prodigy: Jadis the White Witch from "Horrors of Literature," illustrated by M.S. Corley. (queen of ice and snow)
the late, or rather, later Henrik Egerman ([personal profile] prodigy) wrote2013-01-19 08:12 pm
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Reading meme - Morpho Eugenia, Emma, etc.

Stealing this from [personal profile] qian to give it a try!

What are you reading now?

I know [personal profile] themis will probably roll her eyes at my recurring insistence on braving the Byatt gauntlet despite her overwroughtness and obsession with playing out the same gender roles in fiction over and over, but... I can't help it, her prose style has a certain je ne sais quoi. So I just finished with "Morpho Eugenia" which--had a lot of Byatt weaknesses in it, like uncomfortable exotification of a non-English locale as a metaphorical backdrop for what the English characters are up to, and presenting heterosexuality with that same vaguely predatory, conquest-based framework from the man's perspective, and in general I didn't care for it. But we'll see how I feel about "The Conjugial Angel," which is the second half of Angels & Insects.

My other problem with "Morpho Eugenia" was the really boring and typical treatment of incest. I feel like incest in fiction, unless the story is About Incest in and of itself (and even then), always takes place between these two beautiful ciphers of people who just decide to start defying Westermarck just.. because... and outside the context of the kinds of toxic family environments in which these things actually transpire, and ignores that it's kind of one symptom that usually goes along with a whole syndrome of family dysfunction, not a sexy taboo act that springs out of nowhere. Then again, it's almost always a heavy-handed metaphor for something, or a lurid detail. Sigh.

I'm also reading Emma because I feel like it, which is, of course, much better. Emma Woodhouse! It's kind of fun to mentally exercise yourself trying to speculate what other literary characters she directly influenced.

What did you just finish reading? Apparently what I've read so far in 2013 has been:

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch: Fun! Great fun. I don't say that lightly, I do not generally find crime-procedural urban fantasy to be any fun whatsoever. But it's funny and upbeat and fairly creepy reading, actually, with a pretty horrific villain and supernatural conceit, and Peter Grant and Thomas Nightingale (I think he's a Thomas, anyway) are pretty endearing.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt: I... don't really understand this book's strange, melodramatic appeal, and yet I am sure I would and will reread it sometime. I think it has something to do with Francis. (There's a great YT fic called the mother of beauty from this year.)
The Bone Key by Sarah Monette: Collection of Kyle Murchison Booth stories, which I have finally gotten around to reading all of. They're... uneven overall, and variable, and have a tendency to be kind of anachronistic, and I don't really like how Monette writes women in her horror stories, it cleaves rather closely and without much subversion to many misogynistic horror tropes (and horror is basically a collection of misogynistic tropes). But I'd read more of them, I admit. I like "The Green Glass Paperweight" and "Drowning Palmer."
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: One of those "things I never got around to reading in the stage in my development when I should've!" It's... good, although I think it suffers from some Seinfeld Is Unfunny for younger people like me through no fault of its own and due to the oversaturation of dark feminist fairytales in the past 10 years?
The Magician King by Lev Grossman: Aaaaaargh. Basically everything that was piss-annoying about Grossman as an author in The Magicians was amplified, and--you know, I actually liked The Magicians, in spite of my general desire to slap the male heterosexuality right out of Grossman's authorial perspective, but The Magician King was just a mess and went from bad to worse in how it treated women. Not good.
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer: Heyer's so all-over-the-place for me but this one was really, really fun. And hilarious.
themis: Omar Little. (tw: and not to yield)

[personal profile] themis 2013-01-20 02:59 am (UTC)(link)
I know I seem really judgmental, but I almost never roll my eyes at other people's decisions, I promise!

But, yeah, even thinking about The Magician King is pissing me off. "Her invitingly-short skirt?" Oh, yeah? Fuck you, Lev Grossman. It was like all the insight of The Magicians was gone.
themis: Original cover of Heir of Sea and Fire by unknown artist (b: heir of sea and fire)

[personal profile] themis 2013-01-20 06:13 am (UTC)(link)
Ugh, let's pretend we didn't read it, let's stare dreamily at Emma instead.
ar: A closeup of a painting: a white girl with blue eyes, dark hair, and red lips looks at the viewer a little insolently, (misc - sophie gray)

[personal profile] ar 2013-01-20 06:07 am (UTC)(link)
I agree that the Booth stories are pretty uneven overall and don't necessarily achieve her goal of upending the tropes and expectations of Lovecraftian horror. (She adds some homoerotic subtext and almost nauseatingly boring text let me tell you how much I hate "Elegy for a Demon Lover" oh my GOD, sure, but that's...about it.) Which is something I think she must recognize at least to some extent, but she deals with it in a sort of...issue-of-the-week kind of way? You can point to The Story About Racism and The Story About Classism and The Story About Feminism in a way that isn't exactly ideal. IDK.

But I agree that "Drowning Palmer" is definitely one of the stronger ones. (I thought "The Green Glass Paperweight" was good, but it didn't stick with me as much.) And I would certainly read more, too--Pel (who has a frighteningly encyclopedic knowledge of Monette) says she's got one or two she's apparently been working on for years.

My own favourites are "The Venebretti Necklace" and "White Charles," in great part because I like Miss Coburn and Achitophel Bates a lot. I'm secretly hoping that future Yuletides bring more fic about both of them, because they have the potential for plenty of interesting adventures themselves.

And since I haven't read any of the rest of your books and I am utterly exhausted, I suppose that's that. >> But it sounds like you've been reading some really interesting books.
ar: Kay and Julius Eaton reading a manuscript. (ds9 - farverse reading)

[personal profile] ar 2013-01-21 06:46 pm (UTC)(link)
I really love "Bringing Helena Back" for what a good upending of "The Statement of Randall Carter" it is, but Helena herself is...complicated. :/ I feel like I can see what she was going for--if you assume that everything Booth says about Helena is completely untrue--and I like it, but you really need her author's note about wanting to write an unreliable narrator to do that. And I don't think you should need her explaining what she meant to be able to read the story, especially when the surface explanation is upheld by a century of female ghosts doing the same exact thing, as you said. (Part of me wants to write fic of that story from Helena's POV, but I have yet to get around to it.)

I tend to weigh Booth stories by whether they'd be good on their own, not just in a collection of stories about him, and by that measure, the incubus story is a complete and utter failure (though in the larger context of Booth, it has some interesting characterization bits). "The Green Glass Paperweight" and "White Charles" succeed much, much better in that regard.

The Byatt in question is A.S. Byatt, right? I think I might have a copy of her Ragnarok in my Calibre somewhere, but I haven't gotten around to it. I've heard good things about The Magicians, so perhaps I'll have to pick up a copy of that. I know nothing about The Secret History, but the wiki page makes it sound interesting enough. ♥