Dear Readers,


I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shakespeare News: Rufus on Sonnets and King Lear Online

  • I know a bunch of you told me in comments here and via twitter that you missed King Lear. Well, it's online at PBS! According to an email I got from PBS, it's also airing Sunday, April 5 at 12pm.
  • Ever wonder what Rufus Wainwright's favorite Shakespeare sonnets are? Swvl finds out in the course of an interview with Rufus about his new opera (!!) and a play he's working on based on the bard's 14-line masterpieces. Scroll to the bottom to find out which ones he likes best. Let me give you a hint: #18 and #116 are not among them. Rufus is too erudite to go for such obvious choices.

Everything I wanted To Know About "Twilight"

I learned from this web-comic. Just click through. You'll be glad you did.
On a related note, is there any other phenomenon like the huge number of people (myself included) who have devoured every page of the Twilight saga but scorn its author and everything she stands for?


Monday, March 30, 2009

Little Dorrit Episode 1

Little Dorrit: Episode 1

Guest post by two of my absolute favorite ladies in the blogosphere, Kim and Amy of Romancing the Tome.

Debt.

Can’t we all relate? It might technically be called a “prison,”but truth be told, the Marshalsea didn’t look half bad during last night’s U.S. premiere of Little Dorrit. So let’s pretend that the Dorrits’ digs didn’t exceed, in square footage, that of our own humble abodes for which we pay an arm and a leg. Let’s just pretend we wouldn’t kill for a fawning “doorman” like John Chivery to stroke our egos day-in and day-out. Instead, let’s reflect on a few of the things we learned from Installment #1 of the Charles Dickens classic:

•In the market for a new job? Take heed: If your prospective employer says, “I’m a terror when roused,” it might not be an ideal employment situation. Especially when the office resembles the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

•Travel in Victorian England was almost as inconvenient as it is today. Still, being quarantined in Marseilles beats getting stuck on the tarmac in a cramped, foul-smelling metal tube.

•When you feel tempted to bash in your sort-of sister’s skull with a lawn bowling ball or are otherwise reduced to a state of spastic rage, try counting to five-and-twenty. Or, seek solace and
counsel from a creepily sympathetic closet case.

•When you refer to your hot and gentlemanly son as a “vessel of sin,” you should understand that for some red-blooded female viewers, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Not in the least.

•Hospital food was once pretty decent, if Maggie is any arbiter. Also, when she was rolling around in Arthur’s bed eating cake, we have to admit were a little jealous. That’s our idea of a good time.

•Dads are soooooo embarrassing!

•Sometimes, a “gentleman” and a “scoundrel” are one and the same. Sadly, this is all too true.

•Amy Dorrit is not the sort of girl you could have a nice bitch fest or gossip session with, but let’s all breathe a big sigh of relief that actress Claire Foy managed to strain out some of the saccharine, at least. She’s a little unbearable in the book.

•When two clever ones tell you you’re getting married, it’s pointless to resist. Poor Affery!

•It’s okay to hate someone named “Pet,” because they probably really are kind of annoying.

• Lascivious Frenchmen? Not to be trusted — or slept with.

•The Circumlocution Office: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Was that Barney Frank and Harry Reid?

• Women in China are different “down there,” pigtails on women of a certain age are not becoming, and sometimes, misty-watercolored memories of the childhood sweetheart you were
cruelly separated from are best not revisited. Also, in interior design, a little bit of pink goes a long way.

•Stray buttons are sexy.

And finally, yes, we know the Marshalsea was really overflowing with wastewater and the smell of privies, but we are completely enraptured by this first episode in the series anyway and love the Gothic touches reminiscent of the Bleak House adaptation. As in the book, Little Dorrit has proved well worth the wait...

Thanks so much to Amy and Kim! I'll never forget that you guys linked to me when I was just starting this blog (and I begged you to.) Your wit is unparalleled. And next week, tune in to a review from the highly-esteemed BethDunn.

New Scarlet Letter Adaptation, Like, In High School!

My lp points me to Variety, which announces that there's going to be a new adaptation of The Scarlet Letter set in high school and called "Easy A." (ha, a pun!). Saith the trade mag's Tatiana Siegel;


Written by New York playwright Bert V. Royal, the pic is a modern, high school-set retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."

Will Gluck is directing the film, which centers on a student who sees her life paralleling Hawthornes heroine Hester Prynne after she pretends to be the school slut in hopes she'll benefit from the notion she's promiscuous.
As readers of this blog doubtless know, there are a lot of excellent lit-adaptations set in high school, but it could also be a big FAIL depending on the way it's handled. Incidentally, having tutored a huge number of students working on the novel, I have to say I like it even better every time.

A Barouche-load of Austen Polls for Your Voting Pleasure

Via Mags, it appears that the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel has done what all good newspapers should do in order to boost their dying profession: turn to Jane.

Their Pride and Prejudice-o-meter features ten rather redundant and silly Jane Austen film-related polls. Fortunately, the "good" Firth-Ehle P+P adaptation (aka P+P '95) is mercilessly and thoroughly killing all the other films in almost every single category, which proves that there's some moral currency left in this bankrupt world. Go vote and contribute to the trumping that poor Kiera is receiving.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

#LittleDorrit Hashtag for Literary TweetersI

In an effort to be whimsical, I am trying to start a Little Dorrit hashtag that we can use for the next five weeks while it's on to talk about it over the twitterwaves. It's #littledorrit.

You can start out by just searching other for Dorrit lovers here: http://tinyurl.com/cl85yf

And yes, in case, you're wondering I did absolutely love it.

The Times Hearts Little Dorrit

The Times' Alessandra Stanley spends much time, as everyone is rightly doing, pointing out the timely and remarkable parallel between Dickens' great financial swindler Mr. Merdle and the real-life Bernie Madoff. All in all she gives the new series an excellent review and notes, as I did in my review of the book, how superior the "in-between" characters in the novel are to the good and bad ones.

Both Ms. Foy, as Amy, and Mr. Macfadyen, as Clennam, are persuasive and touching. But William Dorrit is at the core of this tale, and Mr. Courtenay does the role full justice, layering the pathos of the elderly debtor with rich swaths of self-pity and vanity.

Mr. Merdle’s fund is too good to be true, but “Little Dorrit” lives up to Dickens’s every word.

Make sure to tune in soon for a guest-review from Romancing the Tome's Kim and Amy, and feel free to drop your initial impressions in the comments section below.

Fun with Angry Letters to the NYTBR Section, Part II

An appropriately erudite yet still smack-downy responseto Kate Roiphe's review of A Jury of Her Peers, which we complained about when it ran, from the lovely Maddy Elfenbein, who happens to be an esteemed acquaintance of mine from high school and college. Go Maddy go.

Quick Link: Literary Tattoos

At www.contrariwise.org people who love their favorite quotations so much they get them permanently inscribed on their skin send in photos of the inkage. Check it out.


Via galleycat.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I Got Nothin'

I'm spending the day getting ready to go to the Women, Action and the Media (yes, WAM!) conference, so I'm going to be MIA---UNLESS I get a spark of inspiration on the Bolt Bus (which I often do) and the internet therein is actually functional, which it rarely is.
Otherwise, I may spend some of the conference blogging. Depends on how boring it is and how cyncial I feel;) (I expect it to not be, and me to not be, of course)

Have a great Friday, folks!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Think I'm Reading Enough Feminist Books Right Now?



Look for reviews of these books in the next few weeks :)

Last Night's "Lear"--Pics+ Your Thoughts?


I only caught some of the Ian McKellen/Romola Garai King Lear last night. I saw the scenes where Regan and Goneril blind poor Gloucester and the ensuing scenes up until Cordelia reunites with Lear, and then I tuned back in for the end. I thought it was excellently acted if a bit draining (shocking, fellowette! emotionaly drained by KING LEAR? It's such a happy play ;)

McKellen was wonderful. I couldn't hear some of his lines, but he really delivered a tour de force performance and the scene at the end where he carries his daughter out in a reverse Pieta never loses its shock value.

So what did you think if you caught more of it than I?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quick Link: Women in Oscar Wao

A really detailed and interesting post from Latoya Peterson at Racialicious on gender, race and the female characters, particularly Lola, in Junot Diaz's Pultizer-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.


In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus - obviously, Oscar - or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.

Some seem confused at why Lola’s story was included or why things were so hypersexualized, but to me, it was so painfully true to life that I had to catch my breath after reading.
Latoya's post is great... and there's more to come! If you, like me, crave some thoughtful discussion and reflection after reading this complex book, then I definitely recommend this post and the rapidly-expanding comment thread that follows.

Literary Geek Tag-Meme Quiz Thingy

I got tagged on facebook with the following note:
You have received this note because someone thinks you are a literary geek. Copy the questions into your own note, answer the questions, and tag any friends who would appreciate the quiz, including the person who sent you this.

Don't bother trying to italicize your book titles. We know you want to...

I was tagged by a classmate from a college poetry-writing seminar who now runs the Slurve literary mag. You should all go visit it and submit! In the meantime, since I don't do facebook "notes" here's my answer to the questions.

1) What author do you own the most books by? I'm going to have to go with LM Montgomery: 7 Anne books, 3 Emily books, 2 Pat books, 2 Story Girl books, The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill, Kilmeny of the Orchard and many short stories and other books as well.

2) What book do you own the most copies of? Jane Eyre. By far.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? I didn't notice. Grammar FAIL.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? See this previous post.

4a) What fictional character would you most like to be?
Lizzy Bennet, OBVIOUSLY!

4b) What fictional character do you think most resembles you? I think of myself as a cross between Lizzy Bennet and Bridget Jones. But don't we all?

5) What book have you read the most times in your life? Pride and Prejudice and Emily of New Moon. By far.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Emily of New Moon and Little Women and A Little Princess and maybe Jane Eyre (yep, read it at 10, booyah).

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? BREAKING DOWN DAWN.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year? On opposite ends of the spectrum I'd have to say, Little Dorrit & the first Twilight.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? Pride and Prejudice, and no I'm not a broken record.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature? Hmm, give it to Toni Morrison again? I = ignorant.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? My readers already know: Middlemarch and The Hobbit.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? The Emperor's Children. Yuck.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character. I prefer having anxiety dreams about HS calc tests in which I can't do math and soccer games in which I can't kick the ball, thank you very much.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult? I don't believe there is such a thing as lowbrow (for the most part). That's why this blog exists.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read? Ulysses, but so worth it! Also Bleak House 'cause like Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, it was just. so. long.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen? "The Winter's Tale" I spose. But I've READ "Coriolanus," "Pericles" and "Cymbeline."

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? Hmm, the literary tradition that produced Anna K or that which produced Emma B? I like em both, haven't read enough of either to definitively say, but of course the British are supreme.

18) Roth or Updike? BOOOOOO to this category. WASPy ahole vs. Ahole Jew. It's a lose, lose, but I'd prolly go with Roth just for the sake of ethnic solidarity.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? Sedaris, by a hair. I've enjoyed what I've read by both and fear I would tire of each if I read too much more of their oeuvres.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Will Shakes is the one. Silly question.

21) Austen or Eliot? When we say Eliot, do we refer to George (aka Mary Ann Evans) or TS? I'd still go with Jane, but that's because 1-Jane is supreme and 2-TS Eliot is overrated. George Eliot is a big favorite, but no Jane.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? Moby Dick. Planning to change that this summer. Also Native Son and The Grapes of Wrath.

23) What is your favorite novel? Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, Emily of New Moon, Persuasion, LOTR, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

24) Play? "Twelfth Night."

25) Poem?
Want to get cliched? Frost's "Stopping by the Woods," Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, Yeats' "Easter, 1916" + "The Second Coming," and Edna St. Vincent Millay's, "Travel."

26) Essay? Freud's Unheimlich.

27) Short story? "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. LeGuin

28) Work of non-fiction? "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer

29) Who is your favorite writer? JANE FREAKING AUSTEN in case you haven't noticed.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? I'm going to ape the person who tagged me and say Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow.

31) What is your desert island book?
Middlemarch, fo' sho, because it basically replicates human society.

32) And ... what are you reading right now?
A shitload of feminist books for an article I'm writing, The Joy Luck Club which I pick up whenever I visit my parents' apt, then soon I'll snag Angels and Demons for fun I hope.

People I'm tagging with this meme (no obligation AT ALL, but it's kind of a fun quiz):
JaneFan @Bookworm's hideout
Gettsr@Reading List of a Book-Pusher
K@South in the Winter
Debbie@Write on Target
Wendy@Writes in The City
Judith@ Shortcut to Mushrooms
Sandara Leigh @ Sandara's travel journal
Sonia Michaels
BethDunn
Catherine E
Sarah O
And anyone else who reads and wants to join the fun timez.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Literary Birthday: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Happy 90th! An icon of our age.

I Am Waiting
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti


I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
Of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder


Full poem here

Al Gore's Writing Another Book

It's not, as I hoped, a steamy chronicle of his love for Tipper. No, alas, it's about the environment, coming out in the fall, and printed on 100% recycled paper. So it it still oughta be pretty good. I can't wait to hear what Michiko says about it!

Monday, March 23, 2009

LOTR vs. Ayn Rand

This quote has been circulating on the interwebs (h/t to Abe +SWVL @ my google reader crew)

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Via Lawyers, Guns & Money via OJ.

I think that says it all quite nicely, don't you?

"Big Love" Season Finale Open Thread--What Did You Think?

I'm not sure that any of my regular readers are big fans of the show, but I know my friends and family are, so I thought I'd put this up in case any of you have thoughts on the last ep. I'm going to reserve my thoughts for the comments so I don't spoil it, but what a great season it's been. Dark, but great.

So if you have thoughts to contribute, slap 'em up below. Otherwise, next Sunday Night it's Little Dorrit time. Also The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is premiering soon, and I adore the book series by Alexander McCall Smith, so it should be an exciting adaptation.

RIP Nicholas Hughes

The son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes killed himself today.

While it's easy to see this as the continuation of some literary saga/tragedy, it's also important to remember that depression, the clinical kind, is inherited. Here is coverage from Jacket Copy and the Guardian.

Though I love Plath's poems, particularly her later ones, and I liked The Bell Jar a lot, I've never been obsessed with their story mostly because it struck me as too much of a downer even for my morbid tastes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fun with Angry Letters to the NYTBR Section

  • Also, New Yorker scribe Joan Acocella wrote in to the Times--apparently not for the first time---to slam the NYTBR section for using the first names of female authors in their reviews (in this case, calling Flannery O'Connor Flannery) while they refer to male authors by their surnames. It's good to see a prestigious writer like Acocella, whom I just wrote about last week, taking down the pervasive sexism in that section.
  • Finally elsewhere in the paper of record, (h/t allofmilov) TV critic Virginia Hefferman mentions one of my favorite books, Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven in conjunction with "Big Love" which ends tomorrow. I don't agree with her analysis, but I love that she promotes the Krak!

The Vatican vs. Tom Hanks, Round 2.







So there may be a Vatican boycott of the Angels and Demons film because like its predecessor, it exposes a "conspiracy" in the inner workings of the church hierarchy. This "controversy" just makes me want to go out and read Angels & Demons, even though I hear it's basically the same book as the Da Vinci Code. I say, since I read Da Vinci years ago, it will probably be an enjoyable diversion from the serious books I've been reading recently.

Anyway, imho, Dan Brown is a feminist Stephenie Meyer. Both their books are fun and breath! less! And although neither has the kind of prose dexterity that will win them prestigious awards, obviously they both tap into something primal, and make reading popular which is a good good thing. But Brown's message, that most old and venerable institutions run by men are sinister, is a better one than Meyer's garbled "good-bad boys don't bite" theme.

Oh and my last point: maybe since the heroine of this one isn't the descendant of Jesus, there can be a sex scene? Or at least a non-forehead kiss? PLEASE RON HOWARD DON'T LET US DOWN.

(Now I sound like a Twi-hard. You happy, Stephenie?)

Quick Link: Novel Repackaging

This combines my favorite topics, feminism and books, but not in a happy sense. Via the "F-word" an awesome UK feminist site, there's the backstory of the book "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" a new translated book from Sweden which is getting buzzed about A LOT a lot in the American book-o-sphere.

Essentially, the book is about domestic violence, in a major way, which is clear from the European packaging but NOT AT ALL from the American. The european title is "Men who hate women" and it features a bruised face. The American title is above, and it's got a naked back with a tattoo on the cover. Really interesting contrast. There's a nice discussion in the comments section of that blog, too, so check it out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

This is Just to Say

Have a great weekend!
the LA Times Carolyn Kellog (a good book-blogger btw) has a rundown of literary activities this weekend. Whether you participate in such activities or not (not, for me) hope you all have restful and fun weekends.

Bruce on the Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Bruce Springsteen - Interview
comedycentral.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor


1-HE LOST THE SOUL PATCH!
2-He talked about the difference between hearing "booos" and "bruuuuuces"
3-I luff him.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Little Dorrit Guest-Blogging Schedule

(http://www.vertex42.com/calendars/2009-calendar-clipart.html)

Alea Iacta Est! The die has been cast, the cast has been chosen, and we have, to quote Sylvia Plath, "boarded the train there's not getting off." In other words, I have my roster of guest-bloggers for the five weeks of Little Dorrit! The rules are simple: there are none. The guest-posts won't be formal, or necessarily a live-blog, or a comparison to the book, or arrive immediately after the installment airs, because that's not how Egalitarian Bookworm Chicks roll, okay? The posts will be witty, and incisive, show up within a few days of the installment and eagerly await your comments!

Installment 1, March 29: the formidable Kim and Amy

Installment 2, April 5th: the highly-esteemed BethDunn

Installment 3, April 12th: the irrepressible Catherine

Installment 4, April 19th: the keen Sarah O

Installment 5, April 26th: the delightful K


Thanks to all these awesome sisters-in-bloggage for agreeing to do this and I hope you will all visit their sites and read more of their brilliance.

I really appreciate the comments that have started flowing into the site and all the great discussions we've been having, so thanks to everyone who comments. If you are a regular reader and you want to guest-blog here or cross-post or otherwise sow the seats of social amiablity on the intertubes, just let me know!

Also, when the time comes, I think we should start a twitter hashtag for LD. How about, hmm, I dunno, #littledorrit ?

That's all for now, folks. I'm looking forward to this Masterpiece-free weekend so I can focus on the "Big Love" season finale.

Housekeeping/Self-Promotion

I updated my sidebar to include some stuff related to my non-blogging writing career. You can see it by scrolling down or clicking here. (It may take a minute to load, re-click if it doesn't). Basically, I included a subscription box for my newsletter (which has yet to have been ever sent out at all and will be sent out rarely, I promise) and a list of my published pieces that have a literary/cultural/feminist/EBC bent (so my news reporting on school board meetings is, thankfully, kept far from this site ;)

Feel free to sign up, follow the links, or completely ignore this post and wait for the next Austen or Dickens tidbit.

Shakespeare and Joyce Predated Britney

(NSFW language follows, so be warned, ye prudes)

Via Slate, an examination of the deep-rooted literary tradition that prefigures "If You Seek Amy," Britney Spears' controversial new song that, when its title is spoken aloud, spells out an entirely different meaning.

The Irish literary god does in fact appear to be the first person to have used this phrase; in Ulysses, Joyce included a bit of doggerel sung by the Prison Gate Girls:

If you see kay
Tell him he may
See you in tea
Tell him from me.

In the third line, Joyce manages to encode cunt as well. Take that, Britney!

Joyce isn't, however, the only great writer to encode dirty words in his work. Hundreds of years earlier, none other than English literary god William Shakespeare used a similar trick. In Twelfth Night, Olivia's butler Malvolio receives a letter written by Maria but in Olivia's handwriting; analyzing the script, Malvolio says, "By my life this is my lady's hand. These be her very C's, her U's and her T's and thus makes she her great P's." With the and sounding like N, Shakespeare not only spells out cunt, but gets pee in there as well.

And he didn't need a news anchor, or even a town crier, to explain it.


Any Twelfth Night reference is guaranteed to win me over. Yellow stockings!
But seriously, it's always good to point out that "high" literature is, in fact, not that high, that Shakespeare wrote for the pit as well as the balcony and that Joyce was banned as pornographic, and that above all, Britney Spears is a golden leaf on a tall, verdant and flowering literary tree.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jane Austen was a Manly Read, and Other Literary Links

I rarely read much on the NYTimes' Paper Cuts blog, but today they have a fascinating post by Jennifer Schuessler about the gendered-ness of Austen-mania. Apparently in the 19th century, it was a guy thing to obsess over Austen. (EBCs maintain that Jane is for everyone. That is our official position.) Dudes wore their Jane fandom with oodles of pride. To wit:


Benjamin Disraeli read “Pride and Prejudice” 17 times, and Matthew Arnold and John Henry Newman read “Mansfield Park” every year. The historian Thomas Babbington Macaulay read Austen obsessively and, as a colonial administrator in India, wrote letters home comparing various colleagues to characters in “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice.” None of them are known to have covered the books in plain brown paper.

In fact, Lynch points out, the term “Janeite” — today used somewhat derisively to refer to Austen’s besotted female fans — came into usage in the 1890s thanks to men who wore it like a badge of honor. Kipling’s 1923 story “The Janeites” was about a platoon of British soldiers who use Austen talk to distract themselves from the horror of the trenches. And here’s E. M. Forster, coming out as a “Jane Austenite” in 1924...


Really fascinating, right? There's some snark in there that makes me feel as if Ms Schuessler might be one.of.us. ;)

Other literary links of note:

On Writing

On Writing On Writing by Stephen King

My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stephen King's personality appeals so very much to me. I like his brash forthrightness, his meaty language, his emotional immediacy and wisdom about the human (particularly the American human) condition. But I sometimes can't take all the supernatural violence in his novels. So it was such a pleasure to dip into this book and read about King's rather hardscrabble but loving upbringing in industrial towns throughout new england, his philosophies on the writing process and his very sweetly-enduring love for his wife, Tabitha.

From his vignettes about being a young teenager and writing zombie stories that he sold to his classmates you really get such an incredible sense that this was his destiny.

It also helped remind me, in my secret life as an aspiring fiction writer, to really work on chopping out my adverbs and passive constructions in my work. And he stresses the importance of really prioritizing your work, having a good space to work in and treating yourself as though your writing matters, all of which are really crucial elements to success, both on a personal and professional level.

All in all, as good as it's cracked up to be!

View all my reviews.

Anyone have a rec for another good King novel to read? I'm tempted by Salem's Lot and Carrie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It would be remiss of me not to mention

as someone on my feminist list-serv did, that the National Book Critics Circle Awards, given this week, had absolutely ZERO female winners, despite there being many uterine-Americans among the nominees.

I cast no aspersions, I just think it's important to keep pointing this out.

Previously:

Anti-feminist book critics review feminist works

Times' Gender ratio improves

Pulitzers: kinda testosteroney

Literary Links: Austen and Brontes edition

Austen-blog brings us news of two awesome P+P related projects we've talked about here before:


Meanwhile, Bronte-blog brings us news of a French teen Wuthering Heights obsession brought on by Twilight-mania. It's seriously amazing and one of the linked articles includes this graf;


At chain store Fnac, the novel is described as the "favourite book of Bella and Edward, the two heroes of Twilight!" Teenage fansites are buzzing with chat about the book. "Fan de bella" thought it was "GENIAL" and "couldn't stop crying it was so beautiful", while "Flora" from Strasbourg said she'd "adored" it for its "unparalleled violence", its "mad poetry" and "profound passion". "Bella is the dignified descendent of the romantic Victorian heroine, which is seen in her sometimes disproportionate, slightly mad reactions, which are reminiscent of a certain Catherine," said a third commentator.

GENIAL indeed.

St Patrick's Day Poem

RED HANRAHAN'S SONG ABOUT IRELAND

by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
HE old brown thorn-trees break in two high over Cummen Strand,
Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand;
Our courage breaks like an old tree in a black wind and dies,
But we have hidden in our hearts the flame out of the eyes
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knocknarea,
And thrown the thunder on the stones for all that Maeve can say.
Angers that are like noisy clouds have set our hearts abeat;
But we have all bent low and low and kissed the quiet feet
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.

The yellow pool has overflowed high up on Clooth-na-Bare,
For the wet winds are blowing out of the clinging air;
Like heavy flooded waters our bodies and our blood;
But purer than a tall candle before the Holy Rood
Is Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.





For an explanation of the mythology, see here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Planning on Watching Little Dorrit? Want to Guest Blog an Episode?

Hey Dickens-lovers. I thought I'd invite four or five of you regular readers (you know who you are!) to guest blog an episode of the long month of Little Dorrit. If you're planning on watching the mini-series (starts March 29th, ends April 26th, every Sunday night + episodes online) let me know in comments or via email, I'll assign you a night to guest blog, and we'll work out the deets. Word! Here's hoping this works.

David Copperfield: What Did You Think?

So I understand from the twittersphere that there was a lot more Copperfield action on local PBS stations last night. I thoroughly enjoyed Part II, particularly that HEEP of infamy. My only quibble is that it could have gotten the full 6-7 hour treatment, and almost felt too rushed at the end.

What did those of you who saw part I online or on tv last night think? Anyone else catch the conclusion?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recommended Reading on Reading

Adam Serwer of The American Prospect has a wonderful blog post about Lorraine Hansberry. I had a paper doll of her in my "notable american women" collection, and along with Edna St. Vincent Millay and Harriet Beecher Stowe, she therefore became an early favorite. Anyway his post--about race, gender and sexuality in her life and work and legacy--is far less trivial than that anecdote, and well worth reading.

My idol-in-bloggage, Novelist Jennifer Weiner, has a post up at HuffPo about gender and genre in the book world and how the subjects covered by "serious" men and "unserious" women are converging, even though the double-standard is still in play. It's a very thoughtful and hip essay.

Go read these posts now and edify thyselves!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Love of Tragedy = Funny?

USA Today's roundup of the nebulous world of "Women's Fiction" (oh we could write a dissertation about THAT category, but for another date it shall be saved) that has the following opening line:

These four titles offer stories of family, motherhood, tragedy and emotional pain.

Ahh, emotional pain. You know, there's nothing like tragedy AND the ensuing emotional pain to get us women running to the bookstores, credit cards in hand (funny cause it's true--not just for women, either).

This also reminded me of being in a UK bookstore two summers ago (Scotland) and seeing an entire section devoted to "Tragic Life Stories. " I snapped a picture because I thought, hey, they're being so honest about what makes people tick. Here it is:
Incidentally, some of the books in the USA Today roundup look good, emotional pain notwithstanding.

Sexy Shakespeare Pic

I fear 'twould be negligent NOT to post this image upon my blog, particularly since it appeareth to be Shakespeare week here at EBC, i'faith:

'Zounds! Doth thou recall in thy mind a certain personage?(saith I without a trace of originality--it can be seen all about the blogosphere)
;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

David Copperfield, The Review


So on Sunday night I tuned into David Copperfield (was it on in your parts? I heard from a Chicagoan tweet-buddy that it didn't air there). It was the classic opulent, true to the book, well-acted Masterpiece/BBC production. If I say that it was exactly how I expected it to be, that seems to be selling it short. But it's not. Cause for real, when you know it's a BBC job with Daniel Radcliffe, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellan Imelda Staunton and more, you know you're going to get the goods.

And get them we did. I was shocked (as I often am with the Beeb but shouldn't be), by how perfectly the settings always gel with my memories of reading the books. I found Betsey Trotwood's cottage on the cliff, young Mrs. Copperfield's house at the end of the lane, and the Peggoty's ship-cabin near the pier frighteningly close to how they appeared in my imagination (I felt the same way about Wuthering Heights and Tess).


The evil characters--Murdstone + his sister, Creakle, and the oh-so-'umble Uriah Heep--sent the requisite shivers down my spine. And as for the stars, McKellen was deliciously creepy and Radcliffe absolutely adorable, but Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins really delivered the winning performances of the night as a pair of quirky and odd but genuinely good caretakers for young Davy. I liked Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Micawber, especially her repetition of "I shall NEVER desert Mr. Micawber!" but my favorite scene by far was when Maggie Smith's Betsey Trotwood told off the evil Murdstone siblings and said "if you ever trample your donkey on my lawn again, I shall knock off your bonnet." SMACK!

So in conclusion, David Copperfield= awesome book and mini-series, and Maggie Smith= top EBC goddess for life. I anticipate part 2 most eagerly.

Sigh No More, Ladies, Sigh No More

Men were deceivers ever.

Last night my sig oth and I continued our Shakespeare kick with Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing. Emma Thompson and her former hubby really steal much of the show as unlikely lovers. But the whole cast is great, and it's just the quintessential onscreen Shakespeare comedy. People forget how close the comedies always come to tragedy, how much emotional weight can be found in their words with the right production and approach. And the gorgeous Italian setting and musical numbers are all pitch-perfect. It's a five-star production. Enjoy the song below for a taste.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Twilight Alarmism Gone Wild

via Bronte Blog, we find one particular college paper columnist (god bless em, for I was once one and I understand the bombast that they spew on a personal level) fulminating about the romance-porn that is the Twilight novels. Sigh. Much as I abhor the misogyny embedded within the books and Stephenie Meyer's over-fondness for hearts stopping and near-swoons and SPARKLES, I really don't think they're that significant or dangerous. And I find this connection ludicrous:

But Twilight’s brand of porn, otherwise known as “girl porn,” does not rely on graphic material to captivate its female audience. Rather, this special type of porn manifests itself in the form of emotional binges, excessive romanticizing and interaction with impossibly perfect male characters.

Girl porn has existed for years in the various forms, from the clever and sophisticated Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte novels to the less tactful bodice-rippers by garden-variety romance novelists. Both kinds have had their share of success, though neither has claimed the limelight the way “Twilight” has.
It's hard to even know what to say to that latter point except, yeah, I think the two women who probably did the most to advance the novel form, like, ever, are a bit more than girl porn. But maybe that's just me. Ask Harold Bloom.

In conclusion, wherever there are college students, there will be women mocking other women's silly-womanly tastes in order to elevate themselves above their fellow womb-owners and please the boyz in the frat. That's not feminism. Feminists thoughtfully explore the cultural trends behind teen-girl-fads and then remind their readers that hey, it's just art, and we should train our anger on the patriarchy, not sexy-chaste vampire stories ;)

Quick Link: The New Yorker takes on Vampires

The New Yorker's Joan Acocella on Dracula and his ilk. It's a good piece! Here's my favorite part:


Whether or not politics was operating in Stoker’s novel, it is certainly at work in our contemporary vampire literature. Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series openly treats vampires as a persecuted minority. Sometimes they are like black people (lynch mobs pursue them), sometimes like homosexuals (rednecks beat them up). Meanwhile, they are trying to go mainstream. Sookie’s Bill has sworn off human blood, or he’s trying; he subsists on a Japanese synthetic. He registers to vote (absentee, because he cannot get around in daylight). He wears pressed chinos. This is funny but also touching. In “The Vampire Chronicles,” Anne Rice also seems to regard her undead as an oppressed group. Their suffering is probably, at some level, a story about AIDS. All this is a little confusing morally. How can we have sympathy for the Devil and still regard him as the Devil? That question seems to have occurred to Stephenie Meyer, who is a Mormon. Edward, the featured vampire of Meyer’s “Twilight,” is a dashing fellow, and Bella, the heroine, becomes his girlfriend, but they do not go to bed together (because of the conversion risk). Neither should you, Meyer seems to be saying to her teen-age readers. They are compensated by the romantic fever that the sexual postponement generates. The book fairly heaves with desire.

But in Stoker’s time no excitement needed to be added. Sex outside marriage was still taboo, and dangerous. It could destroy a woman’s life—a man’s, too. (Syphilis was a major killer at that time. One of Stoker’s biographers claimed that the writer died of it.) In such a context, we do not need to look for political meaning in Dracula’s transactions with women. The meaning is forbidden sex—its menace and its allure. The baring of the woman’s flesh, her leaning back, the penetration: reading of these matters, does one think about immigration?

Check out the whole thing.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

DAVID COPPERFIELD TIME--(hopen 'fread)

OMG READERZ I AM SO EXCITED!!!

Here's some quotes to warm you up for tonight's show. From the illustrious Wikipedia, a run-down of the influence of David Copperfield:

Tolstoy regarded Dickens as the best of all English novelists, and considered Copperfield to be his finest work, ranking the "Tempest" chapter (chapter 55,LV - the story of Ham and the storm and the shipwreck) the standard by which the world's great fiction should be judged. Henry James remembered hiding under a small table as a boy to hear installments read by his mother. Dostoevsky read it enthralled in a Siberian prison camp. Franz Kafka called his first book Amerika a "sheer imitation". James Joyce paid it reverence through parody in Ulysses. Virginia Woolf, who normally had little regard for Dickens, confessed the durability of this one novel, belonging to "the memories and myths of life". It was Freud's favorite novel.
And of course, as we all know, The Catcher in the Rye's opening is an explicit rejection of the following, the most famousest opening passage of the novel itself.

I AM BORN

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.

Now, bring it on, oh illustrious BBC/PBS/ Cast of Harry Potter team! And readers, feel free to drop your comments/reactions below. I eagerly await your learned opinions.

Quick Link: Roiphe on Showalter

For those who care about such things, weirdo rape-apologist intellectual Katie Roiphe takes on Elaine Showalter's A Jury of Her Peers in this week's NYTBR. It's not much of a review, but worth browsing for those interested in the book.

By the way, my (and others') thesis that the NYTBR hires known anti-feminists to review feminist work on the regular continues to be proven.

Here's my original post on Showalter's book. And (UPDATE) do check out the comments below--we're getting into the nitty gritty of Roiphe's craptastic review.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday De-Lurk: What books are you reading?


It's going to be a crappy Friday afternoon for me: errands that can't be put off even though I need to be getting ahead on work. Oh well, such is the nature of Fridays. They cannot finish soon enough. So help make it go quicker by chatting about our fave topic eva: bookz!

I finished the wonderful On Writing, which is sadly going to be my last pleasure book for a bit. I have three book reviews lined up, with a fourth probably on its way in the mail. They're all pretty interesting--two are on feminist topics, one is a scandalous foreign novel recently released in English, and one is unknown--but they do keep a gal busy.

What about you guys? What books are you going to curl up with this weekend? I can't wait to hear how erudite my readers are ;)

The Winter's Tale at BAM

Last night was a true cultural treat for me and my sig oth. We ventured out to Brooklyn for three hours of the Bard. The play was Sam Mendes' production of "The Winter's Tale," starring Simon Russell Beale (aka Charles Musgrove from Persuasion), Sinéad Cusack (Mrs. Thornton from North and South), and Morven Christie (Rose Maylie from Oliver Twist) as well as superstars Ethan Hawke and Rebecca Hall, the latter of whom is now at the top of my list for Dorothea candidates in Mendes' maybe-we'll-see-it, maybe-we-won't Middlemarch.

So aside from being six degrees of period drama awesomeness, and giving me the realization that hey! BBC dramas are unfuckingbelievably good because they utilize the world's top Shakespearean actors, I really adore the play on its own merits. For those who don't know it, TWT starts out as a tragic family drama, with a raging, jealous king wreaking havoc on his family. Then it skips ahead 16 years for an interlude of bawdy pastoral fun with the progeny of the main characters and some country bumpkins. Then the play gets serious again as it reconciles the two halves. It's a really interesting and moving work, full of meta-commentary on the nature of comedy and tragedy and art vs. reality as well as a humanistic approach to the themes of jealousy, forgiveness, power, and love. Basically it's little bit of everything Shakespeare does best thrown together in a provoking way. Plus the female characters in this play are SO AMAZING. They are just wonderful, strong, self-realized characters who steal the show.

Mendes' production was very strong, if a bit slow and Mendes-y at moments, but he does draw great performances out: the acting was top-notch, especially from the Brits. Ethan Hawke hammed it up as one of the comic characters, and the music and scenery were lovely and well done. It was well worth the hour subway ride from the northern of Manhattan and the accidental detour into East Harlem we took on the way back :) (but it did lead us to a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts, which is really the best way to digest Shakespeare!)

Here's Ben Brantley's review.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Okay, I've Thought of Some Other Good Openers

From my own memory and the thread at Shakesville.

  1. Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.
  2. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
  3. Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert Place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.
  4. It was a dark and stormy night.
  5. 124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom.
  6. Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency at the foot of Kgale Hill.
  7. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta
  8. Two households, both alike in dignity/In fair Verona where we lay our scene.
  9. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank-you very much
  10. When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.
  11. We slept in what used to be the gymnasium.
  12. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
  13. No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her.
Match em up! They're pretty obvious.

a) Fellowship of the Ring b) No. 1 Ladies detective agency c) beloved d) R+J e) Harry Potter f) Ulysses g) Northanger Abbey h) Lolita i) A Wrinkle in Time j) Rebecca k) Jane Eyre l) Anne of Green Gables m) The Handmaid's Tale

Two quick lit-links

  • K takes on her favorite first lines from literature (via a discussion at Shakesville). I would have to say that my fave opening might be Orsino declaring, "if music be the food of love, play on." but that also may be because I saw Paul Rudd delivering the line live, during a performance of Twelfth Night in which he donned a g-string and soaked in an on-stage pool.

Mad Men: Are Don and Peggy the Dorothea and Lydgate of TV?

Two strong intelligent characters, male and female, who are intellectually gifted, determined to make something "more" of themselves, but would never be romantically linked because of their wrongheaded decisions when it comes to love and marriage.

There's little sexual tension between them, but they are the most compelling people in their world, and they live parallel lives. And you can't help but wonder: what could they have accomplished as a couple if they had met earlier and fallen in love?

I'm convinced that Peggy Olsen and Don Draper on "Mad Men" are like Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate in Middlemarch--characters whose union is close to impossible, but the possibility of which nonetheless hovers over all the goings-on in their world. Like George Eliot, Matthew Weiner critiques the idea of marriage as a social ideal rather than a down-to-earth partnership.

Of course Lydgate and Dodo want to change the world, while Don and Peggy just want to write some damn good copy, but on the other hand they do want to to change their world by infusing it with creative energy.

Thoughts?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Literary Birthday: Dr. Seuss

I have five minutes until it's no longer Seuss day, but if you read one thing about Ted Geisel, read this amazingly tidbit-y article about the political (& personal) stories behind many of Seuss' books. My favorite one is this:


8. "The Butter Battle Book" is one I had never heard of, perhaps with good reason: it was pulled from the shelves of libraries for a while because of the reference to the Cold War and the arms race.

Yooks and Zooks are societies who do everything differently. The Yooks eat their bread with the butter-side up and the Zooks eat their bread with the butter-side down. Obviously, one of them must be wrong, so they start building weapons to outdo each other: the "Tough-Tufted Prickly Snick-Berry Switch," the "Triple-Sling Jigger," the "Jigger-Rock Snatchem," the "Kick-A-Poo Kid", the "Eight-Nozzled Elephant-Toted Boom Blitz," the "Utterly Sputter" and the "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo."

The book concludes with each side ready to drop their ultimate bombs on each other, but the reader doesn't know how it actually turns out.


I loved that book as a kid, but it was insanely creepy!

Literary and Egalitarian Links O'The Day

So I had a really nice cultural weekend, punctuated by this massive late-winter snowstorm that shows few signs of abating too soon. I spent my time going to a concert and immersing myself in my favorite TV shows: "Mad Men," which is brilliant beyond belief, and "Big Love," which is getting so intense. They are both excellently written and filmed, but hardly qualify as chipper fare. Oh well! Here's what I'm reading on this blustery, blizzardy, day.
  • An article in the NYTBR by a former professor of mine about a program that substitutes a literature class for prison. I'll leave you to figure out whether I liked her class and whether her essay tells us what we want to know about the program.
  • The Guardian discusses the lack of meaty roles for women on TV. (h/t aco, via twitter)
  • The Time o' London continues to fan the flame of our worries that the recession means a lull in period dramas.
  • An awesome blog devoted to all things Mad Men with a ton of thinky analysis as well as gossip.
  • SWVL reviews the Grizzly Bear concert we went to on Sat Nite
  • ZMS analyzes awesome technology that allows us to track the use of certain words in the news. I tried tracking Edward Cullen vs. Harry Potter mentions in the NYTimes, and Stephanie Meyer would be shocked at the paucity of coverage for her undead lothario.

Monday Morning Poem, Post-Nor'Easter Edition

The Way a Crow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a Hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

-Robert Frost, (the king of snow-related poetry)