Monthly Archives: May 2020

Sunday Salon, 5/31

Reading

Finished In the Garden of Beasts yesterday. I’ll probably post on it later this week.

Also reread Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for my Weird Lit “class.” It’s so hard to divorce the Disney animated version from original. Of course, that version of the Headless Horseman scared the crap out of young me. For a few years, I was fairly sure that the Horseman was going to gallop down the street at me anytime I walked to my grandparent’s house…

This coming week:

The Mysteries of Udolpho
Meddling Kids
Carmilla

Among other things…

Watching

My pick of the week:

Four Weddings and a Funeral, the series. I was dubious because the original film is one of my favorite rom coms. My friend Tania and I watched it at least twice in the theaters when it came out. I took a chance on the series, though, and realized that Mindy Kaling is part of the writing/production team. It’s pretty obvious that she has respect for the original and Richard Curtis’s films in general. There’s a lot of the usual rom com nonsense, but that can be rather comforting and satisfying.

Writing

Continued to do some writing/rewriting. Continued to watch some ultimate frisbee while doing so. Last weeks games:

Other Stuff

Long week. We’ve had 110+F temperatures in AZ since Thursday, which is unusual for May. Our AC was on the fritz, but was quickly taken care of by our landlord. We had some excitement Sunday morning (around 2am) when, seemingly, a firework set two palm trees on fire about a half block away. Luckily, the winds had calmed and we’re very near both police and fire stations.

As of tonight, Arizona is under a week-long curfew due to Friday and Saturday protests that took a turn. Whatever your feelings about what is going on in the US right now, whatever other way you’ve chosen to protest, help, or just engage in self-care, remember one of your most important civic duties: vote.

The Black Cat, No. 14, November 1896

Welcome to the 14th issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

There is a gap in my Black Cat reckoning. I did read issue 13, but I never blogged about it. The stories were not good and, after a year of working on the project, I needed a break. But I’ve missed it too! So, I’m jumping back in with No. 14. This issue features five stories with five authors new to the magazine.

Stories

“Silas F. Quigley – To Arrive” by Lewis Hopkins Rogers

Silas F. Quigley, from Oxford, Ohio, arrives at a hotel in New York City to find a letter already waiting for him. The problem is, until midway through his trip he hadn’t even decided which hotel to stay in! Was this letter and the offer of work inside meant for some other Silas F. Quigley? Things get even stranger when Silas decides to take the work offered: writing short stories for a magazine. How hard could it be? This was a decent little mystery of a story, though I found the ultimate resolution to be a bit ornate. It was my favorite of the issue.

Google turns up a Lewis Hopkins Rogers who was a “statesman” and one the author of a patent for an apparatus for the production of gaseous  ozonides. Not sure if either penned this tale.

“The Polar Magnet” by Philip Verrill Mighels

Mesmerism weighed heavy in the minds of 1896 readers. In this story, we learn the secret behind an incredibly life-like sculpture. Don’t worry, we’re a few decades away from something like Dorothy L Sayer’s “The Man with the Copper Fingers” showing up in an entertainment magazine.

Philip Verrill Mighels was a prominent in the establishment of the “Sagebrush” school of American literature, encompassing writers of the west and southwest. “The Polar Magnet” is from fairly early in his career.

“Fitzhugh” by W. Macpherson Wiltbank

Lots of clowning in this story, both textual and meta-textual. When Fitzhugh is assigned to be a clown during a community circus, he decides to make sure he’s the best clown there. Or at least someone is the best clown there.

I didn’t find any biographical information on W. Macpherson Wiltbank, but he’ll appear again in later issues of The Black Cat.

“The Passion Snake” by Ella Higginson

The story is written from the POV of a female snake. She falls in love with a human and he’s in love with her, so she thinks, until a human woman he loves shows up and says, “Eeek! A snake!” Allegory, sure, but not my thing,

Ella Higginson was a fairly well-known author of the Pacific Northwest in her time. She was also the campaign manager for Frances C. Axtell, the first female state legislator in Washington.

“Professor Whirlwind” by Allan Quinan

“Professor Whirlwind” is set up to be funny. The titular character is a strange looking man whose two prized possessions are a locket of a with the picture of a lovely young woman and the portrait of a living, feather-less chicken. We’re given an adventure set up: he and the young woman were in a balloon trip gone wrong. There are trills! But then the story ends abruptly, seemly only in utter tragedy.

Boo, Mr. Quinan, boo.

Advertisements

Lots of advertisements in this issue, which makes me wonder if someone had just (gasp) not been scanning them! Along side ads for Prudential Insurance and Funk & Wagnalls Dictionaries was this piece for The Black Cat‘s short story contest.

The entry fee was a year subscription to The Black Cat (50¢)

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 14, November, 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

#VentureForth2020 Summer Reading

Carl (one of my favorite bloggers) is back with a summer reading “challenge.” The theme? Recapturing the excitement of summer reading. Check out all the details at his blog!

As a kid, I don’t remember my library having a summer reading program, but that didn’t mean I didn’t read all through the summer. Thanks to my mom’s example, reading was something done for fun anyway. Summer just meant I could read without having to worry about stuff I needed to know for school!

There are no rules. No number of books to read. No prizes outside of the great pleasure of reading. As part of the fun I did make a list of prompts that I will check off if I end up doing them, but the only thing motivating factor of my reading is finishing a book, and then going and pulling the next read off the shelves that calls out to me.

Continue reading

{Book} The Beetle

{Book} The Beetle by Richard March

‘It changes its shape at will. It compels others to do its bidding. It inspires terror in all who look on it…’

Eminent politician Paul Lessingham is the toast of Westminster, but when ‘the Beetle’ arrives from Egypt to hunt him down, the dark and gruesome secret that haunts him is dragged into the light. Bent on revenge for a crime committed against the disciples of an Egyptian goddess, the Beetle terrorizes its victims and will stop at nothing until it has satisfaction.

(via Goodreads)

Hey, finally a Classics Club book that I (mostly) enjoyed! This is not a comment on the virtue of classics, it’s just how it shakes out when you make up a list of 50 books. Some of them you like, some of them you don’t. I managed to pick three “eh” books in a row from my list of 50.

The Beetle was published in 1897, the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Unlike Stoker’s novel, The Beetle was first published as a serial, starting in March and lasting through June. (Dracula was published in May.) It’s said that The Beetle initially outsold Dracula. While one book is about a vampire and the other is about a cult of Isis, there are actually quite a few similarities.

The Beetle is split into four parts, each part a narration by a different character. We start with Robert Holt, the Renfield of this piece. For creepiness, the second chapter of this book blows away pretty much anything in Dracula. Holt is mesmerized/possessed and ordered to break into the house of a politician, Paul Lessingham, and stealing some letters. The second section is narrated by Sydney Atherton, a scientist and fickle romantic. His scientific specialty is chemical warefare. This isn’t entirely science fiction in 1897, but the use of such a horrible weapon was a societal worry. Atherton seems enamored with the idea of killing many people at once… He’s (currently) in love with Marjorie Lindon, who is engaged to Paul.

Marjorie is the Mina/Lucy here; she’s a good woman and everyone is in love with her. The third section of the book is from her point of view and Marjorie is just great. She’s smart, she’s snarky, and she has no time for men driveling all over her. Unfortunately, there has to be damsel in distress and Marjorie is the only damsel around. (She would hate being called a damsel.)

The last section is narrated by Augustus Champnell, a character who hasn’t really been part of the story, but is a friend of Atherton’s. We finally get some information from Lessingham about his past. When he was travelling in his youth, he was seduced by a strange woman who is the high priestess of a cult of Isis. (Queue Victorian Orientalism, not that the book wasn’t chock full before this…) After months of sex and human sacrifices, Lessingham overcame the priestess and escaped. (Similar to Jonathan Harker in Dracula.) There is a surprising amount of nudity mentioned in The Beetle, so maybe it isn’t surprising that it outsold Dracula in its time. It’s now three years later. The priestess has hunted down Lessingham for revenge, and kidnapped Marjorie.

It seems like Marsh wasn’t sure how to end this novel because this last section is padded out with Champnel, Atherton, and Lessingham chasing around and being tripped up by people of lower class. Eventually Marjorie is rescued by deus ex machina.

The Beetle is perhaps most notable these days for its interesting look at gender identity. The priestess of Isis is a shape-changer, able to take the form of a beetle, but also being able to present as both/either male and female. Of course, since she’s a white-lady-sacrificing, Englishman-corrupting monster, this is not progressive. When Marjorie is mesmerized into going along with the priestess (or “Arab” in her male form(?)), she is disguised at a young man—her hair is cut off and she’s made to (gasp) wear pants. When word gets back to our trio of pursuing men that the Arab is now accompanied by a young man (and they’ve already found Marjorie’s dress and her cut off hair), it takes them way too long to even consider the disguise.

For scares, honestly, The Beetle does better than Dracula, but the latter is a much more well-crafted novel. I’m glad I read it though. A shape-shifting Egyptian priestess is a nice change-up.

  • Genre: horror
  • Publishing info: serialization as The Peril of Paul Lessingham: The Story of a Haunted Man in Answers, 1897
  • My copy: ebook via Project Gutenberg

Sunday Salon, 5/24

Sunday Salon

Reading

What I read last week:

“Oakland Dragon Blues” by Peter S. Beagle for Deal Me In, Week 20 (10♥️). One of Beagle’s early drafts of The Last Unicorn included a dragon. The dragon got scrapped, but that doesn’t mean the dragon doesn’t have a bone to pick with his author… (From the collection Slight of Hand)

I finished both Westmark by Lloyd Alexander and The Beetle by Richard Marsh just this Sunday morning. My reading mojo from the beginning of Bout of Books didn’t last very long. I should have posts on both in the near future.

What I’ll read this week:

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories

I’ll should be able to finish Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts by the end of the month. I’ve also started watching Michael Moir’s lectures on Weird Fiction. Last week, Moir covered how Edgar Allan Poe fits into the history of the weird. This week, we’ll look at “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Washington Irving.

Watching

Loving Vincent (2017, Directed by Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman) – My husband Eric isn’t a Vincent van Gogh fan, but he watched this movie first and was puzzled as to why I hadn’t yet seen it. In his (correct) opinion, it is a movie I would love: art, mystery, and a uniquely created film. The film is animated using oil paintings, which is pretty incredible. (Currently available on Hulu, hoopla, and Kanopy)

I also watched the Great Performances episode of Much Ado About Nothing from November. It’s a really fun adaptation starring Danielle Brooks and Grantham Coleman and directed by Kenny Leon. (Available via PBS.)

Writing

Did a bit of rewriting on Deal with the Devil. My playlist of choice while working seems to be old ultimate frisbee games. Thus far I’ve watched

  • USAU 2019 Men’s College Championship, Brown University vs University of North Carolina
  • AUDL 2016 Semi Final, Seattle Cascades vs Madison Radicals

I bookmarked some mixed and women’s games for the coming week.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz

Down the TBR Hole 30

TBRHole

This is a meme started by Lia at Lost in a Story. The “rules” are:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m modifying this a little since my to-read shelf is a mess of books that are mostly in storage. Instead, I’m going to look at my wishlist—all those books I add on a whim during my travels around the book blogging community—and weed out the ones that don’t quite sound as good now. The “keepers” I’m going to look for at online libraries or add to my Amazon wishlist.

Can & Can'tankerous cover Can & Can’tankerous by Harlan Ellison

I own a lot of Harlan Ellison. This collection boasts “ten previously uncollected tales.” I’m fairly sure I haven’t read some of them… So, KEEP!

Sun Never Sets cover The Sun Never Sets by Cate Caldwell & Matt Pearson

I have so much genre literature actually written in 1899 on my TBR list, but this steampunk man-to-the-moon story still sounds rather charming. KEEP.

 Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite cover Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan

I’m not sure there is really much science in monsters, but it’s a concept that intrigues the ten year-old in me. Plus, Medusa doesn’t get enough monster love. KEEP.

Champions of Illusion cover Champions of Illusion: The Science Behind Mind-Boggling Images and Mystifying Brain Puzzles
by Susana Martinez-Conde & Stephen L. Macknik

Don’t I own this book? Or have I read it? I think maybe I have. GO from my Wishlist.

Bunk cover Bunk: The True Story of Hoaxes, Hucksters, Humbug, Plagiarists, Forgeries, and Phonies by Kevin Young

I really want to read this. Why haven’t I? Maybe during the 20 Books of Summer. 😬  KEEP.

Anyone have any experience with any of these? Any arguments for KEEP or GO?

Sunday Salon, 5/17

Sunday Salon

Reading

Been doing Bout of Books this week. I haven’t read as much as I hoped I might, but it’s still been a good week. I started The Beetle by Richard Marsh, which is my Classics Club Spin book. It’s…not at all what I expected. I’ll probably finish it up today/tomorrow.

The Beetle

This past week, I read some academic articles about Weird literature and Lovecraft. The most interesting was “M.R. James and the Quantum Vampire: Weird; Hauntological: Versus and/or and and/or or?” by China Miéville, which looked at how “weird” M. R. James is despite James being labeled the quintessential purveyor of early 20th century ghost stories. Reminded of James’s “The Ash Tree,” Miéville makes a good point. Michael Moir at Georgia Southwestern State University has a series of lectures on weird lit available through YouTube of which I think I’ll watch in the near future.

Watching

So, I watched Parasite (2019, dir. Bong Joon-ho). I gotta say, as someone who grew up lower middle class, I’m not quite sure how to take this movie. I can see that a message of this movie might be that people oppressed by a class system can end up taking extreme actions, that their bad behavior might be excused, but the social optimist in me kind of calls bullshit on that. Maybe it’s that I don’t quite buy the family’s desperation. Maybe it’s that, while I like a good con, I cringe at some of the very inadvisable actions that they take. Maybe it’s that I really don’t like people being generally awful to each other. Is it a well-made movie? Yes, absolutely. I wanted to like it. But I really didn’t.

Winner of the week for me: 78/52 (2017, dir. Alexandre O. Philippe)

This is a documentary on the shower scene in Pyscho (1960, dir. Alfred Hitchcock). The title refers the 78 shots and 52 cuts that comprise the 45 second scene. I’m not sure if that’s above average for movie scenes nowadays, but it was quite something in 1960.

Writing

I’ve been thinking about my 1920s magician mystery tentatively titled Deal with the Devil. I’ve taken something of a hiatus from writing this year, but maybe that’s over.

Other Stuff

Tempe is opening up. While I’m missing ultimate frisbee and the library terribly, I’m worried that we’re heading into this much too quickly and without enough preparation.


The Sunday Salon is a linkup hosted by Deb @ Readerbuzz