#24in48 Readathon

Update 7/23/17

Okay, look. I have not been posting a ton of blog updates in this readathon because I’ve been yammering on Twitter BUT: I made a book spine poem, and I am so proud of it that I need to share it with you. Look at this business.

Here is a transcript of my faboo poem. It is called “music of the ghosts.” You can tell that’s the title because I have helpfully set it off with the opposite side of the book spine. I have done the same for the stanzas.

music of the ghosts

the dearly departed
release
the killing moon

when morning comes
phantom pains
kill the boy band

no one is coming to save us

You. Are. Welcome.

WE ARE DOING THIS, BLOGOSPHERE. I happened to see my pal Janani posting about this readalong, and I happened to have a weekend with some free time, and the rest is history. As usual, I have a normal and reasonable number of books lined up to potentially read. Moderation is my middle name.

I need to read The Education of Margot Sanchez for sure as it will soon be falling due at the library, and I’m guessing that these novellas are going to get knocked out pretty quickly too. Aside from that, any recommendations?

Rest in Peace, Wilkie Collins Readalong

After two weeks of anxious waiting for my damn book to arrive and two weeks of enthusiastic readalong participation, the Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation has reached its close. It was a magical and sensational time in which we found that it is hard to write a biography of someone who sensibly avoids putting incriminating information in writing.

Wilkie Collins

The main surprise to me in this readalong is how together Wilkie Collins was. I always thought of him sort of the same way I think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, high all the time, unworldly, and perpetually strapped for cash. This could not have been more wrong. Wilkie Collins was savvy af, all the time thinking of ways to increase his exposure as an author and maintain copyright protections. He was constantly meeting deadlines! PLUS:

On his return, he finalised details of yet another will, this time specifically dividing his estate between Caroline and Martha [his two paramours] (with their children as subsidiary beneficiaries. [He also] ensur[ed] that a character reference for his manservant Edward Grosvisier was in order.

Like. That is the total opposite of how I pictured Wilkie Collins. I have been so wrong all this time. I have been doing him an Injustice.

His attitude [toward Washington DC] may have been colored by the inebriated congressman in Washington who insisted on calling him “Milky” and saying how much he liked his books, including The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which was by Walter Scott.

Bahahahah and to think that all this time we’ve been missing the opportunity to call him Milky.

Lycett also finds the time to confirm what Alice has long suspected ie that old Milky was an ass man:

I too think the back view of a finely-formed woman the loveliest view — and her hips and her bottom the most precious part of that view. The line of beauty in those quarters enchants me.

Oh, Milky. You do not have to explain this. It is obvious to anyone who read The Woman in White. Like I do not know how anyone in the world would read that book and have any interest in insipid Laura when Marion is around with her sweet, sweet ass and searing intellect.

Oscar Wilde did not care for Wilkie Collins’s work. I am immensely grieved. Surely if given the opportunity, they would have gotten on brilliantly? I suspect Oscar Wilde just didn’t like what Wilkie Collins represented, ie the literary establishment which Oscar Wilde loved to scandalize and also badly wished to be a part of slash remake in his own image. In terms of amiability and love of melodrama, I really think that Oscar Wilde and Milky could have been great friends. They are probs up in heaven having drinks together as we speak.

Well. I have done Wilkie Collins a great wrong, and I am glad that Alice organized this readalong so that wrong could be corrected. Thank you, Alice. I am sorry, Wilkie. In future if anyone asks about you, I will be sure to tell them about the Milky thing and then emphasize your practicality, discretion, and work ethic.

Parachuting in to the Wilkie Collins Readalong

I DID NOT FORGET ABOUT WILKIE COLLINS. Wilkie Collins has been perpetually on my mind since last we spoke of him. Though I said the words “chillest Wilkie Collins readalong ever,” I did not intend for that to mean that I would altogether fail to participate in the readalong until it was halfway over. It’s just that I ordered a used copy of the book because it maybe wasn’t published in the US? and then it took a really long time for it to reach me.

First up, I’d like to apologize for making a small joke at Alice’s expense about the greatness of this cover. Live and in person, this cover is fantastic. I underestimated it when I saw it online. Wilkie’s hat is particularly magnificent in real life.

You guys, the hugest relief in this section — because I saw Alice mention that Wilkie Collins was going to acquire a new paramour, and I was so worried about Caroline and especially about little bb Harriet (who I guess by then was Young Lady Harriet, an even more worrying prospect) — is when poor Caroline gets married. This, for people not doing the readalong, is Wilkie Collins’s lover of low birth, whom he has been supporting for the last, like, decade, but steadfastly refusing to marry because he enjoys so much going Abroad with Dickens and banging prostitutes and not talking about it in his letters. Luckily:

She surprised everyone by walking down the aisle . . . on the arm of Joseph Charles Clow — the son of a distiller’s agent — who was aged twenty-three. She was thirty-seven and quite what she saw in this mere stripling is hard to determine.

Okay, number one, you would never say this about a thirty-seven-year-old dude in this era (or now!) marrying a twenty-three-year-old lady. Number two, the very next paragraph describes his family as “upwardly mobile.” DING DING DING I HAVE FOUND THE SOLUTION.

You guys. This is like when I read a Black Sails recap (by a dude) that was like “what was Eleanor Guthrie’s motive for having sex with Charles Vane?” For reference, here’s what Charles Vane looks like in this show:

Yes, so bewildering, what possibly could have been her motive for wanting to bang this gentleman? And not to objectify a dude from a scene where his character was just grievously wounded and then buried alive and then fighting for his life, but available evidence (though admittedly covered in blood and graveyard dirt) suggests that his dick is, uh, nothing to be ashamed of, also? Maybe that might have been in play here too I DUNNO JUST SPITBALLING.

Whatever, I was happy for Caroline when I got to that part. She deserves some financial security, and so does poor little Harriet. Wilkie is totally that bro your girlfriends dated in college who was like “babe I just can’t be tied down, that’s just the kind of person I am, I need freedom, like societal norms just aren’t as meaningful as we make them, you know?”

Of course, five seconds later, Caroline’s marriage is over, and someone who may or may not be her husband (but seems like is?) has headed off to Australia, I guess to distill things Down Under. And Caroline moves back in with Wilkie. And his new lady, Martha. And his two daughters with Martha. I am sure that wasn’t awkward at all.

The other item of note in this section (apart from Wilkie’s ongoing very conflicted feelings about Ladies) is this:

Wilkie was poking fun at British reserve. Having no such inhibitions himself, he regularly kissed his male friends, particularly the effusive Fechter.

GOOD FOR YOU WILKERSON. It’s really not fair that societal constructions of gender have left so little space for dudes to express platonic affection physically. Like I am not personally a person who is wild about touching people and giving hugs and kisses all the time? But a lot of people are, including a lot of man, and it sucks that they can’t do that without people being snide about it.

Oh, and Dickens dies. Had to happen at some point. Join us next week for Wilkie to also die. I hope that he’s able to leave adequate provision for his two sets of daughters and long-term wife-ish persons. STERN GLARE.

The Chillest Wilkie Collins Readalong Ever

This is a day late because I will not abide by putting out a tardy podcast!1 But the beautiful and brilliant Alice of Reading Rambo is hosting an excellent A+ readalong in which we all will learn all the facts of Wilkie Collins’s life. And I am doing the thing! Stay tuned for WILKIE COLLINS FACTS every Wednesday/Thursday through mid-July.

1. Where are you located!
Louisiana! Hurricane season has begun, which I’m trying not to think about. Meanwhile we are in the midst of summer weather, which is sunny mornings and thunderstorm afternoons, i.e., the best weather if you are a curmudgeon who wants to stay in every night.

2. What do you know about Wilkie Collins already?
He’s the secretly-better version of Charles Dickens. Maybe he and Dickens had a fight one time? Or am I just thinking of Hans Christian Anderson? Anyway, some kind of relationship with Dickens. Also, I want to say, opium? He was addicted to a drug and I think it was opium.

3. What have you read of his?
The Moonstone, which my most brilliant and intimidating friend gave me for my thirteenth birthday and I was like “well this doesn’t look very exciting” but then I LOVED it. And The Woman in White, which is kind of the exact opposite of The Moonstone in that it starts really strong but honestly kind of peters out towards the end, and The Moonstone follows an opposite trajectory to that and consequently is my favorite because I love good endings.

4. How much do you love the cover of this book?
I don’t think anyone possibly could love the cover of the book as much as Alice.

  1. The podcast Statler and Waldorf are up in their balcony yelling about lies right now and THEY ARE RIGHT.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Post

This is my master post for readathon, so strap in! I’ve never done one of these things before!

Hour 11

I was going to say that it’s hour 11 and I haven’t lost steam, but I seem to have read much less in the past three and a half hours than in the foregoing hours. Am I slowing up? Is my old age catching up with me? I did take a break to do some end-of-month budgeting and fold my laundry.

Read: 2 chapters of my genocide book (only 7 chapters now remain!), Paper Girls, vol. 1

Currently reading: Vision, vol. 1

Currently snacking upon: Nothing at the moment! I ate up all my raspberries and now regret not buying two things of raspberries. But it’s five o’clock, which means it’s time for a delicious, refreshing gin and tonic.

Hour 7

Fantastic news, y’all. The protag in Rulebreaker did indeed resolve her dilemma sexily. I chose Rulebreaker based on the results of my Twitter poll, then moved on to the runner-up, Angie Thomas’s NYT-bestselling The Hate U Give.

The Hate U GiveTWAS EXTREMELY SAD. And now I am back on the internets, checking in with my fellow readathoners.

Snacks eaten: Cheese fries. I meant to save them for later but I got super hungry.

Books read: One Crazy Summer, The Ship Beyond Time, Rulebreaker, The Hate U Give

Hour 4

Well this is going great so far. I read One Crazy Summer and The Ship Beyond Time (both awesome) and have now started on Cathy Pegau’s Rulebreaker, a romance novel in which (ahaha I am so excited) a con lady FALLS FOR HER MARK oh noes how will she resolve the resultant moral dilemma? (My prediction: Sexily.)

I also participated in a mini-challenge over at Pirates and Pixie Dust, ate a chocolate marshmallow bunny, and took a quick break to visit with my baby nephew and deposit a check at the bank. Readathon is amazing. I always knew it would be and I was right.

Hour 0 Survey

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Louisiana! The weather is “who cares, I’m staying inside all day.”

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

This stack here?

(Yes, okay, I went a little nuts at the library.) Hard to say! The Ship Beyond Time is definitely one that I’m excited about, and I also have a romance novel on my ipad about a con lady who falls in love with her target, which sounds pretty great. But One Crazy Summer might be the book I’m most looking forward to: It’s been on my TBR for years and years, multiple bloggers have recommended it to me, and I’m only just now getting around to it.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

ALL OF THEM. I never buy candy, but I bought candy this one time, because Easter-colored M&Ms were on sale for a dollar. So I have that, I have popcorn, I have raspberries and some spinach to keep things healthy, I have a jar o’ cookie dough, I have homemade Oreos and also regular Oreos, and I have cheese fries for dinner. Judge not lest ye be judged.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Gosh, what can I say? I’ve been blogging for nearly ten years (I KNOW), but I’ve never managed to do a readathon before. I’m very excited. I like cheese fries a lot. My reading eyes are bigger than my reading stomach. I am going to read at least 50% of one book while exercising this morning because I’m really, really trying to stay faithful about exercising.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my first readathon, and I’m having feelings about it! The blogging community is objectively the greatest. I don’t know why it took me this long to participate in one of these things.

Nonfiction November: New to My TBR

Well, Americans, how were your Thanksgivings? I hope you sternly noped any racisms you encountered from your relatives and ate plenty of delicious turkey. We are reaching the end of a wonderful Nonfiction November, hosted this week by the fab Lory from the Emerald City Book Review.

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

I may as well confess now that I have not been as riotously active a participant in Nonfiction November as I intended. For one thing I was doing NaNoWriMo (I didn’t write a novel, I just wanted to write 50,000 words on the month total, including blog posts and things like that), which is a time suck; for another thing I had wonderful visitors visiting me off and on throughout the month; and for a third and emotionally wringing thing, this damn election happened and pulled focus away from rejoicing in books to, like, figuring out how I’m going to fight.1

Do not take this to mean that my commitment to nonfiction has dimmed. I love and cherish nonfiction and you wonderful nonfiction bloggers, and I will be taking your recs and screaming about nonfiction books with you for many months to come.ANYWAY. All of that to say that I wasn’t able to visit as many blogs and scream about as much nonfiction as I was hoping, this November. I did get some awesome recs, of which the one that excites me the most is Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England, by Sarah Wise. I got this rec from the new-to-me blog Curiosity Killed the Bookworm–thanks!! I’m always interested in ways the Victorians solved social problems, and the history of mental health commitments is particularly relevant to my current reading after I read the wonderful Committed earlier in the month.As always, thanks to all the wonderful hosts who made this event happen! I’m sorry that national events overshadowed it for me at times, and I’m already eagerly anticipating its return in 2017.

  1. The answer is “all the ways.”

The M&M Readalong Concludes Very Confusingly

The best legal and investigatory minds of Moscow are on the trail of Woland and his crew, and look, again, I am all about the bureaucratic details of organizations tasked with addressing supernatural issues. That’s what I wanted Agents of SHIELD to be, if you’ll recall: A workplace drama where the characters perhaps are taken hostage by supervillains occasionally but mostly are bickering over whose turn it is to make coffee and which budget codes to use for reimbursements when Thor hammer-smashes most of the furnishes in a 5th Avenue McDonald’s by accident.

So, very fun for me to have a chapter where the Moscow bureaucracy is trying to sort out the legal ramifications of all the shenanigans Woland and them have been pulling over the course of the book.

Next, Korovyov and the cat go burning down various bits of Moscow that I have to say don’t seem to deserve it. Behemoth (the cat) having previously burned down the apartment everyone wanted, he and Korovyov go to like a candy and meat store and burn it down, then go out for fancy dinner and burn the fancy restaurant down. My main question was why there was a story that sold both candy and meat, given that the Russia with which we have been presented does not seem friendly to fancy items of any kind. Here’s what my book’s endnotes have to say:

In its quest to extract all hard currency and valuables from both its citizens and foreign visitors, Russia had stores which specialized in offering in exchange generally unobtainable items, ranging from clothes to food and drink.

THANKS BOOK.

And then, gosh, the devil gets word from ?Jesus? that he should take care of the Master and Margarita, so he like takes them away from their banal lives to Jerusalem, where they see Pontius Pilate still waiting for a chance to explain himself to Jesus. And the Master tells Pontius Pilate he’s free now, and Pontius Pilate and his dog run away, and the Master and Margarita get to go live in a nice cottage? But is the cottage hell? I have no idea, and anyway, Woland flies away on his black horse.

Roll credits.

My final verdict is that I did not understand this book, and maybe that’s okay! In any case, almost seven years after being given it as a gift, I have managed to read it, I am now a wiser woman (I guess?), and I appreciate the blogosphere for helping me get to this moment in my life.

SATAN’S BALL: The M&M Readalong Progresses

Well, Satan’s Ball did not disappoint me in the slightest and in fact kind of reminded me of the balls in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Do you think this book was an influence on Susanna Clarke?

(Y’all, I think Susanna Clarke is going to never write another book. That’s honestly what I’ve come to believe. She wrote one incredible book, we were so lucky to have it, and that’s all we get from her. Thanks, Susanna Clarke. Thank you for this gift.)

Woland and his crew even kick around our old pal Berlioz’s head (remember that?) for old times’ sake — not to mention, of course, that they trot out all the greats for Margarita to meet. Unfortunately, she has some mysterious aches and pains, which I guess shouldn’t be wholly unexpected if you are presiding at a hell-sponsored event, but apart from that she mostly sort of meets people like Caligula and a woman who smothered her own baby. After a few hours this gets kind of boring for her and she starts wishing instead of hanging out with all the hordes of hell, she could meet, like, some new, not-shitty people.

However, she takes her duties as hostess seriously and continues with what she’s been doing, and the afterparty turns out to be awesome. (For her. I was more lukewarm on it.) In a fairy-tale-like turn of events, Woland waits to see if she’ll ask for payment for her night of labor, and since she doesn’t ask for anything, he tells her she can ask for, well, anything. These are her wishes, in order:

  1. That the lady who smothered her baby can stop being given the handkerchief she used to smother the baby. Currently they give it to her afresh every night and it sucks. This is just straight really nice of Margarita.
  2. To have her lover, The Master, back with her. (ugh)
  3. To be returned to the basement apartment where she and the Master used to bang it out. And if you guessed that this becomes the occasion for more satire about the housing situation in Moscow, YOU ARE CORRECT.

Woland also unvampires Varenukha, like that was a thing we cared about. And frankly, at this point, I’m kind of starting to root for the Devil. He’s doing a lot of good in Moscow, like, I know he beheaded Berlioz for just basically being slightly pretentious, and he messed up that landlord’s life who barely did anything wrong. On the other hand, he’s also foiled several housing-related frauds, and now he’s done all this nice stuff for Margarita and the Master, including getting them all kinds of legal documentation that they need.

What I’m saying is that I’d be down for a sequel where Margarita joins Woland’s retinue and they go from town to town fucking shit up for people and foiling housing fraud.

But then guess what happens. Guess. It’s not housing-related satire. It’s the other thing that makes me want to punch Bulgakov in the nose.

YES YOU ARE CORRECT, we then get TWO GODDAMN CHAPTERS of the GODDAMN PONTIUS PILATE BOOK, like is that what anyone asked for, Bulgakov? Come on! I can accept that maybe contemporary Russians had an endless appetite for housing-related satire, but did literally anybody ever in the history of literature enjoy these Pontius Pilate chapters? I saw the next chapter was a Pontius Pilate one and this is some real footage of what came next.

THESE GOD DAMN PONTIUS PILATE CHAPTERS. I have never been so close to cheating on a readalong. There are two of them. Such, however, is my commitment to righteousness and truth — and also we had a short segment to read this week, almost as if some genius had planned the schedule that way on purpose because people get busy as the year draws to a close — that I read both of the damn chapters. In one of them, Pontius Pilate and his head spy try to figure out a way to protect Judas Iscariot from possibly being murdered. In the other, I feel like a dingbat for misunderstanding the previous chapter, because actually the plan all along was to kill Judas and cause a big scandal.

I guess these chapters are not as dull as the previous Pontius Pilate chapters. I GUESS. For your future reference, however, the correct ratio of Satan shenanigan chapters to Pontius Pilate chapters would have been — how many chapters are there total? — 33:0.

As always, thanks to Alice for hosting! Tune in next week on Halloween Day to experience with me the stunning conclusion of Bulgakov’s super-confusing classic, The Master and Margarita.

“Hold Onto Your Hats” Was Good Advice: M&M Readalong

Look, either I have Stockholm Syndrome or the book has really kicked into high gear in this, the third section of our Master and Margarita Readalong. Have I eaten any M&Ms yet? NO, but only because I am boycotting Hershey, Mars, and Nestle until 2020 which is when they’ve pledged to go to all fair-trade chocolate suppliers. But we’re halfway through the book and I appear to have stopped caring if any of it makes sense. I guess that’s the point Bulgakov’s trying to make anyway, right? Community Russia makes NO DAMN SENSE.

Now. I will admit that I began this section in a state of outrage because there’s a new character who isn’t Styopa (Styopa is in Yalta, still, I think) but whose name contains “Stepan.” Is this kind and just, Bulgakov? I had just gotten used to seeing “Stepan” and translating it in my head to “Styopa,” and now you come at me with this clerk Vasily Stepanovich Lastochkin, who like Styopa works for the theater where Woland did his magic show, and who also like Styopa was not in attendance at this magic show. Confusing, no?

But fine. Fine. Doesn’t matter. This chapter is great because Woland’s sidekicks go around ruining lives in hilarious ways in it for all the people who work for the Moscow Entertainment Commission. First, the cat curses the head Entertainment Commission guy so that instead of being a person, he’s just an empty suit conducting important Entertainment Commission business. Obviously I am in favor of this because

And Koroviev goes to the branch office of the Entertainment Commission and puts a curse on everyone in the office such that they break out into beautifully timed and harmonized song every few minutes. That sounds — yes, okay, terrible for the people it’s happening to, but extremely pleasant for anyone out on the street! Everyone loves it when groups of people sing in beautiful harmonies! Right? It’s a fun curse!

In this section, we finally meet the eponymous Margarita! She still loves the Master (duh), and she encounters Azazello, another of Woland’s minions, out on the street. I expected her to quickly get decapitated, but y’all, it’s so much better than that, she becomes A WITCH. One of the chapters about her is called “Azazello’s Cream” and this is a paragraph that occurs in it:

“Oh, what a cream! What a cream!” cried Margarita, throwing herself into an armchair.

My sister (who I may remind you gave me this book as a gift almost seven years ago) is probably reading this post like “you’re the worst Jenny, you are the literally worst human being in the entire world.” I KNOW I KNOW but Margarita honestly is like jumping up and down shouting “What a cream!” and for a while I was reading a lot about like, porn production in Victorian London because I had questions after rereading Fingersmith, so I also read some of the produced porn from Victorian London? And ladies dashing around the place crying “What a cream! What a cream!” would not have been even slightly out of place.

(Also: Spanking. So. Much. Spanking.)

ANYWAY, so Margarita gets this cream from Azazello (I know) and rubs it all over her body (I KNOW) and then she leaves a note for her husband saying she’s leaving him to become a witch. This book is so much better than it was in the beginning, y’all. Margarita gets the call from Azazello and flies out of her house — that’s not a figure of speech, she actually can fly when she has this cream on her (look I know, okay?) — while screaming “I’m invisible! Invisible!”

Like that wasn’t awesome enough, she next goes to a dude’s house and destroys everything in it. Things get very Midsummer Night’s Dreamy towards the end of all this, and then someone calls a car for Margarita and she goes back to Moscow. These two chapters have been magical, yo. At some point in them Margarita says this, which I am going to have cross-stitched on a pillow, a thing I very often threaten to do but very rarely do do, and let’s be honest, I’m probably not going to break that record on this but nevertheless I find it very pleasing:

“Once upon a time there was a lady. . . . At first she cried for a long time, but then she became wicked.”

STORY OF MY LIFE FOR REAL.

Next week, the devil is going to throw a ball, and Margarita is going to be the hostess of it. I can’t tell you how excited I am for that to happen. Thanks to Alice, as always, for hosting!

Illusion, Michael: The Master and Margarita Readalong Continues

Let’s pause for a moment and wish a very happy 154th birthday to my girl Ada Leverson! She was a friend of Oscar Wilde’s. He adored her and called her “darling Sphinx,” and when he went to jail and such, she stayed his faithful and stalwart friend. Which not that many people did. Wonderful Sphinx!

Anyway. Onward. This segment of the Master and Margarita readalong featured a magic show, so if you think that you are going to escape this post without plenty of Arrested Development gifs, you have seriously misunderstood who I am as a person.

First up, we get a bunch more of what I presume is satire relating to the housing situation in Soviet Moscow. It’s probably very cutting, I would have no way of knowing.1 Woland and his pince-nez-wearing friend use bribery and wickedness to gain access to the full apartment that previously belonged to Berlioz (now dead from decapitation) and Styopa (in Yalta), then shop the landlord to the authorities for receiving foreign currency. Non-devil-adjacent characters continue to be furious that the glass in the dude’s pince-nez is broken, and can I just say, I appreciate that. Sometimes in Russian novels characters will fixate on small details and FREAK THE FUCK OUT about them and I’m like “Jesus, chill out, it doesn’t matter,” but in this case I endorse the rage. You are the devil’s right hand-man, bro, replace your pince-nez.

Next, the theater where Styopa (in Yalta) was working wants to know where he is. They cannot find him. Once again, a character (Varenukha, the theater manager where Woland is going to do his magic show) finds that asking too many questions about what the devil is up to leads to heartache. The theater guy who does not ask too many questions (Rimsky) gets a satisfactory explanation for Styopa’s disappearance and a baller stage show, and the theater guy who does ask too many questions (again, Varenukha)2 passed out after encountering a slightly-on-fire-sounding naked chick.

Okay, she’s not that on fire. She just has, like, fiery eyes or something. I suspect her also of being a dementor, because the next time we see Varenukha he is dead behind the eyes and keeps repeating the devil’s lie about what happened to Styopa. Sorry, Varenukha! Sorry you got your soul sucked out by a naked lady with fire eyes! Shouldn’t have asked so many questions!

(Honestly, even if he hadn’t, he’d probably have come to a bad end. The landlord above barely did anything, and he still got taken up by the police and shipped off to the mental institution where Bezdomny/Homeless is spending his days.)

There’s also a chapter where Bezdomny/Homeless decides that the whole thing with Berlioz and Woland wasn’t even that big of a deal. He changes his mind almost instantly two chapters on, so I am not sure why we had to waste our time on this instead of getting to THE FIREWORKS FACTORY i.e., Chapter 12, in which Woland finally goddamn does something, i.e., puts on a magic show.

oh God I know we're mad forever at Will Arnett for cheating on Amy Poehler but I cannot see or imagine this scene without breaking out into helpless giggles
oh God I know we’re mad at Will Arnett for cheating on Amy Poehler but I cannot see or think about this without breaking out into helpless giggles

The magic show is basically just that he rains money down on the crowd and then has the ladies come up to the stage to pick out fancy new clothes and accessories. It’s not that exciting in a traditional magic show way where there are lots of different parts and spectacles, but I like fancy clothes and accessories and money, so I’m not super complaining. Afterward, an audience member stands up and demands to know what the trick is.

Bruh.

Number one:

Number two, I am pretty sure that even in the most dire years of Stalinist Russia, attendees of magic shows had better manners than to demand that the performers show them how the illusion was accomplished.3 I’m kind of mad that of all the people whose lives Woland has ruined thus far, he ruins this audience member’s life the least. Surely this is worthy of decapitation! GAHD.

Anyway, then Varenukha comes back all dead-eyed, I covered that above, and THEN I flipped to the back of my books to glance over the notes for chapter 16 and DO YOU KNOW THE FUCK WHAT THE NOTES SAID?

DO YOU?

Here Bulgakov underscores that he is aware how odd it is to have a major figure (whose name is used in the title) first appear more than a third of the way through the novel. Up to this point one could easily conclude that Woland or Ivan is the real hero.

With — because this bro is hella diffident for a bro who supposably is going to get Woland to quit hassling the intelligentsia of Moscow4 — a heaping side of

Well. Now I feel really stupid for thinking Ivan (i.e., Bezdomny/Homeless) or Woland was the main hero. Is the Master going to defeat Woland? With an assist from Margarita, his lovah? Or what? I have been told re: The Master that I should hang on to my hat, so that is what I will be doing heading into this readalong’s third section next week. WE’LL SEE.

  1. I mean, I could look it up, but I am pretttttty lazy.
  2. I will never find it excessive to repeat and re-identify the characters in Russian novels.
  3. I am not sure of this. I don’t think there’s anything you could tell me about Russia and Russians that would defy belief — partly because I am credulous but mostly because I find Russia really confusing.
  4. my mum is reading this like STOP SAYING SUPPOSABLY ahahahaha NEVER