Dear Readers,

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Been A While, Readers

I'm inspired to blog again after a few fallow weeks because the school year is winding down, the heat is cranking up, and I spent the past few days at the Backspace Writer's Conference where I spent time with the lovely Debbie of Write on Target.

Presenters included John Searles, who is the Books editor at Cosmo, David Morell, who wrote the first Rambo novel, and most pertinent to this blog, the amazing Jerry Gross, who invented** "The Gothic Romance" and the "Regency Romance" as paperback categories--what a genius! He explained to us the "formula" for Gorthic Romance covers, and I did a little google image searching to reveal that he was totally right. Check these out and see what they have in common, and which famous works of fiction they all allude to!

(images from,,,

**UPDATE I forgot to tell you the story of HOW he invented this category. Basically, he found a dog-eared, lovingly re-read copy of Rebecca on his mom's bedside. She said "they don't make em like this anymore," and a lightbulb went off above his head. the end!

It was a fun conference for me because I am knee-deep in revisions on my current WIP (I hope to be waist-deep later in the week) so I didn't need to shmooze editors or anything like that, but just soak up the words of wisdom and get psyched for this whole writing thing.

We heard some inspirational panels from writers who had gotten the nastiest kinds of rejections early on in their careers, but persevered and blah blah blah.

How have you all been doing? Any of my regular readers also dabble in fiction-writing? Anyone long to see this gothic romances back in print?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Favorite Characters EVER: Sam, Anne, Lizzy and More

Literary agent uber-blogger Nathan Bransford has opened a post with, like, the biggest question one can ask: your favorite character.

His own are rather erudite and sound a bit like they would overlap a bit with my h-l-p's favorites.
Sherlock Holmes? Quentin Compson? Jay Gatsby? Zaphod Beeblebrox? Willy Wonka? Leopold Bloom? Ahab? The whale?
I would agree that these are badass characters, but I might counter Quentin with Caddy or Dilsey, Jay with Daisy, Willy with Matilda, and Leo with Molly ;)

The most popular characters so far in the comments definitely line up with my sensibilities: Lizzy Bennet, Anne Shirley (of Green Gables), Jane Eyre and Samwise Gamgee are hauling in the votes in a most major way, and I applaud all of them. I also found some good ones in the comments: Kit Tyler from The Witch of Blackbird Pond (WIN!!), Scarlett and Rhett, Atticus, Scout and Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Others I love, a bit randomly: Mr. Rochester, Hermione Granger + Albus Dumbledore, Meg Murray + Vicky Austin, Anne Eliot + her Cap'n, Will Ladislaw + Mary Garth, Aunt Bestey Trotwood+ the Micawbers, Edmund Sparkler + PANCKS, George Emerson, his Dad + Mr. Beebe, Viola, Horatio, Emilia, and a host of others.

Oh also Edward Cullen! (JK-sorta-not-really-hangs head in shame).

Who else is missing from this list?

Jane Campion's Keats Biopic a Hit In Cannes

The Guardian gives four stars to Jane Campion's latest film, "Bright Star" a period piece exploring mega-genius Romantic poet Keats' doomed--but oh-so-passionate--love affair with his neighbor Fanny in the final years of life. You bet your bonnet I'm going to be seeing this film when it comes stateside.

Keats is one of my absolute favorite poets, although sometimes I find him so brilliant and dense it's overwhelming. On my first trip to London I insisted on a day out on Hampstead Heath, which is as inspiring and poetic as it's cracked up to be, and then a visit to his house, which was surprisingly small and boring, a testament to his vivid imagination. I remember one of my college professors' mourning Keats' early death because he believed the poet would have become a novelist and playwright as well and left us with some unforgettable major works had he lived.

As for Campion, I'm not familiar with her work but I appreciate her feminist sensibilities. I've long been intrigued by her "Portrait of a Lady" because of its cast (Viggo as Caspar Godwood, John Malkovich as Osmond!) and may have to netflix that, stat!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The New Sherlock Holmes Adaptation Will Feature... PANCKS!

check out the trailer below... he (actor Eddie Marsan) shows up early and often.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A New "Who's The Best Darcy" Poll To Add to Your Barouche

Go vote for Colin Firth in the Darcy smackdown over at the awesome Jane Austen Today.

Lauren Conrad, Novelist.

Gawker delves deep into the first published excerpt of "The Hills" "star" Lauren Conrad's novel, L.A. Candy.

Turns out the novel's the same contrived mix of "fiction" and "reality" as the TV show upon whose shoulders it sits... anyway, worth a look for all you literary gossip fiends ;)

Maureen Dowd, Feminist Websites, and More

So I've started posting shorter, timelier blog entries (or "diaries") at RH Reality Check in addition to my column. The first two are on topics fairly near and dear to this blog's EBC heart. Feel free, as always, to click through or not :)

Gender Cop Dowd's Plagiarism Kerfluffle

May 18, 2009 - This revelation of Dowd's thoughtless use of words is far from new. She's been a perennial thorn in the side of feminists and everyone who would like to move beyond Mad Men-era perceptions of gender.

. . . . .
Double X-asperation?

May 14, 2009 - Slate's new website by/for women has launched a thousand debates.

Another Book Listie Leaves the Ladies Out:

Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy takes on yet another "100 best books of the century" list that has only 7 female-authored tomes in its ranks. This one is a list curated by Dick Meyer at NPR, who admits to its being "male" and "parochial".

Says Kellogg:

it's certainly not my list. While I wouldn't call it parochial, I would say that a lot of the books are the kind that were assigned to be read in school, which indicates a kind of incurious reader to me. Misspelling Nathanael West's name (as Nathaniel), and including two books each by Philip Roth, John Le Carre, Richard Ford and John Updike doesn't help to convince me otherwise.

But truly astonishing is the fact that only seven books by women make the list. And number 100 — Nicole Krauss' "A History of Love" — was published in 2005, so it doesn't even belong in a list that spans 1900-2000. Which would cut down the number of female authors to six.

This nonsense is why the Radcliffe list is so awesome and fun.

Previously in this category:

National Book Award: Testosterone

Anti-feminist book critics review feminist works

Times' Gender ratio improves

Pulitzers: kinda testosteroney

Friday, May 15, 2009

Question of the Weekend: What's Your Favorite "Junk Food" Book?


So with Angels and Demons getting expectedly pilloried in film reviews around the nation, I thought I'd open it up to my readers to ask what your favorite "candy" books are? Because just as we need to shove sugar and fat down our mouths sometimes and nothing else will do, so, too do we occasionally crave those delicious, addictive page-turners.

I think the reason people hate Dan Brown is because his books mix high and low in such a confusing way. He's neither Dean Koontz nor A.S. Byatt, but unashamedly throws a bit of everything into his winning formula(e?). But that's why I kind of have a soft spot for his place in the cultural fabric.

Anyway, I would not say Dan Brown is my favorite "light" read: I'd have to give that to the brits: Helen Fielding, Alexander McCall Smith, or--if she counts as "light"--Dame Agatha.

How about you?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In Santa Croce, With No Baedeker

My parents are on a trip to Florence and went into Santa Croce today to pay homage to Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Galileo among others... anyway I can't even think about it without dwelling on one of the best-named chapters ever, "In Santa Croce With No Baedeker" from Forster's A Room with a View. The brilliant Santa Croce scene begins about 4:30 in the below clip, but if you fast-forward you'll miss Beebe telling Lucy what might happen if she lives as she plays Beethoven, the Emersons strewing cornflowers throughout the Miss Alans' rooms, a bit of Dench and Smith interplay, and a few lovely shots of "the view" of the Arno. Heaven.

I've realized that breaking this movie into ten-minute chunks all but guarantees you multiple perfect little youtube clips filled with iconic moments :)

Wuthering Heights... and GOSSIP GIRL?

My h-l-p helpfully points out a report that the new big screen Wuthering Heights ("Enough", sez I. "Can't we adapt Villette or Shirley already, for the love of Bronte?") has found a director and stars, supposedly reuniting the team behind "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

Cathy will be played by that luscious-lipped Tess, Gemma Arterton, who is fantastic. Great choice.

Heathcliff will be played by sneering prepster Chuck Bass Ed Westwick, best known for scheming his way through the NYC independent school landscape. WTF?

Brilliant marketing strategy yes--Wuthering Heights as teen angst melodrama, capturing the hearts of Twilight and Gossip Girl fanladies galore.

But appropriate casting for the wild, menacing, Heathcliff? I'll believe it when I see it.

(photo creds: &

Bill Compton > Edward Cullen

Here is the new True Blood "teaser." The show starts up again in a month:

As you may or may not know, the series is loosely based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, which are supposed to be wildly addictive.

I know it's a loose adaptation, but I'm impressed with the general badassness that Harris and series creator Allen Ball have granted to heroine Sookie. While Bill Compton, her southern-gentleman vampire beau, may be kind of Cullenish, Sookie's way cooler, spunkier, and far more eager eager to murder bad guys by stabbing them with shovels than Bella Mary-Sue Swan ever would be. And for that I say thank you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sarah Palin Book Deal...

"Is it a picture book?" quoth my h-l-p.

He is referring, of course, to the forthcoming memoir from everyone's favorite veep candidate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White House "Poetry Jam"

Yes, it's true. The White House is hosting a poetry jam-- a jam, not a slam, cause everyone wins in this one.

The performer’s list for the hip event includes James Earl Jones; poet Mayda Del Valle, novelist Michael Chabon, jazz musicians ELEW and Esperanza Spalding and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The poetry slam is actually an Obama campaign promise coming to fruition. Last year, Obama announced that he and First Lady Michelle Obama intended to bring poets and musicians into the White House to “open up the White House and remind people this is the people’s house.

Sigh. This is brilliant. Because who is going to be freaking about about DADT, torture, Afghanistan and the economy when they're staring into Chabon's hypnotic eyes? Certainly not Ayelet Waldman :)

It's Been A While

Hey readers... I've had a very busy week and mother's day/mom's birthday weekend (yay mom!) and I remain on deadline for a few stories, so posting is going to remain sparse-ish today but I hope will pick up tomorrow. In the meantime, take a gander at K's list of literary mamas to remember.

I also wanted to thank the amazing and prolific Sandra Leigh for giving me the one lovely blog award.

I'm trying to plough through Pamela which started out being immense fun and has gotten a bit boring, but also have a review novel to read this weekend which may delay my completing it.

But I've been thinking about the oft-neglected (by me) 18th century. If we had to make an essential 18th century novel list, what would it be? Pamela, Clarissa, Tom Jones, Joseph Andrew, Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, Tristram Shandy, The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Evelina, Castle Rackrent, maybe some Eliza Haywood and Aphra Behn? What am I missing?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Carol Ann Duffy

I've been remiss in not talking about the awesomeness that is Britain's new poet Laureate crashing her way into the very old boys' club. It is truly awesome. Anyway, here is a roundup of posts and excerpts from my google reader feeds (note, all of the snippets are from the sites, not me):

Carol Ann Duffy, first female and openly gay poet laureate of Britain
...Carol Ann Duffy, 53, has been appointed poet laureate of Britain, a prestigious 341-year-old position previously held by men like John Dryden, Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Cecil Day-Lewis and Ted Hughes. Not only is Duffy the first woman to hold the position, she is the first Scot, the first mother, and the first lesbian.
from Feministing -
'I still haven't written the best I can'
...Carol Ann Duffy is that rare thing - a poet whose work is loved by children and adults alike, critics as much as the public. Now, a decade after she was passed over for the job, she is to become the first woman poet laureate. Here, in an exclusive interview, she talks about Queen, country - and the free sherry
from home | -
Duffy Confirmed as First Female British Poet Laureate in 341 Years
...laureate is Carol Ann Duffy, nearly three-and-a-half centuries after John Dryden was anointed by King Charles II to the nation's foremost literary position. Duffy, 53, is also the first Scot and the first openly gay writer to be poet laureate. (Dryden, incidentally, holds the dubious distinction of being the only poet laureate to be sacked, ...)
from Isak -

Britain's first female poet laureate
...Carol Ann Duffy has been appointed Britain's first female poet laureate after a 341-year run of men. That's an awful long monopoly, but England, not to mention poetry, has rarely been accused of being quick to change. (Elizabeth Barrett Browning was considered for the post in 1850, but she lost out to Alfred Tennyson.) Duffy first got attention ...
from Salon: Broadsheet -
Poetry In Motion [Caroling]
...Carol Ann Duffy has been named Britain's poet laureate. Duffy, the first woman to hold the post in its 341-year history, is known for a wide and varied body of modern poetry. [NYT]
from Jezebel -
England's First Female Poet Laureate Named
...The poet Carol Ann Duffy was chosen as poet laureate of England today, the first female poet named laureate since the post was first created over 340 years ago. Duffy follows former laureate Andrew Motion, and according to the NY Times, she will serve in the post for 10 years. The first honoree was Edmund Spenser...
from GalleyCat -

The New Yorker Hates P+P + Z--quel surpise

Macy Halford of storied high- intellectual rag The New Yorker thinketh not too kindly of our friend Seth Grahame-Smith's hybridization of genteel manners and the vicious undead.

The plot continues in this manner—Lizzie, Darcy, zombies, blah, blah, blah—until the end, and there isn’t much more to say about it, except to reiterate is awfulness. The experience of reading it is like taking a walk in a park on a beautiful day and knowing that a thunderstorm or something else deeply unpleasant (say, a zombie) might spring up at any moment and ruin everything. In this instance, the something unpleasant is Grahame-Smith’s writing. But perhaps I’m being too harsh: I met a fan of the book last weekend who praised it as “an intelligent fart joke.”

Yes, you ARE being too harsh m'dear, but it's cool. The joke contained within Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' pages isn't for everyone.

The rest of Halford's piece ruminates on why there's such an attraction for Austen among the genre fiction crowd, judging at length that said attraction is caused by the already-hinted at subtext of scandal and seduction within Austen's novels--see Churchill and Fairfax's amour/Willoughby and Wickham's extracurricular activities. This may be true, or it may also be that Jane Austen is basically second to fucking Shakespeare in terms of recongizability in pop culture, and just as there have been sci-fi and horror Shakespeare takeoffs (Forbidden Planet anyone?), there will be Austen ones as well. Because that's what happens to popular stories. People want to own them. But critics are still hesitant to admit how much raw power Jane wields posthumously, cause she was a spinster and stuff. Sigh.

However however, the subtext question that Halford brings up is interesting.I'm reading Pamela, and I caught the end of Sense and Sensibility '95 on TV last night, and the combination made me recall what a wise prof once told me about Jane Austen. Pamela, like most early novels save a few, is all about the attempted seduction/rape of a virtuous young woman. Austen has that seduction plot in nearly all of her novels--but it's not the main plot. She moved the 18th century novel, to the margins, and put her class and marriage maneuvers/the growth of her heroines in the spotlight, and thus she is the perfect bridge between 1700s and 1800s fiction.*

*And also the best novelist evah. Booyah.

Monday, May 04, 2009

PANCKS BY A LANDSLIDE! Little Dorrit Poll, The Final Results

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

She is a damn fine woman with no b'God nonsense about her! -- Edmund Sparkler
31 (25%)
Affery, woman, you shall have such a dose--Flintwich
3 (2%)
Altro! Altro!-Cavaletto
4 (3%)
Pancks's emphatic snorting
37 (30%)
In the dear departed days now long forgotten--Flora
17 (13%)
Five-and-twenty, Tatty, five-and-twenty--Meagles
12 (9%)
Anything uttered by Mr. F's Aunt when she is in high spirits
19 (15%)

The insufferable yet somehow likeable Sparkler comes in hot on "Pancks the Gypsy fortune-teller's" heels, bigod! What fun it would be visiting him at the old office of Circomlocution.

I acknowledge, incidentally, that along with Altro! Altro! I should have included Mrs. Plornish translating from the Italian ('im say 'im no likes it!). To be honest, every time she did that in the book I LOLed, and it's not easy to LOL from a book.

Thanks to all who voted ;)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Little Dorrit, Episode 5--FINALE (Guest Blog)

Here is K, of South in the Winter, with her thoughts on the final chapter:

"Hello all! I’m very excited to be blogging about the conclusion of Little Dorrit. Apologies for the delay – I don’t have cable and I trusted to the Internet gods to save me, but as I live in Canada I had some issues with the PBS website. But all is well! I’ve been marathoning this for the past two days…

So we open with Mr. Dorrit back in Venice attempting a marriage proposal. This scene makes me squirmy with discomfort, perhaps because Mrs. General is so insufferable and Mr. Dorrit is so clearly in a state of decline. Side note: who else loves to play the “hey, it’s that character actor!” game? You will note that Mrs. General also played the evil headmistress in Matilda.

The scene where he falls apart at Mrs. Merdle’s farewell ball in Italy is heartbreaking as well. Poor Mr. Dorrit. Remember the scene where Mr. Chivery offers to let him look into the street and the noise and bustle is overwhelming? I imagine that’s what the entire Italian interlude has been. The strain of keeping the past a secret and trying to live in the open after years of confinement is just too much.

And… a double character death. Oh Dickens, why must you tug at my heartstrings so? I’m a cynic, but killing the clarinet-playing uncle is too much. I’ll just weep over here in my corner.

Hee, the Sparklers are quite the comic relief, though. “And just when he was beginning to enjoy society!” Fanny never disappoints.

As Arthur visits Miss Wade, I’m forced to ask: does anyone else find this Miss Wade/Harriet storyline boring and/or just plain odd? This is the only instance of any kind of same-sex relationship in a Dickens novel – correct me if I’m wrong, of course. But I want to see some more. And I don’t mean sex scenes.

Ah, the inevitable reunion between Arthur and Amy! My eyes are watering in preparation. But actually it’s quite restrained, another accidental meeting in the street. Claire Foy is excellent, I must say. I mean, I don’t object to looking at Matthew Macfayden but Foy has a much harder role to pull off. She manages to keep Amy right on the border between "sweet" and "saintly."

And Mr. Merdle commits suicide – in what I excitedly thought was an opium den, but it turns out to be a bathhouse. Most shocking! Wouldn’t it hurt to kill yourself with a pen knife? Apparently all of England is thrown into financial ruin. There’ll be a run on rooms at the Marshalsea!

The shockwaves ripple… the Merdles are ruined, and plan a rather cowardly (but highly entertaining) back-door exit, while Arthur is nobler and heads over to Marshalsea because he’s lost all of his money by investing in Merdle. And so the tables have turned, and the financially solvent become the debtors. I would watch a spinoff of Mrs. Merdle, Fanny and Sparkler trying to survive on nothing but his Circumlocution Office salary, spite, and parrot food. Anyone else?

Arthur is thrown into a fever by his new status as inmate at Marshalsea and has strange dreams. When he wakes, Amy is there. And you know, I think Fellowette is right – it’s not quite the right ending to the longing and restrained love story we’ve been watching. When did he realize he was in love with her? I don’t remember seeing it happen. There’s too much money talk and not enough unburdening of the soul for my liking.

Rigaud makes his reappearance and generally behaves creepily. He lays into Mrs. Clennam but I can’t understand a word of what he’s saying… however, he is threateningly arching his brows and leaning in way too close. I conclude that he is blackmailing her! Interspersed with this are shots of Harriet discovering the Missing Box of Important Papers. And… then she’s gone.

Mrs. Clennam is apparently cured by the power of Rigaud’s insane French accent, because she stumbles off and runs into Amy, telling her the whole confusing story of Arthur’s real parentage. I will admit that I had to look this part up because it puzzled me. And then the Clennam house falls down around Rigaud and Flintwitch. This is one of those dramatic but highly unrealistic Dickensian moments – like the spontaneous combustion in Bleak House – that are completely spectacular. It’s also been heavily foreshadowed, what with all the dust and creaking. I love it! Flintwitch runs through the house trying to escape and Rigaud mutters French curse words as the roof collapses on him.

This is getting too long, sorry. Let’s skip the public shaming of Mr. Casby and move right to the happy ending. John stands by stoically in the yard as Amy enters the Marshalsea. (Oh John. There are plenty of other young ladies out there. Stop making me cry.) Our lovers reunite. It’s sweet, as Arthur picks her up and spins her about, but there isn’t quite enough sweeping emotion for me. In yet another plot twist, Daniel Doyce comes back from Russia having saved the business. Doyce is wearing fur, as all travellers to Russia must.

Wedding scene! Everyone is there – including, inexplicably, Harriet and the Meagles. Where’s Pet? Hopefully not languishing in Italy still. I like that Amy is wearing a purple dress - a lot of the colours thus far (around the Dorrit family in particular) have been subdued greys and violets, and her wedding dress is in the same family but a bit brighter and happier.

And the camera freezes on Little Dorrit, now all grown up, as your cynical heartless blogger wipes away a tear. Dickens and Davies are obviously out to sell a lot of Kleenex to classic novel lovers. The John storyline alone broke my heart repeatedly. I must say, despite the dropped threads of the plot (Pet, Harriet and Miss Wade) and the somewhat disappointing end to the love story, this miniseries was highly entertaining. As always with Dickens, the secondary comic characters are so important, and the casting was uniformly excellent. What did everyone else think?

Thanks so much for the opportunity, Fellowette!"