WitW

Oct. 11th, 2017 04:29 pm
emma_in_dream: (CaptainAmerica)
We’ve just listened to the audio tape of *Wind in the Willows*. I had completely forgotten one entire plot line. I remembered Ratty and Mole on the river, messing about in boats under idyllic skies. I had forgotten all about Toad’s manic adventures, essentially all the plot.
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Elizabeth Peters The Falcon at the Gate 1999
James Herriot Let Sleeping Vets Lie 1973
Ann Thwaite Emily Tennyson: The Poet's Wife 1996
Anna Kyrlova Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front 2010
Clementine Ford Fight Like a Girl 2016
James Herriot Vet in Harness 1974
Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope, Voices from the Women's March 2017
Agatha Christie Murder is Easy 1939
Mary Grant Bruce Timothy in Bushland 1912
JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 2005
Stephen Fry More Fool Me 2014
emma_in_dream: (Trek)
I want to read a well written, lengthy piece of fanfic about Regulus Black. I am fascinated by the way he was brought up as a pure blood, embraced Voldemort and then changed his mind and backed away. I am impressed that he stole from Voldemort so effectively that he did not even find out about it til 15 years later.
emma_in_dream: (steve)
Road to Riverdale Vol 2 2017
Katrina Maes Sell Your Property Fast for More 2010
Andrew Blachut Get More For Your Home 2014
Tanya Huff Valor's Choice 2000
Robert Heinlein If This Goes On 1940
James Herriot Animal Stories 1997
emma_in_dream: (Default)
It’s Book Week, a time I have a love/hate relationship with. I hate having to make the costumes, yet love looking at them once made.


This year Ruby and Pearl went in borrowed costumes as all our gear is in storage. Pearl was Harry Potter. Ruby looked cute as a Pokemon.


Ruby very much wanted to be a Lorax and I have promised that I will make a costume for her birthday party (which will be Dr Seuss themed). Surely by then we will either be moved or have resigned ourselves to not moving. Either way, the costume box and craft gear should be accessible.
emma_in_dream: (Singin')
Mary Martha Sherwood wrote “The History of the Fairchild Family” in three volumes, published 1818, 1842 and 1847. I read the first book, which is chiefly about the Fairchild children – Emily, Lucy and Henry – realising that all humans are depraved sinners in need of redemption. To quote from the first few pages:

Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild loved and feared God, and had done so, by the mercy of God, ever since their younger days. They knew that their hearts were very bad, and that they could not be saved by any good thing they could do: on the contrary, that they were by nature fitted only for everlasting punishment: but they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and loved him for having died for them; and they knew he would save them, because he saves all those who trust in him.

The book is essentially a series of vignettes of the children being instructed on the righteous path. Emily, for example, succumbs to the temptation to eat some forbidden plums: 'no eye was looking at her, but the eye of God, who sees every thing we do, and knows even the secret thoughts of the heart; but Emily, just at that moment, did not think of God.'

Even worse, their cousin Augusta plays with candles after being told not to and is burnt alive. The stakes are high in this novel, because every sin is a step towards losing their souls forever. When Mr Fairchild catches his children quarrelling, he first thrashes them, reciting Dr. Watts's 'Let dogs delight to bark and bite' between blows of the cane, and then takes them to spend the afternoon beneath a gibbet where the rotting corpse of a murderer is hanging. Lesson learned.

The works were massively popular in the 19th century, in print constantly until 1913. There is some evidence, though, that it was not always read as intended. Lord Hamilton wrote that 'there was plenty about eating and drinking; one could always skip the prayers, and there were three or four very brightly written accounts of funerals in it.’

Frances Hodgson Burnett, perhaps a more pious child, states that she read it in two sections, first reading the religious statements because she thought she should and then reading the story for pleasure.
emma_in_dream: (BTTF)
This picture book is a retelling of Molly Tasman Napurruria's dreaming narrative in English. It was translated by Christine Nicholls and illustrated by kids at the Lajamanu Community Education Centre. The story comes from Warlpiri country in the Northern Territory.

As a children's book, it wasn't terribly successful. The Pangkarlangu is a scary looking creature that takes a boy away. My kids (now nine and six) disliked the pictures of it looking spiky and disliked the story about the boy being separated from his family.
emma_in_dream: (Sound of Music)
Terri-Ann White (Ed), Desert Writing: Stories from Country, 2016

This anthology represents the fruits of an ARC grant to foster story telling in the desert areas shared by Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia. The story telling workshops were available to all people living in those areas.


On the whole, the stories written by non-Indigenous people are written with a higher level of literacy and with more engagement in literary conventions – there are attempts at mystery and horror stories.


As another generalisation, the stories produced by the Indigenous people are more personal narratives. These range from straightforward ‘what I did on the weekend’ stories by high school students to the autobiography of one of the hunter gatherers who was bombed at Maralinga. All of these stories seem pretty alien to me, as I am a committed city dweller.

June Books

Jul. 1st, 2017 12:03 pm
emma_in_dream: (Default)
Georgette Heyer Envious Casca 1941

Anna Reid Leningrad: Tragedy of a City under Siege, 1941 2011

George McDonald Fraser Flashman and the Great Game 1975

MC Beaton Finessing Clarissa 1989

George McDonald Fraser Flashman at the Charge 1973

George McDonald Fraser Flashman and the Tiger 1999

Antonia Fraser The Warriror Queens: Boadicea's Chariot 1988

May books

Jun. 1st, 2017 05:38 pm
emma_in_dream: (steve)
I have a shocking cold.

In May I read the following:

Lois McMaster Bujold The Sharing Knife: Horizon 2009
Lois McMatser Bujold The Sharing Knife: Passage 2008
Val McDermid The Vanishing Point 2012
Dorothy Sayers The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club 1928
Holiday in Queensland 2015
Georgette Heyer A Blunt Instrument 1938
Catherine Helen Spence An Autobiography 1910
Sophie May Dottie Dimple's Flyaway 1869
Elizabeth Peters Crocodile on the Sandbank 1975
Agatha Christie The Witness for the Prosecution 1933
Andy Weir The Martian 2011
Georgette Heyer Envious Casca 1941
emma_in_dream: (CaptainAmerica)
In 1884 the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, Massachusetts, circulated 35,820 books, and listed the most popular writers of fiction as William T. Adams, Horatio Alger, Jr., M. J. Holmes, and Mrs. Southworth.

Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte Southworth, or E.D. E. N. Southworth, was the author of *The Hidden Hand* a bestseller. Praised by critics and adored by readers, the narrative was printed in Robert Bonner’s New York Ledger in 1859, 1868, 1869, and again in 1883, before being released in book form in 1888.

*The Hidden Hand* was a cultural phenomenon as well as a literary one. Like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s *Uncle Tom’s Cabin*, Southworth’s novel was both adapted for the stage, with at least forty dramatic adaptations of the novel made during Southworth’s lifetime. One of the most (in)famous featured seasoned actor (and future presidential assassin) John Wilkes Booth in the role of the novel’s most notorious villain, Black Donald. There was also a line of clothing, labelled the ‘Capitola look’ after the heroine.

Echoing a trope of nineteenth-century literature as well as many children’s classics, the thirteen-year-old girl is penniless, homeless, and alone when first introduced to readers. Whisked away at birth to prevent her father’s greedy brother from murdering her, Cap is unaware of her heritage, and her maternal relatives are, in turn, unaware of her existence. For more than a decade, the nurse who brought Capitola to New York and has been serving as her guardian has hidden the Virginia heiress. Now, the aged and ailing Nancy Grewell feels that the time has come to finally reveal the girl’s existence. Leaving her ward with a stock of food and money, Nancy sets out for the South. Although the elderly woman succeeds in her quest, the trip exhausts her. Within hours of revealing the secret to Cap’s uncle, Nancy dies.

This is a shame, as this part of the novel is my favourite, genuinely gothic and horrible, with a dead baby substituted for a live one, a blood red birth mark, a dead woman in an attic, the servant who sees all. I’ll add, too, that though Cap was raised by Nancy she is strangely unmoved by her death.

Back in New York, Capitola’s previously desperate situation has become even more dire. During the months that Nancy has been away, the girl has run out of food and money. Evicted from her tenement home, the would-be heiress is now a homeless street beggar. Harassed each night by lecherous men and forced to sell pieces of her clothing for food, Cap finds herself in both physical want and sexual danger. As she later tells a magistrate about the experience, “‘Oh, sir—I can’t—I—how can I? Well, being always exposed, sleeping out-doors, I was often in danger from bad boys and bad men,’ said Capitola, and dropping her head upon her breast, and covering her crimson cheeks with her hands, for the first time she burst into tears and sobbed aloud”. Cap’s virginity and virtue are always being assailed by bad men, but her verve always keeps them at bay.

Blocked from various forms of employment because of her gender, Cap realizes that her life would be much easier if she were male. As a result, rather than wait for a boy to take care of her, Capitola decides to transform herself into a boy so that she can take care of herself. Cutting her hair short and trading her petticoats for a pair of pants, she announces, “I went into that little back parlor a girl, and I came out a boy”.

When a policeman discovers her gender-bending disguise one day, he arrests her for cross-dressing. Although this event ends her boyish days, it reunites her with her kind if cantankerous maternal relative, Major Ira Warfield. Setting out for New York after learning of his niece’s existence, the gentleman—in one of the many coincidences in Southworth’s novel—happens to be at the police station when his gender-bending niece is brought in. Paying his niece’s fine, Major Warfield brings her back to the South.

Capitola’s reunion with a member of her Virginia family, however, does not signal a happily-ever-after ending. Nor does it signal an end to her tomboyish behavior. When Cap’s villainous paternal uncle, Gabriel LeNoir, learns of her existence, he vows to eliminate her. “Yes! It is that miserable old woman and babe!” he exclaims upon learning of Capitola’s return with Major Warfield, “in every vein of my soul, I repent not having silenced them both forever while they were yet in my power!”.

With the help of the town’s most notorious criminal, Black Donald, he makes repeated attempts to abduct and murder his heiress niece. In keeping with the sensational style that made Southworth famous, each of these plots involves an array of thrilling, page-turning events: Gabriel and Black Donald don disguises, leap out from behind bushes, hide under beds, establish secret hideouts, fall through trap doors, live in haunted mansions, and—in one especially hilarious moment—even impersonate a camp minister.

In spite of such imaginative and persistent efforts, the terrible twosome are unable to capture Cap who emerges triumphant and, I am amazed to say, making rude gestures at them

'Turning as she wheeled out of sight, Capitola–I am sorry to say–put her thumb to the side of her nose and whirled her fingers into a semicircle, in a gesture more expressive than elegant.'
emma_in_dream: (trance)
You probably know more about William Taylor Adams, who wrote over 100 novels as “Oliver Optic”, than you think. Louisa May Alcott, in 1875’s *Eight Cousins*, launched a thinly veiled attack on the hyperactive and unrealistic novels in the highly successful Oliver Optic series According to Alcott, too many juvenile novels extolled criminal activity, slangy language, mysterious luck, and sudden success. Speaking through one of her characters, she emphatically criticised the overwrought portrayals as “optical delusions”.

Adams responded promptly with pointed prose in *Oliver Optic’s Magazine: Our Boys and Girls*:

MISS LOUISE (sic) M. ALCOTT is publishing a story in a magazine. It is called “Eight Cousins.” We have read only the portion to which our attention has just been called, and looked over two or three chapters of another portion. It is a critical story; or, at least, it contains a chapter of criticism. The topic is “Sensational Books for Boys,” and she treats it as flippantly as though she knew what she was writing about. The mother of the two boys in the story says she “has read a dozen at least of these stories,” from which we infer that Miss Alcott has read them; but, judging from some of the quotations she makes, she read them with her elbows. . . . She mixes things terribly. She quotes from one book, and judges another by what she quotes. She quotes from the Optic books, and then fastens upon them the sins of other books, as we shall presently show. . . . She seems to have deliberately misrepresented the books she writes about.

Oliver Optic wrote over 100 childrens’s novels, mostly for boys, and also edited his own magazine.

I read *Little by Little: Or the Cruise of the Flyaway* (1860), which seems a lot less trashy than his reputation implies. The lead character works thriftily to pay off the mortgage on his widowed mother’s house and has mild adventures in his fishing boat. It’s hard to see why these books were hated so much. Caroline M. Hewins, director of the Hartford (Connecticut) Public Library, described his works in the most hyperbolic terms:

I wish that I could tell you of great results, and that the children of Hartford had walked in procession to the Park, and there, Savonarola-like, burned their idols, Alger, Optic, Castlemon, and Elsie; but unfortunately, my regard for truth prevents any such statement.

Having said that, Hewins nonetheless bought Optic books for the Hartford Public Library.

Oliver Optic apparently aroused fierce emotions and yet, apparently, wrote fairly innocuous stories.
emma_in_dream: (BTTF)
To quote another critic, , ". . . in the Himalayas of junk turned out by writers of juvenile fiction the Elsie Books stand like Everest as the worst ever written by anybody, and that Elsie Dinsmore is without peer the Most Nauseating Heroine of all time."
emma_in_dream: (Corellia)
I can’t remember the technical term I’m looking for. Is it aporia, a deliberate hole in the argument? Or paralipsis, where an idea is suggested but most points omitted? Or is there another term for what Stevenson does in *Treasure Island* where he completely ignores race while making the entire book about slavery?

When the explorers arrive at Treasure Island they see an animalistic brown figure, running parallel to the ground. Based on readings of *Coral Island* or *Boys Own Adventures* one might expect this to be a native of the island – but it is Ben Gunn. His skin is so burnt by the sun that “even his lips were black; and his fair eyes looked quite startling in so dark a face”.

The whole story is about a group of white men battling it out on the island, competing for the pirate treasure trove. Not a black person in sight.

And yet it is the story of Jim Hawkins leaving Bristol on the Hispaniola to make his forture.

Jim Hawkins - Jim Hawkins name points to the historical figure of Sir John Hawkins. In 1562, sponsored by a “syndicate of London merchants and investors”, Hawkins sailed to Sierra Leone, where he “stayed some good time, and got into his possession, partly by the sword and partly by other meanes, to the nomber of 300. negroes at the least, besides other marchandises, which that country yeeldeth”. With this human cargo in the holds of his ships, Hawkins sailed to Española—Hispaniola—in the West Indies. The profits were so huge that after loading his own three ships with gold, silver, pearls, ginger, sugar, hides, and other goods he collected in trade, Hawkins found that he had “more than he could conveniently carry home”.

Hawkins’s voyage the first English slave-trading expedition, and its success prompted Elizabeth I to invest in others; in effect, Hawkins and his investors inaugurated the British slave trade. (Incidentally, a biography of Hawkins came out the year before *Treasure Island* was written).

Bristol – The port owed its wealth to the slave trade. Bristol was one of the three major slave ports in England, along with Liverpool and London, and moved perhaps 500,000 people in the eighteenth century.

Hispaniola – Ground zero of the slave trade, the first place reached by Columbus (1492), the first place where the modern slave trade was implemented (1493), site of the first slave uprising (1522) and the first successful slave uprising (1804).

The novel invites further consideration of the slave trade – the pivotal moment when Hawkins finds out that Silver is a pirate is linked back to slavery.

“It was a master surgeon, him that ampytated me, out of college and all—Latin by the bucket, and what not; but he was hanged like a dog, and sun-dried like the rest, at Corso Castle. That was Roberts’ men, that was…”

Corso Castle was a purpose-built ‘slave emporium’, a British fort on the Gold Coast with underground cells for 1,500 slaves (kept underground to prevent uprisings). It was the administrative centre towards which the surrounding slave forts reported.

The pirate Roberts to whom Silver refers is Bartholomew Roberts, who started out as a slaver and became one of the major pirates of the eighteenth century. Stevenson’s immediate source was *A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates*, from which he also borrowed the names Israel Hands and Ben Gunn. Roberts and his crew were captured and hung at Corso Castle and their bodies displayed at various forts.

The Master surgeon he references was a real person, with a connection to the slave trade and mutiny. Captured and on the way to his trial at Corso Castle, Scudamore attempted to organize an uprising among the prisoners. He “endeavoured to bring over the Negroes to his Design of murdering the People, and running away with the Ship”. Scudamore justified the prospective mutiny to his fellow pirates by saying that “it was better venturing to do this, run down the Coast, and raise a new Company, than to proceed to Cape Corso, and be hang’d like Dogs, and Sun dry’d”.

I am fascinated. There’s not a single direct reference to slavery in the book and yet it feels like it underpins everything, lurking beneath the pages like a whole other novel trying to get out.
emma_in_dream: (Corellia)
The great literary critic of the Elsie Dinsmore books writes: “it is the intersection of these two themes [that produces] an idealistically Christian, sadomasochistic, incestuous-erotic work for
children which, in spite of being a thoroughly bad book, gives Elsie Dinsmore its compelling and
abiding power, which elevates it to the supreme height of a great bad classic”.
emma_in_dream: (BTTF)
Here are the books I read this month. The best was the overview of Opus Anglicanum, very fine medieval English embroidery.




Mary Kelley Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth Century America 1984

Horatio Alger Ragged Dick 1868

Oliver Optic Little by Little: Or the Cruise of the Flyaway 1860

Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island or the Mutiny of the Hispaniola 1883

Joe Bennett Where Underpants Come From, From Check Out to Cotton Fields 2008

Opus Anglicanum: English Medieval Embroidery 2016

Frank Dicksee, 1853-1028 2016

Jan Marsh Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists 1997

The Rough Guide to Travel with Babies and Young Children 2016

Peter Kort Zegers Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad 1941-1945 2011

Detlev Peukert Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life 1982

Jean M Auel The Clan of the Cave Bear 1980
emma_in_dream: (steve)
My name is Ruby and I read McElligot's Pool by Dr Seuss. Just like the Lorax book I like it because you get to imagine what happens after the end. You have to imagine the end.


This book won Seuss's first Caldicott medal in 1947, thus fulfilling the 'medal winner' category in our picture book challenge. I had not read it as a child and loved everything about it except the use of black and white illustrations on alternate pages. I had not realised there was a post-war publishing crisis in the USA as well as in Europe and Australia - I assume this would be the cause.
emma_in_dream: (Buffy)
I’ve elected to read Horatio Alger Jr on the grounds of his enormous popularity at the turn of the nineteenth century. Some very clever and diligent researchers have taken the circulation records (1891-1902, with a gap 1892-4) from the Muncie Indiana Public Library and cross referenced them to the census. They can actually analyse who was borrowing what!

It turns out that a lot of people were reading Alger. He was the single most circulated author - Horatio Alger, Jr. (9,230), Harry Castlemon (7,339), Oliver Optic (5,208), Martha Finley (4,609), Edward S. Ellis (3,004), Edward R. Roe (2,991), Louisa May Alcott (2,976), F. Marion Crawford (2,120), Rosa N. Carey (1,992), and Eugenie John (1,823). The list is dominated by juvenile fiction writers I have never read.

By way of contrast, Mark Twain barely registered with 877 circulations, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which was borrowed 149 times. The three most often borrowed Alger books eclipsed Twain’s total circulation – The Young Adventurer (422), The Telegraph Boy (364), The Young Circus Rider(359).

I read Ragged Dick (circulated 308 times). This was Alger’s big break, first serialised in a newspaper in 1867 and then, due to its success, printed in 1868. While the story would be described as ‘rags to riches’, it is really more rags to middle-class security. The protagonist, Ragged Dick, uses his quick wits to move from boot black to clerk, gaining an education through night school, Sunday school and perseverance.

As to the literary merits of the book, I will defer to Carl B. Roden, assistant librarian to Chicago Public Library in 1880, who described them in as fast food:

That is the substance of the indictment which librarians bring against the widely known and ravenously devoured writings of the redoubtable Oliver Optic, of Horatio Alger, of the Elsie [Dinsmore] books [written by Martha Finley] and all of that ilk; their transparent tawdriness and falsity of plot; their cheap and paltry “written down” style; their general tone and aspect of insubstantiality; like a stick of chewing gum, tickling the palate for the moment with their fleeting flavor, only to turn into a nubbin of sticky nothingness in the end, to be cast out and forgotten.

I think this is a fair call. No one would read Alger for his style. But clearly there is a satisfaction to reading his plots, essentially the same one written again and again, of upward mobility.



* In case you want to know more about who was reading Alger in turn of the century heartland America, there were 1,361 patrons. 45% were blue collar and 55% white collar readers. 27% were female, which would tie into other evidence of his popularity with girls such as a 1899 survey of Californian students. The 665 girls who responded listed Louisa May Alcott as their most often read author, followed by Sophie May, Martha Finley, and Horatio Alger.
emma_in_dream: (Buffy)
Both Ethel Turner and Louise Mack, another prominent colonial writer, began their publishing careers at Sydney Girls’ High School by establishing their own magazines. Mack edited the school magazine the Gazette, and purportedly rejected several of Turner’s submissions. In response, 17-year-old Turner began her own rival magazine, the Iris, of which she was “editress” with a supporting staff of 10 friends. The magazine included puzzles, riddles, competitions, letters to the editor and notes on tennis matches, as well as Turner’s budding fiction, poetry and essay writing.

Turner claimed that her subsequent lack of success when she attempted to publish her writing with a “real paper” spurred her once again to found her own magazine, but this time with the aid of her sister, Lilian. The Parthenon was first published in January 1889.

The monthly issues ranged from 24 to 32 pages in length. Ethel and Lilian were not only the magazine’s editors, but wrote most of its content under various pseudonyms: Lilian often wrote as “Talking Oak” and Ethel as “Princess Ida”, her name inspired by a Tennyson poem. The magazine sold approximately 1500 copies per month from a print run of 2000, and continued for a little over three years (39 issues), despite the lengthy distraction of a libel case sparked by a children’s word puzzle competition that was launched against Gordon and Gotch.

The healthy subscription numbers and the regular advertising that the Turner sisters
sought out via a canvasser from the likes of National Mutual insurance, Fry’s Cocoa and W.H. Paling’s pianos meant that the magazine was a viable concern from which the editors often drew an income.
emma_in_dream: (bucky)
I read 139 books, of which 70 were new to me (so about half).


52 were non fiction, 13 were short story anthologies, 4 were collections of poetry, 8 were books about art (so I guess really 58 non fiction) and 6 were graphic novels. The remaining 56 were novels.

And here are the dates of publication for the post-19th century works...

1910s – 2

1920s – 5

1930s – 13

1940s – 3

1950s – 16

1960s - 7

1970s – 6

1980s – 8

1990s – 10

2000s – 14

2010s – 46

I am pretty sure the same increase in 1950s publications after the low of the 1940s is something I've seen before. I guess the paper and other shortages meant a lot of books were set to one side until after the war for publication.

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