Book Review: Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Mary Foxe came by the other day – the last person on earth I was expecting to see.

This is a dizzying book. Aside from White is for Witching (which is by the same author), I’ve not come across anything like it. St John Fox is a celebrated novelist. Mary Foxe is his muse. She arrives, quite casually, one afternoon to set him a challenge: she wants him to acknowledge that he is a murderer of women. He protests that he is not. And then, they argue. In stories written about each other. In letters. In walks along the river. And as the reader, there is no way to know who is writing about whom, whether you are reading a fiction written by the characters or a story in the more traditional sense. Is Mary Foxe real, or a figment of St John Fox’s traumatised imagination? And how many bodies are hidden in the cellar? Who does the cellar belong to?

Mr Fox is incredible, with a sly sense of humour and a great deal of things to say. Helen Oyeyemi is incisive in her writing and fearless in her imagination. This is a novel with the feel of a fairytale; with layer upon delicate layer of story just hinting at a shape hidden in the dark…

Rating: read this. Be bold, be bold, but not too bold…


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Politics! Joy of joys…

If politics is not your thing, don’t worry! Book reviews and Tantamount will be continuing as normal, and you can go ahead and skip reading this post if you want.

So, like probably many of you, I am spending a lot of time at the moment deeply angry with the world. And feeling a bit helpless. Last year, I was in the very good habit of writing to my MP once a week about, well, whatever was making me furious that week (there’s a lot going on – mainly the difficulty was in focusing enough to make the letter about just one thing). It was pretty good. I am trying to get back into the habit now, and have started by writing to my MP about Trump’s UK visit. Basically, that there shouldn’t be one until all the children separated from their families at the United States/Mexico border have been reunited. So, for those of you in the UK who may have similar feelings, here is the rough text of my letter. Feel free to use it – there will be a higher impact if you personalise as much as possible. You can find out who your MP is and how to contact them here.

(Address of MP)

(Your address)

(Date)

President Trump’s visit to the UK

Dear (name of your MP),

I am writing to you about President Trump’s visit to the UK in July. In light of the recent policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border between the United States of America and Mexico, I am appalled that the UK is still planning to receive President Trump. Amnesty International has labelled this separation policy as amounting to torture, and I find myself in agreement. Surely we are morally obligated to take a stand against such inhumane behaviour?

We should not receive President Trump in our country until every single child who has been separated from their families under this policy has been reunited with them. The UK should unequivocally signal our utter rejection of this cruel policy. I think this is an issue with the potential to garner cross-party support, and I hope that it is something that you are able to take action on.

With best wishes,

(your name)

The Amnesty International information is here – it also includes a link to write a letter directly to Trump if you feel so moved. The bit saying the policy amounts to torture is currently on their homepage – here is the current link. I haven’t figured out how to link to it if it moves.

And now I am done with growliness for the day (blatant lie).


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Book review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I try not to think of her.

This is an incredible book. It is like diving into a fire. I have definitely walked away from it singed. Children of Blood and Bone tells the story of the kingdom of Orïsha; a land that was once filled with magic, but where magic has been killed and suppressed. It tells the story of the oppressed rising up and fighting back. It is fantasy, and it is also extremely relevant to our times. I would recommend it to everyone.

All of the characters are compelling, particularly Zélie, Amari and Inan; the point-of-view characters. They are all coming from very different places, with very different views, and it was only made the story more powerful to have their perspectives intermingling.

I have, for many years, been upset and at times angry about the way that so much fantasy writing seems content to wallow around in Tolkien’s shadow. It frustrates me that so many people seem so stuck on writing the same fantasy world over and over again without even subverting it, when surely the whole point of fantasy, the reason that I love it, is that the only limits are your imagination and what you can convince the reader of.  I, who am white and European, have been bored with it. I can only imagine how people who are not white and European feel. I spend a lot of time hunting through fantasy stories, trying to find something that reflects my experience as a queer woman. I can only imagine how it feels trying to find, for example, a queer Black reflection in fantasy writing. Or a Black experience at all. This is a fantasy that is about Black experience. It’s a bloody amazing book, written extremely well, and it blew me out of the water. It made me sit up and pay attention and I lost sleep reading it. Children of Blood and Bone is not only fantastic, it is needed. And I don’t know how else to describe it, except to say that you should definitely, absolutely read it. And then read it again, and tell all your friends.

Also, if you have recommendations for non-European based fantasy, or fantasy with queers in, (or sci-fi of either of those) do drop me a comment because I love finding new authors and I am keen to expand my reading. Or if you have read this book and want to talk about it!

Rating: read this book. Rise up.


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It is Wednesday and I am still ill

So I am on the verge of getting better, but still coughing and spluttering and exhausted easily and VERY VERY BORED OF THIS! I would like a modicum of health and ability to think back now please.

But on the upside, look what arrived at the library yesterday!!!!! I am 170 pages in and it is SO GOOD!

Cover for Children of Blood and Bone by Tomii Adeyemi - image of black girl with white hair

And with that, I am off again to down cough syrup. Please be assured that there will be Tantamount and book reviews once I am back on my feet.


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Update!

Hello! You’ve not heard from me in a while! This is due to illness and stress. Things are calming down a bit, and I am recovering well. But it might be another week before you get a proper post from me. Apologies – I will be back as soon as possible. And with many books and Tantamounts.

Take care!

Meredith

Tales From Tantamount: Almost June of the Year of the Sad Plastic Bag

Being an ongoing record of various Happenings, Unhappenings, Persons and Ephemera from the town of Tantamount, most often found along the river Severn, and therefore by nature occassionally Welsh.

KEEP CALM AND CARRION

 

Headlines in Tantamount, around the 1st June
The Tantamount Herald
Yearly quota of sunlight almost entirely used already, p4
Tantribune
Safety warnings put out for roaming packs of feral children, now released from school p3
The-Mind-That-Lives-In-The-Soil is stirring, p4-6
Tantamount Life
Big Cats form historical guild, claim they have been misrepresented p2

 Notice
This area, heretofore known as ‘the area’, is to be kept clear at all times. This is due to unpredictable manifestations. We recommend that, should strangely compelling food suddenly appear here, you do not eat it.
Tantamount District Council

Warning
Morris dancers sighted here. Take protective measures.

A discussion of the so-called Shadow Council, by Celeste Lupe Hildibjorgsdottir
Recent months have seen the abrupt emergence of a Shadow Council, complete with a re-spawned history and varied conspiracy theories. Although this in itself is not unusual for Tantamount, what is interesting is the secrecy. Most historical discoveries/tamings quickly become a matter of public record, and are just as quickly subsumed, unhappened, eaten or discarded. The Shadow Council, however, comes to us not through our vaunted historians but through scattered leaflets, whispered gossip and, most notably, the live blog of the recent elections (the writer of which has been permanently banned from the historian profession). So who, or what, is the Shadow Council?
There appears to be some connection with the Pinprick Cafe, and various whispers point to Thora Hope as a member. Thora Hope, as residents of Tantamount go, is remarkably interesting in that she is neither native, nor has she spent any time Out Of Town. She has made no comment on her supposed membership of the Shadow Council, and I was distracted from my questions by a truly excellent mocha. She also employs a chef, Laura Lovelace, who has spent time Out Of Town. Laura does not like to discuss it, and maintains that the outside was so confusing that it is barely comprehensible once returned.
But I have been sidetracked. It has been suggested that the Shadow Council are in direct opposition to the District Council, an idea which the District Council “oppose in the strongest terms, but in such a way as to not imply we really believe the Shadow Council to exist at all”. Perhaps an act of collective dreaming can highlight… From this point the essay has been heavily censored, with perhaps more vehemence than necessary, and the only other words that can be made out are hills, Hope, and reigniting.

Weather report
The weather today was a lowlevel growl, felt primarily in the base of the spine and tummy. It caused many people to believe they had a small animal living inside them (in some cases this was even true). Little showers of kindness fell throughout the day.

Notice
Tantamount is currently experiencing fluctuating levels of wilderness. Please take care when out in the wilderness, as it is easy to become lost in the depths of the within-without that is found there. We recommend you carry lucky charms, and try to avoid reflective surfaces. Instances of self-devouring have been linked to unsafe wilderness exposure, although equally many people return much happier than before, and with the added ability to sprout vines from interesting places.
Tantamount District Council

RE: Aquatic display
TO: management@pinprick.tan
FROM: lauralovelace@hotmail.tan

Dear Thora,
Please find attached the menu for the Aquatic Display night – I consulted with some nyads to make it a more authentic experience, and it actually works out cheaper for us. I’m not sure it will taste any good, but with the right marketing I think people will come anyway so that they can look good… Is it bad that I really hate some of our customers? You know, the bastards with all the money and entitlement?
Also, the Woman in the Well keeps leaving me these enigmatic little notes which I can’t quite read (they are too damp and the pen is smudged). I feel bad, because I have no idea what she is trying to say to me, but she puts so much effort in and always persuades the waitstaff to give me tips.
Hope you are recovered from the near miss with the Carrion the other day – so glad those magpies were on hand!

Best wishes,
Laura Lovelace
AntiviralBlessing.doc
AquaDisplayMenu.doc

Lost Extremely sentimental scrying mirror, used for nostalgic memory-viewing. Reward offered! Eurydice xxxxx 872365


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WHEN THE LETTER COMES by Sara Fox — The Book Smugglers

Just a quick little re-post to recommend this story – it’s a lovely take on the “waiting for the magic letter” fantasy tale. Trans main character, and overall very interesting.

When the Letter Comes by Sara FoxPublished 5/22/2017 Henry believes that someday, something awesome will happen–everything will turn out all right and all her problems will disappear once her letter arrives, welcoming her to magic school. So even though puberty is already here with changes (like her voice deepening and hair growing in places she…

via WHEN THE LETTER COMES by Sara Fox — The Book Smugglers

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