Archive for December, 2010

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Christmas Stories: Life and Sylvia

December 14, 2010

Life and Sylvia, by Josephine Balestier, wins the award for Most Condescending Christmas Story Ever. It looks like a children’s book, and it sounds like a children’s book, but I haven’t been able to figure out what the appeal is meant to be for kids. All the jokes are aimed at adults. All of them. And they’re all of the “isn’t it cute that kids don’t know anything” variety. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jimsy: the Christmas kid

December 14, 2010

For some reason, Project Gutenberg neglected to include the frontispiece in their etext.

I kind of loved Jimsy: the Christmas kid, mostly for the way Leona Dalrymple always manages to stop short of sentimentality. It’s classic Christmas story stuff — an elderly couple volunteers to house a poor boy from the city over Christmas, and he ends up changing their lives — but there’s no classic Christmas story wallowing, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Janet, or, The Christmas Stockings

December 13, 2010

I am so angry at Louise Elise Gibbons that, when I finished Janet, or, The Christmas Stockings, I took a few moments to fantasize about finding out where she was buried, digging her up, punching her corpse in the face, and then somehow making her watch a dog drown. And I know that sounds horrible, but honestly, it’s a lot less morbid than the content of this story. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas: a story

December 13, 2010

Today I read seven Christmas stories — except that I’d already read half of one of them, and one of them turned out not to have anything to do with Christmas.

The one I was already halfway through was the creatively titled Christmas: a story, by Zona Gale, inventor of Jarvo and Akko of the prehensile feet. Christmas is, surprisingly, much better than Romance Island, but then, it’s completely different. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: The Birds’ Christmas Carol

December 9, 2010

It’s Christmas story time again! I started, as has become my tradition, with The Romance of a Christmas Card, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It continues to be wonderful.

I thought I’d continue on with Wiggin for a bit, so the next thing I read was an earlier Christmas story of hers, The Birds’ Christmas Carol, which is a delightful combination of making fun of poor people and glorifying childhood illness. And by “delightful”, I mean “unpleasant and a little bit disturbing.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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Link: Varney the Vampire recap

December 9, 2010

The always entertaining Cleolinda has just begun a serialized recap of the 1840s serialized vampire novel Varney the Vampire, and it is hilarious. For example:

And now we proceed to one of the key features of Rymer/Prest’s writing, which is: real time dialogue, for idiots, by idiots. Did you hear a scream? I don’t know, did you? I’m pretty sure I did or I wouldn’t be asking? Yes, I think I heard a scream! Do you know where you heard the scream? It was so sudden that I cannot say! You guys, I think it came from FLORA’S ROOM! FLORA’S ROOM? YOU MEAN THE ROOM OF OUR SISTER? WHY YES I DO THINK SO! GET UP! I AM UP! DID YOU HEAR IT TOO? I SAY OLD CHAP I DO BELIEVE I DID! I am not even kidding. It’s still going, in fact. DO YOU HEAR THE SCREAMS? THE SCREAMS, THEY SCREAM AGAIN! WHY YES I DO! CAN YOU DOUBT THEY ARE FLORA’S NOW? WHY I DO NOT BELIEVE I CAN! WE MUST SEARCH THE HOUSE! WHY, DO YOU NOT KNOW WHERE YOUR SISTER’S ROOM IS? WELL I’M JUST SAYING THAT MAYBE WE NEED TO BE THOROUGH ABOUT THIS! BUT I THOUGHT WE AGREED IT’S FLORA (WHO IS YOUR SISTER) WHO IS SCREAMING? So finally we get to Flora’s room, but it is locked!! I will spare you the next umpteen pages of three grown men trying to conquer this one door, except to say that Marchdale runs off and gets his crowbar (what, you don’t keep a crowbar in your room?), and we start to make progress. Kind of.

Anyway: mediocre Victorian novel, snarky recap, etc. I though it was kind of relevant.

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I and My True Love

December 7, 2010

“It is a pity that so excellent a novel should be handicapped by so inane a title as I and My True Love.”

So says a reviewer in The Arena, and I have to agree, although one of Hersilia A. Mitchell Keays’s other books is called He That Eateth Bread With Me, and that’s…well, far worse. I’m not entirely sure I’d call I and My True Love excellent, but it is really interesting. It’s the story of a divorced couple and their daughter, and although it’s nominally a romance, I felt that it was mostly about the complexity of human interactions, how hard it is to know what’s going on inside other people’s heads, and even your own. And, for a book from 1908, it’s sort of refreshingly frank about a lot of things. Read the rest of this entry ?