Anna Akhmatova

My 2013 post about Anna Akhmatova continues to be one of the most popular on my blog even though it’s just a few short lines about her masterpiece of a poem Requiem. I wonder if it’s because we’re looking for people who shine lights in the darkness? Americans as much as Russians visit that page. Or looking for the women who came before us, the ones who persevered, who left us something of themselves, when so many didn’t have that chance.

I didn’t know much about her when I posted it, just that she was persecuted for her poetry under Stalin. Wikipedia says Lydia Chukovskaya described how Akhmatova “would write out her poem for a visitor on a scrap of paper to be read in a moment, then burnt in her stove.” This one line provoked an image in my mind of the paper flaring into fire, curling up over the words, and diminishing into ash; and it provoked feelings, of admiration for her cleverness, the bittersweet pain of imagining her burning her own words and the fierce courage it must have taken to write them and rewrite them for her trusted visitors. I still don’t know much about her, but I want to know more.



Portal fantasy I read somewhat less long ago

You may have noticed that a lot of the books I’m writing about were not published when I was a young adult (I’m not that old!) but I was reading things I found in the library, which was not bad but had more old books than new (except in romance and mystery), or in the attic of my house. Hence the rather eclectic list.

The Gate of Ivrel by CJ Cherryh. This is one of the few books I’m going to mention that I will still champion. (I’m not sharing that terrible 70s cover though, lots of naked muscles on everyone.) Cherryh is an amazing writer and her books stand up to the test of time. I had never read someone like Morgaine and Vanye, or a story told from the point of view of someone from a society that didn’t have as much technology as the other’s. You might be protesting that it’s science fiction, not fantasy, and it’s true, but there are portals… This book is also sad! So are the others in the series. So are many of CJ Cherryh’s books from that time.

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay. Lyrical, lovely, lachrymose (I couldn’t resist) and a King Author retelling at a time I was into King Author.

The Mirror of Her Dreams Stephan Donaldson. This is one of those books that’s like a scar on my soul. I wish I had never read it, it was sexist and the main character was abused throughout the book, but it’s probably inevitable I read it because it was about a woman who traveled to another world. I read all three. I would have to say it was formative in what not to do as a writer. So that’s something. I guess. Don’t even talk to me about this author’s other books.

A book with a blue cover, a woman wearing some kind of desert robes, on a horse, facing the reader, with maybe a city in the background. It was portal fantasy, vaguely Arabian nights kind of setting. If you know what I’m talking about, tell me the name and author, would you? I loved this book, even though I also thought it was boring. It’s funny how both those things can be true.