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, January 28, 2010

A Gallery Of Extremely Handsome British Men

A Gallery Of Extremely Handsome British Men [Handsome Is] is up over at Jezebel and causing lots of drooling thereabouts. Check out all the Austen heroes who show up in the comments.

And don't forget OUR Gallery of period drama men:

#15-11, #10-6, # 5-1 and the new top five hotties are all here. And here's my photo gallery wherewith I made those lists.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My HLP is a huge Chabon-booster and I do like the man's baleful soul- eyes, so I thought at long last I'd tackle this well-regarded epic saga about secular American Jews and their secular God: Commercial Art. It's about two cousins who create some of the most memorable comic book characters in history, and their strange personal and professional journeys of creation and destruction.

Although the beginning was slow, I did fall in love with Chabon's humane approach to his protagonists, Joe and Sammy, his clever, robust and well-crafted language, his vivid descriptions of the comic book world of the 30s and 40s. I also liked reading about the buxom, smart and capable Rosa Saks, the lady of the tale, particularly since there are no misogynist overtones to her characterizations (ahem! Philip Roth.)

And behind it all the horror of what is happening to Europe's Jews is like a faint, persistent drumbeat that lends an extra pathos to the journey.

There's just enough absurdity here to work without rendering it ridiculous or overwrought, and just enough tragedy to wrench the heart but not feel like an overload.

Well deserving of all the plaudits, this one!
View all my reviews >>

RIP, Men of Letters

Within 24 hours, three great American writers have passed away. J.D. Salinger, Louis Auschincloss, Howard Zinn. Whether spinning stories about disaffected WASPs or digging deeply into the lie-strewn history of American social oppressions, they've probed our nation's soul. I've read works by all three of them, and been touched particularly by Salinger and Zinn, as have most American schoolkids who were educated in a liberal manner ;)

As twitter-user mhsteger tweeted: Salinger, Auchincloss, Zinn, on the great Amtrak-to-nowhere, swapping stories about that fantastic, sad, funny beast, America

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Obligatory Pre-Emma Post

It's been a roller-coaster weekend for me anticipating Emma 2009, readers. Last week I began re-reading Emma and got really excited by how funny and witty and brilliant the book is and that pumped me up for tonight. Then today I read a bunch of commenters all over the internets really trashing the adaptation and my heady anticipation took a hit.

It's confusing--Sandy Welch's adaptations (North and South and 2006's Jane Eyre) are two of the best in the last five years, so she seems the obvious choice to screenwrite. Romola Garai's Gwendolyn Harleth in Daniel Deronda is like another side of Emma Woodhouse--shallow-rich 19th century woman played as tragic instead of comic. So again, good choice in casting. I thought Johnny Lee Miller was a fine choice for Knightley, and obviously Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse is less inspired than mandatory.

Still, sometimes the right ingredients don't add up to the perfect meal. So there's nothing to do but wait and see. I'm going to keep an open mind and try to enjoy the adaptation for its own sake (even as I re-read the book just so I can get angry about more discrepancies--but there's fun in that, there is!). I'll be joining the twitter conversation as this adaptation airs--hastags #Emma_pbs and #emma.

Also, I wrote a little blog post at Speakeasy about how Clueless is my favorite Emma adaptation and how hard it is to top Alicia Silverstone's charm when casting an Emma character. Head over there and check it out and prove that Austen fatigue hasn't hit the internets.

Quick Link: Keats' Words--> Campion's Screenplay

Bright Star - from Keats' words to screenplay (via Enchanted Serenity of Period Films) shows us one perfect example of how carefully Jane Campion used words and images from Keats himself to craft her screenplay for the year's best film. Go check it out!

Interestingly enough, this reminds me of a reverse version of the way Wordsworth used his sister's exactingly detailed journal entries to inform his poetry.

This movie is out on DVD in a few weeks!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ovation's Tall, Dark and Steamy Series

Until the end of the week, Ovation cable channel is showing a series of shows they dub "Tall, Dark and Steamy." Basically, it's just an endless loop of a bunch of B-list, romantic/sexy BBC adaptations, including:
  • A "Madame Bovary" with EBC faves Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Dancy and GREG "Mr. Emma Thompson/Willougby" WISE (and yes we see his bare bottom).
  • A hilariously ribald "Fanny Hill" with an Andrew Davies screenplay.
  • "Wide Sargasso Sea," "Lost in Austen," "Cousin Bette," and "Dr. Zhivago."
Anyway, as Masterpiece is only once a week, those of you with cable should definitely get your mini-series fix on this week. Ovation is fast becoming my favorite go-to cable channel after HBO.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reading, writing, life goals for 2010

It's a little late for this, but here goes.

In 2010, my HLP and I are going to be affirming our love in the most conventional, legal, Jane-Austen novel/Shakespeare Comedy-ending-ish of ways imaginable (but our celebration itself is going to be laid back and unconventional, although I believe it will involve eating, drinking, and being merry and inheriting a small parsonage on Colonel Brandon's estate ).

I'm hoping that that lovely occasion in my personal life will also be joined by some leaps in my literary life.

I really to take more steps to get my own fiction-writing in ship-shape. That involves revising, writing A LOT more, studying craft, and eventually submitting my work for the wide world's approval or disapproval. That also means being more honest and open with myself about the fact that this is a serious goal of mine, not just a hobby that I hope will work out.

And as for reading? I want to read the following books: Brave New World, Native Son, Barchester Towers, a bunch of short stories by Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore, at least two more irritating male mid-century American novels (Rabbit, Portnoy, etc) and two Shakespeare histories. I would really love to read more Latin American women-penned fiction, Allende, Cisneros, etc. I also have my Bronte challenge to look forward to, and the next Sookie Stackhouse book. And I'd like to read a Georgette Heyer regency romance for fun. And lastly, of course, a few more Pulitzer-winners from the last couple of decades as well as any new books that rock the literary world.

What are your 2010 goals, friends-of-EBC?

The Play's the Thing

Last week I saw another Sam Mendes/Bridge Project Shakespeare production at BAM, "As You Like It." The cast was less famous, the play less mind-blowingly awesome than "Winter's Tale" but I still really enjoyed it. Some people look down their noses at this play under the belief this is a truly lesser work by the Bard. That's because of the way so many crowd-pleasing elements are just tossed in and the plots all wrap up so conveniently and so offstage. Singing! Wrestling! Girls dressed as boys! Sudden religious conversions that solve all our problems! etc. etc. And even so, it's not as hilarious when performed as other comedies like "Twelfth Night" or "Much Ado."

But to these critics I say, lighten up. What I find really fun about "As You Like It" is that it contains all those wacky elements and yet also simultaneously shows us real glimpses of the themes Shakespeare would later be obsessed with--usurping family members, exile, forgiveness, and so on. Plus I love the female friendship between Rosalind and Celia, and the double combo of Jaques and Touchstone provides a lot of onstage folly for our amusement.

Mendes' production relies on great music, wonderful arrangements of "Under the Greenwood Tree" and "A Lover and his Lass" and his trademark dramatic lighting, and a more-than-solid cast of Brits and Americans (with the exception of one irritating actor). If you are in New York and want some cheap erudition, I heartily recommend this production for an evening's diversion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Literary Birthday: Edgar Allan Poe

Actually, his birthday was yesterday, but I would be remiss in not giving old Edgar (who moved around so frequently there are like fifteen Poe sites here in NYC) a hearty EBC shout-out.

I live near a famous church and so when its bells toll, I quite frequently hear lines of his fabulously onomatopoeic poem, "The Bells," running through my head.

Readers, what is your favorite Poe story or poem?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


March March by Geraldine Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Our narrator, Mr. March, is a Union soldier; he's also father to four beloved sisters-—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—taking his offstage journey during the events of the first half of "Little Women." As the little women have their famously instructive scrapes—falling into an ice-covered pond, chopping off hair to raise money,-—Mr. March experiences his own moral education, and sees his lofty ideals (based on those of transcendentalist, and father to Louisa, Bronson Alcott) blown apart by violence.
From ugly battlefield scenes to pre-war plantations to a colony of freed slaves brutally and murderously recaptured by Southern profiteers, Brooks purposefully builds a tale of contrasts. Even Mr. and Mrs. March have totally different views of their marriage--each thinks the other is the unflinching abolitionist, each blames the other for the total sacrifice the family has made for the cause.
Whether in a universal moral context (can war ever be just?), the context of a family or relationship, or even within Mr. March's tortured soul unable to live up to his ideals, Brooks implies that the idols to truth we erect are a flimsy bunch. But, the novel counters, the love and healing we offer each other can redeem us from this bleak minefield of ambiguity—-taking a cue from the supposedly-simple children’s classic whose themes and characters “March” poaches.
If "March" deals too much in Civil War-era cliches, it's a quick and absorbing and question-raising read for fans of either that troubling and thrilling epoch in history or Alcott's life and work.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, January 01, 2010

All About the Brontes Challenge 2010-My Goals!

Hat tip to JaneFan! Laura's Reviews is hosting a read-a-thon challenge called the All About The Brontes Challenge, which invites participants to read or watch 3 Bronte-penned or Bronte-related works in the upcoming year.

I've already read the complete Bronte novels including most of Charlotte's juvenilia (but not quite all), and a bunch of major Bronte-inspired works, so my goals are a bit eclectic, but awesome nonetheless:

1. The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte by Daphne Du Maurier.
2.The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996 - Masterpiece Theatre starring Tara Fitzgerald and Toby Stephens) I'd also like to re-read the book, which I read in high school at the recommendation of an English teacher, and don't remember that well, though I do recall absolutely loving it.
3.The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell. A must-read I've shamefully put off. But my honey got this for me for Hannukah! What a guy.

Anyone else want to do this challenge? Check it out here!