Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Wednesday Words to the Wise

What I've Finished Reading

Time of Hope by C. P. Snow. It went by fast and didn't bore me, and was a little more interesting than the previous Snow. This one is kind of diluted Somerset Maugham, with the narrator deliberately getting himself hopelessly entangled with an unhappy woman who will make him unhappy. I might say a little more about it next week and I might not. Probably I should.

What I'm Sort of Reading

In an attempt to give my eyes a break, I picked up a free audiobook from work and have been listening to it. The book is Burnt Offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton, starring a slightly insufferable urban vampire hunter, her preternaturally foppish vampire boyfriend, and lots of rape. It takes place in a world where there are were-versions of every mammal anyone ever drew on a notebook in middle school, vampires, a Circus of the Damned, and zombies, and probably some other things that just haven't come up. Anita Blake works as a kind of law-enforcement liaison for supernatural cases. This provides her with lots of interesting scars to show off in tank tops and backless dresses, and also some moral dilemmas. There are already enough descriptions of clothing and dialogue infodumps for ten regular books - Anita reminds me a little of Enoby Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way. She was dating a vampire and a werewolf, but the werewolf freaked her out by eating a guy right in front of her, so now she's sticking to the comparatively safe and meticulously groomed vampire, who talks with a Pepe Le Pew accent and says "ma petite" a lot.

It's not really my thing. If this were a paper book, I would have closed it around the third or fourth conversation about how tough and goff and unlike other girls Anita is, but in this format it's enjoyable. I don't mind that I can't follow the plot because I probably wouldn't like the plot very much (from what I can tell: a bunch of supernatural factions rape and torture each other; Anita is the Chosen One of several communities of which she is not a part), and it helps pass the time while I'm cleaning.

What I'm Reading Now

Lady Chatterly's Lover

osprey_archer has already brought up Mellors' issue with women who "are the devil to bring off, and bring themselves off, like [his] wife." D. H. Lawrence seems to think this is a common resentment: Michaelis, the playwright with whom Connie had her first affair, sneered at her for exactly the same thing:

"You couldn't go off at the same time as a man, could you? You'd have to bring yourself off! You'd have to run the show!"

Mellors is at least able to talk it out instead of being sarcastic, but he's not really interested in Connie's perspective. He just wants to explain what a hard time he's had of it and list all the different ways women are the worst.

[Cut for FRANK TALK about real problems]
"The rest? There is no rest. Only to my experience the mass of women are like this: most of them want a man, but don't want the sex, but they put up with it, as part of the bargain. The more old-fashioned sort just lie there like nothing and let you go ahead. They don't mind afterwards: then they like you. But the actual thing itself is nothing to them, a bit distasteful. And most men like it that way. I hate it. But the sly sort of women who are like that pretend they're not. They pretend they're passionate and have thrills. But it's all cockaloopy. They make it up–- Then there's the hard sort, that are the devil to bring off at all, and bring themselves off, like my wife. They want to be the active party.–- Then there's the sort that's just dead inside: but dead, and they know it. Then there's the sort that puts you out before you really 'come,' and go on writhing their loins till they bring themselves off against your thighs. But they're mostly the Lesbian sort. It's astonishing how Lesbian women are, consciously or unconsciously. Seems to me they're nearly all Lesbian."

"And do you mind?" asked Connie.

"I could kill them. When I'm with a woman who's really Lesbian, I fairly howl in my soul, wanting to kill her."

Chapter 14 is a fascinating mix of really endearing earnestness and lengthy rants about how women are the worst, possibly as a side effect of modernity being the worst. I don't get the impression that Word of Mellors is necessarily Word of God here, but there is a whole lot of it – plus an unexpectedly repulsive note of bonus racism on the next page, just in case you were wondering when the racism was going to show up.

Connie, who questioned Michaelis' anger back in Chapter 5, here tries to sympathize with Mellors. He doesn't ask her about her own experiences with men or try to understand what she wants (he is perfectly willing to tell her what she wants), but maybe that's just realistic? I haven't tried to test this hypothesis by sleeping with a bunch of dudes in 1922, and I doubt the time-travel grant committee would fund that request. In any case, it's what Mellors and Michaelis are like, and it's what Clifford is like, too.

Chapter 13, immediately prior to the idyll/lecture, is pretty painful. Clifford pontificates about Tevershall and class systems and how education has poisoned the masses, Clifford is pompous and hollow, Clifford's little motor chair gets stuck on a hill and Clifford is helpless and furious and humiliated. Mellors comes to help him and Clifford is horrible about it. He snarls and is self-pitying and vicious, and breaks the chair completely with his stubbornness, so that Connie and Mellors have to push the whole dead weight of both of them all the way home. Poor Clifford is awful and he isn't going to get any less awful, and we've been told all along how it was going to be. His is the kind of hollowness that I'm willing to believe exists in real people, but that in fictional characters almost always feels like unfair deck-stacking. Connie thinks, "Now I've hated him, I shall never be able to go on living with him." It's too soon to tell if this is a permanent revelation or only a temporary one.

It's interesting. I can't really tell how good it is or isn't. The little motor chair is my favorite character, poor little guy. It could be the hero of a children's book: broken and abandoned by the evil/pathetic Sir Clifford, it lingers forlornly first in a barn, then in a scrap yard, before being discovered and fixed up by the scrap metal man as a gift for his daughter, who loves it for the freedom it gives her while respecting its limitations as a machine. It could be called Dream of the Chair or A Chair for Cecilia or The Very Lonely Chair or The Helping Chair, with winsome single-color imitation period illustrations, or maybe some nice watercolors.

I just started To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, which does have a time-travel grant committee, or maybe just one eccentric billionaire who controls the time-travel funds; I'm not sure. There's a team of time-travelers who have been sent back to confirm the existence at a particular time of an architectural feature, for reasons that are unclear. It's a little funny, but not yet as funny as Three Men in a Boat. I am going to read the rest, but I have to finish The Dispossessed first, and a bunch of other things.

What I Plan to Read Next

I have to finish my current stack before I can start anything new! Two new 99 Novels, previously mentioned -- The Disenchanted and Scenes from Provincial Life. Some books from my bookshelf, probably.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2016 02:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah...I generally avoid Anita Blake novels. My sister loves them, but I find them 2D, insipid, boring and eye-roll worthy. They are the bad-fanfic of the novel world (which is a mild assessment and pretty much covers most of the fiction of the supernatural-horror genre I have had the misfortune of reading). UGH.

And now I remember why I disliked the Lady Chatterly book: the butthurt man-child. Well, if you suck at sex and relating to women in general, one shouldn't be surprised at what one receives in return. UGH.

May. 19th, 2016 01:13 am (UTC)
I am definitely not Anita Blake's target audience. It's been kind of fun to try something new, though. If it were a book I really wanted to read, I would find the audio format frustrating, because I keep losing the thread of the narrative, but here that doesn't matter; I just think, "wait, what's happening? oh, the were-rats just declared Anita their new Rat Empress for no reason, cool." It's a distraction that makes no demands.

Poor Mellors. If only all women could read minds, so that they would know exactly how Mellors wants them to feel about having sex with him! He did say he wanted to be left alone. . .
May. 18th, 2016 04:04 pm (UTC)
The Very Lonely Chair. Oh my God. I feel so bad for the poor little motorized wheelchair now. Yes, it deserves a second life with someone who loves it and will take care of it properly and respect its limitations! The scrap metal man's daughter treats the chair right, and maybe gets interested in mechanical things in the bargain and does some tuning up engines during World War II...

The chair seems much more likely to get a happy ending than anyone else in this book. Sir Clifford and Mellors both seem fairly good examples of the adage that people make their own hells: Sir Clifford with his stubborn snobbery (he is horrid when his chair stops working; that chapter is so painful) and Mellors with his idealized image of what sex ought to be like and his inability to cope with actual women who don't fit the mold.

I still think Connie might get away if she runs off to Venice. But it's looking more and more like wherever she goes, she'll be taking Mellors with her, and he'll be like an anchor holding her to misery.

...Seriously, though, I want that chair book.
May. 19th, 2016 01:44 am (UTC)
He teaches her how to repair it and she carries a little tool kit with her wherever she goes, tucked into the big waterproof pocket her dad sewed on the back of the seat, with oil and wrenches and a little patch kit for the tires. They puff down the street to the tea shop and all her friends are so happy to see her beautiful new chair! The Very Lonely Chair wants to be happy, too, but after the heartbreak of failure and all those long months in the barn, it can't help but be wary. What if it fails again?? It's hard to let your guard down when you have been a Very Lonely Chair for so long. . .

Mellors. :| Chapter 14 is so sad because it's almost a breakthrough conversation -- like, these two people with disappointing sexual experiences are talking about it, how great! and it's all straightforward and not coy and heartfelt, and then it just gets sidetracked into a lecture series about Existentially Correct Sex the Mellors Way.

Which, you know, sometimes you've just got to get it off your chest. Ok! Lawrence has been really sympathetic to Connie so far; it's not as if we don't know anything about how she feels. But Mellors doesn't ask or try to understand; he lectures her about her own sex and all the TRUE hidden meanings of things that probably don't have as much significance as he thinks, and that makes me feel lonely for her. Which is either very perceptive of DHL or a little blinkered. I don't know yet which one I think it is.

Team Venice, is what I think I'm saying. Connie needs a change of scenery.

Edited at 2016-05-19 01:45 am (UTC)
May. 19th, 2016 03:11 am (UTC)
NOW I WANT THE VERY LONELY CHAIR TO EXIST AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT. The chair eventually learns to trust her love, right? She strings daisy chains through its wheels in the spring time and ribbons in the fall, and eventually it realizes that her love is pure and true and will not be destroyed if the chair has trouble on steep inclines.

Mellors is so angry. He's such an angry human being and he gets sidetracked into comments like When I'm with a woman who's really Lesbian, I fairly howl in my soul, wanting to kill her, I worry about the prospects of a longterm relationship between him and Connie. I don't think he'd kill her - there's a big gap between thought and action - but I feel like that anger might poison their relationship, especially if they stopped having to snatch moments of togetherness and were just together all the time. They would grate on each other.
May. 19th, 2016 05:13 pm (UTC)
OF COURSE. I think at some point the chair will have to break down again and be fixed with tender kindness before it can truly understand that this time is different. But when it does, it will be a very happy chair.

Oh, no. . . Connie wants to run away with him, but he isn't very interested in the idea, is he? (and that business of Connie trying to get him to say "I love you" and his avoidance of it -- ouch). You can already see the seeds of discord and misunderstanding. I don't think it's a good idea. But I worry that DHL might go for it anyway, just to keep the malaise levels high. :/
May. 19th, 2016 05:47 pm (UTC)

But he probably will anyway, just to torment us all.

Yesssss, I am all about the chair breaking down and being convinced that This Is The End, only to be saved and fixed and finally understand that is is really beloved this time. Maybe they will even have to abandon it for a little while - maybe it's raining and a wheel broke and the father decides to carry his daughter to shelter before returning for the chair? - so the chair is really sad for a little bit until the father comes back to fetch it, and then the chair at last allows itself to hope.
May. 18th, 2016 07:38 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised Mellors feels that all women he meets are Lesbians. On reading that section, I feel inspired to foreswear all men on the spot. Could it possibly be him?

(Thank you for reading LCL so the rest of us don't have to.)
May. 19th, 2016 03:13 am (UTC)
Mellors' radar is flawless. His lesbian dowsing rod never lies. Like Irrefutable Face Science, it will tell you things about yourself you may never have suspected until now! That inspiration you're feeling is just the dowsing rod working its revelatory magic within your soul. Be grateful! :D

I'm enjoying it, actually! It's not a perfect book by any means, but I have a lot of sympathy for it. DHL is clearly trying to write with some honesty about sex, in a culture that was incredibly hostile toward the attempt. It definitely gives the impression of being full of his own issues, but that's probably inevitable. Some of his writing is very good, and it moves quickly even when it isn't. It's bitter and melancholy and a little silly, and Mellors is not as astute an observer of All Women Ever as he seems to think, but it's making a valiant effort.

Mellors, though. :| idk what to tell you, buddy.
May. 19th, 2016 03:42 pm (UTC)
I would so buy 'The Lonely Chair' and give it to random kids, like Dolly Parton, if it existed. Woe! Let's hope there isn't a sequel where Mellors finds out it's a lesbian chair. I trust his judgement.
May. 19th, 2016 04:24 pm (UTC)
Mellors is adamant that he wouldn't actually kill human beings he suspects of being secret lesbians; he just gets VERY ANGRY and fast-walks away from the scene. I don't know whether being a chair would protect the chair (because the sexuality of chairs is less important to Mellors than the sexuality of human women) or put it in more danger (because it's just a chair).
May. 20th, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
I think the chair would be firewood, sob!
May. 20th, 2016 07:43 pm (UTC)
May. 20th, 2016 03:14 am (UTC)
I know just enough about Laurell Hamilton to be pretty sure I wouldn't like her stuff... like V C Andrews, I have noticed just how many copies end up in book fairs and 2nd hand shops, which indicates that they aren't books anyone feels a need to keep and reread (OTOH, they do go fast in said fairs...)

D H Lawrence - I had Sons and Lovers as a set text at university, wasn't too bad but based on that I think he's very overrated and have no desire to try another...
May. 20th, 2016 08:22 pm (UTC)
I haven't read Sons and Lovers! We have a lot of Lawrence at the bookstore, so I might try reading it in the near future, if I'm still feeling curious. Lady Chatterly's Lover is not a perfect book by any means but I don't begrudge it anything, even if Mellors' Pillow Lecture Series is not the best lecture series I've ever heard.

Laurell Hamilton -- I think I might have gone for her when I was about eleven, at a time when sex scenes were valuable currency but I hadn't gotten too picky yet about prose or things like the narrator introducing her friend Veronica "Ronnie" Simms twice in the same book in almost exactly the same words. It's hard to tell, though. I might just have gotten annoyed at the enormous proliferation of were-species. I feel like my inability to follow the plot has been a definite aid to my enjoyment, or distraction, or whatever it is. But I can see why people might enjoy them, too.
May. 21st, 2016 10:38 pm (UTC)
I think when popular fiction (the variation I have seen called popfic) is concerned, it's very much a matter of personal rather than 'what is good writing' taste... what hits the buttons for a reader. And that changes over the years for many of us (not all, I have relatives who began their reading habits with Mills and Book romances and still pretty only much read them)
May. 20th, 2016 07:23 pm (UTC)
Anita Blake! The first two or three of the series are actually pretty readable, given the limitations of the genre (for example: vampires with a French accent are required), but once they go downhill, they go fast and far. The matter is not helped by the fact that Anita herself is a pretty blatant self-insert of the author, and Anita's various boyfriends are inserts of whoever the author happened to be dating at the time. (I believe the werewolf guy was her husband – but then they divorced, and so of course the character turned evil....)

"You couldn't go off at the same time as a man, could you?
You know, a while ago I read a romance novel that kept using "go off" as a euphemism for orgasm, which I'd never heard before and wondered where it came from. And now I know! This is probably not what DHL expected to teach the future.
May. 20th, 2016 09:28 pm (UTC)
Anita Blake! The first two or three of the series are actually pretty readable

I don't doubt it! This one is kind of engaging even as it's bursting at the seams with battle rape set pieces and accents and narrator posturing and other things that are not my favorite things.

Anita's obvious Mary Sueness is the most endearing thing about her, for me. I have a soft spot for Sues. As a character, she's pretty flat and annoying, but as a self-insert? She is SO SASSY and TOUGH and CYNICAL YET DETERMINED and TINY YET BADASS and SENSUAL and IN CONTROL that it creates this ghost-impression of vulnerability. She's like a shy preteen's ideal teenager, or an awkward teenager's favorite video game character.

But I shouldn't make any claims about Anita, because I can't really follow the audiobook so my comprehension is even worse than usual. This is a fleeting impression, and very likely wrong.

(I believe the werewolf guy was her husband – but then they divorced, and so of course the character turned evil....)


I don't think I'd heard "go off" in this sense either, not that I remembered. As euphemisms and legacies go, you could do a lot worse.

Edited at 2016-05-20 09:30 pm (UTC)
May. 22nd, 2016 01:21 pm (UTC)
Book Review: Lady Chatterly's Lover
User osprey_archer referenced to your post from Book Review: Lady Chatterly's Lover saying: [...] and I were both so taken by the chair that we ended up plotting a picture book of its future life [...]
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

Latest Month

August 2017


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner