Thursday, September 22, 2016
No tears, party time is here again
I voted today! I sent in my absentee ballot. I realize perfectly well that this is mainly a symbolic gesture (and a damned expensive one, given shipping rates), but when the US is reduced to a smoking, irradiated ruin by President Tangerine Shitgibbon, I want to be able to say that I did what little I could to prevent it. Not that the roving warboys are likely to care about these fine distinctions, but still.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote; or, The Adventures of Arabella (1752)
From the title, you can intuit to a fair degree of accuracy what this novel's going to be about. Arabella is a marquis' daughter who, through an overdose of romances, takes to heart ideas about how the world works that harken back to an imaginary chivalric ideal (specifically, she reads seventeenth-century French romances which she cites with great frequency--they may not be much read nowadays, but there's a rundown of some of them on this incomplete but extremely helpful page). As in the novel's namesake, it has no plot to speak of; Arabella bounces from one ludicrous situation to another until Lennox decides to disabuse her and wrap things up.
Friday, September 02, 2016
Christine Brooke-Rose, Out (1964)
Right! Brooke-Rose (1923-2012) was an experimental British novelist. And that's about all there is to say about that! She doesn't seem to be especially well-known these days, but she was pretty prolific. This one time, she won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. So there!
Monday, August 29, 2016
Angela Carter, Wise Children (1991)
Right, so I have a shameful confession to make to you good people: in that last entry, I feel like I tried to create the impression that I liked Nights at the Circus more than I actually did. Don't get me wrong: I did like it. It's a very good novel. But my overwhelming desire for Carter's last few books to be totally brilliant masterpieces made me overstate the case for it. Did I REALLY suggest that it's arguably better than The Passion of New Eve? Um...no. Tidak tidak tidak. In truth, I'd say Nights at the Circus ranks right smack in the middle of Carter's novels, qualitywise. Given the high esteem in which I hold her, that is NO SMALL THING. But at the same time, it's not the GREATEST thing. I don't know that I would've been determined to read her entire output had I started there. So mea maxima culpa.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984)
Nights at the Circus! It's 1899. There is a woman named Fevvers (dialect for "feathers"), "the Cockney Venus," a large, beautiful, coarse, and intensely mercenary woman who has--or appears to have--a pair of large wings growing out of her back (which indeed allow her to fly). She's been killing it for huge, awestruck audiences all over Europe. For the first third of the novel, she relates her life story (with the help of her foster mother, Lizzie) to Jack Walser, a bemused and skeptical American journalist. It's a digressive, hallucinatory story in which she lives in two separate brothels (although she maintains her virginity throughout), one a combination freak show, until...well, there's no use spoiling the twists and turns.
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979)
I was surprised by the first few stories here, and not in a way I expected to be surprised: no, I was surprised by how...conventional they seemed. Very straightforward takes on faerie tales, reworked, true, but not notably deconstructing or subversive. The title story (by far the longest one here) comes first, and it's a very faithful retelling of "Bluebeard." Is it set in the twentieth century? Yes. Does it have a straightforward (though admittedly kinda badass) feminist twist in the end? It does. Still. Nothing that amazing. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but...I dunno, if she were a musician, this is the kind of thing about which you'd accuse her of having watered down her sound a bit in a bid for mass-market appeal. Not that I'm accusing Carter of that, probably. But it is surprising. "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" is a Beauty and the Beast story with a happily-ever-after ending. "Puss-in-Boots" is a bawdy, Boccacchio-esque take on the story that likewise ends surprisingly sweetly, and...like that. Huh, I thought. Not that any of this is in any way bad, but it's not exactly amazing either.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Angela Carter, Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974)
NOW THIS IS MORE LIKE IT. It's Carter's first short story collection--though not, it's worth noting (or maybe it's not worth noting, but let's do it anyway), her first short stories: she published three in her early twenties that remained uncollected until Burning Your Boats, her almost-complete collection: "The Man Who Loved a Double Bass," "A Very, Very Great Lady and Her Son at Home," and "A Victorian Fable." Let's just note that they're the worst things she ever published and move on. As for this collection, in her afterward she says that she "started to write short pieces when [she] was living in a room too small to write a novel in." This was when she was living in Japan, though we should note that she also wrote The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman there--maybe she found more spacious living quarters between these and that (the novel was published before the stories, but of course could've been written after).