Aurora Leigh Readalong: The Finishing

Here we are at the end of November, and here you are wondering why I have put you through this experience of reading a Victorian epic poem about a complainy poet and a saintly poor person and a snooty philanthropist and a sneaky posh lady. I don’t really have a moral to tell you. I just like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s writing a lot. I think that underneath all that waffling on about the nobility of poetry, and all that Manichean stuff about virtue and evil (ugh okay it’s not Manichean BUT KINDA), she can be a shockingly modern writer, and she has lots of excellent insights. I mean:

‘Tis our woman’s trade
To suffer torment for another’s ease.
The world’s male chivalry has perished out,
But women are knights-errant to the last;
And, if Cervantes had been greater still,
He had made his Don a Donna.

So Aurora can’t figure out if she should tell Romney was Lady Waldemar did. Y’all, I know we’re in a different time period and it’s not comparable to then because of how easy it is to get a divorce, etc., etc., but if you do ever find out that my spouse organized for someone to be sold into BASICALLY SLAVERY in order to clear their path to marrying me, please let me know. I would rather know, even if it creates problems for me in my marriage. Aurora decides that if Romney’s already married, there’s no point in her telling him, so she writes to Lord Howe (remember him? He was the one throwing that terrible party for rich people where Aurora kept staring at Lady Waldemar’s boobs) to be like “look if Romney isn’t married yet, tell him this thing; but if he is married, don’t worry about it.”

She then writes a super mean letter to Lady Waldemar, and it’s the lengthiest and most thorough shovel speech I’ve ever encountered. And I read fanfiction. Kind of often. The gist is that if Lady Waldemar is ever rude to Romney or makes him feel bad about anything, ever, Aurora and Marian will like SHOW UP AT HER HOUSE and reveal everything. The implication being that if they did this, Romney would put Lady Waldemar aside, no matter the personal cost to himself — which, if that’s the case, it makes Aurora’s decision not to tell him the thing absolutely unaccountable. She knows he’d believe her, is what this letter reveals. But she still doesn’t tell. Aurora. Come on.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to say Aurora totally is in love with Romney. She keeps being like “Am I–nah.” Girl, stick with nah. Romney is terrible. Just have a pleasant life with Marian and her baby. Look at this domestic business:

I, with shut eyes, smile and motion for
The dewy kiss that’s very sure to come
From mouth and cheeks, the whole child’s face at once
Dissolv’d on mine.

Baby kisses! So adorable, yet so wet and gross. And the baby calls her “Alola!” So to recap, she could hang out with a quiet saintly lady with cause to worship her and the quiet saintly lady’s adorable and affectionate child, or she could marry Romney Leigh who like, barely respects her.

Aurora gets a letter from her pal Vincent Carrington that her latest book has been well received, that Vincent is marrying a girl called Kate who Aurora thinks is maybe not smart enough for him (SHUT UP AURORA), and that Romney has been sick and Lady Waldemar has been nursing him back to health. So she’s like “oh I guess they are married now, well this seems like a good opportunity for me to spend a whole lot more time thinking about poetry and nature and stuff.” Oh Aurora.

Athrob with effort, trembling with resolve,
The fierce demanding whistle wailing on

“Athrob with effort, trembling with resolve, the fierce demanding whistle wailing on,” title of her sex tape, nailed it, self five.

Well then Romney comes to visit, and he’s like “I guess you heard the news?” and Aurora’s like “Yes I have definitely heard the news. Vincent Carrington told me the news.” And Romney’s like “Should we…talk about the news? After all, we almost got married that one time,” and Aurora’s like “No, I mean, I would have been a bad wife, so anyway, let’s not talk about the news.”

Cool. Cool cool cool. Seems like you two are 100% talking about the same news and no misunderstandings are occurring here whatsoever.

Romney also says that Aurora’s book is tremendous and has changed his life. I don’t have anything sarcastic to say about this part. It’s nice. He’s sorry that he was such a jerk about her writing when they were younger, and he repeatedly admits he was wrong and gives her a whole bunch of compliments. And he sneers at himself for believing that he could change the world, and Aurora tells him that she admires him for making the effort, and that he shouldn’t under-rate himself for making that effort. The whole thing actually is really sincere and sweet.

Romney tells Aurora that the poors burned down Leigh Hall, which he was trying to make into a refuge for them, and … what else? They talk a bit more and Aurora says something rude about Romney’s wife, Lady Waldemar, and Romney is legitimately like HA HA HA MY WIFE YOU THOUGHT HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. He’s so overcome by Aurora’s wrongness that he can’t even form a coherent sentence, so he just gives her a letter from Lady Waldemar.

(Y’all, I was so excited when I got to this part. Aurora and Lady Waldemar insulting each other has been the absolute best thing about this book.)

Lady Waldemar starts the letter by telling Aurora the sick burn she said about Aurora’s book after reading it to Romney. This isn’t the main point of her letter. It is 97% superfluous to the message she actually wants to relay to Aurora. But not long does she repeat the insult to Aurora’s book that she told Romney several weeks ago, she then describes how that insult was like, her mic drop for walking out of Romney’s life: “I triumphed o’er you both / And left him.”

Then the gist of the letter is that when she got Aurora’s frankly rather blackmailing letter, she told Romney the truth about what had happened with Marian, while strenuously denying that the sold-into-slavery-and-raped thing was her fault. And also that Romney loves Aurora and Aurora loves Romney but Romney’s still going to marry Marian because he feels like he should; and she, Lady Waldemar, not unreasonably washes her hands of all of them. And then this is the end of the letter. It’s so good.

Observe, Aurora Leigh,
Your droop of eyelid is the same as his,
And, but for you, I might have won his love,
And to you, I have shown my naked heart,
For which three things I hate, hate, hate you! …
I hate you from this gulph
And hollow of my soul, which opens out
To what, except for you, had been my heaven,
And is instead, a place to curse by.

In my imagination, the poem ends there. It’s just a set-up for a sequel where Romney Leigh gets kidnapped by pirates and Aurora and Lady Waldemar have to take to the sea in order to rescue him. YES I HAVE A TYPE W/R/T STORIES SO SUE ME.

In actual fact, Romney proposes to Marian because he feels like he should, Marian declines and peaces out, Aurora finds out that Romney is now blind, and Aurora and Romney confess their undying love to each other. And I guess they decide together that they’re going to each do the type of work that matters to them, but it’s going to be richer and more successful because they now also have Love.

Y’all, this has been a privilege. Aurora Leigh is exactly how I remembered it: sometimes awesome and sometimes tedious, with so many lines peppered in there that just blew me away with their clarity and insight. Thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you to Alice for humoring me.

Aurora Leigh Readalong, Part Three

I enjoy that the consensus of this Aurora Leigh readalong immediately and spontaneously coalesced into the following:

  1. This is very hard and requires slow, careful reading.
  2. But so many good lines!
  3. Also, Romney is a butthead.

Those three main bullet points do sum up with extreme accuracy the main three things I remember from reading Aurora Leigh for the first time in 2010 or whatever it was. For those reading along at home, I do not remember softening towards Romney as time went on. Maybe this reread will surprise me (but I don’t think so). How can I ever like someone about whom Aurora says this?

[He] likes me very well,
And wishes me a paradise of good,
Good looks, good means, and good digestion!–ay,
But otherwise evades me, puts me off
With kindness, with a tolerant gentleness,–
Too light a book for a grave man’s reading!

Too light a book for a grave man’s reading is exactly why I love this poem. I mean this passage is basically the whole of How to Suppress Women’s Writing condensed into six lines of iambic pentameter.

Then there is a lot more talk about poetry and how it’s the noblest art, much much much more noble than dumb stupid drama but drama’s okay too but not like poetry okay.

If I were EBB’s editor, I would urge her to cut 75% of the talk about how noble poetry is compared to other professions out of this poem. It would be better, and we’d all want to smack Aurora less. Reader, I skimmed.

BUT. It was T O T A L L Y worth it to get to the part where Aurora’s attending a party at the Howes’ place and learns by eavesdropping Romney is fixing to marry none other than Lady Waldemar. GASP. (Lady Waldemar is at the party too. Aurora comments on her “alabaster shoulders and bare breasts” teehee hashtag gal pals.) Aurora seems to like spending time with rich people so she can judge them. I find this to be a terrible mistake. I can judge rich people perfectly happily from a safe and comfortable distance and not use up my valuable Black Sails-watching time attending their dumb parties.

(There’s a young philosophy bro at the Howes’ party, and Aurora describes him as speaking “with just that shade of sneering on the lip / Compensates for the lagging of the beard.” PLUS CA FUCKING CHANGE, you know what I’m saying?)

Lord Howe asks Aurora to marry a dopey friend of his; Aurora has to listen to two bros have opinions about Women and also Art and also Philosophy; and Lady Waldemar pounces on Aurora to tell her all about her betrothal to Romney. Aurora’s like:

The party is so relentlessly horrible — and again, this is really Aurora’s fault for choosing to go to a rich people party — that once it’s over, she litrally leaves the country. I WOULD TOO.

The next bit is hard to read, I’m not going to lie to you. Although I never read anything that makes me interested in living in the Victorian era (it is far preferable to just read about the Victorian era), sometimes I will read something that makes me want to burn the Victorians to the ground. Book six of Aurora Leigh was one of those things.

In Paris, a city Aurora spends kind of a while defending, I guess because people in England still felt a way about Bonaparte? Or something? I don’t really know much about the mid-1800s — was there something other than Bonaparte that made all British people act snotty about France? Or was it just standard-issue England/France hostility?

Anyway, in Paris, Aurora happens across Marian in the street with a (gasp!) baby, and she basically chases Marian down to demand that Marian explain herself. She is an utter shit about everything. She’s like “Marian you allowed yourself to be seduced so your kisses to this baby’s sweet angel cheek are as the touch of rot upon a dewy flower,” and then once Marian explains that no, she wasn’t seduced, she was raped and is now basically dead, Aurora’s like “MARIAN YOU ARE A SAINT A CHASTE SAINT FROM HEAVEN.”

Double fuck you to the Victorian era that this was a progressive stance for Aurora Leigh to take. I was going to say something nice earlier about how Aurora argues for poets to write about Social Issues, but now I am too furious about what a dick she is to Marian. She and Lady Waldemar and Romney should form a dickish self-righteous polyamorous relationship and THEY WOULD ALL DESERVE EACH OTHER.

Marian tells Aurora what happened: how Lady Waldemar came to visit her all throughout her engagement to Romney and slowly, gradually convinced her that she would ruin Romney’s life by marrying him. Then she gave Marian to her maid, and her maid dumped Marian in a gross brothel, where she was raped and impregnated and went insane, and then the brothel threw her out. This is all quite a bit more Gothic than I remembered.

We’re on a break next week for Thanksgiving, so have a pleasant Turkey Day! Tune in on the 30th for the conclusion of Aurora Leigh, in which I can only hope everybody dies miserably. As ever, thanks to the beautiful Alice for hosting!

Aurora Leigh Readalong: Part Two

We commence Book Three with Aurora telling us a little of her career after her aunt’s death. There’s some wonderfully bitchy lines that make me wish EBB had lived in the age of Twitter (or, I mean, at least the age of online criticism, right?).

He’s ‘forced to marry where his heart is not,
Because the purse lacks where he lost his heart.’
Ah!–lost it because no one picked it up!
That’s really loss!

HARSH.

Mostly, though, she’s writing about writing, and it’s a good time to mention that L.M. Montgomery, author most famously of Emily of New Moon and its sequels, obviously drew a ton of inspiration from EBB, which makes me feel extra fond of LM Montgomery. I’ve already spotted one spot where Emily quotes from Aurora Leigh, and I bet if I knew the poem better when reading the Emily books, I’d notice more. It is NICE when authors I like like other authors I like.

We get introduced in this section to LADY WALDEMAR, a character I know must be important because whoever owned my copy of Aurora Leigh before me wrote in the margins LADY WALDEMAR! when she shows up. Because this is the olden days when people came to people’s houses just goddamn willy nilly apparently like damn son give a person a heads-up first cause I know the post in London was supernaturally speedy and convenient. This is your first sign that you’re not going to like Lady Waldemar.

She shows up at Aurora’s place and is like “blah blah blah this and that classical reference I don’t care about your poetry” and Aurora’s all “What?” and Lady Waldemar’s all “Okay, I’ll be straight with you, I love Romney Leigh, you know, your cousin? I’d like to not love him but here we are, I do love him so that’s what’s up, I sure am glad we’re friends Aurora” and Aurora’s all,

She actually says, “Lady Waldemar, the point’s the thing / We never seem to come to” because ahahahaha she’s a bitch and I love her.

(Romney Leigh sucks and I wouldn’t be mad if this became a poem about Lady Waldemar learning to not be a rich jerk and Aurora Leigh learning not to be an intellectual snob and then they fall in love.)

It turns out that Romney is about to marry a POOR GIRL (gasp) called Marian Erle, a disgusting seamstress, and Aurora’s like “So?” and Lady Waldemar says,

Despite,
Aurora, that most radiant morning name,
You’re dull as any London afternoon.

Obviously, Lady Waldemar wants Aurora to go up to visit Romney Leigh and do the whole “I object!” thing. All I’m saying is that in the gay version of this poem, Lady Waldemar and Aurora would road-trip to wherever Romney Leigh lives, and along the way maybe they’d have to stop at some inns with only one room available and the room only has one bed because of course, and what with one thing and another, by the time they get to the wedding, Lady Waldemar has some new interests in life.

In the real, not-gay version of the poem, Aurora says this:

A love that burns through veils will burn through masks,
And shrivel up treachery. What, love and lie!
Nay–go to the opera! Your love’s curable.

Aurora, who is contrary and whom I consequently adore, immediately runs off to meet Marian Erle, a properly Dickensian sort of waif who fled her home when her mother tried to sell her to a man, fell ill while running because of course, and met Romney Leigh at a hospital. She’s dull as dishwater but she does say one of the lines I remember loving best when I first read this poem:

‘Common words, perhaps;
The ministers in church might say the same;
But he, he made the church with what he spoke,–
The difference was the miracle,’ said she.

I just like that so much.

Then Romney Leigh shows up, and he and Aurora like assholes have this whole conversation about Marian in front of Marian. Marian just sits there waiting for Romney to notice her. It’s awful. He’s awful.

On the wedding day, Romney Leigh I guess invites all the rich people he knows, plus everyone in the whole of St. Giles? I am not clear exactly on what happens here, except that Aurora judges the fancy rich people in attendance for being snooty about the poors, but then she compares the poors to snakes and mud and says that remembering that day gives her nightmares. The only person at this wedding I don’t hate is this gentleman Lord Howe, who makes the following very good point:

There’s one true thing on earth;
That’s love! [Romney] takes it up, and dresses it,
And acts a play with it, as Hamlet did,
To show what cruel uncles we have been,
And how we should be uneasy in our minds.

Marian very sensibly leaves Romney at the altar. I expect this setback will do him a world of good. She writes him a letter all pitiful to say that she’s not good enough for him. Aurora Leigh suspects Lady Waldemar had a hand in it, but she’s not sure enough to say anything about it to Romney. And Romney’s like “Aurora, I’m real sad my marriage didn’t work out, and also, poetry’s still a dumb profession.”

Tune in next week for more brutal burns by Elizabeth Barrett Browning characters. I hope Aurora and Lady Waldemar get to hang out again. I enjoy how rude they are to each other.

Aurora Leigh Readalong: Part One

AT LAST I HAVE TRIUMPHED. Many years have I been badgering my good friend Alice to do a readalong of Aurora Leigh; many years has she responded with limited enthusiasm to the prospect of reading a Victorian epic poem about a cranky lady poet. BUT I HAVE WORN HER DOWN.

Thanks, Wonder Woman! I am proud!

So we are duly launching into the Aurora Leigh readalong, and I hope nobody hates it, since the fact that we’re doing it is absolutely my fault.

The first book introduces us to little Aurora, whose mother dies when she is quite young and whose father dies when she is only thirteen. Having spent her childhood in Florence, she goes to live with an aunt in England, about whom Elizabeth Barrett Browning says this:

She had lived we’ll say
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know.)

I first read Aurora Leigh when I was trying to figure out my Career, and goddamn did these lines haunt me. But that, she had not lived enough to know. My recollection of this poem is primarily that it contains economically brutal descriptions like this throughout. I love Elizabeth Barrett Browning with all my heart, but I do not want her ever to describe me, please and thank you.

Aurora lives with her aunt and occasionally sees her cousin, Romney Leigh, when he comes home from school. They do not get along super well, but that’s fine because he’s not home very often, and Aurora fairly soon discovers her father’s old books and goes diving into them like Scrooge McDuck into his pile o’ gold.

except the gold is books

And then! She becomes! A poet! EBB goes into pretttttttty lengthy raptures over the art of poetry and how poets can See God and all this stuff that is probably a teeny bit hard to get through unless you grew up reading Emily of New Moon. Which some of us did. So I was fine with this. The downside is that it also caused me to read Romney Leigh, her naysaying cousin, as sliiiiiiightly Dean Priesty? Dean Priest is notably The Worst, so what I’m saying is that there’s nothing from this point onward that EBB could do to get me on board with Dean Romney.

Actually, my main memory of Aurora Leigh overall, aside from that it contained these little diamonds of insight throughout, is that Romney is so awful at the beginning that I absolutely couldn’t get on board with him as a romantic interest later on. Look at this nonsense he says to Aurora when he finds out she writes poetry!

The chances are that, being a woman, young,
And pure, with such a pair of large, calm eyes,
You write as well and ill upon the whole
As other women….
Sublime Madonnas, and enduring saints!
We get no Christ from you, and verily
We shall not get a poet, in my mind.

Apart from being a patronizing asshole, though, Romney seems like he’d be totally fun at parties:

The civiliser’s spade grinds horribly
On dead men’s bones, and cannot turn up soil
That’s otherwise than fetid.

My dude, I agree with you, but you are having this convo with your much-younger cousin at the ass-crack of dawn. Maybe let a girl have her morning coffee before you start going at her about the fetid soil of civilization.

Well guess the ENTIRE FUCK WHAT. This fuckery was prelude to him proposing to her, and when she’s like “Uh, you just super insulted me and my whole plan for my life, and now you want to marry me?” he hits her with this nonsense.

If your sex is weak for art
(And I who said so, did but honour you
By using truth in courtship) it is strong
For life and duty.

Y’all, like. I do not know how much gendered nonsense EBB had to put up with w/r/t her career as an author, but if this is the kind of shit people were saying to her, I am surprised she got through her whole life without setting anybody on fire. Anyway, this is how she describes Romney’s proposal:

Come, I have some worthy work for thee below,
Come, sweep my barns and keep my hospitals,–
And I will pay thee with a common coin
Which men give women.

I’m telling you. EBB with these understatedly savage burns. I love her so much. Also:

“Did he ask?” I said;
I think he rather stooped to take me up
For certain uses which he found to do
For something called a wife. He never asked.

WORD

Her aunt, the one who OH GOD HAD NOT LIVED ENOUGH TO KNOW, that aunt, is like “Well, fine, you can choose not to marry him, but you’re not going to have any money and you’re going to starve to death in the streets because nobody else will ever look after you.” Being a lady in the olden days sounds fun, y’all. This is Aurora’s final answer:

But certain flowers grow near as deep as trees,
And, cousin, you’ll not move my root, not you,
With all your confluent storms.

Romney tries to give Aurora some money through their aunt, but Aurora figures out what’s happening and turns the cash down. They part, Romney to do Good Works in the countryside, and Aurora to attempt to become a poet in London.

Are you Aurora Leigh-ing along with us? What did you make of the first two books?

A Reader Imbibes Peril

Guess what time it is! IT IS RIP TIME! The twelfth annual Readers Imbibing Peril began on 1 September (as always) and will be running through the end of October. Join us, comrades, as we read perilously spooooooky books under the auspices of the marvelous Heather and Andi.

RIP

PS have you noticed that next year it will be R.I.P THIRTEEN? I hope that you have noticed. It is never far from my mind. I am doing a ghost noise about it as we speak.

My planned reads for R.I.P. 12 include:

The Painted Queen, by Elizabeth Peters and Some Interloper Who Even Cares

Weirdly, Elizabeth Peters once wrote a mystery novel about a writer who was asked to finish the book of a recently-deceased author. Life reflects art. Anyway, I am not sure how to feel about this book, which was completed after Elizabeth Peters’s death by her pal Joan Hess. I’ve been semi-pretending the Amelia Peabody series ended after Children of the Storm. On the other hand, The Painted Queen takes place in the darkest part of the Amelia Peabody timeline; i.e., between Falcon at the Portal and He Shall Thunder in the Sky. So who knows.

Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages

My TBR spreadsheet says MAGIC LESBIANS IN THE 1940S!!!!! and I stand by every one of those exclamation points. I am not, in fact, certain of how dark this fantasy is, but the blurb says noir so I say it counts.

Food of the Gods, Cassandra Khaw

Speaking of noir, I am beginning to be afraid that Cassandra Khaw is too noir for me to love her work. Sob sob. But we’ll find out for sure when I read the quite noiry-sounding Food of the Gods, which is about a gentleman who fixes up human flesh to feed to ghouls I think?, and anyway he gets mixed up in the quarrels of the gods.

The Shadowed Sun, NK Jemisin

Now that NK Jemisin’s latest trilogy is complete, I can finally read it! But for this installment of RIP I’ll stick to finishing her previous series. I liked The Killing Moon a lot and I’m eager to find out where the story goes from here. Then onward to her multiple-Hugo-award-winning trilogy.

The Bloodprint, Ausma Zehanat Khan

Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of these excellent murder mystery novels that deal with major geopolitical conflicts, and now she is turning her hand to what I assume will be darkish geopolitical fantasy. The Bloodprint is about women saving the world by going on a road trip to find a MacGuffin. Your girl is IN.

What are y’all reading for R.I.P.? Are you excited for next year when it will be R.I.P. XIII? Is it ever a good idea for someone else to finish your favorite dead author’s unfinished manuscript?

#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.