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review 2017-09-17 14:57
Magic Realism Square
Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter

- A story about stories and illusion.



Magic and reading have something in common. It’s that thin wedge that question of what is real and what is fantasy. We know that the magician is doing some trick, but we just can’t get it, can’t figure it out. With books, good ones at least, the trick is the writing taking you someplace else. Books aren’t the only thing that can do this – a good movie, painting, music. 
It’s this line between reality and fantasy that Carter explores in this novel about a circus performer who may actually have real wings. At first glance it seems as if Fevvers is the only character with this problem, but every character in the book comes into contact with this question. Even the tigers, which may or may not really be jealous lovers.
In many ways, this is the human condition, the search for ourselves. Is our work face our real face? It might not be the wings that Fevvers has, but the question of reality and fantasy is one we change and fight in some way every day

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review 2017-09-02 18:48
Halloween Bingo Update 1: The Canterville Ghost
The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde,Inga Moore

The Canterville Ghost is a charming novella by Oscar Wilde, dating, I believe, to about 1887.  The American Minister to the Court of St. James rents the country house of the Canterville family, despite being informed that it's haunted by a dire ghost, because he doesn't believe in ghosts.  Also he figures his incorrigible twin boys (known generally as "Stars and Stripes") will be more than a match for it, if it even exists. 

 

There is indeed a ghost - Sir Simon de Canterville, who has been a successful haunt since 1585.  This time, however, his haunting fails, and the only one who is apparently moved is the Americans' daughter, fifteen-year-old Virginia.

 

I may have read The Canterville Ghost many years ago - but then again I may just have seen the movies.  There's a version from 1944, which my mother grew up with, with Robert Young, Margaret O'Brien, and Charles Laughton as the Ghost, but that's not the one I first saw.  That version was one for TV made in the mid-1970s, with David Niven as the Ghost, and it may be the adaptation I've seen that's closest to the novella.  (There are also more modern adaptations, but the only one of those that I have seen is the one from the mid-80s, with Alyssa Milano and John Gielgud as the Ghost.)  There is apparently yet another version "in preparation" now.  With Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie attached.

 

At any rate, this was a charming start to the bingo, and it fulfills the first call: "Ghost."

 

 

Called and Read:

 

Ghost - The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde. 

 

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review 2017-07-28 21:22
Middlemarch - Michel Faber,George Eliot Eliot is one of those writers who I always forget how good she is. It’s not that I ever forget she is good, it is just that forget the high standard she has for most her work. The exception is Adam Bede, and this is no doubt because it was the first Eliot I read (thanks to Alistair Cooke). I first read Middlemarch in either college or grad school. I recently re-read because of a line in the New York Times Book Review. To call Middlemarch feminist would be wrong, though in many ways it is proto=feminist. At the heart of the novel is the character of Dorothea and the idea of marriage. If Doretha was Catholic, she quite easily could have become a nun. But she isn’t, so the avenues opened to her are a bit slim. She wants to do good works, and to improve people’s lives. At beginning of the novel is she able to do this with a help of a suitor, a suitor she doesn’t know is a suitor, and later in the novel, she has the possibility to do it another way. This of course soon changes. The theme of the novel, in part, seems to be the idea of marriage for marriage does concern much of the part. At first, it is merely Doreatha’s marriage to Casaubon, who is older and who she hopes will teach almost like a father. Then it is the marriage between Lydgate, a doctor who wants to do good, and Rosamond, whose brother Fred forms part of a third marriage with Mary Garth. The question of marriage is more a question what a good marriage is. Doreatha’s first marriage, really isn’t a good one. But it is not entirely her husband’s fault and in fact, very few of her friends (in fact only her sister and James Chettam) try to talk her out of it or express doubts about the marriage. In many ways, the true right people in the novel are Mary Garth and Celia Brooke, Doretha’s younger sister. Mary is the dependable and intelligent daughter of the Gareths. She is prudent. The most imprudent thing she does is love Fred, who at the start of the book has a good heart but is a bit too much flash and imprudence. Celica is Doreatha’s younger sister, less religious, more sensual, but also more observant. She watches before she speaks. She may not be as good or holy as Doretha but she is not a bad woman. Mary too watches. This makes those two women better able to handle the society that constrains them. Doretha is not able to handle society in the same way. Her marriage options are frowned upon whether she marries for the right or wrong reason. And unlike Lydgate, who marries an illusion, a pretty thing that he does not see as human or understand fully as human. He does not watch enough. Neither does Doretha at first. Eliot’s suggestion that she is trying to write or example a modern life of St. Theresa is interesting because Dortha, like Lydgate, doesn’t quite come what she could have been. Of course, that is, in part, the purpose of Eliot’s book, showing us the bonds – both prison like and fond – that society puts on us.
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review 2016-10-24 16:31
Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary - Joseph Conrad

Seriously, one of those books that you always look at differently.

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review 2016-09-05 01:01
Supernatural Square
The Haunted Looking Glass - Edward Gorey,Robert Walser,Ward Gorey
So the great Gorey and I have some of the same tastes in fiction. And we both like cats.

Some of these stories are well known - such as "The Monkey's Paw", which is one of those stories that never grows stale at all. Others are not, such as "August Heat", a rather chilling tale. What is interesting is that Blakwood's story "The Empty House" and Wilkie Collins' "The Dream Woman" make use of rather strong women, where as the others don't. In fact, Nesbit's story seems to be also poking fun at the classes and the differences between rural and city folk.
 
 

 

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