Pinned: Gothic and Imperiled

In Arizona, in the valley, September is *almost* autumn. The average highs don’t fall below 100F until mid-month, but the days become noticeably shorter. There’s football on the television and fall ultimate frisbee league begins. It is the start of my favorite third of the year and my reading tastes turn darker than usual.

Michelle at Castle Macabre is here to help usher in the season (no pun intended):

gothic september
And, in its tenth year, R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril will be hosted by The Estella Society!

ripnineperilfirst

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Review ~ Attachments

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Cover via Goodreads

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ? (via Goodreads)

I needed a slump-buster. After the stress of returning from vacation, I needed a light-ish, enjoyable read. And that meant picking up one of Rainbow Rowell’s books.

Attachments is like my favorite type of romantic comedy. The circumstances are a little odd-ball. The characters have problems other than being partnerless. There are things going on that are separate from their romance. The world is populated by normal people. No one’s overly glamorous, but everyone is as funny as we all wish we were. Add to that, Attachments has that geeky quality that I expect from Rowell, and it’s set in my hometown. There’s a quip in the book about Sandra Bullock rom-coms, but this book does remind me of one of my favorite chick flicks, While You Were Sleeping.

I will say that I had a bit of a hard time sorting Beth and Jennifer out.  It was less about their voices and more that I couldn’t, for part of the book, remember who was with Mitch and who was with Chris. I kind of wish there would have been a cast page like you find at the the beginning of a play. Considering that we only see the world from Lincoln’s POV and only “hear” from Beth and Jennifer through their emails, Beth and Jennifer really are like reading the dialog from a play, a little unmoored from the solid story. But this is really a minor annoyance.

Overall, it was exactly the book I needed last week.

Publishing info, my copy: Penguin Publishing Group, eLibrary edition
Acquired: Tempe OverDrive Digital Collection
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Deal Me In, Week 35 ~ “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Card picked: Two of Clubs – my last wild card! I decided to pull from my list of Obscure Literary Monsters

Thoughts: When found in the anthology Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories, this story is titled “Rappaccini’s Daughter [from the writings of Aubepine]” and there’s a preface about the esoteric M. de l’Aubepine. The “translator” notes that Aubepine is prone to fantasy and allegory and his characters barely have the semblance of real people. In this way, Hawthorne is providing with a wink and a nudge an explanation for his fantastic allegory. Some online versions of the story skip this bit.

Rappaccini is a great scientist; a genius with plants. He has “created” incredibly toxic plants, ones that he can’t even touch or breath in their fragrance. A young doctor, Giovanni Guasconti, has rented the apartment overlooking Rappaccini’s courtyard garden and observes that the mad scientist’s lovely daughter, Beatrice, can tend to the plants without ill effects. He is, of course, smitten. It doesn’t matter that one of Rappaccini’s envious colleagues warns him away from the father-daughter pair or that small animals and insects seem to fall dead when within proximity to her very breath. Amazingly, Giovanni is shown a secret entrance to Rappaccini’s garden and begins to meet with Beatrice on a regular basis. Nothing good can come of this…

Over and over, Hawthorne states that Rappaccini is a true scientist–he doesn’t let silly things like ethics and empathy get in his way. I’m sure Hawthorne means well with such a warning, especially in an era when the biological sciences were taking a leap forward, but these sort of stories always strike me as a bit hysterical. There’s also a strong nature/nurture theme going on here, though I doubt that Hawthorne would have stated in that manner. Time and time again, Giovanni ignores Beatrice’s faults in favor of her looks and her “heavenly” nature. He overlooks any influence her father has had over her in the belief that her nature will save her. This isn’t the case; it’s Rappaccini’s nurturing that dooms her. There’s also a hint of the thought that Giovanni has been sullied by this woman. There are plenty of Adam, Eve, and garden references; we all know how that ended.

Illustration for Edgar Allan Poe's story

Deal Me In, Lunar Extra ~ “The Birds”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier

Card picked: An Ace

Thoughts: It’s funny how bent out of shape readers sometimes get about book-to-movie adaptations. Fidelity to the source material is usually the sticking point, but I wonder if it’s only at the extreme ends of the faithfulness spectrum that readers are happy. On one end is an adaptation that is extremely faithful. The characters, the setting, the plot are all what the reader knows. In the middle, there are adaptations that fall short. Maybe a character was added, or a new subplot was introduced. Maybe the actors don’t look like they should. These deviations usually leave readers hating the film. On the other end, there are adaptations like The Birds.

The Alfred Hitchcock directed film is based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, but it’s really only based on the underlying concept of the story by du Maurier. In both, for reasons unknown, birds en masse begin viciously attacking people. The film is set up the coast from San Francisco in the early 60s. It veers close to being a romantic comedy with Tippi Hedren as a free living socialite and Rod Taylor as a handsome home-body lawyer. But then, the birds attack and the whole thing becomes a tense, well-made catastrophe survival film.

Du Maurier’s story takes place in Cornwall. The main character is Nat, a veteran of WWII. Due to war-time disability he has a pension and works on a farm half-time though he does seem able-bodied. On the third of December, the weather turns and the birds start acting strangely. With air raid experience (even at publication date, the end of WWII wasn’t even a decade in the past), Nat knows what to do to keep his family safe. The frigid east wind is given as the explanation as to why the birds have gone against their nature. That might have been as good of an explanation as anything for the inexplicable horrors that Europe had recently endured.

Which is better? It’s like apples and tomatoes. Both are fruits. Both are delicious. But maybe we like them both because they *are* different rather than because they are similar

#ROW80 ~ August 30th Update

Update & Goals

Writing: I have, more or less, one scene left to write for the first draft of One Ahead, episode 1 (or whatever I’m going to call it*). I should have the first draft done by Monday night as planned. Then, Eric will read it and we’ll decide what needs to be improved. I already suspect that one part doesn’t work as well as it should.

Writing on the stripped down laptop still seems to be working best, even if it means missing emails occasionally. Free writing is still getting done on a nearly daily-ish basis.

*I actually haven’t nailed down the naming convention I want to use and Eric doesn’t yet have a cover concept. This whole Abbott project might actually be happening to the surprise of everyone.

Blogging: Still in a bit of a blogging slump.  I apologize to my fellow ROWers for the “Likes” rather than the comments. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to get my feet back under me since vacation. This is the struggle of the introvert: most “relaxing” activities really aren’t. It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing people, visiting with people, partying with people, in person or on the internet, but it isn’t refreshing or rejuvenating. I’d like it to be, but it isn’t.

Other: Still have quite a few VOTS pages to convert, but it’s mostly under control. League starts this week and I still have the schedule to post when I get the information for that. The second part of the Python programming class started yesterday. I have four weeks of fun scheduled there.

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Review ~ The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Cover via Goodreads

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them. (via Goodreads)

“It’s beyond everything. Nothing at all that I know touches it.”

That’s a gutsy way to introduce your horror story, Mr. James…

The Turn of the Screw seems to be one of the end-alls of ambiguity. The governess, our narrator, is perhaps unreliable. She’s young, inexperienced, and finds herself isolated in an incredibly unfamiliar situation. Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, tells her about the lurid goings-on of her predecessor and one of her young charges is expelled with little explanation. Is it surprising that her imagination primed on Gothic literature (she mentions The Mysteries of Udolpho by name) might run away with her? Or…does it?

James hits many of the gothic tropes. Our disenfranchised governess is properly stuck in her job and feels pressure to do well. Bly, the house, is seen as something of a barrier; one that keeps the governess in her place, but also as something that the children seek to be free of. Mrs. Grose is  the inverse of the helpful servant. She knows half-tales and often she seems to be the densest material on the planet. Once again, the  main action of the story is set in the past, though only removed by a few decades.

One of the things I find most uncomfortable about The Turn of the Screw is a detail I would have missed if I hadn’t gone back to reread the prologue. The story comes to an abrupt conclusion, but Douglas–the storyteller in the prologue–claims to have known the governess, that she was his sister’s governess. Which, not to spoil the end of the story, means that the governess was not held responsible for any wrong-doing. Douglas also claims to have enjoyed walks with the governess while at home from school himself. Which brings to mind, to me anyway, the walks that Miles and Flora took with miscreants Quint and Jessel. That’s the ambiguous bit that I’m going to chew on for a while.

Publishing info, my copy: Public Domain, Kindle edition
Acquired: Amazon.com
Genre: Gothic horror

10-books

#ROW80 ~ August 23rd Update

Goals

Finish first draft of One Ahead‘s first story by September 1st. Considering that I haven’t put together a good week of writing since June, this seems like a lofty goal. But I’m in a good position story-wise and I think I can do it.

Update

Somewhat took a week off of blogging last week and missed a couple of check-ins. I just needed a mini break.

You know how people, myself included, set summer reading lists? I decided, after dreaming about being back in college, to set a fall syllabus. It combines my writing schedule, my blogging schedule, what I’d like to read throughout the rest of the year, and the 2-3 online courses I’m going to take. Unfortunately, it didn’t include the work I need to do on the VOTS website that became suddenly necessary. Oh, well. That’s how the cookie crumbles. I’m a scene and 35% of The Turn of the Screw behind where I’d like to be.

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