Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You Might Be a Period Drama Nut If...

{in no particular order}

... every time you read the "tsp" abbreviation in a recipe you substitute "The Scarlet Pimpernel" in your head instead of "teaspoon" .

... you look at Austin, TX on a map and automatically think "WHY must people always misspell her name? WHY?" and then laugh at yourself.

... you use "Lydia-snort" instead of LOL.

... you would rather vacation in England than the Caribbean.

... you see a picture of Alun Armstrong, you think Charles Dickens.

... you know where the "prunes and prisms" expression came from.

... you squeal over closets with shelves in them.

... you use Mr. Knightley's ERMMMMM to vent frustration.

... you know the difference between a pelisse and a spencer.

... if someone asks you if you play an instrument, you respond that if you had ever learnt, you should certainly have been a true proficient.  And so would Anne, if her health permitted.

... you say, "Thank you, my dear," instead of "Duh."

... when your siblings get too loud, you say, "Sparkler, be quiet."

... you scorn all those low-fat diets and maintain that butter is a divinity.

... you refer to a hoopskirt as "la cage."

... you attempt to take the stairs four at a time.

... you randomly shout, "Shake me up, Judy!"

... you manage to insert two or three dozen uses of "sink me" every time you go swimming (and if your siblings are period drama nuts, too, they'll comply with your request).

... you firmly believe that real men wear cravats.

... you know what "The Look" means.

... you make remarks about twenty pounds of brown sugar when you go grocery shopping.

... you always have to remind yourself that the NA in JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) stand for North America and not Northanger Abbey.

... you follow up any "that was silly" with an "I'm not saying she was very silly, but one of us was silly, and it wasn't me."

... you shove toast crusts at your siblings with a stern, "Take it.  EAT it."

... you know that the source of the Nile is in Abyssinia.

What did I miss? Can you identify all the period dramas referenced in this post?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Classics Club: An Old-Fashioned Girl

"Young men often laugh at the sensible girls whom they secretly respect, and affect to admire the silly ones whom they secretly despise, because earnestness, intelligence, and womanly dignity are not the fashion."
~An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

I first tried reading An Old-Fashioned Girl when I was ten and had run out of things to read.  I think I got about halfway through the first chapter before I tossed the book down in disgust.

I don't know what I was thinking.

When I picked up AOFG again, I must have been about twelve.  This time, the story came alive for me.  Polly, Fanny, Tom, Maud, Grandma Shaw, Will, Mr. Sydney all seemed so tremendously real, even more so than the March sisters in Little Women (sacrilege, I know).  Since then, I've read AOFG a good half-dozen times, and this most recent re-read was the best yet.

Polly Milton, the protagonist, is one of those overlooked literary heroines.  She's sweet without being sloggy, funny without being over-the-top, old-fashioned and charming but not prudish, pleasant and likable but not without her faults... in short, she's the kind of girl everyone would want for a friend, and I don't know why she isn't more well-known in the bookish world.  When the story begins, she's fourteen, but the book skips ahead six years about halfway through, and for the rest of the story she's twenty.  I liked her in the beginning, of course, but I liked her even better in the second half of the book.  I'm not quite sure why, but she just seemed more real somehow.

For those of you who don't know the story, Polly is a country girl who comes to stay with her friend Fanny Shaw in the city, and during her stay she's exposed to a lot of unfamiliar things in a much faster-paced world (it's the 1870's, mind) than what she's been accustomed to.  She embarrasses Fanny at times with her lack of airs and graces, but by the time she goes home again, the girls are closer friends than before and the entire Shaw family (including Fanny's incorrigible brother Tom and spoiled sister Maud) is (are) sad to see Polly go.  (I know "family" is a singular word, but I always want to put "are" instead of "is," especially when I'm specifying people in parentheses... anyways.)

Then the narrative takes a six-year leap and suddenly Polly's back in the city again, this time to earn her own living as a music teacher.  Fanny's an unhappy young society woman, Tom is a college dandy and Maud an attention-hungry schoolgirl.  And this time a little bit of romance starts to creep into the story, and refreshingly enough it doesn't quite look like there's going to be a happily ever after until the very last chapter (in which there IS a happily ever after--yes, I know I just spoiled that, you're welcome.)

Fanny always annoyed me a bit when I read the book in previous years.  She struck me as a silly little snip who didn't appreciate what a good friend she had, and even after Polly's good influence didn't seem to change much for the better.  But when I re-read AOFG a few weeks ago, I saw Fanny in a different light-- maybe it was the fact that I hadn't read the book in over a year, or maybe it's that I'm getting older and more mature (now wouldn't THAT be nice) or maybe it's that I just missed stuff the first few times.  But at any rate, I found myself liking and pitying Fanny more than ever before, and truly rooting for her to have a happy ending.  (Yes, of course I knew how the story turned out, but there's still that feeling of suspense, you know?)

"Do go along, or you'll be too late; and then, what will Polly think of me?" cried Fanny, with the impatient poke which is peculiarly aggravating to masculine dignity.
"She'll think you cared more about your frizzles than your friends, and she'll be about right, too," [said Tom.]

Tom is one of my favorite characters in the story.  At fourteen he's funny, mischievous, prank-playing, a good sport and a bit annoying at times but well-meaning.  At twenty, he's suddenly become a bad student, far too attentive to his appearance (and not in a Sir Percy way--Tom is just annoying) and, horror of horrors, engaged to a girl with the loathsome name of Trix.  (What were her parents thinking?  I bet they worked for General Mills.  Yes, that must be it.)  Yet he still has a good heart underneath, and though he gets into trouble even more as a young adult than as a teenager, you can't help liking him.  At least, I couldn't.

Maud was simply hilarious when she was a spoiled-brat six-year-old, and quite likable and cute at twelve.  She seemed to be much more of a real person in the second half of the book, but I was always amused at her lisping whines in the first part.

...and a little girl, of six or seven, came roaring in. She stopped at sight of Polly, stared a minute, then took up her roar just where she left it, and cast herself into Fanny's lap, exclaiming wrathfully, "Tom's laughing at me! Make him stop!"
"What did you do to set him going? Don't scream so, you'll frighten Polly!" and Fan gave the cherub a shake, which produced an explanation.
"I only said we had cold cweam at the party, last night, and he laughed!"
"Ice-cream, child!" and Fanny followed Tom's reprehensible example.
"I don't care! it was cold; and I warmed mine at the wegister, and then it was nice; only, Willy Bliss spilt it on my new Gabwielle!" and Maud wailed again over her accumulated woes.

One thing that particularly stands out to me in AOFG is the simplicity of the dialogue.  The way the characters speak is so very real--there are a few times in Little Women and, yes, even Eight Cousins where the conversations come across as rather stilted and unnatural.  Not so in AOFG (though AOFG might seem more likely to have saccharine dialogue--the title itself, you'll have to admit, sounds rather hopelessly Victorian and rosy and cutesy).  Now, of course, Little Women was scribbled out over a period of six weeks without much wiggle room for editing, so it's only natural that some parts of it should be not quite on par with the rest, but AOFG is still my favorite as regards the dialogue.    As Alice says, a book is no good if it has no pictures or conversations, and though I don't quite agree about the pictures (sounds too much like Gaston...) I have to agree that a book with dry conversation is apt to be a dry read on the whole.  And AOFG is jam-packed with interesting conversation, the kind that makes you really want to find out what happens on the next page.

"Don't do that again, chicken, or you'll blow me away. What's the matter?" asked Tom, throwing down his book with a yawn that threatened dislocation.
"I'm afraid I can't go to Polly's," answered Maud, disconsolately.
"Of course you can't; it's snowing hard, and father won't be home with the carriage till this evening. What are you always cutting off to Polly's for?"
"I like it; we have such nice times, and Will is there, and we bake little johnny-cakes in the baker before the fire, and they sing, and it is so pleasant."
"Warbling johnny-cakes must be interesting. Come and tell me all about it."
"No, you'll only laugh at me."
"I give you my word I won't, if I can help it; but I really am dying of curiosity to know what you do down there. You like to hear secrets, so tell me yours, and I'll be as dumb as an oyster."

And now I'm going to be mean and say that if you, too, are dying of curiosity to know what Maud and Will and Polly "do down there," you'll have to read the book and find out for yourself, because I'm not going to tell you.  Horrid of me, I know.

My rating-- nine out of ten stars.  I'm hesitant to give it ten out of ten, simply because that would mean it's absolutely perfect, and I wouldn't say it's quite perfect.  It has one major shortcoming, and that is that it's simply not long enough and there's no sequel.

Oh, well, never mind-- no sequel means I get to make up the post-ending myself, and that's always fun.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mr. Collins and Disguises

First of all-- today is the lovely Miss Laurie's birthday! Stop on over at her blog and wish her many happy returns, won't you?

Secondly, Miss Laurie happens to be hosting a delightful Jane Austen caption contest.  (You can find out more by clicking on the link.)  I adore period drama photos with funny captions (I do run a blog for that specific purpose, after all) and so I had great fun coming up with two entries for her "Funny" category.

Picture: Frewen Warne in Miss Potter.
Quote: Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (the book).

Picture: The Old Hag Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Quote: Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice 
(the movie-- he says this in the book as well but this exact wording is from the film.  Because I was too lazy to look up the quote in the book).

The contest runs until Friday the 27th, so there's still time to enter!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kindle Edition!


Only a Novel is now available on Kindle! Yay! It sure took me long enough... ahem... but anyways, it's there in all its glory at last.  And now I will finally, finally hush up about it.  :D

The Young Victoria Review

"You are confusing stubbornness with strength, my dear. And I warn you, the people will not like you for it."
~Queen Adelaide, The Young Victoria

I've been trying for days to compose a systematic and intelligent review of The Young Victoria, but all that's been coming to mind is, "SQUEEE, I LOVED THIS MOVIE SO VERY VERY MUCH," and that's not very informative for those of you who haven't actually seen it yet.

Although if you haven't seen it yet, get thee to the library.  Because you may as well know from the start that I highly, highly recommend this film.  

I've always been a bit of a nitpicker when it comes to historical films.  "Did that really happen, or did they just make it up?" I enjoyed Miss Potter and Amazing Grace immensely (hmm, I need to review Amazing Grace at some point... still haven't done that...) but while I was watching both of them, I kept wondering how much of the story was true to life and how much of it was fictionalized.

Not so with The Young Victoria (TYV).  I knew ahead of time that it wasn't going to be absolutely accurate, and perhaps that helped a bit.  But I think the real reason I didn't care about accuracy was that it was just such a smashing good story.  So what if a few events were changed?  Who cares if Emily Blunt doesn't look very much like the real Victoria?  It was a beautiful film, it gave me two hours of pure delight (minus the scene we fast-forwarded-- I'll get to that) and frankly, that was all I wanted.

Emily Blunt was practically perfect in every way as Victoria.  At the beginning of the movie, I was a little afraid that she was going to be some bratty Modern Woman who wanted everything her own way and would not let her free and passionate spirit be quenched by her overbearing guardians, la-di-da, la-di-da.  And as it turned out, she was that way at first--and yet I felt sorry for her instead of being annoyed with her.  The poor girl had an awful lot to put up with, both from her mother and from Sir John Conroy (whose relationship to the royal family is still a bit of a mystery to me... can anyone clear that up?).  But though it was evident she wasn't happy with her life, she wasn't obnoxious or snotty about it.  Maybe it was just Emily Blunt's superb performance, but I found myself liking Victoria immensely, almost  from the very beginning.

Eeeeep! Now that I've done my duty and addressed Victoria first (and I really did like her, don't get me wrong) I can move on to my favoritest character in the entire story.  Yay Albert!

Albert.  Was.  Awesome.  I had been slightly apprehensive about his character too-- I didn't want to see him portrayed as some weak and boring guy who said "Yes, dear," to everything his wife told him and let her be the boss of him. I was worried that there might be an issue of him wanting to be king alongside of her, and she would say no and he would back down and just be the prince and Know His Place.  But never fear, nothing of the sort happened.  In fact, the movie ended with Victoria's learning that she could do nothing without her husband's support and guidance, and she needed him more than anyone else in her life.  Whoops, I just spoiled that for you--but you knew it would end happily, right?

I've never seen Emily Blunt in any other movies, but I had seen Rupert Friend in FakeP&P Pride and Prejudice '05 as the slimeball Mr. Wickham.  Happily, that didn't ruin my appreciation of Albert one whit.  After about five seconds, I completely forgot that he'd ever played the dreadful Wickham, and even his weird ponytail from Fake--er, P&P05 was erased from my memory and replaced by his excellent hair in TYV.  (I've never been a fan of mustaches, but... ahem... I may have changed my mind just a wee bit.  Well, in Albert's case, at least.  Cough, cough.)

I'm not quite sure why I find this picture so cute.  But I do.
They're so cute!  Am I overusing "cute"?  Oh, I am? Soary.
Victoria and Albert's relationship was one of the sweetest I've seen in a movie.  I like a fast-paced, dramatic love story as much as the next North and South fan, but my favorite romances are always the "love comes softly" type.  Victoria and Albert's made me think of this quote from Anne of Avonlea: "Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."  (I adore that quote.)

Their initial awkwardness around each other was almost funny, and their correspondence was ADORABLE.  Was anyone else ready to strangle Albert's uncles for reading poor Albert's mail before he could get to it?  The scene where he comes tearing down the stairs to get the mail before his relatives do was probably my favorite.  

"As a matter of interest, will a time come when I read them first?"
"Oh, you'll enjoy this one.  She has a real flair for description."

Has anyone else read Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott?  It's one of her best books, IMHO, and one of my favorite scenes involves Steve teaching his brother Mac how to waltz.  Steve does the lady's part (with a tablecloth tied around his waist) and Mac steps all over his feet and it's hilarious.  Well, there was a scene in TYV in which Albert had to learn how to dance, and in the midst of our giggles Anne-girl and I looked at each other and said, "It's MAC!"

I promise I won't spend this entire review just talking about my favorite scenes, but I have to say that the archery scene was so cute--er, sweet.  I need to stop using "cute." Although that was definitely one of the parts where Albert's German accent slipped up.  It was never very convincing to begin with, but there were some times when it lapsed altogether, and I was much amused. But then, I'm easily amused.

And the proposal... oh, wow, the proposal.  (Sometimes I think I should just stick to reviewing movies I didn't like, because then I'm not tempted to gush.)  I bawled unashamedly.  At first I was worried that she was going to have to propose to him and that Just Didn't Seem Right, but  he handled it so well.  It was sweet beyond belief.  "And stay with you? ... And stay with me.  And marry you? ... And marry me."  

Victoria's outfits were so very lovely.  I've never been much of a fan of the 1830's styles, preferring later-nineteenth-century clothing, but after seeing this movie, I wanted to wear all her costumes.  The wedding dress...

I mean, just look at her veil.   Happy sigh.  So simple and yet so elegant.  I could have done without the white satin bows on Albert's shoulders (seriously?) but he looked very nice too.

Whoops, I got sidetracked and forgot to discuss the secondary characters.  I enjoyed hated Sir John Conroy.  He was ickiness personified (and for the record, I will never, ever be able to finish watching Emma 1997, because the very idea of him being Mr. Knightley is enough to make me sick).  Victoria's mother was... ugh.  I knew I should have felt sorry for her, but I just couldn't bring myself to do so.  I did, however, feel sorry for the poor King... and I really liked Queen Adelaide.  At long last, that Fanny Dashwood actress gets a nice role.  (I've seen her in Sense and Sensibility and Little Dorrit, and in both of those movies I wanted to soak her head.)  

Lord Melbourne was... meh.  I can't say I hated him, but I didn't like him either.  I was left with a kind of "wait, is he a good guy or a bad guy?" feeling.  And he bore a striking resemblance to Doc Baker on Little House... or was that just me?

Back to the story.  Some of the post-wedding scenes were sweet, and some were... well, we fast-forwarded about ten minutes of the film.  There are some moments that involve Victoria and Albert being newlyweds, and though nothing technically inappropriate happened (they are married, after all) it was um... quite smoochy.  So yeah, I'd recommend that you fast-forward.  :D

Okay, spoiler alert time.  We're going to talk about the best part of the movie, and if you don't want the ending ruined, just hightail it out of here right now, okay?  Okay.

I'm a sucker for stories that feature taking-a-bullet-for-someone-else (Les Miserables anyone?), and Albert's saving of Victoria's life was no exception.  The fact that they had just quarreled before the assassination scene ("For pity's sake, smile, woman.") only served to add to the awesomeness.  And I'm not usually a fan of slow-motion in movies, but in this case, that effect was very... effective.

His hat, yes.  Her hat, NO.

I'd already seen the "you're so stupid, why did you do it?" clip on a friend's blog a while ago, so I knew that Albert survived the initial shooting, but I also knew that he died pretty young.  And I was terribly afraid that he was going to have a relapse or an infection or something and die before the movie was over.  (Sometimes those filmmakers play around with history, you know.)  As all of you who have seen the movie (which, in fact, should be "all of you reading this," because if you haven't seen it, why are you spoiling it for yourselves?) know, he lives on for quite a while after that, and I was greatly relieved.  The post-assassination scene was, I might add, incredibly touching.  "You're the only wife I've got or ever will have. You are my whole existence, and I will love you until my very last breath." 

And then, yes, the movie ended with a heartless little text thingy on the screen announcing that Albert died of typhus at the age of 42.  Victoria laid out his clothes every morning after his death until the day she died.  (You have my permission to sniffle.)  I know that was historically accurate and all, and it was good that they informed viewers of how the story ended... but I would have been happy to have finished the TYV experience without it  

When I was little, I always rewrote book or movie endings in my head if I didn't like the way they turned out... and so when I think of TYV, this is how it ends.  With this picture, with no typhus and no grief and no clothes-without-Albert-in-them.  In my mind, at least, the story ends when the princess married the prince and they all lived happily ever after in a real-life fairy tale.

With lots and lots of gorgeous clothes, of course.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Fair Lady: The Sir Percy Version

Melody: Don't you wish we were all together in real life?
Amy: Of course, we are.
Alexandra: Sure we all are.
~Live chat during the MFL broadcast

I'll admit it.  I'll admit it freely.  I decided to listen to the BBC's live broadcast of My Fair Lady for the sole, simple reason that Anthony Andrews--otherwise known as Sir Percy Blakeney--was playing Professor Henry Higgins.

Of course, the excitement mounted when I found out that Alun Armstrong (Flintwinch in Little Dorrit, Thenardier in Les Miserables) and Jenny Galloway (Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables) would be playing Alfred P. Doolittle and Mrs. Pierce, respectively.  Les Miz meets The Scarlet Pimpernel?  Yes, please!

So at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, I sat down to tune into BBC Radio 3 with my sister Anne-girl and my friends Alexandra and Melody.  (Let's all remove our hats and have a moment of silence in regret that the show was not televised.)  Is it an understatement to say we had an absolute blast?  We kept a lickety-split commentary running over Gmail chat, which resulted in much talking over each other and complaining of "Hey, I was going to say that!"  Variations on the phrase "This. Is. Amazing." were also repeated ad infinitum.

I should start with Eliza, but I can't leave you all in suspense, so we'll start with Henry Higgins instead.  Since Anthony Andrews was the reason I listened to it in the first place, I was naturally REALLY hoping he would be amazing in the role.  The best Henry Higgins ever. Well, um, obviously.  Rex who?  Rex Harrison?  Never heard of him.

My friends may do something drastic to me for sharing this bit of immaturity on the Internet, but this was our reaction to the first scene (spelling edited for clarity; we were typing very fast):

 Melody: Sounds way more like Uncle Frederick than John Dashwood.  [speaking of Colonel Pickering, who was played by James Fleet]
 Anne: AA!
 Alexandra: HE'S COMING!!!!!
 Melody: SHHH.
 Amy: coming...
 Amy: THERE HE IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 Melody: Hahahaha.
 Alexandra: SCREAM!!!!!!
                   Melody: Oh my goodness. You girls.

Melody may now take credit for being the only sane one among us.

It was quite interesting to discover that Henry Higgins' songs actually had tunes and could be sung with the music.  Revolutionary.  Anthony Andrews has a very, very good voice by the way.  He should be in Les Miz. *cowers under Melody's glare*

When Rex Harrison played HH, he made the character incredibly annoying.  And though HH is supposed to be annoying, Anthony Andrews made him likable as well.  With Harrison's portrayal, you got the feeling that he really could get along without Eliza-- it was only his selfishness that wanted her back.  But with Anthony Andrews' portrayal, it seemed that HH was blustering and shouting that he didn't need Eliza, and yet underneath he really did need her very badly indeed, even if he wouldn't admit it.

And yes, I may be biased in that opinion.

Naturally, since The Scarlet Pimpernel himself was starring in this play, manifold TSP jokes flew back and forth.  "Let the others of my sex tie the knot around their necks... I told you he'd stick a cravat in there somewhere!"  And when Eliza shouts, "Ready, aim, fire!" during "Just You Wait", certain members of the party may have mentally shrieked "PERCYYYYYYYY!" in a Marguerite voice. Can't imagine who those people might have been.

Annalene Beechey, who played Eliza, was... well, not great.  It was a truth universally acknowledged that her high notes were a bit shrill and got lost in the orchestra.  Plus, her Cockney accent was a bit unconvincing.  At times she almost sounded American.  Her show-stopper song, "I Could Have Danced All Night" wasn't what we'd hoped for.  Sad, that.

Alexandra: Will she pull this song off?
 Amy: YES.
 Melody: YAY.
 Amy: Hmmmm.... sounding good...
 Anne: Meh. Ok.
 Alexandra: She's ok.
 Melody: It's ... slow.
 Amy: Very light and bright and airy... a little too thin...
 Alexandra: Yeah.  Yeah, too thin on top.
 Anne: Yeah I like fast songs. Like the way guess who? AA sings
 Amy: Like I said, her high notes are getting lost.
 Alexandra: Yep.
 Amy: Let's see how the end is...
 Alexandra: YES.
 Melody: Her voice kinda annoys me.Amy: Come on, hit the note! HIT IT!
 Anne: Loving this!
 Alexandra: So far, so good.  That last "I only know" was too fast for my taste.  Here we go....
 Amy: Uh-uh.
 Alexandra: Nope.
 Amy: Not strong enough.
 Anne: Oh, she almost made it!
 Amy: The music drowned her out.
 Alexandra: Almost. So close.
 Melody: It was tolerable.
 Alexandra: Yes, I agree.
 Amy: *claps politely* But not handsome enough to tempt me.
 Melody: I was waiting for that. :D
Plus, she just didn't show enough emotion.  Eliza's famous "aoooowww" was good, but she didn't wail and shriek the way Audrey Hepburn did in the movie, nor did she put enough oomph into "Show Me" or "Just You Wait," Eliza's classic Angry Songs.  And, sadly enough, her iconic line "I'm a good girl, I am" was so un-memorable that I don't even remember it.

Alun Armstrong as Alfred P. Doolittle, however, was all that could be hoped for.  He blew Stanley Holloway out of the park.  Even his singing was better--and before Les Miz, I had no idea that Alun Armstrong even could sing, having only seen him in non-musical movies.  (Is anyone else amused that two of the leads in this musical were played by AA's? Or is it just me?)

Freddy Eynsford-Hill... was annoying.  But he's supposed to be.  At least, IMHO.  So that's a good thing?  I think?  His "On the Street Where You Live" left much to be desired.

Alexandra: His voice is annoying.  That's my final verdict.
 Anne: Yeah, he sounds like a sheep
 Amy: 'Tis indeed. At least it's not [Nick Jonas].
 Alexandra: Baaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.  Very true.

James Fleet as Colonel Pickering was an unfortunate choice, I think.  He sounded tired and depressed most of the time-- more like timid Uncle Frederick in Little Dorrit (another part he's played) than the blustery Colonel Pickering.  His "You Did It" was adequate, but the rest of his performance was most unsatisfactory.

Jenny Galloway, known to all you Miserables as Madame Thenardier, was an okay Mrs. Pierce-- there was nothing technically wrong with her performance, but like the Colonel, she sounded tired for most of the time.  Mrs. Pierce doesn't have much personality to begin with... but eh, I preferred Mona Washburn in the movie.

Zoltan Karpathy... was very strange indeed.  His fake accent was so ridiculous as to be hardly intelligible, (although when Henry Higgins imitated him after the ball during "You Did It", we were all falling off our chairs).  He pronounced Europe as Yow Rupp (not kidding) and basically oozed slime and creepiness.

Alexandra: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!  I'm dyyyyyying.  That shriek AA gave.
 Amy: YOW Rupp?
 Anne: Old Coins!
 Melody: It's Mr. Collins.
 Alexandra: Heheheeeee.
 Amy: [speaking to Zoltan K] You should shave, you look a disgusting object.
Anne: He's a creep!
 Melody: GLOWrious?
 Alexandra: He's really creepy.
 Alexandra: Not as funny as the movie IMO.
 Amy: You do not know everyone in Yow Rupp. Sir Percy does.

The Lessons Sequence and The Rain in Spain have always been two of my favorite parts, and their presentation in this production did not disappoint.  I only wish we could have seen the part when Eliza is learning her H's.   According to the commentator who mouthed off for twenty minutes during the intermission, there was a really cool flame-throwing machine doing the candle effects for that sequence.  Oh, BBC, why did you not televise?  Why?  But, as I said, The Rain in Spain was all we could have hoped for.  And you can listen to it here!

Amy: [speaking of Professor Higgins at the beginning of The Rain in Spain] He CLAPPED!
 Anne: Relief!
 Alexandra: BY GEORGE!!!!
 Melody: Yes, Amy. People clap.
 Anne: A TUNE!
 Alexandra: Ok, her singing's ok.
 Alexandra: Forget forever.
 Melody: Who's Rex Harrison?  [this was said in sarcasm, folks--she knows who RH is]
 Alexandra: He never existed.

And the Ascot Races!  The best part, by far, was when the actress playing Mrs. Higgins completely goofed. (I love it when people mess up onstage.  I know, that's mean, but it's so funny.)  She was supposed to say, "Where IS my son?" or something of the sort, but... well... she didn't say "son."  Here's our reaction:

Alexandra:  OOOOPS.
 Amy: YOUR HUSBAND???????
 Melody: HUSBAND???
 Anne: Husband!
 Alexandra: She messed up!!!!!!!! WOWOWOWOWOW.
 Alexandra: WOW!!!!!  WOWOWOW.
 Amy: She was daydreaming about being married to him....
 Alexandra: That was a maaaajor messup!  OOPS.
 Anne: HUSBAND DUH WHAT!?!?!?!?
 Alexandra: Baaaaad lady.
It was beyond hilarious... and, of course, sparked quite a few jokes later on when Henry Higgins kissed his mother on the cheek.  "She must be swooning after that husband line."  And, of course, when Mrs. Higgins told her son, "You aren't even dressed for this!" and he replied with, "I changed my tie," well, that was another messup.  It was evident that he was supposed to say cravat.  Right?

I wish we could have seen the Embassy Ball.  Wonder what Eliza's dress looked like?

[as it begins]Amy: Happyful sigh
 Melody: GLADSOME. :D
 Anne: Here comes queen Dracula...
 Amy: Humming along...
 Anne: Conducting with hands
 Melody: Eating cookie.....
Alexandra: Um. I am in character as Eliza. I'm so nervous. :-DAmy: I'm in character as Zoltan Karpathy and I'm annoying.Anne: I'm some random guy and my wig itches.Alexandra: Someone whack her (as in Amy as Zoltan) with a bottle.Melody: I'm in character as an extra. But *I* have the best dress.
The near-the-end scene at Mrs. Higgins' house, where Higgins confronts Eliza after she runs away, was superbly done.  However, by then our chat had pretty much deteriorated into exclamation points and repeating everything the characters said (with much laughter), so I won't include it here.  "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" was better than I've ever heard it before (and the beginning word that's repeated four times... y'all know what I'm talking about... well, he said it away from the mike, so you could barely hear it.  Excellent.).

At the end, we all stood and clapped when the cast came on for applause.  At least, Anne-girl and I did.  I assume Melody and Alexandra did too.  "Standing ovation! Scream and hug random strangers!"

Yep.  It was pretty amazing.  Now all we can do is hope that someone smuggled a video camera into the Royal Albert Hall and will put the whole thing up on YouTube.  Because, you know, in this case piracy is our only option.

Did you listen to MFL on Saturday?  What did you think of it?  Do you agree that this was the best interpretation of Henry Higgins the stage and screen has ever seen?  (Say yes to the last one.  Please.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.

I was planning on posting a bashing-of-Ashley-Wilkes today (an Ashley Bashley? Ugh, no), but I've been so busy with writing for this blog tour that I haven't had the time to devote to it.  So I'm going to cop out a little and do this fun tag I saw on Abby's and Jillian's blogs.  The Ashley post will be along... eventually.  When I get to it.  In the meantime, keep an eye on the blog tour link list on the right, and watch out for a review of The Young Victoria later this week (hopefully)!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack:
I don't often snack while I read, but I like to have pretzels or fruit if I do.

What is your favourite drink while reading?
Lemonade, but tea is really good too.  It depends on the weather. Right now lemonade sounds good.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I began marking in books when I took a British Literature course in tenth grade that encouraged me to do so (horrors!). Once I'd begun, it was hard to break the habit.  :D

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
Flat open, bad me.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both? 
Both, but primarily fiction.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?
I can stop anywhere, but I prefer to read to the end of a chapter.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
Heehee.  I suppose I might be, but I don't think I've actually done it.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
Um... no.  I'm lazy and tend to try and figure it out from the context.  I know, I know, horrid dictionary skills.  Shameful.

What are you currently reading? 
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens [first re-read], Sewing and Collecting Vintage Fashions by some person who probably knows what she's talking about, Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery [fifth or sixth re-read] and I'm about to begin a biography of Elizabeth the First.

What is the last book you bought? 

To Kill a Mockingbird, a used hardcover, for one dollar and fifty cents.  I buy my books cheap.

This is actually what my copy looks like
Except the title is a wee bit different.
But this edited title completely cracked me up.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read? 
When the city goes to bed, then I can live inside my head. [instrumental interlude]
Erm, ahem, actually I don't really have a favorite time or place.  I just read whenever, wherever.  Although it's fun to read in bed, just before going to sleep.  *note to self: actually get off the computer in time to do that tonight.*

Do you prefer series books or stand alones? 
I used to read almost nothing but series books (when I was in fourth and fifth grade) but now I usually prefer stand alones.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over? 
Actually, there's this one woman who wrote several novels set in the Regency era... her name's Jane something... have you heard of her?  Your library might have one or two of her books.  Look her up.

How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.) 
I put them on the shelf wherever, wait for my sister's exasperated ERRMMMMM, and step back and watch gleefully while she reorganizes the entire bookcase.
She really does plan how the books are supposed to go in the bookcase, but I do try to put them back in the right place. No, really, I do. :D

Monday, July 9, 2012

Announcing the Giveaway Winner

It's here, it's here, the moment you've all been waiting for!

...The moment you're all STILL waiting for!
(You can thank my sister Molly for getting me hooked on funny cat pictures.  She's the reason you're hanging in suspense right now.  Because I had to share a cute cat picture.  Thank you, Molly.)

Anyways.  I have now annoyed you adequately, I think, and we now come to the point.  Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Coll--
--er, that is, I have utilized random.org and chosen a winner from among the 89 lovely entries in the Only a Novel giveaway.

And that winner is... (drumroll, please) ... entry number 85...

Lily of the Valley!

I've contacted Lily and her autographed copy of the book will be speeding its way toward her house as soon as possible.  Thank you so very, very much to everyone who entered! 

And for those of you who did not win, I am going to insert one more shameless plug and then I will be done.  I promise.  (Until OAN becomes available on Kindle, which I hope it will be very soon, at which point I shall inform you all of the fact and then I will really truly be done blathering about this book.  Probably.)   

At any rate, all those of you who didn't win, you can still own a copy of the book by purchasing it from Amazon or from Amazon UK (also several of the other Amazon Europe websites which I'm not going to bother linking to right now.  Just search for "only a novel Amy Dashwood" if you want to find it.)  Unfortunately it's not currently available on Amazon.ca, but I hope once I get all the Kindle stuff set up that it will be available there in Kindle form at least.   

The book is also available on the CreateSpace e-store, and here's the deal.  You can save fifteen percent (but not more) by switching to Geico e-mailing me at missdashwood95[at]gmail[dot]com if you're interested in purchasing a copy.  I have a discount code you can use on the CreateSpace store for fifteen percent off, and I'd be happy to e-mail it to you.  Unfortunately I have no geckos available.  Check your car insurance place if you want one of those.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Reminders, Announcements, and Rambling Randomness

"No... a teacher.  Well, I'm a writer.  Actually, I write books."

~I don't do bullet-pointed posts as a general rule, but I do think they're fun sometimes, so that's what I'm doing tonight.  (Okay, so technically they're not actually bullet-points.  They're... uh... flowery-dash-points.)  This is going to be a post of randomness.  Yes, I stole Alexandra's idea.  No, I am not ashamed of the fact.

~Only a Novel's blog tour has officially commenced! My first interview was with the lovely Isabel, aka Old-Fashioned Girl, at her blog A Superior Felicity.  Hop on over here to read the post!

~I'm very, very excited about all the other tour dates I've been setting up with blogging friends this week.  These tour dates include...

                             July 11th interview at Dirt and Dickens
                             July 14th guest post at The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
                             July 19th interview at The World of a Rhoswen Faerie Wrose
                             July 24th guest post at Living on Literary Lane
                             July 25th guest post at Lianne Taimenlore

~Still working out details with Abby of Newly Impassioned Soul, Melody of Regency Delight, Maria of Miss Georgiana Darcy, Mattie of Daughter of the King, Eowyn at Inklings Press and Alexandra of Trims and Frills (yes, I abbreviate... but my sister refers to my blog as The YAP, so don't be offended, Ally. Not that you would be.).

~I'll be adding a little linky thingy to my sidebar so you can easily navigate to all the tour posts.

~You know that caption on the picture at the beginning of the post?  That's actually me right now.  I'm in the throes of teaching a literature class to a group of middle-school-aged girls (we're studying Little Women), which is the most tremendous fun, especially since it means I get to dress up in period costume once a week.  And I feel Anne-ish.  Which is a bonus.  Except it's not an Anne-ish costume because Anne didn't live during the Civil War.  (Thank you my dear, I think we have all apprehended that much.)

~I do so love the phrase "Thank you, my dear, I think we have all apprehended that much."  (Mr. Palmer, Sense and Sensibility 1995) It's like the Regency equivalent of "duh."  Funnier and much less rude.   :D

~Air conditioning is the 20th century's greatest invention.

~This little guy cracks me up every single time.

~ "I suppose that is merely a development of the classical trick with the cup and the ball, the glove being A and the dove being.... B."
"No." [dramatic pause] "It is... MAGIC."
Return to Cranford was hilarious.  Also emotionally traumatizing.  But still good.  A review is forthcoming, once I finish my in-draft gushings over The Young Victoria.

~I am beginning my first Really Big Sewing Project-- to wit, a Regency dress as a fifteenth birthday present for Anne-girl.  Yes, she already knows about it.  Yes, it was initially supposed to be a surprise.  Yes, I am terrible at keeping secrets.  And yes, you are going to hear an awful lot about it in Forthcoming Posts.

~There are only a few hours left in which to vote in the OAN giveaway... so if you haven't done so yet, well then, allons-y!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gone With the Wind Review

"Great balls of fire.  Don't bother me anymore, and don't call me sugar."
~Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With the Wind

Some people love it.  Some people hate it.

Some people adore the book and disdain the movie.  Some people are enraptured by the movie, but scorn the book.  Some hate both.  Some love both.

And some are like me, a one-legged man with a foot in both camps.  (Sorry, can't resist the Treasure Island reference.)

I'm talking about Gone With The Wind here.  I read it last December in eight days... because I couldn't put it down. I devoured it in great big gulps, chapters and chapters at a time, and when I was finished I still couldn't decide if I liked it or not.  I had a foot in both camps, so to speak.  A few weeks ago I saw the movie with my grandmother (it's so long, we had to split it over two evenings) and... dare I say it?... I actually liked it.

Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that in the small circle of blogs I read, GWTW isn't much of a favorite.  And I can understand why.  But hey, I'm here to give my opinion on this blog, and if it's a different opinion than most... well, so be it.

Perhaps it would help if I employed a little Tevye-
I wish snoods would come back in fashion.
ness here.  On the one hand, I pretty much hate the main character.  (And this is a big downside for me, because the characters are always my favorite element of a story.) Scarlett is vain, selfish, manipulative, malicious, conceited and severely lacking in morals.  On the other hand, she fascinated me-- in a sort of disbelieving way.  I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to find out what happened to her and if she would get her just deserts.  (Random side note: is anyone else always tempted to type that as "just desserts"?  But I don't want Scarlett to have desserts.  She doesn't deserve desserts.  So never mind.)  On the one hand, there were very few likable characters in the story-- Scarlett wasn't the only brat.  On the other hand, there were two exceedingly likable characters in the story, and I'm not going to tell you who they are yet because I want you to read this all the way to the end.

On the one hand, the plot was depressing.  Nobody, but nobody, ended up happy, and though I know perfectly well that real life doesn't always give you happy endings, I would have liked to see at least a little bit of hope at the end.  (Scarlett's going back to Tara doesn't count.  What with all the damage done to that house, I bet she fell through the floor as soon as she stepped inside.  Too bad, so sad.)  But on the other hand, the story was amazingly well-written.  I can see why the book is a classic.  Sure, it was immense, but I have a thing for big thick books.  Every page was interesting, and though I'm often guilty of skipping the boring parts (ahem, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, ahem) I skipped nothing in GWTW.

But this review was supposed to be about the movie, not the book, so I'm going to stop blathering about the book and pursue the work necessary to reign victorious over the Huns.  Er, that is, let's get down to business.

Is it just me or does Vivien Leigh strikingly resemble Elizabeth Taylor?
It's just me? ... Okay, then.
Like I said, Scarlett annoys me excessively.  Now, I'm no advocate for the pristine-perfect heroine who never does anything wrong--that kind of girl is annoying too--but Scarlett was just plain awful.  You know that feeling when a movie character does something exasperating and you just want to slam your fist into the air and do your best imitation of Mr. Knightley's "ERMMMMMM"?  Yeah, that was me every time Scarlett appeared on the screen.  In fact, "I've always thought a good lashing with a buggy whip would benefit her immensely."

All right, all right.  Fine.  She did have her good points.  For instance, she didn't let herself get bowed down by all the troubles that came to Tara when she got back home after Atlanta burned.  Even though most of what befell her throughout the story was her own fault, she at least can't be blamed for the ravages of war.  And she did handle everything admirably, though not exactly as kindly as she might have.  But what annoyed me most about Scarlett's pluckiness was the fact that she could so easily switch back and forth from Wonder Woman to Wimpy Whiner.  If I had a nickel for every time she moaned, "Oh, Rhett," or "Oh, Ashley," I would be able to retire before I turn forty.

Ugh, that CRAVAT.  My eyes are burning.
Just imagine what Sir Percy would say.
Now as to Rhett Butler.... sheesh.  I'm afraid I may be treading on thin ground here, for no matter what I say, I'm going to offend somebody.  I know there are those who think he's the best hero since anybody (to which I say "psssshhhhh--Mr. Knightley and Sir Percy, ladies"). I know there are also those who can't stand the sight of his face or the mention of his name (to which I say "Rhett Butler, Rhett Butler" and watch in glee as they throw things in great vexation).

As for me, I intensely dislike the swaggering snob ("you, sir, are no gentleman"), but I can't help feeling tremendously sorry for him, especially in the second half of the movie.  (Ironically enough, what little empathy I felt toward Scarlett was much more pronounced in the beginning of the movie and had completely disappeared by the end.)  His morals are pretty much nonexistent, his cynicism depressing, and frankly my dear, I don't care what happens to him.  But I did feel bad when SPOILER ALERT Bonnie died and he felt so bad over it END OF SPOILER.  And I admired him just a weensy teensy bit when he decided to go join the Confederate Army's death gasp.  But then he and Scarlett did their embarrassing kissy thing and my weensy teensy admiration went pffffffffft.  The only thing I'm afraid of, in fact, is that they won't hang him fast enough to pay the taxes on Tara.

"And you ain't goin' over to Mr. John Wilkenson's to eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog!"

Mammy, however, was another story.  I loved Mammy.  Yes, her character was a bit extremely stereotypical.  No, I'm not endorsing racism.  But neither am I going to launch into a politically correct  about how horrible MGM is for portraying Mammy as uneducated  and la-di-da-di-da.  Because today I am here to poke fun at pretty much everything in GWTW except Mammy and one other character.  And I liked Mammy, and I will talk about her in the way that I see fit because it's my blog.  *steps off soapbox*

Mammy (what is her name?  Does she even have one?) is one of those characters who speaks her mind and tells you what's what.  There were quite a few times when I squealed at the TV screen, "You tell her, Mammy!" when Scarlett was being particularly dreadful (what else is new...) and Mammy was telling her off.  I was muchly pleased by these scenes. "What gentlemen says and what they thinks is two different things, and I ain't noticed Mr. Ashley askin' for to marry you." 

I.  Love.  This.  Dress.

Then there was Melanie, my hands-down favorite character in both the book AND movie, the sweetest person in the whole story and one of the very few who deserved a happy ending.  And, naturally, she SPOILER ALERT didn't live till the end of the movie END OF SPOILER.  Margaret Mitchell, Margaret Mitchell, you sure had it in for the nice people, didn't you?

I'd better say right up front that anyone who says anything against Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is going to feel the power of my wrath.  She is not wishy-washy, she is not saccharine and she is not perfect.  Her Jane-Bennet-ish tendencies cause her to think well of just about everyone (even Scarlett...) but hey, that's not a bad thing.  This world needs more Melanies and fewer Rhetts, IMHO.  And I have to admit it's pretty funny when Scarlett's being selfish and Melanie sees nothing but selflessness.  "Oh, Scarlett, you're so sweet to worry about Ashley like this for me..."

The scene pictured on the right may be my very favorite in the whole movie.  It's Melanie at her best, and I may or may not have cheered out loud while reading it in the book.  (Oops, there I go with the book again...)  My only complaint was that in the book (hush, I'll talk about the book if I want to, it's my review) Melanie was reading aloud to everyone from Les Miserables, and in the movie she read from David Copperfield.  Now, I like David Copperfield and all, but they could have easily left in my beloved Les Miz.

Melanie was an absolute trooper in that scene.  I dare anyone to call her a wimp.  The way she stood up to the Union officers and told Rhett off (yay!) and gave Ashley disapproving looks (DOUBLE YAY!) and scolded everybody was a sight for sore eyes.  "If you arrest all the men who get intoxicated in Atlanta, you must have a good many Yankees in jail, Captain. Bring him in, Captain Butler, if you can walk yourself!"

Yep, I love Melanie.
And someone as sweet and lovely and all-around awesome as Melanie is did not deserve to marry a complete wuss like Ashley Wilkes.  I loathe and despise and detest Ashley Wilkes.  But I'll save my ranting about him for another post and move straight on to other characters.

I was a little disappointed that Careen and Suellen O'Hara didn't get more screen time, but I suppose the directors didn't want to waste any of their three hours and fifty-three minutes on lesser characters.  Aunt Pittypat Hamilton also didn't have quite as many swooning scenes as I would have liked, but hey, at least she was included.  Let's just have a moment of silence, shall we, for the dear dead days gone by in which movie producers actually followed the books and included all the characters that the author created.  

I liked Gerald and Ellen O'Hara tremendously, but found it pretty amusing that they were credited first.  They aren't that important.   Maybe it had something to do with them being the guiding hands behind Scarlett's bringing-up?  In that case they should be listed as the villains.  Obviously they did not do a good job in raising their eldest daughter.

I jest, I jest.  I liked Gerald and Ellen.  Really, I did.  And I actually came this close to crying when Ellen died.  (That's not a spoiler-worthy statement, right?  I mean, it happens early enough...)

I love India's dress, but I can't stand Melanie's.
Extremely unflattering.  Melanie deserves better.

India Wilkes, Ashley's sister, is presented as being a bit of a villainess (at least from what I've read on the subject, which is very little) but I found myself liking her. Maybe we were just united in our dislike of Scarlett, or maybe it was the fact that I admired India's clothes.  Her barbecue dress was so lovely-- and that line of hers at the barbecue was so apropos.  "I can't stand that Scarlett O'Hara.  If you'd see the way she throws herself at Ashley!"  Yeah, you tell them, India.

How on earth is anyone supposed to even tell the Tarleton twins apart?  Obviously the actors aren't really identical twins, nor do they look so, but the fact that they're dressed in matching outfits makes things difficult.  Aren't they a little old to be doing the whole two-peas-in-a-pod thing?  Oh, well, we'll just use the gloves on the right-hand dude as a means of telling them apart.  (And very ugly yellow gloves they are, too.)  Wonder why the other twin isn't wearing gloves?  Maybe he spoilt them with lemonade.  In that case each of them should be wearing one good glove and carrying a bad one.  Elegant or die, you know.

I felt rather bad for Charles Hamilton and Frank Kennedy.   (They should have moved out West and joined the ranks of Dead First and Second Husbands in the Love Comes Softly books.)  Neither of them were necessarily the sharpest things in the place where they keep the sharp things, but that doesn't mean they should have ended up with Scarlett.

Lest you begin to think that I hated this movie, I must quickly set your mind at rest.  I didn't hate it.  Not at all.  I didn't love it, either, but I did like it.  The first half was infinitely better than the second, if only for the fact that all the excitement occurred in the first half.  The first half contained the barbecue at Twelve Oaks (loved that part! All those bee-yoo-tee-full clothes!), the Christmas bazaar, the arrival of the Confederate soldiers in Atlanta and the burning of Atlanta.  Call me morbid and dreadful if you like, but I really enjoyed the burning-of-Atlanta scenes.  They were thrilling and exciting and awe-inspiring.  These were the days before CGI--all those flames were real.

The second half of the film revolved around Scarlett bossing people, Scarlett chasing after Ashley, Scarlett whining for money, Scarlett getting married, Scarlett bossing people, Scarlett whining because her husband was dead, Scarlett getting married, Scarlett bossing people, Scarlett chasing after Ashley and finally Scarlett chasing after Rhett.

Really, Rhett is the only person who deserved Scarlett, and she was the only person who deserved him.  And yet in the end the story leaves us hanging-- did they ever get back together?  I'm inclined to think that they didn't... because I don't really want them to have a happy ending.   Not that they necessarily would have been happy if they had gotten back together, of course.   They might have had some fun being selfish together, but ultimately they probably would have broken up again and gone their separate ways to make someone else's life miserable.

As for me, I say fiddle-dee-dee to them and their kind.  And don't call me sugar.  I'm not feeling too sugary right now.  Although I must say, it certainly is fun to write a rather biting movie review for a change.  I'd give GWTW five out of ten.  As to whether I'd want to watch it again... well, tomorrow is another day.