Meeting her vampire husband: Excerpt from my book The Lighthouse

An excerpt from my book “The Lighthouse”:

Randall met me at the door that evening with a smile, a vigorous (though chilly) handshake and a boisterous,

“Hello, hello, friend Josh! Welcome to our mini-mansion. Do you want a drink?”

“Do you have Mountain Dew?” I asked.

“Yes, we do. Candida says she can’t survive without it or chocolate. I understand her addiction, since I have my own.” He grinned with his eyebrows drawn together.

An image flashed through my mind of Randall pouring blood from a vial–or maybe from his own veins–into a can of pop. “Could I–have that in a glass–a clear glass, please?”

Randall frowned for a moment in confusion, but then he said, “All right, whatever you wish.”

“I’ll get it for you,” Candida said. She bounded off down the hallway to the kitchen. At least she was still bouncy and vibrant, which I had always loved about her.

Randall offered me the loveseat. He sat in a wicker chair adjacent to it. I hoped he didn’t notice as I swept my gaze over the seat before sitting down. Nope, no blood or–um–emissions from him and Candida–um–christening the house’s furniture. Another image flashed through my mind: Candida naked in his arms. I got a wincing headache.

“So–um–who are you?” I asked.

“Mr. Candida, Randall Ankh.”

My eyebrows shot up. “Ankh? The Egyptian symbol for life?”

“Yes. Unusual name, isn’t it? My parents changed their last name to it. They held great stock in symbolism and loved to study ancient Egypt. This idol of Set came from them.”

He put his hand on a small stone statue of a two-legged, muscular being with a dog-like face, long ears and a loincloth. Candida allowing an idol in her house was odd enough, but wasn’t Set supposed to be evil, killing his own brother Osiris?

Candida bounced back into the room with a tall glass of Mountain Dew, nearly splashing it on me as she handed it to me.

“And what is your last name?” Randall asked.

I flinched. I meant my question to be more probing, a way to get him to confess, “Yes, I am a vampire, and my last name is ironic considering the death and destruction I bring.” But he turned it right around on me before it had a chance to work. Not that I knew how it could work, anyway.

“Hilfe. It’s German for ‘help.’ You know, in case you hear anybody say, ‘Hilf mich,’ that’s what they mean: ‘Help me.’”

He did not seem to notice my subtle barb. “Any friend of Candida’s is a friend of mine, and she tells me you’re one of her best. I had to let you into our house because she would not stop talking about you. Perhaps I should be jealous.” His eye flashed red, then went back to steel gray. “When you get a treasure like Candida, you don’t want to let her go.”

Didn’t I know it.

I scratched my eyebrow, probably a nervous tic. I found Randall more disconcerting the more amiable he seemed.

“Oh, you haven’t even touched your drink,” Candida chirped from beside the wicker chair.

The doorbell rang. I jumped. Some of my drink splashed. Candida called out “hello” when Randall trotted to the door and opened it. A few “heys” showed it was an old friend of Randall’s. This friend walked in, another pale-faced young man, though black. His clothes were dark blue, well-cut and expensive. I’m not much of a judge of male looks, but he seemed to be in the same category as Denzel Washington or Billy Dee Williams. That meant he caused lust in any woman of any race. That meant I was the ugly one in this house.

“Josh, Candida, this is Vincent,” Randall said. “Shall I get you a drink?” he asked Vincent.

“Oh, yes, the usual,” Vincent said. “I’ve had nothing to drink all evening.”

Randall trotted off.

“Are you a friend of Randall’s?” Vincent asked.

“No, Candida’s,” I said.

“How long have you known her?”

“Since spring.”

“I’ve only just met her, myself. So this is she, the beautiful Candida.” He nodded at her in a way so smooth and chivalric it made me jealous.

Candida flushed and grinned back at him boldly. My likelihood of catching her eye was getting worse all the time.

Randall returned with a wineglass full of a sanguine liquid. Wine, yes, it must be red wine. Yet when Vincent drank it, it made bloody stains on the side of the glass. No, no, it’s wine, it’s got to be wine. My head felt light. I turned my gaze to the Mountain Dew, hoping to get the image out of my head. I had to get the phantom, iron taste of blood out of my mouth. I took a sip. I couldn’t stop myself; I imagined the liquid going down my throat was not Dew, but blood. I gagged. My head spun. Candida leaped to my side.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

I gazed at her without speaking. Through fuzzy vision I turned to Vincent and then Randall, who sat there with his eyebrows drawn together in what looked like concern. He was so pale, so–

I had to get out of there. “I’m sorry, Candida; I’m not feeling well. I have to go home.”

“Don’t be silly. We can take care of you here.” She stroked my hair. All my nerve endings begged me to stay and let her keep doing that, but I could not do it.

“No, really, I’d much rather be in my own room.”

I jumped up, grabbed my coat and ran out of the house, never minding how dizzy I was. Candida soon ran after me, throwing on her coat and carrying my glass of pop.

“You forgot this,” she said. “I’ll walk you back to campus and make sure you get to your room all right.”

I hugged her. How I wanted to stay nestled in her softness. “It’s sweet of you, but I can’t let you walk back by yourself in the dark. This is the city, after all.”

She smiled, kissed my cheek, handed me the glass and turned back.

As I walked, I drew in deep breaths of the chill air, blowing them out and watching the vapor. Back in my room, the glass sat untouched on top of the little box of a refrigerator in my room. My roommate was all too happy to take it off my hands, and I was all too happy to let him. I cleaned and returned the glass in the morning.

Though I loved Dew, it was many months before I could drink it again, especially from a glass.

–From “Candida” in my book The Lighthouse, e-book available for $3 at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/nerissa

(This was originally posted on my author page, here.)

 

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“The Rapture”: Left Behind Review, Part 1 (also goes into smacking kids upside the head)

by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 1414305818, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

FINALLY, the last prequel.  So only one more book is left!  (I’ve been reading these books for more than five years now.  😛  Though that’s nothing compared to how long the Slacktivist has been doing this.  😛  )

It’s comforting, on pages 13 to 14, to see Irene’s new Christian friends and pastor counsel her to stop nagging Rayford into getting “saved.”

Another pleasant surprise comes on page 16, when their son Raymie asks, “Mom, is Dad going to hell?” and Irene answers, “Frankly, I can’t tell where your dad is on all this.  He claims to believe in God, and it’s not for us to say.”

Pages 17 and 18 inspired me to write this post on my blog, which I will copy for you here:

I’m currently reading the Left Behind book “The Rapture” for my series of Left Behind reviews.  My reviews and the Slacktivist describe the bad, ungodly behavior of the Christians in the books.  But what I read last night, really burns me up:

A good Christian woman, Lucinda Washington, middle-aged, who is not afraid to show her faith and is respected by all, is also Buck’s favorite colleague, a mentor of sorts.

After witnessing the dramatic, supernatural defeat of the air forces sent to decimate Israel, he comes to her office looking for answers.  He plops down in a chair with his feet on the desk and she says,

“If you were my son I’d whup you upside the head, sitting like that, tearing up your spine.”

“You don’t still smack Lionel, do you?” Buck said, peeking at the photo of the smooth-faced youngster [he’s 12].

“Can’t catch him anymore, but he knows I can still take him.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Excuse me, this isn’t set in 1950, but in 21st-century America, some indeterminate time after the present, right before the Rapture–and the book was written in 2006.

This barbaric practice should be universally condemned as child abuse by the time this book takes place.  It’s already illegal in some places.  And even 100 years ago, people knew that smacking kids anywhere on the head is dangerous.  I go into this in great detail in these posts:

Child Abuse, Examples of Child Abuse, Hitting Kids Upside the Head is ABUSE, Slapping Kids Upside the Head Causes Traumatic Brain Injury, and  …Because slapping kids on the head is ABUSE!  STOP THE VIOLENCE!

And this is the woman we are supposed to admire as a great woman of God?  A FRICKIN’ CHILD ABUSER????!!!!!

Here, I describe how two narcissistic “friends” turned out to be child abusers, whom I eventually reported to CPS because I could not get through to them, and who then threatened and began stalking me for calling them child abusers.  One of the things they did which most enraged me, was smacking their little kids in the head.

I also unfriended some old high school classmate a while back for advocating beating children on her Facebook status.  Then, a few months ago, unfriended (and eventually blocked) a girl in my social circles who said parents should beat their children.

Now, after all that, and enduring the stress and emotional anguish of being threatened and stalked for calling this child abuse, I’m supposed to read this “Christian” book and accept that a godly woman would abuse her child by smacking him upside the head?  I’m supposed to like this character after knowing this?  She’s just another hypocrite like the rest of the series’ Christians!

On page 26, Irene has turned into a Stepford Wife, even setting out Rayford’s clothes as if he were a child.  Since badgering him into converting doesn’t work, she’s taking the opposite tactic–still manipulative, but I guess she doesn’t see that.

But it drives him crazy, because he knows her various problems with him (church, his use of time, not spending enough time with their son) are still on her mind.  He’d rather argue than pretend they don’t exist.

On pages 63 to 66, Rayford explains to Raymie what many of us have realized over the years: that just because you don’t belong to a particular religion or sect, does not necessarily mean you’re going to Hell.  Raymie replies,

Wow.  You sound just like the people Pastor Billings talks about.  People who think they have it all figured out, but they don’t really believe in Jesus.

Say what?  Just because you have a different idea of who goes to Hell, you don’t really believe in Jesus?  Also, Raymie’s words have a distinct vibe of “Oh, you’re one of those people,” said with a curling lip.  ARGH!

And double-ARGH to the last few paragraphs on page 66:

Rayford…overheard the boy talking with Irene, who had asked how things went.

“Dad’s going to hell,” Raymie said.  “He doesn’t think he is.  He thinks he isn’t.  But he doesn’t believe in Jesus.  Not really.”

Meanwhile, back in Antichrist land, pages 71 to 74 depict a Mafia-style punishment of the family of a guy marked by Fortunato, Nicolae Carpathia’s right-hand man.  It’s full of evil and angst.

Where the heck was this kind of writing in the rest of the series?  If we see this along with Carpathia’s public image as a nice guy, we’ll know he’s evil.  No, all we get in the first books is that Carpathia wants world peace, which doesn’t sound so bad.

But if we got more of this behind-the-scenes evil instead of endless pages of traveling itineraries and phone conversations, the first books could have been awesome, instead of dull trudging wondering when this book will end.

To be continued.

Find all my Left Behind book reviews here.

 

 

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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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Book Review: Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe–Part 1

Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe; review posted to my Facebook friends between July 2010 and January 2011, in the first throes of my grief over my ex-best friend:

p. 5: Ann Radcliffe loves talking about the “sublime” in her works. I just read the word twice in the same paragraph. It brings to mind this video from college:

Nearing p. 100: It amazes me how, lately, the books I’m reading keep matching my mood.  I read the last chapters of “Gone With the Wind” on the night of a terrible e-mail argument with my former best friend.  I apologized and we tried to patch things up, but it left a pall over the evening, and the next few days as well.

(Incidentally, in an attempt to finally fix things and restore our friendship to the kind and sweet way it used to be, several days later I sent an e-mail–which, unfortunately, got taken wildly out of context and misunderstood, and left me vilified and the friendship in shambles, much like Shirley Sherrod without the later apologies.)

At the same time, in between e-mails that evening, I was reading about Scarlett’s devastating last night before Rhett left her for good.

First Melanie dies, just as Scarlett realizes she loves her and Melanie has been her strength.  Then she finds out that Ashley was only infatuated with her, that his true love was for Melanie.  Then she realizes that her own true love is Rhett, and she’s been terrible to him.

She goes out into the night, which is foggy and appears supernaturally terrifying.  Her long walk finally leads her to her safe place, Rhett–only Rhett is fed up and leaving her.

Now I’m reading “Mysteries of Udolpho,” which–now that it’s finally gotten past the endless landscape descriptions and the plot has started–describes Emily’s grief.

First her mother died of a fever, and now, after a long trek through the Pyrenees, her father has also succumbed to the fever.  She’s grieving the deaths of both her parents.

The author goes into just as much detail about the grief as she did about the landscape, which powerfully brings across what Emily is dealing with.

Not only am I reading this while dealing with the loss of a friendship, but the first time I read it, my first college boyfriend had just broken up with me.  It seems that grief is the same whether it’s over a death, a lost romance or losing a best friend.  And Ann Radcliffe is a master at writing about it.  For example:

Emily sat for some time, given up to sorrow. Not an object, on which her eye glanced, but awakened some remembrance, that led immediately to the subject of her grief.

Her favourite plants, which St. Aubert had taught her to nurse; the little drawings, that adorned the room, which his taste had instructed her to execute; the books, that he had selected for her use, and which they had read together; her musical instruments, whose sounds he loved so well, and which he sometimes awakened himself–every object gave new force to sorrow.

At length, she roused herself from this melancholy indulgence, and, summoning all her resolution, stepped forward to go into those forlorn rooms, which, though she dreaded to enter, she knew would yet more powerfully affect her, if she delayed to visit them (p. 94-5).

p. 131: This book is not all doom and gloom (or landscape descriptions).  Once we got past the trip through the Pyrenees, the plot began to pick up, beginning with the death of Emily’s father so soon after the death of her mother.

She is now an orphan left to the care of her father’s sister, a proud and vain woman who just assumes her niece is a silly, disobedient girl, without even knowing her.

Her father met the young Valancourt in the Pyrenees and approved of him…, but her aunt has made up her mind that he’s not worthy to court Emily.  She takes Emily to a dance, where she discovers Valancourt has also been invited.

He’s dancing with another girl he seems to know, and considering he only just confessed his ardor for Emily and his request to court Emily was only just today rejected by Emily’s aunt, Emily doesn’t know what to make of this.

But the funny part is something my SCA dance practice friends will appreciate: Count Bauvillers, in speaking of the girl Valancourt is dancing with, says,

She is handsome, and her fortune will be very large. I hope she will make a better choice in a partner for life than she has done in a partner for the dance, for I observe he has just put the set into great confusion; he does nothing but commit blunders.

I am surprised, that, with his air and figure, he has not taken more care to accomplish himself in dancing.

It’s good to see that our hero is not painted as perfection itself.  And he has more flaws which show up later.

As for Emily herself, I think she’s meant to be shown as having too much sensibility–which, in those days, meant being enslaved by sentiment and emotion–but so far she seems normal to me.  But then, maybe I’m one of these “sensible” people, too….

“Have you got to the black veil yet?” asks Isabella in the 1986 film version of “Northanger Abbey.”  I have got to the black veil, and it’s on page 248.  We don’t know what’s behind it yet (though I actually remember it from the first time I read it nearly 20 years ago).

It has been encountered and mentioned a chapter or so back, but Emily did not have the courage to lift the veil until now.  In the book “Northanger Abbey,” the conversation goes like this:

(Isabella:) “But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning?  Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed?  How delightful!  Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world!  Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be?  But do not tell me–I would not be told upon any account.  I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton.  Oh! I am delighted with the book!  I should like to spend my whole life in reading it.  I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature!  How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed!  How glad I am!  What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook.  Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries.  Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them….”

I’ve read “The Italian,” though I haven’t read the other books listed.  I loved “The Italian,” which had a delightful Black Monk character who was also the Grand Inquisitor tormenting the main character and her beau.

And as luck would have it, I read this book about the same time I first saw the videos for “Man in a Box” by Alice in Chains (with a black monk) and “Patient Eyes” by PM Dawn (with a young woman praying in a church, wearing a veil, reminding me of the protagonist of “The Italian”).

I’ll have to read it again sometime, though after I re-read “Northanger Abbey.”

Around page 310: Montoni has begun to show his true colors to Emily and her aunt, who is now Montoni’s new bride.  Turns out his supposed riches are nothing but show, because of his heavy debts, and he thought Madame’s own wealth would put him back on solid footing.

But her riches are not what he expected, either, so he wants to marry off Emily to the highest bidder.  First he promises Emily to Count Morano (despite her refusals, based on her love for Valancourt), but he discovers that Count Morano has money problems as well, so at the last minute he packs Emily off to a distant and crumbling castle.

Count Morano tries to steal Emily away, using a secret passage which leads into her bedchamber–a passage which, naturally, causes her constant worry, but Montoni refuses to move her.

When Montoni discovers Morano in her bedchamber, they fight and Morano is mortally wounded.  Now Emily wonders what will become of her, while Montoni insists that his wife sign away to him the estates she kept to herself in the marital contract.

Because of Montoni’s cruelty, his wife hopes to get away from him; she refuses to sign away the estates, so Montoni threatens to lock her in the east turret.

Emily intercedes with Montoni for Madame, since Emily is the virtuous, pious heroine who can put aside the fact that Madame has been mistreating her.  But he says,

She suffers by her own folly, and is not to be pitied;–she knows how she may avoid these sufferings in future–if she is removed to the turret, it will be her own fault.  Let her be obedient, and sign the writings you heard of, and I will think no more of it.

How like the classic abuser he speaks!  The abuser doesn’t see fault in his own self, but blames the victim for his own rages, threats, curses, put-downs, beatings, or whatever he has inflicted on the victim.

And if she does give in, he will rage at her again over another incident later on.  Fortunately, Madame is too stubborn to accept the blame.

But for those of us who are more willing than Madame to find fault in ourselves in general, such emotional blows worm their way into our psyches until we start to believe that we are to blame, even though we know we are not, that only the abuser is responsible for his own lack of control over himself.

And of course, the abuser refuses to apologize, thinking he has done nothing wrong, that the victim needs to “obey” or “grow up” and accept the responsibility and consequences for “her own behavior.”  I know these charges all too well from past abusers, and how they cut into your mind and heart and will not let go.

Montoni’s character is, unfortunately, all too realistic, even though most of us don’t have elaborate castles in faraway lands or bands of followers to do our bidding.  His evil is far too common even among everyday, ordinary people.

Emily advises Madame to give in because of Montoni’s temper, but she will not budge.  The author represents it as a stubborn character failing, a lack of good judgment.  I’m torn as I read this.

On the one hand, yes, it is true that land is not worth throwing away Madame Montoni’s life, and not giving in will lead to Montoni’s vengeance.  She will probably die in that turret.

Still, how can anyone tell her the best way to deal with her tormentor?  If she gives away that land, she won’t have the proceeds to live on after escaping and legally separating from Montoni.  She could escape her abuser, only to end up in poverty in a time when ladies like her were not supposed to get a job.

On the other hand, abuse targets are warned that giving in to an abuser’s threats, rages and control only leads to more and worse abuse, because the abuser now knows he/she can get away with it.  I have seen firsthand that there is no way to win when dealing with an abuser of any type.

When I refused to give in to my abuser’s tyrannical will, back in college, he raged at me and cut me down, trying to break my will.

Another abuser’s spouse started giving in to the rages; the rages keep happening, and the abuser keeps chasing away any of the spouse’s friends who see him/her for what he/she is.

Emily believes that there is no way Madame can escape the castle, so she must give in.  But I think that Madame should take any chance she can to escape–along with Emily, whom Morano claims is also in danger, though Emily doesn’t know how.  Escaping the abuser is the only way either of them can get out of this.

But–as if Radcliffe meant a metaphor for the domestic abuse victim who is trapped by financial circumstances, wanting to keep a family together, or even strong and fervent love despite all the abuser has done–Emily and Madame are trapped inside a crumbling, drafty castle in the middle of the Apennine mountains, with a tyrant.

Steve Taylor’s “Svengali” says, “He’ll try to steal your body but he can’t touch your soul.”  However, even if Montoni can’t kill their bodies, he will murder their souls with psychological torment that will break them apart.

Run, Emily and Madame!

But, of course, shortly afterwards, Madame is locked in the east turret, and Emily doesn’t know what has become of her.  She strongly suspects Madame has been murdered.

On page 336, when Emily hears a “chorus of distant” voices from within the castle, she asks Annette, who says it is only Montoni and his guests carousing.  Emily’s response is

can this man’s heart be so gay, when he has made another being so wretched; if, indeed, my aunt is yet suffered to feel her wretchedness?  O! whatever are my own sufferings, may my heart never, never be hardened against those of others!

And Emily is so right.  I have seen people rejoice in deliberately hurting others.  This is considered one of the signs of abuse.  For example, from Patricia Evans:

Why does it seem that after he abuses me verbally he is happy, like he feels relieved? Also, he will act like it never happened. It’s like he has no memory of it….

This is what verbal abusers do. Verbal abusers almost universally act like nothing happened, like they feel fine and the relationship is fine.

This is because they feel they have more control. Maybe they got you to back down, believe them or doubt yourself.

If you doubt yourself then you might go with what they tell you, be more compliant and more slave-like. This makes them happy.

 

To be continued…..

 

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