House of the Seven Gables Readalong

Thanks to Michelle at Castle Macabre for hosting this readalong which fits perfectly inside of R.I.P. IX which I’d already signed up for.

gothic sept button

I’ve wanted to read this since I visited the house or what might be the inspiration for the house at age 12, maybe?   I’ve read the Marble Faun and Rappacini’s Daughter which I mostly liked and, of course, The Scarlet Letter, which I think I mostly didn’t.   Fine writing marred by puritanical outlook is my assessment so far, but I’ll give him another shot for the fine writing and I like a good readalong.

I wish I’d managed to finish Moby-Dick before starting this, but I think I’ll still finish Moby.  Only about 80 pages left.   The interesting thing is that Hawthorne and Melville were friends and met while Melville was writing Moby-Dick.   Hawthorne wrote Seven Gables shortly after they met.  So it seems appropriate to read them almost together.  I’ve started both Seven Gables and Hangsaman so I’m plunging into Peril with great abandon.   The description of the house is not all that much like the house they say it was based on, except for the gables.   The book talks about the upper floors overhanging the lower ones, diamond pane windows and ornamented with quaint figures.

 

800px-House_of_the_Seven_Gables_(front_angle)_-_Salem,_Massachusetts
Its whole visible exterior was ornamented with quaint figures, conceived in the grotesqueness of a Gothic fancy, and drawn or stamped in the glittering plaster, composed of lime, pebbles, and bits of glass, with which the woodwork of the walls was overspread.  On every side the seven gables pointed sharply towards the sky, and presented the aspect of a whole sisterhood of 
edifices, breathing through the spiracles of one 
great chimney.  The many lattices, with their small, diamond-shaped panes, admitted the sunlight into hall and chamber, while, nevertheless, the second story, projecting far over the base, and itself retiring beneath the third, threw a shadowy and thoughtful gloom into the lower rooms.  Carved globes of wood were affixed under the jutting stories.  Little 
spiral rods of iron beautified each of the seven peaks...
.... NOT!

I would love to see an artist’s depiction of the house based on the description in the book.   It sounds spookier and definitely gaudier.   But still the story’s off to a good start.   Hope I can stick with it.   It is, of course, much easier to read Shirley Jackson.   In fact, it’s difficult to stop reading Shirley Jackson.  Hangsaman focuses on 17 year old Natalie, who’s leaving home and heading for college in 3 weeks.   Natalie has very peculiar coping mechanisms for dealing with her life at home which seems to be rather hellacious to her for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.  I can’t help wondering how much like Shirley Jackson’s life the Waite’s family life is.   I seem to remember them hosting academic parties.   It reads something like I remember their life from her bio, but it was so long ago I can’t be sure.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of this blog and I meant to write a post marking the occasion and summing up the year and all that, but I didn’t, and I’m not going to because I think there’s a reason I didn’t except to say that I think this blog has really kept me reading.  Well, this blog and others’.   Reading other peoples’ blogs and joining their readalongs and ‘thons has kept it all interesting.  Reading can be a lonely enterprise especially when you read something kickass and no one you know in real life pays any attention.  You can post it and hope to find someone whose life will be enriched a little as yours is by finding new books to read or just being entertained by their observations even when you don’t want to read the book in question.   Here’s to every blogger I’ve read and everyone who’s read me this year — thank you all!   Hoping for another enjoyable year!

R.I.P. IX are go – yay!

I was worried because Readers Imbibing Peril Signup hadn’t appeared and I’m feeling kind of keen to read something creepy.    But it is up now and I’m signing.   Luckily we can’t sign in blood over teh interwebs.   

lavinia-portraitRIP350

 

You can sign up too by clicking the pic of sad (dead?) Lavinia.   Just read 1 – 4 books of some spooky, creepy, horrific, eerie, or mysterious nature.   Almost anything counts.   Christie, Poe, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, etc. etc. etc.   Sadly the group read is Haunting of Hill House which I just read for R.I.P. VIII, so I think I’ll skip that, but I might give Hangsaman a go.   And I’ve never read Lovecraft and always meant to read Poe, Christie’s standard for me.   A Bram Stoker could be fun.    The possibilities, if not endless, are vast.   There are also short story and movie goals if you like.   Join us!   Join us!  [Cue scary music]

ripnineperilfirst

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between’

during the months of September & October.    

 

Whale-balls for Breakfast –

don’t forget.  

Stubb, who lead the boat that killed the first whale of their voyage, has peculiar and very specific ideas about how to harvest a dead whale.    In addition to pickling the fins and sousing the flukes, he must have a steak from near the tail immediately, and if it’s rare, it’s overdone.  He chastises the cook for this and then orders him to preach to the sharks in the water eating said whale too noisily.   Fleece the cook puts up with this nonsense and duly lectures the sharks.

You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned.

Fleece missed his calling as a preacher, I think, though the sharks paid him no mind.  

 

As you can see from the foregoing, this is a surreal book.   I was supposed to report some chapters ago, but then, I was supposed to have read them last June.   I decided to try and make an all out attempt to finish Moby-Dick and have that off my To Do list.   Mysteries are fun, but the White Whale is a classic and will, in addition to fulfilling a couple of my increasingly-unlikely-to-be-finished challenges, allow me to have an opinion about Moby-Dick and love it, hate it, or shrug about it, I won’t have only half-read it.    We learn in chapter 36 about 150 pages in Captain Ahab’s obsession.  Starbuck at least has the nerve to tell him he’s nuts.   I’m thinking that leaves 400 pages of tracking this damn whale.  The book then goes into some strange chapters written like a play.   Ishmael does not stand aloof.  “A wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab’s quenchless feud seemed mine.”  

480px-Guido_Reni_-_Andromeda

But now I’m a hundred pages further on and quite a mishmash it is, too.   Some of it a normal, well-told story of life aboard a whaler, but then there are odd chapters which were really unnecessary.   Does anyone need to know which pictures of whales in 1852 were the bad ones?   Or the good ones?   Whales suffered as much as lions, probably more, from being depicted by people who had no idea what they looked like, but is it important to list them in this book?   I think not.  Although someone has helpfully gathered them together on the internet, so if you get to this chapter, it might amuse you to see the pictures discussed

http://depictedscience.tumblr.com/post/44054533861

At any rate, it may seem absurd, when it’s taken me since the beginning of June to read this far, to imagine I can finish it in a weekend burst of reading, but shush, if I don’t believe it, I’ll stop again and I really would like to get through it.   

Unexpected Night

So, in a failed effort to finish another book during the Bout I focused on Unexpected Night by Elizabeth Daly, the first Henry Gamadge story.   I found it while looking for books worried I was going to finish all the Christies.  This now seems unlikely or at least not imminent.   I’ve slowed down a lot on my Christie intake, but I’m glad I found Henry Gamadge if this one is anything to go by.   Daly’s an American who wrote in the 40s and 50s.  Supposedly one of Christie’s favorites.   Gamadge is an expert in old books, inks and papers apparently although in this one he’s on vacation in Maine.   He meets a family in which the young man is about to come of age and inherit a fortune.   This is a great relief to the family because he has a terrible heart condition and could drop dead at any time.   He has his will all made out and ready to sign…  but then they find his body at the bottom of the cliff and the will is missing.

unexpectednight2

Henry Gamadge is an appealing detective, not too eccentric.   I sometimes think both with Gideon Fell and Gervase Fen that the personality of the sleuth overwhelms the story.   The plot here seemed fair to me.  Though I gotta admit the tendency to try to sweep aside certain behaviors as harmless eccentricities did get to me after a while.  I thought afterward I ought to have guessed parts that I didn’t.  Felony & Mayhem seem to be rereleasing all the Gamadge books.   I’m sure I’ll read more of them.

The Man in Lower Ten, also: Bout of Books Day 6

The Man in Lower Ten was recommended by an Edwardian book site (or perhaps just an Edwardian site) as a good introduction to Mary Roberts Rinehart, better than The Circular Staircase or The Bat.   I don’t know if it was better, but it was a great intro to MRR.   She’s a fun writer with a plot that moves along and characters that are interesting, also a fairly adorable romance.   

maninlower10

 

The man in lower ten – a berth on the Washington Flyer from Pittsburgh – is supposed to be attorney Lawrence Blakely returning with evidence in an important case to Washington, but someone gets there before him.   Someone impossible to rouse.   So Blakely opts for lower 9 instead and wakes to find the man in lower ten was murdered and his own clothes have been stolen.   Not only that, but there is highly incriminating evidence pointing to him!    Before the conductor and an enthusiastic amateur detective can make any headway there’s a terrible crash and few of the passengers are left alive.   Does this get Blakely off the hook?   Who was the man and who murdered him?   Who stole Blakely’s clothes?   And what happened to the evidence Blakely was supposed to be guarding?   Rinehart’s lively tale answers all these questions and a host more.  It’s almost hard to believe this was written in 1906, the pace is quick, the writing is lively, only the fact that when the electricity is out they only have matches to light their way really reminds you when the story is set.   I’ll certainly be reading more of MRR, even if the others aren’t as good.

And now, with one day and a couple hours left in BoB, I’m not sure what to read next.   I won’t read two whole books.   I forgot I was spending the better part of three days seeing an old friend, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read something this last day, does it?

The Man in Lower Ten, also: Bout of Books Day 6

The Man in Lower Ten was recommended by an Edwardian book site (or perhaps just an Edwardian site) as a good introduction to Mary Roberts Rinehart, better than The Circular Staircase or The Bat.   I don’t know if it was better, but it was a great intro to MRR.   She’s a fun writer with a plot that moves along and characters that are interesting, also a fairly adorable romance.   

maninlower10

 

The man in lower ten – a berth on the Washington Flyer from Pittsburgh – is supposed to be attorney Lawrence Blakely returning with evidence in an important case to Washington, but someone gets there before him.   Someone impossible to rouse.   So Blakely opts for lower 9 instead and wakes to find the man in lower ten was murdered and his own clothes have been stolen.   Not only that, but there is highly incriminating evidence pointing to him!    Before the conductor and an enthusiastic amateur detective can make any headway there’s a terrible crash and few of the passengers are left alive.   Does this get Blakely off the hook?   Who was the man and who murdered him?   Who stole Blakely’s clothes?   And what happened to the evidence Blakely was supposed to be guarding?   Rinehart’s lively tale answers all these questions and a host more.  It’s almost hard to believe this was written in 1906, the pace is quick, the writing is lively, only the fact that when the electricity is out they only have matches to light their way really reminds you when the story is set.   I’ll certainly be reading more of MRR, even if the others aren’t as good.

And now, with one day and a couple hours left in BoB, I’m not sure what to read next.   I won’t read two whole books.   I forgot I was spending the better part of three days seeing an old friend, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read something this last day, does it?

Charters & Caldicott Part 2 or Bout of Books 11 Day 1

I have been reading the book version of Charters & Caldicott which was based on the mystery series and not the other way around.  I had been hoping to understand the motive of the murderer, but learned nothing more except Stella Bingham was very faithful to the series.   The only problem I have is that she states they were retired colonial people who’d been stationed out east.   Having seen now three Charters & Caldicott movies, there’s no evidence of this in any of them.   They live in England, watch cricket and sometimes travel and stumble onto criminal enterprises.   That third movie was Crook’s Tour a B-movie at best, in which C & C travel from Saudi Arabia to Iraq to Hungary at first simply on their way home, but later mistaken for spies.   Crook’s Tour was made in 1941 and starred C & C.   Caldicott falls for a dancing girl they refer to as La Thingummy.  

crookstour2 lathingummy

The movie is painfully bad at moments and yet, retains some charm.   Overall, however, Charters and Caldicott work better as the comic relief in a suspense movie than they do as the main characters.   Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne continued to play these characters or ones just like them with different names for the rest of the 40s, though I doubt I will seek out any more of them.    I’ve finished the book (I had about 40 pages left) and do not think there will be a C & C Part 3, amusing though it all was.

 

I have also started The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  I’d previously only heard of The Bat and The Circular Staircase, but read an Edwardian blog entry that expressed a desire – if they could encounter Rinehart for the first time again, they would like to start with this book.  Since it’s free and I am encountering MRR for the first time, I’m taking the Edwardian’s advice and starting here.   It’s off to a good start with a great deal of confusion about who should be in which berth on the train, where did all Blakely’s belongings get to, whose belongings was he left with and who murdered the man in lower ten?  

That’s it for Monday Day 1 of Bout of Books.   

 

 

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.

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