The worst thing about terrible mystery novels — the kind where the hero judges everyone on the most shallow grounds imaginable, and every tenuous connection is treated as a solid deduction — is that you can make fun of the hero all you want for assuming the Egyptian guy he’s found in the phone book (apparently this is a phone book that sorts by nationality?) is the same mysterious Egyptian guy who might have upset the girl he’s fallen in love at first sight with, but in the end you know the hero is going to be proven right. Read the rest of this entry ?
Posts Tagged ‘stupid’
Cinderella Jane, by Marjorie Benton Cooke, has a lot of things in it that I love. The quiet girl who cleans all the artists’ studios turns out to be awesome! And beautiful! The hero is kind of a dork! The heroine and this girl who was in love with the hero become best friends! He/she fell in love with his/her wife/husband! A wife in a mental institution! Read the rest of this entry ?
So, The Eyes of the World is pretty bad. There are some mildly entertaining bits, and a lot of really average bits, but mostly there are really terrible bits.
The relationship between the hero, Aaron King, and his mentor Conrad Lagrange was one of the things I sort of liked. Aaron is pretty much a nonentity, but Lagrange is interesting. He’s a famous novelist who hates his work and the people who read it. He hates himself, too. I don’t know why he persists in writing what he believes to be trash when he refuses to be friends with anyone who’s willing to read it–the fortune and fame rationale he puts forward doesn’t really cut it. He’s already famous and wealthy. Why is he continuing to write books he believes to be actively harmful? Anyway, he spends the entire book being bitterly self-deprecating and alternating between deriding Aaron’s attempts to be better and encouraging him to hold on to his ideals. Also, he’s got a cute dog. Read the rest of this entry ?
Sylvia is nineteen, the daughter of a woman from California and an Italian Count (both dead), and the most beautiful woman in Europe. But while her aunt wants her to marry a Duke — unless maybe a prince is available — Sylvia says that, if she ever marries at all, she’ll choose an American man. Philip Monroe would be happy to be that man. Eric Fielding has to deny to himself that he’d be happy to be that man, since he’s engaged to a girl in New York. Dick Ames knows there’s no likelihood of his being that man, so he becomes her good friend instead.
Really, though, Sylvia’s not interested in marrying anybody. But her aunt is really pushing the Duke, so Sylvia runs away to her other aunt in California and changes her name to Barbara Gordon. She — obviously — will henceforth be known as Batgirl, to avoid confusion. Read the rest of this entry ?
If you’re triggered by discussions of rape, please don’t read this book, and consider giving this post a pass as well.
Every single time in the past five years that I’ve read a book where the relationship between the hero and the heroine was kind of abusive, or a man failed to treat a woman as a person with a life of her own, or rapist-like behavior was meant to be cute, or a woman was punished for being attractive or for acting like a man, I’ve though, “Well, at least it’s not The Sheik.”
The Sheik is all of those things and more. Basically, if you can think of a gross thing early 20th century authors do to women, it’s here — except, to be fair, that thing where any woman whose virtue has been impugned in any way must die. It’s pretty awful. Read the rest of this entry ?
When Knighthood Was in Flower, by Charles Major, was the #9 bestselling book of 1900. On one hand that was a relief, because it would have been horrifying to find that it sold better than To Have and To Hold or Janice Meredith, both of which were, you know, good. On the other hand, it’s worrying to think that this book was a bestseller at all, since it’s kind of terrible. Actually, I can’t think of anything I liked about it. Or, I don’t know, the title is okay, I guess. If by “knighthood” you mean “being fickle and selfish.” And there’s one sort of entertaining bit in which Charles Brandon imagines going to New Spain and pining for Mary Tudor: “I shall find the bearing of Paris, and look in her direction until my brain melts in my effort to see her, and then I shall wander in the woods, a suffering imbecile, feeding on roots and nuts.” I don’t know what kind of success he’d have with the roots and nuts, but believe me, he’s got the suffering imbecile part down. Read the rest of this entry ?
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.
So, obviously everyone’s had the experience of being in dark room and not being able to see anything. And then after a few minutes your eyes adjust to the lack of light and you can see a little bit again, even if it’s just vague, dark shapes. But if you can see anything at all, that means that there is light coming from somewhere, even if it’s only a tiny little bit. Eyes do not function in the total absence of light.
There are a lot of things that drove me crazy about Rex Stout’s Under the Andes, but that was the worst. I mean, Rex Stout is supposed to be a genius. I can accept the nutty plot twists, because nutty plot twists are funny, but the way everyone kept being able to see in total darkness was even more infuriating than the bit where the narrator is like, “Oh! Inca knotted thread writing! I saw that in a museum once, so I can totally read it.” Read the rest of this entry ?
Brace yourselves: this is a long one.
Here is a blurb I found at the end of PG’s text of From the Car Behind:
Why should a young well-bred girl be under a vow of obedience to a man after she had broken her engagement to him? This is the mysterious situation that is presented in this big breezy out-of-doors romance. When Craig Schuyler, after several years’ absence, returns home, and without any apparent reason fastens on Nell Sutphen an iron bracelet. A sequence of thrilling events is started which grip the imagination powerfully, and seems to “get under the skin.” There is a vein of humor throughout, which relieves the story of grimness. Read the rest of this entry ?
Fergus Hume’s Mystery of a Hansom Cab was hugely popular in, like, 1887, but I’m not quite sure why. I mean, I didn’t figure out who the murderer was, sure, but I felt like Hume’s attempts at misdirection were more important to him than the integrity of the plot. Trying to figure out the solution isn’t a huge part of reading mystery novels, for me, but I like to at least have the option, and I think lying to the reader is the ultimate sin a mystery writer can commit.
Also, the crime wasn’t that exciting. Read the rest of this entry ?
I’ve been very busy lately, but I always make time to read. What I can’t always make time for is the writing part. So, in an effort to catch up, here are my brief thoughts on Graustark:
Graustark is about a rich American named Grenfall Lorry — and his name is pretty much the coolest thing about him — who falls in love with a mysterious foreign girl traveling through America with her aunt and uncle. He follows her home to Europe, only to find that she is actually Princess Yetive, ruler of the tiny principality of Graustark. Read the rest of this entry ?
I’ve spent too long reading poetry, and now I’m taking a break to talk about bad prose. I mean, I like Tennyson, but In Memoriam is kind of long. And Coralie, by Charlotte M. Braeme, is neither long nor complex.
Coralie is narrated by Edgar Trevelyan, a poor young man of good family who works as a clerk to support himself and his invalid sister Clare. They’re barely making ends meet, and Clare has one of those mysterious fictional illnesses: a spinal ailment that can only be cured by expensive food and freedom from worry.
Read the rest of this entry ?
A few days ago, I read a couple of truly terrible novellas by Charlotte M. Braeme, a writer of love stories for the English lower classes in the mid to late 19th century.
The first was called The Coquette’s Victim, and it starts with an aristocratic-looking young man being brought before a judge and charged with attempting to steal a watch. The judge is surprised, because it is well known in this kind of fiction that people with aristocratic faces never commit crimes. The guy also gives his name as John Smith. Why do these people bother? Can’t they come up with anything less obviously false?