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, October 31, 2006

Happy All Saint's Day....

Happy Halloween! I've always loved Halloween because of the camp, the costumes, the creepiness, the CANDY!... it's my favorite pagan-inspired holiday, by far. My home-made costume consists of one part black turtleneck, one part faux-leather jacket, beret, sunglasses, nude lipstick and 'do. Not one penny spent. Not one shred of originality either. But hey, you can't have it all, can you?

Halloween is a great day for Egalitarian Bookworms around the globe, because it celebrates that ever-popular genre, the Gothic, which combines high and low exquisitely. From the Anne Radcliffe/Matthew Lewis days in the shock-ready eighteenth-century, through the "Sensation" novel of the Victorian Era, to American gothic weirdness with Wiliam Faulkner and Flan O' Stephen King and slasher films today, creepy art moves us in droves...
It moves us to snuggle under the covers, turn on the lights, and palpably shiver. Goth acts upon our physical selves, as any good Lit professor will tell you, and it moves us to purchase, purchase, purchase, as any teacher of teens will also say... evidenced when a new blood-and-gore fest hits the screen and every single under 18-year old in the country immediately buys a ticket.
So reader, treat thyself, and go buy a big, creepy, Gothic novel... any will do. Just don't turn out the lights.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Prestige

Twists, Turns...and Teases.

Just came out of a Sunday afternoon viewing of Chistopher Nolan's film The Prestige, which as another blogger brilliantly pointed out, has as much resemblance to "Itchy and Scratchy" as anything else. So much nastly violence, bumps, and bruises.

While some of the symbolism and foreshadowing reached Memento-like awesomeness, and the movie's meditation on obsession was well-understood and carried out, I was disappointed with the "Prestige" (or the "reveal" or the "twist" or the whatever)-- because as a very wise co-viewer of mine pointed out, it added little to our understanding of what came before. And between the two of us, we'd guessed everything well over an hour pre-conclusion.

Yes, watching the film for a second time would add some "aww shucks" and "so that's how they did its," but the the nastiness would remain puzzling and frustrating. Plus, (SPOILER) the filmmakers utilize an irritating combination of "real" magic/science and simple duping... I would have liked them to choose one or the other so that instead of a bevy of distractions, we had some more of the character development and insight that's there on the surface, but ultimately just a tease.

And as everyone and their mamas have pointed out, the women are just a bunch of props and distractions... maybe it's a metaphor for magicians' comely assistants serving as foils, but after Nolan's flimsy treatment of Katie Holmes in Batman Begins (a great film) and the downright nasty portrayal of women in Memento, his repertoire is beginning to spell m-i-s-o-g... you know.

That having been said, there were some spellbinding shots in the movie, most of which took place in Colorado Springs in and around a Shining-Esque hotel, and made me more interested in hiking, skiing, and view-gazing than magic tricks.

David Bowie and Andy Serkis as a scientist and his assistant added an excellent touch, as did a cast of birds and cats, and I thought both Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman brooded beautifully, while Scarlett Johanssen pouted as best she could in her miniscule role (she's beginning to get on my nerves though, I must admit.) Also, Michael Caine is just groovy, as always.

(Illusionist spoiler alert)
In sum, if there were a battle of one-upsmanship between the heavy, clinking Prestige and ghostly tableau of the Illusionist, the Illusionist triumphs because it plays the same game with a much a gentler hand, and makes us believe in a different kind of magic; that justice and love are achievable. And isn't that what movies are all about?

Hugh Laurie hosts SNL and classes up the joint.. while Borat does the opposite.

Live from New York, home of the JEW, it's Saturday night! -Borat

At long last, an SNL with an edge of cleverness, thanks to wonderful, brilliant, "droll" Hugh Laurie, also known as House on House, and Mr. Palmer in Sense and Sensibility.

The show's usual drivelly crap was undercut both by Laurie's effete charm and the cold opening monologue from self-promoting Borat, who made so many crude sexual references in three minutes, I hope the NBC executives peed their pants.

Laurie was charming in his monologue, and as another blogger pointed out, he actually didn't say "We have a great show tonight!" before introducing Beck, and (aww) he called the audience "sweetcheeks". He also one-upped the SNL cast in the accent department, showing off American, Irish, and Oxbridge British with an ease that trumped all their bluster.

Best moments of the night:

*Borat imitating the Wayne's World "Schwing!" during the opening scene.

*A very apropos "Funhouse" which actually mauled Republican scare tactics
*Laurie, while acting as the Queen's advance man, dropping his glasses and saying "don't worry, they're only an affectation" and being so pleased with himself that he almost broke character.

*Musical guest Beck's puppets/dinner table percussion shenanigans

*Howard Dean challenging Ken Mehlman to a fight on Hardball.

*The very old-school Dracula vs. Frankenstein sketch towards the end... seemed like something Chase and Martin might do. Surprisingly literate/narrative-driven.

*Hugh Laurie's AMAZING AMAZING protest song in which the chorus of "all we have to do is..." was always followed with garble. It was REALLY REALLY subtle and literate for Saturday Night Live... and whilst perhaps intended merely as a parody of protest songs, I felt it to be a commentary on the horrible state of current events and the seeming futility of doing anything about it. Sorkin would love to have something like this on his fictional Studio Shitty.

*Borat miming oral sex on Laurie during closing credits... cut to commercial! quick!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Trollope on Jews, Round 2

p. 459, Mr. Melmotte:

"This last article vexed Mr. Melmotte, and he proposed to his friends to send a letter to the "Breakfst Table" asserting that he adhered to the Protestant faith of his ancestors. But, as it was suspected by many, and was now being whispered to the world at large, that Melmotte had been born a Jew, this assurance would perhaps have been too strong."

Aha. The suspicion I've had all along that the story's chief villain, like his wife, is one of the "tribe" has at last been confirmed. Good good! Wouldn't have expected anything less from old Anthony T.

p.475, the LAWYER, Mr. Squercum, a "mean-looking man": "He seldom or never came to his office on a Saturday, and many among his enemies said that he was a Jew. What evil will not a rival say to stoop the flow of grist to the mill of the hated one?"

What evil indeed? O Tempora, O Mores! What times are these, that we may hurl slander upon our enemies by labelling them JEW whenever we please?

Literary Ponderings, Sexual "Deviance" Edition...

Marriage for One, Marriage for All!

Fellow-ette is so, so, sick of the gay marriage "controversy" being one. It's a travesty that people live among us without the basic rights we all take for granted and our voices aren't raised louder in protest. When a court decides it can't deny those rights (good!), and our society then raises a giant hullaballoo (bad!), I want to throw my shoes at the newscasters who blab and blab about it--even harder than I frequently throw them at the principal characters in Studio Shitty on the Sunset Strip.
But don't worry, a crew of asinine Democrats will doutless get up on their podiums in two-thousand-fucking eight and say "I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman" while obviously swallowing their tongues.
And as for their we need any more proof that Republicans are, basically, evil?

Lady Chatterly Takes an Amoureaux
The French have made their own version of Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover.... a novel which was at first controversial because of its expcicit material, then later because many find it boring and stilted. But the movie doesn't seek its thrills through explicit sex, but rather to capture the essence of Lawrence's material, whatever that was.

Filmmaker Pascale Ferran, (incidentally, a woman, and very much acclaimed) tells the Herald Tribune: "I felt joyous while making this film. But I also think that, as Lawrence said, ours is a tragic age, and that death - tragedy - is never far away, which is why we should love life. 'Lady Chatterley' is a declaration of joy."

Sounds good to me, as long as there's a little bodice-ripping. As for Lawrence's novels, the only one I've ever ventured is Sons and Lovers, which was so creepily Freudian and intense that the then 16-year old Fellow-ette decided to move on to greener pastures. I think Lady Chat is going to have to go back on my list, though, so I can try to catch this film when it comes stateside.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Close-bosomed friend of the maturing sun....

A picture which I did NOT take, alas.

So, readers fair, despite the strong nip in the air and our resultant urges to hibernate, Autumn in all its mists and mellow fruitfulness... has yet to sweep in and "blessent mon couer/D'une langueur/Monotone",'s actually not here yet. I ventured out yesterday with my film-loaded camera to capture some beauty across the Hudson on the Palisades. But aside from one yellow tree in Ft. Tryon park, everything was still just "this side" of green ... and Central Park is as verdant as can be. Apparently, further north, the foliage is spectacular, so one can only hope that soon enough the man-made pockets of natural wealth here in NYC will burst aflame as they lose their chlorophyll. And I will be there to capture it with the nice camera mom and pops got me for my high school graduation (many years ago), which I used to capture spring on my former stomping grounds.

Trollope Follow-up

On another note, I'm lingering around page 400 of The Way We Live Now. It's slow going. I really want to be over and done with it so I can read Lisey's Story this weekend and move on to something new next week, but I'm not even half-way through yet. Yes, 800-page ninetheenth-century tomes take a while. But the problem (and the genius) of Trollope is his social analysis is so sharp and cutting that there's no one I really identify with in the story enough for me to be invested thoroughly in its outcome. Unlike Eliot and Austen, who expose their characters' flaws and still render them endearing, Trollope reveals a society where the good people are weak and boring, the evil ones diffident and rude---and everyone is clearly about to lose all their money, the prospect of which affords the book's greatest pleasure! Anyway, one must keep on keepin' on... there's surely some intrigue ahead.

And for Fun....
gawk at these appalling magazine covers. Pretty horrendous.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Literary Joke, courtesy of SWVL

What do you get when you put Emile Zola in a whirlpool hot tub?

a j'accusi.

Egalitarian Bookworm (Chick?)'s abbreviated "MUST" List:

In tribute to a certain EW writer who does the real MUST list.

MUST TV show that's already gotten canned: Kidnapped (not Studio 60)... for the tight script, fantastic acting, and noir-ish feel.

MUST New album with freaky and allusion-packed video accompaniment:...Sean Lennon's "Friendly Fire"... check out samples etc. on his myspace page (and notice who he thanks under infuences... mom and dad!)

MUST presidential candidate: Barack Obama (no relation to Barak Obonga, as the fwavlosphere named our homemade water-pipe way back when in our college youth, har har har.)

MUST Dylan parody: Weird Al of "White and Nerdy" fame playing the palindrome game with Subterranean Homesick-Blues Style cards. He's really got his finger of the Bard from Hibbing's unique lyrical stylings. Note the fake Allen Ginsburg in the background...Talk about your literary references!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Breaking news...Janet Maslin compares Stephen King to James Joyce!

That's why we love the Maslinator. It's a great day in egalitarian bookworm (chick?)-land.

Read it and weep with tears of righteousness: Her Story of Him, Both Tender and Terrible.

Choice Tidbits:

"...Mr. King has delivered his version of Joycean wordplay, idiosyncrasy, voluptuousness and stubborn, obsessive chronology in “Lisey’s Story."

"...this book is haunting even by Mr. King’s standards. And he knows a thing or two about haunting."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Harry Potter Lives!

And so does his invisibility cloak.

Real article here.

Why the (Chick?)

Many moons ago, when I was searching for a name for my as-yet-unborn blog, I noticed that a lot of blogs in the book-o-sphere and many other o-spheres in general, ended with the word chick or chicks. In a fit of ironic humor, I appended said moniker (reminiscent of greasers and shake shops and misogyny) to the end of my blog's name, but with a question mark and parentheses to indicate my ambivalence.

And thus I typed it in: alea iacta est, said I and I became a (chick?)

Sunday Brunch and French royalty.

Just had Sunday brunch at Bleu evolution, the Washington Heights staple whose decor, according to Zagat's, is somewhere in between bordello and Mad-Hatter tea party-- as this picture only begins to demonstrate (and for the lushes amongst, us, prix fixe brunch avec coffee, OJ AND bloody mary or mimosa is only 12.95). The staff had amped up the decor times ten by hanging cobwebs and skeletons from every protruding object--of which there are many. Creepy and delightful--and the blueberry pancakes were yum.

It was the perfect setting for a literaryish discussion of last night's film adventure--Marie Antoinette at the Village East. Halfway through the movie, I turned to my companion in glee and said "I love this movie!" It had everything a romantic feminist could want, from gorgeous tableus to an expose of the patriarchal and bizarre court customs (Marie is essentially sold, after all, to France, for the sake of an alliance). We see the pressure their society puts on the Dauphine and Dauphin, who are as we know a very young teenage couple, to produce an heir-- and we realize that they don't really understand the mechanics of sex. We see maneuvering by and snubbing of the King's flamboyant mistress, who is cast away when he's on his deathbed, lest his last confession be negated by her presence. We see an endless set of tired, stilted rituals that at first cow Marie, and she soon learns to manipulate to her own advantage. It's a fucked up, fucked up world, and the approach of the revolution beats like a steady drumbeat only in our consciousness-- but it's there because we can't not think of it. So far, so good, Sofia Copola.

But after Marie becomes queen and Louis (Jason Schawtzman, who redeems the entire movie with his performance) finally figures out how to fit his key into Marie's lock, something goes terribly awry. The movie lapses into a series of montages of Marie popping champagne, lying, half-hungover on various settees and carpets, squealing with delight over more and more diverting and costly amusements, and swooning over a Count who literally does not speak at all during their affair. While Copola makes a half-hearted attempt to symbolize the oncoming revolution, it feels tacked on and empty. We're bored and frustrated with the camera's endless lingering on Kirsten Dunst's pretty, but not THAT exciting, mug. By the end, I wanted her to head to the guillotine out of sheer frustration with not only her shallowness, but the shallowness of her portrayal.

All the relevant commentary that could be made--about decadence, emptiness, social manipulation, the gap between rich and poor, the relationship between Marie and Louis, and the place of women at court-- suddenly devolved into a ode to pretty things. It was such a disappointing ending after the quick, clever and promising start. But the movie is definitely worth seeing because of the gorgeous costumes, the fun music, and the shots of Versailles ,which make a prettier picture the ole' gilded cage actually is these days (or at least what one can see of it behind the mob of tourists and schoolgroups and money being sucked away from them for lackluster tours).

Vive la Revolution!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Best NY Times Lede Ever...

Check out this widely-circulating story about Halloween costumes. Opens so many discussions about gender roles, self-exploitation, and whatnot, but read Stephanie Rosenbloom's words for yourselves...oh and one of the revealing photos even has a "post-post feminist?" caption...adorable.

"IN her thigh-highs and ruby miniskirt, Little Red Riding Hood does not appear to be en route to her grandmother’s house. And Goldilocks, in a snug bodice and platform heels, gives the impression she has been sleeping in everyone’s bed. "

I get it! It's really an Anne-Sexton or Angela Carter-esque inversion of the fairy tale tradition in this awesome pro-female way. Wow, go you, New York Times.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Social Etiquette Advice from A. Trollope

From p. 141 of The Way We Live Now.

"He stood for a while on the bridge watching his cousin as he cantered away upon the road...The young man was offensive in every possible way. Who does not know that ladies only are allowed to canter their friends' horses upon roads? A gentleman trots his horse, and his friend's horse."

For Heaven's sake young men, do not canter your friend's horse upon the road!

And the (still dishy) Runners-Up are:

Julian Sands as the "beauty!" and "joy!" loving George Emerson who rocks Helena Bonham Carter's world in A Room With a View (plus, there's more cornfield kissing).

Alan Rickman,
as the staid Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (remember how he paces back and forth when Marianne is sick and says: "Give me something to do or I shall go mad!"?)
Hugh Grant as the annoyingly weak-tempered but very sweet Edward Ferrars in the same.

Rufus Sewell, now known as the crazy would-be emperor in The Illusionist, for his stunning, stunning Will Ladislaw (my favorite literary hero ever, even more than Darcy) in the Masterpiece Theater production of Eliot's Middlemarch.

Eric Stolz as an effete, overwhelmed but passionate Lawrence Selden in Terrence Davies' under-appreciated adaptation of Wharton's The House of Mirth.
And the razzie goes to:
Jonathan Rhys-Myers, a personal favorite, for his miserably churlish and bratty George Osborne in Mira Nair's frustrating but excellent production of Thackeray's Vanity Fair.

Period Drama Eye-Candy, Round 2

Who steals our hearts in the big or small screen dramatizations of Wharton, Austen, Bronte and Bronte, James, Forster, Eliot, and more? Part 2.

#6-Daniel Day-Lewis

Makes the list for his embodiment of the early-modern romantic hero in the Age of Innocence. As in, he plays that epitome of wealthy indecision, the New York son of fortune Newland Archer--who is caught between Winona Ryder's sweet intended fiancee and Michelle Pfeiffer's sensual countless Olenska. From the first scene in Scorcese's underrated film where Day-Lewis puts the opera glasses on and sees Pfeiffer across the massive opera house, to the final scene with leaves falling in a wistful shot of Paris, he's melencholy and pondering and yes, we realize, the Victorian era is long gone. In A Room With a View, Day-Lewis plays the safe fiancee himself, Cecil Vyse, unable to understand why Helena Bonham carter has a thing for Julian Sands' George Emerson (and more on him, later).

#7--Timothy DaltonWe're bonded to this rather gruff and severe actor because he's gone where no one, not even Sir Lawrence himself has gone. To the moors...twice. To play Bronte anti-heroes Rochester and Heathcliff. His Heathcliff was particularly brutish, growling, and, well... dirty. And that's why he deserves a spot.

#8-Anthony Hopkins
What? Anthony Hopkins? Think about it. He lights up Merchant Ivory productions, and is equally at home on a manor lawn as he is feasting on brains. Obviously, he particularly dazzles in the tear-jerking, understated butler role that's one of the best roles in literature or film... like, ever ever ever...The Remains of the Day opposite Emma Thompson. And he does Forster proud as the less-than-honest Wilcox hubby in Howard's End opposite....Emma Thompson. Plus, he also plays this really erudite guy named Hannibal.

#9-Samuel West
Who the heck is he? Only the unprecedentedly dishy Austen anti-hero Mr. Elliot, so beautiful, so charming, that when he looks up at his cousin Anne on the beach and doffs his hat, staring wide-eyed at her reborn beauty, everyone knows that he's about to become a player for her heart. West also plays Helena Bonham-Carter's ill-fated working class love interest Leonard Bast in Howard's End. And anyone who has an affair with B-Carter while she's in Corsets is, like, seriously Major.

#10-Matthew MacFayden
I wasn't going to put him on this list, because of my general opposition to the liberties the new "Love Actually... And Pride and Prejudice" Kiera Knightley -heaving-bosoms-in-the-mist film version takes with Austen's text (I don't have the same problem with Ang Lee's equally rapacious S&S, but I'll explain that another time). But MacFayden is damn good, kind of mixing sneering and sniffing with a bit of adorable lip-trembling. And I hear he plays Sir Felix in the Masterpiece Theater Mini-series of the Way We Live Now, which I'm currently reading, so that's why he's grudgingly up here.

Runners up will be announced tomorrow. Still haven't forgotten Will Ladislaw.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Top Ten Period Drama Actors #1-5

Who does the best job thoroughly embodying classic heroes of "romantic" period literature? The list, according to no one but me.

What are the categories? Well...
  1. Smouldering
  2. Sneering
  3. Dismissive chuckling
  4. Breech-wearing
  5. Steed-riding
  6. Manor-owning
  7. Witticism-uttering/bantering
  8. Maintaining an air of mystery
  9. British-accenting
  10. Oath-swearing
  11. You get the idea. Here they are.
#1 Colin Firth

"In vain have I struggled."

Colin wins, hands-down for the resurgence of Darcymania--his Darcy was more snide, haughty, and cold than any other in history, and his diving into the lake, fencing, and bathtub scenes famously reversed the male gaze and made him a sex object. His transformation to humility and stammering awkwardness after Jennifer Ehle's Lizzy rejects him puts H-h-hugh Grant to shame. Colin's also done a nice job glowering and panting after Scarlett Johansenn as the painter Vermeer in Girl With the Pearl Earring, seducing young Irish ladies as a caddish landowner in Circle of Friends, trading clever barbs with Rupert Everett in the Importance of Being Earnest, and parodying himself in the Bridget Jones movies.

#2 Greg Wise

Supplanting Kenneth Branagh as Emma Thompson's leading man in real life gets him points, but even though he's potentially less famous than some of the others on this list, he's this high because he owns the role of the cad so utterly and completely. From the ultimate betrayer, Willoughby, in Sense and Sensibility (leading Kate Winslet to alter a recital of a Shakespeare Sonnet thus: " Oh no! It is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Willoughby. Willoughby. Willoughby.") His finest work might be on Materpiece Theater: in Madame Bovary, he shows his bare ass off as Rodolphe, consummating his love with Emma Bovary in a forest (with horses nearby. They were out riding, you see.). And he also "takes" Nan St. George, corsets and all, in a cornfield in TV's turgid adaptation of Wharton's "The Buccaneers". No wonder Emma Thompson loves him so!

#3 Sir Laurence Olivier.

Because besides all that Shakespearean stuff, the Vivien Leigh business, and Lord Nelson, Sir L. got to play both romantic heroes Darcy and Heathcliff, (not to mention the uber-secretive Maxim de Winter) and he perfected the snarling glower, the pacing restlessness, and the lustful eyes long before the current hunks were even born. It's enough to get a girl singing Kate Bush at the top of her lungs.


#4 Ciaran Hinds

Alright, so the last movie I saw him in was the worst movie ever ever ever (Miami Vice). But his performance as Captain Wentworth in Persuasion was so so so finely wrought, un-Hollywood, and sexy in a subdued way that we finally root for him over the more traditionally dishy Mr. Eliot (more on that lothario tomorrow). Plus, I've heard he makes a damn good Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, he's a kick-ass julius Caesar on "Rome", and he dared to play the Mayor of Casterbridge, one of Hardy's most depressing characters (other than obscure old Jude), which speaks to his integrity and craft and all that other important actor-y stuff.
"You pierce my soul."

#5-Jeremy Northam

Maybe it's because he redeemed Emma (Gwyneth, ugh) ...but more likely because of his spot-on turn in An Ideal Husband as a confident, noble politician with a shameful secret in his past (held by the delicious Julianne Moore)... and even more because of his ruthless, conniving and yes, very sexy (bearded!) role as Prince Amerigo in the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of James' The Golden Bowl. He's got Uma and Kate Beckinsale pining away.

What about the rest, you ask? Where are Hugh, and Rupert? Why are there so many Austen heroes and not enough Wharton brooders, James scoundrels, Forster Dilletantes and Dickens adventurers? (Because Austen is the best, like, duh.) And what about that dude who plays Will Ladislaw? Don't worry. I never would forget Will Ladislaw. Hunks #5-10 tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Anthony Trollope... Wit and Jew-hater

From page 29 of his great work, "The Way We Live Now."

"She was fat and fair,--unlike in colour to our traditional Jewesses; but she had the Jewish nose and the Jewish contraction of the eyes. There was certainly very little in Madame Melmotte to recommend her, unless it was a readiness to spe nd money on any object that might be suggested to her by her new acquaintances."

I'm so excited to be introduced to a new anti-semitic caricature in a highly-regarded work of literature! It's not enough that T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Mel Gibson want us dead. There's good old pickpocket Fagin (although Dickens atoned by putting nice jews in later novels), Meyer Wolfsheim in the Great Gatsby, Robert Cohn in This Side of Paradise, and those assholes at the Harvard Crimson. Oh, and Borat.

But not Jane Austen; no, she was not anti-semitic chiefly, I guess, because she didn't know any of us.

About Me

I am: Sarah Marian Seltzer, a freelance writer and book critic from NYC, a slightly damaged product of the Ivy League and its deranged prep-school feeder-culture, and a very lapsed reform Jew.

I'm a unabashed lover of hefty Victorian novels, sophisticated chick- lit, feminism, and independent media. My brief tenure as an urban schoolmistress got me passionate about blogging and education reform (and garnered me the name fellow-ette-- I was a teaching fellow).

Other guilty pleasures include comfortable shoes with which to stalk city streets, anything green tea-flavored, and frozen desserts. Well, just desserts in general.

In addition to indulging my literary fetish in an egalitarian manner, this blog is also all about dissecting mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, which at times (get it, times?) falls short of being the paper of record it could be, reviewing pop culture high and low, and anything and everything Bronte and Austen.

You can check out more of my writing here.

We Were the Mulvaneys

There are two inspirations for fellow-ette's new adventures in blogging. The first is a nasty cold that has left me weak and doing all my "freelance" work from my laptop and giving me extra time to do various types of bullshit.

The second, is that on a recent trip to chez ma and pa, looking for my social security card which seems to have vanished into the ether, I recovered a far, far better card, my NY Public Library card, (key to tons of free knowledge, yo)...featuring a signature so poor it's not even a signature. I can't have used it in 7 or so years. But now I have. And the first book I checked out with it is an opus by Princeton grande dame and lover of the gothic genre, Joyce Carol Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys, which incidentally, was picked by Oprah's book club, (which incidentally, makes really thoughtful selections).

The book is my first foray into Oates. I found her prose slightly, well, very hysterical, but since I returned the book yesterday (no fines for me!) I alas can't quote it here. Here's what I can say: she's super fond of run-on sentences, piles on the adjectives, and uses ever repeating italics to indicate thoughts, memories, collective unconscious, etc.

The Mulvaney's story is totally compelling. A large farm family--liberally raised kids, sing-songy, loving atmosphere, respected in town and oh-so-happy--is ruined when their chaste Christian daughter is raped quite brutally, it seems, by a popular boy at the local prom. Suddenly all the rituals and ties that bind this group together are thrown out of whack or abandoned, and everything descends into criminal chaos.

It turns out, surprise surprise, that the family wasn't that close to begin with; or at least, not communicative enough. Or maybe it's that they were too invested in their success? Or that they didn't know how to deal with victimhood? Or hmm. I didn't entirely buy the falling apart part. I entirely swallowed their falling from grace in town and how devastated it made some of them feel. That I understood: the unnerving way small-town society sides with the aggressor. And I appreciated the undercurrent of perverse sexuality in a clean, Christian town. that Oates describes with oblique references to graveyard encounters and bathroom graffiti. I just didn't think the family's internal disintegration was entirely believable, perhaps because Oates makes the combustion so complete and devastating and endless.

Still, it was a gripping read, easily trotted from subway ride to starbucks to bedside, and the buildup was so throat-closingly intense and consuming, maybe it was inevitable that the post-climactic chapters were a letdown. I'll definitely read more Oates sometime... I want to read the one called "Because it is bitter, and because it is my heart" just because the title is sooo badass, kind of like a better version of the last two lines of a Jorie Graham poem. But I need to take a break, and read something light and optimistic, like the confessions of Son of Sam or something. For realz.


A Literaryish Joke

A marxist and a cockney bloke meet each other on the street. The following is their conversation:

ello, 'ow are you mate? wot's new?

marxist: I'm reading the greatest book ever written.

bloke: really now?...'das capital!

Monday, October 16, 2006

A side-by-side comparison of great Irish storytellers.

Welcome to my new blog, the aim of which is to talk about books, culture, and other fun bs, without the pressure of its being an "education-oriented" blog like my previous effort. I needed to free myself from those shackles.
Speaking of the shackles wherewith we bind ourselves, back when F-ette was an undergrad "studying" in Galway, Ireland, she spent a lot of time lugging around a massive copy of Ulysses purchased while hungover and visiting the Dublin writer's museum. What inspired me to read Ulysses was nothing more than being drunk on the streets of Dublin. Nonetheless, the book was so frikkin' difficult (if ultimately rewarding) that I took it upon myself to look down my nose at certain roommates of mine who were deeply engrossed in another thick tome of Irish life, Quentins, by larger-than-life yarn-spinner Maeve Binchy.
But all that changed when I finally picked up a Binchy novel myself, and I have to say I'm heartily ashamed. So that's the goal of the new blog, bookwormishness without judgement, snobbery, or hating. Just a plain old love of storytelling, on all levels.
On that democratic note, I present to you this chart:


Testing... testing...une deux trois. (just kidding, this is an unpretentious blog!)