Archive for December, 2011


Christmas Stories: The Christmas Angel

December 16, 2011

I might be too cynical for Abbie Farwell Brown’s  story about how you shouldn’t be cynical on Christmas, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Angelina Terry is an older woman who’s pretty much on board with the “Bah, humbug” view of Christmas. When the story starts, she’s busy ignoring her brother Tom’s request for a Christmas reconciliation (we never find out what they originally fought about) and making fun of the Christmas spirit. As if that weren’t enough, she decides to spend the evening burning toys, which probably rates just below kicking puppies on the Everybody Hates You Now scale. Then she decides that no, she’ll burn most of them, but she’ll keep aside her favorites to perform weird social experiments. She’ll put the toys out on the sidewalk one by one, and people will come along and show how selfish and un-Christmas spirit-y they are. Read the rest of this entry ?


Christmas Stories: Christmas Stories

December 14, 2011

It’s not as if I needed another reason to like Mary Jane Holmes, but I’m grateful to her for creating the need for this subject line, which may be my favorite ever.

I wish she had a better grasp of her subject matter, though.  I’m not talking about stories like “Adam Floyd,” a straightforward but tense religious romance, or “John Logan,” a fairly cute story of a young couple renovating their house that could do with some more hijinks. I don’t know that I’m even talking about “Red-Bird,” the story of a Floridian bird who, after being captured and caged for a year, returns home to find that her family and friends have moved on with their lives. There was a bit of Christmas in that one, but I don’t know if it’s meant to  be a Christmas story — and that’s kind of the problem with the ones that are meant to be Christmas stories. It seems a little bit as if Holmes, when she said “Christmas stories,” meant “stories with Christmas in them,” which isn’t the same thing at all. Read the rest of this entry ?


Shadow of the Rope

December 13, 2011

So, here’s a weird book. A hard one to talk about, too. The Shadow of the Rope, by E.W. Hornung, best known as the author of the Raffles stories.

Have you ever read Strong Poison, by Dorothy Sayers? This starts a lot like that, with a young woman on trial for murder. He’s her husband rather than her ex-boyfriend, but you’ve got the discussion of the evidence, the samples of popular opinion, and the faithfully attending onlooker whose main interest is in the accused. It’s similar enough — more in the way it’s described than in the details of the story — that I think Sayers must have read it, and been inspired by it.

The similarities end with the trial. Rachel Minchin is acquitted of the murder of her husband, but she finds, on her release from prison, that she has nowhere to go. The public believes her guilty, and a mob attacks her house. Not that she can stay there anyway — all her stuff’s been cleared out. She has no friends, and no one believes in her innocence. That’s when the mysterious Mr. James Buchanan Steel shows up, doing an excellent job at walking the fine line between kindly benefactor and creepy stalker. She vaguely remembers him from the trial, and she finds him kind of fascinating, so eventually she agrees to his proposal of marriage. Read the rest of this entry ?


Object: Matrimony

December 12, 2011

Object: Matrimony isn’t really long enough for a review, but I do want to point people towards it, because it’s adorable. So, instead of a review, here’s a very brief excerpt:

“After all, Margolius,” Feigenbaum commented as he lit an all-tobacco cigarette on their way down the front stoop of the Goldblatt residence—”after all, she ain’t such a bad-looking woman. I seen it lots worser, Margolius.”

“That’s nothing what we got it this evening,” Philip said as they started off for the subway; “you should taste the Kreploch what that girl makes it.”

“I’m going to,” Feigenbaum said; “they asked me I should come to dinner to-morrow night.”

But Philip knew from his own experience that the glamour engendered of Fannie’s gefüllte Fische would soon be dispelled, and then Henry Feigenbaum would hie him to the northern-tier counties of Pennsylvania, leaving Philip’s love affair in worse condition than before.

Philip is the protagonist, who’s got a bit of a Taming of the Shrew situation on his hands, and is trying to set his friend Feigenbaum up with Fannie Goldblatt so that he can marry her sister Birdie. Fannie’s temper isn’t a problem — she’s just really unattractive. But her cooking maybe makes up for it.

The draw here isn’t the story, but the turn of the century New York Jewish characters. It’s the speech patterns and the bits of Yiddish that had me passing my kindle down our row of airplane seats and making my mother and brother read the good bits.


Obviously I am not the most reliable blogger

December 12, 2011

Here are the things I have been reading instead of stuff I could be writing about here:

After I came back from my trip — actually, there are a couple of books I read while I was away that I have yet to post about–I reread Kate Ross’ Julian Kestrel books. If you like historical mysteries, anything set during the Regency era, upper class amateur detectives, or historical novels written in the ’90s (this is absolutely its own category), you will probably like these. If you aren’t particularly interested in any of those things, you might like them anyway. They’re really good. Read the rest of this entry ?