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Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Book 5

Here we are once again at the Aurora Leigh readalong, hosted by me, Alice, and this week I read only Book 5, but it was yet again really gay and a mix of genius and wtf, so lots to talk about here.

We left off in Book 4, with Aurora and Romney parting ways again after he has been dumped by Marian Erle. Romney talked about Aurora "break[ing] the mythic turf where danced the nymphs," and in my epic poetry I love that, but if he said that to me in real life I would be like



Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes her case in Book 5 for people writing about the world right now. She makes some great points, but also it is a lot and maybe write an essay. MAYBE WRITE AN ESSAY, ELIZABETH. But she doesn't want to, and this is her book, so fine.

There is a consistent feeling through Aurora Leigh of Browning peeling back the curtain of Being Literary in the Victorian Age and just talking about life as we all know it. It's weirdly juxtaposed with verbal flights of fancy that soar to epic l…
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Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Books 3 & 4

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "You know how ladies are like windmills?"

Aurora Leigh! EBB's novel in verse. This week we read Books 3 & 4, which involve Aurora making her name as a poet, talking about how great London is to inspire one, and also some gay stuff and Aurora's cousin Romney Leigh almost marries Marian Erle, A Poor Person, but then she says never mind.

If we're going to pick a gay person in this book, I pick Marian. SURE, you can say "But she seems too into Romney." I also really wanted to marry a dude who I could help with his Great Life's Work. But guess what? I then turned out to be super gay.
Marian says
“I’d rather far be trodden by his foot,

Than lie in a great queen’s bosom.”

And it's like, um, no one MENTIONED a great queen's bosom, Marian. That was all you. But sure, now that we're on the topic of ladies and their bosoms etc, what's up with—
Marian: I'M NOT GAY ladies just kiss me all the time I don't even ask…

Something Sunday: Good Things That Have Happened

I am all for listing things that are good in what is so increasingly becoming The Darkest Timeline that we should all have goatees by now.

Fortunately, Jenny at Reading the End has started "Something Sundays" where we can list happy/good/whatever things that are keeping us going. Lots of lovely things happened today, and here they are:

1. My girlfriend made breakfast before she got on a plane to Canada. Breakfast was extremely good, and now I can say I have a girlfriend in Canada.

2. The Frances Willard House began its renewed "Views" series with a talk by Joan Marie Johnson on her book Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women's Movement, 1870-1967 (published by UNC Press), and the talk not only sold out -- there was a WAITING list. I smiled muchly.

3. In keeping with the women's history theme, I have become increasingly delighted that my books are becoming more and more collectiony. By which I mean the books I own have never been very "…

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Books 1 & 2

So. Aurora Leigh by English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, written in 1856 (Dickens had just written Hard Times) is a novel in verse about an English-Italian girl and her journey to becoming a poet.
It is...a little challenging. Here is a live action shot of me reading yesterday:

So, BOOK 1:
Aurora Leigh is born "[t]o make my father sadder, and myself/Not overjoyous truly."
Which kind of just sets the tone, huh. I want this entire review read with an understanding that along with extreme perplexity and frustration for certain parts, I also acknowledge this book is the work of an incredible genius and I'm glad I am reading it. Yes, I shouted parts in anger while my girlfriend tried to get work done last night, but I also was like "WAIT THIS PART IS REALLY GOOD LISTEN."
I've never been a huge fan of poetry, but I do think it fills a very necessary place in humanity's expression of itself, and those who use it well should be lauded. Or their words should be.
E…

The Witches by Stacy Schiff: Just a Buncha Assholes

In 2015, my delightful friend who was then at Little, Brown sent me their upcoming book The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. It was an excellent book to brag about having. Did I read it? Of course not. I was busy making binders for my upcoming Cahokia Mounds trip and also sitting around a lot.

But every October! I have looked over at the giant tome that is The Witches and thought 'Maybe this year?' But I have invariably become distracted and left it alone, of course losing interest in November because witches are for October. And also other times if you're interested in them/are one/like Roald Dahl books or Practical Magic. Or just really like the Monty Python take on it.




I'm about 70 pages into the 400+ page nonfiction breakdown of the 1692 events in Salem, Massachusetts, and can I say — well done. I mean, hot damn, Stacy Schiff. I'm not sure how you got over 400 pages out of something we don't really have great records of, but you also wrote a biography of…

Aurora Leigh in November!

You know how you're walking along, minding your own business, and suddenly you just stop and go "SHIT, I haven't read Aurora Leigh yet"? PROBLEM. SOLVED. TODAY. Well, in November.

Yes! This November, a scant two weeks away, we will be reading Elizabeth Barrett Brown's masterpiece (?) Aurora Leigh, which is either a novel in verse or an epic poem or an epic novel/poem, the internet cannot seem to agree.

"What's it about?" you ask. No idea! A lady poet? It looks like? But don't worry, the ever-fantastic Jenny of Reading the End will be divvying up the chapters for us so the readings are somewhat cohesive/not wildly scattered or ending at odd points.

I AM EXCITED because this is a semi-deep cut of Victorian lit, and if you've read it, you can scoff at the superficially Victorianist Jane Eyre and Great Expectations readers and say YES BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK OF AURORA LEIGH oh you haven't read it I see (not that you would ever do that; you'r…

October 2017 New Book Releases That Are Probably Pretty Great

It's almost October! The month almost everything amazing gets published! Also the month right before NaNoWriMo and right near the end of the year when some of us are panicking about finishing other books we've put off all year to hit those sweet sweet reading stats no one else cares about, so there is a lot going on.

I picked up a lot of October releases at BookExpo back in May, and I'm still psyched about most of them. Most excited about:


From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty (Oct 3, 2017)
I didn't read her first book, but this one looks super fun! And the cover's so good! Maybe I'll read her first book. Someday. Eventually. But for now, here's this book about how people deal with death around the world by a lady mortician who is very good at marketing.


Code Girls: The Untold Story of the Women Code Breakers of World War IIby Liza Mundy (Oct 10, 2017)
The hidden army of World War II women cryptographers, sworn to s…

Samuel Johnson's House: A Tour

Dr Samuel Johnson, writer of A Dictionary of the English Language and frequent contributor to Familiar Quotations, has a home in London that is still standing

This is italicized because after watching numerous videos of the Blitz while walking through the Museum of London, I'm shocked any building survived (aside from St Paul's, which anytime they talked about its symbolizing the indomitable British spirit, I immediately cried).

I didn't know anything about Johnson, but I love a good house museum, so off I trotted to right near Fleet Street, through some alleyways and up to this fun entrance:



There an old man buzzed me in, and when he asked what I knew about Dr Johnson and I said "Didn't he do the dictionary or something," he immediately launched into how totally awesome Johnson was, and when I said I was mainly interested in women's history, he was like "AH-HA! Did you know Samuel Johnson was a huge supporter of women writers?" NO I DID NOT, SIR…

When Dimple Met Rishi: I hate this book

Everyone was reading it. So I decided to read it. It didn't pan out well for The Help, but it was perfectly fine for Girl on the Train. But When Dimple Met Rishi?



For those unaware, When Dimple Met Rishi is a YA novel about an 18-year-old Indian-American girl named Dimple who's just graduated, is going to Stanford in the fall, and really wants to go to a summer coding program called Insomnia Con so she can create an app, meet her idol and BEGIN HER LIFE OF CODING.
I was super on board at this point.
She also has an overbearing mother who she thinks wants to see her married and with a family immediately. Dimple never wears makeup, is very open about her opinions, has wild hair (the book keeps coming back to these points), and is very anti-the marriage thing. What she does NOT know is her parents are letting her go to Insomnia Con because they have set her up with Rishi, the son of their friends. Rishi knows this, though, and boy, do hijinks ensue.
HERE IS MY MAIN PROBLEM WITH THIS …

Inhumans by Paul Jenkins: SO STRESSFUL

OKAY. I love the Inhumans. For those unaware, they're a part of Marvel's ever-expanding universe of ridiculous proportions. They live on an island called Attilan where EVERYTHING IS COOL except they maybe have a slave race? Unclear. I was introduced to Medusa in Ms Marvel where I was like who is this lady with amazing hair and why does she live on a separate island with this giant dog. So I checked this out. The ISSUE with Inhumans by Paul Jenkins is it kind of assumes you already know a lot of shit about the Inhumans.

Here's what I learned from this book:

1. Black Bolt is the shit. He also can't speak, FOR THIS SMALLEST WHISPER WOULD CLEAVE WORLDS IN TWAIN.

2. Medusa is his wife. Her hair has the strength of steel? And she can manipulate it psychically to like...ensnare people. I don't get why this makes her queen of the Inhumans, but her hair does look pretty great.

3. Kid Inhumans wait for their powers to go through some metamorphosis thing, and that's when you …

Slider by Pete Hautman: Middle Grade Fiction That Made Me Cry BUT IN A GOOD WAY

I talked about this book for a WEEK after I read it.

Slider called to me from the floor of BookExpo back in June. The cover's eye-catchingly great and 100% the reason I stuffed it in my overly-full tote. Once BookExpo is over, I usually go through and see what I just grabbed in a frenzy of bookmadness and what I genuinely want. After reading the first couple pages and checking out the excellent writing, Slider stayed in the keep pile.

It's about a high school freshman named David who's really really good at eating. Eating contests are his passion. He has heroes in that community, and one of those heroes just lost a contest by half a hot dog. Someone's selling it on BuyBuy (basically eBay) for 50 cents, so David "borrows" his mom's credit card and bids on it with a max bid of 20 dollars. Only he accidentally put $2,000 and now he's a 14-year-old with no job who has to find $2,000. To pay for half a hot dog.


I don't know about you guys, but when I was …

The Uprising of the 20,000: New York and the 1909 Shirtwaist Strike

"An equal number of men never would hold together under what these girls are enduring."

You know what gets all the attention? The Triangle Factory fire. Which is understandable, because it was a massive public tragedy that improved New York's fire codes and led to greater safety for factory workers, as well as sympathy for the union.

BUT BEFORE THAT. There was the Uprising of the 20,000. Which was damn great and almost unprecedented.




In the late 1800s and early 1900s, workers had begun to speak up more and more for their rights. These were mostly male workers, from the Knights of Labor to the AFL (American Federation of Labor), the latter headed by the inimitable Samuel Gompers:



Women were traditionally not a large part of the unions, if allowed in at all. They were seen as part-time workers who could be disregarded as their investment in their jobs would only last until they got married.

This assumption was a mistake.




Shirtwaists' popularity had blown up in the early 190…