Greetings from the Omnigraphic Blogopticon. On view are vile sticky things dragged from the attic, snarky commentary on the world at large, and all-encompassing ennui. All that and a weird rubbery smell. A horrible time will be had by all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wah, Wah, Wahhhh.

Since it's been too hot to blog, sew, knit, crochet, or spin yarn for the past month or so, and there's not a damned thing on TV, and I have no new computer games I've been reading an assload of books. I've got this here stack with sweaty pawprints all over the pages and I'm sharing them with you whether you guys want to hear about it or not. So there.

Books I Read That Weren't Harry Potter (because I polished that off in about 6 hours so it doesn't count)

Wuthering Heights,
Emily Bronte. I can't really explain why I hated this book so much; I really wanted to like the damned thing but I wound up just wanting to bash myself over the head with it. I still fantasize about flinging both Cathy and Heathcliff and their god-awful descendants into a deep pit and covering it over with concrete. You wind up wanting them to just shut the hell up and die already. Miserable fucking bastards.

Queen Victoria's Bomb, Ronald Clark. A nice little 1960's what-if kinda novel. The Victorians apparently had discovered uranium and had a rudimentary atomic theory by the 1840s, so why couldn't they go and wipe out a continent? According to this book they were just way too damned polite to do it. We have some sort of an atomic test in India and an attempt in the Crimea fails because the ship sinks in a storm. The Indian blast causes mutations that everyone decides are just too horrible to look at so we don't get to see them. One Earth-shattering kaboom and then they get all stuffy and spend the next 40 years talking about the damned thing. It's a novel, dude. You're allowed to blow something up. Despite that, it was still incredibly entertaining in precisely the same way that Wuthering Heights wasn't.

The Great Influenza, John M. Barry. A great book on the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic. Yes, a book about the hideous deaths of 100 million people was loads more entertaining than Wuthering Heights.

Perdido Street Station, China Mieville. If you want to read a book about bug-headed humanoids, the Ambassador of Hell, and assorted miserable human riff-raff, read this one. Depressingly bad endings for pretty much every single character but somehow still a massively good book.

Lady Audley's Secret, Miss M. E. Braddon. This was originally published in 1861 and my copy is a crusty old 1887 publication seemingly printed on card stock. Crammed full of bigamy and murder and those amusing Dickensian descriptions you don't see much in these tacky little "lady's novels". Most of them are complete crap and I've got bookshelves full of them, things I bought at the flea market for their decorative covers and have no intention of reading. If you like squinting at your books on a computer screen there's a copy at Project Gutenburg.

Across the Zodiac, Percy Greg. I'll admit I couldn't finish this one. Victorian science fiction can either be gloriously entertaining or make the reader want to stuff themselves into a wood chipper feet-first. The author seems to think an incredibly dull trip to Mars is much more believable than one with fantastic propulsion systems and wacko planets. Ha! I finally lost it when the pilot finally lands on Mars after several chapters of figuring and cyphering and hauls out these random songbirds he'd dragged with him for no good reason and turns the damned things loose. He doesn't bring chickens so he can eat eggs the whole trip and he doesn't send out a canary in a cage to test for oxygen on the planet's surface. He dumps out a cage full of birds and watches them stagger away. Perhaps it made perfect sense in 1880. There's also an even more tedious sci-fi novel by the same name published ten years after this one. God help us.

King Solomon's Mines, H. Rider Haggard. Fast-moving African adventure novel with secret lost treasure a la Indiana Jones. I'd never read any of the Allan Quatermain novels before, mostly because I'd seen that really hideous Richard Chamberlain movie version of this book. I'll be snagging a copy of She pretty soon.

The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole. You know this one. A giant helmet falls out of the sky and kills young Prince Conrad just as he is to marry Lady Isabella. I'm guessing in 1764 they were smoking some pretty strong stuff. Giant ghosts, secret passageways, a cursed castle, and lots of people dying in less interesting ways than being "dashed to pieces and almost buried under an enormous helmet." Thankfully also a very short novel.

The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse. One of my favorite Jeeves & Wooster novels. We have Sir Roderick Spode who runs a Fascist organization called the Black Shorts (when he started the organization the shops were all out of black shirts) and a missing 18th century cow creamer. "It was a silver cow. But when I say 'cow,' don't go running away with the idea of some decent, self-respecting cudster such as you may observe loading grass into itself in the nearest meadow. This was a sinister, leering, underworld sort of animal... The sight of it seemed to take me into a different and dreadful world." I had intended on wading my way through my stack of Wodehouse but I got distracted by some of this other literary rubbish.

Let me just say that both Wuthering Heights and Across the Zodiac took me into a different and dreadful world.

I've started The Monk, A Romance (Matthew Lewis, 1794), and so far it's already crammed with sleazy convent sex and gore and demon worship and filthy peasants, so all in all I'm pretty happy with it.


Scott said...

I've read Castle of Ortranto. Didn't care for it. The only reason I read it was because of that giant helmet falling out of the sky. It never occurred to me that a novel where a giant helmet falls out of the sky would be boring.

Christine said...

I am going to de-lurk here because I hate Wuthering Heights with a red hot passion. The movie sucks, um, [insert something rude] too.

Jane said...

Woo hoo! I'm glad other people hate Wuthering Heights besides me. Honestly, even preachy Anne Bronte is more interesting (Agnes Grey, for instance, is governess at one point to a little monster who crushes baby birds with a rock - what a sicko!). I did rather like Lady Audley's Secret - good, trashy Victoriana. And yes, I suppose the Castle of Otranto might be frightening to someone chock full of laudanum, but it doesn't stand the test of time very well.

I'm glad The Monk is as trashy as its reputation let me to believe; I'll have to dig out my copy!

Now I'm wondering if anyone has ever made it all the way through a Mrs Radcliffe novel? I tried a couple of times, but have yet to succeed.