strange fire

books. poetry. paganism. feminism. queerness. blog.

The Biographer’s Tale~A. S. Byatt January 31, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 3:49 pm

I had a serious case of Book Lust with this novel. By that I mean it was physically a beautiful book, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I’d gaze longingly at it when I passed by it in the university library, and after Possession, I knew I had to read it. It’s the second Byatt novel I’ve read, and now, finally, after all the anticipation, I’m not sure what to say. I can’t say it fulfilled my expectations, but it wasn’t disappointing either.

It’s very clever. The autobiography of the biography of a biographer. It’s a very intricate, carefully constructed novel, but I’m not sure there’s any substance behind it. Like a house of cards, it’s a neat trick. Byatt fairly dazzles you with the ideas and themes exploding all over this work–but it’s all strangely bloodless. There’s no coherence or connection between all the “facts” and “things” that Phineas G. Nanson (“the ur-I of this document”, as he says) immerses himself in. It’s ultimately unsatisfying, “the antidote to Possession,” as I read in one critic’s review. If Possession is passionate, The Biographer’s Tale is fiercely dispassionate. I think that’s the point, maybe. But I don’t know what Byatt’s trying to say, and frankly, I don’t care. Phineas seems to be a formalist stuck in a post-modern world. I can understand his frustration with modern literary theory, though. But this whole thing functions more as a piece of literary criticism than a novel. Like she’s employing post-structuralist techniques to criticize post-structuralism or something. Not that I’ve actually studied structuralism yet, post- or otherwise. (Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t be using too much academic jargon, but I really can’t get around it with this book.) And while I think Byatt may be saying some important and interesting things here, for the most part it’s so fucking boring I don’t really give a damn. It’s “intellectual” in the worst sense–dry, stuffy, and arrogant.

I’m anxious to try out Margaret Drabble and see how she compares to her sister.



Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 3:45 pm

I forgot to mention, I don’t really spend any time summarizing the plot (I hate doing that) in my entries, and spoilers abound, so consider yourself forewarned.


good enough for now

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 3:26 pm

Well, I’ve got the links up, so that’s good. Still figuring out how to put up a bio, and the comments. Anyway, think I’ll finish up today with my latest entry in my book journal.



Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 2:46 pm

trying to add comments…

aha! it worked! now onto the sidebar…


Well, hi folks. Here I am, jumping onto the bloggi…

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 1:46 pm

Well, hi folks. Here I am, jumping onto the blogging bandwagon. I’m Anne, a queer Janeite with a passion for books. I’ve kept a hand-written book journal for over two years now, and so now I’ve decided to keep a book blog. We’ll see how it goes. I’m new to this blogging thing. I have ecletic tastes–fantasy, sci-fi, non-fiction, poetry, even romance novels–so I’ll be reading a little bit of everything. I’ll be posting enteries from my old, handwritten journals as well. Not necessarily as they were written. And I’ll ramble a bit on this and that as well.

Currently reading:

The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe

The Vintage Book of International Lesbian Fiction, ed. Naomi Holoch and Joan Nestle

Red as Blood (or, Tales from the Sisters Grimmer), Tanith Lee

The Cooper’s Wife is Missing: The Trials of Bridget Cleary, Joan Hoff and Marian Yeates The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Rachel Wetzsteon

My project this year is to read only women writers (excluding what I read for class). I’m an English major, so I like theory, but everything I read here is for pleasure, so it will be pretty subjective; no academic jargon, for the most part.

I probably should explain the title, of this blog, while I’m at it. The phrase “busy nothings” is from Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, Ch. 10 specifically:

Dinner was soon followed by tea and coffee, a ten miles’ drive home allowed no waste of hours; and from the time of their sitting down to table, it was a quick succession of busy nothings till the carriage came to the door…

Patricia Rozema uses the phrase in her generally reviled adaptation, when she has Fanny Price say:

Life seems nothing more than a quick succession of busy nothings.

I’m one of the few Janeites (i.e., a person who adores Jane Austen) who actually likes this adaptation, despite the fact that it pretty much butchers the novel. My massive crush on Frances O’Connor and Sophia Myles probably has something to do with it. What can I say, it’s a guilty pleasure.

Anyway, bear with me as I learn my way around blogging. I hope you guys enjoy my book journal as much as I do.