22 May, 2012

The Woman in White - Part the Third


No sooner had I mourned the lack of Frederick Fairlie, Esq., than he appeared in all his selfish, crotchety glory. Well, not exactly no sooner - first someone else takes up Marian's narrative in her diary. The sheer magnitude of that intrusion gives me the creeps in a very personal, visceral way.

I had this relationship lo, these many years ago that was simply awful. I was 21 and what can only be called a child, and like many a country girl was completely taken in by charm and occasional dribs and drabs of kindness followed by monstrous neglect. Y'anyway, I kept a notebook behind my bed where I poured out the abuses and soreness on my silly little heart in what can only be called verbal diarrhea. Seriously, it would have been heart-wrenching if I'd had any self-control whatsoever, but instead it probably read like the rantings of an attic-bound Mrs. Rochester who was favored with Yellow Wallpaper. One day I came back from school to find my notebook open on the table to a page with handwriting on it that wasn't my own; I was told in the addendum that he "assumed it was left for him to read since it was in the open" - as in, tucked under the bed but not completely out of sight. I got no apology, no explanation for his behavior in either reading my freaking diary or anything else; just a condescending note saying that now he'd read it and was glad that he knew "how I really felt."

The experience taught me that thoughts are not meant to be shared unless they are fully-formed and tempered like Athena; I've never kept a diary since.

Marian wasn't in (much) love with Fosco, but her fears and puzzlings were hers and hers alone. Fosco's audacity in not only reading but writing in her diary - where he knew she would return and therefore see it - is the point where readers who are still on the fence should fall squarely on the side of Count Fosco as Evil (Genius) and Violator of People.

Ok, then we get to Frederick Fairlie, who says things that make me laugh out loud like, "I find it's best to give in to Marian - it saves noise," and (my personal favorite), "What have I to do with bosoms?" What indeed, Mr. Fairlie. How's Louis, your occasional book stand and the most accommodating of servants? Hmmm?

And then the narrative is taken up by Mrs. Mickleson, the housekeeper at Blackwater Park and a fascinating sketch of a woman. Collins takes his opportunity to turn the traditional prejudice of the upper class toward the lower on its head as well as to illustrate the deep xenophobia that characterizes a lot of Victorian fiction: Mrs. Mickleson is completely taken in by Count Fosco, is worshipful of his status as a nobleman, and attributes all of his potential faults to being "foreign." She even gently berates Laura, reminding her that foreigners mostly grow up in "popery," and that she (Laura) shouldn't think the worse of him for it. It must be Laura's upbringing as a Proper English Lady that keeps her from telling Mrs. Mickleson to STFU - that or her insufferable lack of spine. It's probably the latter.

Next, we turn back to Walter Hartright, who talks... and talks... and talks. It's sad to me that Marian doesn't get to tell her own kickass part of this story. She adds Jail-Breaker to her already impressive title of Sherlockian Ninja without even betting an eyelash, she suggests everything that Walter then does, and she takes on the chores of their new establishment like a champion while Laura sits and recuperates from being in an asylum for three weeks. Seriously, I begin to think that Wilke actually was the closet feminist that we all claim him as; all the female characters in this book are stone-cold clever except for Limp Laura, and all the men are rather useless unless they are traipsing about Central America learning how to evade capture by darting around a corner, with the obvious exception of Fosco, Evil Genius, of course.

Laura, meanwhile, is being told that her little drawings are being sold for money so that she can feel like she's "contributing" to the family fund, when really they're being bought by Walter and treasured up. This makes my feminist heart rage a little - or rather, a lottle; it's okay to lie to Laura, but it's not okay to disguise yourself to avoid detection? What she went through was undoubtedly pretty horrible - mental patient care wasn't (and still isn't) exactly top-notch - and Laura being Laura probably didn't consider that she might be rescued. BUT STILL. She even knows on some level that Marian is better than she is; she tells Walter that she's afraid he'll start to love Marian more than he loves her. to that I say, pssssht! Marian is too good for you, Milquetoast Hartright. Take your mental case and leave Miss Halcombe to a better fate than making you think all her good ideas are your own forever. Speaking of which, my favorite part of this reading was when Marian suggests writing to Mr. Fairlie to get the story of what happened at Limeridge House, because I had already read it! Hurrah for high-context writing!

Walter decides to do something manly and discover Percival's seeeeeeeekrit, which turns out to be "LOL parents weren't married!" And on the way he meets Mrs. Catherick, Anne's mother, who is the living embodiment of this guy:

"When I have changed my mittens, I shall be all in black."

I think I'll ship Mrs. Catherick and Mr. Fairlie for the rest of the novel. Someone bring me a Pesca, STAT!

*I know I've read all this before, but I forget what happens sometimes. It's a giant book!

21 May, 2012

The Naming of Things

I like titles and names. Our descriptions of things have so much power; how often have you had difficulty remembering someone's name because they don't look like a Becky or a Liz or a Peter or a Martin Freeman? I carried a different name all the way through high school, and the changing of my name - while technically unofficial - changed a lot of things in my life. Especially that people stopped breaking out into song the moment they heard me introduce myself. You might think that people breaking into song would be something I enjoyed; after all, I'm a huge fan of musicals, I identify deeply with Julie Andrews characters, and I feel pretty strongly that one of the major things missing from my life is a regular and appropriately-timed dance break. But most people can't carry a tune in a bucket with a lid,

and I often had to smile awkwardly in that way people with easily-punned-upon names do, as if I'd never heard someone make the connection before.

Also, I learned a lot about people's taste in music; now they just ask me if I've ever been to the Tiki Room in Disneyland.*

Anywhoodle. Names: I like them, they are interesting, and they are curiously mutable in that they take on the aspects of the things that have the name, and also impart their own. Could Fairuza Balk have been a Jennifer Cook? Sure. Would she have been an early 90's gothic icon? Probably not.

All this came up because I've been assiduously avoiding the final discussion of The Woman in White on almost all of my book blogs until I finish the third reading (so...close...shut UP Hartright...stabby-stab...), so I'm rather desperate for news of the Book World, so I caught up on Neil Gaiman's blog today, which has far less book stuff than you'd think so I tend to just skim it to see if he'll be in town any time soon.** I collect names and hoard them away because they intrigue me, especially literary ones and generally in pairs, like Jane and Elizabeth or Mycroft and Sherlock or Kaylee and Simon or The Doctor and Idris (or Donna or Amy or Martha but not Rose).

Which is to say it's a good thing that I'm not a crazy cat lady (thanks only to Mr. Darcy being a finicky isolationist, as one might expect) or having any children, because I'd probably be doomed to twins and have to choose, and "The Doctor" isn't really an appropriate name for a child.

I think, though, that the next time I adopt kittens - far, far in the future because Darcy will live foreverdoyouhearmecat - they will be named Verity and Sydney.***

* The answer is: 1) Yes, of course, 2) Yes, I sing along with my own name subbed in for "tiki," and 3) Yes, my friends are awesome and sing along with me appropriately.

** All the commas in that sentence are grammatically correct, even if they are legion. Just so you know.

*** I understand that an entire blog post leading up to what I will name my future cats probably qualifies me as a Crazy Cat Lady.

08 May, 2012

The One With Actual Knitting Content

So remember when I found my Rosebud Shawl, complete with instructions? I've been working on it pretty steadily and am nearly halfway through the pick-up edging, then it's only the outer edging to go. Here's a picture of a finished shawl done by Maureen in Fargo. See those diamond patterns between the center square and the edge? I'm working my way out from the center and am almost halfway done with the second diamond. It takes about 45 minutes to do 2 rounds, so please send the people in white coats soon.

I finally took pictures of the (very few) knitted things I've completed this year! In a fit of pre-Christmas spirit, I wrapped up yarn for my brothers and stepfather and promised them all socks by June for their Christmas presents. They're mostly done:

Stepfather Socks: Regia Sock Something, ~413 yds

Stepbrother Kai Socks: Regia Sock Something, ~395 yds.

THB's socks are half done and have been dedicated out-of-the-house knitting. I've got a coffee date with Nadia tonight, so maybe I'll get a few rows in on them over gossip.

I also spent an evening and several episodes of Grey's Anatomy binding off the over 400 stitches on my Slant Shawl that I started in November:

ella rae Lace Merino, 883 yds.
This thing is easily 12 feet long; I'm almost tempted to chop it in half and make it wider. Maybe if some perfect ribbon for the cut end shows itself, I'll go ahead and do that. In the mean time, it's going to be one of those shawls that snags on everything!

So. Many. Holes! (TWSS)
In the category of failed experiments, I finally ripped out my hap shawl:

Somewhere around 1500 yards of knitting - gone.
It wasn't working as intended, so I'm going to find an actual pattern and follow it. The horror! I may also over-dye that light blue; there's something about it that is too twee, and I kind of hate it.

And in other news, I've returned to the possibility of tomatoes. Last year I got my plants over Mother's Day, but this year I planted earlier and the contrast is pretty clear: 

May 16, 2011

May 8, 2012
At this rate, I might even get tomatoes before August!

02 May, 2012

The Woman in White - Part the Second

So Walter Hartright has left the building and taken his wimpy mooncalf-gazing self off to who knows where (actually, I know: London, then Central America to draw stuff for an expeditionary expedition to get over Laura). And thank goodness, say I. Don't let the gangplank hit you on the way up!

Then Mr. Gillmore, the family's lawyer, takes up the reins of the narrative. He is the epitome of the British gentleman lawyer: gruff and opinionated and avuncular - which actual-uncle Fairlie is not, of course. Is that juxtaposition or dichotomy or just ironic? I can't tell anymore. But he does say a few things that make me laugh:

1) Laura looks like her father but acts like her mother. Conversely, Marian looks like her mother. Stop and think for a moment - which sister is the ugly one? For a brief second, I think maybe Wilkie forgot which was whom in that giant noggin of his.

2) Mr. Gillmore is "very much afraid that Mr. Hartright is 'going wrong.'" Also, "There are three things that none of the young men of the present generation can do.They can't sit over their wine;they can't play at wist;and they can't pay a lady a compliment." If Hartright hadn't been so busy going wrong, maybe Gillmore could learn him a thing or two, eh? Eh? ::elbow::

3) Gillmore is served chilled port by a servant who should know better. For whatever reason, this made me hoot with laughter. Apparently port should not be chilled? I have no idea; I drink wine out of a box.

Then Gillmore's huffy self gets replaced by Marian to the sound of trumpets and the waving of flags. I just love Marian - who can't love a Victorian who thinks Elizabeth I is highly overrated?  Yes, there're some strange-sounding lovey bits between her and Laura - I think Sarah Waters is probably a big fan of this book - but her dedication and loyalty and bad-assery cannot be underestimated, as we shall see. Brace yourselves, my beauties. There are a lot of italics coming your way.

First, Laura tells Percival that she will marry him if he still wants to marry her, but that she loves someone else. Then, Laura is all, "I'm going to sacrifice myself on the altar of whatever this is and marry Sir Percival no matter what!" which, I may be a modern girl, but why not just leave? Martyrs bother me. Also, if the guy loves you and you tell him you're in love with not-him, he'll be jealous because that's how that emotional situation works. If he is NOT jealous, then he is NOT in this for love (especially if you are an heiress!) and you're free to pursue your penniless sitar player.

Two for Sundays, please.
On the eve of Laura's marriage, Marian has the unenviable duty of explaining something about the Way the World Works to sweet, innocent Laura. Is this the infamous "lay back and think of England, dear," speech? Marian couches it in terms of polluting innocence, so probably. And then Marian pours out her heart to her diary, saying basically, "surely Percival's not a dick? Surely I've done the right thing by pushing her into this marriage instead of saying, 'let's all be poor and marry Hartright!'" Then she says "I hardly know myself in the character of Sir Percival's warmest friend," then five lines later says, "I HATE Sir Percival!" Thank you, Mr. Collins, for reminding us that within every woman of 26 is the 16-year-old petulant child she used to be.

But you know what is so sweet? Mrs. Vesey the Cabbage Brain made Laura a Shetland shawl on the sly as a wedding gift. As someone who is attempting the same thing, let me tell you: it's no mean feat. Plus, knitting content! (I've been working on stuff, not fast enough. Moving on.)

H'okay. So. Percival and Laura go off on their honeymoon, and they bring back Count Fosco and his wife, Eleanor. Fosco is the creepiest of creepy creeps. He's huge and fat and wears womanish colors and has the lightest footsteps of everyone ever so that he's continually creeping up on people - but never mind about closing the window when you're talking secret stuff, just speak low! - and he has tamed some mice and they're continually crawling about his person. Ick. One night he goes on and on about how good criminals don't get caught, and no one bats an eyelash. Then Eleanor says something about listening to men like a good woman, and Marian points out that she (Eleanor) used to think that freedom of opinion was super-important - which is a way of saying that she (Eleanor) was a disagreeable harpy before her marriage - and no one bats an eyelash. Nary a neuron is fired.

Percival makes some comment about Laura making a "virtue of necessity" by marrying him, which translates to modern talk as "you weren't a virgin when I married you," which I guess doesn't translate all that well to modern talk because virgins, LOL. And shizz goes down, and Anne Catherick shows up and rabbits off to who-knows-where, and Percival corners Laura in the boathouse which, if it had been Hartright or written by Daphne Du Maurier would have led to Victorian sexy times but instead leads to Laura telling him everything instead of LYING to her shit-talking, secret-keeping husband.

Then Marian turns into a Sherlockian ninja and starts putting together clues from things like a boot scuff in the sand or a bit of fringe at a fork in the road and scampering over rooftops to hear Fosco and Percival talking about how to get Laura's money, at which point I am shrieking at my iPod that of course he was in it for the money, see above re. jealousy!

The End of Part 2

So, what have we learned, dear readers? That port should be chilled, men of this age are useless, and Laura is - while not quite as ridiculous as previously thought - still a milksop bore.

I miss Mr. Fairlie and Pesca. Maybe they'll show up in the next section?