Saturday, February 28, 2004

Oh, what a Henry!

I came up with this during a bout of silliness. I didn't write it so much as rip off a Dead White Guy. So, without further ado:

Upon Tilney's Clothes
(shamelessly stolen from Robert Herrick)

Whenas in greatcoats my Henry goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The innumerable capes of his clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That smart top hat, boots to the knee,
Oh, how that vision taketh me!

Powerful stuff, huh? Now you can all say you knew me when.
Okay, I know it's crazy, but there's a song by Lucinda Williams that makes me think of Northanger Abbey.

Louisiana man with a style his own,
Not like some other men I've known,
With his cowboy boots and his hats he wore so well

Am I the only one who thinks "Louisiana Man" is about a cowboy Henry Tilney?

You know you're a Janeite when you find Austen references in country music.

New links!

Duirwaigh Gallery is mythic/fantasy art gallery, with plans to become an artists' retreat. I could spend hours on hours here, it's just an incredible collection. It has a section for artist Kinuko Craft, who has painted covers for numerous fantasy books, as well as for one of the Jane Austen mysteries (is it the seventh?). Make sure you check out their trailer.

The Amazon Bookstore Cooperative is the oldest feminist bookstore in the country. Wish I lived in Minneapolis.

See, that's the kind of thing I want to do when I grow up. Own a Feminist Fantasy independent bookstore, or something like that. I'd gleefully refuse to sell Piers Anthony (oh, just wait till I get to that book entry. Hell hath no fury like a feminist bookworm).

Friday, February 27, 2004

We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement

This blog is about books, reading, writing, and anything to do with them. I only intend to get political when it relates to those subjects.

And, occaisonally, when it affects me personally.

I don't have anything to say that others haven't already stated, except to say: Fuck off, you jackass.

One of the best posts I've read is the February 24 entry over at One Good Thing.

After you've read that, turn up your speakers, and rock on for equal rights.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled bookish blather. Tune in tomorrow for The Official Busy Nothings Ode to Henry Tilney.

P.S. Don't feel sorry about the comments Mags! I'm just techno-illiterate, that's all. I'm getting error messages too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

wow, apparently people are actually reading this thing...

People have started linking to me! And commenting as well. Thought I'd give you all a run-down of my links over there on the side bar (flattery will get you everywhere):

The Republic of Pemberley is quite possibly the most civilized place on the net. If you're a Janeite, you probably already know of it; if you have the misfortune to be ignorant of the wonders of Jane Austen, the ROP is the place to find enlightenment.

Tilneys and Trapdoors is Mags personal website, and one of my favorite places on the net. I don't read a lot of fan fiction, but I never miss one of her Austen fics. I never miss Sick and Wicked either, which is just the perfect name for a snarky Jane Austen blog. On top of all that she's got a shrine dedicated to that most perfect of Austen heroes, Henry "Da Man" Tilney. Remind me to post my poetic parody in praise of the Da Man one of these days.

The Green Man Review is a must for all fans of fantasy literature, folk culture, and roots music. Top notch reviews of everything you can imagine, from mainstream movies to obscure folk musicians in Eastern Europe and farther. Grab a pint of Dragon Breath's Stout, sit down and listen to the Neverending Session, and explore the "roots and branches of art and culture."

Neil Gaiman is a favorite at The Green Man Review, and one of my favorite authors as well. He's a genre-busting author of dark fantasy, and his work is that "Wow-that-was-FANTASTIC-I'm-going-to-go-out-and-read-everything-he's-ever-written-right-now!" kind of good. And even though he dresses all in black and makes his living frightening children, he seems to be a pretty cool and laid-back kind of guy. Don't miss his blog.

The Endicott Studio is a meeting place for authors and artists interested in the mythic and magical. It isn't updated nearly as often as I would like but it's still a great resource for art and literature with mythic themes and elements.

Your Daily Poetry Break is just what it says.

Bookslut is the Queen of Snarkdom, and fun source for all your literary news and reviews.

Bookcrossing is a great concept: setting books free "in the wild," to be picked up a read by the next person who happens by. Like a great big free-floating world-wide library. Nobody's found (or at least contacted Bookcrossing) any of the books I've released yet, but one of these days they'll turn up in Moscow or London or somewhere, I bet.

Ms. Musings, the official blog for Ms. Magazine, is a fun way to get your feminist news.

JaneFan over at Austen-tatious has linked me (thanks!). One can never have too many Jane Austen links. I wonder how many other authors have fan blogs dedicated to their work? Especially ones that have been dead for over 200 years.

Readerville I've already blogged about; Chicklit is a discussion site "for women who love words" (the site seems to be having technical difficulties at the time of this posting; hope it gets fixed soon).

I think I'll be adding some more links later on; but right now I've got some (dense and unfun) reading to do for class, and lunch to eat.
Oh, and I'm still trying to figure out the comments. Argh.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

The Mysteries of Udolpho ~ Ann Radcliffe

I came up with this during French class one day (even though I don't drink):
The Official "Mysteries of Udolpho" Drinking Game
(Warning!: You're liable to pass out before you reach Vol. II)
Take a drink every time:
--St. Aubert/Valancourt/Emily/the narrator departs on a 5 page tangent to admire the scenery
--Emily gets confused
--Emily faints, or almost does
--Emily is manipulated by relatives
--1 beer for when Emily refuses to elope with Valancourt
--have a mixed drink of your choice whenever a character composes poetry
--a chapter is headed by a quote from a deservedly forgotten poet
--the narrator/characters remark on how happy the simple peasants are in their romantic poverty
--Montoni is described in ominous terms
--Emily sits in her room and weeps/sighs/gazes at the scenery
--something "supernatural" happens and is later explained away with an absurd plot contrivance
--murder is hinted at
--random acts of violence occur
--Valancourt wishes he had money to marry on
--Emily decides that she's too well-bred to tell her aunt to fuck off
--you mentally shout "My GOD woman! Get a fucking EDITOR!!"
--a sentence continues for half a page and contains at least 5 commas.
--you wish Emily would die in a violent gondola accident
--Italians are described as dark, passionate, dissappated, vain, and extravagant
--you suspect Radcliffe was paid by the word.

This novel is wildly improbable, historically inaccurate, sexist, classist, engages in flagrant stereotypes, starts off too slowly, goes on for far too long, has aged terribly, and somehow is thoroughly enjoyable. Well maybe not "thoroughly," maybe only "mostly." Granted, I didn't really warm up to it until Volume II, when things actually started to happen, but once I stopped taking it seriously and began to view it as a slightly absurd fairy tale, it was surprisingly fun. With the exception of Frankenstein, which I loathed, I've never really read Gothic fiction (old school 18th century gothic fiction, not modern stuff). I think the Mysteries of Udolpho is like the literary equivalent of a B-movie, the kind film geeks love, where you revel in its awfulness. It's not that it's awful, really, it's just that it was written when the novel was still a relatively new form and nobody really knew what they were doing with it; novels in the 18th century were the red-haired step-child of literature, relegated to the province of aristocratic and bourgeouis ladies, not the stuff of high artistic endeavor. Literary men didn't develop the novel; anonymous, more-or-less self-educated women did. But despite it's unwieldy construction and long-winded didacticism, Radcliffe manages to create great suspense and atmosphere, and it keeps you hooked despite it's flaws. Emily didn't annoy me nearly as much as I thought she would (I just felt a "violent gondola accident" might pick up the pace a bit). Valancourt is bland and boring; I started rooting for M. Du Pont towards the end there (I always did love the underdog, and I have a weakness for stories of unrequited love). I was disappointed there was no show-down with Montoni; he just kind of fades out of the story. Still, despite it's short-comings, it's got gloomy Gothic castles, towering mountains, raging oceans, hidden passages, murders, sword-fights, infidelity, pirates, secrets, dark forests, Venetian canals, mysterious sounds, black veils, love, jealousy, corpses, nefarious plots, lost fortunes, smugglers, banditti, ghost stories, and revenge, so how could I resist those charms? A thoroughly horrid book; Catharine Morland and her peers definitely got their money's worth.

Always winter, and never Christmas...

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

One of my all-time favorite Desert Island books! I was one of those kids who spent most of her time getting stuck in closets and cupboards and armoires and under bushes in her tireless effort to get to Narnia. I still get teased about it too. I love the whole series (the Christian allegory notwithstanding. If I want a fucking sermon, Mr. Lewis, I'll go to mass! /rant) but none of the others can hold a candle to TLTWATW. I just love the atmosphere in it. Always winter and never Christmas, and fauns named Mr. Tumnus and witches and castles and Turkish Delight and even some of the trees are on her side, so speak softly and look over your shoulder...
Good thing I left the series at home, I'd never get anything done today...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Red as Blood (or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer) ~ Tanith Lee

This is an odd little book. And very dark. I'm not sure I like it. I don't dislike it though. Anyway it packs quite a punch for not even 200 pages. Sisters Grimmer indeed. "Red as Blood," "Thorns," and "When the Clock Strikes" were the strongest stories. "Wolfland" is one of my favorite retellings of a fairy tale. It's an incredibly dark and inventive take on "Little Red Riding Hood": the grandmother isn't eaten by the wolf, she is the wolf. The wolf is transformed from a symbol of predatory male sexuality into a symbol of female power and aggression, and the relationship between woman and nature. Lycanthropy not as a demonic curse but as a means of liberation and empowerment. It also ties in the connection between the werewolf legend and the female menstrual cycle, full moons and blood. Lots to think about and explore with this one; I like it more and more. Plus, wolves are just cool.
"The Golden Rope" is a weird and disturbing version of "Rapunzel", and not necessarily in a good way. "Beauty" was similar; "science fiction" in the worst sense. With the exception of Ray Bradbury (and I've really got to read The Martian Chronicles one of these days, what with the new exploration and photos and all. Very opportune) most of the sci-fi I've read is so concerned with gadgetry and being all neato-futuristic that I end up bored and unimpressed. Which is how I felt about Lee's "Beauty". But "Wolfland" more than makes up for it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Vagina Monologues ~ Eve Ensler

I can't talk about The Vagina Monologues in any objective, detatched way, as I can with other works. I can't approach it from a scholarly or literary point of view. It's held such a pivotal place in my life, that academics--thinking about it critically or theoretically or analytically--just don't don't work. Other people have written about it from those perspectives though, and have probably said more insightful things, and said them better than I could have. I can only describe my experience with The Vagina Monologues in personal terms, as a woman, a recovering Catholic, a feminist, a lesbian.
I don't remember the first time I heard about The Vagina Monologues. I remember a year ago, reading about it in the newspaper, during Christmas break. I remember laughing so hard I felt faint, and being moved to tears. One of those turning points in your life, and you don't realize it till much later. I can't seem to come up with anything but cliches. "Eye-opening" just fits, that's what it felt like. There were only three women on stage but it seemed like hundreds; and of course it was hundreds. Hundreds of women crying and laughing, hundreds of women talking about love and sex, rape and brutality, periods, vaginas, life, birth, and death. Things I had so little knowledge or experience of.
Gloria Steinem talks about "the spirit of self-knowledge and freedom" in The Vagina Monologues in her excellent foreword to the V-Day edition. That's really what it's given me, self-knowledge. And a sense of community and solidarity. The woman who has directed my university's productions of TVM the last two years is an amazingly beautiful, passionate and committed woman. My advisor and Feminist Criticism professor performed "The Flood" this year; she's such a smart and engaging woman, I thoroughly enjoy learning from her.
Performing "The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could" has been a good experience for me. Empowering, really. I approached it like declaration, a theatrical coming-out. I tried to be straight-forward and direct, not melodramatic; I thnk it has more impact if you don't "act" so much as tell it like an ordinary person, because that's who she is, and that's who I am. I don't have much in common with this woman, other than the fact we're both lesbians, but somehow her story was a way for me tosay "Here I am! This is me!"
Our production of TVM this year was a benefit to help the women of Juarez, Mexico; over 300 women have been abducted and murdered there in the last ten years. We showed a documentary about the killings, Senorita Extraviada, which is hard to watch. Everybody should see it. I remember going home afterwards, alone, in the dark, reasonably certain I would see the next morning alive. The women and girls in Juarez and too many other places don't have that certainty; their bodies show up months later in the desert, sometimes without nipples or hands, sometimes burned, sometimes just as bleached bones. And it's still going on. I remember thinking, it's not enough. What can I do that could possibly help? Boycott the American companies that employ the Juarez women in their maquiladoras? Write a strongly worded letter for Amnesty International? My performance in The Vagina Monologues, the money and awareness we raised, is not nearly enough, not even close. But it's something, at least, and it's all I can accomplish at the moment. Better than nothing.
My parents don't really understand what TVM is. They couldn't come up to see me anyway; I just told them it was a fundraiser, in the end. "Why does it have to be called that?" my mom asked.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Briar Rose ~ Jane Yolen

This novel has stayed in my mind. There's somthing very moving and compelling in Yolen's transformation of this old, well-worn story. The castle becomes a concentration camp, the maze of thorns a barbed wire fence, the magic spell administered by a gas chamber. It's a book of mourning, really, as Yolen uses a fariy tale to help us--the readers? the characters? the survivors? maybe simply the author herself--bear what is unbearable. The fact she titles it Briar Rose and not Sleeping Beauty is significant, I think--it's a tale of pain and suffering, of life in spite of death, not a romantic story with a happy ending.
The sections set in the modern day are the weakest, I think, but the main character Becca manages to carry them through well. I liked the structure of the novel--you being to see how Gemma's version of Sleeping Beauty is the only means she has of explaining her life, as the events themselves unfold. We end up with the essential truth, but not the whole truth. I'm not sure what that essential truth is though. This is a sad book, and angry. Even the sub-plot romance is half-hearted. Love--romantic love, anyway--is a temporary reprieve, a moment of breathing space, instead of the culimination of the story. Familial love is the only love that lasts, here. It doesn't afford protection or confer blessings, like in fairy tales, but it's still stronger than time in Yolen's novel. She also notes the pervasiveness of the Nazi's hatred, encompassing not only Jews but Romany, Slavs, political dissenters, and homosexuals. The faculty and staff here have little stickers that indicate a "safe zone" for GLBT students--someone to talk to, someone who can help. Stickers pasted on doors and desks, with litle pink triangles on them. They'll always look horribly ironic to me.
"This is a book of fiction. All the characters are made up. Happy-ever-after is a fairy tale notion, not history."--Author's Note, pg. 202

Friday, February 06, 2004

Holy crap! Smart people on the internet!

Who knew? And why didn't I join Readerville sooner? Been rambling through the archives and found some great insights into Byatt's The Biographer's Tale:

"It makes little difference that most of what we take for "fact" is actually illusion or at least distortion, imaginative inferences from selective takes on conflicting evidence. Byatt's Biographer's Tale is a little fable about the heart of darkness that exists at the core of history, a darkness that stretches between actual history and human perception of it."

"It's an incredible demonstration of how seductive it [me here: I think what the poster means by "it" is the search for truth/knowledge/etc. Epistemology is a big theme in Byatt's work, from what I've seen] is and what a waste of time it is, all in one fell swoop, which is what I'm so endlessly fascinated by. "

In the course of the novel our protagonist discovers three documents, written by the biographer he's researching, which concern themselves with Linneaus, Ibsen, and Galston:
"Maybe they're intended to represent a more traditional threesome? Maybe logos, ethos, pathos? The three fates? The norns? Father, Son & Holy Ghost?

...Larry, Curly & Moe?"


"A.S. Byatt's The Biographer's Tale is not an easy book to love -- but as I've said elsethread, it should make a great book for discussion." Which seems to be the case; my opinion of it certainly improved as a result of these discussions, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna reread it any time soon. One of those books that are more fun to talk about than actually read.

This was my favorite comment though:
"The Biographer's Tale is rather like Boswell with Attention Deficit Disorder."

Which pretty much sums it up.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Eyre Affair~Jasper Fforde

Original entry date: March 22, 2002
If you had locked Douglas Adams up in a library, this is the book he would have written. From the literal bookworms, to Rocky Horror-style productions of Richard III, to the Baconians proselyting door-to-door, this is the world lit geeks like me want to live in. Heck, it actually made me like Rochester (though I still don't know what Jane sees in him). I wish I was a LiteraTec (literary detective) with a quirky British name. Figures that my true vocation in life is fictional.
"Take no heed of her," explained Jones apologetically. "She reads a lot of books." Wonder if I could get that on a t-shirt?

The Enchantress; or, Where Shall I Find Her?~Mrs. Martin

Original date of entry: October 16, 2001

Well, it's not Jane Austen, but it's still a lot of fun. The plot reminds me of the movie The Shop Around the Corner--anonymous correspondents meeting in real life. The hero, Sir Philip Desormeaux (great name!), reminds me of Mr. Knightley. A good book for when you want something light and fun; it's like a literary equivalent of a Meg Ryan romantic comedy. It was published in 1801 and has been out of print for about 200 years; as far as I know the only place to get it is to download it from the Chawton House Library (see "Novels Online").

change of plans

right, so I'm looking over my old book journal(s) and realizing that some of these entries are reminiscent of a third grade book report, so I think I'll just be posting a highly edited version here.