My newest Industrial music addiction: Tanz Mit Laibach

First of all, preface this with John Oliver making fun of Laibach, a nearly 40-year-old band from former Yugoslavia which predates Rammstein and was chosen to go to North Korea last year:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeygA-n7AEo

(You have to actually click on it because embedding is disabled.  And no, I did NOT find out about this band through John Oliver: My favorite webstream plays the band.  I found out about John Oliver’s clip through the video’s comments on Youtube.  😉  )

Now for the video John Oliver made fun of–and a link which explains this band is NOT “Holy Sh** Nazis!“:

 

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My book “The Lighthouse” just got chosen for a little book club

I just got a notification from Pinterest that one of my pins–The Lighthouse–was re-pinned into a board called “book club book ideas.”  It’s not a big one–32 followers–but I’ve just sold three Lighthouse e-books and one Tojet e-book.  The e-books are free, so I don’t get any money from this, but I wanted to be read even in such a sluggish economy.  [Update: The e-books now cost $3.00.]

The Lighthouse

Enter the world of the Lighthouse, a club for supernatural beings and social misfits.  In this Gothic story collection you will find castles, ghosts, vampires, romance and terror:

 

Bedlam CastleAn American college girl loses herself in the hallways of a 900-year-old castle.  Eccentric characters invite her to dinner.  One is a genie, one is an undine, and most of the others are ghosts.  One man intrigues her the most–but is he a mortal man or a supernatural creature like the rest?

 

JarkinBecky Stevens falls in love against her will with Archibald Jarkin, an eccentric, austere and charismatic preacher.  Their passionate marriage is tested when Jarkin’s TV ministry turns into a witch hunt.  When Becky discovers the Lighthouse, their life together takes a startling new path.

 

Alexander Boa: Or, I was a co-ed vampire slaveWhen a young woman’s college is taken over by a vampire, she becomes his secret mistress.  Will she be torn apart when her friends decide to kill him?

 

CandidaA young man is stricken with a girl who falls under a vampire’s spell.  Soon married and pregnant with the vampire’s baby, she has no idea what danger she’ll be in if the baby is a boy.

 

All Together NowThis story combines characters and settings from the other four stories.  Jenny, a social misfit, is introduced to the Lighthouse, supernatural creatures, and a deceptive man.  When he leaves her and then accuses her of stalking him, she can only vindicate herself by facing the horrors of a haunted cave.  Will she survive?  Will she fall in love again?

 

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Review of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

by Jane Austen:

(First, read my review of Mysteries of Udolpho.)

Spoilers Ahead!

Now for Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s satire of Mysteries of Udolpho and the Gothic genre of the late-18th century.

The first couple of chapters have been quite delightful, mostly narrative but all comic, with our introduction to Catherine (who has never had the makings of a heroine and has only now begun to even be pretty) and Mrs. Allen (who should be making the heroine’s life miserable but in reality has a good temper and nothing whatsoever to make her intolerable, or interesting other than being rich).

Rather than a fainting beauty with many accomplishments like, say, Emily in Udolpho, Catherine has always been a rambunctious tomboy, playing with cricket bats rather than dolls, and preferring books that have absolutely nothing to teach whatsoever.

Mrs. Allen takes Catherine to her first ball in the fashionable resort town of Bath.  But unlike both movie versions of this book, they meet nobody of interest at the ball, not even Henry Tilney, and the most attention Catherine gets in the huge crowd is overhearing a couple of young gentlemen calling her “pretty.”

As Austen notes, no one goes into raptures on seeing her, or calls her divine, or any such.  But what she did get means more to her than fifteen sonnets would to a “true-quality” heroine.

Catherine does finally meet Mr. Tilney, but at a different dance.  He’s a goofball, just the sort to make girls laugh and fall for him.

In chapter 6, Catherine has formed a fast attachment to Isabella Thorpe, the sister of one of her brother’s friends, and the daughter of Mrs. Allen’s old friend.  They’re attached to each other like glue, and love to talk about those “horrid” Gothic novels.

Catherine is now reading Mysteries of Udolpho and loves it.  They talk about the black veil, wonder what’s hidden behind it, and Catherine says, “Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it.”  Well, it could take you about that long to read it, those nearly 700 pages, and so much of it either landscape description or (geez) yet more plot-numbing poetry….

Isabella seems like a wonderful friend, the kind of bosom friend who is a joy to find, a kindred spirit.  She has a list of a bunch more horrid Gothic novels to read together.  And Austen, of course, pokes fun at novels of the day that would disparage novel-reading as something that their heroines, of course, would never do.  Catherine says, “[A]re they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”  Isabella assures her that they are.

Now it’s time to go to Amazon and find all the books listed here….Judging by Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” list, other people have done this very same thing.  And guess who has published these as paperbacks in the past several years: Valancourt Books!  They appear to have been grouped together as “Northanger Abbey Horrid Novels.”

Like with Eusebius‘ many quotes from other writers, you wonder how many of these books would have simply fallen into obscurity had it not been for Jane Austen mentioning them in her own book.

Catherine, however, soon discovers her wonderful friend Isabella is actually rather selfish and self-centered.  Isabella, an incorrigible flirt, captures Catherine’s brother James’ heart, and Isabella’s brother Thorpe hopes to capture Catherine’s as well.  But he’s so rude, crude and obnoxious that this is impossible for a sweet, open, guileless girl like Catherine.

When Catherine wants to go for walks with Henry Tilney and his sister Elinor, Isabella and her brother throw a fit and try to force her to go with them instead on a long trip.  When force doesn’t work, they try manipulation: Thorpe lies to the Tilneys.  Poor Catherine, our heroine, must fight the forces that try to keep her from her true love!

When the Tilneys invite Catherine to cut her visit to Bath short and come stay with them for three weeks at their place, Northanger Abbey, Catherine is delighted: Abbeys show up in her beloved Gothic novels all the time.  She hopes for rotted walls, secret passages, and the like; Henry plays with her, encouraging her romantic spirit by telling her all the horrid things she’ll find in the abbey.  Her imagination runs rampant, so she starts exploring.

Silly Catherine quickly comes up with an elaborate suspicion of General Tilney, that he killed his wife–or locked her up–nine years ago and the proof is to be found in her old bedroom.

But Henry soon disabuses her of this notion, she realizes that General Tilney has a dreadful temper but is hardly a murderer or torturer, and she’s back to real-life concerns: Isabella has thrown over Catherine’s brother to be with Henry’s brother, since the terms of the upcoming marriage to James Morland are far poorer than she had hoped.

Henry realizes that in losing her best friend,

Your brother is certainly very much to be pitied at present; but we must not, in our concern for his sufferings, undervalue yours.

You feel, I suppose, that in losing Isabella, you lose half yourself: you feel a void in your heart which nothing else can occupy. Society is becoming irksome; and as for the amusements in which you were wont to share at Bath, the very idea of them without her is abhorrent. You would not, for instance, now go to a ball for the world.

You feel that you have no longer any friend to whom you can speak with unreserve, on whose regard you can place dependence, or whose counsel, in any difficulty, you could rely on. You feel all this?

You’d think that she would feel all this after losing the friend who had been side-by-side with her for weeks.  I think most people would; I certainly have felt it more than once, no matter if the friend was lost through betrayal or simply a change of geography or school.  But oddly, she says no, she doesn’t.  But she doesn’t know why.

Isabella has shown herself to be a golddigger; Captain Tilney has shown himself to be a player who talked big and trifled with her heart, then threw her over for somebody else.  Now she writes to Catherine asking her to plead her case with James.  Catherine sees right through her and decides not to write to James on her behalf, or to Isabella ever again.

I feel for Catherine as she suffers the disappointment of learning a dear friend’s true character, of having to give up that friend because they are not what they seemed.  But fortunately for Catherine, she has Eleanor and Henry to soothe her spirits.

General Tilney soon unceremoniously tosses Catherine out of the abbey, without reason other than a previously remembered engagement, after she and Eleanor had just decided that she’d stay another few weeks.

He’d been catering to Catherine’s every need for all this time, treating her better than he treated his own children, practically throwing her at Henry–and now he’s ordered her to take the first cab home, 70 miles, without even a servant to attend her.

Henry, the romantic hero, soon follows her to her home, proposes, and tells her what happened.  Of course, the 1987 movie version has a much more dramatic and romantic proposal scene than the book does.  (Sorry for the bad quality: It’s apparently the only video the BBC has not bumped off Youtube.)  But the book goes into more detail about the misunderstandings:

John Thorpe, in his usual self-promoting bluster, first told General Tilney that Catherine was an heiress; then in the sting of disappointment (since Catherine refused him), and not being able to get James and Isabella back together, he went the other way, telling the general that the Morlands were poor and disreputable fortune-hunters.  He claimed he’d been misled by James’ own vain boasting.

The movie’s depiction of the argument between Henry and his father [sorry, this got bumped, too] is more satisfying dramatically, making me wish that the many details in the book had been shown rather than told.  So even the great classic works suffer from this every once in a while.

Catherine’s parents are willing, but want the general to consent as well.  Rather than acting like golddiggers who want a share of the general’s money, they’re quite willing for Catherine to live on Henry’s own income as a parson.  But until the general consents, Catherine and Henry must wait.

This seems impossible, until Eleanor makes a good match herself and puts him in good humor.  Eleanor has been forced apart for years by her father from this man, but he’s suddenly come into money and title.  General Tilney discovers that far from being dirt-poor, Catherine’s parents are able to give her 3000 pounds.  He soon forgives Henry, who then marries Catherine.  So just as in Mysteries of Udolpho, there is finally a happy ending.

The funny part about Henry’s love of Catherine is how it began: He truly loves her now, but it

originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a second thought.

It is a new circumstance in romance, I acknowledge, and dreadfully derogatory of a heroine’s dignity; but if it be as new in common life, the credit of a wild imagination will at least be all my own.

This is a fun little book, only 212 pages, a quick and easy read.  Time to re-watch the movie, and see if the Masterpiece Theater version (from around 2008) is still on Youtube…..

The 1987 movie: This one makes all sorts of changes from the novel, and the way it chops up Mysteries of Udolpho is scandalous (that is NOT what’s behind the black veil). But it’s still lots of fun to watch, I love the ending song, Peter Firth is a handsome and funny Tilney (I love the way he says “gloomy”), and the ending is charmingly romantic–so much so that I wish it were that way in the book.

It also has some great lines that aren’t in the book: “Never underestimate the power of [a woman’s] refusal”; “I promise not to oppress you with too much remorse or too much passion, though since you left the white rose bush has died of grief.”  The last is one I often think of when someone I care about is gone.

The 2007 movie: This one is far more faithful to the book, though it also takes many liberties (such as Catherine’s dreams based on The Monk, and what Captain Tilney does with Isabella at the end).  But at least, like the 1987 movie, it has Henry Tilney arriving on a white horse…. Watch the movie here.

[Finished 1/30/11]

 

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Book Review: Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe–Part 2

 

Part 1

Around p. 435: Madame Montoni has met her fate, not by Montoni’s direct hand but indirectly, as she languished from illness in the east turret.  And now her estates have passed on to Emily, making her the next target.

After advising her aunt to give up the estates for the sake of her own life, now that she has the estates herself, she won’t take her own advice: She hopes the estates will be a source of income for herself and her beloved, Valancourt.

But this means that Montoni withdraws his protection from her, while the castle is full of various rough characters, mercenaries who fight battles for whoever sponsors them.  The Italian political system is chaotic at this time, so battles aren’t just a matter for the state.  The state turns a blind eye to sponsors of the mercenaries, as long as they don’t cause too much trouble.

The thought of Valancourt keeps her going through all this, as she deals with terror, apparent phantoms frightening the guards, a siege, and having to run from men who keep trying to grab her in the hallways while the others carouse.

Before the siege she’s sent away to a peasant’s cottage in the countryside, a haven where she makes friends with the teenaged daughter.  But she’s kept under constant guard and finally brought back to the castle again, back to dread.

As I said, the thought of Valancourt keeps her going.  But she has no idea that while she’s shut up in the castle, his fellow comrades-in-arms have lured him into gaming and various other entertainments to get his mind off things.

The funny bit is Annette, Madame Montoni’s servant, a talkative, sweet and dimwitted girl who attends her needs while informing her of the latest castle gossip.  Annette’s informant is Ludovico, a charming household servant who has taken a fancy toward her.

The funniest part is that every time there is some danger in the castle, Emily finds Annette locked up in some obscure room, and Annette tells her that Ludovico put her there to keep her safe.  And now, finally, Emily has met Ludovico, who promises to help her escape.

On page 464, after Emily has escaped the castle, we go to the villa belonging to Count De Villefort, a villa which he has just inherited and by which Emily was freaked out on her travels with her father.  We leave Emily for quite some time to read about new characters, including a Blanche who is much like Emily, and to read endless pages of description of the villa and surrounding landscape.

I suppose the readers of the time loved this sort of thing, especially since they had no photographs or videos, and travel took much more time and was far more wearing on a body than it is in our modern world.

But I find the description to be overwhelming: I have trouble holding the pictures in my head for long, so it becomes more a series of unconnected images which I’m constantly changing through a great deal of effort and re-reading, rather than the full panorama which I’m sure was intended.

Oftentimes I’ll just skip over something because I’m tired of reading the same paragraph over and over for the past 10 minutes.  So I do hope the action will soon pick up again.

Around p. 530: Now that Emily is safely home and has sent for Valancourt, it seems everything should now come together with a happy ending.  But no.

For one thing, there are more than 100 pages left, so unless this turns out like Tolkien’s Return of the King, there should be more plot left.  For another, she discovers that Valancourt has gotten involved in gambling, shady characters from the gambling underworld–and a woman.

She demonstrates that even the dumper–whether in romance or friendship–may seem heartless to the dumpee, but actually be full of grief herself.  She feels she has no choice, as anyone would have to feel, who still loves the person they are breaking off a romance or friendship with.  Otherwise why do it?

Naturally, he is upset; naturally, he tries his best to change her mind.  If a dumpee doesn’t do this, you have to wonder if they truly cared in the first place, and “respecting her wishes” from the outset rather than at least trying to change her mind would seem almost insulting.  But finally he understands why she’s doing it, and leaves her alone with her grief.

This poor girl hasn’t been happy in ages: First her mother dies, then her father dies, then Valancourt is taken from her when they were supposed to get married, then she has to spend months in a gloomy and terrifying castle, and now she loses Valancourt again, but this time for his own sins instead of somebody else’s.

Which is probably why Jane Austen was so ready to parody the book in Northanger Abbey.  The book’s notes have already pointed out two scenes which were parodied in “Northanger”; I’m anxious to re-read those scenes, but have to be patient, because all must be done in the proper order.

The ending of Udolpho takes many pages as more twists and turns keep coming about.  But finally everything is tied up, all the mysteries of Udolpho and elsewhere are explained, misleading information is cleared up, and Emily ends up with her One True Love ™.

And yes, there are plenty more poems and commas, so never fear the lack.  And plenty more faintings by Emily or Blanche, her new friend.

It’s about time Emily got a friend.  Other than chatty servants and nuns, she had no friends through most of the book.

Annette the chatty maidservant could be called a friend, except that Emily kept having to assert her superiority by telling Annette to stop falling for superstitious nonsense, and to get to the point already woman.

Though of course, Emily would never do this meanly, but always with the utmost kindness and grace.

In the last two paragraphs, we discover that there is a moral to the story:

O! useful may it be to have shewn, that, though the vicious can sometimes pour affliction upon the good, their power is transient and their punishment certain; and that innocence, though oppressed by injustice, shall, supported by patience, finally triumph over misfortune!

Well, considering that in real life this often does not happen, and that this is just a novel, it’s hard to say it has shewn or proven any such thing.

And, if the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, has, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or, by its moral, taught him to sustain it–the effort, however humble, has not been vain, nor is the writer unrewarded.

Oh, geez, there’s a moral to the story!  It couldn’t have just been for fun: It had to “teach” us something.

…Though, yes, come to think of it, I did read it the first time after a breakup from a boyfriend…

and the second time after a breakup from a best friend…

so it did in fact beguile me during many hours of sorrow…

and maybe it did sort of teach me to sustain it….

Oh, bugger all, it has successfully conveyed its moral to me.

These 672 pages have been enjoyable over the past 6 months, re-reading a book I first read in the winter or early spring of 1992.  Back then it was a very old copy, found in the college library, actually two little red hardback volumes, now one big paperback by Oxford World’s Classics.

I look forward to seeing (again, after many years) how Jane Austen skewers them in “Northanger Abbey.”  Well, that is, after I first read the 20-page introduction by the editor.  I didn’t want to read that until after reading the book….

[1/2/11]

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