strange fire

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

Charlotte ~ Julia Barrett May 30, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 6:24 pm


In her turn, when her older sisters married, Charlotte, along with their next brother, Henry, soon learned to keep order at the Heywoods, if not the most perfect peace.

Good lord, woman–Charlotte doesn’t have any older sisters! Austen says so right in Chapter 2! And she mentions the non-existant older sisters three more times! I mean, jeez! I give a lot of leeway to sequels, but when you’re writing a continuation, picking up right where Austen’s words leave off, continuity is the least you can do. And Barrett’s Charlotte seems to be mostly Lizzie Bennet with a dash of Emma Woodhouse thrown in.

Look people, I love Lizzie as much as the next Janeite, but Pride and Prejudice is not the be-all and end-all of Austen’s oeuvre. Christ almighty.

Not to mention her prediliction for Yoda Syntax: “Alarming this was to him.” “Piqued he was”.

I’m not gonna waste my time on crappy Austen sequels. Mediocre ones, yes, but not crappy ones.


Sanditon ~ Jane Austen May 28, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:04 pm

So, Shithead, who’s living at home, got a bulldog. He works 60 hours a week, so guess who gets to take care of a nine-week old puppy. I’ve never cleaned up so much pee in my life.
In other words, this year’s Austen Read is pure escapism. No critical thinking or literary analysis here. No disection of plot, theme, or characterization. Sometimes I, for all my feminist politics and queer radicalism, would like nothing better than to sit around all day in the garden, in a white muslin dress, drinking tea and reading Neo-classical literature and Romantic poets. What a life.
And how wonderful is it to have fresh Austen, that classic snarky authorial voice taking on new follies and foolish characters, skewering everything in sight. Only Jane Austen would write a satire about a town full of hypochondriacs and narcissistic invalids while slowly dying herself. There’s so little here, only about twelve chapters; she’s just getting started, laying out the ground work, sketching in the perspective. We haven’t even really hit a major conflict yet; we barely meet the hero before the last chapter ends. I know he’s the hero because he’s the only sensible man in the work. Sir Edward Denham is probably the villain, or at least he will try very hard to be; any Austen male who refers to women as “fair ones” and trashes novels is Trouble. It’s terribly frustrating, to have so little that has so much potential.
Clearly, there was nothing for it but to run to the library and pick up Julia Barrett’s continuation, Charlotte. Which I promptly did. She’s got a tough act to follow, Ms. Barrett, but I must see Charlotte Heywood and Sydney Parker get together, and laugh some more at Sir Edward and Lady Denham.


"Dreams are weird and stupid and they scare me." May 26, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 6:48 pm

From Rose Walker’s diary, in SANDMAN #16: “Lost Hearts”

My lord Morpheus has been messing with my head recently. For what felt like months I didn’t dream at all; or what dreams I did have were fairly mundane–driving to the airport, washing my clothes, writing a paper–nothing in the least surreal about them, and I’d forget them as soon as I awoke.
But now I’m having terribly vivid, very wierd dreams. Flying dreams, and dreams about sunsets and lakes that I can’t swim across, wandering around endless passages in a kind of hospital/school cafeteria building. I dreamed I ran into the girl I briefly went out with last month, one of those awkward meetings after a messy break-up, and we talked about something I don’t remember, she walked away, turned around, came back and kissed me, and then disappeared. Which unnerved me a bit.
But last night’s dream was really wierd, even by those standards. I dreamed about Neil Gaiman. He was sitting on my porch, writing his novel, and we hung out and talked about whatever it is you talk about in dreams, and he was just as nice and charming as he seems to be on his blog. And then he asked me if we had any marbles in the house. It was for his book. We used to have an old mason jar full of old-fashioned glass marbles that my mother and aunts and uncles played with when they were kids in the 50s, and we spent the rest of the dream, Neil Gaiman and I, in the basement, looking for these glass marbles. We never did find them.
Now that, dear reader, is just odd. When I dream about real people it’s always people I know; and certainly not authors I’ve never met. (Why can’t I have a dream about Jane Austen? That would be fun. We’d sit and have tea and trade snarky gossip about the neighbors). The only other vaguely literary dream I remember having was about David Copperfield (the Dickens character, not the magician). I was very mad at him for treating poor Agnes Wickfield so badly, I was yelling at him and demanded he give her money.
Maybe I should pay attention to what I eat before I go to bed….

Oho, my sainted aunt, have I become a victim of brain fever, the curse of academia…?

Jonathan Crane, in SANDMAN #7: “Sound and Fury”


The Hero and the Crown ~ Robin McKinley May 25, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 5:58 pm

Classic high fantasy with a dragon-slaying princess. What more needs to be said? This is a good, wonderfully satisfying read, though the fact that I found the premise to be a neat twist says volumes about standard fantasy fare and my expectations of it. McKinley is a great writer, but without Aerin (the “hero” of the title), it would be fairly indistinguishable from the usual swords-and-sorcerey stuff.
As I was reading it, the book made me think of classical music, oddly enough. The plot is the archetypal hero’s journey, but McKinley does something subtle with it. Instead of a straight-forward arc of exposition, conflict, tension, climax, resolution, complete with final show-down between the Hero and the Bad Guy, it’s almost as if the book is a sonata. Instead of a big climax there are several crescendos, themes and leit-motifs introduced, developed, and restated. Aerin’s battle with Maur the Black Dragon is only the beginning of her adventure, instead of the culmination. The arch-villain of the book, Asged, is introduced only in the last quarter of the book, and is defeated within a single chapter. He is, like Tolkein’s Sauron, the least interesting character, and pretty darn flat. In the meantime there are two near-death scenes, a few more dragon battles, an interlude of study with an immortal sorcerer, and a final battle between the Damarians and the northern demons. The dragons, the kingdom of Damar, the evil magician, it’s all mostly background for Aerin’s personal growth. Turns out this is really more of a bildungroman than a hero’s journey; or, maybe McKinley’s saying that the maturation of a young woman is a hero’s journey, in the end. Aerin’s a king’s daughter but she’s also an outcast in her court, since her late mother is rumored to have been a witch that enchanted the king. She’s a pretty delightful character, smart, energetic, and a bit of a dry wit. She tends to make sarcastic comments like “This is typical. On my way to gods know what unspeakable doom, and I break out in a rash.” I like her because she’s scared shitless everytime she fights a dragon, because she’s fallible and human and gets the crap beat out of her, because she’s not a Xena Warrior Princess. Frankly, none of the other characters can really hold up next to her, not even the love interest. Plus, she has a trusty and loyal steed, which every hero needs. Talat the war-horse is probably the best drawn character after his mistress.
Hm. So maybe it’s not so indistinguisable after all. Maybe McKinley’s using the cliched trappings of high fantasy to her advantage. I don’t know. I do know that I’d give my right arm to see a movie version, just for the battle scene with Maur.

Well, anyway, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and finally read what remains of Austen’s work after the novels. The Watsons and Sanditon, which are unfinished (and I weep at the knowledge, I love Sanditon already and I’m only a few chapters in), Lady Susan, and the juvenelia, all in my pretty Everyman’s Library edition. I’m also working on L’Armoire magique (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for you English types), in preparation for the movie, of which I have high hopes and apprehensions.


post-graduation reckoning May 24, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 10:05 am

Number of:

books I’ve read: 1. Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown

books I’ve bought: 1. I’ve been very good so far. But wait till I get to the used books table at the library.

magazines I’ve bought: 2. I wish Bust would publish monthly!

movies I’ve seen: 1. Hitchhikers again, with sis.

times I’ve been to Steak’n’Shake: 1, to visit with K.

times I’ve thought about going back to get another of their Double Fudge Chocolate Shakes: 129,873,984,723

times I’ve called friends in Rural Small Town: 0. am very bad friend.

squabbles I’ve had with Mommie Dearest: 5.

job applications I’ve put in: 2.

times I’ve heard about Shithead’s new girlfriend, Nice Catholic Girl: 9,865,597,567,887,656,476,454

emails I’ve exchanged with English Girl: 11.

times I’ve been teased/warned about Frenchmen: 6.

articles knitted: 3. Two wristbands, and I’ve started my very first sweater. I feel so domestic.

times I’ve been intending to post: 7

times I’ve dyed my hair purple: 1

times I’ve wondered when to dye it electric blue with my nifty new spray on hair dye: 15

more book reviews to come, now that I’ve actually got the time for it. Besides, as you can see, not much is going on around here.


la plus ca change… May 12, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:43 am

(you’ll just have to imagine a little cedille underneath the “c” in “ca” because I can’t do accents on this damn thing)

So. The last tests have been taken. The last papers written. Only thing to do now is pack my things and say my goodbyes.

I find myself faced with the question every college grad must answer: What do I read next?

I’m actually not worried about finding a summer job. That’ll work itself out, and I can always be a nanny if all else fails. But for the first time in my life I find myself with the absolute freedom to read whatever I want, whenever I want, without the pressure to turn it into a thesis of any kind. Makes me positively dizzy just thinking about it.

I mean, the possibilities are practically endless. I could start off with my annual Jane Austen read, and follow it up with The Jane Austen Book Club. But I could also read the books I bought in France (Colette has been glaring at me with a particularly Gallic disdain ever since I abandoned her in January); or I could save them for when I’m in Metz. I could try and make a dent in the 40+ books I own that I haven’t read yet. I could finish up the Hornblower series (ooh, and start on Patrick O’Brien!). Horatians is going to have a group read of Hornblower and the Atropos, I think, which is right where I left off. Awfully tempting. Or I could finally start Gormenghast. Hell, I could even sit down and see how long it takes me to read the Sandman series straight through.

It’s a fine pickle I’m in is what it is.

Anyway, I’ll be mulling that over the next week or so while I move out of the dorm, back home, and in with my friend S. Posting will be sporadic. In the meantime, amuse yourself with my new favorite weblog:


so long and thanks for all the fish May 9, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:51 pm

I wish college graduation could be as nonchalant as that. Well, thanks guys! See ya ’round! But no. Everybody’s gotta make a big production out of it. We gotta dress up in funny costumes and listen to boring speeches and pretend to get all sentimental.

Is it so awful that I’m considering skipping my college graduation ceremony? Does that make me a bad person?

I could really care less about it. My parents aren’t forcing me to go. I don’t give a shit about this school, I only came here because it was ridiculously cheap; I pretty much got a free ride. I certainly don’t give a crap about the town. There are people I’m going to regret leaving, of course; but I’ll say goodbye to them in my own time, and besides, we’ll be seeing each other over the summer anyway.

This is my last week here. It’s wierd. It’s certainly an emotional experience, but not for the usual reasons. Three-quarters of my time at college has been pretty miserable, frankly. The other fourth has been really great. But I’m ready to leave. I’m ready to move on and start living my life. A backyard barbeque is celebration enough for me.

Update: For a while there I was starting to lean towards going to commencement. I mean, you only graduate from college once, right? It’s one of those rights of passage you gotta do, and I might regret not going.

That is, I was thinking that until I found out this guy is giving the commencement address. Senator “100% Approval Rating from the Christian Coalition”. No. Fucking. Way. I am getting the hell out of Dodge and I ain’t looking back.