Moby-Dick Readalong

I have attempted Moby-Dick twice in the past, once in paperback and once in audiobook when I was sick.   Both times I enjoyed as far as I got, but that wasn’t very far.   Every chapter was read by a different person, some of them very famous:  Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, Bandersnatch Cummerbund.   I don’t generally do audio-books, but when I’m sick I usually can’t read and this helped a lot.  But then I got well and kind of let the whole thing drop, sad to say.

It’s here if you’re interested:

I also have a print copy which oddly enough, I know where it is.   I may combine the two formats now as I am signing up for:





Hosted as you can see by Roof Beam Reader.   I flunked out of his Ulysses readalong in January, but I still hope to finish that.   The trouble being all these challenges I signed up for really don’t leave time for previously started books.   Someone should make a challenge like that.   But maybe other people don’t drop as many books in the middle as I do.  But that’s beside the point.

I hereby sign up for the Moby-Dick readalong.   I really hate hyphens.   I think I won’t be hyphenating it.  Hope 45 days is enough time.      It seems like it should be doable, unlike Ulysses which I knew from the beginning was too short a time frame for me.

Lady Audley’s Seekrit Readalong Pt. 4-5

So secret that last week there was no post!   I meant to finish early and post about both parts yesterday, but you see how that went.   Nonetheless, I post now, belatedly on chapters 16 – 33.  As you can see, this is a big chunk of the book.   And we can safely say that Braddon is no Dickens, though she was an entertaining writer and certainly loads better than Ann Radcliffe.   I compare her Sir Michael and Lady Hellucy’s marriage and it just isn’t at all real.   In Bleak House Dickens portrayed a number of marriages all of which were far more complex, humane and charming than this one.   Along with milady’s feathery ringlets (what the hell does a feathery ringlet look like anyway?) it’s just not a realistic relationship.   Lady A isn’t terribly real either, but at least she has a number of characteristics.  Robert and Alicia are the most lifelike.  

But still stuff keeps happening.   Mostly Bob filling Lady A in on every step of his investigation so that she can more effectively attempt to thwart him.   He never learns.   He darned near becomes a crispy critter because he keeps trying to warn her off, but she doesn’t see herself enjoying a life of penury and frankly, I don’t either.   She didn’t like being poor before, she’d only hate it more now.   Bob has fallen in love with his best friend’s sister who is dramatic and beautiful.   I hope she’s more fun when vengeance has been exacted.   

I looked up gunpowder tea.   Apparently some poor sap in China gets to roll up each tiny individual leaf of green tea.  Why that would make it taste different I don’t know.   I strongly suspect it doesn’t.


I’m not sure if I’m understanding Hellucy’s note correctly.   It makes it sound to me like there was a secret before she ran away, changed her name and became a bigamist.   But that doesn’t seem to fit in with anything going on.   Robert’s found out all he needs to know, tying the two of them together.   But at least he’s not going to marry his cousin.   I recently saw a new adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac in which there’s a layer of anti-cousin-marrying incorporated which I suspect is not in the original.   Also off-topic, I didn’t know Cyrano was a real guy.  But back to Lady A.

Why didn’t Phoebe know what a horrible person her cousin was?  She grew up with him.   Surely, she should have cottoned on to the fact that he’s an unmitigated boor?   Damn fool thing to go and marry that bastard.  

In another coincidence I saw an episode of Psych in which Shawn keeps making up portmanteaux to describe an arsonist/murderer.  My favorite was arsassin.   So Lady A is now an arsassin, although if she managed to kill Luke, I’d lighten her sentence.   Maybe 20 years instead of life.   Definitely wouldn’t hang her.   

I suspect I’m forgetting something vital.   I’ll come back after I’ve read the other comments.

Bout of Sensibility

Bout of Books fail.   Ah, well, who can focus for a week?  My laser-like focus, like a laser,  lasts mere moments.  I did, however, finish Sense and Sensibility.  If you haven’t read it, don’t read on, because it’s not the sort of book I can talk abut without spoiling everything.  Two young women named Dashwood embody Sense and Sensibility or Feeling as we would probably say now.   This is the emotions vs. thinking slapdown.  Marianne voted Miss Sensibility 1796 falls for the perfect man in chapter 3 or so.   They appear to be all set to live happily ever after, except they never quite say they are definitely going to do that.   Compared with her sister, who won Miss Sense in 1795, who is apparently quite solidly engaged to Edward Ferrars, (not sure why Willoughby is always known by his last name Willoughby while Edward is Edward) but then it turns out this engagement is all in her head as well.   So there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them.   Each has lost her heart to a guy who then leaves abruptly and starts acting peculiar and distant.    Edward shows up wearing someone else’s hair in a ring on his finger!   Does this set off any alarm bells?  Nope.   It must be his sister’s hair, though it doesn’t look like his sister’s hair.

But Edward gets all the points for being a fine upstanding citizen though in my book he lead Elinor on and didn’t have the guts to clearly indicate he was not free to marry.   She has to find this out from his secret fiancee, Lucy.   Elinor and Marianne hang out with their neighbors and their friends and go to London and generally look down on everyone except Colonel Brandon, and I’m thinking how are they both going to marry the Colonel because there’s not another eligible boy for miles even after they go to London.  

I was rather shocked by this book.   The only Austen I’ve read previously is Pride and Prejudice which is just oh so decorous next to S&S, whose characters are only decorous when they legitimately need to know something and won’t ask, like, Marianne, are you engaged to this engaging young man who has just cut a lock of your hair, because that doesn’t seem like something nice ladies allowed except to their betrotheds.   Oh, but no, can’t ask.   Just let him go off with his intentions kept carefully to himself.   

Unexpectedly they journey to London with Mrs. Jennings.   Marianne writes to Willoughby who ignores her.   Col. Brandon shows up and calls frequently as the only person worth marrying in the book.   He tells Elinor the horrible truth about Willoughby which is that he seduced, impregnated and abandoned Brandon’s 15 year old ward, Eliza.   It took Brandon months to find her and now he’s put her in a nice little house in the country.   I am the only one truly appalled by this apparently because while Elinor says she’s appalled, she never really writes off ol’ Willoughby who is pictured below:


Marianne is devastated by the loss of Willoughby even after she learns what he’s done.    He marries for money, is horribly cold and disdainful and then later on when she might be dying he rides breathlessly to say he’s not as bad as they all think.   Elinor buys this.   He’s actually worse, because it turns out in the beginning he was just toying with Marianne and only fell for her later.   A feeling he ignored in favor of filthy lucre and didn’t have the guts to just tell her.   He partially blames Eliza for her own downfall and says she could have found out his address if she wanted.   He didn’t know she was living in abject poverty.    One of the worst scumbags in 19th century lit.   And they’re all like, well, he’s not so bad.   He was sorry in the end, and he kind of liked Marianne at one point.   Unbelievable.    

The one thing that makes partially forgivable all this nonsense is they’re 17 and 19 which I forgot in the process of reading this and was reminded at the end.  Thank the good Lord we don’t get married that young any more.   And Edward at least is man enough to make straight for Elinor when released from his engagement, so they don’t have to be bigamists and no one has to be killed off.   This was Austen’s first published book, so I’ll cut her some slack and not go off about what a ridiculous coincidence it was that Willoughby happened to seduce Brandon’s ward.

Lady Audley’s Seekrit Readalong Pt 3 and Bout of Books Pt Weds.

So, last week I was so grippéd by George’s disappearance I kept reading.   Poor George.  What an unnatural child.  Must take after his mother.   After all that time — a year is a long time to a kid — to still call him the big gentleman is very sad.   Though to be fair Robert seems a more natural father than George.   Georgey and Grandpa seem hard up, which shouldn’t really be if they’re being supported by George and Lady A.   Then again they might both be lousy about sending regular funds.   But then the old man drinks and probably gambles.   He cheated the young couple out of almost their last funds when they moved in with him.  Who says Lady A gave the watch?   Just the sort of thing she would do and not make sure they had, oh, say, food and clothing.

When you commit some sort of fraud, make sure to thoroughly burn all telegraphic messages with instructions for same.   Do not leave them lying around for inquisitive people to find.

Robert’s dreams are far more accurate than mine ever are.   Oh, right.   Fiction.

Who knocked at his door?   

I am very glad he is taking this seriously in his casual way.   He will, I’m sure, eventually uncover what happened to George.   

So, why doesn’t Lady A teach Phoebe how to get rid of unwanted husbands?    She seems an apt pupil, eager to learn.

Lady A hates the dog.   And October.   How the hell did Phoebe learn enough French to read novels?

But ooh, Phoebe told Lunkhead, Lady A’s seekrit.   I did not expect him to see the light of another day, but apparently Lady A is getting feeble in her old age (23?) and just pays off the blackmailer.   

Poor Alicia.   Find someone else.   I like Robert, but really, he’s not the one for you.  And definitely Lady A is losing her touch.   The woman who when almost faced with her ex-husband wriggles out of it and coolly sends herself a telegram calling her away, faints at the mere description of the gallows.    Toughen up, Lady A, you’ve got another 200 pages to survive.  



Bout of Books Wednesday

Not impressive.   20 pages Lady Audley.  20 pages of Sense and Sensibility

Total 138 pages

But at least I am enjoying Sense and Sensibility which I didn’t for the first 28 chapters.   Not sure why exactly.   The characters I guess seemed a bit like an exercise in the Feeling Woman vs. the Thinking Woman, but now they’ve both had boyfriend trouble, it’s a lot more interesting.   A pity they can’t seem to find anyone worth knowing aside from Col Brandon.   Whether they’re nice or terse, they keep spending time with shallow, uninteresting folks.   It’s a bit odd.    But then it’s hard to meet people in the country especially if you don’t have a coach.  


The Warden & Bout of Books Readathon update for Tuesday

Tuesday – technically I guess I should wait an hour and a half to make this report.   I might read more pages before midnight.  But perhaps not.    I have finished The Warden by Anthony Trollope and while this might not seem like much as I only had 38 pages to go, it took me two months to read the first 99 pages.   So this is A Feat.   For some reason I finally got into the book at chapter 15 – when he starts making fun of Carlyle and Dickens.   And even when he went back to the story, I stayed into it, long enough to finish.  I honestly don’t know why it was so difficult for me to read this.   Trollope writes well, his characters are sympathetic, he writes even-handedly about both sides of the controversy.   His minor characters are nowhere near as engaging as Dickens’ – no Jellybies, no Jos, no Masters of Deportment, but still, it should not have taken so long.   I’ve liked other Trollope books in the past and was not expecting it to be Bleak House.    

The story, such as it is, is about the Church having too much money and not spending it on the poor, but allowing it to build up in sinecures where the appointees, in this case The Warden, receive hundreds of pounds a year (or more) for doing next to nothing. Taking up the fight is John Bold, would-be firebrand and reformer, but unfortunately for him also in love with the Warden’s daughter.   The Warden in the meantime is a nice guy.   Not really his fault he gets hundreds of pounds for not doing very much.   It’s all part of the system.   Things have gotten this way by being in place for hundreds of years and no one fixing them along the way.  Then there are the would-be recipients of this particular reform’s success (should it be successful): the twelve old men who now receive a small amount of money, their food, clothing, lodging and care from Hiram’s Hospital.  They each think they can get 100 pounds a year if their suit is successful.   Why they think 800 divided by 12 is 100 I don’t know.    It annoys me throughout the book.   The most you can get, you ignorant bedesmen, is 66 2/3 pounds a year if there are zero expenses.  

I don’t think either this is a problem with not being able to get into a story whose plot is based on a problem which is no longer relevant.   Chancery ceased to exist long ago, and I was still moved by Bleak House.    At any rate, in the end, I enjoyed the last 38 pages.   And the moral of the story is if you want to reform society, pick a subject that has nothing to do with your girlfriend’s father.   There are plenty of problems in the world.   Pick a different one.  


Image                                   Image

Total pages read:98

Books finished: The Warden

Other books read:  Sense and Sensibility

A lot more read than I expected.



Bout of Books Sign Up and Goals

I’m a little late signing up for the Bout of Books which started at midnight yesterday, but I was reading.   

My main goal is to finish up The Warden and Brightfount Diaries both of which I’m way over half done and just need to finish up the last bit.   Plus something else.   A whole book.    Also maybe Sense and Sensibility which is only begun.   I’m maybe 20% in and they all seem to have lost their boyfriends.   The lack of ability to just have a normal conversation seems to hamper relationships something fierce.    Even if they can say to their beloveds, what is on your mind?  They either don’t or don’t share that information.   Frustrating.  Sometimes I thank goodness we live in an age of crassness.



Clouds of Witness

Since I can’t spend all my time on Lady Audley or I’ll get ahead of everyone, I’m also reading other things.   One of the things was Dorothy L. Sayers’ Clouds of Witness, the second Lord Peter Wimsey mystery.   This time the mystery is closer to home as his brother has been arrested for the murder of his sister’s fiance.  He doesn’t let the personal nature of the mystery stifle his usual merry rambling on.  Lord Peter has been having a break in Greece or somewhere, but is on his way home when he gets the news of his brother.   Inspector Parker is already on the scene and together they track obliging sets of footprints all over the estate, track down their owners, sort out all the false statements and their are masses of them as everyone seems to be protecting somebody else.    


I enjoyed this a lot until the end when it got strangely repetitive.   Admittedly in a court case you want to make sure the jury understands your point of view, but it all seems pretty clear when they dig up the last of the evidence, there’s no real need to go through it twice.   Perhaps the book wasn’t long enough.   But otherwise, as I said, I enjoyed it and was eager to follow Lord Peter on the trail.    I suspect I should not read these sorts of books — they make me dissatisfied with my own life as I have no one waking me with coffee in bed, running my bath, etc.    Even if I had the money, I doubt I could find someone like Bunter.   


Second Late Post for Lady Audley’s Super Secret Readalong

Chapters 5 – 9

Though I admit, I couldn’t stop reading when George disappeared.   Wow, I don’t remember Lady Audley being such a…   ninny?   stone cold bitch?   baby?    all of the above.   Robert now has purpose in his life.   He likes someone!   And they’ve gone missing.   It’s hard to imagine little fluffy Lucy managing to kill George.   How would this go?   Oh, George, I dropped my reticule down this abandoned well, can you see it in there?   Physically, she’d need both the element of surprise and for George to conveniently die in some place where he wouldn’t be found, because I doubt she could lift him bodily.   Poor George.   He was kind of a dope, but not a bad guy.   Of course, he might not be dead.   So far he’s just missing under suspicious circumstances.

We know he looked long and hard at that picture of Lady Audley.   A circumstance which struck his friend not at all.   And then behaved oddly.   His being afraid of lightning is the daftest theory and I’m supposed to think that Robert has unguessed at ability in the law?   Rot.    Definitely looks very much like Lady A somehow got some dying chick or something to pretend to be her and then ran off to be a governess leaving her kid with her father.   Her personality is bizarre.   If this is true, she clearly has no maternal feelings at all and her only reaction to George’s return is not to be seen so she can continue to have all the STUFF.   Admittedly it’s nice stuff.   I’m not sure I’ll be able to not read ahead.  Probably everyone else already has.

My theory on the dead wife is now 1) find dying, poor woman who looks like you, 2) pay her to go to Ventnor with your dad and kid and let the inevitable happen, 3) you’re free!   free!!    Lucy is obviously a good deal more clever than we would have thought before the fake telegram.   Why hasn’t she noticed the missing baby shoe?   People who hide things tend to check on them.    I bet she has and she’s using Phoebe’s lack of character to further her own ends.   Phoebe is out of her depth.   Why wouldn’t she have just become a governess under her own name?   Nothing wrong with doing that.   Because, thinks I, she always meant to abandon them.   She’s not a nice person.   I’m thinking sociopathic.

Oh, and I’m thinking George didn’t say anything about the painting because it was a painting and many people look similar and he wanted to be SURE.   Also, maybe try to think about what he would do if it were his wife.   Because she was obviously not, oh, bye, Sir Michael, my first husband is alive after all and I must return to him.   George is not overly bright, but even he can see there’s something weird going on.   She didn’t just remarry.   If it’s really her, she changed her name, faked her own death and remarried.   This is a big ol’ can of worms and while he should have said something to Robert, I think this is why he didn’t.


Late Post for Lady Audley’s Super-Secret Readalong

Hosted by Alice of  [Thanks, Alice!], we are reading Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Braddon, one of your less terrible sensational fiction novels from the Victorian era.  Every Thursday we’re supposed to post and these posts will be full of spoilers.   Not so much this one as we’re only 4 chapters in.  And really, I have nothing to add to ‘s first post.   Lucy’s head falling off would have been hilarious!   Sadly, it didn’t.   I read this ages ago, but have forgotten the whole thing except for a vague recollection that her husband was rather decent for a Victorian bloke.   Poor Lady A has chosen the Wrong Personal Maid.   I didn’t remember this being so chock full of coincidences, but then I may have read it after The Mysteries of Udolpho and anything will seem like genius after that.   

Coincidences:  The one time Lady A forgets her keys, her maid happens to be showing her private things to her cousin.   Who if it weren’t for Phoebe would soon be hung for stealing a bracelet.   You clot!   The housekeeper knows you were there.   It wouldn’t take even the lamest detective a second and a half to pin the crime on you.

George meets his old friend Robert, which would be fine, but then he also sees the obituary of his wife in a newspaper that happens to be in the tavern they stop in.   She died on the 24th inst. which I can never remember what that means, but less than a month ago, I believe.   Depends on what day it is.   So if Lucy is really Mrs. George who’s the obit for?   Maybe, hopefully it’s not so simple as Lucy is George’s wife.   Which is really not much of a plot if you guess it in the first 3 chapters.    Okay, you’ll say, I read this before and subconsciously remember, except that it’s completely telegraphed in these first couple chapters.   George is also a clot, but a more likeable one.    It really never occurred to you, George, that something might happen to your wife while you’re gone?   Dope.

Did it take until the 20th century for people to decide marrying your first cousin isn’t a good idea?

I do love readalongs.   Especially with funny people.