On Unnecessary Communications

On Unnecessary Communications

In order to write a good letter, it is necessary to have a good subject, that you may not rival the Frenchman who wrote to his wife— “I write to you because I have nothing to do: I stop because I have nothing to say.” Letters written without aim or object, simply for the sake of writing, are apt to be stupid, trivial, or foolish.

 

—from Cecil B. Hartley’s The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness (1860)

 

Thirty Days from Now…

Thirty Days from Now…

Thirty days from now, I’m getting married. I’m excited and scared and hopeful, all at the same time. It’s going to be a quiet civil ceremony—just my immediate family and the judge will be there. Adam sees this moment more as a legality, the prelude to the joint clan celebration we have planned for Mexico next year.

As a woman whose life has been plagued with legalities and little pieces of paper, though, it’s been nerve-racking. A little piece of paper earmarked me as an American, even if I’ve lived most of my life outside the country. During my childhood, some family members sued each other—just a little matter of fraud and disinheritance, due to forged little pieces of paper. Now little pieces of papers tell me I can’t be in the same country as my husband-to-be, unless we get more little pieces of paper to supersede everything else.

Little pieces of paper are the very devil.

Despite all my anxiety, I’m still giddy. So many things are going to change. I’ve spent too many hours contemplating my new name and my new byline (Rachel Anne Epp? Rachel Calabia-Epp? Rachel Anne M.C. Epp? Rachel McEpp?) and looking for shoes that fit (winter fashions aren’t kind to brides looking for white close-toe heels.) I can’t concentrate on anything for long before my mind reverts to bridal details, and the word count for my novel has dwindled to nothingness.

It’s almost impossible to craft a happy ending for my long-suffering characters when I’m trying to get to my happy beginning.

Did I just type that? Oh God, shoot me now. I hate it when I wallow in clichés.

 

2. There are so many other things I wanted to talk about but I always feel as if I’m running out of time. It’s been months since I wrote any new entries for this blog, and I feel as my pop culture backlog has become a monster. I’ve wanted to discuss so many things:

  • the first two seasons of Hiromu Arakawa’s awesome Silver Spoon
  • the current episodes of One Punch Man
  • recurring character tropes in Rumiko Takahashi (sorry, I just started watching Inuyasha with my nephew)
  • the second season of Knights of Sidonia (good grief why is this show so messed up?)
  • RIPPER STREET <3 (all caps are necessary because this show is great)
  • ZOMG David Tennant’s evil stalker with a crush in Jessica Jones

Also, my list of unanswered romance writer novel questions keeps growing:

  • Does Julia Quinn have better book sales when her books have one deflowering scene vis-a-vis those with multiple sex scenes? (no seriously, this is an important question)
  • When is Courtney Milan going to write another historical?
  • Will Marion Chesney’s backlist on Kindle ever go on sale?
  • In historical romance quartets, why does one book always feature a rape survivor? Like, seriously. It’s annoyingly predictable. It’s usually the third book in the series. Why does the traumatized ice queen heroine always have to be a secret rape survivor? There are other physical and emotional traumas to write.

I think it’s unfair that the heroes get an infinite variety of traumas to overcome. Usually it’s PTSD and gentlemanly limps but I’ve also encountered:

  • blindness (Theresa Medeiros’s Yours Until Dawn)
  • sensory issues (an old Amanda Quick novel whose title I can’t recall) 
  • mental illness (Loretta Chase’s The Mad Earl’s Bride
  • illiteracy (one of the recurring male characters in Anne Gracie’s Devil Riders Quartet) 
  • dyslexia (Miranda Neville’s Confessions of an Arranged Marriage, Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham

I have yet to read any historical romance in which the heroine suffers and overcomes these things!

(Incidentally, I listed some examples beside each affliction. Highlighting the titles might spoil the plot of the novels, though.)

Perhaps it’s time for someone to write a Regency romance in which the wallflower debutante had a childhood accident with a hand axe and she now suffers from phantom limb pain. The hero, a secret rape survivor, must find the proper way to waltz with her when she doesn’t have a hand to gracefully drape over his shoulder.

Yeah, I’d read that.

 

3. I don’t know when it’s going to happen but in a couple of months, I’m also going to revamp this blog and probably get a new domain name, something that will reflect my new coupled status. Adam used to have a blog, and once we’re married I’d love to him to start writing random things again. We used to write random things together. Obviously, if we do that now, the current title of this blog will have to go. I’m still wracking my brains for a clever new name. Hmm… It’s difficult to think of something all-encompassing, he might alternate between Legend of Zelda fanboy rants and scholarly discussions on Charles Dickens, you know? Between my anime observations and historical romance stuff, it might be a cornucopia of crazy. (But a good kind of crazy.)

Anyway, what ever happens to the future name, design, and content of this blog, please wish us luck on our new journey.

 

In Praise of Prevarication

In Praise of Prevarication

Lying is universal—we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others’ advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firm, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then we shall be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather.

 

—from Mark Twain’s essay On the Decay of the Art of Lying (1880)

 

 

Buy, Borrow, or Bash: Round Nine

Buy, Borrow, or Bash: Round Nine

Hello, fellow romance novel junkies. In case you’ve wondered if I’ve totally forgotten my Buy, Borrow, or Bash review series, the answer is no. But it’s been complicated.

In the past year, I’ve read a ton of romance novels. I’ve plowed through the backlist of Anne Gracie and Miranda Neville. I’ve re-read everything by Cecilia Grant. I’ve enjoyed an old, adorable traditional series called “The Poor Relation” by Marion Chesney. I’ve even rekindled an old guilty pleasure, Highland romances, by reading some Tanya Anne Crosby!

Here’s my main problem: I just don’t have the time to patiently dissect everything I’ve read. Trying to write thoughtful critiques takes as much concentration as writing an original narrative. (Seriously. I’m not kidding.) Since I’m still in the middle of writing a novel—and being horribly bogged down by the process—well, sometimes my brain feels like it’s ready to explode. One day, a forensics crew is just going to scrape my remains off my laptop. “She died of spontaneous verbal combustion,” they will conclude. Death by too many words.

Anyway, enough of my excuses. Here are two reviews that previously appeared in The San Francisco Book Review. These versions are slightly longer and more detailed than the original versions.

 

Loretta Chase’s Vixen in Velvet (2014)

Vixen in Velvet is the third installment in Loretta Chase’s popular Dressmaker series. It features the youngest Noirot sister, the redheaded Leonie, who struggles to keep the family business afloat despite the absence of her siblings. While Marcelline wrestles with morning sickness and Sophie’s on an extended honeymoon, Leonie overextends herself with running Maison Noirot. She does everything from the juggling the accounts to promoting the shop. Leonie doesn’t have time for neither leisure nor casual flirtations.

Lord Lisbourne thinks Leonie should make time for him. Lisbourne’s only in London to look after his famous cousin, Lord Swanton, a sentimental poet with a rabid female following. As Swanton embarks on a round of public poetry readings, Lisbourne can’t help but pursue the beautiful businesswoman who ostensibly attends the events to attract new clientele. When a scandalmonger tries to destroy the reputations of Maison Noirot and Swanton, Leonie and Lisbourne are drawn together to fight the slander.

Aside from the main plot, there’s also an ugly duckling subplot and a bet about a Botticelli painting. Vixen in Velvet has classic Chase plotting, with many threads expertly woven into a shimmering whole.

Leonie’s an independent and sensible heroine while Lisbourne isn’t as dumb as some other Chase heroes. He’s devious and witty. He’s a real pleasure to follow as the action unfolds.

While I felt that the first two Dressmaker novels lacked the sparkle of Chase’s earlier novels, I keep reading because I’m interested in the development of Lady Clara Fairfax, a supporting character prominent in the series. While Vixen in Velvet originally felt like a detour from the story I wanted, it’s still an entertaining and amusing diversion, full of hilariously bad poetry and scintillating romance.

heat meter: four chilies          final rating: borrow

 

Hungry for More: Romantic Fantasies for Women (2014) 

Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Hungry for More: Romantic Fantasies for Women has a subtitle that will lure readers who are bored with traditional romances but feel too skittish for BDSM narratives. Yet the twenty-one short stories vary so much in quality and specific kink. While there’s definitely something for everyone, on the other hand, there’s probably something that makes a reader feel squeamish.

The anthology explores everything from bondage, ménage à trois, and bukake. It also tackles some gray-area fantasies, like voyeurism (Tiffany Reisz’s “Bringing the Heat”) and consensual sex with a high school boy (Valerie Alexander’s “Jailbait Torch Song”). In the hands of lesser writers, these topics can be problematic. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be erotica if it didn’t offend someone.

Greta Christina’s “Craig’s List” is the story that I found more terrifying than sexy. The main character seems hell-bent on self-destruction and I found the ending ominous. It made me wish the stories were classified by kink or labelled with trigger warnings, so I would know which ones to skip.

While it’s not as hardcore as Anne Rice’s “classic” Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, somehow I felt entirely too vanilla for this collection. For the curious and the adventurous though, Hungry for More is worth picking up, especially if you want to know what other women secretly think when they see an oversized kitchen whisk.

heat rating: five chilies          final rating: borrow

 

 

Requiem for a Dead Fandom: A Review of the Haruhi Suzumiya Light Novels

Requiem for a Dead Fandom: A Review of the Haruhi Suzumiya Light Novels

Kyon disapproves of this collection.

There are spoilers in this review. To read the spoilers, highlight the invisible text. 

If cosplayers and TV Tropes are the pulse points of a fandom, then the Haruhi Suzumiya series can be pronounced dead in 2015. Someone marked the Haruhi Suzumiya page on TV Tropes as “Deader than Disco” and at this year’s Fanime Con—well, I saw two Kenshin Himuras, around five Disney Princesses, and a bevy of gothic lolitas. There wasn’t, however, a North High uniform in sight. It’s as if all those diehard Haruhiists changed religions, sometime between 2011 and 2013.

That’s a great pity, too. After years of procrastinating, I finally bought the last three books—The Indignation, The Dissociation, and The Surprise—and I reread the entire series in one go. That’s roughly 2,346 pages in one week.

In hindsight, I’m glad I waited because the last three installments of the series form a meaningful, seamless arc, unlike some of the middle volumes.*  For instance, some of the short stories in The Indignation and The Wavering are entertaining and character-driven, but contribute little to advancing the main plot.

Unlike those earlier installments, The Dissociation and The Surprise are best read back to back, since they follow one continuous thread even if the narrative splits into two separate timelines, the alpha and the beta.

When I first read a partial fan translation back in 2011, I thought the author was going full Cortazar on his readers. (Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch is a postmodern classic that has confounded generations of literature majors. The reader’s encouraged to skip back and forth through chapters. Thus the narrative can be read in several ways.) Thankfully, Nagaru Tanigawa wasn’t nearly that ambitious. While it’s possible to read the alpha timeline first and then the beta afterwards (I tried), The Surprise actually loses some of its charm that way.

The Dissociation and The Surprise introduces Sasaki, Kyon’s female friend from middle school, whom everyone thinks is his ex-girlfriend. (She isn’t.) Sasaki’s just like Haruhi: she has reality-warping powers and the ability to make closed space. Moreover, Sasaki’s closed spaces are calm and nonviolent, which makes her an alternative for a suspicious trio—a time traveler, an alien, and an esper—who seek to channel all of Haruhi’s wild power into a more stable human vessel.

This alliance of well-meaning extremists try to persuade Kyon to ditch Haruhi and her supporters. Confronted with an alternative to the status quo, Kyon must choose between the opposing sides. What is “best” for the world, however, may not be good for him.

As Kyon grapples with this problem, the unexpected occurs: time unravels and things fall apart, culminating a split in the narrative’s timeline. The Surprise then takes Kyon—and the reader—for a bumpy, exciting ride.

It’s unclear whether The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya is the last installment in the series. Some websites, including Wikipedia, state that the series is only on hiatus. While I think The Surprise works well as a closing volume since it resolves some main dilemmas, it does leaves a ton of unanswered questions. This includes:

  • Kyon’s real name (Sasaki says it’s an unusual and majestic name)
  • the John Smith trump card (Kyon never uses it, so we never see if it will actually work)
  • the real nature of Haruhi’s power
  • Kyon’s gift to Haruhi
  • Tsuraya’s secret life
  • Most of the shipper stuff with a) Kuneida blurting out that he went to North High to get closer to Tsuraya, b) Koizumi exchanging phone numbers with his ‘evil’ counterpart, and c) Taniguchi’s quest for love

 

I’ve come to the conclusion, however, that these unanswered questions don’t matter so much since Kyon finally resolves his mixed feelings for Haruhi. This comes, appropriately enough, at the climax of The Surprise. His heroics would be impossible to pull off if he didn’t acknowledge that he can’t live without her. The actual moment has a subtle call-back to the first book—“Don’t let her get away.” All of this may feel redundant after the events of The Disappearance but it is Kyon’s moment to reaffirm many of his half-hearted sentiments. 

It’s no shocker, then, that The Surprise lacks Kyon’s usual gushing over his other crushes. As a couple, Haruhi and Kyon do some everyday things together, like studying. Their classmates don’t even comment on it. The sheer normalcy of it is notable.

The Haruhi Suzumiya series isn’t perfect but The Surprise still makes a satisfying ending. Yuki returns from the brink of an alien-induced fever, Asahina preserves her time line, and Koizumi opens a can of whoop ass. Even Sasaki, whose first appearance in The Dissociation grated my brain, becomes a reluctant god who tries to foil the conspirators who use her as a pawn.

The only character I wasn’t enamored with was Yasumi Watahashi, The Surprise’s version of Scrappy-do. She’s the only applicant to survive Haruhi’s battery of tests for new SOS Brigade members, and she immediately charms everyone except Kyon. For a series that can sell the vision of rival alien factions fighting over a moody teen god, Yasumi Watahashi is somewhat lackluster. The moment she appeared, I worried that she was Kyon and Haruhi’s time-traveling offspring, like a moe Rachel Summers. (She isn’t.) Thankfully, she’s used sparingly throughout the book.

Anime-only fans might be surprised that Nagaru Tanigawa introduced a brigade member so late in the series. It surprised me, since the dynamic between the five main characters is tightly written. I think it’s good that she disappears right after she ceases to be useful to the story

It’s easy to pinpoint when the Haruhi Suzumiya fandom died—somewhere between the publication delays of The Dissociation and The Surprise and the anime’s disastrous second season, casual fans got fed up and moved on. In hindsight, perhaps Haruhi Suzumiya’s mercurial success also led to overwhelming expectations, and the intense backlash against it was inevitable. Maybe, given a decade or so out of the limelight, a revival can be effected? (Cough, Kenshin Himura, cough.) I won’t lie, I’d love to see Kyon jumping out a window to save Haruhi’s life. I don’t care how long it takes for that to happen. In the meantime I have the books.

At the end of the day, two images from the anime sum up the entire series for me: Haruhi tugging on Kyon’s tie, and the quick one-two seconds between the Male and Female bathroom signs. Despite all the time travel and the science fiction shenanigans, the Haruhi Suzumiya series has always had one foot in romance, and another foot in mystery. And just like Kyon, I may grumble, but I secretly want to believe.

 

 

 * For the English editions, there are ten books in the series; in the Japanese editions, there are eleven. The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya originally came out in two volumes, published simultaneously. 

Mr. Blackshear on Propriety and Honor

Mr. Blackshear on Propriety and Honor

“I understand your education in these matters has been lacking. But propriety is no true propriety at all if we adhere to it only when others are watching. It is a matter of my personal honor that I observe all the rules of decorum rather than picking and choosing the ones that suit me. And a gentleman’s honor, let me assure you, is no frivolous indulgence. If he’s any sort of worthwhile man it’s his very backbone.”

He was dreadfully handsome when he spoke of honor. So righteous and terrible and vigorous he nearly gave off sparks. A more persuadable lady might be pledging to run off and join an order of nuns now, or whatever it was that zealously proper ladies did, just to win his approval.

— from Cecilia Grant’s A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong (2014)

 

 

Reviews: Graphic Novels by Michael Cho, Derek McCulloch, and Anthony Peruzzo

Reviews: Graphic Novels by Michael Cho, Derek McCulloch, and Anthony Peruzzo

I wrote these book reviews a couple of months back; I forgot to post them on my blog, silly me. These first appeared online at the San Francisco Book Review. 

 

Reviewers aren’t supposed to toss hyperbole around lightly, but it must be said: I loved every cringe-inducing moment of Shoplifter. It’s been ages since a graphic novel spoke to me on such a personal level. I wish I had the cash to buy copies for every friend who reminds me of the protagonist: overeducated, unfulfilled, and stuck in a rut.

Shoplifter focuses on Corinna Park, a writer plagued with ennui and lack of motivation. Life hasn’t turned out as she envisioned it, and now she’s merely going through the motions at her ad agency job, where she gets to write copy for silly products that nobody needs. Corinna’s only thrill in life is minor pilfering. Corinna knows she has the potential to do great things; she just can’t fathom how to get there.

Having met a fair share of shoplifters and disenchanted copywriters over the years, I can sympathize with Corinna’s first world problems while wanting to hit her with a bat at the same time. Corinna’s doubts, fears, and failed attempts feel intensely real. I wish there were more stories like Shoplifter out there: short, elegant, and even a little groan-inducing.

 

The creators of Displaced Persons have a great love for San Francisco, as the book starts with Emperor Norton, who finds an abandoned child and promptly delivers him to the nearest orphanage. The orphan in the prologue is only one of the mysteries the reader’s invited to unravel: there’s a missing heiress, a love triangle involving twins, a drug bust gone bad, and an amnesiac. Clues include a locket, a photograph, and a house.

The main conceit of Displaced Persons, however, is that the mysteries cross three timelines, each with its own color palette. Only the cover and the last page break out into vivid color as the book tries to answer the main question: where do all missing people end up? Are they only lost to their loved ones, or are they also lost to themselves?

Displaced Persons is a high-concept, unusual work; it’s obviously a labor of love. Unfortunately, its ambitious plot is also mildly convoluted. This book might be more satisfying after a second reading. Even the sharpest reader might have difficulty keeping track of everything.  Clarity does come at the end, but one might be too disheartened by the book’s melancholic outlook to notice it.

Side Comments of the Month XV: Consume

Side Comments of the Month XV: Consume

Dear Blog,

Long time, no posts. I hope you aren’t angry with me. I haven’t updated you in three months. Your lack of activity coincides with the arrival of Titus. Titus happens to be the Kindle I got for Christmas…

As much as I love the smell of new books and the feel of paper, it’s convenient to be able to borrow books from the library at 2 AM in the morning. Here’s a list of everything I’ve read on Titus so far (in order of reading):

  • The Duchess War — Courtney Milan
  • Viscount Vagabond — Loretta Chase
  • When Patty Went to College — Jean Webster
  • The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness — Cecil B. Hartley
  • The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness — Florence Hartley
  • The Heiress Effect — Courtney Milan
  • A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong — Cecilia Grant
  • To Catch A Heiress — Julia Quinn
  • The Romance of Lust — Anonymous
  • The Countess Conspiracy — Courtney Milan
  • The Actress and the Rake – Carola Dunn
  • The Wisdom of Father Brown — G.K. Chesterton
  • Songs of Innocence and Experience — William Blake
  • Lord Roworth’s Reward — Carola Dunn
  • Captain Ingram’s Inheritance — Carola Dunn
  • The Devil’s Delilah — Loretta Chase
  • The Good Soldier — Ford Madox Ford

 

Archer and Rin are ready to crack some skulls.

2. Aside from reading too much, I’ve managed to start and catch up with a couple of anime series:

  • Baby Steps (an unfortunately named series, yet interesting in its own way. Prior knowledge of tennis not required)
  • Carnival Phantasm (oh my god the sugar rush of fan service)
  • Knights of Sidonia (a good bit of science fiction)

I also finished the first season of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. I’m looking forward to the new season, which starts airing this month. I think it’s superior to the original Fate/Stay Night series. (The prequel Fate/Zero is still my favorite installment of the franchise, though.) 

I don’t watch a lot of western animation, but Adam and I finished The Legend of Korra. We are now currently consuming the fifth season of Archer. Such a depraved lot of characters! I love how Jessica Walter plays pretty much the same mother she was on Arrested Development. 

 

3. For live-action television, I’m ashamed to admit I binge-watched the first season of Broadchurch over one long weekend. That’s eight hours of following the red herrings and trying to fathom the shifty behavior of all the characters. That binge made for one emotionally wrecked weekend! I was so tense my nails bit into my palms, yet I couldn’t stop watching.

Hardy's ready to crack some skulls, too. Right after he takes his medication...

Broadchurch’s second season, which I’m currently watching on BBC America, lacks the  intensity of the first. It does, however, make me think of a new subtitle every week.

(These subtitles have mild spoilers. To read, highlight the text below.)

The Adventure of the Dying Detective

How Ellie Got Her Groove Back

There is Only One Bed

Everybody Lies, thus Danny’s Murderer Will Obviously Get Away with It

OMG Charlotte Rampling Plays a Barrister, I Loved her in Swimming Pool, I Can’t Stop Watching Now 

 

Hardy and Miller’s developing friendship is one of the best elements of the second season. Whenever she gives him a little punch in the arm for doing something stupid, I just have to go “aww.” They have some subtle comic moments, like the scene where Hardy offers Miller a hug and she just gives him the stink eye.

Not enough people give David Tennant the stink eye convincingly, I wonder why it’s so entertaining to watch. Suddenly I miss Donna Noble…

On a side note, I feel like I should make a David Tennant shirt. On one side it will say “The Worst Cop in Britain” and on the reverse, “the Best Doctor in the Universe.” Yeah, that sums up all my David Tennant feelings.

 

Dr. Henry Morgan doesn't crack skulls. He probably collects them. Some of them were probably his friends...

4. Still on the topic of live-action television, Forever continues to hover somewhere between guilty pleasure and good TV. I still believe this show exists to put Ioan Gruffudd in a variety of period costumes. By my reckoning, so far Dr. Henry Morgan has been shown wearing 1) Regency attire, 2) Victorian duds, 3) World War II gear, 4) an early ’80s suit, and 5) his natty modern suits and scarves.

The show’s team must be enamored (like me!) of Gruffudd’s old work: Amazing Grace and Horatio Hornblower. I suppose the man can’t help it if he looks good in a cravat and tight breeches.

Forever has yet to resolve its recurring immortal serial killer problem. Right now, it’s at a strange impasse, and sometimes it doesn’t interest me as much as the murder of the week stuff. I get the feeling the show’s making its mythos up as it goes along, à la The X-Files.

As to rooting for a lost cause, I’ve pretty much given up on Constantine. While some of the episodes were just bloody brilliant, nobody else seems to realize it.

I haven’t watched the last episode on DVR because let’s face it, I just know that the series won’t be renewed and I’ll be left agonizing for years over some unresolved cliffhanger. Gah. Matt Ryan deserves better than this.

A Few Lines from Regency Romances

A Few Lines from Regency Romances

A few lines I happened to highlight from various historical romances I’ve read in the past two months. I don’t usually highlight my books; I hate marks on bound copies. I blame my new Kindle for making this so easy.

 

 

Hypocrisy can never be agreeable to an elevated mind.

—from Loretta Chase’s Viscount Vagabond (1989)

 

…the ton would decide it was all her fault. For being pretty. For having a rich father. For sporting a low bodice. For breathing!

A convent in Italy was beginning to appeal.

—from Jo Beverly’s A Shocking Delight (2014)

 

Anger turned out to be an excellent antidote for lovesickness.

—from Carola Dunn’s Lavender Lady (1983)

 

But there weren’t enough orgasms in the world to give him relief from the want that coiled about him now.

—from Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War (2012)

 

source and original context of this public domain image

 

Side Comments of the Month XIV: What I Did during my Blogging Hiatus

Side Comments of the Month XIV: What I Did during my Blogging Hiatus

I know I haven’t updated my blog for almost two months. This is when I tell people that 1) living can get into the way of blogging and 2) this is the real reason my blog is called “The Return of Lucky Parking Girl.” I’m always returning from something or somewhere. Sometimes I disappear into a haze of work, without time for contemplation; sometimes I just get lost in the corridors of my mind.

I do find my way back out again.

This amuses me so much.

1. Since I last updated, I spent a couple of weeks in Canada, visiting my boyfriend. We took a road trip to Edmonton, which is a six-hour drive from where he lives. Among the usual things that couples enjoy—superhero movies and Japanese food—we also went to a giant water park, and attended the harvest festival at Fort Edmonton.

I’ve been to Fort Edmonton before and I’ve always thought it to be a charming place. There are tons of other outdoor museums that try to capture the feel of living in the past, but somehow I adore the enthusiasm of the staff at Fort Edmonton.

For instance, we entered one of the smaller houses and found three staff members—in full costume!—slaving away on a 19th century wood-burning stove, arguing about the best way to make their fruit jelly. The girls’ aprons were stained, and their male companion took off his bowler hat. All of them had that caught-in-the-act look on their faces! Full points for verisimilitude.

 

This Constantine needs to smoke more and be less nice. Otherwise, he's a dead ringer for his comic book incarnation, a.k.a. a young Sting in a trench coat.

2. In the past few months, I’ve also gorged on pop culture. My viewing hours seem firmly divided between two genres: animation and live-action shows that feature British guys stranded in America.

For the latter, I’m all caught up with Forever (I’m so glad this is getting a full season, it’s a guilty pleasure) and Constantine (as a Vertigo fan, this show makes me happy; if they ever run out of Hellblazer canon, I hope they consider cameos from Death or Timothy Hunter). I’m a little disappointed that John Oliver went on vacation so early. His show gave me my weekly fix for investigative journalism, so I hate that it’s suddenly taken away from me! I’m not sure if re-watching the salmon cannon in action will make up for it.

Maybe I should just crawl back to Jon Stewart now that he’s finished Rosewater. I doubt if Stephen Colbert will take me back.

For all the animation I’ve watched, re-watched, and caught up to current episodes, here’s a partial list:

  • Steamboy (beautiful but exhausting)
  • Samurai Champloo (a modern classic)
  • Mushishi (Zen poetry and fake folklore, be still my heart)
  • The Legend of Korra (interesting plots)
  • Kill La Kill (good grief fan service)
  • Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (let’s see if this can overcome Fate/Zero as my favorite version of the franchise)

 

A Mansfield Park AU. Based on an old joke that kicked around the Republic of Pemberley for years.

3. I finally finished listening to the ten-part radio drama adaptation of Mansfield Park. Produced by BBC 4 back in 2003, it features two now-famous actors: David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch. Felicity Jones happens to voice Fanny Price, and while she’s not as well-known as the guys, well, maybe The Theory of Everything will change that.

I tend to stay away from Mansfield Park adaptations because, quite frankly, modern writers don’t know what to do with Fanny Price. For instance, the 1999 film version tried to make Fanny a feminist. It also made Tom Bertram a soulful tortured artist, instead of a spoiled heir! I thought it was awful.

So I’m really happy to report that this radio drama is probably the best adaptation so far. All the actors just nailed it. Cumberbatch made such a sweetly befuddled Edmund Bertram while Jones just had the delicacy to give life to Fanny, who retains all her hesitation and shrinking violet tendencies.

Given the limitations of the medium, Fanny has new lines and scenes that don’t appear in the book. (For instance, she tries to comfort both Julia and Maria during their romantic disappointments, only to be rebuffed.) While I feel that book-Fanny was wholly incapable of reaching out to her snobby cousins like that, compared to the changes made in the 1999 film, I think it still worked out.

Tom Bertram’s role is also expanded in this version. I suppose the writers thought it an awful waste if they didn’t give David Tennant more speaking lines. (I originally wondered why they didn’t cast him as Henry Crawford, but James Callis did a bang-up job with that role. He just oozed with charm and sleaze.)

In any case, Tennant played Tom with a jaunty bounce in his voice; during the “Lovers’ Vows” rehearsals, he just kept stealing the show. His scene near the end—where he confesses his “sins” to Edmund—was also quite touching.

So, yeah. If you want to listen to this adaptation, it can be downloaded right here. You can thank me later.