Nominations Queries Post Two

Sep. 20th, 2017 04:45 pm
morbane: uletide mod image of guinea pig among daisies (mod)
[personal profile] morbane posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
We have been working on the tag set for 102.5 hours, and the number of individual fandom nominations has gone down from 5058 to 1660. There are 2054 approved fandoms now in the tag set.

Thank you for your answers to the previous queries! We have some more, and some lingering:


Дуэлянт | The Duelist (2016) - We can't find Pyotr Yakovlev's brother. Could the nominator please confirm he appears in the film?

Extraction (2013) - We can't find a Victor. Could the nominator please confirm he appears in the film?

灵契 | Ling Qi | Spiritpact - This has been nominated with overlapping characters, using Japanese and Chinese names respectively: You Keika, Tanmoku Ki, Tanmoku Rakugetsu, and You Nei; and Yang Jinghua, Duanmu Xi, Duanmu Siming, and Qin Siyao. Could each nominator please confirm which media they mean, and can we please combine these character names using one of the versions?

No Game No Life - Kamiya Yuu - we're a little confused by the character 『 』| Kuuhaku | Blank. Could the nominator please give their reasoning for nominating this character separately?

A Place to Call Home (TV) - We can't find the character Tom. Could the nominator please give us a pointer?

Plantagenets Series - Sharon Kay Penman - For Geoffrey Plantagenet, could the nominator please confirm they mean Geoffrey V Count of Anjou, or some other character?

Six of Crows Series - Leigh Bardugo - It's not clear to us that Nikolai Lantsov belongs here. Could the nominator please give us their reasoning?

Smosh - the characters nominated are Keith Leak Jr., Noah Grossman, Olivia Sui, and Shayne Topp. Could the nominator please clarify if this is a nomination for RPF, or for fictionalized characters that share the names of the real people?

Sylvester or the Wicked Uncle - Georgette Heyer For Lady Marlow, could the nominator please confirm whether they mean Lady Verena Marlow or Lady Constance Marlow?

These Old Shades - Georgette Heyer - As far as we can tell, Dominic Alastair does not appear in this book. (He is also nominated in The Devil's Cub.) Could the nominator please give their reasoning for nominating him here?

Trial and Error (TV 2017) - We can't find the character Anne Cox. Could the nominator please confirm and give us pointers to when she appeared?


All Media Types fandoms
We need clarification from the person (or people) who nominated the following fandoms. Please specify a single version of the canon and provide a link to your nominations page so we can confirm the nomination. If these aren't answered, the fandoms will be rejected:
  • Gone With the Wind - All Media Types, characters: Belle Watling, Careen O'Hara, Mammy, Melanie Hamilton (Gone with the Wind - All Media Types)

  • The Martian - All Media Types, characters: Beth Johanssen, Chris Beck, Mark Watney (The Martian - All Media Types)

  • A Room With a View - All Media Types, characters: Charlotte Bartlett, Eleanor Lavish

  • The Witches of Eastwick - All Media Types, characters: Alexandra Medford, Darryl Van Horne, Jane Spofford, Sukie Ridgemont [if we don't hear back from the nominator on this one, we may go with the 1987 film]


Ensemble characters
We will accept labels like “the Council” or “the hunters” for characters in cases where the ensemble does not have different distinct characters in it. For the following fandoms, please either confirm that there are no distinct characters in the group, or pick a single character out of the group you’ve nominated.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (TV 2016) - The Rowdy 3

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy - The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel

  • Velvet Goldmine - Flaming Creatures


Ineligible RPF fandoms
The follow RPF fandoms are too large and will not be approved. Nominators, please suggest an alternative category; if we do not hear from you, we may either fold the characters into another nominated category, or reject the fandoms & characters.
  • Formula 1 RPF - characters: Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna

  • Pop Music RPF - characters: Beyoncé Knowles, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake



If you are commenting about your own nomination to say what you would like done with characters or fandoms, please link your nominations page! It is the page you get by clicking ‘My Nominations’ from the tag set.

If you notice any problems with your approved nominations - mis-spellings, etc - feel free to comment on this post.

lunes OR The State of Me, Post-Harvey

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:48 am
ahestele: (Default)
[personal profile] ahestele
Otherwise known as, Journaling For Therapy in 5 E-Z Steps. Really long. Scroll past if your own family drama is enough for you. )

THERAPY THROUGH BRITISH POLICE PROCEDURALS

Since The Email, I have been self-therapying with British police procedurals which, to be fair, I love anyhow. I've just been binging them and D has been watching with me. I have rated them in order of how much I want to visit the country they are set in which happens to be in keeping with how much I love them. I'm not including Broadchurch since my deep love for it goes without saying:

1. Shetland- I love this SO MUCH. The countryside looks so lush and green and I love Jimmy Perez and Tosh the best. I continue to be highly amused at his Spanish surname and how totally plausible it is because Spaniards are often blond and fair. I am a season behind because the new one isn't on Netflix until it is complete but I can't wait!

2. Wallander- HOW did I not know Fetus!Tom Hiddleston was on this?? HOW?? You are all FIRED! Also, I know this is based on the Swedish mystery series, ok? Kenneth Branagh is a Brit, as are all the cast. Everything is superb on this: acting, cinematography, writing. Branagh is so BROKEN in this, like, all the time, and all you want to do is give him soup and tell him to sleep.

3. Hinterland- Of all of them this is absolutely the darkest, both literally and symbolically. It pushes the gore factor considerably in crime scenes and gunshot scenes compared to the others. Very noir, but really well done, too. Another broken DCI with secrets and baggage skillfully performed by Richard Harrington, who played Captain Blamey on Poldark, where he looked 65 years old in his wig and uniform. Fantastic cast, all of them.

4. Midsomer Murders- This is the oldest series and it is A DELIGHT. We are only on the second season and enjoying it utterly. Much lighter fare and a breath of fresh air every time. It's also such fun to play spot-the actor. We've already seen a young Emily Mortimer and Elizabeth Spriggs of Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter fame.

MISC.

* D has been pre-diagnosed with gastroparesis, which basically means her stomach does not work right. We are seeing other specialists because her dr thinks there might be another condition also at play and wants to at least rule it out. It is such a relief to find a medical professional that listens and believes you, I can't tell you. Dr. Behazin in Houston and her staff are the BEST.

* I plan to visit my folks early next month because it has been way too long. My mom is not doing well being my dad's caretaker since she is not, and has never been, the best nurturing sort. Not being mean; she'd say the same. However, she is also 77 herself, so I know her health is not the best, either.

* I have not read anything in so long it is sad.

* Except for kid's graphic novels for my committee. My faves so far are

- Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
- Princess Princess Ever After by Katie 'Neill
- Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli
- Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton
- Real Frends by Shannon Hale

Okay, gente. I'ma go be productive.

I hope everyone is doing well.

Thanks for letting me use this as a space to process. It really does help. :-)

Nominations Queries Post One

Sep. 18th, 2017 10:31 am
morbane: Utena Shadow Girls Santa picture with text "absolute destiny apocalypse yuletide" (Utena)
[personal profile] morbane posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
We have been working on the tag set for 36 hours, and the number of individual fandom nominations has gone down from 5058 to 3086. There are 1076 approved fandoms now in the tag set*.


Please help us with the following issues and queries!

Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan - Both Elan Morin Tedroni and Ishamael | Moridin are nominated; other Forsaken are nominated with their original names. Please either explain why you think they should be separated out, or confirm we can approve both tags as Elan Morin Tedroni.

Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion... - Sandia Labs - As far as we can tell, Color Changing Cat is not actually from this canon, but a different exercise in considering the problems of long-term nuclear waste storage - see http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_eye/2014/05/14/_99_percent_invisible_by_roman_mars_designing_warning_symbols_for_the_nation.html. Could you please let us know if we’ve missed the cats, or if there’s another reason you believe they should be included.


Ensemble characters
We will accept labels like “the Council” or “the hunters” for characters in cases where the ensemble does not have different distinct characters in it. For the following fandoms, please either confirm that there are no distinct characters in the group, or pick a single character out of the group you’ve nominated.

  • Captive Prince - C. S. Pacat: Veretian Council

  • The Darkness (Comics): Darklings (The Darkness)

  • 終末のイゼッタ | Shuumatsu no Izetta | Izetta: The Last Witch (Anime): The Royal Guard


All Media Types fandoms
We need clarification from the person (or people) who nominated the following fandoms. Please specify a single version of the canon and provide a link to your nominations page so we can confirm the nomination. If these aren't answered, the fandoms will be rejected:
  • Captain Scarlet - All Media Types, characters: Adam Svenson | Captain Blue, Charles Gray | Colonel White, Conrad Turner | Captain Black, Paul Metcalfe | Captain Scarlet

  • Gone With the Wind - All Media Types, characters: Belle Watling, Careen O'Hara, Mammy, Melanie Hamilton (Gone with the Wind - All Media Types)

  • Goosebumps - All Media Types, characters: Cooper Holmes (The Barking Ghost), Drew Brockman (Attack of the Jack-O-Lanterns), Ginger Wald (The Beast From the East), Michael Webster (The Cuckoo Clock of Doom)

  • The Martian - All Media Types, characters: Beth Johanssen, Chris Beck, Mark Watney (The Martian - All Media Types)

  • Midsomer Murders - All Media Types, characters: Jamie Winter, Kam Karimore

  • A Room With a View - All Media Types, characters: Charlotte Bartlett, Eleanor Lavish

  • The Witches of Eastwick - All Media Types, characters: Alexandra Medford, Darryl Van Horne, Jane Spofford, Sukie Ridgemont


If you are commenting about your own nomination to say what you would like done with characters or fandoms, please link your nominations page! It is the page you get by clicking ‘My Nominations’ from the tag set.

If you notice any problems with your approved nominations - mis-spellings, etc - feel free to comment on this post.


*(NB: that’s not because we rejected ~900, but because 5058 and 3086 are totals of how often the fandom slot was filled out by nominators - whether or not they nominated the same fandom. When we approve a fandom that was nominated by two people, the total number of fandom nominations goes down by 2, and the approved fandom total goes up by 1.)
morbane: uletide mod image of guinea pig among daisies (mod)
[personal profile] morbane posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
Final number of nominations: 5058

That means that at least 1686 people nominated.

We now move into the sorting phase. Over the next days you will see the fandoms and characters you nominated being approved or rejected. You will also see us make posts here, asking for clarification.

Whenever we have enough questions for a new clarification post, we will move unanswered questions into the new post.. This is to help us keep track of which things are outstanding and prevent us from missing comments on older posts. You can help by keeping an eye on the community and helping to answer questions. The first question post will be up soon.

The evidence post is now closed, and we'll be using the evidence to review fandoms. Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit evidence.

If you are looking at your nominations page and you see that a character has been rejected, it may be that it has been approved under a different name (for example, with a fandom-specific disambiguation). Please wait until the tagset is public before raising the issue.

Lastly, please don't hammer AO3 trying to check if your fandoms have been reviewed. Doing this will only slow things down. We're not saying don’t check, but don’t sit there pressing F5. The tagset will be visible after sorting; at that point you can help us find what problems remain.

Last Day for Nominations

Sep. 15th, 2017 09:00 pm
morbane: uletide mod image of guinea pig among daisies (Yuletide)
[personal profile] morbane posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
The nominations period is now shorter than 24 hours.

Here is the countdown!

Here are the instructions!

Here we go!


Because there is a time delay in the IFTTT service that crossposts from LJ/DW to Twitter/Tumblr, we will not post a further warning here. We don't want participants who get their notifications that way to see 'two hours left' when in fact nominations ended two hours prior. If you still plan to nominate, please check the countdown and get your nominations in soon!
sineala: (Avengers: Welcome back Cap)
[personal profile] sineala
This is the Secret Empire story I was trying to finish before Omega came out. Here it is anyway!

Retrograde (9085 words) by Sineala
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Marvel (Comics), Marvel 616, Avengers (Comics)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Steve Rogers/Tony Stark
Characters: Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Janet Van Dyne
Additional Tags: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Crying, Consequences, Confessions, Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con, Fix-It of Sorts, Hopeful Ending, Civil War II (Marvel), Secret Empire (Marvel), Avengers Vol. 7 (2017), Community: cap_ironman, Cap-Ironman Bingo
Summary:After Hydra falls, Tony wakes. The world is broken. And Steve won't talk to him anymore.

I am counting this for the Cap-IM Bingo square "confession in desperate situation." There are definitely confessions. Also tears.

Yay. Back to the fanfiction mines. *opens Big Bang draft again*
brigdh: (Default)
[personal profile] brigdh
Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things by M.R. O’Connor. Despite the name, this book actually has very little on de-extinction – about half a chapter near the end, mostly on Revive & Restore's Passenger Pigeon project. Instead O'Connor writes about various conservation projects of extremely endangered (but not yet quite extinct!) species, including the Florida puma, the Kihansi spray toad, the Hawaiian crow, and the Northern White Rhino among others. We're talking severely endangered; the rhino was down to four living individuals at the time of this book's writing, and I believe it’s only three now.

O'Connor discusses the various methods taken to try and preserve these rare species – introducing members of a closely related subspecies to boost genetic diversity, capturing wild individuals to set up captive breeding programs, freezing DNA for future scientific endeavours – as well as how these approaches have succeeded and how they've failed. This leads into the other topic that forms the basis of the book: the philosophy and ethics of conservation. Does it matter if the Florida puma goes extinct if the Texas puma is still doing fine? How do we deal with a captive breeding program that leads a species to develop new traits that won't be useful in the wild? If evolution is constantly ongoing, and a species will change to match its environment, then even improving an environment means humans are influencing a species’s evolutionary path – is that choosing their future for them? If saving nature fundamentally requires meddling with nature, what does it mean to say wilderness is separate from humanity? And how does one define what counts as a 'species' anyway?

These are all pretty fascinating questions (to me, at least), and O'Connor really gave me some new ideas for musing on.. It's very much a book of science, but I also appreciated that for all the nitty-gritty details of cutting-edge research she never lost sight of the poetic, spiritual dimension to humanity's attitude toward nature.

It wasn't what I thought it would be when I checked this out of the library, but I'm very glad I read it.


Once & Future Giants: What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth’s Largest Animals by Sharon Levy. This is by far the best book I’ve found on woolly mammoths – what they looked like, what they ate, how they behaved, and so. For as much as they appear in pop culture, for as much as other books reference them, there is a surprising dearth of books just about them.

But Once & Future Giants isn’t limited to woolly mammoths. It covers multiple types of Pleistocene megafauna (the technical term for all those big species that went extinct at the end of the Ice Age – saber toothed tigers, dire wolves, giant ground sloths, mastodons, etc). There’s even a quite cool chapter on the megafauna of Australia; I’m certainly fascinated to know that there was once a ten foot tall carnivorous kangaroo and a marsupial lion. Levy also drops cool factoids about how we can still see traces of megafauna today, from the avocado (what else could eat such a giant pit?) to the plight of the California Condor, a huge bird evolved to subsist on megafauna carcasses but now trapped along the coast where it makes do with the remains of similarly-large marine mammals.

Another major focus is the ongoing debate among archaeologists and paleontologists as to why all these megafauna went extinct simultaneously. It basically boils down to two camps: humans hunted them into oblivion (the Overkill Hypothesis), or climate change did them in (the rise in temperatures at the end of the Ice Age causing steppes to transform into forests). Levy goes over the latest evidence for both sides of the debate, but never quite choses one for herself. Which I sympathize with, because there really is convincing and contradictory evidence from both sides, but also because “it was the combined effects” does seem like an obvious solution to the debate.

Late in the book, Levy applies these lessons to modern conservation issues. I was particularly fascinated by her account of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, a local environment from which they had been extinct for nearly a century. Rewilding, as it's called, was controversial with local ranchers, hunters, and even some scientists believing wolves would be dangerous and have a detrimental effect on the park. They've have been intensively studied ever since, to guard against unforeseen consequences, and the research has had some amazing finds. The wolves have not just decreased the elk population size, which anyone could have guessed, but led to growth in the songbird population, to changes in tree species, and even altered the courses of Yellowstone’s rivers. It's an incredible account of how the presence (or absence) of a single species can spiral out and out.

Overall a great book that covers an impressive array of research.

Wednesday Reading Meme

Sep. 13th, 2017 04:11 pm
sineala: Detail of Harry Wilson Watrous, "Just a Couple of Girls" (reading)
[personal profile] sineala
What I Just Finished Reading

Nothing! Because I was trying to write a Secret Empire story before Omega came out today and I didn't quite make it. (Okay, I finished the story itself. But it's still in beta.)

What I'm Reading Now

Comics Wednesday! Reviews are brief; I am tired.

Defenders #5, Generations Captain Marvel And Captain Mar-Vell #1, Ms. Marvel #22, Runaways #1, Secret Empire Omega #1, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #24, Uncanny Avengers #27, X-Men Blue #11 )

What I'm Reading Next

Dunno. Probably nothing.

Nominations end in under 3 days

Sep. 13th, 2017 09:00 pm
morbane: Utena Shadow Girls Santa picture with text "absolute destiny apocalypse yuletide" (Utena)
[personal profile] morbane posting in [community profile] yuletide_admin
All you need to know about 2017 nominations is at this post!

Click here for a countdown to when nominations end.

If you have a question for us, please ask it there, or here, or at http://yuletide-admin.livejournal.com, or by email to yuletideadmin@gmail.com! If you have already asked us a question, please feel free to remind us by commenting again or linking to it.

Some brief NetGalley reviews

Sep. 9th, 2017 07:32 pm
brigdh: (Default)
[personal profile] brigdh
Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix by Niki Jabbour. A how-to book for gardeners that encourages people to chose a more diverse range of vegetables. Jabbour opens with a sweet story describing how she herself began to explore beyond 'traditional' veggies: she planted a snake gourd, believing it to be inedible but useful for decorating once dried. Instead her mother-in-law recognized the small, young version of the gourd as a vegetable she hadn't eaten since her childhood in Lebanon, and promptly cooked a long-lost stew.

The book is organized by chapters comparing each exotic to a more standard example. Enjoy growing tomatoes? Why not try a Cape gooseberry! Tired of snap beans? What about growing your own chickpeas or edamame! A fan of cucumbers? What about the cucamelon! Each plant or varietal gets its own section with lots of photos and Jabbour's tips from her own experience growing them.

My one complaint about the book is that Jabbour doesn't list preferred Garden Zones for any of the featured plants. She does give 'days to maturity', which is helpful, but I've got to assume climate also make a difference when choosing what to grow. But other than that it's a fun, useful book for anyone who likes trying new things.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.


Slow Cook Modern: 200 Recipes for the Way We Eat Today by Liana Krissoff. I love using my slow-cooker and am therefore always looking for new recipes to try out, but most slow-cooker cookbooks repeat the same relatively small set of dishes. There's only so many pot roast or barbeque chicken recipes any one person needs.

But Slow Cooker Modern is here to the rescue! It has a diverse range of new recipes! It even has a whole chapter of vegetarian recipes! I am so happy. I get that slow-cooking lends itself to breaking down tough cuts of meat, but it's great to have a cookbook with vegetarian recipes beyond the standard chili. Here we have: eggplant tian (a ratatouille type dish), hearty sweet potato and chickpea stew with sweet spices, smoky collards and black-eyed peas, three variations of dal (though one has quinoa in it which, come on, at that point it's not dal), and creamy giant limas with sun-dried tomatoes, to name just a few.

And then, of course, there's all the other chapters. A brief selection of some of the recipes I'm most excited to try: chicken saag, whole grain congee with crisp panko chicken, romanian-style chicken and noodles, feta moussaka, Scotch broth (a lamb and barley stew), and braised pork belly sandwiches. There are also recipes for accompaniments to the main dishes, everything from corn muffins to collard slaw.

I like the layout of the book too. Krissoff is writing for people who spend most of the day out of the house at work, so each recipe takes 8 hours in the slow-cooker. She divides each recipe into steps for "morning" and "evening", and is clearly working to make each one as simple as possible while still delivering big flavor. As a lazy, lazy cook, I approve.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

Book-blogging

Sep. 8th, 2017 04:36 pm
brigdh: (Default)
[personal profile] brigdh
A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows. The sequel to the portal fantasy I read last month. Most of the plot here is fallout from the climax of that book: Saffron has returned back to Earth from the fantasy world of Kena, but can she re-adjust to a 'normal' life? And if not, what choices will she make? Yena's adopted sister died in the final battle, but can Yena reclaim religious rights for her sister's funeral and learn more about her mysterious heritage? The evil king has been overthrown, but escaped – where is he and what caused his actions? What's up with the mysterious magic artifact he left behind in the castle?

Sadly, I didn't like this book nearly as much as its predecessor. The biggest problem is simply a shift in the use of characters; whereas the first book divided its pages fairly evenly among a vast cast, A Tyranny of Queens is hugely dominated by Saffron and Yena. And I'm sorry to say it, but they're the most boring characters in this series. Both are an example of the 'normal teen girl dealing with events outside her experience' archetype, which is a fine enough archetype as far as it goes, but not one that's particularly exciting unless you give her some sort of distinctive personality trait, anything other than 'determined', 'hard-working', 'smart'. Buffy wanted to date boys and wear cute clothes; Katniss wanted to be left alone and was unexpectedly ruthless; Saffron wants... ?

The characters who did grab my attention in An Accident of Stars are pushed mostly off-screen here. Yasha, the grumpy, staff-wielding elderly matriarch who was revealed late in the first book to be an exiled queen, gets something like ten lines of dialogue in this entire book. Viya, the young, spoiled but trying hard to improve noblewoman who is named co-ruler of Kena at the end of the first book, and thus should be navigating the delicate balance of maintaining equality of power while still learning to handle so much responsibility, gets literally two scenes out of three hundred pages. And so on through a whole list of really cool characters. Instead we get multiple chapters of Saffron arguing with her guidance counselor, then her parents, then her social worker over whether she should apologize to one of her high school teachers over a minor incident caused by a bully. Exciting fantasy!

My second problem with the book, unfortunately, is much more fundamental. The plot revolves around discovering that the evil king wasn't really evil after all, but was brainwashed. I'm sure this is an attempt to do an interesting redemption arc, or to look at how even the worst-seeming villains have their reasons, but it didn't work for me at all. It felt like a cop-out to remove blame from the king by passing it on to a historic figure from centuries ago (who never gets an explanation for his evil actions, so Meadows hasn't really complicated the role of villains so much as pushed the question a few steps outside the main narrative). None of the many people who died in the wars he started or were tortured in his pursuit of knowledge get a voice in this second book, so I kept feeling as though the suffering he caused was conveniently being swept under the rug to get readers to feel sorry for him. In addition, for a book that tries so hard to be progressive, ending with 'it's not the king's fault! He was manipulated by a foreign woman who made him fall in love with her!' is, uh... not a great look.

All in all, a disappointing book. But there was enough good about the series that I'll give the author another chance.


The Written World: How Literature Shaped Civilization by Martin Puchner. A nonfiction book that makes its way through human history via the medium of literature. Each of sixteen chapters focuses on a particular classic and shows how it both influenced and was influenced by contemporary events, from Homer's Odyssey giving Alexander the Great a hero to model himself after to The Communist Manifesto inspiring revolutions across the world. A subthread is the development of the technologies of literature itself – the inventions of the alphabet, paper, the printing press, ebooks, etc.

It's a pretty neat idea for a book! Unfortunately the execution is terrible. I started off being annoyed that Puchner never seems quite clear on what he means by the term 'literature'. He implies it only includes written works (in the Introduction he says, "It was only when storytelling intersected with writing that literature was born."), and yet many of the pieces he choses to focus on were primarily composed orally (The Odyssey and the Iliad, The Epic of Sunjata, the Popul Vuh, probably the Epic of Gilgamesh, certainly at least parts of One Thousand and One Nights). And yet there's never any discussion of what it means to go from an oral mode to a written one, a topic I was eagerly awaiting to see analyzed. It's just... never addressed beyond a passing mention here and there.

Okay, fine, I thought to myself, Puchner means 'literature' as in 'stories'. But that doesn't work either, since once again many of his choices don't tell any sort of narrative (Saint Paul's letters, Martin Luther's theses, Benjamin Franklin's 'Poor Richard's Almanac', Confucius's Analects, Mao's 'Little Red Book'). So what does Puchner mean by literature, the central organizing principle of his whole book? God alone knows.

My irritation with the book deepened when I got to Chapter Four, where Puchner claims credit for inventing the concept of the Axial Age: "It was only in the course of trying to understand the story of literature that I noticed a striking pattern in the teaching of the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, and Jesus. Living within a span of a few hundred years but without knowing of one another, these teachers revolutionized the world of ideas. Many of today’s philosophical and religious schools—Indian philosophy, Chinese philosophy, Western philosophy, and Christianity—were shaped by these charismatic teachers. It was almost as if in the five centuries before the Common Era, the world was waiting to be instructed, eager to learn new ways of thinking and being. But why? And what explained the emergence of these teachers?" Sure, dude, sure. You came up with this vastly original idea all on your own. (To be fair, if one choses to read through the endnotes, Puchner does cite Karl Jaspers, though he still insists his own version is ~so different~.)

He then proceeds to get basic information about the Buddha completely wrong. For example:
Some form of writing may have existed in India during the Buddha’s time (the so-called Indus Valley script may not have been a full writing system and remains undeciphered).
This sentence. I can't even. I almost stopped reading the book right here, it's so incredibly incorrect. It's like saying, "Thomas Jefferson may have been literate, but since we find no Latin engravings in his house, we can't be sure." Let me lay out the problems. The Buddha lived around 500BCE; the last known well-accepted use of the Indus script was in 1900BCE. That's a gap of nearly two millennia. The Indus script was used on the western edge of South Asia, in Pakistan and the Indian states of Gujarat and Haryana; the Buddha lived on the eastern edge, in Nepal. At minimum, they're 500 miles apart. There is no chance in hell the Indus script was remotely relevant to writing about the Buddha. And in fact, we don't need to guess at the script of the Buddha's time and place. It's called Brahmi and it's quite well attested – though Puchner doesn't once mention it. He does include a photo of an Indus seal, because why not waste more space on utterly irrelevant information.

Let's quickly go through the problems on the rest of this single page:
What mattered above all were the age-old hymns and stories of the Vedas, which were transmitted orally by specially appointed Brahmans for whom remembering the Vedas was an obligation and a privilege.
Though the Vedas do have an important oral history, they were certainly written down by the time of the Buddha, and possibly as early as 1000BCE.
The oldest Indian epic, the Ramayana, was also orally composed and only later written down, much like Homeric epics.
The Mahabharata is generally considered to be the older of the two epics.

Despite my disillusionment at this point, I continued on with the book. And to be fair, I noticed many fewer mistakes! Though possibly because I know much less about Renaissance Germany or Soviet Russia than I do about Indian history. I did hit several problems again in the chapter on the Popul Vuh, the Mayan epic. To begin with, the chapter opens with a long dramatic scene recreating the Spanish conquistadores' capture of Atahualpa, the Incan emperor. Incan. Who lived in Peru, in South America. The Classic Mayan culture was based in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize – North America and a bit of Central America. This time Puchner is literally on the wrong continent.

Once he finally makes his way up to the Mayan homeland, he focuses his narration on Diego de Landa, a Spanish priest who did indeed write an important ethnography of the Mayans of the 1500s. The Classic Mayan Era was over by 950CE, introducing a discrepancy Puchner does not deign to acknowledge. Even aside from that small problem, Puchner describes Landa's writings multiple times as "an account [...] that has remained the primary source of information on Maya culture." This entirely ignores not only the Popul Vuh itself; but the multiple other Mayan codices that survived Spanish colonialism; the many Mayan writings carved on their pyramids, palaces, and stele, and painted on their pottery; their murals of war, sport, and history; the enormous archaeological record of their cities, technology, and diet; and, oh yeah, the fact that Mayan people are still around today.

Oh, my bad – Puchner does remember the Mayans still exist. Here's what he has to say about them:
"My journey began in the Lacandon jungle. A bus dropped me at the border of the Maya territory, where a beat-up truck picked me up at the side of the road. The village of several dozen huts was located in a clearing in the jungle. Everyone but me was dressed in what looked like long white nightgowns. Men and women both wore their black hair shoulder length (I thought of the shipwrecked sailor who had gone native), and most of them walked around barefoot, sometimes donning rubber boots."
That's it. That's literally the only mention of the modern Mayan people. (Puchner's in the area to learn about the Zapatista uprising, to which he devotes the rest of the chapter.) I'm so glad he spent ages detailing that and de Landa's biography instead of devoting any space at all to the contemporary persistence of Mayan beliefs, language, or rituals.

When I first read its blurb, I looked forward to the rest of The Written World. Unfortunately it's the closest I've come to hurling a book at the wall in a long, long time.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

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