Friday, February 22, 2013

Where's Miss Dashwood?

This blog has been... well... quiet of late.  Period drama reviews are scarcer than scarce things.  Posts about literary characters... say what?  We don't even remember those.  Whoever writes this blog has been flying in and out like a tornado in a trailer park.  "Hi toys!  Bye toys!"  (Apparently she's been watching too many Pixar movies.)  

So where's Miss Dashwood these days if she's not here?

She's catching up on emails and phone calls with friends.

She's reading Pride and Prejudice out loud to her second-youngest sister.

She's teaching an American history class every week (and has had it up to here with the Stamp Act.  Do not mention the Stamp Act to her at this time.).

She's babysitting a squirming bundle of adorableness every week for six hours at a time.

She's finishing her senior year of high school.

She's writing fiction in her spare time.

She's reveling in the delights of Our Mutual Friend with her sister the Anne-girl.

She's studying for her driver's permit.

She's helping her friend Melody run the P&P95Forever Club.

She's working on a bunch of blog posts in draft.  Heh.  Well, sometimes.

She's sewing like mad.  Well, when she has time.  Which isn't that often.  But she does it whenever she can.  Because she's finally launched her own business.  She's on Etsy--not with much, as yet, but there nonetheless.  Here.

Is she a has-been around here?

Absolutely not.   North and South will be reviewed on here. Very soon.  As will Ivanhoe and Our Mutual Friend and all four seasons of Jeeves and Wooster.  And Les Mis (the brick).  And she'll be spouting off presently about why Jo March and Laurie Laurence should not have gotten married, and why the ending of Little Women is just as it should be.  

For now, though, she's just popping in to tell you she isn't dead.  To thank you for being patient, for sticking with her, for leaving comments and being the lovely followers and friends that you are.  (And for putting up with her pointless use of the third person in this post).  And to direct you to this post by a friend of hers, a post which she is absolutely on-her-honor NOT copy-catting right here and now.  No. Never.   Don't even imagine it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The results are in...

...and my Classics Club spin book is 1984 by George Orwell.

Well, whoop-de-do and Tyler too.

I'll confess I was a bit disappointed when I saw that #14 had been picked and that I'd be reading one of the books in my ho-hum section-- and to be honest, I'm a little scared to attempt this book.  But I said I'd abide by the rules, and abide by the rules I will.  Animal Farm wasn't that bad, after all-- I can survive 1984.

What did you end up with, now that the spin has spun?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Single? Really?

You guys! It's a holiday today! And you all know what THAT means.


Sigh.  It means that Amy ditches this blog's normal fare of Jane Austen and Les Miserables and writes Deep Stuff that pertains to the holiday in the hopes of convincing someone that she really does think about things other than balls at Netherfield and Regency fashions and Marius Pontmercy.  (See here.)

So.  Today we talk about hearts full of love.  (And I'm totally NOT going to drag Les Mis into this. I promise.)  Today is Valentine's Day, and most people over the age of ten are either A) celebrating the day with a Significant Other or B) bewailing the fact that they don't actually have a Significant Other.  Then there are people who honestly don't care that it's Valentine's Day (so I suppose that's C) and then there's the final group.  D group is made up of people who aren't romantically attached but aren't about to let that spoil their enjoyment of a fun holiday lots of chocolate.

Maybe I'm just noticing it more this year since I'm older than I was last year (thank you for pointing that out, my dear) but it does seem as though everywhere you turn, someone's making a joke about Singleness Awareness Day.  Or bemoaning the fact that they're celebrating V-Day alone.  Or saying how much they love being "single."  I've made my own plethora of jokes along those lines (spinsters unite, and all that) but to be honest... am I really single?

I mean, the world's definition of "single" is "someone who isn't romantically involved with another person."  I'd add a qualifier--"and someone who is actually old enough to be romantically involved with another person."  (Because a thirteen-year-old dramatically wailing, "When will my Prince Charming arrive?  I want a boyfriend soooooooooo bad!" is not the kind of person I'm talking about here.)  I'm not quite sure I'd think of myself as someone who is actually old enough, heh, so there you have it. I'm not single.  I'm just a kid.  Good, we wrapped that up pretty quickly.  Now I'm off to eat chocolate.

...Okay, well, you're not getting off that easily because I actually do have more to say.  I don't consider myself single.  Not just because I don't think I'm old enough yet, but also because... I'm not.

I have a family.  An amazing family.  The best-ever mother and father, three beautiful sisters and one hilarious brother.  I have friends.  Many friends.  Wonderful friends.   The only thing I don't have is a boyfriend.  And you know what?  That's okay.  At this point in my life, I don't want a boyfriend.  Don't get me wrong, I haven't become a rip-roaring feminist who shrieks to the world that she doesn't need a man to be happy and successful and fulfilled in life.  I do want a wonderful man to come along someday for me.  I'm just saying that I'm not single.  I'm surrounded by loving people, for pity's sake!  If I were single, I'd be without a home and without a friend and without a face to say hello to.  People are made to be dependent on each other, and I'm incredibly blessed to have a godly and supportive family and a warm circle of friends.  Alone this Valentine's Day?  Me?  Are you kidding?  No one sent me flowers, chocolates or promises he didn't intend to keep today.  No, today I got handmade paper hearts from my sisters and brother (and lots of chocolate, so I kind of lied in the last sentence, but I had to complete the quote) and a gorgeous old-fashioned valentine from a dear friend.  (A female friend, people.)

Now don't start misunderstanding this post.  I do not have a problem with the term "single," nor do I have a problem with people making jokes about their relationships (or lacks thereof).  I'm just saying that I don't have anything to complain about this Valentine's Day.  I didn't spend the morning drifting about the house and soulfully rendering "On My Own." (I'll do that tomorrow when I vacuum the upstairs, never fear.)  No, today I put the finishing touches on handmade cards for my family and did an impromptu version of "Circle of Life" with my siblings while we were supposed to be cleaning up after breakfast.   And at lunchtime I exchanged valentines with my family members and laughed myself sick over my sisters' demonstration of talent.  (Seriously.  How many romantic Prince Charmings out there are going to send valentines with Adventures in Odyssey quotes and hand-drawn original cartoons carefully rendered thereon?)

I'm not single, and I'm not going to die (um... to  all of you wrinkling your brows... it's a quote.  My sister will laugh.  Petie and Eowyn will too, I think).  Isn't that revolutionary?
How about you?

...Eh, well, forget all that I said up there, okay?  Because that picture you see above sums it all up much better.  Obviously, I am not content with being unattached.  I am, of course, unhappily in love.  Just ask my mom.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Let's Go For a Spin

"...take your turn, take a ride on the merry-go-round..."
~Masquerade, Phantom of the Opera

(I find it amusing that this girl is neglecting her needlework
in favor of a book.  Ahem.  Cough.)

The Classics Club is sponsoring a Classics Spin from now until April 1st.  The rules are simple--list twenty books from your Classics Club list in a separate post on your blog and number them.  They can be any twenty books you choose.  I've separated mine into four categories, as you can see below.  On Monday the 18th they'll announce a number over at the Club, and the assignment is to read whatever book corresponds to that number before April 1st.

I'm in!

I'm posting these here because I want to keep myself accountable-- if the number turns out to be, say, 19 and I'm stuck with Moby Dick, I want Moby Dick to be listed ast #19 on my blog so I can't back out and rearrange my list at the last minute.  :D So, in essence, you are all holding me to this list.   *dramatically lays hand over heart*  I shall not fail you, my friends.

1. Mansfield Park (Jane Austen)
2. Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens)
3. El Dorado (Baroness Orczy)
4. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
5.  Eight Cousins (Louisa May Alcott)

New Reads I'm Excited About
6. Lorna Doone (Richard Blackmore)
7. A Portrait of a Lady (Henry James)
8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
9. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
10. The Sword in the Stone (T. H. White)

Not Particularly Excited, But Not Dreading
11. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte)
12. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo)
13. He Knew He Was Right (Anthony Trollope)
14. 1984 (George Orwell)
15. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Viewing With Some Trepidation
16. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
17. Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy)
18. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
19. Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
20. Daniel Deronda (George Eliot)

Will you be spinning with me?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Period Dramas, Blog Parties and Valentines Gone Wrong

We strive towards a larger goal... those little games don't count at all!

The picture placed strategically above these words has nothing to do with this post.  It simply informs the world that I have zero interest in football, a fact which you probably already knew, but I had to include that picture here because I burst out laughing every time I see it. (I am told that the Crows won the Super Bowl.  Or maybe it was the Rooks.  Some kind of large, flappy, ugly birds.  Whatever.)

At any rate, today I shall be answering the lovely Miss Laurie's Period Drama Challenge tag questions.  I signed up to participate in the PDC about a month ago, and the idea is simple: choose a certain number of period dramas to watch between January and July, and review each one.  They don't have to be films you've never seen before, but they do have to be films you've never reviewed before.  I chose to do 10 films, and though I haven't done any reviews yet (cough...) I'm participating in the tag because it looks fun.

Old-Fashioned Charm

1. What period dramas have you watched in January?

Jeeves and Wooster (season four), Lark Rise to Candleford (season one, almost done) and North and South (the whole thing).

2. Do you prefer period dramas peppered with humor or laced with dark emotions?

A combination of both.  Humor is always good ("TAKE IT, EAT IT") but I like a bit of drama now and again pretty much all the time.

3. What was the first period drama miniseries (two episodes or longer) that you ever watched?

Pride and Prejudice (1995).  I saw Anne of Green Gables long before that, but I'm not sure if that one really counts.

4. How many Jane Austen adaptations have you seen?

Nine.  P&P95, Sense and Sensibility (both recent versions), Persuasion (both recent versions), Mansfield Park (1983), Northanger Abbey (2007), Emma (1996 Miramax) and Emma (2009 BBC).  Oh, and I've seen the Wishbone episode "Pup Fiction" which is based on Northanger Abbey, but I don't suppose that counts.

5. What period drama, that you haven't seen before, are you most looking forward to seeing in the future?

Ivanhoe (1982).  My sister and I are planning to watch it next Saturday... I haven't read the book yet, but she has, and I know the basic story, and-- forget all that.  ANTHONY ANDREWS AND OLIVIA HUSSEY.

In other news...

Jessica is hosting a Literary Valentine contest over at her blog this week, and since I can't resist such things, I made a wee Les-Mis-themed entry.  I thought about making a Jane Austen card, but decided that I had more opportunity for humor with Enjolras, so... here ya go.

Yes, well, the poor chap's not the romantic sort.   (Kudos to people who can identify Patria.)

And to top it all off, Kellie is hosting her third annual Literary Heroine Blog Party! This will be my third year participating (the first year was when I had a private blog) and I'm quite excited.  Do hop over to her blog and take a peek at the festivities from February 16-28!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Classics Club: North and South

Today, I have a confession to make.  A little one, yes, but a confession nonetheless.

I was hesitant--really, really hesitant--to join the Classics Club.

My sister went before me.  And though she's younger than me, in many ways I behave like the younger sister.  "If Anne-girl's going to do it, then I'm gonna do it too."  She put her name on the Classics Club membership roll, made a list of fifty or so titles, and started reading.  And since she did it, I took the plunge and did it too.  And then... I kinda-sorta started to regret my decision.

Don't get me wrong; I love classic literature.  Reading books is one of my passions.  It wasn't the reading that made me fidgety-- it was the reviewing.  Because I can't stand writing book reviews.  Being objective is practically impossible for me when I'm talking about a book I love, and trying to make the story sound interesting to others without spoiling it is... um.... not my strong point.  And so each and every book post I've written since joining the Club has been... well... difficult.

My dear Melody and I read North and South together during the month of November (okay, so I overlapped a wee bit into December... your point?) and though I thoroughly enjoyed it, all the time I kept thinking in the back of my mind, "I'm going to have to review this on my blog when I finish..."  Not liking the prospect, I put it off and put it off.

And then earlier this week I read a fantastic (yes, truly fantastic) post by Mabel, a fellow book blogger and Classics Clubber.  Her blog is private, so I won't link to it here, but if she's reading this I just want her to know that she made my week.  Because this fantastic post she wrote was all about writing one's thoughts about a book as opposed to writing an objective review, and how both approaches are perfectly acceptable.  
"For me," Mabel says, "expressing that beauty [of discovering people through literature] is the thing. Fumbling through it, journaling, shooting out half-baked ideas and questions about books. That’s so much more fulfilling to me than analysis, which absolutely contributes to the journey for me — but is by no means the soul of it. I know that analysis can allow us to see books from different perspectives. But the human factor, the emotion, the intuition, the visceral reaction, the journey! It’s vital. To dismiss it as unimportant to the literary conversation goes against everything I believe literature stands for.
Thank you, Mabel. That was completely what I needed to hear.  I've been trying all this time to write left-brained reviews for the Classics Club and pushing off my impressions of the books because they didn't sound focused enough to be truly good.  I mean, who wants to read my personal opinion on books?  If people are looking for a book review, they want to know the bare bones of the story (premise only, no spoilers) and how long it is and whether there are any boring parts.  Right?  Right??

Eh, maybe not.  Maybe not always.  After all, that's not the kind of review I look for.  I like to know what people think of books, what parts they liked best and which character they identified the most.  Why shouldn't I write reviews that fit that bill?

So today I bring you my thoughts and impressions of North and South.  If you haven't yet read the book and are looking for a good review to determine whether you want to read it or not, this isn't the post for you.  But if you, like me, have read N&S and enjoyed it, then please do stick around and add your two cents.

I think the most outstanding aspect of this N&S reread (and I'm using the word in the sense of "something that really stood out") was Margaret Hale's character.  I felt that I got to know her far, far better this time around than I did the first time, and certainly better than I would have if I had only seen the movie.  For though the movie's portrayal of her is excellent, there are certain wee Margaret-details that got lost in the translation from book to movie.  So little of Margaret's inner struggle during the Hales' uprooting (uprootment?) from Helstone is shown in the movie, yet the book deals with her feelings quite unflinchingly.   I felt myself identifying with Margaret so much more in the book than I ever could in the movie.

Take the hand-shaking scene, for another example.  Sure, in the movie there's a wee explanation after the fact about how Margaret wasn't accustomed to taking a gentleman's hand like that.  But it still rather looks as if she's just being haughty.  In the book, however, the real circumstances are made quite clear.  "It was the frank familiar custom of the place, but Margaret was not prepared for it.  She simply bowed her farewell; although the instant she saw the hand, half put out, quickly drawn back, she was sorry she had not been aware of the intention."

"Quiet strength" was the phrase that kept coming to mind when I read about Margaret.  And I think that very well may be the attribute I admire most in a heroine.  Elinor Dashwood comes to mind when I think of that phrase; so do Amy Dorrit, Esther Summerson, even Anne Shirley to a certain extent.  Because quiet doesn't necessarily mean silent.  Margaret, indeed, is pretty outspoken.  Yet she remains a lady no matter what: gracious, dependable, anything but a wimp or shrinking violet, yet feminine.  That's what a heroine ought to be.

Mr. Thornton, too, was more likable in the book-- NO NO STOP THROWING ROCKS.  I DO NOT MEAN THAT HE IS NOT LIKABLE IN THE MOVIE.  I only meant that I got to know him better in the book, that I understood where he was coming from, so to speak.  I liked how Mrs. Gaskell shows us things from his point of view now and again.  I tend to get annoyed with narrative in contemporary fiction that switches back and forth between the hero and the heroine, but in this case it didn't annoy me at all.  (Though I must say, things that annoy me in "modern books" almost never seem to annoy me when it comes to older books.  Either I'm a snob or they Just Don't Write the Way They Used To.  Take your choice.)  I think I may write a post entirely about Mr. Thornton sometime soon-- I seem to have a great deal to say about him, and not much space for it today.

Henry Lennox is also dealt with more gently in the book than in the movie.  I abhor his character in the movie.  One gets the feeling that if he really HAD helped Margaret to explain her business proposition, it might have been "explained" a wee bit differently and with, perhaps, some more violence than she had bargained for.  (Um. Sorry. Inside joke.)  In the book, he's a genuinely nice young man who is interested in Margaret because he likes her, not because... well, in the movie there really isn't any reason for him to like Margaret because their relationship is too rushed.  (Why is this post suddenly becoming a book-to-movie comparison?  Maybe because my entire life is made up of book-to-movie comparisons.  I need to find a new hobby.)  The Henry Lennox who appeared in my head when I read about him looks somewhat like Benedict Cumberbatch in a top hat, not a scowling koala with caterpillar sideburns.   I want the Henry Lennox of the book to have a happy ending with some other nice girl (not Margaret.  Obviously).  I want the Henry Lennox of the book to end up with Ann Latimer.  Evidently, something was lost in the translation from book to movie.

However, I do prefer Mrs. Thornton's characterization in the movie.  In the book, she's too stern, too unbending, too proud and prejudiced.  I have a grudging respect for her in the book, I suppose, but we see too little of her tender relationship with her son for me to truly like her the way I do in the movie.   In the movie you get the feeling that she will eventually love and accept Margaret for John's sake-- in the book, Margaret's last line does not exactly convey that idea.  "Hush, or I shall try and show you your mother's indignant tones as she says, 'That woman!'"

All in all, though, I have to return to my broken recording recurring theme-- the book is always better.  Always.

Just go read it.