Posts Tagged ‘epistolary’

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The Miz Maze : or, the Winkworth puzzle ; a story in letters

November 24, 2013

So, I think The Miz Maze might be the best collaborative novel I’ve read. It was published in 1883, but seems to take place circa 1859, and the authors are as follows:

Frances Awdry
Mary Bramston
Christabel Rose Coleridge
Mary Susanna Lee
A.E. Mary Anderson Morshead
Frances Mary Peard
Eleanor C. Price
Florence Wilford
Charlotte Mary Yonge

Nine authors is a lot, and I want to know more about them and about the dynamic between them. But all I’ve got is the obvious textual evidence that they weren’t as acrimonious as The Whole Family‘s lot. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing but a page of signatures, a few Wikipedia pages, and a random selection of facts about Charlotte Yonge. And that’s okay. It’s a pretty self-sufficient book, I think, and the authors seem to agree.

The information they do and don’t choose to give is so interesting. First, the authors’ names appear only as facsimile signatures, and they don’t specify who wrote what. Second, they provide a list of characters, and it’s crazy. See, for example, “Sir Walter Winkworth, Baronet of the Miz Maze, Stokeworthy, Wilts, age about 64, residing, when the book opens, at High Scale, a small property in Westmoreland, which was his in right of his second wife, Sophia Ratclyffe, recently deceased.”

I mean, all else aside, that’s a hell of a lot of commas. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Affair at the Inn

September 10, 2013

The Affair at the Inn is unusual in two ways: first, it’s a collaborative novel that isn’t a trainwreck. The four main characters are written by four different writers, and I didn’t finish the book with a sense that the writers hated each other, or that the plot at the end was hastily patched together from the ruins of what it was originally meant to be. Second, it’s sort of Williamsonian (alternating points of view, traveling American heiress, Scottish baronet with an automobile) but without anyone traveling incognito. Nothing else about it was unusual, but almost everything about it was very nice. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Letters of the Motor Girl

April 18, 2012

So, uh, Letters of the Motor Girl, by Ethellyn Gardner. Short version: it’s terrible. Kind of like Bab: a sub-deb, but far, far worse.

I don’t even know what else to say about it.

So, there’s this girl, Elsie. The letters of the title are her diary, and she’s super obnoxious and she’s got a car. Everything’s kind of coy in that way where the author uses a first-person narrator’s apparent innocence to reveal all their terrible character traits and it’s supposed to be cute. Think The Letters of her Mother to Elizabeth.

Elsie’s father, besides living off the income he married Elsie’s mother for, is a sort of inventor, and the book takes a weird turn into the vaguely sci-fi when he invents an airship and they fly to Europe in it. But it’s all pretty sketchy by that point, because Elsie’s father has picked up a newsboy from New York to adopt or educate or something, and from that point on, most of Elsie’s diary is retellings of his stories, complete with slang and phonetic spelling of his terrible accent.

Seriously, it’s so, so bad.

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Reviews at EP: The Visits of Elizabeth, etc.

January 17, 2011

My new post at Edwardian Promenade is up! It’s about one of my favorite Elinor Glyn books, The Visits of Elizabeth, and two sequels, one by Glyn and one…not.

I found myself thinking, halfway through Elizabeth Visits America, about the way books take place in their own separate worlds. I mean, I often think about how an author’s style sort of creates an alternate universe, so the works of Elinor Glyn take place in a world where women are naturally a bit conniving and men are very simple and countries age like people, but here I was thinking more about how I read a lot of books set in the same time period, but somehow I always relate them in terms of style, not history. Anyway, there’s a bit in Elizabeth Visits America where Elizabeth is in New York, and she talks about young people who aren’t out in society yet, and how the boys and girls are as familiar with each other as siblings, and how their dances are almost like children’s parties, and I suddenly realized that — remember, this is 1909 — hey, that’s Patty Fairfield that Elizabeth is meeting, basically. So, I don’t know, I thought I’d share that.

Anyway, the post is here.

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The Lady of the Decoration

October 28, 2010

I liked Frances Little’s The Lady of the Decoration, but I don’t have much to say about it. It’s just one of those books about a young woman who goes on a trip and writes letters to someone at home. Nice. Not special. The woman in this particular example is a widow in her twenties whose husband was probably abusive, although she never actually says that, or anything specific about her marriage at all. The trip is to Japan, where. at the behest of her cousin, she has volunteered to be a kindergarten teacher at a missionary school.

The one thing that stood out for me was the entire absence of what I think of as travelogue-ness. No long descriptions of scenery, no detail about Japanese customs or language, no history. I often wish for less of that stuff in other books, but here I wished there would have been a little more. In Frances Little’s favor, though, it makes for some very digestible light reading.

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Christmas Stories: Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Chistmas

December 18, 2009

Rupert Hughes, author and (I assume) illustrator of Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Christmas, has restored my faith in Christmas stories. It is heartwarming! It has lovely illustrations! It has the Unity of Christmastimes!

It also has a kind of  self-consciously uneducated narration that I didn’t exactly love, but I forgive it.

Most Christmas stories are set in, or centered around, particular homes — preferably old and/or cosy ones — but Colonel Crockett is about the people who can’t be home for Christmas: actors on the road, businessmen in the middle of big deals, families living out of hotels. People like the couple in A Versailles Christmas-tide, or the young men in The Romance of a Christmas Card in the years before they return home. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Jessica Letters

November 13, 2009

The Jessica Letters sounded as if it ought to be a good book: a young woman from Georgia starts writing book reviews for a paper in New York. After traveling to the city and meeting the paper’s editor, they begin to correspond, and eventually fall in love. Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with it. In practice, it’s pretty awful.

Philip, the editor, is smug and condescending and talks a lot about how man has a dual nature and woman a single one. Jessica is arch and stereotypically feminine, and the authors have tried to make her at once intellectual and an angel in the house type, and it doesn’t really work. And then there’s a whole melodramatic thing with Jessica’s father not allowing her to correspond with Philip, which mostly serves to show us that he’s even more self-involved that he originally appeared.

And you know the bit at the end of Jane Eyre where Jane and Rochester apparently communicate telepathically? There’s a thing like that in The Jessica Letters, too, only more so.

I think I might have found it all very interesting on some level if I hadn’t been so busy cringing.

At least it was short.

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