Dear Readers,


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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Closing out NaPoMo (National Poetry Month)--Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica
by Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

*

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

*

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There's a Hogwarts Exhibit

This makes me really hanker for a visit to Chicago:

(via USA Today)


Harry Potter: The Exhibition takes visitors from the Hogwarts Express train platform through the Gryffindor common room, classrooms, the Great Hall, the Forbidden Forest and Hagrid's hut. The tour is populated with creatures from the seven novels by J.K. Rowling and six Potter movies: life-sized centaurs, Buckbeak the hippogriff, dementors, thestrals and Dobby the house elf. Along the way are vignettes featuring dozens of elaborate costumes and icons of the Potter universe, including Harry's magic wand and round glasses.
I have to confess that I went to the similar Lord of the Rings: the Exhibition at the Science Museum in Boston...all I can say is, it was freaking awesome and I don't regret the rather large ticket price AT ALL ;)

Little Dorrit Letdown?

While we await the final guestblog, I have to say it's hard to believe the saga of Arthur and Amy and Pancks is over! I thought this was really the BBC/PBS at its finest: every year they do something like this (North and South, Jane Eyre, Cranford) and every year it rocks!. Although there are some problematic elements to the book and film, overall it was incredibly, lushly filmed and acted and the themes were insanely relevant. Dickens hates capitalism and thinks that money=a prison. Shocking!

As to the romance, I wish that some of the exquisite lingering longing from the first three episodes had lasted through the last one. Andrew Davies has a habit of wrapping up those tremulous romances rather pat-ly (see Middlemarch, 1994). Maybe it's his way of commenting on the artificial "end with a wedding" trope or maybe for him, as for all of us, the journey is more fun than the destination. But I was still thoroughly satisfied.

I wanted to point you to a great wrap-up post of the whole series by regular reader and commenter gettsr at reading list of a book pusher. Here is her take on some of the financial goings-on in the series:

Which brings me to Mr. Merdle and Mr. Casby, as well as the Circumlocution office. It is crazy how relevant this story is to our current situation. Mr. Merdle is clearly "the Bernie Madoff" of his age, screwing all the rich folk out of their money while inviting them to dinner. Again if someone is telling you a story that’s too good to be true, it probably is. At the same time Mr. Casby is squeezing the poor out of every nickel so they stay poor. With Pancks as his muscle he works to keep those in Bleeding Heart under his thumb. Clearly Dickens felt that the current economic system in the 19th century only served to hurt the laborer/tradesman. This form of capitalism only served to create another feudal system with Casby as the lord at the top. Dickens caps off his indictment with his portrayal of the bureaucratic horror that is the Circumlocution Office, which actually reminded me of financial aid.
Be sure to read the rest. And don't forget that this is the last day to vote in the Little Dorrit poll!

Monday, April 27, 2009

New Kid on the block-- Dickensblog

The awesome Gina at Dickensblog has a thorough coverage of Little Dorrit. She's doing an awesome job explicating everything, and her latest post is an explanation of the Clenham family secret which I believe, to be blunt, might have confused the crap out of some viewers and readers.

So DO NOT FORGET... to read her blog.

Monday Morning Poem: Loveliest of Trees


by AE Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Cali-strictly for the weather, women, & the weed-and the books?

Forgive the post title, it was a reference to the Notorious BIG ;)

The LA Times festival of books stormed the blogosphere this weekend. The LA Time's Jacket Copy blog, unsurprisingly, has extensive coverage.

On twitter, Kim at Romancing the Tome tweeted her experience.

And you can follow the #latfob hashtag here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Little Dorrit (#littledorrit) finale Open Thread

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic More spring flora on TwitpicMore fleurs on Twitpic

So as the photos above evidence I spent the day wandering the wilds of Brooklyn... saw some impressionist paintings by Caillebotte and meandered through the flora and verdant lawns of the Botanical gardens soaking up the unseasonable warmth.

Now I'm overheated and grumpy and actually going to do something I rarely do, which is turn of the computer (so it generates less heat) and focus on the teevee with the lights off.

So here we go. Will Amy and Arthur find happiness at last? What will be the fate of the Merdles? And will Edmund Sparkler find any other woman with no bigod nonsense about her? All these questions I leave you you, fair readers, to answer in comments, on twitter, or otherwise. This has been such an amazing miniseries ride!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question of the Day: What's Your Favorite Shakespeare Quote?

(image credit: litrave.com)
In honor of the Bard's birthday, thought I'd toss the question out to you, readers? Do you have a particularly favorite Shakespeare quote? I'll give you a few of mine here (obvious choices, I know) to get the ball rolling:

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt-Measure for Measure

Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.-Macbeth

There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will.-Hamlet
What are yours? What lines o'th'Bards do you say to yourself over and over? Which ones are overrated? Speak, readers!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Poem--"God's World"

God's World

O WORLD, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag 5
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is 10
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.







(By the way, all the deity-worship in this poem is totally pagan, imo)

Oh, those quirky writers!

Paper Cuts has the rundown on a new book, “Curiosities of Literature,” written by John Sutherland. With the tagline "the ideal anthology of useless information for all book lovers" in the editorial description, it contains a multitude of bookish factoids, including the insomnia of various writers, the weight of their brains, and the worst penmanship and prose stylings ever and going right into their bedrooms, eating habits, and health ailments.

Very cute for those bibliophiles who don't believe in TMI.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Little Dorrit, Episode 4: Setting (Guest Blog)

A guest post from Sarah O, who blogs here and here


Here’s a confession: I’m a historian. A historian who studies landscape. I’m also a chronic daydreamer, and I love picturing how things looked. I can’t take the harbour ferry over to Halifax, Nova Scotia without picturing sloops and brigantines and shabby unpainted buildings huddled under the big star-shaped fort on top of Citadel hill, instead of the modern iteration. So when I watch a costume drama, I want the setting to be as artistically “true” as the acting, costumes, dialogue and plot. The makers of period dramas get to make every-day places look like past places. They get to turn make-believe landscapes into real (if occasionally anachronistic) settings.
I have been watching Little Dorrit looking for the “past landscape,” and then evaluating the production efforts. My criteria are hardly scientific, and I don’t cling to the idea of historical accuracy. Attempts at accuracy do get bonus points, however (especially for observing proper hat etiquette). Here’s my Little Dorrit setting evaluation so far:
In the City: 2.5 out of 5.*
Evaluation criteria for cities in costume dramas: Does it look like a theme park, is it a little too manicured? Do you see any horse poo or gutters? Does the production use the same alley over and over again and pretend it is a different place each time, which makes you start to feel like you’re watching an episode of Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica? Did the producers/director challenge themselves and attempt any wide establishing shots? (Think North and South’s smogging up of Edinburgh to give the impression of Milton/Manchester, or Mary Poppins’ soundstagetacular but atmospheric shots of London’s roofs).
Little Dorrit gets 2.5 out of 5 for London. The film doesn't attempt establishing shots of the city, and they have it pretty easy with being able to show the Marshalsea and the stairway of Doyce and Clennam over and over. They never attempt a long shot of Bleeding Heart Yard, and they are over-using a particular alley (Amy and Maggie’s night out, Clennam seeing Miss Wade and Rigaud, Pancks walking around the city, etc.). Furthermore, the idea of Amy Dorrit hanging out on the banks of the gross stinky refuse-strewn Thames is absolutely ridiculous (and doesn’t really fit the novel – the bridge is meaningful, Andrew Davies). I could have given them a 3 out of 5, but when I remembered how well the recent Oliver Twist series worked in illustrating the London cityscape, I bumped it down to a mere pass.
Abroad: 3 out of 5
This category should be really easy to get right – all I want are big sweeping vistas of Typical Landscape, waterfront shots with all the modern bits left out, and one scene shot in a public square or a castle or a monument – something I could visit as a tourist if I ever travelled to the same place some day. Now, someone might ask me to be gentle and consider a filmmaker’s budget, but I say hooey! The Princess Bride has a ridiculously soundstagey look to it, but the Cliffs of Despair scene is made on the basis of that long shot of Andre the Giant climbing up the rope, and I frequently replay the scene in my head of Princess Buttercup and Wesley falling down that steep grassy hill. I don’t care if they shoot the action on site, I just want the pretty pictures.
I love the idea of the Dorrit family making the Grand Tour, so I wanted to see ridiculously gothic-influenced shots of the Alps and really see the murky decay of Venice that Dickens emphasized so much in the novel. While I understand leaving out the visit to Rome simplifies the story, it also limits the location shots. I liked the lighting styles they used to evoke these places. Venice was pretty much the first time the filmmakers attempted a decent establishing landscape shot, and I thought the interiors were nice. Still, it was no Room With A View.

In the Country
: 4 out of 5
Country settings are kinda easy. See: Most Jane Austen adaptations. I know that producers sometimes have to cart in gravel and hide streetlights and use some tricky camera angles when shooting in towns (did you see the video about shooting the new Emma?), but rural areas are easy for a few reasons. One, there is more to choose from, and there is less built-up area to ruin the illusion. Two, rich people’s houses last longer than poor people’s houses, so movies involving rich people don’t have to go far to find a fancy house. Three, rural areas seem to be easier to modify - facades of cottages are not that expensive to plunk down in the middle of a field – and inconsistencies are easier to ignore – most viewers don’t care if a hedgerow is anachronistic to the period of the film.

Little Dorrit doesn’t really have a country setting, but I used the Meagles house as my basis. I was mainly struck by the gardens. Lots of garden designers will tell you never to mix red and yellow together in a border, but the Meagles garden broke the rules and was perfect. For its use of dahlias alone (although they were not really hybridized commonly until the 1850s – see: accuracy not that important), I would give it 5 out of 5, but that is even more arbitrary than my usual approach. I give points for the hedge (it seemed to suit the personalities of the family and how they tried to shelter their daughter) – but subtract points for not a single chicken, sheep, cow, or donkey. Not that any of those are in the book, but I want them. You will note I did not mention pigs (*coughP&P05cough!*).
So: How important is the setting to you when it comes to costume dramas, and what do you look for? Are you pleased with the Little Dorrit settings? More importantly, do you think they revealed important aspects of the character's personalities, or helped set the tone for the action?

*A question of accuracy, however: I missed the first 45 mins. of episode 1, and I don't mention it in my notes so I can't be sure - are there any establishing shots of London in the miniseries?


Thanks, Sarah O, from Fellow-ette. And readers, feel free to comment on Sarah's post or any other developments in the miniseries below!

The Moonstone

The Moonstone (Modern Library Classics) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins


My review
rating: 4 of 5 stars
While not nearly as hair-raising or diabolical as The Woman In White, Wilkie Colins' famous "first detective novel" was the perfect read for the last few rainy days.

The Moonstone concerns the theft of the diamond by that name, a theft that occurred the night of lady Rachel Verinder's birthday party. Of course, all the guests are suspects, as are the servants. In these early chapters the seeds of the classic "great house" detective mystery--which has influenced everything from Agatha Christie to Sherlock Holmes to Clue to "Gosford Park"-- were sown. Add to the mix a love story thwarted, a wise London detective, a tragically morose housemaid, a few Christian hypocrites (Collins was not a fan of being proselytized, apparently) and a quest by Indian priests who will stop at nothing to regain the precious stone for their temple--and you've got quite a fun and potent mix. The book, like The Woman in White, is narrated in turn by several characters which adds to the mystery, and of course the satire as they all opine on each others merits and defects. I actually was surprised by the lack of blatant racism when it came to the Indian quest (although the archaic spelling of "Hindoo" makes it hard to take seriously).

The "detective fever" as one of the characters calls it, did not hit me really until the last few sections, when I began to see that some of my guesses were near the mark and turn the pages more furiously. There were some very silly and maudlin scenes towards the denouement but nothing out of the ordinary for old-school Gothic and nothing silly enough to stop me! Anyway, I didn't need to be in a frenzy to KNOW WHO ABSCONDED WITH THE DIAMOND the entire time to enjoy the book and steadily wind my way through it. It's a leisurely, easy read, clever and amusing, and sometimes that's all you need.


View all my reviews.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pulitzers Announced--It's A Bunch Of Women (well, still more men)

via the Pulitzer site

Letters, Drama, and Music
Fiction
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
Drama
Ruined by Lynn Nottage
History
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company)
Biography or Autobiography
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Random House)
Poetry
The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press)
General Nonfiction
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday)
Music
Double Sextet by Steve Reich (Boosey & Hawkes)

Niemanlab has the 411 on the journalism awards. 

A Ton of Book News and Posts, Starting With Dan Brown

Via Galleycat and Jacket Copy's Carolyn Kellogg, at long last there is news of Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol," which takes place over only twelve hours in Robert Langdon's life.

Romancing the Tome has an awesome poll--which author should Masterpiece focus on next? (And check out their blog's new look; it's hot).

Anna at Isak has the lowdown on a variety of Yeatsy stuff--it's 70 years since my favorite poet left this realm for Byzantium.

K has a post (riffing on a Bookslut article) about transcendent reading... and how hard it is to find books that are compelling reads but also elevating, without being empty on one hand or boring/pretentious on the other. Here's what she says:
 When I was nine years old I was so eager to fall into the world of a book that I had to be called to every dinner five times and read late into the night with a flashlight. My greatest goal in life was to figure out how to read and walk at the same time without wandering into traffic. And while I still love to read, it's true: right now I always wonder where my next great read is going to come from, instead of feeling sure that every book on the library shelf holds a story worth reading.

My review of The Purity Myth is up at Venus Zine

See you later for the big Pulitzer announcements!

New Poll: Which minor-character catchphrase in "Little Dorrit" is your favorite?

Ten days to answer, at the top of the page.

Are there any missing that are so obvious I'm, to quote Edmund Sparkler, not quite up to the mark in the subject? Let me know in comments.

Which minor-character catchphrase in "Little Dorrit" is your favorite?

She is a damn fine woman with no b'God nonsense about her! -- Edmund Sparkler
0 (0%)
Affery, woman, you shall have such a dose--Flintwich
0 (0%)
Altro! Altro!-Cavaletto
0 (0%)
Pancks's emphatic snorting
0 (0%)
In the dear departed days now long forgotten--Flora
0 (0%)
Five-and-twenty, Tatty, five-and-twenty--Meagles
0 (0%)
Anything uttered by Mr. F's Aunt when she is in high spirits
0 (o%)


Sunday, April 19, 2009

#LittleDorrit: Share your Little Dorrit thoughts on Twitter


And speaking of literary tweets... So tonight is installment 4 of 5. People are actually using the #littledorrit hashtag as evidenced above to discuss important issues like whether Amy is a Mary-Sue, how obnoxious Mr. Dorrit is getting, whether Chivery or Clenham is the most eligible lovah and most importantly HOW ON EARTH we shall pass the time between installments. My heavens!

Please join the discussion here by using this hashtag #littledorrit or just tweeting your thoughts about the show.

And as always, feel free to drop your burning comments or questions about Clenham and Doyce and the Dorrits below (in our new spanking comments form!)

Literary Characters on Twitter--Pride and Prejudice

Here are the ones I've found (okay, I'm largely responsible for one of the following... can you guess who?). Which characters have I missed? Which others are sorely needed in the twittersphere?

NetherfieldPark narrates the tale.

http://twitter.com/NetherfieldPark

Lizzy_Bennet has a liveliness of spirit which is most enchanting.

http://twitter.com/Lizzy_Bennet

mister_darcy has a manner that some mistake for proud.

http://twitter.com/mister_darcy

Mr_Collins pontificates about his patroness.

http://twitter.com/mr_collins

PemberleyEstate has a beautiful prospect looking down on a lake.

http://twitter.com/PemberleyEstate

Eliza_Bennet of all this, she could have been mistress


http://twitter.com/Eliza_Bennet

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies




Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Seth Grahame-Smith


My review
rating: 4 of 5 stars
So I caved and ended up speeding through the manners and mayhem in 24 hours. It was an easy read because I know the source material almost by heart.


It was a lot funnier than I expected--the best moments all came from perfectly-timed incongruity or from zombie madness expressed through Regency Euphemism. It's a hilarious idea and very diverting. A classic like Pride and Prejudice could sustain infinite zombie attacks, particularly ones that are so respectful to the original.



MINOR SPOILERS for those who don't know the setup:

England is overrun by a plague of the "silent stricken" undead and Lizzy, Darcy et al. have all undergone the perilous journey to the Orient to study the deadly arts with masters of the form so that they can kill as many zombies as possible. Because of her training Lizzy is forever desiring to kill or behead people who insult her honor, and Lady Catherine has a team of ninjas at her disposal. Each carriage ride from Longbourn to Meryton to Darbyshire to Kent is fraught with peril from mindless zombie armies, but few are a match for Lizzy's skill with a blade.

All very well done--but forgive me for being kind of disappointed that the Zombie plot didn't in any way crescendo along with the romance and intrigue. I mean I actually hoped that just as Darcy and Lizzy are getting friendly at the inn at Lambton and then Lydia elopes, there would be a climactic, vigorous zombie attack and an army needed to combat it. But no, this book really is Pride and Prejudice with zombies sprinkled throughout, though the nasty characters do get rather grizzlier commeuppances the general thrust of the plot remains the same.

A fun novelty read for those, like me, who can't get enough Jane. But it really just makes you love the original even more--because Jane's jokes stand up so well next to jokes about disemboweling and tasty brains.




View all my reviews.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer



I don't usually do this, but this one looks soo good.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Is In the House

That's rite, y'all--my bf brought home a free copy of this new bestseller(!!). Amazingly, his blog post for EW on the topic got quoted on the book's back jacket. I'm so proud.

Anyway, I can't wait to dig into this corpse-killing, witticism-spewing masterpiece but I just started Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone for the fifth time and this time I'm actually at page 50, aided by the knowledge that Greg Wise plays the lead in the BBC version, so I'd like to keep the momentum going a bit.

Have any of you started P&P&Z yet?

A few follow-up posts on #amazonfail

For some perspectives on where we're at now that this scandal is "dying down""

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Egalitarian Bookworm Conference?




Love as the Practice of Freedom?
Romance Fiction and American Culture
April 23-24, 2009
Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture

http://www.princeton.edu/prcw/

Co-sponsored by the Department of English, Center for African American Studies, Center for the Study of Religion, Program in the Study of Women and Gender



Yes, Princeton is devoting a conference to the Romance genre. This is the kind of merger of so called "high" and "low" areas of literature for which I invented my blog. Anyone going
?

h.t to my friend Sarah M, an actual Princeton scholar

Quick Link: Shakespeare for Your Daily Life


Egalitarian Bookworm and friend of friends Liz Goodwin has a hilarious piece up at the Daily Beast discussing a new book of handy Shakespeare quotations for all the bard-quoting needs of groundlings and balcony-occupiers alike. Here's Liz:


Jerry Seinfeld once said that more people would rather be in a casket than giving the eulogy at a funeral. If you fall into the casket category in this scenario, then Barry Edelstein’s instructional book Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions is not for you. ...

The collection of ready-to-use quotations is tailored to fit every occasion, from birthdays to weddings to funerals, and contains detailed instructions about when and exactly how to speak the Bard’s words. Edelstein directs from beyond the page and assumes that his reader—like any good thespian—will jump at the chance to tap a Champagne glass gently with a fork, clear his throat, and begin quoting The Tempest at a crowded wedding.


Check the whole thing out!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Little Dorrit, Episode 3 (Guest Blog)

Guest Post by Catherine of restlessviolet.com

Installation 3 of Dickens’ workaholic machine made into a movie! I was pretty stoked from last week’s preview of this episode. Fortunes would be restored! People would get new clothes! The handsome Mr. Clennam would smile some more! Perhaps Fanny Dorrit would lose the makeup!

But alas, Installation 3 reminded me very much of my friend’s waitressing shift today. “Everyone was crabby and mean and nobody tipped well,” she reported after escaping from Red Lobster hell.

And speaking of hell, what’s with Monsieur Rigaud? (I can’t keep track of his new incognito name in this episode.) I might have taken French all through high school but when he speaks, I just strain. (“Huh?” Rewind. “Oh.”)

But moving on to the real hell… Dear Dad Dorrit got his earthly reward for suffering through debtor’s prison: money, a house and Mrs. General. He’s continuing on in a sort of King Lear stupidity (before the madness set in), dragging all assorted baggage with him which includes children, brother and Mrs. G. Last week’s ominous scene of Dad Dorrit being to afraid to stroll out of debtor’s prison when the chance was offered hinted at so much badness. He does his bad well in this episode, being generally insufferable and pompous (but more on that later).

And to counter him is his daughter. Though Amy is portrayed as our heroine, a woman without a speck of wrong in her heart, I have some major doubts about her. Andrew Davies claims he toned down the goodness of Dickens’ Victorian Amy and no doubt he did. Our post-deconstructionist ears and eyes could hardly bear it if he had not. Still, though…despite taking in account that Amy is a product of her times, I have serious doubts on Little Dorrit.

This came to light quite early in the episode. Dad casts Clennam out -- the man who went to some lengths to restore him -- and throws the most painful rant about paying him the measly 20 something pounds Clennam gave to him in the past. Clennam doesn’t want it but Dad insists on payment and receipt. Which is all so ludicrous in the face of the thousand pounds owed to Mr. Pancks for the work he did to discover the Dorrit fortune. Pancks will never see the light of that from Dad Dorrit, and Clennam will undoubtedly pay, but we’ll see less smiles from Matthew MacFayden because of it. You suck, Dad.

But yes, anyway. To continue, Clennam leaves rather insulted by Dad and Amy rushes off to try and make amends. And what happens?

“Stay here, Amy. Are you going to do as I say?”

“I will, Father, but it is hard.”

Oh Amy, how wonderful you are. You obey your narcissist father and you also throw the button away of a man you love when you think you can’t have him (cue Harriet Smith). You meet self-sacrifice with a few tears but mostly smiles.

No doubt about it, Amy is all about the duty. But this tears at me because the Victorians were all about duty and they fully embraced the frightening self-abnegation of it all.

Dickens, duty and women bring us to someone else who was on the screen a few years ago: Bleak House’s Esther Summerson. Esther’s a good girl too, and she does her duty as well. She too is surrounded by circumstances beyond her control; circumstances that control her situation in life fully. And while Esther submits with grace, she does so without seeming weak. There’s something strong in Esther and one gets the idea that despite her difficult circumstances, she deliberately thinks out her choices and resolves to do whatever she thinks as best, no matter how hard that choice is.

Amy, however…she’ll do her duty because she’s the good character. I never believe that Amy is weighing her choices; she just does the seemingly-good over and over to the point of mindlessness. Yes, father, I will obey you because I must honor you as I always honor you. I am your favorite because I rarely, if ever, cross you and always comfort you after your raging monologues that only serve to reveal your insufferable pride.

Amy Dorrit: Daughter who honors her father, or the enabler of an arrogant old man? Or are these really just the same things, one being an euphemism... As you can see, I’m full of a doubts about Little Dorrit.

With Miss Wade however, there aren’t doubts, just mysteries. She may just be the balance to Amy’s automaton “good girl” behavior. Is she a Victorian Feminist Fury or merely someone bent on making Mr. Meagles red in the face? If she gets Mr. Gowan shived in the gut by Rigaud, I may love her forever.

Finally, yes there are new dresses (thank God). And no, Fanny Dorrit doesn’t lose the makeup. Le sigh.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Little Dorrit Time. R U READY For Installment Three?

Here it comes, down the pipes. Time to get our Dickens on!

A revolt against Amazon.com

My friend Zach points me to a scandal brewing on the interwebs. Apparently Amazon.com is censoring LGBT and sexually explicit books by removing them from their "ranking" system. Among the books affected are Brokeback Mountain and Lady Chatterley's Lover which is rather ironic. Anyway, here are links to three blog posts around the book-o-sphere (plus the first paragraphs) explaining the phenomenon:


An Open Letter to Amazon by Kassia Krozser from Booksquare

Dear Amazon, Happy Easter (or if it’s Monday morning, happy belated Easter!). It seems the Easter Bunny, while hopping down the bunny trail, left some rotten eggs all over the Amazon site while we were sleeping. Suddenly, many books lost their sales ranking and levels of searchability on the Amazon site.

#Amazonfail and the politics of anti-corporate cyber-activism from Net Effect by Evgeny Morozov

Friday, April 10, 2009

Weekend De-Lurk/Open Thread; enough about my reading, what about yours?


So I've told you about my most recent reading project (yes, Edith was a most particularly welcome break from my mountain of Serious. Feminist. Tomes.) Next I have a very brand-name brimming chick-lit novel to review this weekend which should be diverting, and then I'm not sure what. I'm feeling so good about old Edith that I'm thinking about ordering The Glimpses of the Moon from amazon. Oh also, I've been wanting to tackle another No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel and finish the Joy Luck Club too. And I'm re-reading snatches of Night and Washington Square (quite different, I know) with students and marveling at their awesomeness.

So what are you perusing on your commutes or pillows this weekend?

And happy holidays to all!

The Buccaneers (Book Review)

The Buccaneers (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton


My review
rating: 4 of 5 stars


I've fallen in love, readers!

It took me about 12 hours from start to finish to read the last of Wharton's novels, left unfinished for decades and then completed in Wharton's style by scholar Marion Mainwaring. As I mentioned earlier, I've watched the PBS series three times now and there's something about it that gets to me. Perhaps because it's sexier and funnier and looser than what one would expect from the era, and because [SPOILER ALERT:] its ending which actually arises from Wharton's notes, is decidedly un-Whartonian. I'm terribly moved by the idea that at the end of her life, Edith Wharton would decide to write a novel about a heroine who behaves in the exact opposite way of nearly all her other major characters, who--to put it quite frankly--doesn't give a shit about social convention and flouts it utterly. I like to think of it as the author's reconciliation to romance, her final, deathbed middle finger raised to the rules and hierarchies with which she had such a deeply-tortured relationship.

Reading The Buccaneers is a dream for those who like comedies-of-manners for their own sake. Wharton will never be Austen: she takes ten lines to explain the social relationships that Austen dispatches with a sentence (this, I think, is evidence of Wharton's psychic struggle with society). But the first two thirds of the book, written by Wharton without revision, each page dropped off the side of her bed as she finished it, are blithe, satirical, sexy and both funny and sad.

The many scenes where the characters forge connections over poetry and art as well Nan St. George's stifling marriage and post-marital sexual awakening make me feel as though this is Wharton's Persuasion. And like that novel and other novels with heavy autobiographical elements--Copperfield, The Song of the Lark, etc. it has an emotional immediacy that feels startling and gives it a value different from a more controlled, classically perfect novel.

Wharton's contrast of Laura Testevalley, who gives up on romance and sacrifices her chance of happiness so that Nan can run away with Guy Thwarte, and Nan, who finds happiness with Guy after having giving up on it in her role as duchess, fascinates: one feels that Wharton is both Laura, in middle age loosening her scruples, and Nan herself.

Mainwaring's best contributions are a number of concluding love scenes that are satisfying (if not as satisfying as the wheat-field fornication in the film ;)) and a deft weaving-in of the horribly sexist divorce laws of the time that existed to punish women, humiliate them, and treat them as property. Marital rape is legal, and Nan's refusal to "produce heirs" for her huband after becoming emotionally estranged from him is a pivotal plot point.

This was definitely the best read I've embarked on in a while. I couldn't recommend it enough for Wharton fans who have long desired a less "thwarted" ending for her characters. I'd add that picturing Greg Wise in the romantic leading role definitely added a lot to the reading experience.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Andrew Davies on Little Dorrit and Dickens vs. Austen


There's a great interview up at PBS with beloved and sometimes-frustrating screenwriter Andrew Davies on adapting "Little Dorrit" and the differences and similarities between adapting Dickens and Austen for the small screen. It's quite good and worth the four minutes... the site also has clips with him and Claire Foy as well as the first two episodes, all available for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Celebrity Poets: The Good, The Bad and the Painfully Maudlin

The Daily Beast has a truly truly amazing slideshow today. It's a grouping of the choicest snippets of poetry authored by those who get stalked by the paparazzi. From Jewel to Ashanti to Charlie Sheen and more, the editors have done a great job culling out the tastiest pieces of verse.

After you've looked at the slideshow, let us know which you think were the best and worst. I'd have to say Viggo Mortenson (whose publishing endeavors we've discussed before) was definitely the best, while so many of the others were made of FAIL that I couldn't choose.

Seriously, this is a link worth clicking. It's LOLworthy.

The Connection Between "Emma" and "Daniel Deronda"

The new Emma will star both Romola Garai (Gwendolyn/Emma) AND Jodhi May (Mirah/Ms. Taylor-Weston), reprising their on-screen pairing as rivals for our hero's love in Daniel Deronda. And this time, Ms. May will not be playing a tragic Jewess with a penchant for music and aristocrats. They will be fwiends :P

Mags also tells us that Natalie Portman is going to play Lizzy Bennet in R+P and Zombies. Rather than repeat myself endlessly, I will direct you to this post about my (and Charlotte Bronte's) feelings towards skinny magic/manic pixie dream girls who are cast to play enduring literary heroines.

Part 3 in an endless series of casting news from Austenblog.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Little Dorritt Episode Two (a live-guest-blog!)

Episode 2

Guest Blog Post by a TRUE egalitarian bookworm chick, Beth Dunn

Story of my life: I always love all the wrong people. All throughout the Harry Potter movie series, I was that creepy 30-something in the back row, moaning in erotic bliss whenever Snape oozed across the screen. Could have used an occasional shower, sure, but Christ that voice.

Trouble is, once I fall in love with one of your former characters, it is almost impossible to make me hate you even when you play a baddie. OK ESPECIALLY when you play a baddie. Because that just plays into my already well established ATTRACTION to baddies, and what you get is, well…

…me, sitting down to watch the second episode of Little Dorrit (which no I haven’t read or ever watched or anything before I am as untouched as Darcy’s precious little sister), and I am already rooting HARD for Dan Pegotty Flintwitch to pitch that cranky old lady down the stairs one of these dark, rainy nights. Just for not ever letting dreamy old Arthur ever touch her. I mean, honestly. When has young Clennam ever heard “don’t touch me” from a lady? C’MERE YOU.

And of course Andy Serkis Gollem Rigaud can roll his wicked old eyes at me anytime. LOVE him. Randy old bugger.

So yes, I suppose my other inclinations and affiliations are all as Mr. Dickens would have them be right now, as we begin episode two (which God knows was probably episode 317 back when he was serializing this stuff in teasing little thimble-sized doses in The Journals Of The Day). I’m quite in love with young Arthur Clennam, half in love with that puppy at the gate of the jail, and… I can’t stand Pet. So I’ve got that much right, at least.

But I am also secretly sort of in love with Miss Ward, who will no doubt reward me for my affection one of these days with unspeakable cruelty and wickedness.

I can only hope.

SO. Episode two. I am a big fan of the Live Blog format, so I have been typing all these prologue-y musings with the beginning of the episode on freeze frame – the new PBS intro music, really, accessorized with the lovely Colin Firth’s face beaming at me (quite insupportably) through gauzy red curtains. Let’s put him out of his adorableness and hit PLAY.

Ah! Puppy! Young John Chivery! And the elder Mr. Dorrit! Let us begin.

Have I mentioned yet that I covet those soft caps worn by doddering old gentlemen in these things? They look so COMFORTABLE. One can hardly get a good doddering on without one.

Ooh, Pet has an evil emo interloper suitor. He looks like that insufferable twit with the hair in his face from Mansfield Park. Well good. He can have her, silly little simpering thing with an overbite.

Here comes Puppy, literally cap in hand, to propose to Amy by the river.

(What was that old comic bit? Don’t go to the river!!!)

Aw crap, this proposal scene is going to hurt, isn’t it. John is such an adorable little thing, and so openhearted and kind and pure and OH GOD NO JOHN DON’T CRY.

Oh don’t cry. Oh how awful. Excuse me. I need to hit pause and sob alone for a few minutes. Crap crap crap crap crap.

Way to rip my heart out in the first bloody five minutes of the episode, assholes. Goddammit.

OK. Better stock up on tissues and settle down.

Meanwhile, back in the land of the Upper Class Twit, Young Clennam is inexplicably captivated by the kind of empty-headed blond girl-child apparently favored by gentlemen of his class. Look at him. He’s got actual stars in his eyes.

HEY ASSHOLE. Amy is over here breaking her best friend’s heart by the river, all so she can keep fingering your button. Show a little respect.

Tattycoram is the only one in the drawing room with any sense of decorum, and storms out of this putrid scene, apparently aghast at the awfulness of it all. Good instincts, kid. Very sound.

Father Dorrit is rather adorable, in his soft knit cap and his self-delusional grandstanding with his brother. But I do wish he would catch on and stop being so damn tactless with Chivery senior, while John is inside licking his wounds…

Oh god no more crying. William Dorrit’s little monologue of distress, after he sees Amy weeping with the sadness of it all, and then he realizes what a sad, selfish, tactless Dad he has been, is killing me. Crying Dads really get to me, too.

Why did I get assigned the Crying Episode? This is going to take me forever to get through, what with all the pausing and the weeping.

Thank god, now we can get back to some good old-fashioned evil-watching with Rigaud and Pegotty Flintwitch-the-Inexplicably-Other crossing paths. Hilarity can only ensue.

Oh lord, Flintwitch, don’t be drunkenly lured down dark alleys – NEAR THE RIVER NO LESS – by handsome, hairy Frenchmen who slip you roofies in your wine. RULES TO LIVE BY.

Stabby stabby stabby SPLASH. Happens every time. What an enthusiastic murderer Monsieur Rigaud is turning out to be.

What a MARVELOUS exchange between the little sharpie Fanny and the big sharpie, young Sparkler’s ma. Not much separates those two, when you get right down to it.

Oh God, Rigaud smells like my first boyfriend. YES I CAN SMELL HIM THROUGH THE TV SET. Like… unwashed denim and thrift shop leather jacket. Yum.

So Amy is going to work for shy, retiring little Flora, now. That ought to produce some heartfelt confidences.

Hey HEY and why not get started on that agenda right away?

Flora: “ILOVEARTHURCLENNAM ILOVEARTHURCLENNAM ILOVEARTHURLENNAM OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH YESIDOOOOO”

OOH Amy you industrious little fairy. Good job outta you, bearing up under that verbal flood.

AH YES and now the RIGHT man walks down the stairs by the river to talk to Little Dorrit. Well hello, Arthur. And what do you have to say for yourself?

Arthur: “I understand these matters of the heart, Amy… There’s someone I care about, very much. And I have held back from declaring my love.”

Amy: “…”

Arthur: “You don’t know her.”

OH SMACK. More crying by the river.

Arthur: “Are we still friends?”

Amy: “Yes, (SOB) we’re still friends.”

Yep. I’ve had that conversation.

Hey everybody, I know! Let’s all fight with our families and then go back to the river. And cry.

Swear to GOD Amy if you throw that button in the river I will smack you so hard

crap.

Nobody ever listens to me.

Mr. Pancks indulges in a nice bit of foreshadowing, grabbing Amy’s palm and going all gypsy on it. He is starting to really like his job, I think.

And Dickensian Italian Stereotype Mr. Cavaletto is clearly getting laid in his new digs with Mrs. Plawdish. Good for him. Good for Mrs. Plawdish. Oh wait, Mr. Plawdish is still alive. Whoops. My bad.

AAAHHHH ANDREW DAVIES I BLAME YOU for that awful shot of Mr. Doice with the steam coming out of his ears, followed by sad little spurts of water!!! You sir will have to answer for THAT in hell. (as for so much else…)

Now Clennam is making his sweet, ill-considered offer of marriage to Pet. And another proposal bites the dust. No crying in this one, though. Nope. Clennam thinks about it for a second, notices (finally) that Pet’s upper lip is always blue with frostbite from hanging a foot away from the rest of her face, and laughs with the sheer joy of escape. Dodged a bullet that time, m’boy.

He even goes so far as to wish the two lovers well. Yes, I’m sure you’ll both be very very happy, you frightful, insipid, worthless little twerps.

Good day!

Mr. Chivery and Mr. Dorrit make up and restore their friendship after Amy breaks John’s heart forever, and in return Mr. Chivery offers to mock Mr. Dorrit with a glimpse of the world he can never have again. And in a surprise move to none, Mr. Dorrit is completely institutionalized, and can’t even step outside.

Get busy living, or get busy dying. “IT’S HIM! With the CAKE!!!” Maggy knows what she likes in a man.

“Has Mr. Clennam behaved improperly towards you?”

“No, father, not at all.” THAT’S THE PROBLEM, FATHER

Aaaaaand Tattycoram is ready for her long-awaited psychotic break.

Good for her. Every teenager needs a good psychotic break now and again.

Let’s see just what sort of wickedness that Miss Wade is up to anyway.

…huh. Seems like a nice enough lady to me. I suppose I’ll find out more about her LATER.
I have to say that Mr. Pancks is rapidly becoming a crowd favorite.

He is clearly so VERY pleased with himself, so transparently not here to wish Mrs. Clennam her good health! Snort snort chuckle snort! (OH he has made me clap my hands in delight!) Uncle Ned is dead, is he? IS HE???

I smell Dickensian-deus-ex-machina!!! Wheee!

And we close with my great smelling ex-boyfriend Rigaud arriving on the very doorstep of the House of Clennam. Whomever will he penetrate murder next?

STAY TUNED

(And thank you for letting me guest-blog! What fun!)

[you're more than welcome--Fellow-ette]

Literary Linkage--Reviews Galore Edition

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency [Racialicious Review] by

Alexander McCall Smith and His 'Tuneless Wonders'
from Paper Cuts (NY Times) by Stephen King - Not So Scary from Write On Target Debra: "After being nudged by the universe several times lately, I finally listened and picked up a copy of Stephen (aka Stevie) King's "On Writing" last night. Holy shit, Sherlock! Is this a book, or what?"

REVIEW: Pemberley Manor by Kathryn L. Nelson from AustenBlog . . . she's everywhere Review by Jessica Emerson, a/k/a “JaneFan” of the bookworm's hideout. A really awesome review of a new Pride and Prejudice sequel that actually sounds worthwhile.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Just re-watched Ep 1. of Masterpiece's "The Buccaneers"

Anyone seen it? This is my third time embarking down the 7-hour path that's this miniseries full of conniving, double-crossing, sex, scandal, and all kinds of other proto-gossip girl stuff. Based on Edith Wharton's last (and unfinished) novel, it tells the story of four "nouveau riche" American girls who find more acceptance in London than in Old New York, whose money buys them entree into a society of dissipated landed gentry still obsessed with rules of decorum but desperate for money. Really, liberally adapted (marital rape! gay subtext! syphilis!) and with a tacked-on ending, it's quite juicy, but it's tempered with a sober dose of hatred for the marriage-prison and the hypocrisy of the British landed classes as befits Wharton. Connie Booth (aka Polly from Fawlty Towers) and Mira Sorvino make appearances along with a number of BBC staples and a few American actresses including Carla Gugino, who's much more likeable here than she was as an agent/love interest for Vince in Entourage.



I know there are some Greg Wise fans out there... in this series he plays Guy Thwaite, which is a great role. Basically he gets to be Willoughby, but a good Willoughby. I'm looking forward to watching the rest soon!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

"Emma" Casting News from Mags

Extra! Extra! Read all about it.

I for one, am very pleased with the results, even the controversial choice for Mr. Knightley. I think this may be the Emma we deserve.

[Based on the comments thread at Austenblog, I may be one of the only people who admires certain aspects of Rozema's Mansfield Park film. I wrote my junior paper on it, after all. I don't think its stars can be faulted for the fact that the Edmund-Fanny relationship is made of fail, nor can Rozema be faulted for playing around with the source to put it onscreen--MP is in my opinion, all but un-adaptable as is, because the novel's pleasure is in its narration rather than its characters.]


I think we're going to need an "Emma" label for this blog soon but for now we'll just stick with the lolgwyneth.

Nice People Who Responded to My Quiz

So a few weeks ago I got tagged with a literary quiz that I actually liked. Usually I avoid these things like the plague, but instead I foisted it 'pon thee, gentle readers.

Anyway here are the tagged folks who, in the words of Sandra Leigh, gave "aid and comfort to the meme." MERCI A VOUS.

Amazing Voyages of the Turtle

South in the Winter

Reading List of a Book Pusher

The Open Window

And...The Bookworm's Hideout

This Blog Is So Zeitgeisty

Just as we have a long and lively discussion of which poems we memorize and which we want to memorize, some hot shot (actually, humor writer Jim Holt :0)) for the New York Times Book Review writes a big old essay about the value of memorizing poetry. He even mentions some of the same treasured verses that we do. Jim sez:

A few years ago, I started learning poetry by heart on a daily basis. I’ve now memorized about a hundred poems, some of them quite long — more than 2,000 lines in all, not including limericks and Bob Dylan lyrics. I recite them to myself while jogging along the Hudson River, quite loudly if no other joggers are within earshot. I do the same, but more quietly, while walking around Manhattan on errands — just another guy on an invisible cellphone.
We egalitarian bookworms rock so hard that we beat the NYTBR to the punch. Nice. Still, despite being behind the times, it's a funny essay, and worth a read.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Question of The Weekend: What Poems Can You Recite By Heart?

So in honor of National Poetry Month, I thought I'd ask if any of you, like me, have little snatches of verse memorized, or perhaps longer poems that you had to memorize for school?

Poems I know:

My grandmother gave me a quarter to memorize "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" as a kid and so long after other bits that were lodged in my brain at various points have faded, that poem stays.
This hardly counts as an accomplishment, but I can recite Frost shorties "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and "Fire and Ice" and Wordsworth shortie "My Heart Leaps Up!"
Finally, I can also whip out all of Sonnet #18 thanks to a sung version of it that appeared on the Diana Princess of Wales memorial CD (yep. long story.)

Poems I sorta know:

Mostly though, I tend to get stuck around 2/3 of my favorite poems.
I know the first and last stanza of "Kubla Khan" just because of repeated readings, but would love to buckle down and commit the second stanza to memory. I can recite the first stanza of "The Second Coming."
I can recite 3/4 of Orsino's "if music be the food of love" and 4/5 of Sonnet 116, but I always get stuck around the sickle and compass and stuff ;)

Poems I used to know:

The first 18 lines of the Canterbury Tales' General Prologue, and the first Astrophil and Stella sonnet ("Loving in Truth") and Lady Macbeth's "unsex me here" monologue were all memorized in college for classes during a time when I was, err, engaging in behavior on a regular basis which wasn't great for my memory. Ha.

Poems I wish I knew:
Ode to a Nightingale
Renascence
The Second Coming and a ton more Yeats.
Everything else!

So what about you? Any poems with which you can impress folks at a literary cocktail party ?