Skip to main content

Posts

Wilkie Collins: The Beginning

EPOCH ONE in the life of Wilkie Collins, as described by Andrew Lycett in his eminently readable biography Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation, comprises his birth to the meeting of Charles Dickens.


If you want to know about Wilkie Collins's early life, here're some main points: 

1) His dad was a painter who made some serious CASH MONEY.

2) His dad was also super into God, who Wilkie, in the grand tradition of children, was therefore NOT into.

3) The ladies around him inspired him to see women as actual people, as opposed to a certain other Victorian author who seemed to regard them as vessels to be filled with adoration for their future husband. That or as loveless shrews we should all laugh at. (DICKENS I'M TALKING ABOUT DICKENS)

4) Wilkie told Dickens a story later in life about how when his family lived in Italy, he banged a married lady when he was like 13. While normally I wouldn't believe this sort of story, with Wilkie Collins, it seems like it maybe happened.

5) Wil…
Recent posts

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier: DID SHE OR DIDN'T SHE

Daphne Du Maurier's 1951 My Cousin Rachel prompts the age-old question: what if you were a young dumb dumb with an estate in Cornwall who is convinced your charming, thoughtful, and recently-widowed cousin Rachel wants to abandon her native Italy forever and live with you, your dogs, and your elderly butler in a damp house by the sea. AFTER ALL WHO WOULDN'T.

Also she's a widow because she'd married your uncle who raised you who then recently died, so also this has just become the MOST oedipal and makes everyone feel gross thinking about it.




Said dumb dumb is Philip Ashley, who is 24 and aptly referred to in the recent film version as a "glorious puppy." He is so excited about some things. And so sulky about so many other things. He's our narrator, which here means he is our misogynistic, xenophobic lens through which to view all events. His uncle died in Italy soon after marrying Rachel. Said uncle suspected he was being poisoned. He also probably had a bra…

Wilke Collins Readalong: Introductory Post

WELCOME TO THE WILKIE COLLINS BIOGRAPHY READALONG. We are very cazh-like reading the Andrew Lycett bio Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation. This week's introductions! I have QUESTIONS.

1. Where are you located!
Chicago, IL. It's currently emphasizing its swampy river nature with 90-something degree temperatures and 65% humidity, but I STILL LOVE IT.

2. What do you know about Wilkie Collins already?
I know he has a giant forehead. And enjoys the back view of a lady the most. And was Dickens's BFF and MAYBE responsible for pushing Dickens to be a better writer.

3. What have you read of his?
THE MOONSTONE AND WOMAN IN WHITE, of which I loved the latter much more than the former.

4. How much do you love the cover of this book?
SO MUCH.


We're splitting this book into 4 sections, and a schedule will be posted here be Friday!

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting: SEX DOLLS AND DOLPHIN LUST

Y'know when your life is falling apart because your husband is the head of an omnipotent technology company and you feel disconnected from humanity and all you want to do is live in a trailer park and bang a drifter? Then you will SUPER RELATE to Alissa Nutting's Made for Love, aka That Book With the Airbrushed Dolphin Cover.



I like to think of this cover choice as "bold." Partially because it reminds me of my second grade Lisa Frank folders and partially because, similar to her previous book Tampa, it's another "hide the cover on the El" book. But for a DIFFERENT reason. I have a paperback galley of it, but I'll bet the juxtaposition of this airbrushed dolphin scene with the niceness of a hardcover is interesting.

When first encountering this book, I did in fact wrinkle my nose at the fact the author wrote Tampa. "Oh, the sex book," I said. I'd like to point out I never readTampa, but I most definitely associate it with tastelessness, c…

BookExpo 2017: Who Doesn't Need More Books?

One of the best things about a convention is most people are there for the same reason: they have some deep interest in whatever it's about. Hopefully. If they don't, then it must be hell on earth. But let's focus on those who do!


BookExpo America is like Comic Con for book nerds, especially if you're attending for press coverage and not on behalf of one of the many publishers. I went as a Book Riot contributor and wandered around for 2 days with Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness. Kim covers a lot of non-fiction, and I tend towards history/lady-things/LGBT books, so we had some nice crossover in what ARCs we wanted to grab. Most of the books given out at BEA are fall releases, so you get the ARCs, then have a nice couple months to read them.

Our first book we bee-lined for was about baking powder. Obviously.


Baking Powder Wars is NOT ONLY being published by University of Illinois Press (so, my alma mater), but also has an A+ cover. We basically ran to their booth at 9 AM…

Wilkie Collins Bio Readalong Signup

DO YOU LOVE WILKIE COLLINS? Have you barely heard of him? Do you vaguely know him as Dickens's BFF and owner of a magnificent forehead? Starting June 14th, we will be reading Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation by Andrew Lycett. You can get a copy pretty much anywhere online, but I recommend AbeBooks or The Book Depository so you can get the version with the fun cover. 


It's not very long, so Wednesday, June 14th, we'll do intro posts, then split the book up into 4 readings and chat about how much we love Wilkie Collins and how he led a LIFE OF SENSATION. 

Signup below via Mr Linky and get your copy soon. WILKIE COLLINS FOR THE SUMMER.


Sex Object by Jessica Valenti: Is Feminism Changing?

I brought Sex Object with me to London, because why wouldn't you want to read a feminist memoir that refuses to be optimistic when you're on a week-long trip?

Jessica Valenti is obviously a Name in popular feminism. As the founder of feministing.com and a frequent go-to lady for quotes about how things in the culture affect the ladies, it makes sense for her to be writing books. And she's a good writer! And yes, there is a but, but that only but is that this book is a major downer. Which I RESPECT.

Valenti points out that "even subversive sarcasm" in response to comments from men being assholes "adds a cool-girl nonchalance, an updated, sharper version of the expectation that women be forever pleasant, even as we're eating shit" and that the "inability to be vulnerable--the unwillingness to be victims, even if we are--doesn't protect us, it just covers up the wreckage."

This has made me think.

Because we are conditioned to act like none of…

London has many leatherbound books and smells of rich mahogany

I brought upwards of 20 books back with me from England. Following the excellent advice of Jenny from Reading the End, I packed an empty suitcase so carting the inevitable bookhaul home wouldn't be a problem. Which turned out to be a great idea, because this was the (almost) final product:



The thing is, you're there and you're like "WHAT IF THESE ARE NOT EASILY GOT IN AMERICA" and sure, you could check your phone, but that's not fun. Also sometimes you're at Blackwell's in Oxford and you're like "you know, maybe I need these £4 secondhand copies of Necropolis and Bedlam, because it's not like I DON'T want to read about London as a graveyard and how it's historically dealt with its mentally ill residents."

And then it kind of continues in that vein and then you have all the books except for those giant biographies of Catherine of Aragon and Jane Carlyle, because they are MASSIVE and you just don't have the room/upper body st…

March & April 2017 Reading

March and April were pretty damn good reading months for me, meaning I read 14 books between them, and YES COMIC VOLUMES COUNT AS BOOKS. Kind of.

Broken down into fun genres they are:

COMICS
The Beauty, Vol. 1
The Borden Tragedy
Black Panther, Vol. 1
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1
Batman, Arkham Asylum

YOUNGER PEOPLE BOOKS
Star Wars: Before the Awakening
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

STRAIGHT UP FICTION
The Girl on the Train
The Graduate
The Secret Life of Bees
Life After Life

PRETTY GREAT / WORTHWHILE NON-FICTION
Between the Wars: 1919-1939
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders
Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life


Yes, that's a weird number of comics starting with a B. No, it was not planned. COINCIDENCE? Yes. Yes entirely.

I also got a pretty good assortment of comics at C2E2 in Chicago. Two (Rough Riders and INSEXTS) are by Aftershock Comics, which I most inDEEDLY encourage you to check out, because I'd never heard of them, but pretty much all their stuff looked really interesting.



Rough Riders is T…

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: Vampires! Vampires everywhere!

I took a break from life to read some sweet sweet fiction.

Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is about a world where--VAMPIRES! VAMPIRES EVERYWHERE! Except more specifically in Coldtowns, which are like big walled in areas where they keep the vampires. Only they haven't caught all of them, so you still have to take precautions in normal life or you could get bitten and then infected and then you either have to sweat it out for 88 days and somehow not drink human blood, OR, you go to Coldtown. 
ALL ROADS LEAD TO COLDTOWN.
So the main character is Tana and she's 17 and she wakes up the next morning after a party and all her friends are dead. That is the BEGINNING. She finds her ex-boyfriend still alive in a room, but bitten, oh and there's also a vampire chained up in there. But said vampire warns her that the other vampires are calling from inside the house so she's like "oh shit" and they all get outta there.
But who is this mysterious, sexy-but-dange…

She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan: More transgender memoirs, please

You know how last year you'd catch a random episode of I Am Cait, and suddenly you'd be like, who is this extremely articulate and intelligent woman talking on this reality show and why does her name sound familiar?

Well, that woman was Jennifer Finney Boylan, and her name sounded familiar because you've had a copy of her 2003 memoir She's Not There on your shelf for approximately 5 years.

Boylan is an extremely intelligent English professor who used I Am Cait as a vehicle to speak about transgender rights and issues. Her memoir covers her life from small child to married transgender adult with a family and a professorship. And weirdly enough, best friend Richard Russo, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls



I really loved She's Not There. It's especially brave for the time in which it was written, and it's a clear narrative of her struggles and resolution of the fact that she was born with an exterior that did not match who she naturally was.

Her them…

Between the Wars by Philip Ziegler: 1919 says "Haha like that'll ever happen again." 1939 says ಠ_ಠ

HO BOY. World War I and World War II. What happened between them! Philip Ziegler can tell you. Some of it, anyway.

If history isn't even really your thing, this book feels particularly timely, as it shows how the unthinkable occurred. There's a reason World War I used to be called the Great War. Everyone thought 'Well, this was the absolute worst NO WHERE TO GO BUT UP FROM HERE.'





The thing is, most people nowadays, except for those who have a complete set of Churchill's The Second World War (my parents have two sets in case you need one) pretty much think of WWII as England/France/America vs Germany/Italy/Japan. And then Russia's kind of running back and forth between them, like a confused kid playing Red Rover.

I loved having a more expansive view of the year "between the wars" opened up to me. I didn't know SHIT about Picasso's Guernica. I didn't know anything about the actual Guernica that inspired it. I didn't know about General Fran…