Top 10 Books I was forced to read:

This is a meme from The Broke and the Bookish: http://brokeandbookish.blogspot.com/

I no particular order, these are books I was assigned to read in school and that I loved.

 

 

1. Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llewelyn (undergrad)

lionofireland

-This tale of Brian Boru is both accurate enough that I could read it for an Irish history course, and so moving and glorious that I often reread parts.

2. Idylls of the King by Sir Alfred Tennyson (high school)

-I love Arthurian lore and am a fan of Tennyson’s verse.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (high school)

-This not only captured my attention for witty and romantic reasons, but was often read aloud in excerpts during class.  (Mr. Collins’ proposal was coerced out of my future fiance when he fell asleep and dropped out of his desk in class.  Although I had no interest in him at the time, I do treasure that memory now.)

4. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (undergrad)

GreenKnight

-Again-I adore Arthurian lore, and this legend in particular has a special place in my imagination as mixing decapitation and romance so colorfully.

5. Candide by Voltaire (undergrad)

-We don’t know what you’re doing with your monks, indeed!

6. Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (high school and undergrad)

canterbury

-Ah, elegance, raunchiness, and insults wrapped up with a sarcastically pious bow.  Who can resist that present?

7. Caucasia by Danzy Senna (graduate school)

-This novel really hits on so many racial and coming-of-age notes, it’s remarkable.  Plus, it’s secretly a version of “The Juniper Tree.”

8. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (high school)

earnest

-*begins to eat muffins*

9. King Lear by Shakespeare (high school)

-This is my favorite Shakespeare tragedy.  Have you READ the jester’s insults?  They are his absolute best, which is saying a lot.  Plus, fake madness.  I love a good fake madness, and in here it beats Hamlet’s.

10. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard (high school)

rosandguil

-Now, if we came from back there, and it is morning, than the sun would be over there.  And if the sun is really over there, then…it’s the afternoon.

 

Any thoughts, additions, or objections?

Yes, That’s a Giant Colin Firth Floating in the Serpentine || Jaunted

 

Mr. Darcy!

Yes, That’s a Giant Colin Firth Floating in the Serpentine || Jaunted.

 

This is just beautiful.  THIS is how you do a proper Christmas in July!!

‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ review

Death Comes to Pemberley

By: P.D. James

(http://www.randomhouse.com/features/pdjames/)

Vintage Canada 2011

A historical mystery review

In this P.D. James’s work, the shades of Pemberley ARE polluted…by murder!  The question is, will it be further soiled by having that notorious brother-in-law, George Wickham, the wild son of its late steward be ignominiously hanged for the crime?

Death Comes to Pemberley has some good material, but fails to connect enough to bring it home.  The central characters are immediately cleared of any wrongdoing, so the mystery centers on only those players who we never have a chance to connect with.  Hence, there’s not really much chance of readers getting involved with the mystery, no real suspense, tension, or satisfying curiosity.  The writing style does evoke the Austen novels, with several pleasing quote references.  However, many details are unconvincingly shoehorned into dialogue.  James could have better included this context as straight exposition, but felt compelled to have her characters say them, even when it’s completely out of character.  I don’t care how mellowed Darcy is by Lizzie, he’s not going around elaborating on social gossip he doesn’t care for instead of directly answering questions.  The events of Pride and Prejudice are well explained and used for access to the characters.  There are several points where James did convince me that I was inside protagonist Darcy’s head, which was wonderful.  On the other hand, Lizzie’s the heroine everyone wants more of and this book avoids doing anything with her.  Lizzie here is a key to discovering the workings of Pemberley, rather than a main character in her own right.  She’s utterly lacking in humor or even the dramatic flair she showed when Lydia eloped.  Moreover, there’s no enjoyable character growth.  Darcy’s realizations fall short, Lizzie has none, and there are no fleshed out scenes with them together or with their children to appreciate even changes in relationship dynamics.  Only those characters distanced to the readers can claim even the possibility of character change, which again is difficult to care about from afar.

James’s description of the intricacies of Pemberley is interesting.  The best things in this book are the slight extensions of Austen’s original work, such as the fate of Mary Bennet and the evolved relations between Lizzie and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  The way James contrives to bring in plausible connections with characters from other Austen novels is a close second.  However, a mystery without suspense, a Pemberley without a strong Lizzie, and an Austen attempt without humor are each cause enough for a failed novel.  Death Comes to Pemberley brought all three.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – YouTube

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – YouTube.

 

These things are fantastic!  About 3.5 minute increments of a modern day Lizzie Bennet video blog.  She has two sisters.  Jane is spot-on Austen and Lydia is hilariously updated to modern obnoxious boy-crazy.  She dresses up and does voices for her parents.  I think my all time favorite things are when she’s being her mother.  It makes me smile and is surprisingly hard to stop watching, considering I know where it’s going.  Perhaps it’s the editing touches (done by Charlotte), or the true-to-life sibling interactions, or the minimal costumes, or the stronger connection to the character in this setting.  After all, I am also a ‘DREADED MIDDLE CHILD’, etc.  It’s a wonderful, fun pick-me-up that makes me smile.

La Belle or Le Clueless?

During my visit this past week I watched two movies.  The first was a rewatch of Clueless.  The second was new to me, the cult classic La Belle et Le Bete (Jean Cocteau’s French film of Beauty and the Beast).  Unexpectedly, I discovered that these two films-American and French, modern and black-and-white-have much in common!

List of Similarities between Clueless and La Belle et Le Bete (some spoilers may apply):

1) Both protagonists have lost their mothers.

2) Neither Cher nor Belle can bear to leave their fathers.

3) Smoke causes a great deal of shame in both stories, by marking Travis as running in inferior circles and humiliating the beast for his beastly eating habits.

4) Makeovers are absolutely essential! (Tai, Cher’s soul, Belle’s clothing transformation, the Beast’s change…)

5) Both heroines put up with a man who’s constantly in their home and with their family, even though there’s no real family tie. (WHY is Avenant always there???  He doesn’t need to marry Belle to enjoy any money her father gets, he’ll be there enjoying whatever they’ve got anyhow.)

6) The role of lighting plays a huge part in dealing with the opposite sex. (Cher’s lighting plan, arms with torches…)

7) Both girls take it upon themselves to rehabilitate a social pariah. (Cher with Tai and Belle with the Beast, of course.)

8) Neither Cher nor Belle has any difficulty getting blunt and contemptuous with suitors. (“Clean yourself up!” “As if!”-Now, imagine those being used interchangeably with Cher ordering the greasy high school boys to ‘clean up, already!’ and Belle answering the Beast with ‘As if!’)

9) Neither are at all responsible when it comes to the practical things in life. (Cher’s driving, Belle’s failure to keep track of the key or to return on time.)

10) When they feel guilty, they both play sick. (Cher saying she’s physically unwell because her masseuse said she had a lot of tension after the encounter with Elton.  Belle lying in bed claiming illness from worry over her father while wearing a freaking crown-and-veil combo!)

The more I think about it the more this version of Beauty and the Beast seems like Emma-where the person you end up with is that one who’s been around, getting under your skin for ages.  Only the more modern tale made the male’s righteousness idealistic instead of arrogant or creepy.  (Can we talk about how absurd it is to hug someone to your chest by pulling an arrow across them?  I know I can’t, I can only stare agog.  Avenant is totally the Elton of the fairy tale universe.)  The other major difference is, of course, the posing.  The French classic takes posing literally and extremely seriously.  The Austen modernization interprets it more loosely as projecting a certain lifestyle over yourself.  So much else seems the same-a magic mirror would probably work exactly the same as the phone connection between Cher and Dionne.  Amber dressing in the same clothes as Cher effects her just the way Belle’s sister reacted to seeing herself reflected as a monkey.  Cher’s computerized clothing system and moving closet is akin to being dressed by invisible hands-though thankfully Cher has nothing as creepy as Belle’s moving blankets.  Belle’s feeling of power that the beast drinks from her hands, in spite of how clearly the event pales compared to his wild-animal instincts, is akin to Cher’s entitlement when she calls Josh to rescue her after being abandoned by Elton.  She assumes he will come when she calls, even though he has no real motivation.  Josh’s interest in the law and therefore Cher’s circle due to his own parents’ disinterest in him could arguably be akin to the Beast getting pushed into magic due to his parents’ angering of the spirits.  Now, if only I can figure out how this connection can explain the flying at the end of La Belle and Le Bete…

Belle is “a strange girl.”  On the other hand, Emma/Cher actually end up with their brother-types, instead of just getting stuck with someone in their body (though I’m sure the symbolism there means more in its lesson to girls about who the best man to end up with is).  In any event, it all ends with a big kiss frightfully soon after the switch from brother-type to suitor is made.    In really frilly clothes.  Because the girl will “get used to” the man telling her how to think and act, whether he’s a beast, prince, or college kid.  Because clearly, the man must know what is best for the woman.  Perhaps because he has the power of movement: Josh can drive.  The beast had all sorts of transportation devices.  That must be why he can fly at the end!  To show that in spite of losing his magical objects, he still has the power to move, to make his way in the world.  That is why he’s still acceptable-even if he’s a bit too familiar, Belle won’t be stuck in the same place again.  (Avenant offering to take Belle away didn’t work because he had no magic/power to back it up.  The man had no driver’s license!)

Well…smoke my statues’ faces and send myself flowers and chocolates: I know why the ex-beast can fly!  Now…why did the father seem more upset about riding through fog than the fact that he just lost his entire fortune?

Disney Crossover Compatibility

Today I attended birthday celebrations that included the task of assigning Disney princesses to new partners, outside of the Disney/cartoon universe.  The results:

 

Snow White: Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice.  He needs someone to appreciate his gardening, keep his house, be meek with an older lady patroness, and help cheer him up.  She needs someone who’ll let her tell him what to do in a domestic setting and encourage her to support him.  Also, they both appreciate retelling stories.

 

Cinderella: Raj of The Big Bang Theory.  They both cook and do gentile-variety housework.  If anyone can appreciate geekery it’s a girl whose prior entertainment has been dancing mice and birds.  Raj might mess things up, but he’ll actually do things with her and won’t order her around.  They’d probably make each other laugh and engage in odd activities.

 

Aurora: George Weasley from Harry Potter.  McGonagall taught him how to dance, so he should be an expert.  He’ll love introducing someone gullible into society and make her smile.  She’ll be a calming influence and be easily entertained.

 

Ariel: J.D. from Scrubs.  They both indulge great optimism and fantasies, and fall in love ridiculously fast.  They also both have strong attachments to the human body.

 

Belle: Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility.  They’re both intellectuals with very strong moral principles.  She has the high spirits and fiestiness that can bring him out and make him smile the way Marianne did, while Belle won’t need any near-death experiences to appreciate Brandon’s nobility and interests.

 

Pocahontas: the new version of James Bond.  She could be a grounding influence for him and be protective without making him defensive.  He could bring her around the world and understand her political background without exoticizing her.

 

Megara (Hercules): the prince from Much Ado About Nothing as played by Denzel Washington.  Meg has trust issues, so she needs a great communicator who can make her feel valued without going overboard with cheesy things.  Also, she needs someone able to verbally spar with her.  The prince expresses himself magnificently, is a tactful genius, and has enough tricks up his sleeve to match Meg.

 

Jasmine: Westley of The Princess Bride.  She needs someone who can keep up with her actively and who understands independence.  Also, someone who can take her sarcasm and losing her temper.  Westley deserves a girl who will support him guns-a-blazing and be able to handle delicate fighting situations.

 

Esmerelda: Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride.  Esmerelda is a physical genius who knows how to dance, fight, and disappear.  The only one who can match her is the wizard of swordsmanship.  Moreover, they both understand being marginalized by society.  They are passionate and have strong personal causes.  Also, then they could double date with Jasmine and Westley.

 

Mulan: Remus from Harry Potter.  Mulan needs someone who can go along with her plans while still making her feel beautiful and belonging.  Remus needs someone tough enough to stand up under the werewolf revelation, and someone who can make him laugh and relax.

 

Also, we wanted the boys from Psych to be involved, so:

 

Princess Fiona (Shrek): Gus.  They’re both very robust, have specific things that they like and are interested in, and are able to roll with the punches.  Also, they’d fight really well.

 

Odette (Swan Princess): Shawn, provided that they grew up together in the same circumstances as Odette and Derek do in the film.  Like Derek, Shawn has no idea what to say around women he cares about, he likes secrets, but he’s also very dedicated and fully committed to following his own instincts and intuitions in spite of what anyone else says.

 

Miss Prattle Says

Escapade

By: Joan Smith

http://www.belgravehouse.com/bookstore/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1009

Fawcett Crest Book 1977

A historical fiction romance review

 

Escapade is a story that would have been titled “Morals and Mores” if Jane Austen had written it.  Puella, nickname Ella, alias Miss Prattle, is a highly unconventional girl.  Uninterested in Almack’s, an aspiring novelist, and unwilling to flirt, Ella’s behavior in society is anything but the norm.  In fact, the only thing convincing her to take note of the haut-ton is her writing job.

On the opposite end of society, the Duke of Clare finds himself at the peak of fashionable affairs.  Nothing unusual ever happens, no matter what folly he tries.  Not even when the notorious gossip columnist starts taking him to task for his foolishness does the Duke of Clare consider change possible.  After all, the richest eligible bachelor in London may do as he likes, no matter what the printed “Miss Prattle Says.”

Smith needs no more than a house party to turn everything around.  The Duke’s unsurprising life gets some spontaneity.  Ella becomes witty in person as well as in the papers.  But no Escapade is truly safe, particularly with Miss Prattle reporting everything to all of London.  Can the Duke and Ella weather everything that lies between them?  More importantly, can their reputations weather the outcome?  It’s anyone’s guess.  The only safe bet in Smith’s book is the Duke of Clare’s mother and her appreciation of Ella: who could possibly not like the person who introduced you to Jane Austen?

This book is wonderfully written.  The relationships are organic; the problems keep you in suspense without getting overdone.  It’s so similar to the style of Georgette Heyer that I misremembered it as hers for awhile.  Smith’s writing edge may lie more in situations and thoughts than in conversation, but the same sharp wit is evident.  Escapade is a quick, absorbing read with a delicious combination of the tart and the sweet.

Hot Cock and the Breech Flaps!

Mitzi Szereto,
Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts
(Cleis Press, 2011)


Mitzi Szereto’s controversial new take on Jane Austen’s classic focuses on what goes on beneath the women’s skirts and behind the men’s breech flaps. Moreover, Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts includes a range of erotic encounters spanning from homosexual indulgences and sado-masichistic desires to masturbation and oral sex.

In its favor, this novel uses Szereto’s spicy additions to explore and elaborate on the character’s motivations, thus legitimately reinterpreting Jane Austen’s story rather than simply jamming in the erotica. In fact, Szereto’s often humorous timing inserts itself throughout the book to include erotic flashbacks, as well as current sexual scenarios. The way Szereto’s new material can completely revitalize a well-known scene when inserted in the middle of the dialogue is delightful.

On the other hand, Szereto worked to keep the individual characterizations close to the original, while neglecting to keep the dynamics between her more sexual versions consistent. Unfortunately, this lack of proportion keeps this work from really coming into its own. For example, while certain characters like Lydia have canon traits that make her a much easier target for additional raunchiness, capitalizing on that while keeping Lizzie’s original modesty strong enough that it often affects her enjoyment of her pleasures creates an extreme distance between the two sisters’ behavior that goes much further than the book. The result is that while the individual story lines keep a ring of validity, whenever they intersect things cease to make sense. Since a main plot point in any Pride & Prejudice adaptation hinges on Lydia performing an indiscretion that disgraces her entire family, it is necessary to keep her prior behavior within society’s expectations, if just barely. To keep society’s expectations, Lizzie’s expectations, so much more conservative than Lydia’s behavior for the majority of the book makes her “disgracing” action with Mr. Wickham insufficient for the effect it needs to have on the plot.

Also, when dealing with smaller and more trifling matters where people push the boundaries of acceptability, Szereto constantly apologizes for it. Either Miss Bingley’s new, racy clothes are scandalous, or they are, like Lydia in Austen, tolerable, if rather shaming. To have frequent explanations for how things like Miss Bingley’s clothes are actually scandalous, but there are reasons why people say nothing, seems like apologizing for taking the eroticism too far. These issues with consistency make it difficult to stay immersed in the story at times. Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts should have either pushed as hard as it did against the breech flap of acceptable behavior as it did with Lydia, or it should have kept all its plot lines from thrusting too far. If the acceptable level of “hidden lusts” had been kept in proportion in this work, it would have really made an impact.

In short, Pride & Prejudice: Hidden Lusts is well worth the time, but is not as credible or engrossing as it could have been. Szereto’s imagination will surprise, her interpretations will intrigue, and her continual focus on breech flaps will eventually bring into existence a band called Hot Cock and the Breech Flaps made up of guys who wear regency-style breeches and at the end of every show tear open their breech flaps to display things like plastic pineapples and harmonicas (at least in a perfect world). It’s worth reading just to find out what else might pop up.