Saturday, May 23, 2015

Literary Wine

According to the etching on my literary wineglass, if you are reading anything by Samuel Richardson, but especially if you are unfortunate enough to be reading Clarissa, you should drink an entire box of wine. Every night. Middlemarch page count: 904. Clarissa page count: 1,494.

The best review of Clarissa I've ever read was in The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch. In a chapter called "On Recommending Books" she writes:
Jenny hates this book with the passion of a thousand flaming suns. "By a third of the way in, I was hoping she would kill herself. Living in a whorehouse without knowing it? She is so stupid she deserves to die. Die, bitch, die!" Thus spake the gentle Southern belle we have seen cry over little frozen birds in the snow. Again, no one tried to save this novel, one of the longest in the English language. Instead we asked why Samuel Richardson wrote it in the first place. None of us knew for sure, but when someone snidely suggested he was getting paid by the word, we figured that had something to do with it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


EvelinaEvelina by Fanny Burney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. Yes, the country is better for your health, my dear, but the city beckons… While my favorite Georgian heroine is still Shamela, Evelina is not as annoying as Clarissa and has the good fortune to attract the attention of that paragon of taste and appropriate behavior, Lord Orville, rather than the dastardly Lovelace. Burney's satire is subtle at times and uproarious at others.

…But I'm a sad, weak creature;-don't you think I am, my Lord?"

"O, by no means," answered he, "your Ladyship is merely delicate,-and devil take me if ever I had the least passion for an Amazon."

"I have the honour to be quite of your Lordship's opinion," said Mr. Lovel, looking maliciously at Mrs. Selwyn; "for I have an insuperable aversion to strength, either of body or mind, in a female."

"Faith, and so have I," said Mr. Coverley, "for egad, I'd as soon see a woman chop wood, as hear her chop logic."

"So would every man in his senses," said Lord Merton, "for a woman wants nothing to recommend her but beauty and good-nature; in everything else she is either impertinent or unnatural. For my part, deuce take me if ever I wish to hear a word of sense from a woman as long as I live!"

"It has always been agreed," said Mrs. Selwyn, looking around her with the utmost contempt, "that no man ought to be connected with a woman whose understanding is superior to his own. Now I very much fear, that to accommodate all this good company, according to such a rule, would be utterly impracticable, unless we should choose subjects from Swift's hospital of idiots."

Captain Mirvan's coarse jesting embarrasses Evelina to no end, but makes for some hilarious situations. Spoiler alert: the monkey is the last straw!

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Faro's Daughter

Faro's DaughterFaro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best Georgette Heyer Regencies that I've read. I shied away from it for some time because of the setting in a gaming hell, but it was surprisingly non-sordid. It boasts a hero named Max Ravenscar (if that isn't a soap opera worthy name, I don't know what is) and some funny exchanges between the genteel proprietor of said gambling house, Lady Bellingham, and her niece, including this one:

"Now do listen, Deb! Seven hundred pounds for the bays and a new barouche! Well, I can't think where the money is to come from. It seems a monstrous price."

"We might let the bays go, and hire a pair of job horses," suggested Miss Grantham dubiously.

"I can't and I won't live in Squalor!" declared her aunt tearfully.

Ravenscar attempts to buy off the unsuitable Miss Grantham, mistakenly thinking that she is engaged to his nephew. Deborah Grantham is mightily offended by his arrogance and Heyer hijinks ensue. When Heyer is in top form, her books are the best antidote to gloomy weather, whether it is meteorological or psychological.

I also learned what an E.O. table was: a precursor to the roulette wheel. The E and O stood for Even and Odd. Faro was a card game that originated in France where it was called Pharoah.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Commonplace Book Redux

I started a Commonplace Book in 2012. Then the fairies must have hidden it. My latest reading inspired me to return to it. There are ideas aplenty to both inspire and ponder in this story of Hannah More.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Happiest Place on Earth

Over at Slashdot there's an article on the measles outbreak at Disneyland. It leaves me thinking that Joanna Rothkopf must have had a bad experience in the Magic Kingdom at some point in her young life.
According to Joanna Rothkopf Disneyland is already a huge petri dish of disease with tired children wiping their snot faces on Goofy and then riding log flumes through mechanized rivers filled with the backwash of thousands of other sweaty, unwashed, weeping toddlers.
Can't you just see everyone at Disneyland wearing hazmat suits with mouse ears, lining up to ride Big Thunder Mountain?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Civil Contract

A Civil ContractA Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, I'm on a Georgette Heyer binge.

Not really a typical romance, this novel examines how a marriage of convenience grows into a real marriage. Quite ambitious of Georgette Heyer and it works well. A varied cast of characters with funny and annoying eccentricities, a plainly prosaic heroine, and an unexceptional hero. The friction between in-laws rings true. The everyday quality of the "romantic" relationship will not appeal to readers looking for swoons and throbs and smoldering glances.

"After all, life was not made up of moments of exaltation, but of quite ordinary, everyday things. The vision of the shining, inaccessible peaks vanished; Jenny remembered two pieces of news, and told Adam about them. They were not very romantic, but they were really much more important than grand passions or blighted loves: Giles Jonathan had cut his first tooth, and Adam's best cow had given birth to a fine heifer-calf."

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter Birds

We put a bird feeder out a few weeks ago, but the birds ignored it until the ground was covered with snow. Suddenly, every chickadee, titmouse, and goldfinch in the neighborhood was out there. We also have house finches, juncos, and towhees.