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Wednesday Reading Whatnot

What I've Just Finished Reading

Nothing yet! Well, I was reading a manuscript for a friend, but there's nothing to say about it here, except that it was full of really great lines. I'm very close to the end of My Wars are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson, but not quite there. I don't think I have a coherent response to this book yet, except that I'm glad to be reading it. The author is working against some shallow popular notions about Dickinson, and is committed to taking her work seriously and avoiding mythology. Most of the book at this point is poems and letters, with biographical guidance.

What I'm Reading Now

Mistress Pat is less gloomy at the start than I remembered. There's lots of "domestic mishap reminds Judy Plum of a ghost story" episodic Story Girl-type writing. Judy's a bit tiresome. I'm not the biggest fan of the recurring LMM character who exists primarily to dump LMM's writing notebooks all over the page in between plot events, and Judy's personality, outside her storytelling function, isn't terribly likable. I'd forgotten, too, how much Judy is always leaning on Pat to get herself a nice boyfriend. She's as bad as Old Jock Kelly. The snobbery is a little excruciating. The Gardiners have just finished fawning over an aristocratic cousin, and now they're gearing up to giggle over an old flame of their uncle's who after forty years or so has - gasp! - gotten fat! How unprecedented and inherently hilarious! I don't know; LMM was a tiny teenage sylph who put on a lot of weight in middle age, so maybe there's some self-mockery involved.

Brideshead Revisited intersects with Pat in some interesting ways, with its house-love and childhood-hoarding. I'm finding the snobbery of Brideshead Revisited more tolerable than Pat's, surprisingly enough -- maybe because we are being unambiguously pushed to like Pat and Judy et al., while the Brideshead crowd just drifts around in a golden haze of general awfulness, or maybe because Brideshead is better-structured.

And Final Curtain is so good, you guys. I can't wait till next Murder Monday to talk about how good it is. Marsh has been having a tremendous amount of fun with her genre conventions lately, shoving the detective off screen and letting the houseful of survivor-suspects take over. Troy is a great POV character, and I love the little glimpses we get of her (extremely adorable) relationship with Alleyn (who has not shown up yet, true to form).

Also, what's with all the rectum-centric scatological weirdness in this book? The victim suffers from a gastrointestinal problem and is pranked with a whoopee cushion before his new portrait is defaced with a picture of a flying cow pooping a bomb onto his head, and beyond that there are more off-hand references to the bottom and its discontents than I can count. It's just this strange and beautiful poop symphony. All these high-minded, false-fronted actors whose bodies are instruments, all the sad and funny bathos of mortality and digestion -- not normally my thing at all, but genuinely kind of hilarious and fascinating here. I hope it's not all pointing to Cedric and his Evil Gayness. Cedric is a bad caricature and objectively kind of a douchefountain but I like him anyway, or at least I like the character he might have been if his caricaturing were a little less pronounced.

ETA: I feel honor-bound to note that the Mrs. Merridew episode of Mistress Pat turned out a little better than I was expecting. Pat and co. are very tongue-clicky, but Mrs. Merridew holds her own and the tone of the narrative is not overly mean-spirited -- considerably better than the similar incident in Anne of Ingleside, I think.

What I'm Reading Next

Titus Groan is next in 99 Novels, once I finish Brideshead Revisited. I have no idea what to expect! I'll also be reading Station Eleven, possibly for a book group.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
scripsi
Oct. 14th, 2015 07:15 pm (UTC)
I only read the Emily and Anne books by LMM. I always liked Emily best, contrary to most people, it seems.

I read Titus Groan when I was around 12 and I was far too young for it. In Sweden in the 80's Everything labeled fantasy was placed in the children's section in the libraries so I read a lot of adult books that I probably should have been quite a bit older for. I read Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson at the same time and foudn it fairly traumatizing.

Titus Groan was more odd and hard to comprehend. I have a friend who lovesit with a passion and is urging me to read it again. :)
evelyn_b
Oct. 14th, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC)
Emily is my favorite. I don't know if Anne has more fans because her appeal is actually broader, or if she's just so much more well-known and marketed (the Emily live-action TV show was not a success).

Everything labeled fantasy was placed in the children's section in the libraries

That. . . is not a good policy :(

Maybe we can read it together!
scripsi
Oct. 15th, 2015 02:10 pm (UTC)
I Think Anne was more popular even before the TV-series. She is probably more appealing than Emily, she's charming and quite eager to be liked, while Emily is proud and don't seem overly concerned to be liked. Also, Emily has those supernatural touches which actually are quite scary, especially the episode with Ilse's motehr and the well. Not to mention Dean Priests frankly very un-healthy attachment to Emily. I's rather uncomfortable, at least for an adult reader.

But EMily appealed to me because I could identify with her on a whole other level than Anne and also because I found her friends more interesting than Anne's. And I Think the portrait of Elizabeth Murray is quite facinating.

That. . . is not a good policy :(

No, not good at all. But there were very little fantasy around in Sweden back then and I guess people just automatically connected imagined countries with children's literature.

Maybe we can read it together!

That would be fun! When do you plan to start? :)
evelyn_b
Oct. 15th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC)
I'll start Titus Groan as soon as I finish Brideshead Revisited, which will probably be sometime next week. I'll announce it! Do you have a copy already?
scripsi
Oct. 17th, 2015 01:43 pm (UTC)
I can download it to Kindle whenver needed. :) But I will go to Rome the 25th and will be incommunicado until the 31st. I'll have time to read though, we are going to Rome by train. :)
evelyn_b
Oct. 17th, 2015 04:02 pm (UTC)
I'll start it by then so you can read it on the train! (Not that you need me to tell you when to read things, of course). :)

I wish my own gigantic continent had a better train system. It's my favorite way to travel, but getting a train to most of the US is pointlessly difficult right now. Have a great trip to Rome!
scripsi
Oct. 17th, 2015 09:57 pm (UTC)
Sounds good! :D

Sadly the railways are rather neglected in Europe as well. It's really bad in Sweden with years of neglect causing breakdowns and late trains daily. It's depressing. I love train rides and hate flying, and my husband, who is very tall, hates flying even more. As we had time to plan this trip he menaged to find tickets worth the price, though it is more expensive than flying.
lost_spook
Oct. 15th, 2015 04:32 pm (UTC)
And Final Curtain is so good, you guys. I can't wait till next Murder Monday to talk about how good it is. Marsh has been having a tremendous amount of fun with her genre conventions lately, shoving the detective off screen and letting the houseful of survivor-suspects take over. Troy is a great POV character, and I love the little glimpses we get of her (extremely adorable) relationship with Alleyn (who has not shown up yet, true to form).

I didn't think Alleyn took more than half the book to turn up this time?? (Oh, and there is a lovely fanfic that you can read once you've read Final Curtain, too! It was a previous Yuletide effort. Talking of which, somebody nommed the Alleyn series! \o/)

I had not really ever picked up on the scatological thing being a thing, but you are very probably right, because it's definitely a specific Final Curtain quirk.

(It's been years since I read either of the Pat books, but I used to like them when I was a teenager. My long list of books I used to own and foolishly gave away and now regret includes a bunch of non-Anne books that were reasonably easy to get hold of back then and now simply aren't at all in the UK. Grr.)
evelyn_b
Oct. 15th, 2015 09:58 pm (UTC)
\o/

I haven't even looked at the Yuletide tagset yet. Because once I look at the tagset, I have to start deciding things, and I am Not Ready.

I'm only at about p. 125, so close to average for Alleyn. You probably remember him as more present because Troy gets asked about him a lot and his return to England is expected soon, so he's an Anticipated Presence among the characters in a way that he isn't in Lampreys and Colour Scheme.

Let me know if you ever need me to send a book or two to the UK! L. M. Montgomery should not be hard to find anywhere :(
lost_spook
Oct. 16th, 2015 04:41 pm (UTC)
The tagset is shiny! But, yes, obviously both very distracting and also meaning work has to be put in to decide stuff. (I have four definite requests and a happy amount of possible offers, but because 3 out of those 4 requests are super-obscure, I'd like to add more, but not if they come a long way down the list. But also I would like not to be unmatchable! I really shouldn't have nominated that third super-obscure fandom. I knew it wasn't sensible, but LJers and Yuletiders are terrible enablers.) *cough* Yes, yes, it's difficult!

I'm sure he turns up earlier than Dancing Footman! (I think that one may possibly be a record.)

Let me know if you ever need me to send a book or two to the UK! L. M. Montgomery should not be hard to find anywhere

Aw, thanks! I believe there are some editions available via online sites; it's just that I am firmly of the opinion that books like that should be things I can find randomly in libraries and charity shops! I may need to amend my opinions some time if I ever want to read some of them again, though...
osprey_archer
Jan. 5th, 2016 02:57 am (UTC)
I have at last finished reading the Pat books, so I am (quite belatedly) commenting on your posts about them!

I think there is a bit of self-mockery in Montgomery's portrait of Mrs. Merridew, but it's a bit of a mess. On the one hand, Mrs. Merridew's weight is mentioned every time she's on the page; it's inescapable. But on the other hand, Mrs. Merridew ultimately rejects Uncle Tom because he's grown old and bald, so at least the whole "OMG SHE GOT OLD AND UGLY" thing is not solely directed at her? And she's very good-natured, even if she does talk all the time, which is clearly a cardinal sin at Silver Bush.

So there's some sympathy, but there's also a sort of sense that fat people are inherently ridiculous, and it's a rather uneasy balance.
evelyn_b
Jan. 5th, 2016 03:49 am (UTC)
I went to re-read the Mrs. Merridew section, and realized that Mistress Pat has an early reference to television! It's one of the flurry of trendy topics Mrs. Merridew talks about on her visit.

It's a mess, yeah. It could be a lot worse, and it's so much better than the Christine Stuart episode that I'm inclined to cut it a lot of slack, and it works as kind of a humorous side=plot in the "change is terrible" theme but there is just no end to the fat references, is there?

Mrs. Merridew's lecture-circuit chatter would have been a better vein for humor, I think, but then the Tom-and-Merle mutual shallowness parallel would have been harder to draw. Oh, well. :\
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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