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url 2017-02-03 07:12
12 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Updates of 19th Century Novels
Heartstone - Elle Katharine White
Arguably, 19th century literature is defined by the extravagance of its poetry. (The Vampire Lestat ain’t got nothing on Lord Byron.) But the craft of the novel was percolating in the background, too, undertaken by such undesirables as women, satirists, and social reformers. If you care to, you can find Victorian jeremiads railing against the social rot perpetrated by novels, which read like anti-television tracts from the first decades of that medium. (My take: give any genre long enough, and it’ll become preferable to the newest alternative. I am constantly begging my children to rot their brains with television instead of YouTube. For crying out loud, put on headphones at the very least.)

Because early novels were written on the edge of things—not precisely respectable, and new enough for wide experimentation—many bucked the often rigid social structures of the times. In the second edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which had been subject to much howling by moralists, Oscar Wilde declared, “all art is quite useless.” By which he meant (among other things) that the novel should not be used only as a moral punchline, but should explore the wide variety of the human experience. From Trollope’s intricate family sagas, to the Brontë sisters’ howling family Gothics, to the lurid and/or didactic serials of Conan-Doyle and Dickens, the novels of the era tread a lot of ground.


Maybe that’s why they’re such good fodder to update for a contemporary audience: they managed to hit first, and definitively, a swath of the human experience. No, no one has to worry about the entailed estates of the Regency period, but the social burlesque of Pride & Prejudice, the relationship between the sisters, and the sting of betrayal—all still hold true. (Plus, Darcy: rwrrr.)


Here are 12 sci-fi and fantasy updates of major 19th century novels. I’ve not included works that already have a science fictional or fantasy twist to them, like Dracula, Frankenstein, or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; they almost need their own roundup. I haveincluded edge cases like the Gothics, because any supernatural element tends to be ambiguous at best. (Quick: are the ghosts real in The Turn of the Screw?) Come let’s see what’s happening on the manse, in space.


I know this is super annoying, but my actual list can be found at B&N SciFi. It was hella fun to write. 

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text 2015-07-12 20:40
Book Cover Collage: Jane Eyre



I've had several candidates for a book cover art collage, but since this one has already come up in conversation, let's start with Jane Eyre!


(Sources: Publishers' websites, Google, Pinterest.)


Of course, there are plenty of covers giving us some variant or other of the Victorian governess (Penguin seems to be particularly set on that motif):





Somehow, Penguin even manages to use one of the few portraits of Charlotte Brontë in this manner:




But of course, there are about just as many covers going for the romantic or gothic heroine look, complete with that detestable pseudo-historical "part of a woman's torso" variant (contrary to what other covers in this group would have you believe, however, Jane did not just about manage to escape from Dracula's castle!)





And of course, it hasn't escaped the cover artists' notice, either, that this is a gothic romance -- more cheese with some of these, anybody?  Also, refer to the above re: Dracula's castle ... (however much the penultimate one seems to be suggesting Rochester is actually a vampire, and the one before that similarly looks like the man isn't subject to the laws of gravity ...)





Then there are covers that highlight scenes or motifs from the book, in varying degrees of abstraction or, as the case may be, graphic detail ...





... whereas this one merely seems to be concerned with the fact that this is a story set vaguely in the past ... (but who cares about when precisely, or who's in it, or what happens in it?) ...




... or that it takes place in a vaguely rural or gothic setting ...





... and not everyone gets the author right, either.




Since we're talking "romance," flowers can't be left out, either, of course (though I could serioiusly do without the pseudo-Twilight variant!)





Of course there are also a bunch of abstract or book-unrelated publisher series covers ...





... and some that are exercises in (mostly) abstract art.





These seem to have Jane mixed up with Manon Lescaut ...





... these are "Jane, the plucky 1950s incarnation" ...





... and similarly these, though showing Jane as a governess, are about 100 miles off the mark in so many ways.





This should rather be titled, "The Rochesters -- a (mostly) Happy Family" ...




... this one is sort of "Jane and Rochester -- 30 Years Later" ...




... these somehow seem to have missed the fact that the novel is set in the 19th, not the early decades of the 20th century ...





... this is obviously "Jane Eyre, the Brothers Grimm version" (poisoned apples optional)




... and lastly, um, there are these (and no, they're not graphic novel covers).




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text 2014-11-26 17:41
Old House Books (publisher)--
Booths Maps of London Poverty, 1889 (Old House) - Charles Booth
The ABC Guide to London - Charles Hooper & Co.
Bradshaw's Handbook to London - George Bradshaw
Bradshaw's Handbook - George Bradshaw

---is going to kill me with all these gorgeous facsimiles! ahhhh


If I'd known sooner to search for 'facsimiles', I'd have bought their reproduction of Bradshaw's Hand Book to London instead of someone else's. Oh well!

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review 2014-09-23 18:55
Virago Modern Classics Marathon #1: My FIRST Virago. Le Sigh.
All Passion Spent - Vita Sackville-West

I couldn't resist starting my Virago Modern Classics marathon before I finished Inkdeath---sorry Cornelia Funke. I've accumulated quite a few VMCs, so I figured it was time for a marathon. Ah...my first Virago. How perfect it be this...
This is a novel of independence, femininity, self-satisfaction, {in the best of ways} what living really means, but also of masks and facades and when to tear them off. Lady Slane is a woman after years of being in the public eye and basically babied and severely underestimated by her selfish children, whom are all almost as old as her, mind you, peels away her suit of gentle obedience and boldly faces the world, wanting to live freely and finally make herself happy. She decides, after all this time, to let herself have what she wants and live a life of peace and quiet, rather than letting it be chosen for her. Better late than never, I'd say. She is very admirable in this way, and I'd like to think that there's a lot of her in all of us, some of us more afraid to jump into the ocean of life like Lady Slane. Even if you knew you didn't have much time left, but you had the means to live out even your simplest dreams {mine being retiring in a cottage with lots of gardens and lands and a dapple grey to ride everyday--I suppose that's why I related to this story} would you do it? I should hope that we would. Because even men, when they're trapped in a conformist or unhappy lifestyle have this yearning---of course in Lady Slanes period, it was much more difficult and questioned by her peers for a woman to claim independence, especially on their own. Sure, it may be easier now--and while I believe in gender equality; who's to say much has changed? A woman who ants to become independent is still questioned, perhaps for different reasons.
Even at the beginning of the novel, I could tell Slane's children were fake--through their characters I could practically see the dollar signs in their eyes. I won't even mention when they sorted through her late husbands jewels, as you can imagine how that went. It's sad to think about what age and circumstance can do to you: we recount a memory of Henry, Slane and their children rollicking through the house, then as their father became more succuessful, they had become selfish and uncaring, leaving their father to wonder if he even cared for them. It seems that the children's have been passed down their fathers ruthlessness and coldness, never expressing genuine feeling and only doing things for their own gain. Lady Slane is the complete opposite, stuck in the middle of money hungry monkeys and used for their benefit.
At the final pages, I felt a pang of regret for Lady Slane, a woman who had to give up her dreams because other people stifled them and she had no other options. I wanted to will her to carry on and paint at least one landscape before she left us, but she left in peace and had people around her that truly cared for her as never before. The ending really affected me, showing the differences between human hearts, particularly those of Lady Slanes daughter Carrie and Lady Slanes closest friends, her landlord and carpenter. I adored almost all the characters and enjoyed this novel thoroughly. It is a thoughtful novel full of real people and not so honest people and lots of "what ifs". This is a Virago you will not want to pass up. Perfect reading with a cup of chamomille on a sunny fall day.

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review 2014-08-16 22:32
Clockwork umbrellas comin' to getchu, gov
Kiss of Steel - Bec McMaster

I've been reading a bunch of pulp steampunk recently -- at some point I'll have to update a bunch of same-samey titles with "brass" and "steam" and "corset" in the titles -- and this stood out as not stupid. There's a lot here that's de rigueur for the genre: plucky scientist's daughter, hat pins, Dickensian moppets, dreary eye dialect, etc. But there's an alternate history here that runs deeper than the usual "justification for clockwork umbrellas" one encounters on the more romantic edge of things, and a refreshing attendance to the harsh economics/imperialism of the Victorian era.


I mean, sure, there's usually a gesture to how Unfair it is for the Scientist's Daughter to wear a Clockwork Corset when what she really wants to do is Direct -- though, of course, she has no idea how good she looks -- but here poor people actually starve, and the upper classes literally drink blood. Something something, vampire virus used by the aristocracy to keep themselves in power something something. So it's not particularly deep, but it was cool to see. 

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