January 10, 2010

So far, I’m ahead.

I started my TBR challenge with American Bloomsbury, by Susan Cheever, a gift from G. He warned that it would read like a soap opera. And it was certainly a different view of these authors and their lives (Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Fuller) than most of us went through school with, although not outrageously so considering all the biographical work that has been done on these figures in just the last few years. My mother was interested in the Transcendentals growing up and she’d been telling me since I first had to read Walden how everyone mooched off of crochety old Emerson. If one is really looking for a lit. bio. soap opera, Katie Roiphe’s Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages, mostly about the London Bloomsburys, is where one should look. Those people screwed like rabbits. There’s a big difference between 1830 and 1930, though, so I suppose American Bloomsbury does tell a tale shocking for the time it discusses, if not for ours.

I moved on to Guy Vanderhaeghe’s The Englishman’s Boy, and so far I’m really, really enjoying it. One choice phrase?  “He owned a face white and cold as a well-digger’s ass.” Love it.

But I’ve taken breaks for loans. Ex Machina, a comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, really speaks to my interests in politics and tech-based sci-fi. The characters are very well-realized, and the stories complex.

And now, Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ Stardust. I’ve been enjoying his blog, to which I was introduced by a friend, so I knew I’d likely enjoy his writing, but I hadn’t read anything till now. And even just 2 pages in it was clear how much I was going to love it. Any book that starts with a John Donne poem is all right by me. And I loved the premise that the story takes place not exactly in a world of its own, but one that’s just another element of ours (with London down the road):

“Mr. Charles Dickens was serializing his novel Oliver Twist; Mr. Draper had just taken a photograph of the moon, freezing her pale face for the first time on cold paper; Mr. Morse had just announced a way of transmitting messages down metal wires.

“Had you mentioned magic or Faerie to any of them they would have smiled at you disdainfully; except, perhaps for Mr. Dickens, at the time a young man, and beardless, and he would have looked at you wistfully.”

Wonderful, in the exact sense of the word.

One Response to “Update”

  1. G said

    I think my favourite juicy tid-bit that I gleaned from Uncommon Arrangements was that H.G. Wells did not like his wife’s first name so he asked her to change it, that man had to be one of the most misogynist men that ever lived. I might have been thinking of Uncommon Arrangements when I commented on the book reading like a soap opera. Still, there is a fair bit of gossip and ‘scandal’, at least scandal for that time period in the book. I hope your mother enjoys it.

    On the subject of Neil Gaiman: Stardust is awesome!

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