Blog Archives

book meme

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Annie from Going Underground has tagged me with the book virus currently doing the interweb rounds. So…

1. Number of books I own
1000+. There’s about 500 Doctor Who books alone, but even if you discount them I’d still say over a thousand. If people can actually answer this with a figure then I suspect they need to read more. Or are very good users of the local library.

2. Last book I bought
bookshop: The Palace Tiger by Barbara Clevery and The Silver Pigs…it says over in the left ‘to be read’ column.
charity shop: Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L Sayers and Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Copeland.

3. Last book I completed
Busman’s Honeymoon. I was in the nmood for some light crime. This book did have the unintentional side-effect of reminding me to book my chimney sweep before the month is out. Before that, it was The Palace Tiger – more light crime. I like the idea of a ‘golden era’ pastiche series set in Raj India and it was enjoyable so I may try another to see if the series is worth reading. And I’m about three chapters from the end of The Secrets of the Jin-Shei which is a curious one.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me
Eep. Can I nominate myself? Very well, in no particular order:

  • The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
    Light and subtle, yet heart-capturingly sensual. From the light playing on the icy canals to the brush of vermillion on her apron and the heat rising from the markets, this novel slips into the brain and stays there, hauntingly.
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick
    Really, I should say “almost anything by PKD” but if there is one which captures my favourite elements of his work, it’s this one. A writer in a present-day (i.e. 60s) America – where Japan occupies the West Coast and the Nazis occupy the East Coast – begins to wonder if the reality he lives in is real. Maybe there’s another universe out there? One in which the Allies won the war? It combines the normal reality-shift narrative with the alt-history genre and was written when PKD was going through a more self-disciplined phase.
  • Warring States by Mags L Halliday
    I feel rather daft putting this here, but it is a book which means a lot to me. It’s the first thing I’ve written where I struggled to let go at the end and where the narrative and characters are personal to me. There were also massive personal crisises during the years I was working on it but I just couldn’t let it go. So it does mean a lot. It just looks terribly self-reflective of me to choose it.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
    Back when I moved school, aged 13, I had a conversation with my new English teacher. He – and it was an old-fashioned type in a tweed jacket – was dismayed to learn my free time reading was filled with Raymond Chandler and SF. He gave me a copy of Persuasion and told me to read it. I got as far as the end of page 1. It was alien to me: not just the world it contained or the language but the narrative. Many years later, after studying Pride & Prejudice at college – and this was in the pre-Firth P&P era – I found I quite liked Austen after all. Many years after that, I finally dared approach Persuasion again, though old memories of that opening page made me wary. I loved it. I think books that mean something may not be the best literature, or the best work by an author, but the ones that come with personal history wreathed around them. Persuasion is about being given a second chance to love, so it seems appropriate that I gave it a second chance.
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
    Gods, I’m just picking romances…This is a book in which it is the actual copy I own which means a lot, rather than the story itself. My copy was published in 1947 on the flimsiest of post-war paper and bound with purple cloth-covered card. Over the decades, the cloth has faded with the sun and the spine is worn thin. This is my mother’s copy and has travelled halfway around the world and back. When I left home, she gave it to me.
    Plus it has Cornish wreckers, a villainous vicar and a gypsy hero. What more escapist nonsense could you want?

5. Who shall I tag next?
Ladylark because she is smart, Kalima because she knows sexy prose, Badly Dubbed Boy because I’m curious, Paul From the Orient because he is clever (and because he has a book blog like mine…).

Girl With a Pearl Earring

Friday, 20 May 2005

Girl With a Pearl Earring
Tracy Chevalier

Wow. Short, clear and ravishing. The descriptive style is very beautiful and the scene with the earrings made me catch my breath. This is one of those novels which make me sit afterwards, the finished novel in my hands, and wonder both why I write and if I could ever write anything as evocative and subtle as this. I love works which make me reassess what I want to achieve, make me think about how to write cleanly yet sumptuously. And this makes Vemeer paintings glow in prose – a doubly impressive feat given that a) it is very hard to describe paintings in prose and b) I’m not a fan of Dutch painting in general.

Reader, I married him.

Monday, 25 April 2005

Law has worked out her bulletproof kink. And mine is horribly similar. I want UST, the angstier the better. I don’t care if it is het or slash, just give me the long smouldering looks and the “FFS! Just kiss!” reaction and that pairing is my newest pash.

Spike/Buffy? Yep.
Mulder/Scully? Yep.
Hawkeye/Hotlips? Yep.
Han/Leia. Yep. The scoundrel.
Mal/Inara? Yep. Although curiously without any desire to read fanfic of it.
David/Maddie? Yep. although likewise without the fanfic urge.
Bodie/Doyle? OK, I know I’m on my own there but yep.

But why? There has to be a reason these tortured romances appeal. I blame the classics: early exposure to Eliz./Darcy and Jane/Rochester have left their mark as strongly as Cinderella leaves hers (I was never a Cinderella fan). The other thing about that list is that it contains mostly Gamma males.

This article outlines the types of male romantic leads:

  • Alpha. Domineering and arrogant, a loner, broad chested with a muscular physique
  • Beta. Sweetly seductive, kind, gentle, have a good sense of humor, tend to be of average to slender build.
  • Gamma. Falls in between these two poles: he, like the Beta, tends to be more of average build although more likely to be an athletic type. He has a sense of humor, although usually it’s a sarcastic one. Similar to the Alpha he’s likely to be a fighter of some sort. He is more dominant than the Beta – but only in a seductive sense. Otherwise, like the Beta, he appreciates female strength and tends to be a loyal partner to a woman, and respects all strong women.

Darcy and Rochester are proto-Gammas. Reread P&P or Jane Eyre once you’re in your thirties and you recognise that Darcy’s pride is at least in part due to crippling social shyness (wonderfully brought out in the Firth Darcy – the real one, not the Bridget Jones’s Firth Darcy) and it was Rochester’s trusting nature that saddled him with Bertha. Rochester, especially, only gains Jane once he has been crippled and blinded: once he is reduced from an Alpha to a Gamma, he is worthy of her. I just read North and South (must get the DVD just to stare at Richard Armitage as he broods manfully) which owes more than a little to Pride and Prejudice. I wasn’t overwhemled by it as a work of literature. It has dubious use of dialectical speech and the heroine is frankly annoying in her pure goodness, although some of the playing between the rural and the urban in both Manchester Milton and London is rather nicely done. What dragged me though at high speed, though, was the UST. When will t’mill owner and the posh southern maid realise they are right for each other? It’s the same romantic narrative which, at its crudest, is a Mills & Boon novel. Yet the lit. versions – and the tv versions – are somehow acceptable to enjoy whilst M&B is, obviously, rubbish pandering to false notions of relationships and selling a damaging lie.

Can anyone recommend some well-written small-r literary romance which doesn’t follow the “girl meets boy, boy likes girl, girl rejects boy, girl realises she does like boy but thinks boy no longer interested, boy risks it again and is accepted” template? Preferably something sexy, with that wow pull which makes you stay up reading until 3am? Or is it impossible to break free of the pashes of gamma-male angsty romances?

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