy in the world of Alpennia. (On the principle that the foundations of thaumaturgical theory were built in the medieval period, and haven't yet entirely caught up to the Age of Enlightenment.

McGrade, A.S. 2003. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-521-00063-5

In this case, the book simply caught my eye at the Cambridge University Press website when I was ordering the above book. (My library already has a more comprehensive survey of the history of philosophy, but a lot of it is more recent than my interests.)


Wright, Nazera Sadiq. 2016. Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century. University of Illinois Press, Urbana. ISBN 978-0-252-08204-7

I'm pretty sure that someone on Twitter mentioned this book, but I can't for the life of me recall who at this point. It's focused on the American experience and so isn't directly related to any current writing projects. The book is a study of the experience and depiction of of black girls in a variety of published sources and aimed at a variety of readerships.

Bennett, Judith M. & Ruth Mazo Karras. 2013. The Oxford Handbook of Women & Gender in Medieval Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-877938-4

A rather enormous collection of articles on a wide variety of topics. Readers who are only familiar with my Alpennia books may not be aware that my deepest historic love is for the medieval period and one of these days I'll get back to writing stories set in it.

In addition to the above, I also received the replacement copy I bought of Lillian Faderman's Surpassing the Love of Men. My paperback copy was getting a bit battered, so now I have a hard-back former library copy.

hrj: (doll)

Several times over the last couple year, I've blogged about feeling like something was missing from my pleasure-reading. As if, after my long hiatus when working on my first couple of novels, either I'd forgotten how to immerse myself in a good book, or the SFF field had moved on and stopped producing things I enjoyed reading. The feeling was most apparent when it seemed as if all my friends--people whose taste generally seemed to march with mine--were raving over a book as the best thing since sliced bread and I found it merely...good. Merely pleasant. Merely well-written. What was wrong with me that I wasn't finding anything to be OMGWTFBBQ-excited about?

Well, maybe I just don't excite on the same level other people do. Maybe I'm mistaking the dialect in which people are discussing books for the meaningful content of the language. I dunno. Maybe I have simply gotten a lot pickier about what it takes to excite me. But some things have.

I got very excited about T. Kingfisher's The Raven and the Reindeer, after all. And Beth Bernobich's fiction has been consistently passing the treadmill test. I've recently started diving shallowly into the graphic novel pool and am discovering some woman-produced, woman-centered stories that are making me reconsider my disinterest in the medium. I just finished reading Kelly Gardiner's Goddess (a fictional account of Julie d'Aubigny's life) and will be saying very nice things in my review of it.

Maybe, if I'm not getting over the top excited about the hottest new SFF property...maybe that's ok. Maybe it doesn't mean that my reading organ is failing. Maybe it doesn't mean that my taste is broken. Maybe I simply like different things than my friends do. (Goodness knows, it wouldn't be the only path in life where I'm out of step with everyone else around me.)

As an author, I regularly feel a pressure to treat my reading habits as an essential part of community involvement. But that pressure pushes me in a lot of different directions: publishing community, genre, connections of publisher, of project, of convention community, of friendship. Even when I resist that pressure, there's this looming guilt that I should be reading Book X or Book Y because: reasons.  Currently I'm looking at my Worldcon panel schedule and thinking, "What if I have to admit to a fellow panelist that I've never read anything of theirs?" (Never mind that I wouldn't expect them to have even heard of my books, much less have read them.) That pressure and guilt isn't the only reason for my reading malaise, but it's one of them.

But I think...I think I might be starting to get my reading mojo back. Because on a few hot, sultry summer evenings lately I've found myself sitting out in the garden with an ebook and a cool drink until well after everything else went dark around me and the mosquitos began coming out. Some of it is because I'm in a break between major writing projects. Some of it is...well, hot summer night. Not feeling productive. But some of it is because I was enjoying that book so much that I didn't want to put it down and go to bed yet.

My primary blog has moved, but feel free to comment in either place.

hrj: (doll)
Being sick right after getting back from my trip, in combination with the respiratory aspect meaning I’ve skipped the gym this week, has meant I haven’t completed reading anything new to review. (My current gym read is the lesbian historical romance anthology Through the Hourglass that my Margaret & Laudomia story is in. For professional reasons I won’t be doing a formal review of it--and nothing I’d post on Amazon or Goodreads--but I’ll probably say something about it when I’m done.)

So how about a “book intake post” covering both Chicago and Kalamazoo? I've added Amazon links when available for those who might want to look further.

Lauri and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, which has a permanent display of a set of miniature period rooms, designed and commissioned by Chicago socialite Mrs. James Ward Thorne. There was a lovely catalog covering all the displays and it felt like a useful visual reference for historic room settings. (It also got me thinking about making miniature models of some Alpennian locations, but I was easily able to deflect that into “projects I will never do in this lifetime.”)

Weingartner, Fannia and Bruce Hatton Boyer. 2004. Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. ISBN 978-0300141597

The bookstore had a number of tempting sale items, but the only one I succumbed to was a thick volume of alchemical symbolism in art. I’m investing so much in alchemy books, it’s clear that a future novel will need to come back to the subject in a major way.

Roob, Alexander. 2014. Alchemy and Mysticism. Taschen, Köln. ISBN 978-3836549363

In the book rooms at Kalamazoo I’ve discovered the convenience of simply having the publishers ship rather than stuffing my suitcase for the trip home. So I only brought three purchases back with me. One is a gift, the other two are just for general background reference and inspiration.

McIver, Katherine A. 2014. Cooking and Eating in Renaissance Italy: From Kitchen to Table (Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham. ISBN 978-1442227187

It looks like a serious but general-audience survey of the topic of Renaisance Italian food. This isn’t deeply technical or detailed. You could probably read it through in a single evening (which I have yet to do).

Jackson, Deirdre. 2015. Medieval Women. British Library Publishing, London. ISBN 978-0-7123-5865-1

I’m a sucker for glossy collections of visual references on particular themes, especially women's lives. This is a selection of illustrations from medieval manuscripts showing a wide variety of aspects of women’s lives. Generally I use this sort of work to research details of material culture that often are incidental to the overt subject of the scenes. For example, one depiction of a woman being beaten shows her headdress having fallen off and therefore shows aspects of its construction that wouldn't be visible in place.

The fun part of having books shipped is that it means you get a series of packages in the mail over the next month or two. Like having an extended birthday party. I got the first one yesterday -- part of my Penn State University Press purchase, once more on the theme of alchemy, this time looking at the social, philosophical, and religious context in which serious thinkers such as Roger Bacon turned their thoughts and pens to the topic. Penn State's Magic in History series is a great resource in general.

Janacek, Bruce. 2015. Alchemical Belief: Occultism in the Religious Culture of Early Modern England (Magic in History). Penn State University Press, Pennsylvania. ISBN 978-0271050140

For some reason, although they were shipped at the same time, the second book I bought from this press was sent separately. This book analyzes the inventory taken of Il Magnifico’s posessions at the time of his death. Just in case one wanted to know how to outfit at opulent Italian villa or two...

Stapleford, Richard. 2014. Lorenzo de' Medici at Home: The Inventory of the Palazzo Medici in 1492. Penn State University Press, Pennsylvania. ISBN 978-0271056425

Yet to be shipped are the following books from Boydell & Brewer. They’re usually good for a variety of topics, especially including textiles, clothing, food and cookery, and the occasional other topic of interest. (And, as always, the annual Medieval Clothing and Textiles volume.)

Medieval Clothing and Textiles #12 (advance purchase, as it wasn’t released yet at the conference)

The Medieval Clothing and Textiles volumes have the same broad mix of topics as the DISTAFF sessions at Kalamazoo and Leeds, although only an occasional paper specifically comes from those sessions. Like a box of mixed chocolates, you never know what you're going to get, but overall it will be delicious.

Hyer, Maren Clegg & Jill Frederick (eds.). 2016. Textiles, Text, Intertext: Essays in Honour of Gale R. Owen-Crocker. Boydell Press. ISBN 9781783270736

I haven't looked at the contents list of this yet, but bought it for sentimental reasons. Gale is such a lovely gracious presence within the DISTAFF group, and so very supportive of researchers of all types.

Chapman, Adam. 2015. Welsh Soldiers in the Later Middle Ages, 1282-1422. Boydell Press. ISBN 9781783270316

Despite the new and interesting places my writing-related research interests have drifted to, I haven't entirely abandoned medieval Wales. I have a specific future writing project that this might be useful for...

I bought something at the University of Chicago Press booth, now where did I put that slip? I have the credit card receipt, but not a copy of the order form, so I guess I’ll just have to wait until they show up to remember what I bought!

And then here are a variety of books on culinary topics that looked interesting enough to snap pix of, but that I didn’t buy. In some cases, the contents looked either too elementary or too literary-oriented to be of specific interest to me. In other cases I may decide to order them on further consideration.

Nadeau, Carolyn A. 2016. Food Matters: Alonso Quijano's Diet and the Discourse of Food in Early Modern Spain. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. ISBN 978-1442637306

This one was on the "a bit too literary-oriented" side, exploring food references in Don Quixote, but for those who specialize in Iberian cuisine, it's worth a further look.

Salloum, Habeeb. 2013. Scheherazade's Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812244779

I left this one on the shelf when I saw the line in the description, "The recipes are translated from medieval sources and adapted for the modern cook." But for those who are completists in historic Arabic culinary books (or who want to keep track of the pop culture versions that other people may be using for historic purposes), it's a beautiful little book and is probably useful for general background.

Wall, Wendy. 2015. Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812247589

A study, not of cookery, but of culinary literature as a genre. The blurb suggests that this may focus more on philosophical analysis than some may be interested in. Sample quote: Recipe exchange, we discover, invited early modern housewives to contemplate the complex components of being a Renaissance "maker" and thus to reflect on lofty concepts such as figuration, natural philosophy, national identity, status, mortality, memory, epistemology, truth-telling, and matter itself. Kitchen work, recipes tell us, engaged vital creative and intellectual labors.

Marty-Dufaut, Josy. 2015. La Cuisine Normande au XIIIe Siècle. Bayeux: Heimdal. ISBN 978-2-84048-422-6

In French. I may be sorry for not picking this up when it was in front of me, as it looks like it might be difficult to order in the US. (It doesn't have an Amazon listing.) My recollection is that it looked like a glossy "some history and some adapted recipes" work. Here's the catalog description from the above link.

La cuisine du XIIIe siècle a été longtemps méconnue, occultée par les ouvrages emblématiques, Le Viandier de Taillevent et Le Mesnagier de Paris, parus au XIVe siècle. Le XIIIe siècle est une époque d’extension, de commerce intense, d’échanges culturels. C’est l’âge d’or pour les Normands qui s’implantent dans de nombreux pays. L’Europe occidentale présente une unité et une communauté jamais connues jusque-là. La cuisine est un témoignage de cette cohésion européenne. Cet ouvrage s’intéresse aux recettes présentées dans les manuscrits anglo-normands et scandinaves. Ils sont la copie de textes antérieurs issus de la France, de la Sicile, eux-mêmes copiés à partir d’autres textes ou trouvant leurs sources d’inspiration dans la culture gréco-latine et la cuisine de l’Orient. Les plats emblématiques qui feront la réputation de la cuisine de Taillevent y apparaissent déjà. Les bases de la cuisine médiévale y sont données. L’art culinaire est en constante évolution.

Woolgar, C. M. 2016. The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300181913

A general social history of food in England. Probably very like all the general social histories of food in England that have been published before.

Montanari, Massimo. 2015. A Cultural History of Food in the Medieval Age. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1474269919

And, similarly to the preceding, a general survey work, aimed at non-specialists. It looks like this series is intended for college survey classes and the like. Books of this sort may or may not be written by specialists in the field, with all the potential weaknesses that can bring. (Based on my own experience, it's not uncommon for publishers with this sort of series to approach a potential author on the basis of hearing a single paper in the field. I got approached about writing a survey of medieval clothing volume for a similar series once and was a bit flabbergasted that that was all it took. I declined, noting that the project would be of more professional benefit to an academic who needed material for their cv.)
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I was thinking of doing a Random Thursday post about the semantic nuances of irrealis statements in discrepancy investigation reports, and how sharpening one's talents on them can improve fiction writing. But then I was up late because I spent the evening at the UC Berkeley library pulling articles for the Lesbian Historic Motif Project, and came home to find a couple of books in my mailbox from my recent buying spree, and despite setting my daylight alarm clock for 6am rather than 5am (to balance out the up-late) I was wide awake at five…and I'm not sure I have the brain for linguistic analysis today. (All my brain is being saved for the fact that the pair of investigations that have hijacked my time for the last five weeks Absolutely Must Close Today, and I'm still waiting on three deliverables from other parties. Ones I've been saying I needed for at least the last three weeks.)

In any event, I thought that instead I'd squee over what my recent haul (both book-buying and library) is bringing in.

The leading edge of the incoming books isn't actually for the LHMP, it's deep-background research for a future Alpennia book, from which one may make guesses about possible new characters. (Maybe my next Alpennia blog should be about how each of my central characters is on some way dis-invested in the status quo, thus leading them to question their commitment to leading a normative life. It isn't that I'm running down some checklist of marginalizations, simply that I'm looking for new and different contexts of dis-investment. Oh, and by the way, Mistress of Shadows spends a certain amount of time in Paris.)

Coller, Ian. 2010. Arab France: Islam and the Making of Modern Europe, 1798-1831. University of California Press, Berkeley.

For the next set, I was going through my current "to look for" list for the LHMP (this is a list of books and articles cited in publications I've already covered that look like they might be useful), and out of idle curiosity I started plugging titles of some of the older books into Amazon. (For currently-in-print books, I'd rather order direct from the publisher or through my local bookstore, but for used, it's hard to beat their aggregation system.) The following items turned up with reasonable second-hand prices/conditions and looked valuable enough to add to my personal library.

Moore, Lisa L. 1997. Dangerous Intimacies: Toward a Sapphic History of the British Novel. Duke University Press.

Babayan, Kathryn Babayan, Afsaneh Najmabadi & Brad Epps eds. 2008. Islamicate Sexualities: Translations across Temporal Geographies of Desire. Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures: Volume 1. 1999. Routledge. [For a moment I freaked out when I just noticed this is "volume 1" then I double-checked and "volume 2" covers gay male history/culture, so I didn't buy an incomplete set after all.]

Wheelwright, Julie. 1990. Amazons and Military Maids: Women Who Dressed as Men in Pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. Pandora Press.

Fradenburg, Louise & Carla Freccero. 1996. Premodern Sexualities. Routledge. [Likely to be theory-heavy and with minimal lesbian coverage, but the price was right.]

Foster, Jeannette H. 1985. Sex Variant Women in Literature. Naiad Press. [I think I once saw a first edition of the original 1956 version of this study, in all its mimeographed glory. OK, the mimeo thing may be my imagination embroidering it. The study has been updated at least twice at various reprintings. Coverage is primarily more modern than my era of interest, but it's a classic reference.]

Licata, by Salvatore J. & Robert P. Petersen eds. 1986. The Gay Past. Routledge. [When I saw that I had about three articles on my list cited from this volume, I figured it was probably worth shelling out for.]

Jay, Karla, Renee Vivien & Allen Young eds. 1990. Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions (Feminist Crosscurrents). NYU Press. [Probably going to be theory-heavy rather than full of the sort of chewy data I like, but what the heck.]

And based on browsing it in the library, I've also gone ahead and ordered:

Hubbard, Thomas K. (ed). 2003. Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents. University of California Press. [I wouldn't have ordered it sight-unseen due to doubts about how much coverage of women it would have.]

And then there was last evening's library haul. I do not have any nostalgia for the days when pulling articles in the library meant wrestling books on a photocopier (only to have your photocopy card zero its balance in the middle of a job), trying to judge the tradeoff between size-reduction and readability, worrying about what you were doing to the binding integrity, etc. Now I use the same phone/iPad app that I use for recording receipts. It automatically turns photos into pdfs and you can concatenate multiple photos into a single document. Then it saves them to Dropbox so I don't find myself filling up my phone memory in the middle of a job… I haven't quite yet found the perfect solution to holding the page flat while snapping the picture. Yes, I can manage the phone one-handed, but by about the third article I'm starting to get a little tremor from the strain of holding it in place. Fortunately the app is fairly good at tremor-correction (and excellent at auto-focus). Truly we live in an age of miracles!

Lansing, Carol. 2005. “Donna con Donna? A 1295 Inquest into Female Sodomy” in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 3rd Ser, 2: 109-22 [I think this may be the earliest European legal case I've yet found that addresses lesbian relationships.]

Brown, Judith C. “Lesbian Sexuality in Renaissance Italy: The Case of Sister Benedetta Carlini” in Signs 9 (1984): 751-58. [This is an early, brief summary of the material she turned into a book, which I'll also cover. What can I say, I'm a bit of a completist.]

Dover, Kenneth. 1978. Greek Homosexuality. New York: Vintage. [Only the chapter on women, which includes both female homosexuality and female responses to male homosexuality. It's a short chapter.]

Durling, Nancy Vine. “Rewriting Gender: Yde et Olive and Ovidian Myth” in Romance Languages Annual 1 (1989): 256-62. [Yet one more study of my favorite medieval romance]

Jelinek, Estelle. “Disguise Autobiographies: ‘Women Masquerading as Men’” in Women’s Studies Intrnational Forum, 10 (1987), pp.53-62. [More case studies of women passing for a wide variety of reasons.]

Lyons, Clare A. 2007. “Mapping an Atlantic Sexual Culture: Homoeroticism in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia” in Long Before Stonewall: Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America. Ed. Thomas A. Foster. New York University Press, New York. pp.164-203 [Not very much on women, though the one well-documented example is interesting in how little penalty the women saw.]

Newton, Esther. “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman” in Signs 9 (1984): 557-575. [A look at a broad variety of women of Hall's era and the much wider diversity of lives than the one that became so iconic through her writing.]

Friedli, Lynne. “Passing Women: A Study of Gender Boundaries in the Eighteenth Century” pp.234-60 in Rousseau, G. S. and Roy Porter (eds). 1987. Sexual Underworlds of the Enlightenment. Manchester University Press, Manchester. [Haven't really had a chance to look at this yet.]

Hobby, Elaine. “Katherine Philips: Seventeenth-Century Lesbian Poet” in Hobby, Elaine & Chris White (eds). 1991. What Lesbians do in Books. Women’s Press, London. pp.183-204 [A detailed biographical sketch, along with that favorite question, "Do we get to claim Philips as a lesbian?" to which my increasing response is "this is not the right question."]

Lanser, Susan. 2003. “Queer to Queer: Sapphic Bodies as Transgressive Texts” in Kittredge, ed. Lewd and Notorious: Female Transgression in the Eighteenth Century. [Also another article from this collection that wasn't originally on my list, so I don't have the title convenient to cite.]

Lardinois, André. “Lesbian Sappho and Sappho of Lesbos” in Bremmer, Jan. 1989. From Sappho to de Sade: Moments in the History of Sexuality. London: Routledge.

So that's 20 new items (and some of the books contain multiple entries worth of contents). That should keep me busy for a while.
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So first I said, “I got this blog idea at Worldcon” and then I said, “But I don’t need a new hobby” and then I said, “I think I’m going to do this” and then I said, “What am I crazy?” But in the last couple weeks it’s seemed like everyone’s talking about how SFF with queer women either gets overlooked, or not promoted, or is full of tired old Queer Tragedy tropes. [livejournal.com profile] catherineldf talks about the Tragic Queer Narrative problem as does @LindsayRibar and Danielle at theradicalnotion.com (h/t @KaylaBashe) and that’s only in the past week. And, as Lundoff points out, it isn’t that non-tragic, non-exploitive queer stories aren’t out there. It’s that they don’t get the promotion (especially if the authors are queer), or that you get a token reference to The Token Queer Story/Author Of The Moment and get assured it means everything’s ok.

I’m not going to claim that no one has ever previously tried to provide reading lists or databases or link-pages or the like. Not in the least. Though many are focused on broader categories (such as the thematically searchable All Our Worlds: Diverse Fantastic Fiction site which covers both ethnic and sexual/gender axes of diversity, or the many sites focusing on sexual/gender diversity in YA books), and most are broadly cumulative (such as all the various thematic lists in Goodreads), and all too many begin ambitiously and fizzle out (such as the promising-looking GLBT Fantasy Fiction Resources) which, to be frank, is likely to be the fate of my own little thing here. And I’m not going to claim that any effort I try to make will be anything but incomplete, incoherent, and—as I noted in a previous blog—amounting to little more than “a heap of all I have found”. But I figure what the heck, I might as well do something.

So here’s my new Heap: a tiny little start on a list of SFF (all lengths), featuring queer female characters (either primary or significant secondary) by a fairly broad interpretation of both those features, published in 2015. Why 2015? Because I’ve always found that it helps to start with a manageable focus. The intent of this list will be to help readers identify stories they want to read, so the meta-data that I provide will try to focus on aspects that help people prioritize their reading: significance of the characters, what types of relationships are involved, any potentially problematic aspects (e.g., the presence of Tragic Queerness), how the author identifies if it is public knowledge, and what reading/writing community the story exists in. (To retain my sanity, I’m not likely to prioritize adding fan-fic, simply because the field is so open-ended.) I’ll do my best to provide links to Goodreads (for novels) and online presences (for short fiction). The general intent is to make this item part of my regular blogging cycle and simply add to it as I go along.

To compete my Apologia: it’s unlikely that I will personally have read even a small fraction of these works. And the coverage is going to be peculiarly spotty, skewed, and biased based on what I’m aware of, what is brought to my attention, and what I have the search skills to track down. I don’t expect anyone else to do the work for me, but contributions and suggestions are always encouraged. So, to get started I’m going to list 2015 books I’ve either read or purchased, and all the books from the SF & Fantasy category of the Golden Crown Literary Awards for this year. Since I’m throwing this together on my lunch hour (which is almost up), There are going to be a bunch of place-holders at the moment. But better something that nothing, right? Stay tuned for further developments.

ETA: Needless to say, suggestions, additions, annotations, and corrections are extremely welcome in the comments. The list will be updated and re-posted periodically.

* * *

Note: unspecified references to “characters” or “same-sex” can be assumed to refer to women.

Bear, Elizabeth - Karen Memory – Mainstream publisher (Tor), steam-punk western. A same-sex romance features prominently between the protagonist and a significant secondary character.

Berman, Steve (ed.) – Daughters of Frankenstein – Queer press (Lethe), anthology of stories on the theme “lesbian mad scientists”. I will break this out into individual stories when time allows.

Cannon, Geonn – Sojourn – Queer(?) press (Supposed Crimes), *. **

Cannon, Geonn – The Virtuous Feats of the Indomitable Miss Trafalgar and the Erudite Lady
Boone - Queer(?) press (Supposed Crimes), *. **

Cronin, Pat – Reflections of Fate – Queer press (Regal Crest Enterprises), *. **

de Bodard, Aliette – House of Shattered Wings – Mainstream publisher (Roc), post-magical-apocalypse Paris. The gender in pair-bonds does not appear to be a marked feature in this society. At least one prominent pair of secondary female characters are paired.

French, Sophia – The Diplomat – Lesbian press (Bella Books), *. **

Jones, Heather Rose – The Mystic Marriage – April 2015 – Lesbian press (Bella Books), fantasy of manners, second book in a series. All four primary characters are in same-sex relationships.

Leach, Marlene – Slow Burn – Lesbian press (Spinsters Ink), *. **

Leigh, D. Jackson – Dragon Horse War: The Calling – Queer press (Bold Strokes Books), *. **

Logan, M.E. – Tempered Steele – Lesbian press (Bella Books), *. **

MacTague, Lise – Depths of Blue – Lesbian press (Bella Books), *. **

McGuire, Seanan (ed.) – Queers Destroy Science Fiction – June 2015 - Magazine (Lightspeed), special-theme issue. I haven’t had time to break this out into individual stories and to identify which fit the criteria of the list, but it appears that this would include: Stufflebeam, Bonnie Jo, “Trickier with Each Translation” (bi secondary character) – Davin, Felicia, “The Tip of the Tongue” (same-sex interaction by primary character) – El-Mohtar, Amal “Madeleine” (same-sex interaction by primary character)

Pon, Cindy – Serpentine – September 2015 – Mainstream publisher (Month9Books), Chinese-inspired fantasy, first in a duology(?). As reported to me, a significant secondary character is involved in a same-sex romance.

Redhawk, D. Jordan – Lady Dragon – Lesbian press (Bella Books), *. **

Shannon, Merry – Prayer of the Handmaiden – Queer press (Bold Strokes Books), secondary-world fantasy. Primary characters are in a same-sex romance.

Vaun, Missouri – The Time Before Now – Queer press (Bold Strokes Books), *. **

Wright, Barbara Ann – The Fiend Queen – Queer press (Bold Strokes Books), secondary-world fantasy, final book in a series. **

Wright, Barbara Ann – Thrall: Beyond Gold and Glory – Queer press (Bold Strokes Books), secondary-world sword and sorcery. Primary and major secondary characters are involved in same-sex relationships, a significant character is trans.

Wymore, Teresa – Darklaw – Small press (Strange Flesh Press), *. **
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I've actually picked up several new books recently, mostly uncomfortably expensive academic press books that were so perfect I couldn't help myself. (I forget sometimes that my "uncomfortably expensive book" is the equivalent of "a good night on the town". Also: these books are well within my mad-money budget, so don't worry on that account.) In fact, they're perfect enough that I'm going to re-start doing Lesbian Historic Motif Project entries. I think that I can keep up with a once-a-week schedule for that without distracting from writing fiction. So expect to see entries in the near future from the collection Gender Reversals and Gender Cultures: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives., the more-male-than-female-but-what-can-you-do Same-Sex Desire in the ENglish Renaissance: A Sourcebook of Texts, 1470-1650, and the too-delicious to pass up Constructions of Female Homoeroticism in Early Modern Drama.

But the blog title comes from something I picked up at the Concord Library book sale, which I saw signs for when biking back from the coffee shop this morning. You don't expect library book sales to have anything particularly useful -- they're for picking up some cheap reads or maybe an interesting cookbook or the like. But there on one of the shelves was Robert Darnton The Corpus of Clandestine Literature in France: 1769-1789, a catalog of forbidden books, who was publishing and distributing them, and a very brief discussion of how the bans were enforced. Since I've had some tangential issues relating to forbidden (or at least discouraged) books in the Alpennia series, it looked like it might be a useful reference for the $0.50 price in question.

And, of course, I mentioned to the folks at check-out that I thought it might be useful for research for my novels and at the end of that conversation I'd distributed my book business cards and had a promise that I'd be contacted regarding doing a reading at the library. I probably should have talked to them some time ago -- local libraries tend to like to support local authors -- but somehow it feels more comfortable having grown naturally out of this sort of interaction. Less pressure.
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It is hard to argue with the focus that campaigns for diversity in literature have placed on YA books. (See, e.g., Cindy Pon & Malinda Lo’s Diversity in YA and the tumblr and twitter project We Need Diverse Books with too many team members to list conveniently.) Younger readers are the ones actively being damaged by a lack of representation and models in the books they read, and the ones least in a position to create or seek out diversity on their own.

But sometimes I feel like I’m being told, “You don’t need representation. You survived without it. You’re a Big Girl now; if you want books, make them yourself.” (Hint: I am.) Yes, I survived my childhood reading voraciously in the midst of a big empty hole where the books that might have reflected my inner life should have been. And I survived. (Some did not.) But I’d like to aspire to more than surviving. I’d like to read my favorite genres and see myself not just when it’s “important to the story” but casually, trivially, incidentally, and of course, sometimes prominently. I'd like to have the same pleasure-reading experiences that my non-marginalized friends have. I’d like some recompense for that big empty hole that still marks and mars my reading experience. I’d like to be able to pick up a book to read because everyone on my twitter-feed is raving about it and not have to assume that my identity will be casually erased. It doesn’t happen nearly enough.

One of my (not so) super-secret criteria when reviewing my favorite SFF and historical books is: am I given any positive evidence that people like me exist in this world? And, yes, I interpret “people like me” somewhat idiosyncratically, but it’s an index, not a recipe. A necessary, but not sufficient, condition. Sort of like the Bechdel test. A book can earn an extra star from me solely on this basis.

But—you protest to me—there’s an entire industry dedicated to publishing genre fiction about white American middle-class cis lesbians like you. What’s your problem? *ahem* I think you just nailed it. We need diverse books. And the lesfic industry falls down on the diversity aspect just as much as mainstream publishing does, only from a different angle. For me, one angle it fails greatly on is genre (not enough well-written SFF and historicals), but another is what feels like an unbalanced focus on lesbian characters specifically as sexual beings. When I say, "we need diverse adult books" I don't mean "adult" in that wink-nudge way. To a large extent, this focus is fallout from the same dominance of romance over other genres seen in straight publishing. But in the much smaller lesfic field, there seems a greater tendency for romance tropes to set the expectations for all books. This means that from both within and without the lesbian publishing community, there is a tendency for characters to be lesbian only when they need to be, either from the requirements of the genre or the needs of the plot.

I shouldn’t have to make this choice—the one I’ve been asked to make time and time again in my life—between being a fan and being a lesbian. Between loving the past and loving myself. Between the mind and the body. Maybe I’m old enough and tough enough that I don’t need diverse books, but dammit I deserve them.
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While it seems like the entire rest of my online social world is squeeing about getting their hands on Kameron Hurley's just-released Mirror Empire, I will content myself with squeeing over the delivery to my doorstep of Lesbian Dames: Sapphism in the Long Eighteenth Century (ed. John C. Beynon and Caroline Gonda; Ashgate, 2010). This will be added to the stack of "newly acquired books to be included in the Lesbian Historic Motif Project" sitting beside my recliner. This is apart from all the books waiting on the shelves and all the journal offprints in the file boxes. Having dived into the LHMP in earnest, I now seem to be acquiring new material faster than I'm processing what I already have. This is not entirely a bad thing.
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My alpennia.com website guru needs an "icon" to represent me/my books on the site. After relatively little brainstorming, I decided that the cover theme from Daughter of Mystery of the antique book + rose was just about perfect for the whole series. And since I have no shortage of antique books and roses, I've been doing a photoshoot and now have about 100 images to sort through. When I have it down to half a dozen or so, maybe I'll post them and ask for input.

I confess that the books auditioning for the job only date to the 1870-90s. I have several older but they weren't as presentable, e.g., severe cover or spine damage.) The three contenders are a Welsh Bible with a gift-inscription dating to 1879 (no printing date, alas), Prys's English-Welsh dictionary from 1899, and an 1885 printing of Friedrich Ludwig Stamm's edition of Ulfilas with accompanying glossary and grammar of the Gothic language.

The oldest book in my collection is Thomas Richards' 1753 Antiqua Linguae Britannicae Thesaurus (Welsh-English dictionary), which would have been perfect for the date, but it lacks covers and is in horrible condition. It was a gift from an acquaintance who found it in his late grandfather's attic. I was the only person he knew who he thought would have any appreciation for it. Back during the Oakland Hills Fire, when I was doing a "practice pack" of what I would put in the suitcase for an evacuation, that book was included. Just because.
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I started today's housecleaning by attaching the go-backs in the library and it occurred to me that if I want to get all of last year's Kalamazoo haul reviewed before the conference rolls around again, I'd better dig in! And so we continue:

Skemer, Don C. 2006. Binding Words: Textual Amulets in the Middle Ages. The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park. ISBN 0-271-02723-1

If you've read my novel Daughter of Mystery then you'll know why I'm buying books on the history of magic and folk religion in Europe. (If you haven't read it, go do so … I'll wait.) While the scope of this book falls before the setting of my novels (at least the primary series -- I do plan a medieval one at some point), the magical practices are grounded in earlier practices. I'm primarily looking for inspirations for describing the paraphernalia around both the "high" and "low" versions of magic in my fiction. Skemer's work covers both the religious environment in which these amulets were produced but the purposes and expected benefits and a great many details on the textual content and the ways in which the amulets were produced and used. I haven't actually had a chance to read it through in detail yet (isn't that always the case?) but expect to cherry-pick details in the future.

Kieckhefer, Richard. 2000. Magic in the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 978-0-521-78576-1

Picked up for similar reasons as the above. A much broader review and more readable. Covers the major cultural contributions to medieval traditions of magic as well as a chapter on legal issues around condemnation and prosecution. Also covers magic in literature and fraudulent magic.

Dawson, Thomas (ed. by Maggie Black). 1996. The Good Housewife's Jewel. Southover Press, Lewes. ISBN 1-870962-12-5

I already had a facsimile copy of this 1596 English cookbook (from the English Experience series) but this is definitely more readable. Also: completist here! It's one of those small all-in-one books that covers menus, recipes, animal husbandry, and everyday healthcare.

Currie, Elizabeth. 2006. Inside the Renaissance House. V&A Publications, London. ISBN 1-85177-490-4

Just a pretty little coffee-table book, but I'm a sucker for picture-heavy books showing interiors and everyday scenes. Lots of kitchen and dining scenes, plus chapters on bedrooms and studies. If you already have the more massive "At Home in Renaissance Italy", then there's no need to pick this book up … but I did anyway.

Porter, Pamela. 2003. Courtly Love in Medieval Manuscripts. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. ISBN 0-8020-8599-7

This is part of the series of booklets from University of Toronto Press surveying various visual themes in medieval art. While I have a general use for thematic collections of medieval art, I was also specifically interested in the iconography of how PDAs were represented (so that when my medieval fictional characters make out, they can do it in authentic ways).

Walker-Meikle, Kathleen. 2011. Medieval Cats. The British Library, London. ISBN 978-0-7123-5818-7

The back cover notes that the author "completed her PhD … on late-medieval pet keeping." This is a small glossy collection of images of cats in medieval manuscripts and art, with brief accompanying text providing context both for the specific images and the place of cats in medieval society. Many artistic cats doing cat-like things such as playing with the dangling spindle of a woman trying to spin, licking its butt with its legs splayed in all directions, reaching through the bars of a bird-cage, and of course endless scenes of mousing.

Netherton, Robin & Gale R. Owen-Crocker eds. 2013. Medieval Clothing and Textiles 9. The Boydell Press, Rochester. ISBN 978-1-84383-856-2

If you know about this journal series, then you don't need me to tell you why I bought it or why you might want to. For the rest of you, this is an annual volume packed full of articles and reviews on topics related in some way to clothing, fashion, textiles, textile techniques, depictions of all of the above, economic issues relating to the above, etc. etc. Particular articles that catch my eye on leafing through include ones on dagged clothing and painted cloth hangings.

Klosowska, Anna. 2005. Queer Love in the Middle Ages. Palgrave, New York. ISBN 1-4039-6342-8

As someone whose interest in non-majority sexualities in history is both personal and practical, I've become somewhat leery of conference sessions and book titles that feature the word "queer" prominently. Too often it ends up being, "If I use my imagination and squint sideways, you could interpret this Thing in other ways." But Palgrave is an outstanding promoter of good scholarship in the history of homosexuality, so I'm always willing to give their publications a closer look. While this book doesn't fall on the side of "stretching the interpretation to the breaking point" neither does it really fall on the "discovering and interpreting interesting new evidence" side. The author is applying several French theoretical approaches (there's another thing that makes me leery: "French theory") to several of the popular works of the medieval romance canon to identify homoerotic motifs and themes. I might have given the book a pass on the basis of being too much on the lit-crit side for me except that one of the main texts she analyzes is Yde and Olive which is one of my major medieval romance fixations. (Some day I will write my own novelization of the story … and make it come out right in the end, dammit!)

Wright, Monica L. 2009. Weaving Narrative: Clothing in Twelfth-Century French Romance. THe Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park. ISBN 978-0-271-03566-6

As people may know, my historic clothing research interests tend to fall on the practical side and I'm interested in literary sources mostly for what they may be able to tell us about what real people were wearing. But I'll always be willing to consider an exception for books written by people I know. This is an interdisciplinary look at the wealth of clothing descriptions in French romances, investigating what part clothing played in the structure of the stories and how the clothes worked as characterization.

That's it for this session.
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Over on Twitter, @adotnon was looking for examples of short historic fiction. All I could think of off the top of my head that fit the category were several anthologies of short historic mysteries. And, as it turns out, the majority of them are Mike Ashley collections (big surprise):

Edited by Mike Ashley:
Classical Whodunnits
Historical Whodunnits
The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives
The Mammoth Book of More Historical Whodunnits
The Mammoth Book of New Historical Whodunnits
The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits
Shakespearean Whodunits


Non-Ashley collections include:

Edited by Miriam Grace Monfredo
Crime Through Time
Crime Through Time II
Crime Through Time III


Past Poisons: An Ellis Peters Memorial Anthology of Historic Crime (ed. by Maxim Jakubowski)
Much Ado About Murder (ed. by Anne Perry)

I'm fairly certain I've also seen anthologies (or at least 2-3 story collections) of historic romance. There may well be anthologies of just plain short historic fiction without other cross-genre elements but I'd be less likely to notice them.
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So I still haven't finished blogging the books I bought at Kalamazoo last May (and true to my vow, they're still sitting stacked on the coffee table in the living room waiting for me to do so). So perhaps it's time to attack the stacks (and stacks and stacks) of books purchased in the last year, starting with more recent items.

Omnivore Books is a foodie bookstore in San Francisco, carrying both new cookbooks and books on food and an enormous selection of used and antiquarian food-related books. They also host some great food-history lectures which never seem to be at a convenient time for me to attend. It's a bit of a trip to drop by casually (if I don't drive -- which I try to avoid in SF -- it involves about a 12-block walk from the nearest BART station). But I made the trip in December to look for a Christmas present and took the opportunity to poke around for books on French cuisine of an appropriate period for Alpennian background research. I've tracked down a couple of useful cookbooks in Google Books and other archive sources, but I was hoping for something a bit more analytical that might talk about dining habits, serving methods, meal structure, and whatnot, rather than just having recipes and maybe sample menus.

Ferguson, Priscilla Parkhurst. 2004. Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-226-24323-0

This is very much an academic study of the meaning and uses of "cuisine" as a phenomenon, specifically using the example France from the later 18th century to modern times. There's a great deal of interesting information tucked away in it, but the theory-heavy writing style makes it less accessible that it might be (and a bit tedious to read). Some of the useful/interesting observations cover things like the increasing democratization of culinary literature, the shift in the focus of haute cuisine from private upper class spectacles to a more public "restaurant culture" participated in by a wider variety of classes, and the perpetuation of a stereotype of female "cooks" and male "chefs".

Aresty, Esther B. 1980. The Exquisite Table: A History of French Cuisine. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., Indianapolis. ISBN 0-672-52307-8

A tour through about three centuries of formal French cuisine through the lens of three "celebrity chefs" representing each age: La Varenne, Carême, and Escoffier. The text doesn't focus entirely on these three but they are used to represent different eras/movements. A very readable narrative style, packed with tidbits, quotations, and name-dropping, and copiously illustrated with contemporary images. There is a brief section with sample recipes at the end: not enough to do any serious cooking, but sufficient to illustrate some of the key features.

By an odd quirk of fate, two of my favorite bookstores have ended up literally next door to each other in an otherwise out-of-the-way corner of El Cerrito. I'd actually meant to pick up a special order at the Other Change of Hobbit, but they were delayed in opening and I went into Hackenberg Books to kill some time. Hackenberg specializes in second-hand scholarly, academic, and specialty books. I've been a major fan since they were located in downtown Berkeley, though my bank balance is happier that they're a bit more off the beaten path. One of my purchases was an ethical imperative (I require myself to buy print copies of any book I've considered useful enough to photocopy, when I run across it) and the other was more novel background research.

Smith, A. H. 1987. English Place-Name Elements (A-Iw). Cambridge University Pres, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-04918-0
Smith, A. H. 1987. English Place-Name Elements (part 2 Jafn-Ytri). Cambridge University Pres, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-04919-9

A companion publication to the extensive series of English Place-Name Society publications cataloging British place-names by county. An index of linguistic elements appearing in both simple and compound place-names with citations of their occurrence. This was a key go-to reference for me back in my SCA consulting herald days. Given that I don't spend much time at all on that activity these days, this really was more of an ethical imperative than a practical purchase.

Rubens, Alfred. 1967. History of Jewish Costume. Funk & Wagnalls, New York.

I haven't made a big deal out of it, but in plotting out the next half dozen Alpennian novels, I've become committed to filling Alpennia with an appropriately diverse population, which means tracking down a lot of sociological and material culture details that won't necessarily be found in the standard references. One of the prominent secondary characters in my current work-in-progress (The Mystic Marriage) is Jewish and she's been good "training wheels" for researching non-default characters. Rubens' book goes far beyond my immediate needs, covering a much vaster territory (not only Europe but the entirety of northern Africa, the Middle East and all the way across India to China) and time-scope (Biblical times up through the 19th century). The essential information that I needed boiled down to "by the early 19th century, reform communities in western Europe wore pretty much up-to-the minute fashions except on ceremonial occasions". But the book is a useful resource to have on my shelves in any case.
hrj: (doll)
I'm entering a new phase of my relationship with e-books: I've bought copies of several novels that I already have in hardcover but have not found time to read yet. (My previous e-book reading has all been re-reading of favorites.) I'm feeling a need to return to fitting fiction reading into my life. For the last several years I've found myself avoiding novels -- especially novels that intersect significantly with the genres and themes of my own work -- because I want to avoid by the appearance and reality of being influenced by other people's writing. And because to a large degree I use the same head-space and life-space for writing and reading and it's been more important to me to write. But now that my own book is coming out I'm both feeling a bit more more comfortable that I can maintain the distinction between what I consume and what I produce, and feeling like I want/need to be part of the larger conversation and community of writers.

So, lined up on my iPad are Nicola Griffith's Hild (just out), and Mary Robinette Kowel's "Glamourist" novels. That should see me through my Thanksgiving-related travels adequately.
hrj: (doll)
No, I haven't abandoned the book blog. I just got distracted for a while.

Messbarger, Rebecca. 2010. The Lady Anatomist: The Life and Work of Anna Morandi Manzolini. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 978-0-226-52081-0

I am -- needless to say -- always on the lookout for information about inspiring historic women, particularly in the intellectual sphere. This is an engrossing biography of an 18th century Italian woman who achieved fame (and a reliable living) as an anatomist but even more so as a creator of wax anatomical models, used for educational purposes (as well as falling on that delicate balance point between art and grotesque curiosity).

She lived in Bologna at a time when there was a deliberate push to revive the reputation of the medical school there, providing the opportunity for a woman with little formal medical education to become renowned as a researcher and educator, though her career (like that of many other women) was enabled -- if not entirely made possible -- by having a husband who practiced in the same field. The author places her in a context against other academic women of the time, such as Laura Bassi, who was the first woman to officially receive a degree from the University of Bologna in 1732.

Manzolini was not simply an anatomical artist in wax but also a technician who developed her own improvements in the materials of her art and gave spirited lectures in the home laboratory she shared with her husband (who seems to have been relatively uninvolved in the public presentation of their work). They were (in the idiom of modern Kalamazoo) "independent scholars" rather than being associated directly with the university, though correspondence and other records show that she took part in an interactive community of medical researchers both in and out of academia.

Despite the fragility of her work, many of her wax models survive, including a pair of half-body sculptures of Manzolini and her husband, caught in the act of anatomizing.
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Temple, Michele. 2001. The Middle Esatern Influence on Late Medieval Italian Dances: Origins of the 29987 Istampittas. The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston. ISBN 0-7734-7428-5

One of the benefits of being one of my SCA apprentices is that I will tend to keep an eye peeled in the Kalamazoo bookroom for something you might find interesting ... or challenging. (This isn't a guarantee, of course. I might not spot anything relevant. But I'll look.) So with my apprentice [livejournal.com profile] kiria_dk being interested in dance and music (along with lots of other fun things, of course) my eyes lit on this book long enough to decide it could fall both in the "interesting" and "challenging" categories.

This book is a study of a set of Italian Istampittas -- a type of dance tune that evolved (like many dance genres) into more of an instrumental performance piece and that may in some cases also have had lyrics set to it. (See also French estampie etc.) But the author specifically explores what she believes to be Middle Eastern influences on the particular forms of this set of tunes, that set them apart from other tunes in the genre. The discussion and comparisons are copiously illustrated with notated tunes, which was one of the primary reasons I decided to pick the book up. (After all, reading about music is all very well, but what's the point without a chance to play it?)

Now, I'm well aware that we have no direct evidence for the steps of the istampitta/estampie, so the "challenging" part of the gift is fairly open ended: anything from "learn some of the tunes" to "take one or more of the tunes and do something else interesting with it" to "make your best imaginative stab (but grounded in research) at what an istampitta dance might have looked like".

Isn't it fun to have an apprentice to torment?
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Hanawalt, Barbara A. 2007. The Wealth of Wives: Women, Law, and Economy in Late Medieval London. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-19-531176-1

As my regular readers are aware, I have this series (hey, two is a series, right?) of survey essays on topics relevant to writing historic fiction about lesbians. (The previous topics have been cross-dressing/passing and sex.) The next essay I have in mind covers the issue of types of women's economic independence from the traditional structures of (heterosexual) marriage. That is: when creating fictional historic characters, what are the plausible and viable economic situations I can place that character in where she can survive and thrive without being married to a man. (Mind you, not all my fictional lesbians are unmarried, but the majority of my storylines involve some level of economic independence.) This is all a very long prelude to why I'm interested in studies on the economic situation of women in various historic societies.

Hanawalt is looking specifically at women in 14-15th century London -- largely using the lens of legal documents and records -- in terms of how they managed their own wealth. How it came to them, under what circumstances they had control over its disposition, and how they chose to dispose of it. Although the title makes reference to "wives" the discussions cover women of all statuses: unmarried, married, and widowed. The discussion is very detailed and full of personal correspondence and anecdotal examples. One of the major themes is the contrast between the "northern european" pattern where daughters received shares of family wealth equivalent to sons and where widows stood in a strong position with regard to finances, compared to the "mediterranean" pattern where women's access to familial wealth or to marital wealth after a spouse's death were much more constrained. I haven't had a chance to do more than leaf through it briefly at this point, but I expect to mine the chapters deeply when I eventually sit down to do my economic survey.
hrj: (doll)
Dalby, Andrew & Maureen Dalby. 2012. The Shakespeare Cookbook. The British Museum Press, London. ISBN 978-0-7141-2335-6

This is not a book aimed at serious food history geeks, except insofar as serious food history geeks who are completists will no doubt enjoy picking up a copy to grace their shelves. This is meant as a "gateway drug" to historic food geekery. The name Dalby is generally associated with a quality product and up to a certain point, this is what the book delivers. Past that point ... well, but I'll get to that.

The basic premise here is to introduce the reader to the basic ideas of culinary and dining history in the late 16th century in a palatable [you see what I did there?] manner by tying the subjects in at regular intervals to themes and dialogs in Shakespeare's plays. With the wealth of the British Museum holdings at their disposal, it comes plentifully illustrated with artwork and artifacts relevant to the topics. In fact, solely as a single source for images of Elizabethan dinners and dining arrangements (of varied levels of formality, class, and scope) this would be a valuable starting point. In addition, there are discussions of common (and some uncommon) ingredients and staple foods.

And, of course, there are recipes. Like all good "gateway drug" cookbooks, the text provides a literary context mentioning a dish, then provides a recipe from a historic cookbook that has some connection with the literary context, and then provides a modern measured-and-step-by-step recipe for the novice to follow. Very disappointingly though, these last are not merely modern in format but have been changed significantly from the historic recipes to make them modern in taste and form as well.

As a typical example, a 16th century recipe for "Capon with oranges or lemons" which can be summarized as "boil a capon, then make a sauce by simmering some of the broth with oranges, mace, and sugar, thickened with wine and egg yolks" gets turned into "oven-braise chicken pieces with onions, carrots, and dill, then make a sauce from lemon juice and a minute amount of the cooking liquid, thickened with whole eggs and cornstarch". Well, they overlap in the use of poultry, citrus, and eggs I guess. This is, alas, fairly typical of the lack of confidence the authors have in the ability of modern readers to both follow and enjoy more authentic recipes. And some have an even more tenuous connection between the two (like the deep-fried apple fritters that get turned into a baked apple coffee cake, or the simple spinach tart for which a spanikopita recipe is substituted).

In short, the book works as a gateway drug to historic cooking all the way up to the point when the reader wants to start cooking, at which point there is a bait and switch and they are deprived of the chance to learn anything true or real about the food of Shakespeare's day. This is quite disappointing (and I look forward with trepidation to someone presenting the results of the modernized recipes as "an authentic Shakespearean banquet"). The book is hardly without value, but the recipes make it deeply flawed in what it purports to be.
hrj: (doll)
Pedersen, Kathrine & Marie-Louise B. Nosch (eds). 2009. The Medieval Broadcloth: Changing Trends in Fashions, Manufacturing, and Consumption. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-381-7

This is a collection of papers from an interdisciplinary symposium on the subject of "broadcloth" -- the archetypal high-end woolen fabric of the high middle ages. We start with a technical discussion of the physical and procedural differences between different types of wool fabrics, and specifically the consequences to the finished fabric of the difference between a long-staple, "spun in the grease" worsted fabric, and the shorter staple but higher quality "dry spun" woolen yarns used for broadcloth. But these short-staple threads then needed to be re-oiled for the weaving process and then fulled after weaving, not only to removing the oil "dressing" but to felt the fibers together to strengthen the finished cloth (a strengthening unnecessary with long-staple threads). The final part of broadcloth production was to raise a nap on the surface of the fabric. This created the defining look-and-feel of broadcloth with its smooth, rich texture (contrasted with the visual effects of fancy twill patterns common to the earlier woolen weaves).

Because broadcloth became an important focus of international trade, much of the available data on its production, value, and circulation comes from commercial records. Comparative price-lists and production totals for different weaving centers take up a fair chunk of the collection. Similarly, shipping records not only indicate sources and destinations but the amount of cloth shipped and often color and quality as well. Two articles use the technical descriptions of how broadcloth was produced to identify archaeological textile fragments that most likely represent this type of cloth. Another article looks at the visual and linguistic evidence for striped and other multicolored forms of broadcloth which diverge from the prototypical image of a plain solid-color fabric.

The collection concludes with some experimental work in re-creating Laken the broadcloth produced in Leiden, Netherlands, using historic technology. (The illustrative photos show the experimenters in appropriate historic clothing as well, though I don't know that this was the case for the entire reconstruction process.)

This is not a book for the generalist or the casual costume historian. But for those who also geek out on economics and trade, it's a nicely focused group of presentations organized to illustrate a topic central to the medieval textile scene.
hrj: (doll)
Fisher, Celia. 2004. Flowers in Medieval Manuscripts. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. ISBN 0-8020-3796-8

The University of Toronto Press has a series of relatively thin books of thematic groups of elements from manuscript illustrations. I find them a valuable source of image inspiration (an brainstorming for historic artifacts to collect or reproduce) when they intersect a topic I'm interested in. This volume presents an array of depictions of flowers and foliage, both from illustrated herbals and included in marginal decorations. The flowers are often vibrantly naturalistic, allowing not only species identification but showing a range of color variations for items such as pinks (dianthus) and irises. My own interests tend to lean towards inspiration for my own gardening, but this collection could also serve as inspiration for needlework project (or for manuscript illumination, of course). The text discusses not only the context of the manuscripts in which the images occur, but botanical details of the plants and their habitats, as well as why they were relevant to medieval life and so chosen to be depicted.

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