Saturday, March 31, 2007

I find myself using iTunes now to listen to my mp3s--I had to install the programme when I got my iPod, but I hadn't used it for anything besides putting stuff on my iPod. Then, a few days ago, I saw my sister had taken to using it and I realised I could use it to play the m4a files Sonya* had sent me, which I'd so far only been playing in the Media Player Classic that comes with the Combined Community Codec pack (I point Mac users to MPlayer), which can play anything but doesn't have a handy playlist feature. I wish WinAmp would play the m4a files, though, because fuck if iTunes isn't one of the most bloated programmes this side of Adobe Acrobat (by the way, those of you who think you're stuck with Acrobat when reading pdf files, I point you to Foxit). It takes iTunes nearly thirty seconds just to open, whereas with WinAmp, it's just a matter of clicking the icon and blip, it's open, with a full playlist of all my mp3s, plus a snazzy amateur-made Evangelion skin I downloaded years ago. iTunes can't even seem to display all my mp3s at once, and its playlists thing is a slog.

Anyway, I finished Daughter of Hounds last night. I don't know if I'd call it Caitlin R. Kiernan's best novel (though it might be), but it's definitely the most fun. I mentioned Tolkien and C.S. Lewis before, but the more I think about it, the more I perceive a definite Alice's Adventures in Wonderland influence, which is something you'd think I'd have noticed before considering I happened to've been reading both books at the same time. And the similarities become stronger the further one gets into Daughter of Hounds, as both books feature precocious young girls confronting citizens of what seems at one level to be a non-sensical, dreamlike fantasy world, but with sublevels of curious, rarefied logic.

There's also a fair bit of Lewis Carroll charm, in the almost Caterpillar-like character of the Bailiff**, and one might see Odd Willie as a twisted version of the White Knight, at least as seen through Emmie's perspective--Emmie being one of the precocious young girl protagonists. In fact, scenes of six year-old Soldier*** being treated to sweets by the Bailiff while having conversations and thoughts about identity and dreams--coming up against the Bailiff's inscrutable, vaguely dangerous, but almost sedentary strangeness--comes off as an interesting play on Alice's anxiety over having changed so many times in the day that she's hardly sure who she is anymore. The similarities become even stronger when we discover what the Bailiff's done to Soldier, and what Soldier needs to do in order to fix it.

I've pointed out to Caitlin recently that her characters seem to spend a lot of time arguing with one another. I really became aware of this while reading Daughter of Hounds as I noticed it's rare for any character to say anything that isn't somehow a dismissal of what another character had just asserted. In her previous books, this had a tendency to ramp up tension as the characters become angrier and angrier with each other. I'd feel bad for them--I'd frequently want to grab one and say to herhimit, "Why are you wasting the energy?" In fact, characters frequently seem to ask each other this question. In Daughter of Hounds, there are actually a few characters, most notably the Bailiff, who seem able to keep arguments going without noticeably expending energy, which has the effect of being somewhat funny, and there's a consequential broadening of the environment, somehow.

And it's a book of beautiful prose. It made me just about every kind of happy while reading it.

So, to-day I think I may just try to catch up on colouring. I'm really far behind on it, and it's no surprise--I spent four hours colouring just one panel last night. I suspect that this is a combination of the greater amount of detail I'm putting into the work, the slightly more complicated techniques I came up with while working on Moving Innocent, and the fact that I'm working with images a few thousand pixels larger than I've ever worked with before. Gods, this computer needs more memory.

*I told Sonya I'd try using footnotes in emulation of her.
**The Bailiff uses a kukri at one point. I love it.
***This is the character portrayed, somewhat inaccurately, I think, on the book's cover with teased-out, 1980s-ish hair. I personally imagined it more unkempt and kept out of the way in a pony tail, as Soldier seems to consider herself utilitarian and no-nonsense. You get the impression that she's got hair-trigger reflexes and she's always ready to kill, and yet she seems to spend a lot of time talking in nearly every confrontation in which we see her, giving her an interesting, unselfconsciously diplomatic nature.

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