I wrote earlier about weight-lifting, but made this a separate entry as the subjects were so disparate. I was reading The Encyclopedia of the English Language and Anthony Burgess’s A Dead Man in Deptford at the same time, which didn’t work out well; apparently linguistics and Burgess use similar parts of my brain and neither is all that relaxing. The Encyclopedia is designed more for browsing than reading straight through, and any way I was mostly interested in the oldest history that’s shared with Dutch. When I finished the part I wanted to read and put the book away, I decided I needed a break from A Dead Man in Deptford, so I picked up the copy of The Privilege of the Sword tat’s been sitting on my shelf since WorldCon. (Signed, even.)

I feel lucky in that I don’t think it’s even the frst new book I’ve loved this year – but the others were Pratchett and so they were in a known world and with people I knew. This is the first completely new world this year that’s going in the “loved” mental category. I finished it in a day, having been working on Brugess for more than a week.

But damn me if it’s not the saying same damned thing as the Burgess, only in more palatable form. I suppose it’s not surprising if it shares the themes of freedom to love who you will, identity, gender roles, since the main plot is a coming of age and Marlowe, who died so before thirty, hardly had time to do anything else. TPotS as the luxury of a happy ending, one advantage of iction over history – though then again, though I haven’t read any other Burgess nor even seen A Clockwork Orange, I get the impression he may have not been a happ-endings sort of writer. Not so much because of the ending but maybe more because I not only understood the character (and Burgess does show us enough of Marley to understand) but saw enough of a younger me in her, TPotS is a book to love, but for me A Dead Man in Deptford is one only to admire. Burgess’s Marlowe is real enough, mind you, and I can imagine the historical Marlowe to have been much like him – it’s just that I’ve never been anyone like him. I suppose an inability to love books in whose characters I can’t see myself may be a personal failing. (Interestingly enough, though, I think if fictional Kate the swordswoman’s fictional uncle had met Burgess’s version of Marlowe, he’d have loved not only the book but also the poet.

Even if I hadn’t fallen in love with TPotS earlier, though, she’d have had me in the very last scene. There Kate, finally in a position to choose her own clothing, has her dressmaker rip open the sleeves of a new dress and lace them up with ribbon, to permit her the freedom to wield a sword even while dressed as a lady. As I’ve often written, as soon as I put on the least bit of arm muscle, nothing even noticeable to the eye, I begin having problems with the fit of sleeves and armholes even in clothing like sparts bras whose designers should have known better. I don’t know whether Ellen Kushner is an athlete herself, or has spoken to many or if she just has a more logical mind than most designers of women’s clothing, but that tiny detail showed me such understanding of the necessary detail of her character’s life that as soon as I finished the book I went and wrote a fangirl note in her LJ. I don’t generally do that; my excuse is that the sleeves drove me to it.