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Showing posts from June, 2017

Can Wilkie Collins Manage to Star in His Own Biography?

Andrew Lycett's Wilkie biography has been accompanying me around Chicago-town. It struck me last week that since Wilkie's life is so inextricably bound up in Dickens's, it might be good to read a biography of Dickens finally, so I checked out Claire Tomalin's Dickens: A Life , and it is excellent. Particularly since Wilkie and Dickens don't really meet up until Dickens is an Established Figure and v. famous, so it's nice instead seeing his background with his son-of-a-servant father being in debtors prison and his mother making him work in a blacking factory and, as previously mentioned, ruining his brain about women forever. While I appreciate the difficulty in crafting a biography of Wilkie due to the relative scarcity of information about him, I applaud Lycett for trying. One of the benefits (?) of said scarcity is a biography of him becomes more a biography of his circle, so you learn about the Victorian literary set of the 1850s and '60s. Or one

Harry Potter at 20: My Magical But Maybe Creepy Intro to Harry Potter

It all started with Anjelica Huston. Like any normal 14-year-old, I was spending my summer obsessed with the then-48-year-old actress. It was 1999, so the internet was still experiencing growing pains, but it was advanced enough that a young teenager could find filmographies, interviews, and agent addresses where she could send letters detailing how much an actress's performance in Addams Family Values  meant to her. In one of these interviews, Huston said the last book she had read was Charming Billy  by Alice McDermott. Charming Billy  is an excellent novel about an Irish-American man who dies from alcoholism. Under normal circumstances, none of these things would appeal to me, but when you're 14 and obsessed, you will read anything that person read (see also: Enemies, A Love Story  by Isaac Bashevis-Singer). also I was really gay and didn't know it yet My family was going where we went every summer: the small, historical community of Chautauqua, NY, origi

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 lik

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 p

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 read   Tampa, but I most definitely associate it with

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! like this tiny child! 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.

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.