lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
The Fine and the Wicked: the Life and Times of OuidaThe Fine and the Wicked: the Life and Times of Ouida by Monica Stirling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Oh, man. Reading early literary criticism and biography is so frustrating because nobody cites sources in a useful way! Stirling is all, "And then Ouida said this," or "Then Henry James said this about Ouida," or "One time at band camp, Ouida . . ." without telling me where she gets any of her information. Sometimes I can go to the bibliography she has at the end and figure out that she's probably quoting from a certain text but sometimes not.

Reading Stirling is a wacky ride. I mean, she explicitly says that her mission is to defend Ouida as an important author and to reclaim her works as entertaining and worthy of reading, but she goes over the top in attributing emotions and motivations to Ouida for which she has zero evidence. She's constantly saying things like (paraphrasing here): Ouida never looked a gift horse in the mouth, and if she had, she would only have commented on the beauty of its teeth. Stirling's prose is ludicrous at times; she's so eager to defend Ouida's behavior that her defenses sometimes don't make logical sense. She also does this weird framing thing where she pits Ouida and Queen Victoria against each other throughout the biography, and it's extremely off-putting to read.

On the other hand, lots of great pictures of Ouida and the houses she lived in plus good biographical details and lots of info about the people with whom she socialized and corresponded.

Ouida just makes me so sad. She was so brilliant, and she was so admired, and she ended up alone and miserable and poor at the end of her life. She had loyal friends even up to her dying day, but she manufactured so much of her own unhappiness through her inability to save money and her anger at the social humiliations she sometimes suffered when she couldn't keep her mouth shut or reacted poorly to what she perceived as slights. I have so much sympathy for her and so much admiration for how much she was able to accomplish despite both external and internal forces that were set against her.

Note to self: I made a mistake in re-reading Ouida's biographies; published in the 1950s, Stirling's is the latest, and I really should have started with Elizabeth Lee's (the earliest at 1912) to better chart the way Ouida's story changes (or not) as time progresses. That's not something I took note of when I read these biographies fifteen years ago.



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lunabee34: (reading by tabaqui)
And Always a Detective: Chapters on the History of Detective FictionAnd Always a Detective: Chapters on the History of Detective Fiction by R.F. Stewart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I must give this book a qualified review.

First the good: I don't care a whit about detective novels. I've never read a single Sherlock Holmes mystery, and I don't read modern thrillers or crime novels. I am completely disinterested in the subject matter, and yet Stewart's history of the genre thoroughly captivates me for two reasons. One, the history of detective fiction is indivisible from the history of the sensation novel, and like any proper Victorianist, I am mad about the sensation novel. I'd venture at least half of the book is about tracking trends in sensation novels and so is very relevant to my area of research. Two, Stewart has such a delightful authorial voice; he is funny, always making a joke or a clever allusion. He clearly loves detective fiction and is having fun writing about the genre which makes reading his work a pleasure for me.

Now for the bad: This was published in 1980, and the academy has come a long way, baby. The blatant sexism is over the top at times. Stewart takes potshots at Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Margaret Oliphant and Elaine Showalter (!), for example. He even derisively refers to his female colleagues as "academic ladies" at one point. *shudders* We've also come a long way in the past forty years in terms of the way we discuss literature that once fell (and sometimes still falls) outside the canon. Stewart is always eager to let the reader know that sensation literature is not good literature; it's second-rate, just like its writers (Braddon et al). I am so grateful that never once in my graduate work was I called on to justify why I think a critical discussion of one of the most widely read authors of the 19th century is important even though Ouida was "just" a sensation writer (okay, she wrote in more genres, but you get what I'm going for here).

So, if you're into detective fiction and can stomach a bit of sexism in your literary criticism, I think you'll have a mostly good time reading this book.



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lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture In Late Victorian EnglandThe Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture In Late Victorian England by Talia Schaffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love this book. Schaffer is such a good writer. I think it's so hard to write academic criticism well. The writer has to straddle the line between knowing her stuff/making a convincing argument and coming off like a pretentious twit who's just interested in proving how large her vocabulary is and how convoluted a sentence she can write. The longer I am in the academy, the less patience I have for dense, impenetrable academic writing. Life is too short to read someone masturbating (painfully, no less!) on the page. Schaffer's writing is not conversational, but it's not convoluted either; her writing is clear and convincing. I get a sense of who she is as a scholar and a thinker; her writing is formal, but she has not attempted to absent herself entirely from the process, a conceit I find tedious in a great deal of academic writing (as if our passions and interests and biases as scholars do not inform our work).

As a Ouida scholar, what mainly draws me to this book is Schaffer's argument that Ouida is a female Aesthete who can be credited with popularizing the witty, epigrammatic language that will later become characteristic of male Aesthetes like Wilde. She also positions Ouida and other female Aesthetes as a direct influence for Modernist writers; her comments about the way that Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own explicitly denies the lives and literary output of late Victorian women writers in order to create its argument that a female literary tradition doesn't exist are quite compelling (and even shocking) in this context. Identifying Ouida as an Aesthete also helps us to understand some of the seemingly inexplicable choices she made in her personal life (the way she dressed, her love of hothouse flowers, etc) as an attempt to live out the principles of Aestheticism.

I really enjoyed learning about female some writers I didn't know anything about (Who's going to immediately start reading Lucas Malet? This gal) and developing a greater understanding of Aestheticism itself. I was also fascinated to learn that Thomas Hardy plagiarized Jude the Obscure from a Lucas Malet novel and no one caught it at the time. Schaffer puts enough of their writing side by side that the plagiarism is undeniable.

Highly, highly recommend this as a very readable work that helps define Aestheticism, tells us about the lives and literary works of both male and female Aesthetes, and helps us understand the relationship of Modernism to the Aesthetic Movement.



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lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
Fallen AngelFallen Angel by Sally Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The major theme of this work is the fallen woman, how she's represented in early Victorian fiction, and how that representation differs from the fallen woman in actuality. Naturally this entails a discussion of how the Victorians defined chastity and the consequences of that definition.

In addition, Mitchell focuses on reading habits of the time period. This is a good examination of the kinds of novels being written by and for women from the 1830s-1880s. Mitchell discusses sensation novels as well as the novels and stories being published in penny periodicals.

I read this book for her criticism of Ouida's novels, which is pretty spare. She only discusses Moths and Folle-Farine very briefly and Ouida's canon as a whole very generally, but her comments are important to note. Her research did point me to a couple primary sources, including contemporaneous reviews, of which I was unaware. I also appreciated the little bit of information Mitchell includes about Geraldine Jewsbury; she was a critic who reviewed several of Ouida's novels, but I didn't know anything about her personally.



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lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
Nary a teary eye! And she did so well that they were able to do one whole side of her mouth; they were initially billing this as a four or five visit operation. It will only take two! Yay! Thanks for all the encouraging comments.

Reviews of Ouida the Phenomenon and Starbridge )


Spoiler alert: And when I say other scholars, I clearly mean me. Take that, Jane Jordan.
lunabee34: (reading by tabaqui)
The Matrimonial Trap: Eighteenth-Century Women Writers Redefine MarriageThe Matrimonial Trap: Eighteenth-Century Women Writers Redefine Marriage by Laura E Thomason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I think this book is a really interesting look at the way genteel, primarily English, 18th-century women viewed marriage. While Thomason does examine several novels, most of her source material is drawn from personal correspondence. I hadn't realized that letters at this point in history were simultaneously public and private documents. People had every expectation that their letters might be circulated beyond the intended recipients, even published without their permission. In addition, European governments had begun surveillance of correspondence, often opening and examining letters. Very fascinating the way women took advantage of that dual nature of letters to do some really neat stuff with argument and with authorial voice.

Very informative read.





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Hide and SeekHide and Seek by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Oh, man. I have been on such a Wilkie Collins high, and I was looking forward to reading this one, but it just didn't do it for me. It was a slog, and reading it felt tedious. One of Collins's gifts is dialogue, and this novel is almost entirely descriptive exposition--lots of what everything looks like and what everyone is thinking and very little of it accomplished through dialogue. I also think that the solution to the mystery of the story isn't telegraphed at all so that it just comes out of nowhere. My edition has some notes at the end which suggest that originally Collins did include more clues but edited them out later; I wish he'd left them in because the conclusion of the story was pretty convoluted even for me, an inveterate lover of sensation novels.



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lunabee34: (Default)
The Scarlet PimpernelThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was reluctant to read this book because I thought for some reason that it would be dry or dense. Fortunately, it is neither. It's a quick, fun, breezy read that I think would appeal even to junior high readers. It's a mystery, a romance, and a novel of intrigue. The fun for the first half of the novel is trying to figure out who the Scarlet Pimpernel is, and the fun for the second half is cheering him on in his mission of rescuing condemned French aristocrats. Very entertaining.



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(I realize the tag is not quite the right era, but it'll do.)
lunabee34: (reading by thelastgoodname)
The Clever Woman of the FamilyThe Clever Woman of the Family by Charlotte Mary Yonge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


So, Yonge is not progressive for her time. The central thesis of this book is that women need the firm intellectual guidance of wise men so that they don't become ridiculous and dangerously foolish. A woman left to mull things over on her own is a time bomb waiting to explode.

But don't let that stop you from reading this fantastic novel. Rachel, the "clever" woman of the family, is constantly making silly blunders and providing comic relief until suddenly she isn't. This is an emotional roller coaster of a read; it begins firmly in the humorous vein (almost Wildean in wit and tone) and then becomes very serious in ways that I didn't expect.

I really don't want to spoil the story, but it's full of romance, mystery, peril and genuine pathos. Also, in spite of Yonge's conservative world view, the novel is pretty feminist in ways she may not have intended--female authors, women lamenting the lack of useful occupation available to them, and women taking decisive/heroic action.

Highly recommended.



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lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New EroticismPleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism by Deborah Lutz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this one. I knew a little bit about most of the people discussed in this book (you can't study Victorian literature without knowing bit about Richard Burton or Swinburne or the Rossettis, for example) but only the very superficial. This is a really interesting look at several loosely connected and intersecting groups of people (the pre-Raphaelites, the Cannibal Club, and the Aesthetes) and how their art and lives were focused on their sexual experiences. The book is written much more like creative non-fiction than the usual academic book, so it's incredibly readable. Every now and again, the author uses an awkward turn of phrase or says something in a confusing way or gets out her thesaurus just to remind us that we are reading the work of the erudite, but on the whole, the style is very readable and accessible and the subject matter is deeply interesting.



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Oronooko: The Royal SlaveOronooko: The Royal Slave by Aphra Behn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Not one I'll be rereading. I somehow missed reading this in college and wouldn't have read it now except that I'm teaching it. I know it's an important text, and I'm glad I've read it, but I found it very underwhelming. Also, the almost complete lack of dialogue made reading it fairly tedious.



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lunabee34: (reading by thelastgoodname)
The Dead SecretThe Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I absolutely loved this book. Many of Collins's novels are predicated on a secret, and this is clearly no exception. What I really liked about this book (in comparison to, say, Man and Wife where the audience is in on the secret the whole time) is that the secret is kept from the audience until almost the very end. For a good half of the book, I had no clue what the secret might be, and then I started to suspect what the secret was but not the why of it. The mystery aspect of the novel is really well done. Collins misdirects multiple times, leaving little clues that end up going nowhere or suggesting something about someone's personality that ends up not playing out the way the reader might think.

The characters are very well drawn and interesting. One of the main characters is blind, and his wife serves as his eyes, giving Collins ample opportunity for beautiful prose and sparkling dialogue.

I don't want to spoil what the secret is, but I will say that it's heartbreaking, and I found myself moved to tears by the novel's end.

So, if you like a good mystery, a heaping helping of gothic trappings, irascible old misanthropes, and beautiful young women who can describe the contents of a room as if they're reciting poetry, this is the novel for you!



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lunabee34: (are those men kissing? by animekittysama)
The AwakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'd only read this book once a very long time ago as an undergraduate, and my memories of it were hazy before this reread. I hadn't remembered how candidly it treats Edna's infidelity, and I thought it had been written much later than the turn of the century.

I also didn't know anything about Kate Chopin until this reread. Apparently, publishing The Awakening ruined her career; the book was roundly condemned, and she lost her reputation and many friends as a result. She only lived four years after its publication, dying of a stroke or aneurysm. I think a lot about women writers who weren't appreciated in their time and what they would think of their place in the literary canon carved out by second wave feminists in the 60s and 70s. I hope Chopin would feel vindicated that classrooms of college students read her novel each semester and discuss Edna Pontellier's stifling marriage and the limited choices available to her.

I was especially struck on this read by her feelings for her children, how she loves them but doesn't want to be consumed by them, how she wants to follow her own desires but doesn't want her children to be hurt in the fall-out. I am so glad that I live in the 21st century in which I can find plenty of examples of women who have careers and families, who follow their own hearts and are good mothers, who pursue their ambitions and hold down the fort at home at the same time. I'm so glad we live in a time where people can be more open about how maddening motherhood is, how nobody enjoys parental sacrifices, and how being angry or depressed or frustrated is a natural part of being a parent. If I had to live surrounded by the "mother-women" Chopin describes, those women who are constantly sewing baby clothes and who cannot leave their husbands alone because the husbands need them, and who are defined solely by those relationships, I'd probably find myself in crisis, too.

This book is very sad but very beautifully written. Highly recommended.



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lunabee34: (Default)
Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love this novel, and I love it even better on this reread. One of my favorite novels is Wuthering Heights, and both times I've read Jane Eyre I've been struck by the similarities I see between the sisters' writing (which isn't surprising since they spent so much time writing collaboratively about their imaginary world). Jane Eyre is so modern to me--the first person narrator, the focus on the psychology and motivation of characters, the lack of superfluous description. Dickens writes about orphans and poor people and the disadvantaged, and although I love Dickens, I never once forget that I'm reading a novel written more than a hundred years ago when I read, say, Oliver Twist. When Bronte writes about the same topics in Jane Eyre, they are biting and harrowing and feel contemporary to me in a way that many Victorian novels do not. Wuthering Heights has this modern quality about it as well. The way Jane and Rochester speak to each other--prickly and teasing and sarcastic, one zinger after another--also strikes me as a particularly modern way of writing dialogue. Love this book, love that Jane gets a happy ending, love that she finds a home and a family.



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lunabee34: (reading by thelastgoodname)
Wide Sargasso SeaWide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have to admit that I didn't care overly much for the writing style except in Part 3. Bertha's backstory was much sadder and more cruel than I expected it to be. She is the mirror image of Jane--orphaned, abandoned and mistreated by those who should be family, unloved, sent away to school. There's even a Helen in her life, but they don't become friends like Jane and her Helen. I think I find Rhys's Rochester more monstrous than I was expecting because he does actually love Bertha at one point. He falls for her, and then he listens to gossip and he cheats on her. Totally despicable. I was reading this for pleasure and not taking notes or reading methodically and so the dreamy and disjointed quality of the narrative was at times tedious and confusing, again except in the third section where that style of writing worked perfectly for me. Now that I think of it, I didn't mind the style in the first section which was also narrated by Bertha either; it was only really jarring in the second section where Rochester's voice is no different from Bertha's. This is an interesting companion to Jane Eyre, but I don't believe I will feel compelled to re-read any time soon.



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lunabee34: (reading by tabaqui)
Man and WifeMan and Wife by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this although not so well as No Name or Woman in White. Man and Wife is very humorous and satirical. Collins is constantly poking fun at the conventions of the time, and he consistently hits the mark when he makes fun of Lady Lundie--the affected, bossy, and manipulative social butterfly. His book was intended to shed light on Scottish marriage laws (which really do sound utterly ridiculous and not at all a good idea), and the story does a good job of revealing their potential for harm. Collins's other thesis is one that amuses me a bit. The main antagonist of the story is an athlete who essentially ruins his body and his mind through exercise. Now, I'm totally on Collins's side when he asserts that national obsession with sports to the exclusion of the arts and the cultivation of the intellect is A Bad Thing, Indeed. I also agree with his implicit thesis that excellent male athletes are forgiven many faults that they shouldn't be because of their athletic prowess and that something is wrong when masculinity is defined solely as a product of physical ability. But to the modern reader, his idea that most people who strenuously exercise are risking paralytic stroke is a bit silly. I have to admit that I found the storyline for the most part predictable (girl is ruined; ruiner declines to marry her; her best friend's fiance is put into a contrived situation in which he appears to be married to her; this problem comprises the bulk of the novel; at the end, the situation is resolved and the best friend's fiance is off the hook) until I got to the last fourth of the book. Then it takes a really unexpected and gripping turn that belies the humor of the beginning. The athlete who ruins our virtuous heroine decides to kill her after he finds a written confession of murder, and the method he employs is really ingenious. The confession is incredibly dark and detailed, and the athlete's mental journey from Asshole to Murderer is fascinating to read. I also loved the very end in which Lady Lundie gets her final comeuppance. I really didn't see that coming.



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lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
1. Update on Josh's health: blood work, X-Rays, and ultrasounds show no abnormalities, so the major horrific stuff like cancer seems off the table. He has a appt with an allergist on the 17th to explore the possibility of a food or other allergy. He started feeling really bad last night and is still feeling bad so he called and got them to refer him to a gastroenterologist (which is what I wanted him to do in the first place during his Friday follow-up), so hopefully he'll be able to get an appt soon. I have no idea what's going on, but I wonder if it's some form of IBS or colitis or even Crohn's. I also think it would the most bizarre coincidence ever but I want him to get tested for celiac as well. So hopefully we'll figure out what's going on soon and move from the debilitating and inexplicable pain portion to the treatment portion.

2. Don't forget to check out [community profile] journalsandplanners and possibly do some signal boosting if you are so inclined. Thanks to those who have so far. :)

3. I am almost done with Jane Eyre (which I've only read once before this and that was last year; someone revoke my Ph.D. in Victorian lit LOL) and with Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins. Reviews of both forthcoming. I will then start Wide Sargasso Sea which I've never read. I'm still on track with my Goodreads challenge.

4. I talked briefly about fandom with my senior class (without revealing that I participate or sharing any of that kind of information with them but, I fear, probably talked about it knowledgeably enough that they realize I'm at least fandom adjacent LOL), and one of them mentioned Wattpadd as one of their primary platforms. Anybody know about what that is? She seemed to think it was going to help her become a published author which pinged me as probably not likely, but IDK.

5. Tell me something! Ask me something! Gotham and Lucifer both are on hiatus (which is bullshit; hiatus is over Christmas and then the show starts back and continues until May; it is known), so I'm free this evening.
lunabee34: (reading by thelastgoodname)
1. I've been thinking about writing an essay about why I think evangelical Christians are so willing to vote for Trump. I was raised in that tradition (Southern Baptist), and it makes no sense on the surface why people who not only say they are Christian but who claim to make every decision in their lives based on that Christianity would support Trump, but having been a part of that culture for the first 18 years of my life, I have some ideas about why they're doing so. But I've also been thinking that plenty of other people have written about this, and I don't know that I have anything new to say or offer about the subject, so. IDK

2. We finished our rewatch of Treme. One half of the couple we watched it with used to live in Louisiana and is an accomplished musician who often played gigs in NOLA. So that added an extra layer of fun to the rewatch; they'd often comment about places featured, or he'd have stories about the musicians in the episodes. SPOILERS )

3. We are almost done with Downton Abbey season two. We finished all the regular episodes and only have the Christmas Special left to watch.

SPOILERS )

I can't wait to see where the story goes. I am actually sad that Walking Dead is resuming because it means no more Downton Abbey for awhile.

4. [personal profile] executrix sent me a biography of Jane Austen (Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin) which was really interesting. I knew nothing about her life, so everything was pretty much new to me. This is a very thorough, heavily researched book which I would recommend to anyone interested in her. I have to admit that from time to time I got a little confused because the cast of characters, so to speak, is so large and so many people in her family and life shared names; I just wanted to read it for entertainment and not take notes or anything, but reading it that way did mean that I was a little bit lost from time to time.

I have two main takeaways from the book. First, how horrible that so many of her letters and documents were destroyed. I wonder if they were truly scandalous (I doubt it), or if that notion of privacy (that regardless of their content, the public at large shouldn't be able to read her letters and that wanting to do so was born of prurient interest) which was beginning already to erode with the explosion of celebrity culture and mass media was largely responsible.

Second, I wonder if she was happy to stay single or if she considered her life tragic. The book posits that her first, truncated romance with Tom Lefroy was very dear to her and that she was very hung up on him and hurt when he was essentially forbidden to see her. Tomalin offers some evidence that Austen was thinking about him three years after that romance had ended. It also mentions that she initially accepted and then turned down a proposal from a man she was friends with but had no romantic feelings for. My take on it is that she'd watched all the women around her have ungodly amounts of children and a number of them die in childbirth and maybe she was grateful to escape that horror. IDK I mean, it can certainly be both. What do y'all think (about anything relating to her life)?
lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
1. We watched Solaris on [personal profile] tamoline's recommendation that it was very reminiscent of Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I also suspect that whoever wrote Event Horizon was familiar with one of the first two versions of the film that precede the Clooney version we watched. SPOILERS )

2. We also watched Lucy a couple of days ago. Man, Scarlett Johansson is a good actor. I have loved her in every single thing I've seen her in, and she was exceptionally good in this movie, too. I must admit, though, that I enjoyed the first and second acts of the movie far more than the third. SPOILERS )

3. I finished How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman, a fascinating book that is structured around what Victorians from different classes and parts of the country would be doing throughout the day from getting up in the morning and washing and dressing to work and school and meals all the way to bedtime. What makes this a truly engaging read is that the author isn't just a historian; she's someone who tries out most of the activities she discusses in the book. So for instance, many Victorians did not bathe with water. They bathed using a combination of dry brushing the body and applying ammonia or vinegar to armpits and other potentially malodorous areas. Goodman went for four months without bathing with water and was happy to report that she didn't stink even once. She made many of the recipes for household goods like toothpaste or lotion or shampoo and tried them out herself. She frequently wears Victorian clothes and sews them herself in the Victorian manner using Victorian patterns, etc. I also found an answer to my previous question about exercise; Victorian men were being heavily encouraged throughout the entire period to exercise in a variety of ways. Women were discouraged from exercising at the beginning of the period because of the whole wandering uterus theory; scientists and doctors were genuinely concerned that vigorous exercise would damage a woman's ability to have children. However, as the period progressed, the benefits of exercise for women became more apparent and walking (which women had always been doing a lot of), some sports like archery, and calisthenics became popular for all classes of women.

4. Penny Dreadful, OMG, what are you doing? I love it! SPOILERS )
lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
1. I finished To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace which is about the rush of American heiresses who married into English aristocracy in the late Victorian through Edwardian period. Excellent read. I especially loved the copious photographs of the glitterati of the time, their gowns by Worth, and their homes. What constitutes beauty in any given era is always so interesting to me; more than half the women pictured in this book would probably not be considered beautiful by modern standards (and I'm not talking about weight or figure; I'm talking more facial features although to be fair, those horrific Edwardian hairdos flatter no one's facial features).

That leads me to another question. How did Victorian, aristocratic women keep their figures? Exercise in the way we understand it now was not appropriate for women to engage in, and the aristocratic life was one ball, dinner, and banquet after another. I suspect a fair amount of just not eating was responsible as well as corsets, and women could walk and ride horses. IDK I am just imagining women secretly doing push-ups in their bedrooms at night to work off the breakfast of ortolans and champagne.

2. Lucifer continues to be enjoyable. SPOILERS )

3. Emma and I went to go see Hail Caesar. I was surprised she wanted to see it in the first place, and doubly surprised when she ended up enjoying it rather than being bored. The movie was hit or miss for me. SPOILERS )

4. We started watching Daredevil which I enjoy. SPOILERS )

5. In the past couple years, I've gone for long stretches where I don't read books and only read stuff online, and then binge read like 10 books in two weeks. This has been one of those stretches where I've not been reading much, so I'm resolved to start reading books again. Here's my To Read list:

The Mechanical
Ancillary Justice
Goblin Emperor
Ragnarok
Sugar
The Game
Parasite
Irving book
3 Body Problem
Martian
the final Mortal Instruments book
Stephen King books on Kindle
lunabee34: (Ouida by ponders_life)
I'd make a top-level post.

I am one of those exceptionally lucky people who remain deeply in love with the author I wrote my Master's thesis and dissertation about. So many people I know emerge from their dissertation loathing the author and the texts they chose to write about; it's such an arduous process that it destroys the initial joy that inspires the academic work for a lot of people. But for me, Ouida remains as fun and fascinating as she was when I first encountered her the semester I spent as Natalie Schroeder's research assistant.

Ouida is so full of contradictions. On the one hand, she wrote deeply purple, melodramatic prose about convoluted situations. She loved to write bits of dialogue in foreign languages, and her command of them was often shaky. She was frequently derided in the press of her day for writing books that are licentious, frivolous, silly, pretentious. And yet, everyfuckingbody read her books because they were fun and funny and she could hit you in the id with such a delicious anvil. Her books are a romp. She can elicit emotion from the reader like whoa.

On the surface, she seems to hate women. Her novels contain many misogynistic statements. Male friendship is always depicted as superior to heterosexual relationships. Her heroines are mostly childlike, morally pure, boring as shit women. LOL She makes many, many misogynistic statements in her non-fiction writing about how silly and stupid women are and how transcendent men are next to the fairer sex. And yet, her female villains are powerful; they are movers and shakers; they have agency; they are freaking cool as shit--sexy and smart and the equal of the men in the novel--and they aren't always punished for their villainy. In real life, Ouida seems to believe in a kind of third sex, The Genius, who (male or female) is just better than everybody else. She clearly includes herself in this category. LOL

She is an object of pity in many ways. She made so much money; she was so rich (and entirely from her writing), and she squandered it all on hothouse flowers and entertaining and feeding a little squadron of dogs veal for every meal. She died penniless in a rented house that stank of dog piss. She could not afford burial and was only interred decently because her friends paid for it.

She knew everybody, all the glitterati and literati of her age. She invited the men to her parties and held court, smoking cigars with them instead of retiring for a sedate sherry as was customary.

She was weird and gauche and pretentious, and I love her to bitty bits.

I'd recommend starting with Strathmore which can be read for free at archive.org along with most of the rest of her novels and non-fiction writing.

P.S. That's Ouida in my icon.
lunabee34: (gay agenda by jjjean65)
1. I'm reading a fantastic book that Executrix sent me about the way that American heiresses started invading Victorian England because they couldn't achieve social recognition or make good marriages in an American society ruled by stuffy old birds like Mrs. Astor. Anyway, fun factoid: kid gloves were worn by both men and women at society functions so that flesh never touched flesh while dancing; the gloves were thin and tight enough that the outline of the fingernails was visible through them, and they only lasted for a single use. Talk about disposable income.

2. cut for discussion of exercise, weight, and mental health )

3. cut for discussion of dieting )

4. cut for discussion of sartorial woes with a side of self-loathing )

5. Getting to Know You Meme: Ask me a question, and I'll ask you one in return.

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