Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Characters Who Have Perished in A Song of Ice and Fire

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (an popular meme hosted by the blog, The Broke and The Bookish) theme was “The Top Ten Characters Who _____” and we are left to fill in the blank. Naturally I went with Top Ten Characters who Died Memorably in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (and its television counterpart, Game of Thrones). My ground rules for inclusion: the death is significant to the story, shocking, gruesome, or involved a main character. As far as the George R.R. Martin books vs. the HBO Series, I guess I’m using both – mostly the series, though, as it’s fresher in my mind. (They’ve become hopelessly mixed together in my brain anyway) I will say all occur before where we are in the series now, and what the series reflects up to in book three, “A Storm of Swords.” I did notice in my research too that “Access Hollywood” kind if scooped me in this area, but there’s room for everyone on the GoT bandwagon, right? And – do I even need to say it? – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

11-13 (Honorable mentions) Beric Dondarrion
How many times has “The Lord of Light” brought him back now? Maybe this should be 11th thru 14th?

10. John Arryn (poisoned)
This is “The Death that Starts it All” and leads to the calamitous events that are still befalling the Stark family and the rest of Westeros.

9. Sansa’s direwolf, Lady (put down)
If there was any doubt at the Lannisters being “The Bad Guys” (and there shouldn’t have been at this point), Cersei’s insisting that Ned kill Sansa’s direwolf should have removed them.

8. Ser Hugh of the Vale (jousting “accident”)
Setting the standard (and I’m talking more about the series here) for an incredible run of blood gushing, opened throats that will greatly shorten broadcast times when they are removed to make the series suitable for network television.

7. Doreah and Xaro Xhoan Daxos (entombing)
We gain further evidence that Daenerys is not to be trifled with. Man, I hated to see Doreah go, though (at least in the series, where she is portrayed by actress Roxanne McKee)

6. Kraznys (incinerated)
See sentence one of the previous entry.

5. Polliver (sword through the throat)
I wanted to rank this one higher, but it bothers me that I liked this scene where young Arya Stark avenges the death of her friend Lommy by using the same words his killer did.

4. Viserys (“crowning” with molten gold)
Yep. No one was sorry when this happened. Daenerys is free to be her own person (and is now the rightful heir to the Iron Throne) when Viserys suffers a Crassus-like fate at the hands of the Parthians, er, I mean Dothraki.

3. Robb & Catelyn Stark (crossbow bolts and knife wounds)
I still wonder what people who hadn’t already read the books thought about this episode. Roose Bolton’s “The Lannisters send their regards” line as he delivers the coup de grace to Robb was one of the most memorable in the series. And Catelyn? What was I saying about opened throats earlier? We get a two-fer with her death, and though Ser Hugh’s might have been best in gruesomeness, Catelyn wins the blood spurting distance category. Did she have high blood pressure?

2. Eddard “Ned” Stark  (beheading)
This was a shocker both in the book and the TV series. Appropriately, we first meet Ned when he is beheading a deserter from the Night’s Watch. What goes around comes around?

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1. Joffrey (poisoning)
Maybe I’m ranking this number one because it “just happened” (in series broadcast time anyway) or because I hate Joffrey so much. I mean, who are viewers/readers going to focus their hate on now? As Joffrey choked and Cersei lamentingly wailed, I kept hearing Jerry Seinfeld’s “That’s a shame…” line in the back of my mind.

Are YOU a reader/watcher of these books/this series? Which are in your top ten character deaths? If you’re not, what kind of “top ten characters who ____” did you decide to do?

 

Deal Me In – Week 16 Wrap Up

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Happy Easter to all! I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend and maybe some nice spring weather like we had here in Indiana today. Below are links to the new posts I’ve found since the last update. Please take a moment if you can to visit your fellow Deal Me In-ers blogs and explore what stories they read this week – maybe you’ll find one you’ll want to add to your list. :-)

Dale’s ten of spades was Graham Greene’s “The End of the Party” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/graham-greene-the-end-of-the-party/

James paired Haruki Murakami’s “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” with Christopher Barzak’s “We Do Not Come in Peace”

http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/04/15/haruki-murakami-visits-bordertown/

I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Mrs. Bullfrog” as prescribed by my six of spades http://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/mrs-bullfrog-by-nathaniel-hawthorne/

It’s the jack of hearts and Robert Silverberg’s story “Crossing Into the Empire” for Katherine this week: http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/deal-me-in-week-16-crossing-into-the-empire/

And, from Hanne, the queen of spades yielded Lorrie Moore’s “How to Talk to Your Mother” http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/how-to-talk-to-your-mother-by-lorrie-moore/#more-1283

The Easter Egg by Saki

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I was looking around for some “Easter-type” short stories to read for this weekend and found one on line, H.H. Munro’s (a.k.a. Saki) “The Easter Egg” that I thought would fit the bill. I was actually looking more for stories in the “spirit” of Easter than this one turned out to be, but I’m glad I read it nonetheless…

Madame Barbara is ashamed of her son, Lester, who has proven time and time again that, unlike the “good fighting stock” of the family which he was born into, he has all the worst qualities of a coward. Saki describes Lester and his shortcomings wonderfully:

“As a child he had suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish funk, and as a youth he had exchanged unreasoning fears for others which were more formidable from the fact of having a carefully-thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion of life belts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse soothingly on the neck.”

If the hapless Lester were not offered some chance to redeem himself for his life of craven timidity, this wouldn’t be a short story worthy of Saki, though, would it? The opportunity presents itself when he and his mother travel to Knobaltheim “…one of those small princedoms that make inconspicuous freckles on the map of Central Europe.” It seems the Prince, a steadfast representative of the old guard of Europe and opposed to “progress” is coming to town for some grand affair. Among the gifts for this dignitary is the Easter Egg in the title of the story. But something seems not quite right about this and Lester is the first to notice…

I’ll leave the details for those industrious enough to read the story. I was particularly fond of the last lines of this story, which are quite good and almost goose-bump inducing. A very short story and worth a read.

The story may be read at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/EasEgg.shtml

Or listen via YouTube at http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wc6EUa7Mra4

I own a copy of Saki’s collected stories, pictured above, but rather than dig it out, I read this one on line at the link provided above.

(below: Illustration from Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”)

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Two other short stories I like to read around Easter are Oscar Wilde’s “The Selfish Giant”  and Leo Tolstoy’s “The Three Hermits” (which I also once blogged about here). Both are quite good and are appropriate for the season, I think.

Have you read any of these stories? What do you think of Saki’s works? Do you do any special reading around this holiday?

(Below: gratuitous picture of my Mom’s Easter Egg tree.  Did anyone else grow up with an easter egg tree in the house each year?)

 

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“Mrs. Bullfrog” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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(I love African Bullfrogs)

For week 16 of the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, I drew the six of spades. Spades are my suit for “darker” stories and this one certainly qualified. For my complete roster of 2014 click here. Prior years’ rosters are accessible via the links on the left.

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(Six of spades image from theworldoftarot.wordpress.com)

The first sentences of this story certainly make you want to read on: “It makes me melancholy to see how like fools some very sensible people act in the matter of choosing wives. They perplex their judgments by a most undue attention to little niceties of personal appearance, habits, disposition, and other trifles which concern nobody but the lady herself.”

So this will be a story about a match that didn’t work out well? Maybe. The narrator, Mr. Bullfrog, actually admits that he could be counted among those fools: “For my own part I freely confess that, in my bachelorship, I was precisely such an over-curious simpleton as I now advise the reader not to be.”

Mr. Bullfrog, a fastidious shopkeeper, finds only somewhat late in life a woman who he feels to be the perfect match for him, and “within a fortnight” the two are wed. All is going well. At first. It is on their “matrimonial jaunt” in a carriage ride, that he discovers he has hitherto only seen one side of his bride. That would be her good side, naturally.

The careless driver, not mindful of a hazard in the road, allows the carriage to overturn, sending his passengers tumbling. Mr. Bullfrog says “What became of my wits I cannot imagine; they have always had a perverse trick of deserting me just when they are most needed.” Disoriented by the accident, he is amazed to see the coachman being chastised by a strange personage, one “of grisly aspect, with a head almost bald, and sunken cheeks, apparently of the feminine gender, though hardly to be classed in the gentler sex.” He also notices that his dear Mrs. Bullfrog is nowhere to be seen…

Not an overly long or particularly deep story, but I do enjoy Hawthorne’s deft command of the English language, and it is always a pleasure to revisit his work.

This story is available in the public domain and may be read online in many places, one of which is http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/148/

What about YOU? Have you read this story? What about others by Hawthorne? Which are your favorites among his works?

 

 

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Deal Me In – Week 15 Wrap Up

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Below are links to the stories I found that are new since last week’s wrap up post. If I’ve missed one, or if you finished after my publishing this, you may share a link in the comments and/or I will include it next week. Until then, happy reading!

Oh, and as always I encourage everyone to read each other’s posts, leaving a comment or “some other evidence” of your visit. :-)

James read Haruki Murakami and Grace Paley: “A Perfect Day for Kangaroos” and “Zagrowsky Tells“, respectively. http://jamesreadsbooks.com/2014/04/07/grace-paley-meet-haruki-murakami-a-deal-me-in-short-story-challenge/

Dale read his four of spades entry, “Kaleidoscope” in Ray Bradbury’s classic collection, The Illustrated Man: http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/ray-bradbury-kaleidoscope/

Returning Reader’s nine of clubs was Dambuzdo Marechera’s story, “Oxford Black Oxfordhttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/short-story-15-oxford-black-oxford-dambuzdo-marechera/

My ten of diamonds led me from Transylvania to the Indian Ocean as I read Fredrick Marryat’s “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountainshttps://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/the-white-wolf-of-the-hartz-mountains-by-frederick-marryat/

Katherine presents another “magical” post, featuring “Disillusion” by Edward Bryant http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/deal-me-in-week-15-disillusion/

Hanne drew “Richard Wagner’s two of hearts” (from what has become my new favorite novelty deck of cards) and read the Louise Eldrich story, “Love Snares.” http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/love-snares-by-louise-erdrich/

If you’re looking for some extracurricular short story reading and are a fan of dystopian literature, check out my preceding post about the anthology, “Perfect Flaw.”

“Perfect Flaw” a superior Anthology of Dystopian Short Stories

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(Love the cover art!)

I just recently finished this anthology of Dystopian stories, published by Seventh Star Press and edited by Robin Blankenship. Overall, I found it to be quite strong, liking almost all of the entries, and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of dystopian literature.

Before I began reading, I was perhaps most looking forward to seeing what type of worlds the authors would build in each story. It kind of reminded me of an extended “speed dating” session, but with spending a little longer 30 minutes or so with each dystopia, trying to decide which ones were the most expertly constructed, or most likely to be able to happen somewhere in our actual future. To continue that analogy, however, after this speed dating session, I wanted to explore many of the worlds in more depth and couldn’t easily pick just a few if I were to be charged with that task.

In these types of stories, other characters are not necessarily the source of “stress” for the main characters. True, they may be one source, but it is the environment itself which is the primary stressor; this makes for interesting reading, I think. The downside of reading this collection, though, is that these stories are almost universally NOT hopeful stories. “Happy” endings here may just mean that the man character has survived with his life. I.e., I didn’t find myself wishing I was the main character in any of these stories. But that’s what one expects when reading dystopian literature, right? It just means that the authors have done their job well.

I love some of the great names of dystopian institutions and governments that these authors have come up with too. For example, in Carolyn M. Chang’s story, “Smilers,” in the year 2059, it’s not a “PC” climate that has become oppressive, but a “PE” culture – “Positive Emotionality” – those who aren’t cheery are “sent away” to be trained to become so. This story also includes the great exchange:

“What if I prefer to stay as I am?”
“Miss Volenda, that is completely unacceptable.”

In Herika Raymer’s story, “Seventh Degree” we learn there is an event in that world’s history known as “The Decay,” from which civilization is still recovering and after which reproduction is strictly regulated. There are the mechanical “Regulators” and “Arbitrators” in one of the best stories, Jason Campagna’s “Hope Unknown.” In the great story “The Bird Below Ground” by S.C. Langgle, time is measured in “P.E.” years. That’s “Post Explosionum” of course. :-) Then there’s the mess hall in the story “Cracks in the Concrete” by Frank Roger, where the music is turned up so loud that conversing with one’s fellow citizens is impossible. Raise your voice? They’ll just turn it up even louder. (Kind of reminds me of how I used to deal with the strange noises an old car of mine made.) There are also the Revivologists in the creepy story, “First Head” by H.H. Donnelly, who assist in connecting (literally!) newly unfrozen heads to new bodies.

The other thing that was common for most of these stories is that I felt most of the main characters were quite heroic. What could be more heroic than the struggle to retain societal freedoms or even the right to one’s own identity? Maybe the great character Mina in the first story, Cathy Bryant’s “Cost Benefit Analysis,” is representative when she asserts: “Well I wasn’t ground down yet. And I had a plan.” Right on, girl. Fight the power!

Some of my favorites:

There’s “The Job Hunter” by Shaun Avery. In the future world of this story, those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs and become unemployed have a limited time to find a new one, and the penalty for failing to do so is, um, extreme to say the least. The story also explores the “change of heart” that the main character undergoes as his perspective changes when he loses his job. He says that formerly “like the rest of the luckily employed, I resented the taxes that I was paying to keep them (the unemployed receiving benefits) in booze.” Even worse is a later passage: “I remember the Head of Government Earth, the day they’d brought in the Unemployment Death Act. We’d all cheered at that, Bill, Chester, Arnold and me. My friends. The guys I’d worked with. Drinking… down at the pub and laughing at the lousy jobless bum counting out his Job Hunt Allowance pennies to pay for the cheapest drink on the menu in the bar. We’d laughed and I’d said, ‘You know, he’d be better off dead,’ and you know something? I’d believed it.” Chilling stuff, yet those sentiments aren’t that far from some of the rhetoric flung around today, are they?

There’s “Hope Unknown” by Jason Campagna. Hope is the main character’s name, and she finds herself recently orphaned and being shipped off-world. She and the other girls on the “orphan run” don’t talk much lest they incur the wrath of “Regulator” – a “floating gray-ball shaped robot who administer a nasty shock to unruly little girls.” Hope carries a miniature model of the Statue of Liberty with her, as it is the only thing that belonged to her mother that she has left. Her ‘captors’ try to convince her to give it up. She wonders why they don’t just take it by force since obviously they could: “I know you could’ve taken it from me, but… why do you want me to give it up?” she asks. “It is hard to take freedom from someone who will not surrender it herself,” is her mechanical overseer’s response. Something to think about, no?

One story, “The Choosing” by Michael O’Connor has probably the best line in the whole anthology: the two-word “He screamed.” (With its context, of course) that concludes the tale. Though I saw the twist coming, I think O’Connor still pulled it off quite well.

There’s the quite disturbing “Your Comfort is Important to Us” by Tanith Korravai. Short but very effective, it seems at the onset to be a very clinical set of instructions for expectant mothers, but it turns darker by degrees, and the more you learn the more you wish you didn’t know. Quite effective.

A candidate for my favorite story would be the final one, “The Useless,” by Ellen Brock. Strategically placed at the end of the collection, it ends with an offer of some real hope. The premise is that of a society which literally discards its members who are deemed “useless.” The main character, Ishka, who is physically and mentally impaired as the result of a childhood accident, has reached the age where youths are chosen by one of the society’s “trades” to follow their most suitable career path. Sadly, and at great disappointment to her parents, she is not chosen for anything. She’s useless to “Our Great Nation.” She leaves home but fortunately falls in with some other useless members of society being sheltered in the basement of the city’s undertaker. (The non-useless citizens of the city have always assumed the undertaker is getting rid of them in his incinerator. Quite humane, huh?) Things go well for awhile until the undertaker dies and Ishka is forced to rally her limited intelligence to propose an alternative to the incinerator solution when they are discovered by the new, unsympathetic undertaker. Great story.

This post has turned out much longer than I hoped, but only because this is such a good collection. The Kindle edition of the anthology is only 3.99 and may be found here on amazon

I was lucky enough to learn of it at the time of a $0.99 sale – that’s less than six cents a story for some of these great works. Amazing.

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The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat

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“What matters it to us, whether we are tried by, and have to suffer from, the enmity of our fellow-mortals, or whether we are persecuted by beings more powerful and more malevolent than ourselves?”

This week for my 2014 Deal Me In Sort Story Reading Challenge I drew the ten of Diamonds, which I had assigned to the Fredrick Marryat story, “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains.” Diamonds are my suit for stories recommended by others, and I first learned of this story via Paula Cappa’s excellent blog and its weekly feature “Tuesday’s Tale of Terror” (see here for her post on this story.

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(Above: not the rampaging werewolf of this story, but perhaps its equal in gruesome-ness)

This is a werewolf tale, and apparently one of the earliest of that genre. It is contained within an almost (almost!) incidental framing story, where two mariners, “Philip” and “Krantz,” have lost most of their crew and are attempting to sail back to “civilization.” What a perfect opportunity for Krantz to tell his story:

“I take it for granted, that you have heard people speak of the Hartz Mountains,” observed Krantz.
“I have never heard people speak of them, that I can recollect,” replied Philip; “but I have read of them in some book, and of the strange things which have occurred there.”

It seems Krantz is the only surviving member of a small Transylvanian family whose history has been marked by violent death. A family whose father murdered the mother, after catching her in an act of infidelity, then fled north to the Hartz Mountains (Germany) of the story’s title. There they live a harsh and lonely existence that settles into routine until, while hunting one day, the father sees and pursues a white she-wolf. Just as he draws a bead on it and is preparing to fire his rifle, however, it mysteriously disappears. On the way back to the family’s cabin, though, he encounters a man and daughter, half-frozen, looking for shelter which he, naturally, offers.

(Below: a view of the Hartz Mountains)

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The man tells him that they too are fleeing Transylvania “where my daughter’s honour and my life were equally in jeopardy!” As one might expect, Krantz’s father falls for this young girl (Oh, I forgot to mention that she was beautiful :-) ) and they eventually marry. The strange girl’s father, oddly, insists on the vows being exchanged not including the phrase “by heaven” but instead “by all the spirits of the Hartz Mountains.” Reluctantly, the storyteller’s father agrees – but wouldn’t that be a red flag? Anyone?

The beautiful young woman becomes an “evil stepmother” to the storyteller and his siblings. The oldest brother begins to note her strange nocturnal disappearances where, upon returning, she invariably goes to wash herself. What could she be doing out there? Many of these nights of her absence are also marked by the howl of a wolf, seemingly just outside the window of the children. Hmm… Slowly, as the evil deeds of this “woman” mount up, young Krantz’s fear of her transforms: “…but I no longer felt afraid of her; my little heart was full of hatred and revenge.”

Since I’m providing a link to the text of the story, I won’t reveal the additional events that transpire at and around the cabin, but will say that as a result, Krantz lives under a curse. A curse that includes as part of his fate that “His bones will bleach in the wilderness…” Will he escape it, or will it find him even half way across the world. Why not read the story and find out?

Read the book free online here:

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater also produced an audio version of this tale that is available here:

This was the first story I’ve ever read by Fredrick Marryat. I enjoyed the almost fairy tale-like feel that it retained in spite of being somewhat gruesome. It seems that Marryat was something of a Renaissance Man as well, excelling in many fields (he also invented a flag-based signaling system for seagoing vessels and was in command of the ship the brought the news of Napoleon’s death back to Europe). What about you? Have YOU encountered him in any of your reading?

My roster of stories for DMI 2014:

(Below author Fredrick Marryat)

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Deal Me In – Week 14 Wrap Up

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We start the second quarter of Deal Me In 2014 with another eclectic group of short stories and thoughtful posts. Below are links to new posts by our participants since our week 13 update last Sunday. (I try to meet an unofficial deadline of five p.m. EST for these wrap-up posts)

Please consider taking the time to visit the other participants’ posts or even “like” them or leave a comment to share some feedback.

Dale posts about a baseball story by Zane GreyThe Redheaded Outfield http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/zane-grey-the-redheaded-outfield/

Hanne reads Alice Munro’s The Bear Came Over the Mountain http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/week-14-the-bear-came-over-the-mountain-by-alice-munro/

Katherine links to another card trick for her two of hearts, “16 Minutes” by Eric Lustbader http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/deal-me-in-week-14-16-mins/

My king of hearts led me to Katherine Vaz’s story “Undressing the Vanity Dollshttp://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/undressing-the-vanity-dolls-by-katherine-

Candiss of Read the Gamut drew the five of clubs and read Denis Johnson’s story, “Emergency” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/deal-me-in-challenge-story-14-emergency-by-denis-johnson/

“Undressing the Vanity Dolls” by Katherine Vaz

This week for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge I drew the “mustache-less” King of Hearts (he’s the only king without a mustache – a fun bit of trivia I only learned today when preparing this post).

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Did you also know that the four kings in the standard deck of cards also supposedly represent four historical kings? The King of Hearts is Charlemagne, while Spades = King David, Clubs = Alexander the Great, and Diamonds, depending on who you ask = Julius or Augustus Caesar. Okay, done with the trivia. :-)

For this year’s challenge, Hearts are my suit for stories recommended by others.  (Update 4/12/14: actually I have this wrong: diamonds are my “recommended by others” suit. I had more stories recommended by others  that I had room for in that suit and a few bled into other suits. Hearts is actually my suit for women authors) Katherine Vaz is a Portugese-American writer who I learned about in quite a random way. Often, after our monthly meetings at the Kurt Vonnegut Library book club, some of us will adjourn to a nearby restaurant (named after the Vonnegut novel, Bluebeard) for lunch. Last July, it was just going to be two of us going, so I agreed with my colleague to “just meet you over there.” I got there first, and when he arrived he had two strangers with him. Seems he had been chatting with some “international visitors” in the library and, when asked to recommend a good place for lunch, did what any fine ambassador of our city would do and invited them along. They were in town for a “Portuguese Diaspora” conference (apparently there’s one every year somewhere in the world) at Butler University. We enjoyed a nice lunch and also a sharing of our literary interests. Long story short, I saw this as excellent opportunity to collect some reading recommendations. I explained my annual short story reading challenge to our guests, and they offered several Portuguese authors to consider. One was Katherine Vaz, and I’ve included two of her stories from her collection “Fado and Other Stories” in my 2014 roster.

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I got off to a slow start with this story and was worried I wouldn’t like it. I even remember thinking, well, at least I learned what vanity dolls are (“people use them to displace vain desires. If a nun, or any devout person, painted a ball-gown onto a doll and gave it new earrings, the doll absorbed her wish to have those things. A doll dressed as a sailor could cure a travel bug, and one painted with flowers could relieve one of carnal aches.”) I’d never heard of vanity dolls before, and I guess I’ve assumed they really exist and aren’t just a vehicle for this story. Does anyone know?

Anyway, the story really blossomed the more of it I read. The main character, Reginald, now an astronomer, is making a visit to an old favorite botany professor of his (from twenty years ago) who is dying. The hook of the story is that Reginald has always suspected that there was once “something between” the professor (Eduardo Dias) and Reginald’s wife, Alicia. Reginald has never directly confronted Alicia with his suspicions, but has hinted around the bush about it for years. Appropriately, Vaz describes his marriage thus: “Reginald’s marriage to Alicia was redolent with what was withheld, which made it an ordinary, garden-variety union.”

Dias was/is an inveterate charmer, and Reginald has before told his wife that Dias “…had that ability to make everyone feel that he, or she, I suppose, was the only other person alive. It’s a gift. He was like that with me.” On Reginald’s visit to the dying man, Dias insists he take him to the seashore, as a red tide will be coming in, and he wants to see it. Reginald is spellbound by the phenomenon and thinks of Dias that “…he still knew the best secrets. He had a way of making you want to give him something in return.” His visit to Dias also leads him to know, “better than he has ever known… that vitality is plainly the cloak that sexuality wears, so that it can go out in public. That was what his professor was made of, that was his cloak, his finery.”

Vaz’s writing in the final pages of this story totally wowed me. An example: “The red tide was drifting south, the neon blue receding, and as easily as that, as easily and swiftly as a comet arrives, passes on, and does not return again, not in one’s lifetime, the moment for Dias to ask Reginald why he had given him the silent treatment, and for Reginald to ask if the letters were never for Alicia out of a well-founded guilt, came and left, and would present its chance to be regarded no more. Such nullifying moments exist, and their vacancy is as strong as all else that one might name.”

That passage – especially the last sentence – gave me goosebumps, and did again just now as I typed this. So … I guess I liked this story. :-)

What about you? Have you heard of or read this author? What about other Portuguese or Portuguese-American writers? Id love to hear of them.

(Below: a red tide.)

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Game of Thrones Re-Watch Marathon Part 6 (Second half of Season 3)

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(Billy Idol: It’s a nice day for a … White Red Wedding!)

General Observations

It’s funny – it hasn’t really been that long since I watched season three the first time, but as I looked forward to this re-watch, I was thinking it was all about “The Red Wedding” in the infamously blood-spattered ninth episode. But season three is so much more than that. So many more subtleties that I overlooked the first time, whether it’s Roose Bolton asking a hand-less Jaime “are you sure you’ve not overplayed your … position?” Or the stunned look The Hound gives Arya after she knocks out the man whose wagon they help fix on the road to The Twins. Clegane finally “gets it” – this girl’s a badass.

This season is full of instances of odd pairings, or “strange bedfellows,” if you will. Aside from the great story arc of the evolving relationship between Jaime and Brienne, there are also the couples Jon and Ygritte (a Crow and a Wildling woman? That’ll never last!).

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There’s also the uneasy partnership of Osha and Meera Reed (natural rivals, yet united by their loyalty to Bran), the bumbling yet good-hearted Sam Tarly and Craster’s widow/daughter, Gilly. We’ve also got the two weddings Tywin arranges -two more odd pairings, Sansa and Tyrion, and Cersei and Ser Loras. Ser Barristan Selby having showed up in Essos to serve “the true heir” pairs him with Ser Jorah – they are united by their service to Daenerys, but both have left their homeland and NOT on their own terms. And of course sharing a storyline – and a horse! – are my favorite mismatched couple: Arya and The Hound.

One other thing. I rarely get caught up in a television series like I have with this one. The only other recent instance would be last year’s final season of AMC’s brilliant series, “Breaking Bad.” But that was different. I had read no book. I didn’t know what was going to happen. None of us knew what was going to happen, but oh were we happy to be along for that ride. It’s a testament to those who have produced the Game of Thrones series that a viewer might become swept away in spite of already “knowing” the story. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who hasn’t read the books but has enjoyed the tv series. That must be a different experience, eh?

Another somewhat amusing twist in this season is how fast these child actors are growing up. Bran hardly looks the same, and Sansa and Arya have also grown up a bit.  Better accelerate that filming schedule, HBO! Oh well, I’m running out of time before the season four premier, so this post I’ll just take it an episode at a time, mentioning my favorite moments and observations on each.

Episode 6 “The Climb”

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Lots of action in the north for this episode. I confess that the segments beyond the wall are not usually among my favorites, but the scene toward the end of the episode as the Wildlings – and Jon Snow – scale the ice is truly intense. Of course, this may just be due to my fear of heights, I don’t know. :-) But at least the view at the end is worth it for Jon & Ygritte.

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(above: “Jonny and Ygritte, standing on the wall…”)

Also in this episode, Arya meets The Red Woman (Mellisandre) for the first time. Her assessment? “I don’t like that woman.” Good enough for me. Mellisandre warns Arya that “I’ll see you again…” Be careful what you wish for, there, Red.

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(Melissandre tries to intimidate Arya. Good luck with that.)

Best comic relief of the episode, not surprisingly, goes to Tyrion as he and Cersei are musing about their upcoming and unwanted nuptials, and which of the four of them has the worst of it. Tyrion admits he supposes it’s Sansa, but observes that “Loras will certainly come to know a deep and singular misery.” Bwahaha! And speaking of Loras, I guess he’d be a runner up in the comedy category for his awkward and thankfully short-lived “courting” of Sansa.

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And what was with the whole (weird) Petyr Baelish “Ladder Soliloquy” scene at the end of this episode? Sorry, Petyr, whatever it is you’re selling, I’m not buying it. You have what – as I learned in Psych 101 – are called “delusions of grandeur.” To me, you’re a piker, and you’ll always be a piker. (I kept waiting for the Wayne’s World overly dramatic “Oscar Clip” marker to start flashing on the screen.)

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Episode 7 “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

There’s a great early scene here with Tywin and Joffrey as the Lannister Patriarch begins to “manage” the young tyrant.

Joffrey whines: “But I haven’t been counseled by anyone about this!”
Tywin: “You are being counseled at this very moment.”
Heh heh. Joffrey’s still afraid of his granddad it seems.

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(above: Harrenhal – the cursed)

Also in this episode, Arya escapes the brotherhood but runs straight into the clutches of The Hound. A blessing for the viewers, if not for her. The best scenes in this episode, though, involve Jaime’s decision to return to save Brienne from Locke. Riding to King’s Landing, Jaime realizes that in a way it is his fault that Locke refused – and felt insulted by – Brienne’s father’s offered ransom. He turns around and rides back to Harrenhal to save her, finding her in a pit, forced to fight a gigantic bear with a wooden sword. It seems Jaime’s developed a consience – that almost makes me forget the thing he did for love at the start of “this damn series.”

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And Locke. What an evil character he is. Such a mercenary. I can see no redeeming qualities in him. It’s a wonder he’s not working for King Joffrey.

(below: Locke. Don’t you love to hate him too?)

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Episode 8 “Second Sons”

Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding is “the social event of the season” (a title it will only hold until the next episode is watched, though). Joffrey does his worst to ruin everything, removing Tyrion’s stepstool so that he cannot “cloak” Sansa, and snickering at Tyrion’s embarrassment. Oh, ever the romantic, Joffrey also threatens to rape the bride if Tyrion passes out from drunkenness. Charming.

Robb determines he needs the Freys to win the war so he decides to apologize to them. Meanwhile Arya learns from the Hound that he is taking her to the Twins also in hopes Catelyn and Robb will pay a ransom.

We spend some quality time with Daenerys in this episode too, as she plots to take another of the seemingly countless cities in Essos. This one is protected by a trio of mercenaries, however, who she invites to a parlay. Two are rude to her, but one is apparently smitten, and it seems we’ll be saddled with Daario Naharis (or “Fabio Face” as I think of him) for many episodes to come…

Good hearted Sam Tarly has his best moment in this episode too, as he is leading young Gilly and her baby back south of the wall and to safety, only to find a white walker in the way.  Thankfully, he has a dragon glass (obsidian?) dagger on hand to disintegrate the walker to smithereens!

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Episode 9 “The Rains of Castamere”

The history of television is rich with many on-screen weddings. The one in this episode would instantly make any top ten lists in that category. It’s certainly the bloodiest since that night in May 1985, when virtually the ENTIRE CAST of the nighttime soap hit “Dynasty” were attacked and seemingly gunned down by terrorists at Amanda’s Moldavian(?) (made up country) wedding. Or am I the only one old enough to remember that?

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But before we get to the blessed event. A few other things are happening in this episode…

On the road to the Twins, The Hound decides to appropriate the wagon of a pig farmer so that they more easily will gain admittance to the wedding feast. The Hounds knocks the farmer out and draws his blade to kill him but Sansa pleads with -and stops – him. She even goes so far as to tell him “I know a killer. A real killer. You’d be like a kitten to him.” Um, and this is The Hound she’s talking to. I think it’s in this same episode where she tells him, “Someday, I’m gonna put a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull.” God I love that “little girl.”

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(above: The Hound – did that little girl really just knock that guy out cold?)

As for the wedding, well the Freys (mostly Walder, who looks just like the guy with the cat (Filch) at Hogwarts in Harry Potter – oh, it IS the same guy! Actor David Bradley. What range!) have ostensibly accepted Robb’s apology for marrying someone besides one of the Frey girls as he’d promised. I can certainly understand why Walder was so upset, seeing how he doesn’t even know all the girls’ names. Things seem to be going well at the ceremony. Robb’s uncle Edmure is pleasantly surprised that he seems to have found the one attractive Frey girl for his wife. Drinking and merrymaking abound, until the bride and groom leave and the doors are closed. The “live music” being played in the hall changes to a more somber pace (how many more clues do you need, Starks?!), and a bloodbath ensues as Frey exacts his revenge (in return for future Lannister favors we find out later.) With crossbow men in the balcony, the Stark party is massacred. The same is happening outside.

The Hound and Arya arrive just in time for Arya to witness Robb’s direwolf being butchered by Frey men. This must’ve been a shocker of an episode for those viewers who hadn’t read the books. Speaking of the books, Talisa didn’t attend the wedding in A Storm of Swords. You might say that she chose… wisely… in the book.

Episode 10 “Mhysa”

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It kind of felt like the prior episode should have been the season finale, but – just as at Walder Frey’s great hall – there’s some cleanup to do.

Jon Snow, escaped from the wildlings, is tracked down by Ygritte, and she shoots some arrows into him. He didn’t think she would. Neither did I.

One great scene is when Arya and The Hound (still saddle buddies) come upon four of the Frey men gloating about the massacre. Arya slips off the saddle, circling around behind one of them and kills him with a knife. The others arise but they are no match for The Hound. After the men have been dispatched, The Hound humorously tells Arya, “If you’re going to do something like that again, tell me first.”

At the city of Yunkai, which Daenerys has brought under her control thanks to her army of “unsullied” and her now three lieutenants, the Mother of Dragons frees its slaves as well. The episode ends with the crowd chanting Mhysa (“mother”) as she walks into the throng of them. (For a moment I thought we would see some crowd-surfing, Essos style, but some of them lift her up in more of a winning Super Bowl coach style.) The episode – and season – ends to the chants of “Mhysa! Mhysa!” while Daeny’s three dragons circle overhead, signaling the start of our anxious wait for season four, which is now almost upon us!!

Well, thanks for joining us for this trip down memory lane for the first three seasons.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as Garrison and I have enjoyed throwing these posts together.  Going forward, “we now return you to Bibliophilopolis’s regular programming”… :-)

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