Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Confessions Of A Jane Austen Addict

By the second sentence of Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, I was hooked. Rigler’s main character is Courtney Stone, a twenty-first century, working, independent, thirty-year-old woman, who is obsessed with Jane Austen. Courtney’s mind is somehow transported into the body of a woman named Jane Mansfield. Jane lives in the nineteenth century, in a year when only Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice have been published. These two novels become Courtney’s only connection to her former life as she is forced to live Jane’s life.

Rigler’s writing was inviting, a smooth combination of contemporary writing style and “Regency” language. One of the first things that struck me and was maintained throughout the novel, is the realistic portrayal of life in the 19th century. The first problem Courtney is faced with is having to pee, which, as far as I can remember, is never addressed in any book or film about that time. There’s the lack of hygiene (Courtney has to insist on bathing twice a week), farting in church and a woman’s “monthly courses” which means she is “indisposed” until it is over. Courtney even comments on how the era is romanticized. She is frustrated by how little freedom women have and how a woman of thirty is practically over the hill. I suppose I would be too if I found myself in that era. Courtney’s observances only add to the plot of the story.

Just like in an Austen novel, nothing is what it seems in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. There are misunderstandings. Hidden meanings. There are circumstances that Courtney laughs at, though if it were Lizzy Bennet, she might be disgusted. There are terrible people who pretend to be friends. There are marriages of convenience, while there is also the search for love. Laurie Viera Rigler’s first novel has left me happy; wanting to know more, yet satisfied with the ending.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell

I’ve just finished Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  It is 782 pages of dense, DENSE, DENSE writing and I think I am unsatisfied by the ending. My brain may explode. I kept expecting the ending to be more… romantic? Strange does all this work to free his wife, but doesn’t go to her immediately. Part of him seems to want them to be together, but another part rather be with Norrell.

[This might be an irrelevant question, but why don’t the Stranges have any children? They were married for many years, around ten, I think (though Mr. Strange spent three years in the war). What kind of birth control did they have back then? Just something I find curious.]

I liked the rest of the ending. All the important characters are dealt with. I think most get what they deserve. I felt pity appropriately and was quite happy with the outcome of some of the characters, like Childermass and Stephen Black. I do wonder what happened to Lady Pole though.

The pacing of the novel made it a bit difficult to get through. I found the beginning section that just focused on Norrell immensely slow. Once Strange was introduced however, it moved quickly. Once Strange got back from the war, I was having a difficult time again. Then, the final section, with the disappearance of Mrs. Strange, it was back to quick and exciting. I think I would have liked the story better, if it were either shorter or maintained the same quick pace throughout. I think part of what made it at times difficult is the “regency” style language it was written in, as if the author was a contemporary of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

In the end, I mostly enjoyed the novel. Would I recommend it? Absolutely, but I think you have to be a fan of two things. The first would be Austen or Dickens (or their contemporaries), because this isn’t the language of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. The second, you have to enjoy a little fantasy. There are magic and fairies and people brought back from the dead. This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons fantasy, but the fantasy of a “lady” or “gentleman”.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

why is he ...

At first, I thought this was a joke. But it's not. I tested it. It's so sad.

The original post can be found here:  Stargazing blog by Malene Arpe

...BUT if you type in "why is she" you get similar sad results.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Giants In The Parkade

Does Franz Hohler’s The Giants In The Parkade count as a short story? It’s only six sentences! It was translated from the German by Jeff Kochan for the Winter 2009 issue of PRISM international. This is one time where I am sure the translation is accurate and couldn’t really affect the feeling of the story. I re-read the story a couple times (it being so short, it really wasn’t inconvenient.) Hohler packed a lot into six seemingly simple sentences. The giants had purpose and resolution. The reader could actually get a sense of who the giants were.

In the same issue of PRISM, there is another story of Hohler’s, The Creation. This story is a whopping eleven sentences. Somehow it felt more like a story than Giants In The Parkade. These two extremely short short stories got me to thinking, with stories this short, how many does he have to write to publish a collection? Or do they get mixed in with his novels and poetry? I wish that Wikipedia had more to say about him. His website is entirely in German, so I can’t find easy answers to these questions.

[This post was written in conjunction with Short Story Monday hosted by The Book Mine Set]

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Shakespeare may be dead, but he's still smarter than you"

From the Stargazing blog by Malene Arpe. Apparently, according to statistical analysis, Shakespeare knew six-times as many words as the average person. This is sure to make the Shakespeare lovers happy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


So, the MOST AWESOMEST THING EVER is a website that is searching for The Most Awesomest Thing. Ever. It's pretty funny. When you vote, the choices can be really odd. Sometimes both choices are terrible, but you still have to vote. It's a great tool for procrastinating.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home

Yesterday I finished The Long Road Home the second graphic novel added to Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Even though the series of novels I complete (supposedly complete, I read that King has an idea for an eighth book) there are still stories to be told, question that want answers. The first graphic novel, The Gunslinger Born is a condensed version of part of the novel, Wizard and Glass. The Long Road Home continues that story. King’s novels don’t tell the reader how Roland got from Hambry back home to Gilead. There is much of Roland’s life left to tell.

With King as a creative editor, Robin Furth, Peter David, Jae Lee and Richard Isanove hope to give fans stories worth reading. The Long Road Home certainly was. I couldn’t put it down. I was excited to see the glimpse into Roland’s future and the revelations given by the Crimson King. This installment is full of energy, breathing new life into a series though to be over.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Telephone, by John Fuller

Telephone is a funny little story by English writer John Fuller. Fuller is Fellow Emeritus at Magdalen College, Oxford, which I had to look up. Emeritus means he’s retired. He writes primarily poetry, but also short stories and novels. After reading Telephone it makes me interested in reading more of his work. What I found most interesting about him was that he started a small press, the Sycamore Press, which he ran out of his garage. It was in operation from 1968 to 1992. He helped establish authors like W.H. Auden.

In Telephone, the unnamed narrator has made himself at home in a friend’s apartment. He is sitting on the sofa drinking a substantial vodka tonic. His friend Dickie, is away, so the narrator is alone. He is left to his own imagination. You get the feeling that more than his day was boring. The narrator seems to need more fun in his whole life. John Fuller gets a lot into just two pages; you get a sense of the character as a whole. I enjoyed every bit of this very short work.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Inglourious Basterds

Is Inglourious Basterds what would have happened if Quentin Tarintino was in charge of ending World War II? I finally got around to seeing Tarantino’s film this weekend. (It seems like I’m finally getting to see a lot of movies that came out just after my daughter was born.) Inglourious Basterds is a film I really enjoyed. I had fun watching it, though I fell like it’s one of those movies I’d have a difficult time sitting through again knowing what happens. It’s not that there is anything too upsetting or graphic. It’s more about knowing the result of the scene. Having seen it already, the mystery and anticipation is gone.

Brad Pitt was amazing. Lt. Raine was so different from other roles he has played. The entire cast was amazing. I loved Shoshanna. I really appreciated that we get to see past Private Zoller’s handsome front before the end. I did not expect to see Mike Myers either. It was a great surprise. Christoph Waltz tied the whole movie together. Tarantino’s style is all over his film, so you should appreciate his work, but this isn’t just for his fans, it’s for everyone who likes a good story.