Deal Me In, Week 51 ~ “Afternoon in Linen”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Afternoon in Linen” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 7
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
I’m finishing up the year with a couple Shirley Jackson stories. This is the first of two remaining hearts in my Deal Me In deck.

(Psst — Signup for Deal Me In 2018 is open! All you need is a deck of cards and 52 short stories. This is a challenge so easy and wonderful that I’ve managed to complete it (knock on wood) four years in a row!)

This is another story, and Shirley Jackson does them so well, about the disconnect between adults and children. Mrs. Kator and her son Howard are visiting Mrs. Lennon and her granddaughter Harriet. The story begins with Howard playing piano, slowly and carefully. He’s a good student according to Mrs. Kator, though he doesn’t like to practice and she feels he isn’t getting much out of it. Mrs. Lennon counters that Harriet seems to be naturally inclined toward music and makes up her own tunes. Mrs. Lennon is eager to have Harriet play. Harriet, though, has decided she isn’t going to. Worse, the adults then request that she recite some of the poetry that she’s written, a concept that Howard seems to find funny. “He’ll tell all the kids on the block,” Harriet keeps thinking as she denies writing any poetry at all. And often, for a kid, getting in trouble with adults is better than being strange to your peers…

 

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Review ~ Wuthering Heights

Cover via Goodreads

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before; of the intense relationship between the gypsy foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw; and how Catherine, forced to choose between passionate, tortured Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton, surrendered to the expectations of her class. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Twenty years ago (yes, that much), I finished my college education, earning a bachelor’s degree in English. Yet, I had never read Emily Brontë’s only novel. More shameful still (if you have a degree in English), I had attempted to read Wuthering Heights not once, but twice(!), before I decided to jump on board Roofbeam Reader’s Classic Book of the Month Club.

What Worked
I started the year with Moby Dick and I am near ending it with Wuthering Heights, two of the oddest novels I’ve encountered. In the case of the former, I’m rather glad that I never had to read it for a class. It’s too big and there’s too much. I think the only way to do it justice would be to have a semester long class. In the case of the latter, I wouldn’t mind a little guided context for Wuthering Heights because I feel like I’m missing something.

My initial read is that this is a novel about miserable people being miserable to each other.

…however miserable you make us, we shall still have the revenge of thinking that your cruelty arises from your greater misery.

In that way, and this might be considered sacrilege, but it reminded me of Gone Girl. Just full of terrible, horrible people. Even Mr. Lockwood, our entrance-level character, is snarky, peevish, and jealous. The only character worth her salt is Ellen Dean—nanny, housemaid, sane person.

I *suppose*, prompted by the summary above, I could buy that all this tragedy is set into motion by a woman doing what is expected of her instead of what her heart dictates, but the wheels of dreadful behavior are already set in motion by the time Cathy decides to marry proper Linton instead of mercurial Heathcliff.

What Didn’t Work
Is it just me or is the use of quotation marks a little eccentric? Honestly, this is one of the reasons I’ve had trouble with Wuthering Heights. I’d put it down for a day and lose track of who was doing the narration, even though it was usually Mrs. Dean.  Also, the names just kill me. This genealogy chart helped a lot (linked to avoid spoilers).

What also doesn’t help are relatively good movie versions (adaptation doesn’t seem to be the right word) that leave out all the domestic abuse in favor of telling a romantic tale. With the number of beatings that occur, I’m not sure why this is considered a romantic work. Maybe that’s where my disconnect lies. I expected a great, if tragic, romance. Instead, I got one of the great novels of revenge. As a revenge story, I’m not sure Quentin Tarantino has done better.

Overall
I can’t say I disliked it, but it’s one of those cases where I feel like I’ve read a totally different book than everyone else.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle, AmazonClassics
Genre: classics, literary, gothic

The first time I encountered an allusion to Heathcliff:

Mini Reviews, Vol. 8

MiniReviews
Sometimes, I don’t have a lot to say other than, “Man, I liked this.” So, here are some things I’ve liked recently.

alt text The Janus Tree by Glen Hirshberg

Two stories from this anthology that are going to stick with me: “You Become the Neighborhood” and “Shomer.” “You Become the Neighborhood” has a rather ambiguous path and maybe a zigger ending, but, man, the ending is enough to make any arachnophobe uneasy. “Shomer” is a more direct tale and more indicative of Hirshberg’s ability evoke creepiness. In both cases, Hirshberg takes what is “normal,” points out the shadows and uncertainty, and then populates those places with… well…

Interestingly, this collection also includes “Like Lick Em Sticks, Like Tina Fey,” which would seem to be the short story jumping off point for the novel Motherless Child. This is a great place the get a taste for that in-progress trilogy.

alt text “Kindred Spirits” by Rainbow Rowell

A charming tale about…waiting in line. Okay, waiting in line for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s also about expectations and assumptions. Elena loves Star Wars and expects to be part of a celebration of that love. Instead, she faces that embarrassment that sometimes occurs when you love something deeply and slightly irrationally—even when among other fans of that thing. The notion of the “true fan” is handled lightly along with how we casually judge others without knowing anything about them.

alt text “Mystery of Asgina Lake” by Caren Rich

It might be the end of the summer vacation for many, but it’s just the beginning for Ella and Lena. This is a solid monster tale from Caren Rich with a great action climax that left me wondering, “What was that ting?!” I also loved that Ella and Lena were just casually tomboyish geek girls. Ella is gung-ho for adventure and Lena goes along, but with a good stock of comic books to keep boredom at bay. Originally included on the Fantastic Creatures Fellowship of Fantasy anthology.

The Janus Tree is 5.5/10 Books of Summer!

Deal Me In, Week 26 ~ “Charles”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Charles” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 6
From: The Lottery, and other stories

The Story
I don’t know whether I’ve read this story before or whether I’ve simply heard about this story before. “Charles” might be the most famous of Shirley Jackson’s domestic tales.

The day my son Laurie started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave goodbye to me.

Laurie returns from kindergarten with tales of Charles, a kid who enjoys one-upping himself in terms of misbehavior over the next three weeks. Laurie relates these tales with glee, and his parents are alternately appalled and amused by the shenanigans. “Being a Charles” even becomes part of the family’s lexicon. Indeed, Laurie has been influenced by this other boy, becoming a little more independent and insolent.

Laurie’s mother misses the first PTA meeting and it’s three weeks into the school year before she has the opportunity to potentially meet Charles’ mother. By the time that the meeting ends, no mother has stood up to apologize for her son’s behavior. Laurie’s mom approaches the teacher and chit-chats about Laurie and about Charles, who must be a handful. The teacher tells her that Laurie seems to have be having a hard time adjusting. And, by the way, there is no Charles in the class…

Jackson leaves us with this ambiguity: is Laurie doing all the things he reports, or are his stories fibs to make his new behaviors look tame? The teacher doesn’t come out and say “Your kid’s a nightmare.” And after Laurie’s mother has been somewhat judgmental about Charles’ absent mother, what might the other mother’s think about her, who missed the first PTA meeting?

Deal Me In, Week 22 ~ “Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Dorothy and My Grandmother and the Sailors” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: 9
From: The Lottery and Other Stories

The Story
It’s fleet week in San Francisco and our narrator and her friend Dot have been warned about sailors.

My mother told us about the kinds of girls who followed sailors, and my grandmother told us about the kind of sailors who followed girls.

Even when nowhere near the Bay, the girls feel the heavy weight of the possible vague danger that the sailors represent. Despite that, Dot, the narrator, the narrator’s mother and grandmother, and the narrator’s Uncle Ollie (former sailor himself who served as a radio operator in ’17) have a day out to go coat shopping and attend the launching of the fleet, which includes a tour of a battleship.

During the tour, our narrator becomes lost and is helped by an officer that she assumes is a captain. But to the horror of her grandmother, she learns that he is a marine!!! To recover from the trauma of being politely helped by a sailor, the women stop for dinner and a movie. Alas, the movie theater is over booked and the girls take two seats separate from Mother and Grandmother. Eventually, the seats next to Dot open up, but before the elders can take them, two sailors sit down!!! And, you know, proceed to watch the movie. Dot, especially, freaks out and the girls and their guardians cut the evening short.

Many years ago, I had a conversation with a male friend about the amount of vigilance that being female sometimes entails. He was very dismayed that women go around being scared in many situations that are (sometimes literally) a walk in the park for him. But sometimes, I do think that women let fear get the better of them. It’s a fine line between being safe and making every molehill into a mountain.

Review ~ Moby-Dick

Cover via Goodreads

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville

‘Call me Ishmael.’

So begins Herman Melville’s masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. As Ishmael is drawn into Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest to slay the white whale Moby-Dick, he finds himself engaged in a metaphysical struggle between good and evil. More than just a novel of adventure, more than an paean to whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting social commentary, populated by some of the most enduring characters in literature; the crew of the Pequod, from stern, Quaker First Mate Starbuck, to the tattooed Polynesian harpooner Queequeg, are a vision of the world in microcosm, the pinnacle of Melville’s lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is a profound, poetic inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?

I have a degree in literature, yet I had never read Moby-Dick. My reading in college was pointed toward pre-1800 and my reading for fun has been mostly post-1970 with a few exceptions. I have a wonderful huge gap to fill!

What Worked/What Didn’t Work

I decided this year to make an effort to point out what works/what doesn’t work in what I’m reading and, at the second review of the year, I’m stymied.

I didn’t know quite what to expect from Moby-Dick. Obviously, I knew this was a story about ill-fated obsession. I knew many of the names. I knew there were going to be long passages about whales and whaling, circa 1850. What I didn’t expect was just how odd of a tapestry this book is. There are adventure bits. There are poetical, metaphysical digressions. There is bawdy humor and Shakespearean soliloquies. And yes, a lot about whales and whaling.

The summary above kind of makes me roll my eyes because it plays up the “literature” aspects of the book. As a mostly genre reader (despite my degree), I think it’s those other things—all the boring reality, all the dirty adventure—that make Moby-Dick work. This novel is sort of a weird ride. Much like Shakespeare’s plays, especially if you’re reading/watching them for the first time, if you let the text carry you along, you get a sense of the thing. Will I read Mody-Dick again? Maybe. If I do, I’m pretty sure the next time would be a totally different experience.

Observation: The only writer I know of that “tastes” a bit like Moby-Dick (I won’t say Melville since I don’t know him well as an author) is Ray Bradbury.

Observation: Having read War of the Worlds and Moby-Dick nearly back to back, I get this sense that science was folded into literature more often in the past. Maybe this is a reflection of the times, maybe of the authors, maybe of the genres; I don’t know, but it’s something I enjoy.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle/Pigeonhole, public domain, originally published 1851
Acquired: May 20, 2014
Genre:  According to Wikipedia: Novel, adventure fiction, epic, sea story, encyclopedic novel. I guess I agree.

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More #COYER Reviews
Generator Points Earned: 1
Generator Points Total: 5

Deal Me In, Week 37 ~ “The Daemon Lover”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“The Daemon Lover” by Shirley Jackson

Card picked: Five of Spades
From: The Lottery and Other Stories

Thoughts:

“Dearest Anne, by the time you get this I will be married. Doesn’t it sound funny? I can hardly believe it myself, but when I tell you how it happened, you’ll see it’s even stranger than that…”

Unfortunately, we never hear about how it happened. Our protagonist, another female character that I don’t recall Shirley Jackson naming, begins this letter to her sister as she’s waiting for her fiancé, Jamie, to come for her so they can elope. She is nervous and wants everything to be perfect. Is her comfortable blue dress too severe? The alternative is an old ruffled print that seems too young for her. She is thirty-four years old, after all. No spring chicken, but she’s sure Jamie sees all her good qualities. Unfortunately, Jamie Harris never shows up. When he’s sufficiently late, our protagonist goes to where he says he lives (she’d never been to his place). She finds that he was a sublet tenant (maybe) who moved out the day (hours?) before. But she’s certain he’d been there that morning and tried to track his progress to to her apartment. He stopped to get his shoes shined. He stopped to buy chrysanthemums for her (an odd choice for his bride). But then, he went to another house, to a room in the attic, and will not answer the door…

This story can be read two ways and neither of them is comfortable. Since we, the readers, have never meet Jamie (he just left before we meet our protagonist), and no one our protagonist talks to ever quite knows who she’s talking about, it’s possible that this old maid (but with skills and talents and a nice apartment!) has made him up. Or maybe…everyone is humoring our protagonist. Or making fun of her. A thirty-four year-old woman in a ruffled print dress that is too young for her chasing down a some man in a blue suit? Well…haven’t you ever wondered if the people around you are just humoring you, or maybe even making fun of you, but you can’t tell for sure because maybe they really are telling the truth? And I wonder, is this a particularly female feeling? Or only the feeling of someone who has never really been “cool” or popular? (Am I tipping my cards too much to say that maybe this story isn’t comfortable to me because I still feel this way sometimes?)

After googling “The Daemon Lover” (sometimes called “James Harris”), I find that this is also the name of Scottish ballad about the Devil who lures away the wife of a carpenter after being away for seven years. Maybe our protagonist will meet Jamie again in her forties. Or maybe it’s all just been a devil’s trick.

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