Thursday, 17 July 2008

Reading log

It's been a while since I did this & I haven't kept proper track.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally O'Rourke. Plenty of bitter, mirthless LOLs in this one. Basically, a drunken, single, unhappy old woman in her thirties, with flashing dark eyes and a successful career living in a New York apartment and selling her paintings of country cottages over the internet, buys an old dressing table and inside it there is a letter FROM MR DARCY TO JANE AUSTEN and another SEALED letter back from Jane to Darcy! omg omg omg: Northanger Abbey or what. Anyway, the painter lady eventually works out that a modern-day American called Fitzwilliam Darcy (latest hereditary owner of an ex-slave plantation in Virginia) banged his head falling off his horse and woke up in 1810, to find JA ripping his trousers off (literally.) He's back in the present now, phew. But in 1810, he was in Love with Jane (who wanted him to 'teach' her what Love is like. Poor Mr Darcy, alone in the lonely present with his massive wealth and respectful black servants. However, Artist woman sorts him out. The End. Oops, spoilers back there, I spoiled it for you. Sorry about that.

Now I am reading another one which is much the same. Think I'm going to write something about time travel romances featuring Austen. It's good to get the emotions out here and now so I can think about them calmly later on.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe. A lovely book, and quite the page-turner (all seven hundred closely printed pages of it), but I got a little tired of every mysterious shadowy figure or snatch of unearthly sweet music eventually having a natural explanation.

On not liking South Africa by Jenny Diski in the current LRB is not a book, but I read it a few days ago and haven't been able to stop thinking about it. You should read it too.

unnamed book about film adaptation by unnamed film theorist, published late last year; I finally worked up the courage to get it and read it, and am presently experiencing an immense feeling of relief that it's not all the same as my thesis. I should have read it straight off and saved myself the fear and angst.


last but not least....Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers. After reading some of you writing about how you appreciate it I got a copy and read it. A pretty terrific book: in places, verging on greatness. I was totally unprepared for the depth of feeling in the Harriet / Peter relationship (never having read Sayers before) and even though I feel certain that the woman dons Miss Lydgate and Miss de Vine in all their solitary scholarly glory are heavily idealised by Sayers they still said things that made me think quite hard about whether I'm properly cut out for university work, especially as it is now constituted, with endless horrible rankings and scorings and the requirement to do be shrewd and do things strategically rather than for their natural worth or interest. The depiction of the desperate economic and social vulnerability of the women's college bit hard and reminded me very much of A Room of One's Own. I liked the period details too. But the ending.... and now there really will be a big break for the proper quarantining of spoilers, because it really is a detective novel.....

so here are some pictures I took in Port Fairy on the weekend....





Spoiler starts here

OK, if you're reading this I assume you know the book. A lot of the goodwill the book banked up with me dissipated very quickly when it turned out it was the scout that did it. I thought that was a bit of a cheat, but more importantly the scapegoating of the working class woman really saddened me. I understand that the sad logic of the thing is that virulent misogynist prejudice about educated and un-heterosexual women is not confined to men, but still, the same effect could have been got using a character who is not a servant. Anyway, in all other respects an excellent novel. Should I read more of Sayers or will they be anticlimaxes now?

12 comments:

librarygirl said...

I can feel that icy Port Fairy water when looking at your photos.
Re reading more Sayers - try Busman's Honeymoon.

Ampersand Duck said...

heh. I'm sure Jane Austen felt just like that about Adolpho as well.

TimT said...

Considering the amount of swooning Emily whatsername did in Udolpho, she probably got a bit tired of it as well. Fabulous book.

Pavlov's Cat said...

I think Laura might have the same complaint about Busman's Honeymoon. Given Sayers' time and place and her own class, to say nothing of the fact that her good guy is a peer of the realm, I think one is largely stuck with lower-class villains.

Not all the time though. I'd recommend Strong Poison for a number of reasons, including that it gives the the lowdown on how Peter and Harriet first met. Also, the person who dunnit is not a servant. I also like Have His Carcase and (for very different reasons) The Nine Tailors. Murder Must Advertise has a completely ridiculous plot but has some fantastic and very funny stuff in it about advertising agencies, in one of which Sayers herself worked for some time.

But I think Gaudy Night is the one where she came closest to writing literary literature, as distinct from fun crime. When I was giving Creative Writing lectures I used to use the scene in the punt where Harriet realises what her true feelings are as an example of How It's Done.

Ann O'Dyne said...

ABCTV ran the Lord Peter Wimsey series before TV went to colour. That's when I read all of Sayers novels and enjoyed them.
At the time they were written, did any 'working-class' (English) people write? Until the 1960's, people didn't experience much beyond their own milieu, I'm sure.

Suze said...

I also found the Jenny Diski piece very interesting (never having been to SA) - but did you see the letters in the next issue which are all critical of her? I'm not sure what to think.

lucy tartan said...

I did see them. They didn't change what I thought about her account. On eof the things that made her piece valuable for me was the way she didn't allow the fact that the situation is a mess for which the blame should be widely apportioned to prevent her from registering just how bad a mess it is.

Klaus K said...

Baz-lotto! (My very first ever, I think).

Thanks, somewhat belatedly, for the link to Diski's piece. Very interesting. I'll have to check out the letters that suze is referring to also.

librarygirl said...

Page 2 of this morning's Age - international student reading something titled "Me and Mr Darcy".
Goodness, how many of this genre are there anyway?

Kate H said...

I really enjoyed that LRB piece thanks Laura - I've been to South Africa twice in the past year and both times found it a profoundly disquieting experience in a way I've never felt anywhere else I've been. That piece really illuminated some of those feelings for me and also why I would never go to S Africa for a holiday/recreation after having been there for work.

lucy tartan said...

You're welcome, of course, Kate. And it's really nice to hear from you.

Librarygirl - I totted up how many of the sequels & spinoffs I could find out about and it came to close to three hundred. I'm working on acquainting myself with the time travel ones. Me & Mr Darcy fits more or less in that category.

Only yesterday I wrote down the things I have to read for work this semester and it'll be a miracle if I get through just them (though the example of Pav and four novels a week is a beacon on the horizon) so it might be some time before I can get onto another Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane book. But yous have made me fairly keen to read more.

lucy tartan said...

And Klaus, congratulations on your Bazlotto! the glory is yours! Enjoy the glory, because it's the only prize there is.