I thought today I would do a quick reaction to Kate Nepveu’s post on Chapters 5-10 over on Tor.com.
I agree with her that Mr Drawlight is fairly amusing. We both exceprted his comment about French windows, for example. But I think I still find him more objectionable than she seems to. He also compares unfavorably to other members of his archetype, namely the divine Oscar himself and Gail Carriger’s Lord Akeldama.
The notation about money is very valuable. Mr Norrell could give away £800 very casually. Ms. Nepveu has converted that to 2013 value and it comes out to roughly $116,400. That is a tremendous amount of money to send off just to avoid the hassle of receiving a letter.
She also notes the foreshadowing about the resurrection which can be found in the footnotes. I didn’t notice that particularly, but I already knew that a young woman was brought back from the dead. Possibly from a Goodreads review? I’m not sure.
Oh… So, “a good chunk of the book will take place in Venice.” Well, I guess that explains the paintings then. Hmm, I’m not sure if I’m glad I know this or not.
Refusing to see things, and people, as they really are. Mrs Wintertowne’s perception of her daughter as perfect and perfectly healthy may have directly contributed to her death.
Mr Drawlight is seen as the unlikely hero. His actions in persuading Mr Norrell to resurrect Miss Wintertowne set up (apparently) the rest of the book.
She seems much more drawn to the man with the thistle-down hair than I was. I accepted him as a character, but was not particularly entranced with him. Although, now that the comparison between Mr Norrell’s head and a stew pot has been pointed out to me I rather like it too.
Mr Norrell’s perception of Miss Wintertowne as not quite a person, as something that can be bartered or given is rather upsetting. Althought, since her mother is, as far as we know, giving her away to Sir Walter, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr Norrell who has barely met her would feel entitled to do the same.
The fact that the fairy knows about Jonathan Strange already is puzzling. Also, that he is supposed to become Mr Norrell’s “greatest friend.” I don’t get the impression that Mr Norrell has any friends.
Ms. Nepveu manages to bring Charlaine Harris into the conversation! Bonus points for that.
She also picked out my issue with Sir Walter and his ideas about his relationship with his future wife. He’s a nice man, but…
Miss Wintertowne’s remarkable health and vitality is remarked upon. She circled the square an absurd number of times and feels better than ever before. Better than a normal young woman should.
The view widens, but there isn’t much else to say. The concept of magically drafting the men of Lincolnshire is more disturbing on further reflection. That’s just creepy.
Barring unforeseen events, I should continue with chapters 11-17 on Friday.
I know I’m running late. A dear friend came into town, so I went off gallivanting with her instead of doing my blog post. But, here is the second set of chapters for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. If you haven’t read it yet, here is the link to the Tor.com reread written by Kate Nepveu. It is much more in-depth than I will be going. She has a summary of events, followed by commentary, and then a miscellany, including historical notes.
My sympathies, for the present, are firmly with Mr. Segundus, so I look on the fact that Chapter 5 focuses on Mr Norrell with sadness.
Chapter 5: Drawlight
Does Childermass remind anyone else of Severus Snape, or is that just me? Also, I’m assuming that he’s more than human, but time will tell.
“Besides, if such a magician had existed you would have long since found him out, would not you? – and discovered the means to part him from his books and put an end to his scholarship? You have done it before, you know.”
This quote from Childermass puts an even worse complexion on Mr. Norrell’s dealings with the York society.
The moral, as Mr Drawlight explained it, was that if Mr Norrell hoped to win friends for the cause of modern magic, he must insert a great many more French windows into his home.
Mr Drawlight seems to be quite the sponger. I don’t have a tremendous amount to say about this chapter, except that it contains two impressive footnotes and I don’t much like anyone in it.
Chapter 6: “Magic is not respectable, sir.”
The notion of country gentlemen muttering darkly about clever government officials feels very familiar. I’m picturing a sort of English Joe-the-plumber.
We get a great deal of background on Sir Walter Pole, but I find myself frustrated when we switch back to Mr Norrell. Is Sir Walter actually a good man? I know he is a collection of ugly features that somehow all come together into a pleasing whole. I know he is in deep debt. But I know nothing of his personal character despite several pages with him.
The descriptions of the Venetian paintings in Sir Walter’s rooms were beautiful, but the bizarre situation with Miss Wintertowne was very strange. I assume the girl has consumption, but a) no one in the room was acknowledging her coughing and b) why is her mother so interested in getting her married?
The situation did remind me of an epigram from Martial that I translated back in Latin class:
Gemelus doth his mistress pray
At once to fix the wedding day;
Sends gifts, and begs with all his might.
Is she so fair?– A perfect fright!
What is it then, that sets her off?
Why, Maronilla has — a cough.
(translation from Select Epigrams from Martial for English Readers)
Chapter 7: An opportunity unlikely to occur again
Miss Wintertowne has died, as was to be expected, but before the wedding, and thus has inconvenienced everyone.
Apparently, Mrs Wintertowne refused to acknowledge that her daughter was ill? At least, according to the slightly untrustworthy, but well-informed Mr Drawlight.
Mr Drawlight seems to pop out with small gems, much like Oscar Wilde, “Upon my word, there is nothing in the world so easy to explain as failure – it is, after all, what every body does all the time.”
The little play with Mrs Wintertowne entreating him and Sir Walter trying to ignore him is almost painful. And Mr Drawlight, though witty, comes across as more and more reprehensible.
Chapter 8: A gentleman with thistle-down hair
The negotiations with the fairy were very interesting; half Miss Wintertowne’s life in exchange for her resurrection. I do notice, however, that neither party specified which half the fairy got. Maybe I’ve read too much Seanan McGuire, but I can’t help but feel like it was a bad bargain. Will he take her, Persephone-like, half of each of the next seventy-five years? Or will he take her now and bring her back in 37 years once she is no longer young and beautiful? I have a twisty mind.
Drawlight and Lascelles continue to be moderately horrible. Lascelles is actually offended that the butler and menservants are speaking to him. Bleh.
Miss Wintertowne is surprisingly calm. I hope I see more of her in the future.
I have no idea why the fairy took her little finger. I wonder if that will come up again?
Also, somehow I had forgotten that there were illustrations in this book. I find it sort of strange. I suppose I’ve read editions of Jane Austen that had pictures. And I think some of my Dickens did, but I’m not accustomed to pictures in my historical fiction. I think A Natural History of Dragons and Johannes Cabal, Detective are the only things I can think of that I read recently that are illustrated.
Chapter 9: Lady Pole
The narrator is a lady! (Which, I knew because Kate Nepveu mentions it in her analysis of the first four chapters, but still! It’s unexpected and cool.)
Mrs Wintertowne’s indignation on the very personal and intrusive notes she is getting following her daughter’s resurrection just tickles me. I love the notion of an etiquette book for a magical world. How to properly retract condolences after a resurrection. Does one write a birthday or a deathday note to a ghost? How to leave a calling card for a werewolf on the morning after a full moon.
Sir Walter’s hopes for mutual understanding with his future wife are both sweet and slightly creepy. He’s forty-one and expecting this bright, beautiful nineteen year old to be enthralled by his opinions. It’s nice that he hopes they will actually suit and that he considers that she might even have opinions of her own, but the age gap, though period accurate, is creepy.
Chapter 10: The difficulty of finding employment for a magician
Of course the government spends days arguing about what to do with their new magician instead of just asking how he thinks he could be useful or even what he can actually do.
Here are Kate’s thoughts on these chapters. I haven’t had time to read them yet, so I’ll post any thoughts I have tomorrow. I’m not fully invested in the book yet, but I am interested. Are any of you reading along too?
Delilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Tony Cliff. Our protagonist is actually the aforementioned Turkish lieutenant, a young man named Selim. Selim is a hapless lieutenant in the Sultan’s guard in Constantinople. His passion is the brewing and blending of tea, but it isn’t something for which he gets much respect.
One day, an intruder is apprehended in the Sultan’s palace. She says her name is Delilah Dirk and she lists off numerous accomplishments:
a member of three royal courts
skilled acrobat, lockpick, and escape artists
owner of a flying ship
She has traveled and trained all over the world. And she is here to “repatriate” some of the Sultan’s antique scrolls.
When Delilah inevitably escapes, the Agha blames Selim and orders his execution. Delilah saves him, thus thrusting him into her own life of adventure and intrigue.
This was a delightful read. Delilah is, as far as she can be trusted, a runaway English noblewoman turned adventuress. She’s very much a Regency-era Lara Croft, as far as I can tell. She reminds me a bit of Gail Simone’s version of Red Sonja too. She’s tough, irreverent, thoughtless, but also kind. She had nothing to gain by saving Selim, but she did it anyway. On the other hand, she’ll burn down a town’s only bridge as part of a getaway plan. She’s maybe not a great role model, but she is a great deal of fun.
Selim, on the other hand, is gentle. He isn’t, on the surface, cut out for a life of adventure and intrigue. But he is, if nothing else, a loyal friend.
The art is good, but it didn’t stand out as unusual to me. In a way, I’m glad of that. If I’d spent more time looking at the craft of the art I wouldn’t have had as much focus for the story. If you like adventure books I highly recommend this one.
I’m participating in the Birmingham Art Crawl on November 6. They sent out a long questionere to all the artists and I thought it might be interesting to post my answers. So, here’s more than you ever wanted to know about me, as an artist.
- Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Sara and I make jewelry. Mostly I use fiber techniques like crochet or knitting with wire. I also work at a bookstore and an elementary school library.
- Why do you do what you do?
I love making jewelry. I love to blend colors and textures to make wearable art.
- How do you work?
I usually combine a mix of beads and gemstones into a bowl and look at it for a while. Then I start the actual crafting process.
- What’s your background?
I worked at a bead and jewelry store while I was in graduate school. I learned many of my techniques there and others I picked up here and there.
- What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Passion. Art is often a hard and lonely pursuit, so you have to love it for the process.
- What role does the artist have in society?
I think artists are our heart. Visual artists, wordsmiths, musicians, dancers… they all help to tap into our emotions and our inner selves.
- What’s your favorite art work?
I love paintings, especially of complex or ethereal subjects. Kinuko Craft and Yoshitaka Amano are two of my favorite artists. They are both known for very intricate art, although in very different styles. Craft paints primarily in oils, doing very western-style fairy tale paintings, while Amano uses watercolors and guache in a much more Japanese style.
- What’s your most embarrassing moment?
I met an author that I’m a big fan of a few years ago. It was an unexpected meeting, we were introduced by another author I already knew. All I could do was repeat, “Oh my god. You’re you. Oh my god.” It was terrible. (Yeah, that was Dan Wells)
- What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I work at a bookstore and a library right now. I’ve also been a tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg.
- Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I spend time with my friends and also in online communities like tumblr. There are a ton of artists there and it’s easy to become inspired or to commiserate if things aren’t going well.
- What do you dislike about your work?
It’s never exactly the way I envisioned it.
- What do you like about your work?
It makes people feel pretty or special.
- Should art be funded?
Absolutely! Art is essential. Without art to challenge us, to comfort us, to direct us toward things we would rather not see or might not notice we will become stagnant.
- What role does arts funding have?
Artists will create with very little, but freeing an artist from the concerns of finding the next meal or paying rent allows them to fully tap into their potential. And more art is always a benefit to society.
- What makes you angry?
Injustice and ignorance.
- What superpower would you have and why?
I want Storm’s powers from the X-men. She has control over weather. She can fly, she can zap things with lightning. She’s awesome. Mostly, I’d love to be able to fly, but the ability to manipulate the weather would also be awesome.
- Name something you love, and why.
Reading. It lets me dip into other lives, other times, other ideologies.
- What is your dream project?
To design a suite of jewelry based off my favorite books.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
- Professionally, what’s your goal?
To be able to support myself with my art.
- What wouldn’t you do without?
The internet. I use it for research, for networking, for keeping up with my friends, and just for entertainment.
It’s the spookiest time of year. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I thought I would take a little time to talk about scary books. I don’t actually read very much horror. I need a happy or relatively happy ending to make me ok at the end of a book, but every now and then, I like to read something that’s tense and disturbing. So, here are some of my favorite creepy books:
1. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
Weaponized. Zombie. Virus.
If that doesn’t scare you then… I’m not sure. You’re a strange person. Jonathan is one of my favorite authors and I’ve gone on, and on, and on about his books, so I won’t give a full recap here. But the short version is that terrorists have figured out how to manipulate prion diseases to create a zombie virus. Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences are the only thing standing between them and their goal of wiping the US off the map.
Maberry writes incredibly compelling action scenes and very good suspense. There is a scene inside an old refrigeration plant that haunts my nightmares.
He also has a few books that are too spooky for me to read: Ghost Road Blues is the first book in the Pine Deep series. Those are about five steps too far for me, but if you like supernatural horror I highly recommend them.
(Trigger Warning: violence against women and children (most of whom are zombies))
2. The John Cleaver Series by Dan Wells
I’d say especially book 2, Mr. Monster. You’re already on creepy ground since your protagonist has all the hallmarks of a serial killer. Only his own resolve not to give into that side of himself keeps him from tipping over the edge. So, you’re never exactly safe with him. Next, John is fighting (minor spoiler) demons. Demons who manifest as… serial killers. He hunts that which he might become, but in order to do that he has to tap into the dangerous side of himself. It’s a very narrow line.
In Mr. Monster the demon kidnaps and murders women. There are some very, very disturbing scenes with the women he has captive. Do not read this one before bed.
((Trigger Warning: violence against women, violence against an animal))
3. The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
This book is actually not, in the strictest sense, speculative fiction. It could be considered a very minor alternate history, but I don’t think of it that way.
The book takes place during the reign of Henry II. Someone is murdering the children of Cambridge. The Jewish community has been blamed, as was often the case, and they have taken refuge in the Sheriff’s keep. While they are there no taxes are being collected from them, so Henry sends to the University of Salerno for a Master of the Art of Death, what would eventually become a pathologist.
Instead he gets Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a Mistress of the Art of Death. Adelia and her companions come to Cambridge where they must face off against a brutal madman. The writing is rich and wonderful, which makes the creepy and violent scenes that much more chilling.
((Trigger Warning: violence against children, violence against an animal))
What are your favorite creepy books?
When I heard Neil Gaiman speak last year in Nashville, he told us that he hand writes all his manuscripts. Further, he uses a different pen, with a different color of ink every day so that he can track his progress. (There is a small column by Neil about his pen usage partway down this article on the BBC News.) I find that idea very intriguing, although, I like the instant gratification of typing directly into a GoogleDoc that I can share with my collaborator or my beta reader. I hand write my journal and I hand write letters. So many letters.
I have just recently started to try out fountain pens of my own. I find that I feel much more important when I write with a fountain pen,even a very cheap one. Mary Robinette Kowal collects fountain pens and was kind enough to let me try out two of her’s while I was at the Writing Excuses Retreat. They were luscious. One of them had an italic nib and it made my usually terrible handwriting look much more elegant. It’s still terrible, mind you, but it’s better. (That’s not with Mary’s pen, by the way. It’s with the cheap one I bought last week.)
So, I thought I would talk briefly about the three fountain pens I do use. Two of them are incredibly cheap, but perfectly serviceable pens.
My first fountain pen:
The Pelikano Junior
This is about a $15 pen, depending on where you get it. It’s actually designed for children. It has a large, plastic barrel and a shaped finger grip so that you can’t hold it wrong. It has a medium-ish size nib, which actually feels very fat to me now that I’ve been using a fine nib for a while.
I lost my first Pelikano Jr. and replaced it immediately. For $15 it’s very sturdy. I’ve had my current Jr. for over a year now. Someone on twitter made fun of me a little for using a children’s pen, but I don’t really care. It works and it’s comfortable.
My second pen:
Whiskey Barrel Pen
This pen was actually started as a Kickstarter project, although I got mine at the Magic City Art Connection earlier this year. The pen barrels are turned out of decommissioned whiskey barrels, either Jack Daniels or Maker’s Mark. I think mine was Maker’s Mark, but I lost the card that told me for sure.
This is the pen I used the most often. It feels good in my hand and has a fine nib, which I prefer. If I could write any thinner I would. The only downside is that the pen is quite heavy if you post the cap (putting it on the back of the pen while you write.) So, I tend to leave the cap off, which means I sometimes knock it off my writing surface. Not a tragedy.
My Newest Pen
The Pilot Plumix
This is a cheap pen. It looks cheap and it feels cheap. But, it has an italic nib and it writes smoothly. I wasn’t quite ready to invest in a very fancy pen. The Whiskey Barrel Pen is my most expensive writing implement to date and it was under $100, which isn’t bad for a fountain pen. The Plumix is $7.25. That’s a price at which I don’t feel bad conducting an experiment. I just got the pen yesterday, so I haven’t had much time to try it out, but I did write a letter immediately and it had a very nice flow. It’s thin, which is a it odd after using the wooden pen for so long, which is almost as thick as a fat marker. It’s also very light. It’s a bit hard to remember I’m actually using a fountain pen.
In case you’re interested in that sort of thing, I use cartridges in all my pens. I’ve found that I absolutely cannot fill a converter without making a giant mess. Maybe someday. I will use a syringe to refill an empty cartridge with bottled ink so that I can get some more variety in colors. So far, I’ve only used Noodler’s Ink and found it quite nice. I prefer a waterproof ink, especially since I send so much mail. I don’t want to risk the address being obliterated before the letter can arrive at its destination. Sadly, most of the inks I’ve found in cartridges aren’t waterproof, but that’s where the syringe method comes in handy.
Learning all about fountain pens from Kathy. #LWAlab #greerchicago