Monday, January 31, 2005

"In a world where carpenters get resurrected, everything is possible."

Take the quiz: "What Historic Woman Are You?"

Eleanor of Acquitaine
One of the first great queens of England, Eleanor was her own woman. She married the French prince at 14, but after six years of marriage and no son, she divorced him and secretly married the younger (and wealthier) heir to the English throne. Her sons were some of the greatest monarchs in English history! You must be tenacious, audacious, and brave if you're like Eleanor. Read more about her:

Yay! An excuse to quote The Lion in Winter:

I made Louis take me on Crusade. I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled.

[to her jewelry] I'd hang you from the nipples, but you'd shock the children.

Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It's 1183 and we're all barbarians!

Promethea: Book I ~ Alan Moore et al.

"Listen, kid, you take my advice. You don't wanna go looking for folklore. And you especially don't want folklore to come looking for you."
Stumbled across this yesterday at the library, and since I've heard nothing but good things about Alan Moore from Neil Gaiman, I snatched it up. And now of course I'm desperate to finish the series, because damn has this comic got it all. Superheroes! Mythological creatures! Literary intrigue, a spunky, geeky heroine, magical realms, the Armaggedon, and flying cars. Plus it's got a feminist sensibility and snarky humor. Promethea is like an ancient Egyptian Wonder Woman, an Amazonian Warrior, Queen of Hy Brasil. She's kind of a literary archetype, a character that reappears in different literary works over time, and when the conditions are right, when the artist/writer is really firing on all cylinders, she becomes physically manifest through them. They literally become Promethea, and fight evil-doers. Talk about alter-egos. And with a premise like this, you have to be a bit tongue-in-cheek: our heroine, Sophie, encounters a chain-smoking, gun-toting, trash-talking Red Riding Hood on her first journey into the Immateria (The Imagination, kind of like a collective unconcious or universal soul. Very Jungian.):
"There's only one dark woods. I mean, I oughtta know. Five hundred years takin' this friggin' basket to my friggin' grandma."
And Hy Brasil (a region of the Immateria) has been taken over by a pulp fiction hack writer who spun stories of Promethea in dime store novels in the 40s and 50s, and I swear to god he's a parody of Piers Anthony.

Sophie: Besotted? What, you mean this wizard guy? With you?
Grace/Promethea: Well, I should have thought it was rather obvious. All that drivel he wrote about my taut thighs and heaving bosom...I mean, I don't think I can remember my bosom ever having heaved. Has yours?

In the Immateria Sophie meets the previous incarnations of Promethea: Anna, Margaret, Grace, Barbara, and Bill (Promethea doesn't seem to care if you're actually female, just that you've got a vivid imagination). Moore's sci-fi New York is governed by a mayor with 42 different personalities, and is protected by a group of superheroes called the Five Swell Guys, one of whom seems to be a transgendered woman named Roger, "the muscle" of the group.

Five Swell Guys: Please don't be alarmed. This is purely routine. You may recognize us. We're New York's resident science-heroes, The Five Swell Guys, and we're just out on patrol as usual...You're not being menaced by strange, overwhelming forces, by any chance?
Sophie: Well, I'm having a lot of problems with completing my term paper, but, y'know. That's all.
Five Swell Guys: Hmm. So no extraterrestrial creatures bothering you? No government conspiracies, ancient demon cults, nothing like that?

Anyway, what I really love, what hooked me, is that Promethea is about the magic of words, the power of the imagination. Sophie becomes Promethea by writing a poem about her. Charles Sennet conjures her in his epic romance; you get to Immateria by imagining yourself there. Promethea's power is the power of words, myth, fantasy; her mission, according to Margaret/Promethea, is nothing short of post-modern revolutionary struggle and liberation politics. Or, to put it more simply, to help humanity imagine a new world.

"We have many names for this event. We call it 'The Rapture.' We call it 'The Opening of the 32nd Path.' We call it the Awakening, or the Revelation, or the Apocalypse. But 'end of the world' will do...'The world' isn't the planet, or the life and people on it. The world is our systems, our politics, our economies..our ideas of the world! It's our flags and our bank-notes and our border wars. I was at Ypres. I was at the Somme. I say end this filthy mess now."
Promethea's enemies are for the moment the vague and shadowy Jack Faust (what a cool villain name), Benny Solomon (also vague and shadowy), and a mysterious organization known as the Temple. Essentially they're the folks who want to preserve the status quo and power structure they profit from (gee, sounds familiar...). Anyway, on to Book II. I can't wait to see how this turns out.

Sophie: What did I do? I haven't done anything! I'm a college student! All I ever did was read books!

Friday, January 28, 2005


"Boswell's Life of Johnson is basically a Seinfeld episode. It's a biography about nothing!" --my English professor.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

because I can

Another meme. But never fear. Promethea Book 2 came in today through inter-library loan, with Sandman's "World's End" on the way, so it's gonna be some geeky comic-book goodness coming up in the next few days.

1. What is the geekiest part of your music collection: The Barenaked Ladies' album Gordon. With immortal gems such as "Grade 9", "Be My Yoko Ono," and "Brian Wilson," it's soooo horribly geeky, but I can't seem to part with it.
2. What do you eat when you raid the fridge at night: Chocolate chips, straight from the bag. Or eating Hershey's chocolate syrup with a spoon.
3. How much money would it take to give up the Internet for one year: $6,480, give or take (I did the math in my head so don't bet on it), which is more or less the money I would have to live off of if I managed to get to France next year.
4. What is your secret guaranteed weeping movie: I don't cry at movies. Ever. Finding Neverland is the only one that managed to make me cry, probably because Peter Pan was a huge part of my childhood. I had something of crush on Mary Martin, I think. I remember crying the night before my tenth birthday; Peter Pan hadn't come for me yet, and I was convinced that once I hit double digits I'd be too old to go to Neverland.
5. Do you have a completely irrational fear: Things that go bump in the night. Seriously. I'm always convinced that someone's trying to break into the house while I'm asleep.
6. What is a physical habit that gives away your insecure moments: biting my thumbnail.
7. Do you know anyone famous: no, but I can connect myself to Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, and Jude Law in 2 degrees.
8. Describe your bed: Lofted, with a hard mattress.
9. Do you know how to play poker: Yep. My friends and I used to play tripoli in grade school.
10. What do you carry with you at all times: A book. If I leave without one I inevitably find myself in a situation where I've got time on my hands and nothing to read.
11. What do you miss most about being little: The sense of wonder. I've always had a vivid imagination, which is both a blessing and a curse. I'm a day-dreamy girl and I spent most of my childhood crawling under bushes and getting stuck in cupboards in my effort to reach Narnia. I fully expected to find myself in another world at any moment. The heroines in the books I read were always having unexpected magical adventures, I didn't see why I shouldn't have some as well.
12. Are you happy with your given name: Yes. It's old-fashioned and simple. A bit like me, I think.
13. What color is your bedroom: White. Though for about 10 years it was Pepto-Bismol pink, of all things. I hate pink.
14. Do you consider yourself to be a nice person: Yes. I can be unthinkingly cruel or selfish though; it's not intentional but I tend to live too much in my head and don't notice what's going on around me.
15. Do you spend more time with your girlfriend/boyfriend/fiance or your friends: not applicable. I probably spend too much time on my own.
16. What’s one thing you wish you could do but can’t: Write. I wish I could be a writer, but I don't know if I have it in me. I don't think I do.
17. What is your ideal marriage location: Okay, well, assuming we're in an alternate universe where I a) want to get married, b) am legally allowed to get married, and c) don't hate weddings as a general rule, I'd pick The Garden of the Gods in Colorado. I had a cousin get married there, and it's such a beautiful setting.
18. What’s one instrument you wish you could play: the cello.
19. Something you love and hate: TV. It's such vast amounts of crap, with hardly enough decent programs to make it worth while, but I keep getting sucked in.
20. What’s one language you want to learn: Russian.
21. What do you order at a bar: a beer. Usually Dos Equis or Heineken
22. Have you ever pierced your body parts: No. Someday.
23. Do you drive stick: No.
24. What’s one trait you hate in a person: arrogance
25. What kind of watch do you wear: Non-digital with a metal-studded black leather wristband.
26. Do you consider yourself materialistic: Only about books and music, and I'm trying to work on that. Simplify, simplify.
27. Favorite writing instrument: one of those fine-point pens with the nice dark ink.
28. Do you prefer to blend in or stand out: blend in, mostly.
29. Do you ever go out dressed like the opposite sex: I can dress pretty butch sometimes, but now that I've grown out my hair I'm no longer mistaken for a boy.
30. What is one car you will never buy: an SUV. I'd rather eat thumbtacks.
31. If you won the lottery, what would you do: Invest!
32. Burial or cremation: A nice, simple burial. Maybe in the family plot in the country, I don't know.
33. If you don’t like a person, how do you show it: Cool politeness or ignoring them outright.
34. What kind of first impression do you think you give people: Quite. Bookish. Geek. Which is accurate.
35. How many drinks before you’re tipsy: 2 or 3.
36. Have you ever done any illegal drugs: Never.
37. Do you think you’re cute: I think so. The purple hair is an improvement.
38. Do you have a problem changing clothes in front of your friends: Not usually.
39. What’s the most painful experience you’ve ever had (emotionally and/or physically): Emotional: my closeted adolescence, culminating in a really horrible first two years at college. Physical: When I was 13 and had 7 permanent teeth removed. Fuckin' orthodontists.
40. Favorite communication method: email. I hate the phone.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught for auld lang syne!

Happy Burns' Night! We've been reading him in class and if you take the time to decipher the dialect, he's lots of fun. So pour yourself some whiskey, grab your kilt, and roar along with the Old Blind Dogs, with my favorite Burns poem:

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Check out Burns Country (complete with glossary), and don't miss Scotch Drink (my second favorite) while you're at it.
* a right guid-willie waught: a deep, hearty drink in friendship and goodwill.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling ~ Henry Fielding

Reader, I think proper, before we proceed any farther together, to acquaint thee that I intend to digress through this whole history as often as I see occaison; of which I am myself a better judge than any pitiful critic whatever.
It was at this point, at the end of Chapter 2, that I knew that Mr. Fielding and I would get along just fine. Good thing too, because Henry Fielding the Author is probably the most important and central character in Tom Jones. So much so that the BBC cast actor John Sessions to play Fielding in their adaptation; and I don't think you really could tell the story with out our good-natured and smart-assed narrator.
Matters of a much more extraordinary kind [than the affairs of Mr. Allworthy] are to be the subject of this history, or I should grossly mis-spend my time in writing so voluminous a work; and you, my sagacious friend, might with equal profit and pleasure travel through some pages which certain droll authors have been facetiously pleased to call The History of England.

For all its pseudo-philosophical digressions and satire, this novel has got an amazing, perfectly constructed plot. At first it seems pretty chaotic: Tom falls in love with the girl next door, Sophia Western, but his illegitimate birth, combined with meddling parents and scheming relatives, conspire against them; Sophia runs away to London to escape an arranged match, and everybody spends most of the novel chasing everybody else all over England, like some big ridiculous fox hunt. Characters pop up out of nowhere and then disappear, there's plenty of false starts and lost chances, and Fielding detours at every opportunity to take a swing at literary critics as a class. Having read mostly decorous stuff like Austen and Burney, novels that aimed for some measure of respectability, it was surprising how much frank sex and (comic) violence is in Tom Jones. Of course Fielding was a man so he had more freedom in his language and subject matter than even Mrs. Radcliffe could ever hope for, no matter how gothic she got. So Tom pretty much screws anything in petticoats and Squire Western (whom I love, in spite of myself. He's just so damn funny) cusses like a sailor and Fielding winks at his readers and notes that love is "the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate human flesh." Boys will be boys. Tom himself is rather like David Copperfield, nice enough but kind of bland compared to the cast around him, like Reverend Thwackham, Lady Bellaston, the Man of the Hill, and the Shrewish, Abusive Landlady, one of Fielding's favorite stock characters. It seems like a big floppy mess of a novel, until you get to the end and you see how perfectly air-tight his plot is. It's very 18th century, very neo-classical, all neat and orderly, ultimately. I know it's a cliche, but it really does work like a well made clock.
There are a set of religious, or rather moral, writers who teach that virtue is the certain road to happiness, and vice to misery, in this world. A very wholesome and comfortable doctrine, and to which we have but one objection: namely, that it is not true.

The irony is, of course, that ultimately our virtuous heroine and her rakish yet decent hero are rewarded, and that nasty hypocrites like Mr. Blifil get their comeuppance. Which, I'm willing to bet, is entirely intentional on Fielding's part. What better way to satirize the works of moralists like Richardson than to take their value system and apply it to a novel where the characters make a pretty good attempt at breaking all 10 commandments, and still get a happy ending.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I promise to talk about Henry Fielding tomorrow

not that I will necessarily have anything eloquent or insightful to say. But it's Saturday night, I'm bored, and I'm a meme geek. Sorry.

1. Name: Andy. Well, that's my family pet name, anyway.
2. Birthday: October 19
3. Piercings: None, as of yet.
4. Tattoos: None, but I think I'll get one after I graduate. Coming-of-age/end of an era/passage of time thing.
5. Height:5'4", give or take.
6. Shoe size: 7 1/2
7. Hair color: Mousy brown, currently with purple streaks
8. Hair Length: Just past my ears.
9. Pets: Furry animals make me sneeze.
10. In the morning I am: comatose.
11. Love is: pig-headed perseverence, if my parents are any example. They've been through 34 years of financial woes, unemployment, post-traumatic stress syndrome, alchoholism, domestic violence, and infertility, and they still flirt with each other like teenagers. Not even their gay daughter has destroyed the institution of their marriage, so I guess it must be love.
12. If I could see one person right now: S. I want to know how her trip to Brazil was.
1. Movie you rented:
Veronica Guerin. Cate Blanchett is a goddess.
2. Movie you bought: Charlotte Gray. See above. christ that woman is beautiful.
3. Song you listened to:"Glass," Leslie Barber; from the Mansfield Park soundtrack.
4. Song you had stuck in your head: Theme from Horatio Hornblower
5. Song you've downloaded: a Tipping the Velvet music video of Moby's "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?"
6. Person you've called:Mom and Dad.
7. Person that called you: Mom and Dad. Tuition stuff.
1. You have a B/F or G/F?:
no. My rep as Big Dyke on Campus is fairly useless in this area.
2. You have a crush on someone?: Well, I'm over TeacherCrush, thank god. I made sure all my professors were middle aged men this semester. I still have a thing for StraightGirl, who's in my class yet again, but it's a pleasant, "gosh she's cute and I like spending time with her" kind of thing.
3. You wish you could live somewhere else?: Fuck yeah. Come graduation I am getting the hell out of Dodge.
4. You think about suicide?: No. Been there, don't fancy returning there any time soon.
5. You believe in online dating? Sure. Real life dating's a bitch.
6. Others find you attractive?: Apparently not. If so, they don't let on.
7. You want more piercings?: I think I'll pierce something as a graduation gift to myself.
8. You want more tattoos?: See above.
9. Do you like cleaning? I like washing the dishes. Freakish, I know.
10. You write in cursive or print?: I write in a very fluid, elegant cursive that's vaguely reminiscent of an 18th century hand and is also completely illegible. I get complimented on it all the time, but I'm the only person who can read it.
11. You carry a donor card?: A blood donor card.
For or against...
1. Long distance relationships:
I wouldn't really know, but I don't see why not.
2. Using someone: no
3. Suicide: No. Although I'm willing to admit a little gray area when it comes to debilitating terminal illnesses.
4. Killing people: no
5. Teenage smoking: no.
6. Driving drunk: do you know anybody who's for these things? of course not.
7. Gay/lesbian relationships: My favorite pride button has a happy little stick-figure dyke saying "Gay! Yay!" It's so cheerful and positive. Yay! Go me!
1. Food?
2. Song? The Chieftains' "The Ballyfin Polkas" Never fails to cheer me up.
3. Thing to do? Hike. Though I can tell knitting will soon take up a large chunk of my free time.
4. Thing to talk about? Eddie Izzard, with R. We can do the entire Dress to Kill routine verbatim.
5. Sports? Soccer.
6. Drinks? Mountain Dew. And wine. Not together, obviously.
7. Clothes? My nifty scarf I just finished knitting. And my green tennis shoes.
8. Movies? Jane Austen adaptations being a given, I'll have to go with "The Shop Around the Corner". I used to use my undying affection for Jimmy Stewart as evidence that I was straight.
9. Bands? CCR, The Clash, The Chieftains, the Butchies, the Beatles, Le Tigre, Gjallarhorn, Flogging Molly
10. Holiday? Halloween
11. Car? my old 1978 Chevy Nova. It was my first car, and I really miss it. I called it The Beast.
12. Ever cried over a girl/ man /human? Yes
13. Ever lied to someone? Yes. I'm more of a dissembler than a liar, and I'm quite proficient at it. It's one of my biggest character flaws. I tend to do it more out of fear than anything else.
14. Ever been in a fight or arrested? No.
1. Shampoo do you use?
Whatever is cheap and has a fruity fragrance
2. Perfume/Cologne do you use? None
3. Number of times I have had my heart broken? once
4. Number of hearts I have broken? Oh I very much doubt I've ever had that much influence on anyone.
5. # Of people kissed? One Peck on the lips? yep Tongue involved? that too.
6. # Of drugs taken illegally? none. I'm squeaky clean
7. # Of people I would classify as true, could trust with my life type friends? One or two, I think.
8. # Of people I consider my enemies? Besides the Bush Administration? I'm too lazy for grudges and feuds.
9. # Of people from high school that I stayed in contact with? One, really.
10. # Of CDs? 70-80.
11. # Of scars on body? One, on my belly button. I had an operation when I was a toddler, and as result I have both an innie and and outie.
12. # Of things in my past that I regret? Not too much, I hardly have enough life experience for real regrets. Mostly stuff I didn't do.
Have You...
1. Pictured your crush naked?
heck yeah
2. Actually seen your crush naked? hell no
3. Been in love? nope
4. Cried when someone died? This is going to sound really horrible, but the only time I cried at a death was when I was a kid and we had to put my dog down. I haven't had too many people die on me, fortunately, mainly great-aunts and uncles I didn't know very well, and a grandmother I didn't much like.
5. Drank alcohol? I didn't used to, but now I'm something of a social drinker on occaision.
With the opposite /same sex:
1. What do you notice first? Eyes.
1. Makes you laugh the most?
my sister.
2. Makes you smile? R.
3. Gives you a funny feeling when you see them? K and company
4. Is easiest to talk to: R.
Have you ever:
1. Sat on the Internet all day waiting for someone special to I.M. you?
2. Saved AOL/AIM conversations? No
3. Cried because of someone saying something to you? Well of course
4. Fallen for your best friend? thankfully no
5. Been rejected? yep
6. Rejected someone? kinda sorta not really. Mainly me freaking out when I thought a guy friend was interested in me, back in the closet days.
7. Been cheated on? nope
Who was the last person:
1. You talked to?
C, my roommate
2. Hugged? J.
3. Kissed? Besides my parents, L.
4. You instant messaged? K
5. You laughed with? C.
Do you:
1. Color your hair?
last night, actually. The purple was fading.
2. Ever get off the darn computer? Not when I'm at school.
3. Habla espanol? Non. Je parle francais. J'adore francais mais l'espagnol est plus utile aux Etats-Unis.
Have you/ Are you/ Do you:
1. Obsessive:
About books/movies (i.e. Charlotte Gray, Gigi, Horatio Hornblower, Jane Austen)
2. Could you live without the computer? Sure. I live quite easily without it when I'm at home.
3. How many people are on your buddy list? don't have one.
4. What's your favorite food? like I said, mushrooms; and potatoes
5. What's your favorite fruit? strawberries
6. Drink alcohol? again, sometimes
7. Like watching sunrises or sunset? both.
8. What hurts the most, physical pain or emotional pain? Emotional pain. Physical pain generally goes away, but you can't get anything over-the-counter for heartache, depression, anger, etc.
9. Trust others way too easily? no. I'm shy and cautious by nature.

Final Questions:
I want:
some more yarn. I want to make a hat to go with my scarf.
I wish: I went to school in a city
I love: my books
I miss: the relationship I used to have with my brother
I fear: too many things.
I hear: peace and quiet, for once.
I wonder: where I'll be in six months.
I am: tired. Goodnight.

Friday, January 21, 2005

no shit

You're most like Mo. Sure, you may be cranky and neurotic, but people actually find this endearing! You're lucky you live in a comic strip. This wouldn't happen nearly as often in real

You're most like Mo, the nucleus of the strip. Yes,
you're cranky, neurotic, and self-righteous,
but women actually find this adorable. You're
lucky you live in a comic, though, because this
would not happen nearly so often in reality.

Which Dyke of 'Dykes To Watch Out For' are you most like? (beta version)
brought to you by Quizilla

I am Mo. It's freaky. I even look like her. About time someone did a Dykes to Watch Out For quiz!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

She's gone with the man in the long black coat

You are a Folkie. Good for you.

What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(look, it's a quizilla quiz, I've done everything I can, I have no idea why Blogger won't show the damn link. don't blame me)

Well, yeah. I remember discovering Bob Dylan when I was fifteen and spending the next few years exploring all the musical and literary connections: started listening to Woody Guthrie, who was singing about Okies, and reading John Steinbeck who was writing about them, checking out Springsteen's The Ghost of Tom Joad album, and finding Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. I was fascinated by Dylan's word play and imagery, especially on songs like "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Desolation Row." Though musically speaking I tend to like some of the covers of his work better; Joan Osborne's got a knock-out version of "Man in the Long Black Coat."

Anyway, I wanted to mention that there's still an official website up for Charlotte Gray (yeah I'm still hung up on that movie. I can't help it. I think I'm gonna have to read the book), and it's got a great section on real S.O.E. agents and couriers who worked with the Resistance, definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell ~ Susanna Clarke

It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week. 92

There's nothing like eagerly anticipating a book for months and having all your expectations answered thoroughly. Hot damn! What a book! What a nice way to finish up an awful year, curled up with a big, sprawling joyride of a novel. The style is Austen--pure wit and sarcasm--but the scope is closer to Fielding; Clarke adopts his perogative of digressing though her history as often as she sees occasion, and though she often focuses on a few families in a country village, she also throws in the war against Buonaparte, the magical history of England, Parliment, ancient prophecies, blackmail, murder, fairy kingdoms, Lord Byron, and the madness of Kinge George III. So I guess it's akin to the novels of Mrs. Radcliffe (whom Clarke mentions several times as well); an affectionately ironic gothic novel. The plot is all about the pursuit of knowledge and power, ambition and greed, etc, played out in a battle of wills between our two magicians, Mr. Norrell, a nasty little man who's name I'm positive is a deliberate echo of Mrs. Norris, and Jonathan Strange, charming but flawed hero, obviously Clarke's personal version of Henry Tilney:

In person he was rather tall and his figure was considered good. Some people thought him handsome, but this was not by any means the universal opinion. His face had two faults: a long nose and an ironic expression. It is also true that his hair had a reddish tinge and, as everybody knows, no one with red hair can ever truly be said to be handsome. 192

I love him almost as much as I love Mr. Tilney (best of men!); his character is a bit darker than Henry's, probably because he isn't in a romantic comedy, and his father really was something of a gothic villain.
Behind everything in the novel is the shadow of the Raven King, John Uskglass, greatest magician in English history and ruler of Northern England for 300 years. Bit of an Arthurian figure; he disappeared one day and ancient prophecies say he will come again, after two magicians (presumably Norrell and Strange) bring magic back to England.Clarke gives you glimpses of him but he always remains a mysterious figure; by the end you want to meet him as badly as Jonathan Strange does. Somehow Clarke manages to combine a breath-taking atmosphere of enchantment and fantasy (man, can that woman write a prophecy!) with a realistic Regency setting and make it work. You believe in it readily; of course Mr. Norrell can raise a woman from the dead, and walking through mirrors, as Strange does, seems a perfectly reasonable way to get around. The gentleman with thistle-down hair (a nameless but dangerously capricious fairy king, as fairy kings generally are) is equally convincing as the Duke of Wellington. Vinculus, a ragged street magician and con artist, and John Childermass, Norrell's assistant, are some of the best drawn characters in the book (and there are a lot of them); you're not sure what to make of them, you never really know who's side they're on or if they're trustworthy. Which of course makes them fascinating.
This book has really got it all: magic, history, gothic suspense, satire, romance, and humor. And pictures! And footnotes! My god, the footnotes! Pages and pages of them, full of anecdotes and ballads and biography and citations, and references to Clarke's earlier stories, like "The Ladies of Grace Adieu" (where I first met Strange and decided I had to know him better). I love this book. What I read next will have a hard time competing with it. I guess I'll leave it to the Washington Post to sum it up accurately: "Many books are to be read, some are to be studied, and a few are meant to be lived in for weeks. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is of this last kind."

Monday, January 17, 2005


Via Mags. Been wanting to do this one for a while.
Copy this list of ten authors, then replace any authors not in your bookcases with authors who are. Replacements in bold.

1. Washington Irving
2. Henry James
3. Georgette Heyer
4. Karen Joy Fowler
5. John Crowley
6. Eve Ensler
7. Ellen Kushner
8. C.S. Lewis
9. Walt Whitman
10. Charles Perrault

Class this semester should be pretty interesting; I'll be reading Sir Walter Scott, Boswell's Life of Johnson, Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin and Anthony Trollope, to name a few. I might even start on Colette's Gigi in my spare time.

How I Spent My Christmas Break

(besides reading; there'll be posts on that later)

  • being exceedingly lazy. And luxuriating in every boring minute of it. I ought to write a list of what I didn't do, I'd have more to say.
  • watched 2 bad movies: Closer, one of those slow, pretensious movies with fine acting, which make you think "jesus, at least I'm not as miserable as those poor bastards." And The Aviator, which is fine until Katharine Hepburn dumps Howard Hughes, after that it's just two hours (!) of Leonardo DiCaprio going crazy. Not even Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn (swoon) and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner (double swoon) made up for it.
  • watched 3 good movies: Finding Neverland, which made me cry, The Phantom of the Opera, which I enjoyed for all its pure gothic potboiler-ness, notwithstanding the cheesy music and The. Most. Useless. Heroine. Ever. And House of Flying Daggers: swordfights! political intrigue! love triangles! secret identities! Buckles were swashed, mettles were tested, and love, alas, did not triumph.
  • bought the Charlotte Gray dvd, the better to watch all the romantic mushy bits. Fabulous acting and killer plot aside, this movie holds the distinction of being the only film I've ever seen where Anglophone actors have convincing French accents. Billy Crudup (in the role of Mr. Sexy Resistance Fighter Man) sounds like a dead ringer for Louis Jourdan.
  • realized that no matter how Elinor I may act and think, Marianne, evidently, will always win the day.
  • learned to knit. I'll be tossing off socks and sweaters and cell phone cozies before you know it.
  • dyed my hair purple (I always wanted purple hair). Mother was not best pleased.
  • dyed my clothes pink ( I did not want pink underwear). Godamn red socks.
  • bought too many books, again. To wit: Jane and the Man of the Cloth (Jane Austen mystery), Black Wine (feminist sci-fi), All the World's Reward: Folktales Told by Five Scandinavian Storytellers, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, and Son of Shadows: Book Two of the Sevenwaters Trilogy. But they were mostly used, from the library, so it's okay.
  • did not think about Life After Graduation. Which starts May 15.

Happy New Year all.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I'm not dead yet

but my parent's computer is. Dead as a doornail. Bit the dust right after Christmas, so all that nifty mental blogging I was doing, all for naught. So I'm at ye olde publick librarie, putting up a quick post to let you all know I'm not dead in a ditch somewhere or suffering from a nervous breakdown or anything. Mostly I'm reading comic books. And I'm 2/3 of the way through Jonathan Strange. So I probably won't be posting regularly again until after the 18th. That's about it for now.

Oh, and it never did snow, in case you were wondering.