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Bookstore Etiquette

October 31, 2014

lpThis isn’t precisely book related, but I wanted to talk a little bit about bookstore etiquette. Not necessarily when you’re coming in as a pure customer; Wheaton’s Law applies pretty universally in that case. What I mean is when you’re treating the bookstore like a coffee shop, as somewhere to hang out, use free wi-fi, or get some work done. And hey, maybe your bookstore has a coffee shop in it! So, you should apply general coffee shop rules to your experience. This is especially relevant since NaNoWriMo is coming up and you may be looking for more places to take your laptop/tablet/pad of paper and get some words down.

There are a million and twelve places you can go to see coffee shop etiquette, so I won’t belabor all those points, but here are the highlights as they apply to a small bookstore (big chains are a little different, but again, Wheaton’s Law applies.)
1. Buy something! 
Look, if you’re broke and you need somewhere to go, we totally understand. We’re not going to kick you out, but at least grab some coffee from our cafe or pick up a $0.75 newspaper. Acknowledge that this is a business, not your den.
2. Be Courteous
If you’ve got a cell phone call or you’re using our wi-fi to hold a video conference (although, really, you should probably be doing that in private) please keep your voice down. Don’t put your phone on speaker, and use headphones if you’re video conferencing. This isn’t a library, but we don’t want to be a captive audience for your entire conversation.
3. Clean Up After Yourself
Hey, we’re a bookstore. We have magazines and books and newspapers and all sorts of other exciting things to look at. But, we’re also not your mom or your maid. Please don’t leave the things you take out scattered all over the store. We’re not asking you to re-shelve everything, we are, literally, paid to do that. But, if you could stack things and put them on one of the carts, take them to a service desk, or even just leave things tidily on a table that would really help us out.
4. Limit Your Bandwidth
This is not the place to download  a movie or run your Carbonite backup.
5. Be Polite
Most bookstores don’t have any sort of tip jar for the employees, but you can show your appreciation by being polite. If an employee has to ask you to move, or stop using a store resource then comply gracefully. Don’t cause a huge fuss. Really. Don’t.
6. Limit Your Time
Please, don’t come in, settle down, and then spend 8 hours hogging one of our tables or our comfiest chair. That’s just not fair to everyone else who wants to come into our space.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Chapters 11-16

October 27, 2014

More Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I think I may stop reading the read-a-long entries quite so close to my reading. They’re mentioning things that happen later on in the book, and I’d rather not be spoiled on the parts I haven’t read yet. So, there may not be reactions posts for a bit until I can get further ahead.

strangeChapter 11 – Brest

A short chapter, from the French perspective. A huge fleet of English ships have blockaded the port of Brest. They appeared out of nowhere along with torrential and unexpected rain. The Admiral’s servant, Perroquet, is the one who finally points out the oddity of the ships, which, it transpires, are illusions made of rain.
I almost wonder if Perroquet is a fairy. His description is so singular that I cannot decided if it is because he is more than human or if Clarke is trying to capture the prevailing attitudes of the time toward someone so different.
He is named like a pet and the Admiral is proud of him, as though he were a curiosity. But, Perroquet is also trusted and respected by the Admiral.
The archness of the line, “Metal ships indeed! The French are, as I have often supposed, a very whimsical nation,” struck me as annoying. It seemed that the author was inviting the reader to laugh at the narrator, who in turn, was inviting the reader to laugh at the French. I think it would have been better cut. I never quite like those sly insertions in historical novels written with modern knowledge.

Chapter 12 – The Spirit of English Magic urges Mr Norrell to the Aid of Britannia

The last chapter discussing the Ministers and Mr Norrell did not show much hope of practical arrangements being made, so it is astonishing that the blockade should have been planned and executed.
How do the random folks in the crowd recognize Mr Norrell? I imagine after the blockade his image was in all the papers, but I also assume that a drawing of one cranky old man rendered in newsprint looks very much like another.
That Drawlight and Lascelles are still around is not surprising, but I am surprised that they are encouraging Mr Norrell to publish. He’s such a dry, boring little man. I assume they must be planning to edit him.
The very casual way Drawlight and Lascelles discuss a schoolmaster sticking a penknife into Mr Murray’s eye is chilling.
Mr Drawlight feels comfortable “summoning” Lord Portishead to Mr Norrell’s side. Mr Norrell must be in very great ascendancy indeed if he can casually summon a lord.
The periodical seems to have been successful, according to the footnotes, although it doesn’t sound very interesting to read.

Chapter 13 – The magician of Threadneedle-street

I love her discription of Vinculus:

His face was the colour of three-day-old milk; his hair was the colour of a coal-smoke-and-ashes London sky; and his clothes were the colour of the Thames at dirty Wapping.

None of that actually tells us what he looked like or how he was dressed, but it gives us a very definite image nonetheless.
It’s so funny that Mr Norrell is afraid he has betrayed English magic by not coming forward earlier, but doesn’t spare a thought for all the English magicians he has ruined.
I suspect the prophecy that Vinculus is spouting will come back somehow. It’s very foreshadow-y.
The juxtaposition of Mr Norrell’s paranoia about Vinculus with the servants’ concern about the pies he ate is a very nice moment.
Childermass continues to remind me of Snape.
Mr Norrell seems so petty still. He has done great, bold things, but he himself is a dried up unpleasant man.

Chapter 14 – Heart-break Farm

The best that can be said about Laurence Strange seems to have been said in a footnote, “So may a love of money make an intelligent man small-minded and ridiculous.”
Again, to the footnotes, “Strange preferred the society of clever women to that of men.” What good taste he has.
The new manservant, Jeremy, seems very singular. He can’t have had many positions if he goes about calling his employers “old fools” very often.
Jeremy’s trek to Heart-break Farm is vastly entertaining. He’s so accepting of everything, where I feel another person might have started to suspect Mr Strange of mischief about the time he encountered the thorns.
And Laurence Strange gets his comeuppance. Although, I’m not entirely sure what this chapter is meant to illustrate other than that Mr Jonathan Strange had a terrible parent.

Chapter 15 – “How is Lady Pole?”

Lady Pole seems to have a manic energy, which can’t be natural. Kate Nepveu, on the other hand, feels that this state of high energy is what Lady Pole should have experienced if not for her illness. She has read the book before, so I have to conclude that I’m just being paranoid.
Stephen Black seems to be personal secretary, steward, and butler. The narrator points out how unusual such a position is because of Stephen’s race. He is black in a society that dismisses the value of a black servant in any capacity save that of novelty.
The interest of the butcher’s boy et al in Stephen’s habits was precious. They think he’s a prince in disguise. Which, given that Peter the Great did pretend (poorly) to be a lowly ship builder isn’t that far out there.
It bothers me a little that Stephen Black is introduced in the context of healing the rift between the town servants and the country servants, but we don’t get to see him do so. I want the country servants to be alright.
“…so they told Sir Walter – rather than asked him – that he missed his wife.” I just love that line.
Alfred may have some of the sight. Or, Stephen Black is right and all he saw was the curtain and the candelabra. But I doubt it.
Stephen heard a pipe and fiddle that was heartbreakingly sad and Robert saw a wood grown up outside. Omens and portents, indeed.

Chapter 16 – Lost-hope

The hauntings have solved the servants’ differences, not Stephen. I’m kind of sad about that. I wanted to see Stephen at work.
The degree to which people just accept things is astonishing to me. Stephen has just answered a bell he has never seen before, gone to a room he has never noticed before, and the room is not one that matches any of the rest of the house. And yet, he assumes the strange man inside is just a guest he wasn’t informed about. Are all these people on heavy duty tranquilizers?
The dismissive way the thistle-down gentleman remarks that it’s so easy to find the tears of virtuous spinsters who have never been happy despite long and virtuous lives is chilling.
Ok… the man has just opened a box and displayed a finger. A finger he wants Lady Pole to wear at the ball tonight. How is Stephen not freaking out right now?
I’m a little surprised that Stephen knows the dances. I wouldn’t have thought most servants were taught formal dancing.
The descriptions of the people at the ball are wonderful. I really want to see if I can conceptualize a necklace made out of broken promises now.


Day Off

October 24, 2014

Art by Autumn from Daydreams & Giggles

I’m taking a mental health day today. In the meantime, have this amazing painting of Medusa that I commissioned from Autumn at Daydreams and Giggles. Isn’t she divine? She’s based on Mami Wata.
I collect Medusas. I also got an amazing painting from Ted Naifeh at DragonCon. I have to go to a Kinko’s to get her scanned though. She’s too big for my home printer. She’s also very not safe for work, so I don’t know that I’ll post her just in case that’s not cool for people.
For some reason, Medusa just stuck in my head when I was little. I learned Greek mythology when I was very young. My mom was going back to school when I was about four and so she told me myths instead of fairy tales. Demeter was my third grade Halloween costume. So, I was a giant nerd even as a tiny child.
But Medusa… There was always something about her. (You may have noticed that I’m a fan, what with my blog name, my twitter handle, and my jewelry company name.
Is there anyone you read about when you were little who stuck with you?

Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Mead, and the “Percy Jackson Problem”

October 23, 2014

Rebecca Mead wrote a piece in the New Yorker today called “The Percy Jackson Problem.” I found it via Neil Gaiman’s tumblr:
So, I clicked through because, first of all, I object to the notion that the Percy Jackson books “seem designed to repel grownups with teen goofiness.” And second, I wanted to see how Neil Gaiman was winning an argument he wasn’t aware of.
So, the reason Gaiman was invoked by Ms. Mead is that almost exactly a year ago he gave The Reading Agency annual lecture on the importance of reading and libraries. And the lecture was reprinted in the Guardian.
The whole lecture is worth a read, but the part that gets pulled out, and the reason it is relevant to the New Yorker article can be summed up in these two paragraphs:

There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian “improving” literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

Seriously, Mom? At 10?

Seriously, Mom? At 10?

I happen to agree with him. I was encouraged to read with very little supervision as a child. I read almost anything I could get my hands on. I had a personal library of over 1,000 books by the time I was 15. But, I remember one Christmas when I was ten or so. My mother gave me Pride and Prejudice and Stranger in a Strange Land. Now, I love both these books now. But at ten I shook out my stocking a few more times to see if there was anything better in it. She didn’t push though. She didn’t force me to pick up those books and read them right then. If she had, I doubt I would be the Austen or the Heinlein fan I am now. (Also, what was she thinking? There is no way I could have grokked Stranger at ten. Maybe some kids could have, but not me.)
So, I know where I stand. You know where I stand. The article seems a little uncertain about where its author stands. She wants to be with Gaiman, but also finds herself leaning toward Tim Parks’s view. Mr. Parks wrote an essay in the New York Review of Books in which he expresses the opinion that people do not move from trashy books up “a kind of neo-Platonic stairway” from bad books, or children’s books up to Serious Literature.
He does say, at the end of the piece, “that there are many ways to live a full, responsible, and even wise life that do not pass through reading literary fiction.” So Parks is, ostensibly, not assigning a value to the reading anyone is doing, he’s simply saying that it is unlikely to see a progression in one’s reading tastes. People will not graduate from Twilight to Tolstoy, for example. Or even to Romeo and Juliet (although why people want to force students to read that play I do not understand. It’s really not very good) no matter how much publishers try to encourage it. twilight

Since I prefer genre literature I am fairly strongly on Gaiman’s side of this argument. I think people should read what they like. I don’t, personally, like literary fiction very much because I find most of it dull. I want action or adventure. I want stakes that are higher than a middle-class marriage or the resolution of feelings of discontent. That’s me. That’s what I like. I read Great Literature. I have a degree in literature. Russian literature even. But, I spend most of my time reading mysteries, speculative fiction, or young adult literature. I generally find that more happens in those books.
Because of that I have fairly strong feelings about what sort of books one should be reading. How do you feel? Are some types of books better than others? Or should we just live and let live when it comes to people’s reading habits? And is that different for kids?

Recently Reading

October 22, 2014

I’m not feeling very well at the moment (there are several colds going around school), so I’m just going to do a brief round up of what I’ve been reading lately.

ladyAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I just listened to two Margery Allingham novels; The Crime at Black Dudley and Mystery Mile. I also went ahead and picked up the third book in the Campion series, Look to the Lady.
Campion must help protect a medieval chalice from art thieves, although the chalice is reputed to have supernatural guards as well. Campion must face off against a brutal gang and a centuries old curse in order to protect the chalice and the family that guards it.

miserI also picked up the first two books in Marion Chesney’s A House for the Season series. (Marion Chesney is, by the by, also M.C. Beaton.) These are regency romances in the style of Georgette Heyer. Things my heave and flutter, but always within the confines of one’s own clothes. They get, at most, a PG-13 rating, so they’re appropriate for those who like their romance without all the frickle and frackle.
Book 1 is The Miser of Mayfair a dissipated old man inherits his rich brother’s beautiful ward, but no money with which to care for her. He decides that the only recourse is to go to London and try to get her married off to a wealthy man. The two hit on the plan of pretending that he is a rich miser to explain their lack of funds, fine clothes, or expensive dinners.
janeBook 2 is Plain Jane. Jane is the younger, plainer daughter of a moderately wealthy family. Her mother dotes on the stunningly beautiful Euphemia and seems to hold Jane in contempt. When they move into 67 Clarges Street for the Season, Jane becomes embroiled in a mystery. The second tenants at #67 had a beautiful daughter who died under mysterious circumstances. Jane is determined to find out what happened.
All of the books in this series take place at #67 Clarges Street. The staff there are actually the pillars of the series, although the individual tenants have the primary romantic arcs. The staff has formed an odd little family and I look forward to finding out how Lizzie’s crush on the handsome footman is going, or how the new cat is settling in almost as much as I anticipate the main story.

That’s what’s been keeping me occupied lately. What have you been reading?

Crime Queens

October 21, 2014

Let us turn our attention to Crime Queens, those early 20th century ladies with murder on the mind. Agatha Christie is the most famous of these authors, but Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and Margery Allingham all have their proponents. I found almost all of these ladies through television adaptations of their characters. The exceptions being Marsh and Tey. My mother introduced me to both of them and it has been a congenial acquaintance.
marpleAgatha Christie and I first crossed paths through the agency of that most unlikely of detectives, Miss Marple. Specifically, the Joan Hickson renditions as seen on Mystery on PBS. I’ve seen all the Miss Marples, 98% of the Poirots, the Tommy and Tuppances, and even the stand alone adaptations such as “The Pale Horse.”
Once I had seen my first Miss Marple I was hooked. I started to buy her books with my allowance. I checked out Miss Marple stories from the library. I sought them out in used bookshops. I graduated to other Agatha Christie novels, but the  Miss Marple stories remained my true detectival passion. I was a Christie purist until high school.

timeI was about thirteen, languishing in my room during the summers away from school, reading everything that crossed my path when my mother handed me The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I was interested in English history and Mom gave me this book. I didn’t even know that there was a whole series of Alan Grant books for at least a year. I just kept re-reading The Daughter of Time. (This was also the very first book we read in my book club.) I enjoy the series as a whole and have gone back and re-read all of the Alan Grant books. I’ve never much cared for her non-mystery fiction though. Perhaps I should give them another try? Tey is also the only one of these authors who has not had a film adaptation of any of her books as far as I know.

alleynI picked up the third of my Crime Queens in high school as well. Ngaio (pronounced nie-oh ) Marsh was from New Zealand, but her detective, Roderick Alleyn, is English through and through. Alleyn comes from a very posh background, which tends to give him a little more clout than your average Scotland Yard man in the homes of the wealthy. He heads up 32 novels in all. The other interesting thing about Alleyn is that he gets married, has children and the children grow up. So many of the detectives seem to be caught in amber. Miss Marple is as old and woolly in her first adventure as in her last. There is a t.v. series called, conveniently, the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries. I didn’t find these until I was out of grad school and had read all of the books. The Ngaio Marsh books are the only ones I have a complete set of, interestingly enough.

Ian Carmichael

Ian Carmichael

Edward Petherbridge

Edward Petherbridge

It has been said that the problem with Dorothy Sayers is that she was in love with her protagonist. However, since I’m also in love with Lord Peter, I don’t have a problem with that. Lord Peter Whimsy is an aristocrat, a fop, a collector of rare manuscripts, and a genius. I honestly don’t remember if I found the books or the BBC adaptations first. There are two Lord Peters available on the television. There are the Ian Carmichael episodes, which were filmed in the 1970’s. His Lord Peter is older, slightly more dissipated, but hell on wheels when he’s roused. Then there are the Edward Petherbridge episodes, which were filmed in the 1980’s. Petherbridge is thinner and much more the stereotypical horsey British aristocrat. The Petherbridge series focuses on the stories that involve Harriet Vane, Lord Peter’s love interest.
At this point in my life I probably go back to Dorothy Sayers more than any of the others. Possibly because I have read Christie so many times that I have them almost memorized. And Marsh, though I love her, is very formulaic. You can tell which of the young persons will end up together by chapter 5. Tey is marvelous, but there isn’t really very much of her, so again, I’ve read them all over and over. Plus, there’s just something about Lord Peter. I find myself most envious of Harriet and of Sayers herself for all the time they get to spend with him.

campionLast, we come to Margery Allingham. She is the most recent addition to my Crime Queens. I found her through Netflix. I had re-watched all the Lord Peter that was available and the Netflix algorithm suggested the Campion series. Our Albert, as he refers to himself, is played by the Fifth Doctor Who, Peter Davison. He plays a fool, but a fool who is hired by governments and kings. He is also the disinherited son of an unnamed, but extremely prominent noble house. He has a butler who is an ex-convict and a number of very dubious acquaintances.
This is one series that I thought for a long time made much better tv episodes than they did books. Some of the books are a bit uneven and some of them border on dull. But, I recently had occasion to listen to the first two books in the series, The Crime at Black Dudley and Mystery Mile I found myself quite diverted. The one thing that was interesting is that Allingham does not actually have Campion as the protagonist. In The Crime at Black Dudley the protagonist is the slightly prim Dr George Abbershaw, a noted pathologist, but not a detective in his own right. Mystery Mile is more impartial. We follow several characters, including Campion himself, but we’re never tightly focused on him. The over-the-shoulder camera view is a much more modern literary trick than you might think. It’s a bit disconcerting to go back to older books and realize that you don’t get that very much.
I’m slowly working my way through the Campion books, but I don’t yearn for the next one when I’ve finished.

Much like all the early 20th century literature, there are attitudes and descriptions in all of these books that would range from out of touch to downright racist today. So far, I haven’t encountered anything that seems to come from a place of hatred, but there is language and just general description that wouldn’t fly today. For example, there is a Turkish character in Mystery Mile. He is repeatedly referred to as “the Oriental.” Every time I heard that I twitched a little, but it’s never said in a sneering way, just a very matter of fact way. So, be forewarned, these are very much products of their time and some of the content may make you uncomfortable.

And, just for fun, here is the intro to PBS’s “Mystery”

Jonathan Strange on Tumblr

October 20, 2014
Lady Pole on the set of the JS&MN BBC miniseries

Lady Pole on the set of the JS&MN BBC miniseries

Wherethewildnettlesgrow over on Tumblr has made a lovely score for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I thought I would share with you. The actual post has a beautiful image as well, but here is the score track listing:

Part 1

The Library at Hurtfew (Oxford, Brideshead Revisited OST) // The Stones of York (A Thorough Education, Jane Eyre OST) // London/Drawlight and Lasclles (Passage of Time, Chocolat OST) // The Cards of Marseilles (The Deathly Hallows, Deathly Hallows OST) // The Prophecy (Cloud Atlas Opening Title, Cloud Atlas OST) // Stephen and the Gentleman (The Trolls, Frozen OST) // Lost Hope (Dance Under a Winter Sky, Spirit of the Cosmos) // The Shadow House (Disparus, Oceans OST) // Strange and Norrell (Dobby, Deathly Hallows OST) // Strange in the Peninsula (Ancestors, Being Human OST) // Strange and the King (Travel to Edinburgh, Cloud Atlas OST)
Mr Norrell on the set of the JS&MN BBC miniseries

Mr Norrell on the set of the JS&MN BBC miniseries

Part 2

Arabella on the moutains (And Just Like That, A Single Man OST) // Childermass (George’s Waltz Pt. 2, A Single Man OST) // Venice – (Polyjuice Potion, Deathly Hallows OST) // A Tincture of Madness (Winter Nights, The Girl with the Pearl Earring OST) // Eternal night (New Direction, Cloud Atlas OST) // Freeing Lady Pole (Sorcery, Frozen OST) // The Nameless Slave Will Wear a Silver Crown (Aurora Borealis, Gravity OST) // John Uskglass and Childermass (Lily’s theme, Deathly Hallows OST) // The Spell (Patronus Light, Prisoner of Azkaban OST) // Strange and Arabella/The Age of English Magic (Cloud Atlas Finale, Cloud Atlas OST)
This just showed up on my dashboard serendipitously, but then I thought I would explore what else Tumblr had for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
wherethewildnettlesgrow had several posts on the book. There were some very pretty image posts that are worth looking at.
There is an entire blog called jonathanstrangeandmrnorrell. It is the self proclaimed unofficial blog of the book.
Then I just did a search with the book’s title as a hashtag. And then it was a really long time later…
Have you ever gone looking for what other people are posting about a favorite book?
If you have some free time (a great deal of free time actually) I recommend looking up The Night Circus on pinterest!

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