Thursday, September 22, 2016

American Vampire by Scott Snyder: Vampires in Old Timey Times

American Vampire by Scott Snyder is a 19th/20th century American graphic novel/comic book series I-can't-quite-distinguish-between-those-two-yet about vampires. Scary vampires. Not terrifying vampires, but not your Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer, whoever else was making vampires the sexiest versions of themselves.

American Vampire distinguishes between the Old World vampires, which are more of the Bram Stoker, how-we-know-them type, and the New World vampire, which has some convenient and fun traits and also very scarily long fingers. WHY ARE LONG FINGERS SO SCARY. WHAT IN OUR EVOLUTION MADE US THINK THAT WAS A SCARY THING. You know how squirrels and rabbits and whatever just know to stay away from certain shit? I feel like we have some instinct that's like "oh, long skinny limbs and/or fingers? Get the fuck away from that." But GOOD LORD, why

Snyder's story starts with 2 Hollywood girls in 1925, then flips back and forth between then and the 1880s/'90s and early 1900s, which is fan-damn-tastic. I read it on my lunch break at Starbucks and it was riveting. Are there a couple of dumb plot points? YEP. But there's also a lot of fun stuff moving the story forward, and some issues are written by Stephen King, so if he floats your boat, there's some bonus info for you.

Would've been 4/5 until the dumber plot points happened, which made it a Goodreads 3/5. But I'm still totally checking out the next volumes, OF WHICH THERE ARE MANY, because The Past + vampires is almost always a winning combination. This was Twilight's main fault. Aside from the heroine having no personality and the hero stalking and emotionally abusing her. ASIDE FROM THAT. Just the fact it was set now. What's she wearing? Jeans and a hoodie. Great. Riveting. Sign me up for more.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE HAS FLAPPER DRESSES. And also Old West hats. Read it if you like those things.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Manhattan Projects: Wtf, Man

I liked the hell out of Jonathan Hickman when I read the first East of West (remember that? it's ok if you don't — I get it, life is busy), so when I saw he had ANOTHER series called The Manhattan Projects, I went "oooh." And then Jenny from Reading the End said she tried reading it and had to stop after #1 because it is entirely dudes. And I essentially POOH-POOHED HER CONCERNS and did it anyway, because #EastofWestLove.

I just finished volume 2, and wtf, man. It's all dudes.

I mean ALL dudes. I mean women do not exist in this universe. I mean that I get that he's basing it off WWII-era scientists, but if you're inventing magical science shit and Buddhist monks who can open portals with their minds, MAYBE ALSO HAVE SOME WOMEN IN THERE.

damnit, Jonathan

 East of West is still great. But just...damn, sir. This is some egregious shit. Unless you were doing some Fight Club thing where Chuck Palahniuk said he was trying to create a space for men because they didn't have one




The main lesson Jenny will take from this is that she is always right, but what should be taken from it is that sometimes people make honest mistakes and they should be called out for them but not vilified. I'll bet Jonathan Hickman is LOVELY. I would hug him, I'm like 98% sure. But I'd also say – wtf, man.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Master and Margareadalong in October!

You guys. We've talked about it. We've talked about it for so long. And's finally happening.

This October, we shall read the classic tale by Bulgakov that seems to involve a cat! I have assumed it was about ships for about a decade, which I have now realized is because of the series Master and Commander, so! Let us proceed knowing it probably has nothing to do with ships, but will perhaps be great nonetheless. As is the tradition with our readalongs, let your GIFs be used liberally and let them be on-point. I SHALL SEE YOU IN OCTOBER.

October 3rd: Chapters 1-8
October 10th: Chapters 9-16
October 17th: Chapters 17-22
October 24th: Chapters 23-26
October 31st: Chapters 27 to end

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Was Carrie Nation Just Insane?

If you dive into temperance history in the slightest, you'll run across the 6' tall figure of Carrie Nation (later changed by her to "Carry"). She is famous for going into saloons with a hatchet and destroying all the merchandise in the name of temperance. No one wanted to mess with her because she was a giant woman wielding a hatchet.

Here's the thing. I always assumed she had just found a schtick and went with it. But the Carrie Nation episode of the hilarious podcast The Dollop, WHILE slightly reprehensible for dealing poorly with the extreme mental illness in her family, also entirely reframed her as a person and made her actions less "hilarious old woman has had enough" and much more "this was a person who needed help."

Carrie Nation lived from 1846-1911. She was born in Kentucky to slaveholding parents. Her mother, some writers say (and The Dollop proclaims) thought she was Queen Victoria, and the family treated her as such. An aunt of Carrie's acted like a weather vane at times, and a cousin decided to just live on all fours for a time until the local minister had a talk with him.

Despite her later propensity for publicity and general hatchet-wielding, Carrie was overall motivated by good (also maybe syphilis, but that's later):

[It] seems clear in retrospect that her first and continuing impulse was to befriend the woebegone and homeless. In Medicine Lodge, Kansas, where she and her second husband, David Nation, settled in the 1890s, she was known as "Mother Nation"-not a name of irony or derision, but one that celebrated her generosity. In Kansas, as in the years before in Missouri and Texas, Carry's instincts were to look out after the poor and battered, especially women. Medicine Lodge saw her establish a sewing circle to make clothes for the destitute. Her strong belief in education (she was once a teacher) led her to make it her business that few children in Medicine Lodge had to stay home from school for want of proper clothing.

Carrie was married for about a year to an alcoholic (he died soon after), from whom, if she DID contract it, she got syphilis. They had a daughter with mental health problems, which Carrie blamed on her husband's alcoholism, despite the storied history of her family.

She remarried David A. Nation, and they went around the West as he tried career after career and she started taking rocks into bars and smashing all their stock.

After she similarly destroyed two other saloons in Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she took as divine approval of her actions.

Carrie went from Kansas to Oklahoma, smashing up bars and rousing the local Women's Christian Temperance Unions to action. Bars started putting up signs saying "All Nations Welcome But Carrie." Throughout all this, she said she talked to God and He was directing her in what to do. She "sold photographs of herself, collected lecture fees, and marketed miniature souvenir hatchets" to support herself and, according to Wikipedia, pulled a Westboro Baptist because "[s]uspicious that President William McKinley was a secret drinker, Nation applauded his 1901 assassination because drinkers "got what they deserved."

The further research I did after The Dollop's hilarious and informed, but pretty callous and using some suspect sources, podcast, pointed to the good she tried to do, and the book Carry A Nation: Retelling the Life states that newspaper reporters looking for a story reported that she died of complications from syphilis, while the hospital itself stated heart failure as the cause. 

It's extremely possible the hospital wanted to cover up that she had syphilis to protect her reputation, and it seems like it would explain some of her pacing, muttering to herself, and grandiose actions, but who knows. At the end of the day, Carrie Nation did some good things and some bad things. Her childhood with a very mentally disturbed mother sounds sad, her life with her alcoholic husband sounds sad, trying to care for her mentally ill daughter sounds sad, and her second marriage that ended in divorce in 1901 sounds sad. Her work for temperance at least gave her a passion and a drive in life, and while saying it was good the president was assassinated is The Worst, I hope she was happy at least some of the time she was here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What're You Reading?

Jobs! Activities! Summer! They all combine to bring a person's reading rate down, down, down. BUT! That person still takes much joy in starting books she has not yet finished and therefore cannot blog about and therefore feels she CANNOT update her blog until she remembers she sometimes posts about books she hasn't finished yet.

SO! In the midst of jobbing (*quickly googles if 'jobbing' is some weird sexual slang no it is not ok carry on*), being in tech week for a show (A SHOW THAT IS 1776), and gal palling around with my girlfriend, WHAT has been going on in Alice's Book World?

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister. 
This was recommended by someone I work with at the Frances Willard Historical Association, and as of the first 60 pages, it is GREAT. It's mentioned Willard twice already. And talks about women being more of an independent group in America than ever before, etc etc. If you need stuff in your books beyond Willard mentions.

The Fangirl Life: A Guide to All the Feels and Learning How to Deal by Kathleen Smith. 
This is actually a pretty quick read, but there are a lot of things to THINK about while reading it, which makes it less quick-readingish. While I will always always see myself as a fangirl, this book is primarily for when it can take over your life, which has certainly been the case for me, but less so because of the abovementioned job/life/relationship situation. But it's still fascinating and I am liking it.

The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage, and Scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson.
VICTORIA WOODHULL. "And Tenny." Ahahaha. This is about the first woman to run for president, Victoria Woodhull, and her sister Tennessee Claflin who no one talks about anymore but was v. popular in her own day. Her own day being the 1870s.

Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark.

I'm also looking at some issues of The Manhattan Projects, which is fine but not riveting. As Jenny from Reading the End has pointed out, it's many dudes. Like 98% dudes. I cannot think of a single female character right now and I'm halfway through volume 2. 


Sunday, August 14, 2016

16th C. Angsty French Siblings in History

It's Sunday and let's look at some history I read on French wikipedia, because as far as I can tell it's not on English Wikipedia and might as well put that Comp Lit degree in French lit to use somehow. Today "somehow" will be translating this paragraph about the DRAMATIC AND SAD LIVES of Julien and Marguerite de Ravalet.

so many sad things

Julien de Ravalet was born in France in 1582, and his sister Marguerite in 1586. They were the children of Jean III de Ravalet, lord of Tourlaville. Tourlaville is in northwestern France, and part of Normandy. 

The article is a bit vague, but essentially, Julien and Marguerite were too close for their parents' liking (although the article uses "amour platonique," which totally has the same meaning here as there), so when Julien was 13, they sent him away. A few years later, when, according to the timeline here, Marguerite is 14, they marry her to Jean Lefevre de Haupitois, who's 32 years older.

Apparently the marriage of this 14 year old to a 46 year old wasn't happy (WHAT A SHOCK) and she ran away to find her brother. They were arrested September 8th, 1603 at the request of her gross husband, who accused them of adultery and incest (she's 17 now and her brother's 21). They both denied these charges, but were still executed in the Place de Grève in December 1603.

The Place de Grève is now known as the Place de l'Hotel de Ville, but was used for executions at least as far back as the 1200s.

Place de Grève

Place de l'Hotel de Ville

If you google them, you basically get landed almost immediately on a page about how incest is totes misunderstood and I'M SORRY TO HAVE CLICKED ON IT but info on them is scanty. That page says they were convicted because Marguerite was pregnant after being on the run for a whiiiiiile with her brother, which makes more sense than her husband just having accused them of incest and then having them be convicted, especially since their aristocratic father asked for mercy and it was denied

Look. Nature has shown us incest is not the way to go. Unless you think debilitating diseases are beneficial to the human race. That being said, these two super bum me out, not for that, but because Marguerite's life sounds real damn terrible, and she basically got murdered for that. Yep, I'm calling a state execution murder I'M EDGY LIKE THAT. 

the 17th c. French government

I only found out about these two kids because Netflix said "Would you like to watch Marguerite et Julien, Alice?" and I said "Maybe!" and watched the first 30 seconds and when it said based on real events or whatever, I paused it and did all this research. In the course of that, I found out that the movie was uniVERSALLY panned, so I'm not finishin' it. But now we all know about the sad sad lives of Marguerite and Julien de Ravalet, who were both killed the same year Elizabeth I died and the Stuarts came to reign in England. Just for some context. 

Let's not sleep with our siblings and let's also not marry our 14-year-old kids to people more than 30 years older than they are. There're just a bunch of lessons we can take from this. Essentially, don't do stupid shit, guys.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

God and My Father by Clarence Day: I Love This a Weird Amount

You know how when you're a kid, you love things uncritically, and when you're an adult, it's hard to walk back that love, or sometimes even understand it? 'Why do I want to punch someone who insults Fievel Goes West?' you might ask yourself. Or, in this particular case, 'How the hell did I grow to love Life With Father so much?'

Yes, Life With Father, the 1947 turn-of-the-century film about a harsh father, his silly wife and their four red-haired sons, based on a series of books by Clarence Day. The film centers around the discovery that Father has never been baptized. HOOKED YET?

I know I watched it a ridiculous number of times as a child, and I have no idea why. Did I find it on YouTube and do I still think it's funny? YES, obviously. But could that be seven-year-old Alice still reacting to the hilarity that is Oldest Teenage Son having issues with dating a young Elizabeth Taylor because they go to different Protestant denominational churches?


Anyway. So. The actual book.

THE ACTUAL BOOK IS GREAT. There's another book by Clarence Day actually called Life With Father, but God and My Father is the one that focuses on the baptizing issue. I got an awesome 1932 copy from the Newberry Library sale for $1. It's 83 pages long, so it is not what you would call a "challenging" text. 

I love the book, I love the narration, I love all the characters, it's an adorable book. Essentially: Father's a straightforward businessman who doesn't want to be baptized, and his wife is horrified that he hasn't been. That's the entire conflict.

It was useless to try to make him see that being baptized was a rite, and that it involved something holy and essential. He said it was a mere technicality. As to obeying the Bible, there were a lot of damn things in the Bible.

Clarence Day is entirely charming as a writer, and I have just been bummed out by a quick skim of his Wikipedia page, which not only reveals that Life with Father was published only a couple of years after this in 1935, but that Day also died that year at the age of 61, AND that "Day was a vocal proponent of giving women the right to vote, and contributed satirical cartoons for U.S. suffrage publications in the 1910s."

ALSO check this out: 
Day achieved lasting fame in literary circles for his comment, "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."

SIR, your book is as fresh as the day it was written, still telling people's hearts of the hearts of those decades gone. Thanks for being awesome.