The Death of Marat

La Mort de Marat, Jacques-Louis David
La Mort de Marat, Jacques-Louis David

One of my favorite asides in Robin McKinley’s Sunshine is the description of a fluffy little Gothic dessert dish called Death of Marat.

A Gothic sensibility in the bakery is not necessarily a good thing. I’d made this light fluffy looking number in a white oval dish with white high sides and presented the first one with a flourish to a group of regulars who had volunteered to be experimented on. Aimil was the one with the knife, and she stuck it in and the raspberry-and-black-currant filling had exploded down the side and over the edge of the dish onto the counter. It was, I admit, a trifle dramatic. “Gods, Sunshine, what is this, the Death of Marat?” she said. Aimil reads too much. Everybody at Charlie’s that night wanted a taste, and the Death of Marat, the first of Sunshine’s soon-to-be-notorious, implausibly-named epic creations, was born, although I think most of our clientele thought Marat was some kind of master vampire.

I love this little intersection of art and literature.

Ceviche House

on Muncaster Mill Rd, Rockville, MD

Went to Ceviche House today as part of work’s holiday party. The buffet was very good: ceviche, salad, sweet potato, rice, some sort of beefed up corn, rice, sauteed beef, potato, and red onion, fried seafood, chimichurri rice with chicken, yucca fries and two kinds of chili sauces. Everything was delicious. The ceviche was a bit salty though. I’d love to try and make ceviche at home.

Chalion

Last year, not so long ago, I read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, and promptly fell in love with this alternate universe with its pantheon of five gods and its medieval background. I think what makes these books so extraordinary is the level of detail and originality in this invented religious tradition. Although only one of five gods of this world (the divine Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, and Bastard) makes a cameo appearance towards the end of The Curse of Chalion, their presence is pervasive. People don’t really worship the gods, per se, but there are religious rites and orders devoted to each of them. There are miracles too; brief instances where the gods directly influence the world through saints. Here comes the interesting part (at least in my humble opinion):

“Men’s will is free. The gods may not invade it… Only if they borrow or are given will from a living creature, do they have a little channel in which to act… A saint is not a virtuous soul, but an empty one. He–or she–freely gives the gift of their will to their god. And in renouncing action, makes action possible.” Curse of Chalion, pp. 225.

One of my other favorite parts is that the gods desire great souls, not pure or virtuous ones. I can’t find the exact quote just now, but I think it was from Paladin of Souls.

Bujold invents a very interesting god in the Bastard. I mean, even his name is amusing. The Bastard is half-demon, half-divine. As a result of his status as a bastard, he is the god of “all things out of season” such as natural disasters, murders, orphans, and, of course, illegitimate children. He’s the weakest of the divine family, but he’s the god of balance. On rare occasions he grants miracles of justice, more commonly known as death magic, through his death demon.

I’d like to write more, but it’s getting late… Anyway, I highly recommend both books (Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls). It’s not all spirituality; there’s some interesting intrigue, lots of adventure, characters with depth and development, and humor. There’s just lots of good things about these books. 🙂