by Catriona Mills

Jane Austen's Afterlife

Posted 3338 days ago in by Catriona

What is it about Jane Austen that prompts so many people to take her world as the basis for their own works?

(Admittedly, that’s largely a rhetorical question. I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know if there is a single answer to that question; I doubt there is.)

But it fascinates me. What is is about that England that Austen created—an England hovering somewhere in the thirty years that made up the late eighteenth century and the Regency, an England that, excepting some encamped soldiers and Anne Wentworth’s vague fears for her husband’s future, seems so isolated from the Napoleonic Wars—that so fascinates authors seeking a world in which to place their own characters?

Make no mistake: I revere Austen, but not without some reservations.

Pride and Prejudice I will say nothing against: I don’t know how many times I’ve read that book, and it delights me every time. I see no flaw in it. (Excepting, perhaps, John Sutherland’s apt question in one of his books of Victorian literary puzzles: who does betray Elizabeth Bennett? Who tells Lady Catherine of the likelihood of her marrying Darcy? But that’s a small question.)

When Nick and I watched the recent BBC adaptation—I’d seen it before; Nick had not—I thought at first it would be a failure; the first installment failed to draw Nick into the narrative. But when, at midnight, we got to the end of the third episode and I suggested we go to bed, he looked at me as though I’d suddenly gone insane: “But she’s just rejected Darcy’s proposal!” It took us until 3 a. m., but we watched it all. Apparently, Austen can even amuse a man who won’t buy a book that doesn’t have a spaceship on the cover.

Sense and Sensibility I re-read quite often, as well, despite the fact that Elinor is really too sensible and Marianne too much a victim of sensibility—and that the marriages are rather unsatisfactory.

Northanger Abbey is hilarious, and I’m partial to Persuasion, as well—it’s gentle and melancholic, but the heroine is delightful and the happy ending satisfying.

I’m less enthusiastic about Emma, although I’m aware that that’s rather an unpopular opinion. It just seems to me that Emma is less lively and intelligent than she is callous in her prosperity and actively cruel to the less fortunate. I find it difficult to re-read Emma without skipping over that final act of wanton unpleasantness to poor, dependent, scatter-brained Miss Bates.

The one that causes me real problems, though, is Mansfield Park—I can’t stop reading it, and yet it drives me mad. I feel as though there must be a key to it that I haven’t yet picked up; I can’t quite believe that the woman who created Elizabeth Bennett created weak, passive-aggressive Fanny Price and expected us to sympathise with her.

(Janet Todd’s Women’s Friendship in Literature—although almost thirty years old now—has a fascinating section on critics’ responses to Fanny, which she divides into “the hostile critics who find her distasteful or nauseating,” “the approving critics, who find Fanny the true embodiment of the ideals of the novel,” and “the ironic critics who consider Fanny fatally flawed, an ironic creation of Austen” (246-47 n.1). The debate, indeed, is analogous to that which raged around Pamela’s marriage to Squire B. in Richardson’s novel. While I can’t say that Fanny thought to make a small fortune through her face but now thinks to make a large one through her vartue—a paraphrase, since I can’t find my copy of Henry Fielding’s Shamela—I certainly think she plays her cards very cleverly. It’s what I’ve seen elsewhere called “the tyranny of the weak,” and it works—but how will Edmund stand living with a wife who becomes faint every time she’s faced with something she doesn’t fancy doing?)

But my interests aside, what is it that prompts so many authors to use Austen’s settings and characters for their own works?

I don’t even know how many have done so, but consider this—a certainly incomplete list gleaned from Amazon.com:

  • Skylar Hamilton Burris has written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice called Conviction, which focuses on the marital opportunities for Darcy’s sister—and I sincerely hope that it is only in the Amazon blurb, and not in the novel itself, that her name is mis-spelt as “Georgianna.”
  • Helen Halstead has written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice as Mr Darcy Presents His Bride.
  • both Pamela Aidan and Amanda Grange have “rewritten” the novel from Mr Darcy’s perspective, the former as a trilogy under the umbrella title Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman and the latter as Mr Darcy’s Diary.
  • in what to my mind is the most disturbing of these examples, Linda Berdoll has carried on the original novel in two sequels: Mr Darcy Takes a Wife and Darcy and Elizabeth: Days and Nights at Pemberley. Does that second title give anything away? Does it help if I mention that the first key term that Amazon lists under the title is “physical congress”? I’m sure I wish Darcy and Elizabeth all the happiness in the world—but I don’t want to read about it.

I’m quite sure that’s not a full list—and that’s only the Pride and Prejudice spin-offs.

I don’t imagine that Austen alone is subject to this type of response: I shudder to imagine how many times Wuthering Heights has been re-written from Heathcliff’s perspective or provided with a sequel.

But I do wonder why.

I’m not interested in these re-writings and sequels. I’m not entirely immune to the attractions of the world; I’ve read a completion of Sanditon that, while not Austen, was smooth and enjoyable; I wouldn’t be adverse to reading Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries; and I read and enjoyed the first in Carrie Bebris’s Mr and Mrs Darcy Mysteries, which is what prompted this post.

Is Bebris’s work Austen? Of course not.

Do I think Elizabeth Bennett would ever have said “it’s a really shiny stick” (46)? Probably not: that use of “really” is too colloquial, it seems to me, for the period.

Is the strong supernatural aspect to the mysteries in keeping with Austen’s world view? No: but, then, this isn’t Austen.

I have no real point to make here: just some confusion to express about the proliferation of works that adopt, manipulate, or radically rework Austen’s individual version of English society in the production of modern narratives.

Certainly, Austen is marvellous. But do people do this with Charles Dickens? And if not, why not?

The Pitfalls and Pleasures of Social Networking

Posted 3339 days ago in by Catriona

I never thought I’d be particularly attached to social networking sites.

I’ve never had much of a social network, for a start. And moving in my early twenties to a strange city one thousand kilometres away broke most of my established networks. So I was never really in the position where I was keeping in contact with hundreds of people across the globe.

And then I’ve never had much interest in that aspect of the Internet—I say, on my blog. But, then, this blog is really indicative of that shift in my thinking.

Prior to a couple of years ago, I regarded the Internet as a large, unwieldy, badly written and appallingly edited, mostly inaccurate encyclopaedia. That is, I went to it for information, which I then largely mistrusted. I never treated it as something to which I might contribute, or as somewhere I could go to interact with friends.

Of course, I was already reliant on e-mail, as the primary way of keeping in contact with students and colleagues. I know people—Kurt Vonnegut is one who springs to mind—complain about the impersonal nature of e-mail, but I think it’s fabulous: I once contacted a museum in England about possible access to some material—a nineteenth-century theatrical poster—in their collection, and received a reply e-mail with a high-resolution image attached three hours later. You won’t find me complaining about e-mail.

But I think it was really Pownce that changed my general attitude.

I came to Pownce fairly late compared to others in my social group—which, good little geeks that we are, had been using it on an invitational basis before it went public—but it rapidly became a site where I could keep up an intermittent chatter during the workday without actually interrupting my work to any great extent. As one friend said, it’s like sharing a virtual office with people you actually like.

But from Pownce it was a short step to Facebook. And I don’t regret my Facebook account: I keep my privacy settings locked down, don’t add any questionable applications, and limit my Friends list to people I actually know. (Although I don’t thank Facebook for turning “friend” into a verb—but the issue of verbing is a whole separate issue, for another post.) Facebook is the only way I keep in contact with a number of friends, and the primary way (apart from phone calls and reading each other’s blogs) that I keep in contact with my best friend: it’s easy and fun to send short messages through the day.

Plus, Facebook means Packrat, and we all know how I feel about Packrat.

With e-mail, Pownce, and Facebook already becoming part of a daily ritual, it was a short step to actually starting a blog. That’s a simplified explanation of the process, but largely accurate.

So now I have my webmail provider, Pownce, Facebook, and my blog open in my web browser each day. I don’t have to, of course—I could simply keep my browser closed until I need to Google something. But what’s the point of being socially networked if the network isn’t available?

But today—today I was going to be virtuous. And I was, largely; I wrote nearly one thousand words of a putative journal article on manipulation and verisimilitude in adapted plays on the nineteenth-century suburban stage.

But I was also enmeshed in the toils of the social network.

No significant e-mails came in today, but at one point this afternoon I was trying to map out a structure for the first part of the article, chatting to a friend via the instant-messaging function on Facebook (that ended abruptly: I may have offended him when I suggested that it was nonsense to say that a French-English dictionary was boring), taking part in a six-party discussion on Pownce about whether we can get a Dungeons and Dragons group together, and trying to attract Nick’s attention on another Pownce thread so he could buy me two volumes of a rare Victorian periodical that had suddenly popped up for sale on the American Book Exchange.

(Why, yes: I am a woman of varied tastes.)

Of course, if you’re reading this, chances are you were involved in one of those discussions, which is one of the downsides of being closely networked to a relatively small social group.

(Downside for you, I mean: I have no problem saying the same thing four different times, and will, in fact, talk to the furniture if there’s no one else available.)

Don’t get me wrong; I love my social network. A day when I can chat to so many people in so many different ways that I don’t have to hold an animated, if one-sided, discussion with an armchair is a good day.

But it does reinforce the perils of social-networking programmes: sometimes, if your self control is weak and your propensity for conversation strong, you just have to shut your browser down and work, bereft, outside the network for a while.

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: The Voyage of the Damned

Posted 3339 days ago in by Catriona

Well, I’m not live-blogging it yet; I’m sitting on the back verandah, having a quick cigarette while ABC News runs through endless updates on tennis (seriously: most boring sport ever? Assuming golf doesn’t qualify as a sport?).

But I intend to live-blog all the episodes in this fourth season, barring catastrophe.

Live-blogging is now my favourite pastime; it puts inordinate stresses on the writing process, which I find refreshing.

But I’m not doing it with a bottle of vodka at my side any more.

Right, now I’m back in the living room—of course, I wonder whether there’s much point live-blogging if I can’t be sure that people will be reading at the same time. But, really, if I wrote the blog under those circumstances, I’d never get anything written.

They’re really pushing the Kylie Minogue angle—but I can’t really blame them.

Ooh, my spell checker doesn’t recognise either “Kylie” or “Minogue”—but it did take her a while to break into the U. S. market.

What? The Peter Serofinovich (near enough) Show? I’ve never heard of that. But I love him—thanks to Star Wars (embarrassingly) and Black Books and Shaun of the Dead, so I’ll probably watch that.

Low-level violence? I don’t remember that. But here we go—the Titanic improbably crashes through the TARDIS.

I wish they’d played the Children in Need special first, though—that was delightful.

NICK: New Zealand!
ME: What?
NICK: New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd.

Right you are, then.

Ooh, the creepy robots; I like them. They remind me of the gorgeous deco robots in “Robots of Death”—they were stunning.

Ah, the revelation that it’s the space Titanic—and then the theme music. It’s new theme music, I think—hang on.

No, Nick says it was re-recorded after this. But then he tells me it is in fact a new mix for this, so I think he’s lying to me to make me look silly.

Geoffrey Palmer! Hey, Geoffrey! I love you! Don’t be evil!

Oh, you silly midshipman—leave the bridge, regardless of regulations. He’s sent everyone off for a reason, and you’ll regret this.

Oh, Palmer’s definitely evil. (Of course, I’ve seen this before—but that’s not the point. I can still tell he’s evil.)

Have we ever seen the Doctor in a tuxedo before?

Nick hates soft-rock carols—and I’m absolutely with him. I love real Christmas carols, but these things . . . no.

I’d never noticed before that the Doctor is imitating the robot’s head movements as it breaks down. Apparently it’s worse when the robots break down in first class—that’s a bit disturbing, given the conditions of the real Titanic’s sinking.

Ooh, Kylie! Hello, Kylie! Gee, she’s tiny.

She’s kind of adorable, though—especially when she grins. “Astrid” is an anagram for “TARDIS”, but I don’t know if that’s intentional. Kylie’s not lost her accent, though, at least not on the vowels. I do like hearing a genuine Australian accent on telly; it doesn’t happen enough, and it seems to be an extraordinarily difficult accent to counterfeit, for some reason.

Ah, the working-class passengers who are being mocked by the people in first class. But the Doctor gets revenge—petty, but amusing.

Uh oh, back to Geoffrey Palmer.

NICK: And in Davies’s scripts, there’s always someone saying “Doctor” as in medical doctor. Interesting. I don’t know what to make of it.

Make of that what you will—I’d be interested to hear opinions.

Ooh, Clive Swift. Apparently, there’s an excruciating interview with him in Doctor Who Magazine—according to Nick, from whom I got this information, Clive Swift made the whole thing very difficult for the interviewer. That’s a shame, because I’ve always found him amusing.

DOCTOR: The pyramids are beautiful. And New Zealand.
NICK: Yay!

Hey! It’s (spoiler!) Donna’s grandfather! I love you, you adorable old man.

Ah, the Queen’s staying in London. A lesson learned from her mother: “The King won’t leave the people, and I won’t leave the King.”

(Should those nouns be capitalised? I can’t tell at this stage, and I can’t be bothered looking it up. But I’m talking about specific monarchs, so I’ll leave them as is.)

Uh oh, Geoffrey Palmer again. This can’t be good. And do those meteors have engines? How are they turning on that sharp angle, otherwise?

Ha! The Doctor’s put his glasses on. That’s usually the sign for me to get whacked by an excitable friend when we watch these in groups, but Nick’s not susceptible to David Tennant’s charms. That I know of.

Oh, you poor midshipman. Geoffrey shows his true colours. He was a villain in the last Doctor Who story he was in, wasn’t he? Or at least a stooge? I’ll ask Nick in a moment.

Uh oh! Tiny asteroid.

NICK: Ha! It’s a gigantic Ferrero Rocher!

Oh, Geoffrey! I know you’re dying, but this is evil. You know that, don’t you? Although I’ll admit that that lugubrious face works well with this kind of character. I love you, Geoffrey! I’m sorry you’re dead. Or almost. No, actually dead now.

The screaming and the death gives me a good opportunity to ask Nick my question: apparently, Geoffrey wasn’t evil or a stooge in the last story, just a misguided beaurocrat. Also, Geoffrey—I’m sorry I’m calling you by your first name when we haven’t been formally introduced—I blame the exigencies of live-blogging. Oddly, “Geoffrey” is easier to type then “Mr Palmer.”

Man, this episode has a high body count—we’re up the steward being sucked out of the ship, if I haven’t been making the narrative absolutely clear, which I suspect I haven’t. But I don’t think I’ve seen this bloody an episode since “Horror of Fang Rock”—and that had a fairly small cast of characters from which to work. But this reminds me of classic episodes such as “Warriors of the Deep” and “Robots of Death,” naturally.

Slight pause while I figure out why the page just went really strange and then realise that I hit the “html” button accidentally. But that’s fine—we’re all here again.

The Heavenly Host have gone evil, by the way. Ah, evil robots. Have any Doctor Who episodes involving robots ever been bad?

The Doctor’s claiming to be 903 years old—is he lying about his age, again?

No! Don’t bring that robot back to life! You’re really going to regret that.

NICK: Hang on, Rich Chappy knew the Host said “You’re all going to die.” So he should know mending it is a bad idea. Bit of a plot hole, there. Mind, it’s the first time I’ve noticed it, in four times of watching.

Ah, “allons-y”—or something along those lines. (I think I can confidently say ‘Excuse my French’—it really is non-existent.) The Doctor’s habit of saying that is going to pay off in a really disturbing fashion in a devastating episode later in the season. (Spoiler!) Kind of.

The anti-cyborg attitude behind this episode is one of the more interesting aspects of the world-building: it’s a shame there isn’t more room to develop it further.

Ah, the disappearing life signs—that reminds me of something. Is it another Doctor Who episode? I can’t remember now.

Killer robots! Why oh why do people trust robots? It’s never a good idea. At least not in Doctor Who.

NICK: You’re supposed to be a helper robot! Why aren’t you helping?

Never mind, he’s been squished under a giant block.

NICK: In death, they’re extraordinarily unrealistic.

Nick thinks the last instance of the disappearing life signs was “Earthshock,” when the Cybermen’s android was slaughtering troopers. He could be right—I’ve blocked a lot of “Earthshock” out of my head, because it was a bit silly.

This whole episode is so The Poseidon Adventure—although now we appear to be crossing the bridge of Kazak Dhum (don’t check my spelling).

Nick was very unimpressed that the Afro-Caribbean man was the first to die. He’s just said so again—about the fifteenth time he’s said that. But he feels it is pandering too much to the conventions of the disaster movie.

(I agree, but I still laughed and laughed when Samuel L. Jackson was eaten by that giant shark in Deep Blue Sea—a movie so cliched that my father, who’s seen about fifteen movies since the late 1960s, was able to spot the plot developments before they happened, including the bit where the shark turned an oven on with its nose.)

Nick’s right—this scene is is beautifully lit. See, killer robots who can also fly is just cheating. What are you supposed to do about that? And it’s all very well to hit their haloes away with lead pipes, but what if you’re like me? I’m far more likely to whack myself on the back of the head and just make the whole thing easier for them.

Oops, second man down—little, spiky, red dude. I have no chance on Earth of spelling his name correctly, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Ah, about to be third man down.

But first, a Douglas Adams joke. I wish Douglas Adams were still writing for the programme. Of course, I wish Douglas Adams were still alive, and writing anything.

Now that’s the third man down. That’s a shame; I rather warmed to her.

Now the Doctor’s angry—this Doctor spends most of his time angry, it seems. Who was the last genuinely angry Doctor? The sixth regeneration was pretty cranky most of the time, but it wasn’t this kind of white-hot anger. Ah, but Sylvester McCoy was capable of this—remember “The Happiness Patrol”? That is the one I’m thinking of, right?

Ah, the point where the Doctor kisses the latest girl. Call me old fashioned, but I do think there’s too much kissing in this new incarnation. I preferred the original series in that respect. (And other respects, although I do love this new version.)

I think there’s a logical flaw in the “survivors must equal passengers or staff” argument that the Doctor sets up. Surely, survivors simply equal anyone who survives the crash, by definition. But, he might be talking about an assumption that the Host have been specifically programmed with a list of people who have survived and need to be hunted down. But surely that’s nonsensical—wouldn’t they just kill anyone human, regardless of their standing?

Oh, never mind.

In the interim, the Doctor is working up to a confrontation with the big boss, and Astrid is following him.

I’m not sure I want to be a disembodied head on some kind of hydraulic cart—that really doesn’t seem as though it would be a satisfactory life. Still, at least they seeded the necessary backstory for this with little, red, spiky man—I would like to know more about why Stow (is that right? We’ll leave it as is) despises cyborgs.

The head/cart thing is really creepy, though. And I do like a good revenge plan. I don’t care how fond the “ladies” are “of metal”—what can they do when you’re just a head on a cart?

Actually, seriously, don’t answer that. I have a feeling I could work out the answer with a bit of quick Googling—but I don’t think I want to.

Let’s just forget that bit ever happened, shall we?

Oh, dear, Astrid is making her move. Nick’s not sure why the robots don’t just kill the Doctor, anyway, but let’s be glad they don’t.

Whoops, slow motion—never a good sign.

Oh, that’s a shame. She would have driven me mad as a companion—but what about this nice young midshipman? We haven’t had a proper male companion in ages?—but I rather liked her.

Ah, a hero-shot of the Doctor, framed against fire. And about to play with all those Messianic overtones that this new series has been overtly seeding into the show. (I spelt that “dhow,” which would have been an entirely different point.)

This hero-shot reminds me of the scene at the end of “The Runaway Bride”—I assume it’s deliberate—where he’s killing the Rachnos (seriously, it’s close enough, spelling-wise) babies.

(By the way, the Titanic is falling on Buckingham Palace, and we’re about to have queen-related hi-jinks.)

With the scene in “The Runaway Bride,” I felt that this Doctor was cruising for a bruising, so to speak. He was so implacable, and in a way that was entirely foreign to an old-school fan of the series.

(Ah, queen-related hi-jinks. Is there any surer form of humour?)

Anyway, back to the main point—I could deal with implacable Doctor—but I felt he needed to get his comeuppance at some point. He needed to be brought to a sense of how extreme his behaviour was. And I’m not sure that’s ever happened to him, yet. I sort of hope it does.

Poor Astrid. I’m not sure I want to spend my life floating around the galaxy as atoms. And “the ghost of consciousness”? Does that mean she’s still sentient? What if the atoms are scattered at some point?

Man, she’s tiny.

There’s a fine line between falling and flying—at least as long as the ground is a reasonable distance away.

Nick thinks there are shades of this in the Steven Moffat two-parter—still to come in our Doctor Who season 4 live-blogging extravaganza—but we’ll come to that when we come to those episodes.

Why does the jerk always survive in these episodes? Why?

I wonder if it would have been possible for me to make fewer references to the actual narrative? I’ll see how I do next week.

This really does have an enormously high body count. How many people were on that ship? And only four survived? Well, technically two, since Mr Copper went AWOL and the Doctor was a stowaway.

Oh, the Doctor is so English. I wonder if I could make something out of that about nationalism and consciousness of the foreign on the part of immigrants—but I can’t really be bothered.

(Spoiler coming up. Seriously, a spoiler. A minor spoiler, but still a spoiler. Is that enough warning? Have you skipped down to the next paragraph? Good. This Mr Copper character is going to pay off in an interesting if minor way later in the season. Keep an eye out.)

And there goes that TARDIS.

Oh, Verity Lambert. Vale, Verity Lambert.

And that’s “The Voyage of the Damned.” Next week: creepy little aliens and Catherine Tate. I wasn’t sure about her, but I’ve warmed to her.

And a preview for the first half of the season. Some good episodes coming up. Any season that includes Agatha Christie is a good season.

Strange Conversations: Part Nineteen

Posted 3341 days ago in by Catriona

During the preparations for dinner tonight, while Nick was frying some sausages:

ME: Honey?
NICK: Yes?
ME: Two things, really. One, I would like some more wine.
NICK: Okay.
ME: Two, why is my kitchen slowly filling up with smoke?
NICK: You can’t break an omelette without making some eggs.
ME: And the omelette in this metaphor would be . . .?
NICK: Freedom!

Sometimes, I wish I were making these up.

Judging A Book By Its Cover

Posted 3341 days ago in by Catriona

It never fails: I no sooner actually write a post about how I have nothing to post about than I think of fifteen different possibilities for entries.

In this case, though, I was sitting this afternoon desultorily flipping through the rats’ packs in Packrat—hoping a raincloud would pop up for me, but it never did—when I kept focusing on Judging A Book By Its Cover, a collection of essays edited by Nicole Matthews and Nickianne Moody that I recently reviewed for M/C Reviews.

I’m fascinated by reader-response work—though frequently horribly frustrated by it, as well—and it formed a key element of my thesis.

I’m also fascinated by the marketing of fiction, though not quite in the same way as the essays covered in Judging A Book By Its Cover, which focuses largely on twentieth-century publications: my nineteenth-century interests have more to do with advertising and networks of authorship than with graphic design.

But the book did make me realise that I have some books with truly hideous covers on my shelves.

(Of course, I also have a wide number of books with gorgeous covers; I may do a companion post once I’ve finished this one.)

These aren’t the worst, but they’re all fairly awful.

Of course, picking a 1970s reprint of an Agatha Christie novel is rather like shooting fish in a barrel; they’re all dreadful, really.

But this is one of the worst:

That poor owl.

I haven’t actually read this novel, I’m ashamed to admit (I only picked it up in May this year, judging by my inscription) so I have no idea whether a brutally murdered owl is central to the plot, but it’s certainly not something you want to look at on your bedside table as you’re dropping off to sleep.

Of course, I picked Endless Night over two others, which I think have much more revolting covers: Lord Edgeware Dies shows the back of a man’s head with a knife sticking out of the nape of his neck, while By The Pricking Of My Thumbs gives prime position to the broken, dirty head of a porcelain doll.

(That latter instance may not freak out other people as it does me, but creepy dolls are right up there with clowns in the terror factor, as far as I’m concerned.)

Either way, neither of them were images that I wanted on the blog.

If 1970s’ Agatha Christies are too easy a target, so are 1980s’ Rex Stouts. At least Endless Night probably never stood a chance. The image above is from a 1971 reprint, but the novel itself was published in 1967, and would almost certainly have always had a hideous cover.

But this cover of Some Buried Caesar is a 1982 reprint of one of the earliest Nero Wolfe mysteries, from 1938:

By all rights, this should have some lovely, elegant typography and minimalist artwork. Instead, we have a grimacing man about to be speared by a pitchfork (if it helps, he’s already dead. Spoiler!) and a fairly ugly font.

It doesn’t really seem fair, for one of the funniest and cleverest of the Wolfe mysteries.

But then, I revere Stout, so perhaps I’m taking up the cudgels on his behalf a little too readily.

But then, I also revere Sayers, and I’ve included this in the list:

This, like Stout, is a 1980s’ reprint of a 1930s’ novel: in this case, the 1988 edition of 1937’s Busman’s Honeymoon. They’re dreadful editions—the type of paperbacks where the glue shatters after a decade, so every time you read it subsequently there’s a constant gentle rain of yellowish fragments into your lap.

Really, it doesn’t look as bad as the preceding examples. The font is rather pretty and period appropriate, and I rather like the portrait of Wimsey, although I suspect it flatters him.

But it gives away vital information.

Sayers’s (or rather, Wimsey’s) technique comes down to this: when you know how, you know who. This cover, then, gives away the murderer, if you read it the right way. And that always irritates me. (My copy of Ngaio Marsh’s Grave Mistake does the same: it’s as though they were designed by people who went on to write programme promos for Channel 7. But then Marsh’s title is a dead giveaway, as well.)

Still on the crime theme, how about a late edition Trixie Belden? This one’s from 1984: there’s no evidence that it’s a reprint and it’s a late title in the series, so it looks as though someone deliberately marketed a new title with this cover.

I mentioned in my second post on Tunnels the widely popular belief that boys won’t read books with girl protagonists—I wonder if that’s behind the androgynous image of Trixie in the middle of the cover.

I mean, I know she’s a tomboy, but honestly. She looks like Jimmy Olsen.

She’s more feminine in the bottom picture, assuming that’s her in the bottom-left corner next to Honey Wheeler.

Still, I’ve saved the best for last. This, I suspect, is the worst cover on my entire bookshelf:

This is a reprint—undated, alas—in the Abbey Rewards series, a series of reprinted novels sharply divided on gender lines: the list of “Girls’ Fiction” on the back includes Rosamund Takes The Lead, Sidney Seeks Her Fortune, and Polly of Primrose Hill, while “Boys’ Fiction” encourages them to read Adrift in the Stratosphere, Wreckers’ Bay, and Berenger’s Toughest Case.

The book itself is an inoffensive if unoriginal school story, but the cover is nightmarish.

No—I’ve unwittingly told a lie.

What Katy Did Next (1886) is the third of Susan Coolidge’s five novels about the Carr children and their lives in New England in the 1860s.

What Katy Did Next, actually, shows Katy travelling to Europe and meeting a handsome naval lieutenant with whom she could live happily ever after.

Some time in the distant past, I bought a copy of What Katy Did Next from this Abbey Rewards series.

If I hadn’t subsequently removed it from the house on the grounds that the enormous eyes and hideously disproportionate heads scared me witless, that would certainly have been the gem of this list.

Yet Another Update That Claims Not To Be An Update

Posted 3342 days ago in by Catriona

But, honestly, I haven’t been doing anything in the last three days to warrant an update, not even the “slice of life”-style updates that I sometimes worry are overtaking the blog at the expense of the reading material.

Nick and I have discovered The Middleman television adaptation—I really must track down the comic books, which I’ve never read, but they don’t seem to be highly available, due no doubt to the forthcoming omnibus edition. The Middleman is lovely; people seem to be suggesting that the SFX are no good, but that doesn’t bother me when the dialogue is so snappy and fast paced. It reminds me a little of the live-action Tick, but slightly—only slightly—less insane.

We’ve starting watching Chuck, too, which I’d only vaguely heard of and hadn’t even considered watching until we saw the pilot episode the other day.

True, the best friend gets on my nerves a little, and there’s perhaps a few too many spy-porn moments for my liking (although that may be influenced by the fact that all the spy-porn moments involve the CIA chick rather than Adam Baldwin. But even the reverse would get old after a while), but it’s fun and breezy. The science makes no sense, of course, but I did watch a fair few seasons of Alias, so that obviously doesn’t bother me. (Also, I don’t understand science at all. Any branch. It’s like magic, as far as I’m concerned.)

(Actually, it occurs to me that I can no longer remember how many seasons of Alias I’ve watched. Surely I should be able to remember that? I only hope whatever bumped that piece of information out of my head was important. Perhaps it was instructions on how to change a spare tire. Or a reminder of when to clean the lint filter on the dryer. Something like that.)

I’m not just watching television, though. This is also the time when I need to break some sections of my thesis off into journal articles, before second semester begins in a month. The research is all fairly fresh, so it shouldn’t be as difficult a task as it could be. But I’m tossing up between two pieces: one on the methodological difficulties of preparing a bibliographical listing for an author who wrote exclusively for penny weeklies, and one on verisimilitude and textual manipulation in adaptations of penny-weekly serials for suburban theatres.

Naturally, I intend to write both of them—it’s a question of which will require the least manipulation of extant material, so that I can get back into the swing of writing as quickly as possible, and hopefully push two articles out there before teaching becomes too intense next semester.

My inclination is towards the piece on adaptations, myself.

I also want to see if I can place the bibliography of my key author (the gem of the thesis, I think) and perhaps at least one of the indexes to fiction in Victorian penny weeklies. I’d hate to see that much work go to waste but, more than that, I’d hate to think of other researchers spending a year sitting in front of a microfilm reader when I’ve already done all that work.

I know it’s called re-searching, but let’s not go nuts, here.

I don’t know if writing journal articles is a topic out of which I can make fascinating blogging, myself. I’m also not sure that my research is something I’m comfortable putting on the Internet in any detail—that’s a hurdle I haven’t crossed yet.

So if the next month is made up largely of short pieces on television advertising, that’ll be the reason why.

On the other hand, Nick and I are currently debating the value of my live-blogging the upcoming season of Doctor Who when it starts airing on the ABC, this week.

So it could be a matter of more updates than you can handle.

We’ll see.

Lessons I Have Learned From Reading Girls' School Stories

Posted 3344 days ago in by Catriona

I sometimes claim to collect girls’ school stories. But, deep down, I know “collect” is far too grand a term: it also implies some degree of discretion and selectivity. Really, I just buy whatever I come across and then read it.

But, collector or not, I do have an entire bookcase filled with girls’ school stories—only a small bookcase, but still—ranging from Sarah Fielding’s The Governess; or, Little Female Academy (1749: said, in the introduction to my 1968 Oxford reprint, to be the first full-length novel written explicitly for children and, therefore, the first girls’ school story as well) to a much more modern series in which the girls all have boyfriends from a local boys’ school (unthinkable, in the Enid Blyton model!) and in which the hockey team is rather unfortunately called the Trebizon Tramps.

(Apparently, the Trebizon books were published between 1978 and 1994, but the few volumes I have are all from the 1980s.)

One argument that could be made against girls’ school stories as a genre is that they have a tendency to be formulaic. The same argument is often levelled against detective fiction, and it can be countered in the same way: certainly, the banal ones are formulaic, but a clever author working in an established genre can do much to subvert the reader’s expectations.

But that’s not really the point. I just like reading them, much as I like reading stories about plucky girl detectives, and therefore own a scary quantity of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden novels.

And I have, over the years, culled a number of valuable life lessons from my reading of girls’ school stories, which will allow you to navigate life in a girls’ boarding school, should such a thing be necessary.

1. Midnight feasts must always include boiled eggs, sardines, biscuits, cake (preferably left over from somebody’s birthday, the celebration of which is the best reason for holding a midnight feast), boiled sweets, and tinned pineapple.

It may include bottled ginger beer, which allows a certain enjoyable hysteria to infiltrate the party through the fear that a mistress may hear the tops popping off and come to investigate. However, a midnight feast has more cachet if you manage to coax the cook into making fresh lemonade.

But a midnight feast should never, ever involve cooking sausages. This can only lead directly to disaster.

2. Midnight feasts should never be held anywhere near a swimming pool. This will also end in disaster. Plus, schoolgirls are hearty enough, without needing to hold swimming races at midnight.

3. If you develop a passionate friendship (or, more accurately, a “pash”) with another girl in the school, the object of your affections is significantly more likely than her schoolfellows to die in a freak cross-country skiing accident.

(Seriously. I wish I could remember the name of the book in which this was the main life lesson, but they all blur into each other after a few years.)

4. Mysterious men who hang around the school for no apparent reason are invariably either

a. planning to steal the school’s silver tennis trophies, in which case the school’s rebel should thwart his purpose and thus transform herself the school’s heroine, or

b. the long-lost and extremely wealthy relative of the girl who has just arrived at the school from somewhere in the Antipodes, and is busy not only shocking the school with the freedom of her colonial manners but also winning all their cricket matches through her mysterious power of “spin bowling.”

5. If an unusually tall and strong girl arrives at the school, another student will almost certainly fall over a cliff or be trapped in a burning building at some point during the coming term.

This outcome is inevitable if the unusually tall girl has a famous mountaineer for a father.

6. Unusually tall and strong girls also have problems with anger management. Why bad tempers are associated with physical strength is never explained in the books.

I suspect steroids.

7. School bullies are always motivated by jealousy of the other girls’ prettiness, because they themselves invariably have poor complexions and greasy hair. Their bullying can be stopped if you tell them firmly to stop eating chocolates and brush their hair one hundred times before bed every night.

8. If the school is divided into different houses for sporting events, one house will always be subject to the scorn of the others. This will stop when the members of the disdained house show an unusual talent for handicrafts, thus saving the school’s annual charity sale.

9. French mistresses are always either plump and cheerful or thin and cranky. In either case, they are the best subjects for practical jokes, because French mistresses are thoroughly credulous, and can be made to believe in anything from imaginary odours to self-propelled crockery.

If you have more than one French mistress, the two will usually be fierce enemies. You can use this to your advantage in practical jokes.

10. Most schools have girls who fall into the following categories: a skilled artist; a mathematical genius, who is often an excellent musician as well; a clever writer; a talented sportswoman; a practical joker; and a skilled needlewoman.

All of these will come in handy when you inevitably have to put on a pantomime in your fifth year.

If your school was founded by Enid Blyton, you stand a good chance of finding that one of your classmates used to ride bareback in a circus. She may also be of Spanish or gypsy ethnicity, and will therefore have a fiery and uncontrollable temper, even if she is not unusually tall.

11. Occasionally, a school will allow in a girl whose working-class father has made an enormous amount of money. She will not, of course, “fit into” the school, and may spend most of her time boasting about what her father can afford to buy.

If this is the case, it is in no way repellent for you to respond, “Really? Can he afford to buy himself a few hundred hs?

In fact, your classmates will ignore the egregious classism and applaud your quick wit.

Of course, the girl will almost certainly be expelled for bringing the school into disrepute—the headmistress will describe her as a “failed experiment”—so you need to make that remark early in the term.

12. If any of your classmates run away from school, there’s no need to be alarmed: they will certainly have forgotten to check on local public transport, and can easily be collected from the local train station.

13. One of your classmates will sleepwalk. This is usually a sign that they’re being pushed beyond their endurance by ambitious parents or ignored by parents who blame them for the death of a favoured sibling. These parents will be in no way affronted if you send them a letter pointing out the flaws in their parenting practices.

14. If your school has an unusual location, be aware that this is a sign that you may face certain challenges. Schoolgirls in Austria, for example, need to be prepared for everything from attending the Passion Play in Oberammergau to facing down Nazis. Schoolgirls who live in a former Cistercian abbey, on the other hand, face the threat of becoming entangled in the English folk-dancing revival.

I leave it to you to decide which is worse.

15. Finally, if your best friend is unusually beautiful and generally beloved, beware: she will almost certainly not “play the game,” and you will have to jeopardise your own place in the school to protect her from the consequences of her folly.

Still Helping the Villagers Solve Their Maths Problems

Posted 3344 days ago in by Catriona

Actually, I’ve had a good run on Professor Layton and the Curious Village this morning.

I managed to figure out how to cross from island to island while only visiting each one once—they allowed me to build a bridge, but I’m still quite proud of myself for figuring that one out.

(But last night I had to get Nick to help me figure out how many of twenty people trapped on a sinking boat I could save if it took the five-person life-raft nine minutes to make a round trip to a nearby island; it never occurred to me that it would be halfway back to the island when the ship actually sank. Of course, it also didn’t occur to me that one person would have to stay on the raft to pilot it. And, carrying on the tradition of creepy messages that began with the dead-dog puzzle, this one ended with the message “Let’s spare a thought for the two who lost their lives.” This aspect of the game is starting to freak me out.)

I also managed to figure out two of those “If you give me two years, I’ll be twice as old as you” and “My age is your age plus half my age” maths puzzles, which I’m feeling pretty smug about.

I completely failed to figure out how many coins, interspersed among a twisted rope, I would be allowed to keep when the rope was pulled taut, if I were only allowed to keep the ones above the rope. I did try and follow the pattern of the rope, but it was so twisty I became thoroughly confused as to which was top and which was bottom.

But I did manage to complete an eight-piece sliding puzzle to make an apple with a worm in the middle. Of course, according to the ticker at the top, it took me something like six hundred moves.

But it was the mouse puzzle that made me realise that I’m not cut out intellectually for these sorts of puzzles.

The mouse puzzle pointed out that mice reproduce at twelve babies every month, and baby mice can reproduce once they are a month old. So, the puzzle asked, if you buy a mouse the day after it’s born and bring it home, how many mice will you have after a year?

I didn’t try any complicated multiplication, you’ll be happy to hear. I figured there wasn’t any point, since I was never going to work out the correct answer, and it occurred to me that knowing the genders of any subsequent babies would be necessary for correct calculations.

Then I had what I thought was a brainwave.

What, I thought to myself, if my mouse is a boy? Then I won’t have any baby mice at all! And I’ll only have one mouse at the end of the year.

(The mouse clearly wasn’t a boy. In keeping with strict gender roles, it had a pink bow on its head, the poor thing.)

The answer was one, of course.

But I could have saved myself a lot of effort had it only occurred to me that mice—whether male or female—can’t actually reproduce asexually.

Maths is Not Exactly My Strongpoint

Posted 3345 days ago in by Catriona

In fact, I can’t say that I’ve never passed a maths exam, but it was certainly a rarity. Whenever I have to do any kind of counting, or adding, or figuring out percentages as part of a tutorial, I make sure that I tell my students that I am a walking example of the benefits and disadvantages of specialisation.

That way they’re prepared for the fact that I rarely get the same answer twice when I have to do a maths problem on the fly.

That’s why trying to play Professor Layton and the Curious Village has given me a splitting headache.

In fact, my general attitude towards the game right now can best be summed up, as usual, by this Penny Arcade comic.

I’ve been wanting to play this game for a while, on the grounds that it looked like my sort of thing: no button-mashing combat, no time restrictions, no chance of your avatar suddenly dying and you having to start the game all over again even though you’ve already forgotten which direction to go in.

Instead, Professor Layton is an archaeologist and puzzle expert (nice specialisation, if you can manage it) who ends up in the village of St Mystere after its late squire leaves a mysterious will. Mysteries are, oddly enough, the focus of life in St Mystere, and you can’t do anything—and I mean anything, not even opening most doors or getting instructions—without first being asked to solve a puzzle.

And that’s fine. I’m not great at puzzles, but many of them revolve around lateral thinking, and I’ve made enough futile attempts to complete cryptic crosswords in my life to make a stab at most of them.

So I managed to ferry three wolves and three chickens across a river, two at a time, without allowing the wolves to eat the chickens. (Well, to be honest, without allowing them to eat the chickens too many times. A subtle distinction.)

I managed to spell the word “Food” in matchsticks. (It really was more complicated than it sounds. The puzzle didn’t just say “Take these matchsticks and spell the word “Food.”)

I managed to turn four cubes into three cubes by only moving one matchstick.

I managed to separate seven bloodthirsty prize pigs by partitioning them off using only three ropes. (I failed that one the first time, and had to try again. “Have you ever seen a pig fight?” the game asked me. So, no pressure, then.)

I even managed to solve yet another matchstick puzzle in which I had to move two sticks to turn a picture of a dog into a picture of the same dog after it had been run over by a car. I had to read the instructions twice before I could be sure that that was really what they were asking me, but I finished the puzzle. (Horribly, when you get the puzzle wrong, you get the following message: “Remember the dog has been hit by a car. It’s very sad, but try and think of what the dog will look like after the car has hit it.”)

But what I hadn’t taken into account was the sheer number of mathematical puzzles.

For example, I came across one puzzle that ran along these lines, more or less:

Rodney and Alan have been hired to sow seeds on a 10-acre farm. They divide the farm, and each plow half the land. Alan can plow twice as fast as Rodney but Rodney can sow seeds three times as fast as Alan.

There was more, but I didn’t read on.

There’s something about that kind of puzzle that terrifies me. It can only be, I suppose, the memory of dozens of hours in exams, wondering whether it was worth simply guessing the answer, only I couldn’t, because I had to show how I arrived at the solution, and I didn’t have the faintest idea how to go about it.

I admire people who have good, all-round intellects. I don’t and I never have had.

I’m happy to play around with rearranging matchsticks and trying to spot the logical traps in puzzle questions.

But if the people of St Mystere don’t lighten up on making me solve their maths problems, they might discover that Professor Layton, archaeologist and puzzle expert, also has an unsuspected homicidal streak.

It Wouldn't Be Winter (Or Nearly Winter)

Posted 3345 days ago in by Catriona

If I didn’t drink so much coffee that I can only prevent myself from bouncing off the walls through sheer effort of will, and then upload a picture of my feet onto the Internet while listening to a Nine Inch Nails cover of a Joy Division song.

At least, that is the ritual by which I shall be celebrating the advent of winter from now on.

Advertising Never Lets Me Down

Posted 3345 days ago in by Catriona

I saw an advertisement for the new Mazda 6 earlier tonight and, while I have next to no interest in car advertisements, something struck me as a little odd.

Then, when I saw it again a moment ago, I realised what it was: they were quoting a magazine review that apparently read “Most cars have a fatal flaw, but not this one.”

A fatal flaw?

Most cars have a fatal flaw?

I know mine gets a little tetchy with me if I leave the air conditioning running for too long, but the situation’s never proven fatal.

The only way this would reassure me if they meant fatal flaw as it’s used to describe Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.

It’s a noble ambition in a car manufacturer, to work so hard to remove the hubris, jealousy, and ambition from their vehicles.

Yet Another Semester Draws to a Close

Posted 3346 days ago in by Catriona

The marking is done for another semester. Of course, I haven’t actually formalised the grades—that’s a task for tomorrow morning—but that’s something that can at least be done with a bit of music in the background.

But since I’ve finished the actual marking/adding/double-checking the adding/wondering why I’m incapable of adding things/being surprised that the addition was correct in the first place—you know, the usual process—I think a celebration is called for.

Am I going to celebrate by updating my blog?

No.

No, I’m not.

I’m going to lie down in the living room with an enormous glass of wine and a novel.

And maybe some chili, lime, and tamarind almonds.

Cheers!

Dexter

Posted 3346 days ago in by Catriona

So Dexter is coming to Channel 10. Dexter Uncut, according to the ad. we just saw.

(Just saw, that is, while we’re still desperately waiting for Rove to finish so we can watch Supernatural. Don’t get me wrong; there’s something charming about Rove as a person, but I have absolutely no interest in his programme. Plus, the ad. for Supernatural promised me an answer to an important question: will Dean kill someone to save his own life? My feeling is that the answer lies somewhere between “Yes” and “You just completely made that dilemma up for the purposes of advertising, didn’t you, Channel 10? I really wish you’d stop doing that.” But I still want to know the answer.)

Where was I?

Oh, right. Dexter.

We’ve already seen the first two seasons of Dexter—and loved it. It’s not easy to watch, and I wonder how it will do on Channel 10.

But what interested me in the Channel 10 ad. was the way they positioned Dexter as asking a series of questions: “Killer? Cop? Good? Evil?”

I turned to Nick and said, “Well, he’s not a cop.”

Personal Blogging; or, Why I Don't, Really

Posted 3347 days ago in by Catriona

I haven’t finished marking, but I have finished for the day, and I’ve missed my blog. I’ve been thinking more the last couple of days about the actual process of writing that this blog entails; it has been my most intensive writing outlet since I submitted the thesis, and since I make my living by both writing and teaching writing, I feel it’s only sensible to think about my writing as well.

The best way to think about my writing is to write about my writing.

Plus, I read an article today that made me think a little about what I do on this blog.

I came across this article on personal blogging today, written by Emily Gould for The New York Times Magazine. I knew nothing about Emily Gould except that she was the former co-editor of Gawker (which I don’t read, although I do obsessively read one of Gawker Media’s publications, Defamer) and I now know she has her own Wikipedia page, although it’s largely concerned with the media backlash against Gawker’s Stalker Map.

I came across the piece, as is the way of the Internet, through a series of links. I found it linked to on the blog 2amSomewhere, which I don’t read regularly. But I have nipped on to it occasionally, because its author is a regular commenter on a blog I do read with some degree of regularity, Drunken Housewife. (To make the process more complicated, I came across Drunken Housewife originally via the forums at Etiquette Hell, where I’d been innocently lurking, hoping that the stories on the main page would soon be updated.)

But the process is actually a telling one, because the sites in question are all intensely personal in nature. Etiquette Hell is sometimes embarrassingly personal; any site with a strong focus on etiquette sometimes raises issues that I feel I shouldn’t be made aware of—at least not where they concern complete strangers. Drunken Housewife does have a strong slant towards reading and politics, but focuses heavily on day-to-day life.

And 2amSomewhere—as I rapidly became aware, reading the specific post in which the author linked to the Gould article—is an anonymous personal blog. That’s not a form with which I’m familiar, since I chose not to blog anonymously myself. It seems that writing anonymously about deeply personal experiences might be an extraordinarily liberating experience—but it’s not one that I could see myself either seeking or enjoying.

Of course, I’m not always terribly discreet in the flesh, either, especially after a couple of drinks, so it’s questionable whether there’d be much personal information that I haven’t already brought up at parties. That might make the blog a bit dull.

But there’s also the question of creating and fiercely protecting anonymity.

That’s also not something that attracts me. It must be inordinately time consuming; the author of 2amSomewhere notes in that entry that even his wife is unaware of his blog. But I rather like being read by people who know me. There’s nothing horrific, or painful, or unpleasant, or heartbreaking in my life, nothing that would prompt me to treat this blog as though it were a therapist’s couch or a confessional.

One disadvantage—though not one that has a great deal of weight with me—does arise from my not blogging anonymously, and that’s my refusal to talk specifically about my teaching on here. I give an enormous amount of my time and energy to my teaching, and I love it—nothing but the writing process (when it’s going well) is capable of giving me the euphoric feeling that a really good tutorial or lecture creates. It seems somehow unnatural to omit from this blog something that is so central to my professional and personal lives. But I consciously chose not to mention my teaching in any but the most oblique terms on here, and I don’t regret that decision.

But I do have to acknowledge that this is a personal blog. I didn’t start it with that intention, and I don’t, even now, think of it as a personal blog.

In fact, if I were to count the entries in each category, I would hope that the personal entries would be outweighed by the pieces on reading and writing.

But, let’s face it: Nick is the starring character on this blog, and that makes it personal. It’s only one aspect of the blog, but it’s there.

And that’s because Nick is hilarious: everyone knows this, but not everyone gets to spend as much time with him as I do. So broadcasting the “Strange Conversations” on the blog is a public service, really.

But, long before I came across Gould’s article or started thinking about just how personal some personal blogs are, I’d realised that I couldn’t just assume that my everyday life with Nick was there to be mined for material.

I couldn’t assume that I had that level of control over the blog.

Now, the blog is mine—that’s irrefutable. I’m the only person who posts here and, after an early incident in which Nick (as the site’s designer) moderated one of his own comments, I’m also the only person who moderates the site (except when I was live-blogging Eurovision). The latter role, though, is not entirely or even primarily about control: I just thoroughly enjoy checking to see if people have commented on the blog, and I feel a bit cheated if I can’t moderate the comments. (There’s not a great deal of power in the role, anyway, since I’ve never deleted a comment from the blog in the four months I’ve been keeping it, except by request.)

But when it comes to content, I know that I can’t just assume myself free to blog something if it involves Nick. And, while he’s normally more than happy to make regular appearances on here, he has vetoed—on rare occasions—my blogging certain conversations, mostly because he feels they make him look too silly.

And that’s fine. It gives the blog a co-operative feeling that I rather enjoy. It ensures that Nick and I should never find ourselves embroiled in the kind of argument that Gould describes on the first page of her article. And it means that the blog never becomes a threat.

I do sometimes say, as in this conversation about the remote control, “Right, I’m putting that on the blog!”

But it’s not a threat if Nick knows both that he has the power of veto over his role on the blog and that I’ll respect his decision to veto something.

I may make that something the subject of an anecdote at a party, but that’s not really the same thing.

At least not if he’s not in earshot.

No Updates Today

Posted 3349 days ago in by Catriona

No real updates, anyway.

I’ve been sitting in this chair marking exams for seven hours, and I can’t feel anything below my ribcage. Or, for that matter, from my right shoulder down.

It would probably be a matter for Occupational Health and Safety, if I weren’t working at home.

And I don’t think I’m even halfway through the exams.

So, much as I would like to write another ranty post about inappropriate gender politics in television advertising and in 1970s’ reprints of Victorian novels, that’s going to have to wait.

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