Wylder’s Hand by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

6150285Wylder’s Hand by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1864)

A Gothic tales of Victorian real estate… which means there’s murder, blackmail, and at least one mentally maladjusted relative wandering around the estate like a ghost.

I have to admit to being the type of person that’s skeptical of popular books unless they’re over a hundred years old. I have no patience for the page turning genre bullshit of today, but give me some Karl May novel or a forgotten “sensation novel”, and I’m there. Maybe I should approach contemporary page-turners in the same way, because it’s fun to breeze through a book, scanning pages, snidely commenting on how awful it all is – there’s a 1st person narrator in this book, but only for a third of it, yet he knows everything! How!?! WHY!?! No explanation – Wylder’s Hand is awful, but for a good bit it’s deliciously awful. The problem being that it then becomes awful again.

At the end you realize the plot could have been solved by the two heroines moving to Switzerland and becoming lesbians sooner. At least they were one of the two couples in the book that showed any affection for each other. The other was the Vicar and his wife, but their relations were so insipidly treacle-laden that I needed an insulin shot just to get through their chapters of endless, “Wha’does’wittle’wapsie’tink’I’should’do’boo’?” It was horrible.

But, geez, what a great cover – and for all the rage-reading I ended up doing at the end, skimming vast swaths of the book because it was written like this, “The cart road leading down to Redman’s Dell and passing the mill near Redman’s Farm diverges from the footpath with which we are so well acquainted, near that perpendicular block of stone which stands a little above the steps which the footpath here descends…” I have to admit I want to read another one of these great, clunky, shittily-written beasts of a Gothic novel. But if you want to read Le Fanu, don’t start here. Find a copy of In A Glass Darkly. It’s the better book by far.

When the Clear Days Come

“A L’Entrada Del Temps Clar” is a 12th century Occitan poem celebrating spring’s arrival. Its name means “When the Clear Days Come”. And here in Pohang Spring has arrived, so enjoy:

When the clear days come, eya
To be joyful again, eya
And to annoy the jealous ones, eya
The queen wants to show
That she’s so amorous.
Go away, go away, you jealous ones,
Let us, let us,
Dance together, together.

She had a message sent everywhere, eya
That as far as the sea, eya
Let there be neither maiden nor young man, eya
Who shall not come to dance,
The joyous dance.
Go away, go away, you jealous ones,
Let us, let us,
Dance together, together.

The king comes, eya
To disturb the dance, eya
For he is very afraid, eya
That someone will want to steal,
The April Queen.
Go away, go away, you jealous ones.
Let us, let us,
Dance together, together.

But she wouldn’t let him do it, eya
For she needs not an old man, eya
But a graceful young one, eya
Who would well know how to comfort,
The delightful lady.
Go away, go away, you jealous ones,
Let us, let us,
Dance together, together.

Whoever would see her dance, eya
And her pretty body move, eya
Could well say, in truth, eya
That in all the world she has no equal,
The joyous queen.
Go away, go away, you jealous ones,
Let us, let us,
Dance together, together.

The translation comes from here.

February Books

Books read last month. I started more than I finished

Shadows on the Rock – Willa Cather (1931)

Life in late 17th century Quebec as seen through the eyes of an adolescent girl, Cecile. Odd to start the month with this and finish it with Revenants. Of course, there’s nothing supernatural here. Well, sort of, I guess it depends on how you feel about Catholicism. Cecile’s father is an apothecary and attends to the count who oversees the colony. The count is involved in feuds with the two head churchmen in the colony, who in turn feud with each other. Meanwhile Cecile’s father employs a deformed handy-man and has friends among the trappers and itinerants within town. There’s little in the way of overt plot, but I found it a page turner. If there’s any conflict it’s between Cecile’s attachment to the colony versus her father’s attachment to France.

The Witch of Napoli – Michael Schmicker (2015)

A historical novel based on the life of Italian spiritualist Eusapia Palladino. It started off great, and I had hopes it would be up there with John Harwood’s stuff, but in the end it pulled too long on the is it or isn’t it supernatural thread. It finally comes down on the supernatural side, but by then the novel’s over and done with when really in a way it’s just starting.

It would be like ending Scanners right after the guy’s head explodes.

Let Me In – John Ajvide Lindquist (2010)

My usual complaint: I would have liked this more if it were 100 pages shorter. As it was I started off liking it quite a bit, then lost interest as the narrative fragmented into multiple POVs. People tell me the movies did away with a lot of the extraneous stuff.

Revenants – Daniel Mills (2011)

I blathered about this elsewhere.  Read it. It’s good.

Revenants by Daniel Mills

B004OEILAY.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL500_I’m now reviewing books for the site My Bookish Ways. Here’s my first: Revenants by Daniel Mills.

Actually, “reviewer” is kind of a misnomer. I’m more of a “recommender” since I’m only going to review stuff I like or my curiosity for overcomes my curmudgeonishness.

And if you don’t want to read the review, then I’ll just say you should read Revenants by Daniel Mills. It’s good.

Today In Internet Usage

I read a thing online.

I didn’t agree 100% with it.

I was okay with that and went on with my life.

Why is this hard for people?

On Leaving Facebook

I deleted my Facebook account last week.

Or I put in a request to have my Facebook account deleted.

Or some iteration of that…

And this isn’t out of some privacy, anti-Zuckerberg stance, but simply for my own mental health. I wish I could be one of those people that lurk and post once or twice a year. The people who know what’s going on with you, but never say anything. Yeah, they’re creepy, and yeah, I’m talking about, you know, my aunt, but I envy their self-control. If I could simply lurk and not opine, I’d still be there. As it is I can’t, and I know I can’t, and I also know 4PM with low-blood sugar and bored at his desk Justin is really and truly not the best Justin. So as not to give “him” a soap-box and to cut down on the petty annoyances of finding out your former good friend thinks alien wooly mammoths built the pyramids because we now have cell phones, on one hand, and the daily machine-gun barrage of outrage-inducing current events that I must form an opinion about and emote about RIGHT NOW, on the other, the whole thing was getting me down.

So, goodbye.

Of course, I’m having second thoughts. For one thing, I’ve somehow managed to become friends with people that don’t check their email regularly. Send them a FB message or a Twitter PM and they get right back to you. But an email? No. (Although the worst of those people are the ones who you email and then they text you back, because WTF.)

The other reason I’m waffling is that FB groups were easy to organize and most everyone checked them regularly, so if I cave it may just be to belong to one or two groups for gaming and swapping books. Otherwise I start feeling like that asshole vegetarian friend of yours from high school, you know the one that passive-aggressively manipulated everyone to eat where they wanted, because they were assholes more than they were vegetarians. What ends up happening is everyone makes plans on FB to meet, and then one of them has to email me to get my input, and then bring that to the group, then back and forth, so on and so on, so that in order to stay connected I have to find a friend who doesn’t mind being stuck in the middle, and I know if that was me there, I’d be as annoyed as shit.

All that’s making me rethink my decision a bit.

January Books and General Ramble

4895566Hello again.

It’s been a bit.

I went back to the USA for my vacation and played this game where whenever one of my friends posted a picture of whatever beach they were on in Thailand, I posted back a picture of an iced-over parking lot and maybe a snowdrift. It kept me warm, as one’s bitterness should. No, I kid. It was a great trip, and much too short.

Anyway, lots of time was spent on planes or in transit to other places, so books and what not got read. I may as well start with that one over there, Vernon Lee’s The Virgin of the Seven Daggers (2008). First off, great cover. When I saw it in the bookshop I knew I had to buy it, although I knew absolutely nothing about the author. It turned out to be a great impulse buy. The stories were pretty much all incredible, a bit weird fantasy mixed with 19th century historic novels and art criticism. So, yeah, if you see a copy on your local bookstore’s remainder table (or just want to do the Project Gutenberg thing), don’t hesitate! but buy the shit straight up!

Bury Me Deep  – Megan Abbott (2009)

I loved this book. It’s based on a true crime case from the 1930s when a woman was found in the LA train station carrying around a suitcase containing the dismembered bodies of her two roommates. This book takes that incident and uses it to spill out a story about a young nurse abandoned by her junkie husband in Arizona and the friendship she forges with two other women, both of whom are bit too free and independent by what’s socially acceptable, and the chaos that ensues when the nurse falls for a local criminal/politician. Seriously, if you like Noir this book is pretty wonderful.

Open City – Teju Cole (2011)

A listless and over-educated 20-something male wanders around various cities and has conversations with people while musing on history and memory. You sort of have to stick with it, and even then the reveal might have you throwing the book across the room. I liked it, but I can’t rave about it. Still, it’s the kind of book that sticks with you, not least because it leaves a slightly sour taste in your mouth.

2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love – Rachel Aaron (2012)

Aaron outlines how she’s been able to write 10K a day and crank out novels. What was interesting was that I read this not long after I read this piece by Kazuo Ishiguro about how he wrote The Remains of the Day, and what struck me was how both Aaron and Ishiguro were saying they same thing. The difference being that Aaron has to publish at least one book a year to cling to the claim of being a “professional writer”, while Ishiguro can publish one book every five years and have each be heralded as a literary event.

I then made the mistake of trying to read one of Aaron’s novels, and the less said about the attempt the better.

Lying Awake – Mark Salzman (2000)

I heard about this book from watching one of Robert Sapolsky’s lectures on youtube, and then while spending a couple of days in Province Town (and sweet chef boyardee, do I ever recommend going to Province Town in the middle of January) I stopped by the local bookshop and found it on the “Staff Picks” table and bought it.

The plot’s about a cloistered nun who has some notoriety after writing an account of her visions of God, but who then learns these were likely the result of a brain tumor, and the crisis of faith that then ensues. It’s a real slim book, and Salzman doesn’t linger on things, which is good, because I think the idea would break down if too much weight were put on it. As it is, the book works quite well, and if it sounds at all interesting, then I recommend you track it down.

The Memory of Water – Emmi Itaranta (2014)

A dystopian novel set in Northern Europe after the collapse of civilization and dealing with a world where fresh water is a scarce resource. My reaction to this one was a bit odd. I didn’t much care for the plot or prose style, but I liked the main characters, a pair of friends, and the narrator’s devotion to her job as a Tea Master and how everything she experienced was filtered through that fact. In that way, yeah, I recommend the book. The characters are pretty great, but some of the other bits? They sort of read like a road you’ve already traveled.

The Romance of Tristan and Iseult – M. Joseph Bedier (1900)

I never knew the story of Tristan and Iseult; I simply knew of it, so reading this was a neat experience. Bedier did much of the rendering while others (such as likely colossal asshole Hilaire Belloc) did the translating, and overall it’s a satisfying and exciting read with magic potions, curses, dragons, and knights who don’t have names, just articles in front of titles, like The Morholt. Another bit that sticks out is when King Mark first suspects Iseult of infidelity, he’s all ready to have her executed when a mob of lepers shows up and convinces him that no, killing her would be too good, and she should be given over to the lepers to be “used in common”. Shit like that makes you have to cringe, but if you enjoy the McMedieval Mythic Feudalism give this a read.

Hell, who am I kidding? You probably already have!

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