Before my last year's trip to London, I somehow failed to check the theater schedule, and on a bus tour I had an incredible sinking feeling when I spoBefore my last year's trip to London, I somehow failed to check the theater schedule, and on a bus tour I had an incredible sinking feeling when I spotted the theater with The Elephant Man sign. That feeling worsened when after the tour I checked the show dates at a ticket booth and noticed the play had closed just on the previous day. The most interesting story in the whole world, one that I've been obsessed about for years, and just a few months before I was disappointed I couldn't see Pomerance's play on Broadway, where it got rave reviews. As an effort to console myself and because the next best thing is to read the play, I loaned it from archive.org.
"[T]he most disgusting specimen of humanity". "[A] perverted object". These are the words Frederick Treves used to describe Joseph Merrick (sometimes mistakenly named as John), one of the most famous figures of the Victorian era, in The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences (1923). Showing symptoms at a young age, Merrick ended up severely deformed, and had to sleep sitting up to make sure he wouldn't die because of the weight of his head. His deformities also prevented him from working in regular jobs, and after a few years in the workhouse he decided to try his luck in a travelling sideshow. It was when he ended up in London on display at a Whitechapel shop that he first met Frederick Treves. After an unsuccessful stint in Brussels, Merrick returned to London and was eventually allowed to stay at the London Hospital for the remainder of his life.
Fiction about real people is in many ways problematic. As in David Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980) (whose production company ended up being sued because of the similar plot to Pomerance's play), Pomerance's The Elephant Man shows Merrick as the victim of patronizing Treves, and as the center of attention of his high society acquaintances who lavish him with gifts, but don't seem to be interested in him as a person. They all see something of themselves in Merrick, making him a blank canvas where others can project their fears and desires.
It's troubling, because victimizing Merrick more than is necessary turns him into a mere object of pity. It might make it easier to explore the themes associated with his life story, but it's a questionable strategy. In Pomerance's retelling, Merrick is physically abused in Brussels, although despite his reluctance of speaking about his years in the freak show, there's no reason to presume there was any misconduct. According to the newest research, Treves embellished some aspects in his memoir (he didn't realize the freak show was Merrick's way of earning a living), but unless evidence to the contrary is found, I'd rather see Merrick being remembered as a sensitive theatre-loving young man, who spent time reading books and constructing models of buildings. He did have difficulties, but he tried his best to survive.
If one tries to forget the discrepancies and unfortunate interpretations of Merrick's character, Pomerance's play is absolutely an interesting piece of fringe theatre. With only 21 short scenes (including a striking dream sequence), it offers a different perspective to Merrick's story. He was under good care until his untimely death at the age of 27, but Pomerance challenges to think about the notion of being on display. How many donators and high society members actually cared about Merrick as a human being instead of as a charity case? Was Treves a real friend, or just someone who considered him as an interesting medical anomaly, and who tried to change him into something more normal?
TREVES: Have we nothing to say, John? MERRICK: If all that'd stared at me'd been sacked - there'd be whole towns out of work. TREVES: I meant, "Thank you, sir." MERRICK: "Thank you, sir." TREVES: We always do say please and thank you, don't we? MERRICK: Yes, sir. Thank you. TREVES: If we want to properly be like others.
I'll write more when I finish the entire series, but so far the gist is this: despite the entirely drool-worthy art the story hasn't yet grabbed me asI'll write more when I finish the entire series, but so far the gist is this: despite the entirely drool-worthy art the story hasn't yet grabbed me as much as I had hoped. I'm loving the mixture of noir and occultism, though, so maybe it just takes time to get the ball properly rolling....more
Horror doesn't necessarily always have to have that same old dark and menacing milieu. It's refreshing to see when someone explores the genre from anoHorror doesn't necessarily always have to have that same old dark and menacing milieu. It's refreshing to see when someone explores the genre from another angle, and Harrow County has the kind of artwork that elevates the story to another level.
The use of watercolors accentuates the linework in all the right places and makes for moody and eerie - but also simultaneously kind of ethereal and beautiful - visuals. The gloomy color tones are amazing, creating interesting textures. The landscapes are like paintings and the people are drawn in this very simplistic style, almost in the style of some children's books. All the fire stuff, like the flaming haints at the cemetery, glows brightly on the pages looking exactly what they are, like from another world of nightmares and hell fire. All this matches the horror elements, because the contrast is interesting and definitely unexpected.
In a way, a simple and traditional story like this needs that extra something to feel like worth the time, because witches and curses have been explored so many times that it's difficult to see what new the topic might offer. However, Harrow County isn't necessarily what it seems to be at first glance, especially regarding the decision of Emmy when she finds out how she's connected to the past events. The plot just never seems to take the usual turns and avoids enough clichés to keep the story flowing in an engaging way.
There's a boy's skin that speaks, a spooky tree, an ancient creature living in the woods, idiotic townsfolk, and lots and lots of whimsical, dark, and dreamlike atmosphere, but in a more subtle package than you'd expect. Despite the highly traditional approach, Harrow County still feels fresh. A good ol' Southern Gothic creepy tale to read by the fire on an Autumn evening....more
Ok, first: the last issue's article about Cary Grant's love affair with acid is fucking hilarious. Good Housekeeping let him describe his experiences?Ok, first: the last issue's article about Cary Grant's love affair with acid is fucking hilarious. Good Housekeeping let him describe his experiences? Unreal. I definitely won't be telling my mom about Grant taking a dump on his doctor's floor, that'll crush her dreams.
The Fade Out. The ending gave me shivers. It's perfect, because in the tradition of the best film noirs, it's not hopeful and doesn't wrap everything into a tidy little bow. It leaves you unsure of what will happen next, yet sure that whatever will occur, it won't be anything nice. The lingering doom is upon every character, and some it reaches far quicker than others.
The art deserves yet another mention, because the colors and linework are just amazing. The lights of L.A., whether natural or electricity, either pop from the background or loom ominously through a window into a dark and musty room.
The movie industry is full of tragic fates, and I feel sad that there's plenty of material where you can take inspiration from. I wonder what secrets have never come to light? When you know something about what went on behind the scenes, watching even the most sweet and saccharine black and white movie from the golden age of Hollywood makes you a bit of melancholic....more
I was wandering in the library today, looking for something to relax with before going to class, and I was drawn to the comic book shelf, since thereI was wandering in the library today, looking for something to relax with before going to class, and I was drawn to the comic book shelf, since there was a lot of interesting stuff that was possible to finish in two hours. I didn't read the blurb of The Wolf Man, so I thought this would be about the psychological condition where a person believes himself to be a werewolf. Turns out the story was far less interesting than that.
As the most prominent patient of Sigmund Freud, Sergei Pankejeff was used (anonymously) to prove the validity of psychoanalysis, so obviously psychology needs to be an interest at some level at least before attempting to read this, because beyond that the story has very little to offer. There are diversions to historical events and Pankejeff's family, but it didn't help that I don't hold Freud's theories in very high regard. Not only he decided that there should be a predetermined limited time period for Pankejeff's treatment, but he also made absolutely outrageously far-fetched conclusions based on dreams and childhood events (some of them, surprise surprise, supposedly never happened), and wrote that Pankejeff's illness was a fixation (seems to imply that his psychological problems were just a matter of the will).
Pankejeff himself admitted later that he doesn't believe to have been cured, and resented being the poster boy for psychoanalysis. The final frames of the comic represent that: it seems there has never been relief, and the darkness has remained in one form or another. In a way the ending is impressive in its understatedness, but everything before that is just psychology jargon with very little substantial content. The artwork, however, is strangely appealing. It consists mostly of simple sketches, but it's at its best when it has been broken into shadows, symbols, and vague forms. Even the broken mind can be beautiful.
"Rage is a child's form of seduction, provoking punishment to satisfy a sexual desire". Ugh....more
On top of everything else, I'm participating in a saga course at uni, where we read four sagas during the two months and discuss generally about IcelaOn top of everything else, I'm participating in a saga course at uni, where we read four sagas during the two months and discuss generally about Icelandic sagas and their features. This type of introduction is priceless, because it helps to understand how and why sagas are an integral part of Iceland and its history (even today they influence Icelandic authors, and twenty years ago The Book of Icelanders was read as fact in elementary schools).
I somewhat grew to like the simplicity. William Morris's translation is still terse, but also flows beautifully, and the archaic expressions add texture to the language. The form does take time to get used to, but the context and purpose of the sagas explain the presence of family trees, whose presence might seem pointless at first. It's debatable as to how much of the historical aspect of the sagas is true, but they were originally intended as records of history as much as stories about the exploits of certain Icelanders (saga genres vary from family, kings', romances, bishops' etc.). The family lists in Gunnlaug places it in the family saga department, but I don't think it's necessary to remember all the characters, as some of them are there for other than storytelling purposes.
After all, when everything else except the basic storyline is stripped away, what's left is an entertaining and tragic story of Gunnlaug's efforts to be a better man and win Helga as his wife. People throughout the ages have had similar worries and desires, so when Gunnlaug's proposal is rejected by Helga's father, because Gunnlaug is too restless and about to go abroad, some of us can recognize the father's need to want only what's best for his daughter. Gunnlaug therefore departs, and I assume he's welcomed as Helga's fiancé only when he has gained experience and capital.
Echoing Greek tragedies, there's foreshadowing, and the idea of fate eventually catching up on you is carried throughout the story. Foreshadowing can be off-putting sometimes, but in this case it was interesting to see how the events unfolded into the inevitable tragic outcome. Dreams reveal the life of your son, the suffering your loved ones will endure, and no matter how hard you try to escape them, you will be caught by the superior forces that inhabit your enemies.
The saga of Gunnlaug still focuses surprisingly little on what the various family members mentioned did, but I expect some of them will be explained in other sagas. The historical context is only brushed lightly upon by explaining with a few sentences what's going on in the countries where Gunnlaug's travelling. King Ethelred seems to have no problems with Icelanders, but warns Gunnlaug of a Norwegian viking who lends some money from Gunnlaug. Really though, how stupid are you that you just decide to lend money to a complete stranger, because he does after all promise to pay it back! Christ...
Speaking of Christ, the writer of the saga seems to have a problem with pagan traditions: "Next to this befell those tidings, the best that ever have befallen here in Iceland, that the whole land became Christian, and that all folk cast off the old faith". Perhaps not surprising, but the era of Christianizing the Nordic countries is fascinating. Obviously I disagree with the author, but at least his own misgivings and attitudes towards "heathens" don't interrupt the story too much. When in doubt, just wield your axe and all your problems are solved (or not.)
The characters are mostly described in black and white terms, but Gunnlaug's perfection does suffer a small dent when you start to think about the purpose of his journey. Who cares if you forget your promises made at home and wander around in kings' houses and enjoy their hospitality for way longer than you were supposed to, even though poetry is clearly not appreciated anymore? Maybe there's a diplomatic aspect I don't understand, but Gunnlaug adds a sense of ambiguity to the saga's characterizations.
Overall, the fairy-tale like repetition and redundancy won't stop me from reading more sagas. This one at least had a quality of magic and adventure, and something about the pagan era fascinates me to no end. In this case, simplicity leaves more room for imagination....more
Anyone who browses my GR shelves won't fail to notice my love of classic cinema. The 250 Quintessential Noir Films -list in iCheckMovies is currentlyAnyone who browses my GR shelves won't fail to notice my love of classic cinema. The 250 Quintessential Noir Films -list in iCheckMovies is currently my life blood, so obviously I shrieked from joy when a blogger I follow recommended a film noir-inspired comic (she was actually used as a model for one of the characters, which is pretty neat). When the protagonist wakes up in a bath tub after a hard night of partying and finds a dead starlet in the living room, there's no doubt that you're in for a fun ride.
It was immediately clear that the authors have captured the genre's tone with incredible precision. A research assistant helped in maintaining the authenticity of 1940s L.A. with its twinkling lights, orange sunsets, and seedy back alleys, but reading the afterwords of each issue there's no doubt that the authors' enthusiasm for classic films and listening to 40s music while working helped a great deal as well.
Reading the comic is like following a movie: the voice-over à la Sunset Boulevard (1950), the rhythm of the text, and dialogue make up a very addicting mixture. When you combine all that with excellent art that plays with light and shadows like the best film noirs do, you get perfection. The art also has varying styles: some scenes depict vague memories as hazy forms surrounded by cigarette smoke, and some have the protagonist juxtaposed with a b&w background. These lend the story a sense of mystery and ambiguity, especially since the story appears to have a lot of subtlety. Because of that this will definitely handle multiple reads in the future.
On the other hand, the characters are believable in their noir surroundings. There are the usual archetypes of noir and hard-boiled fiction, but they don't feel at all clichéd or worn out. They might have been if the protanogist had been a private detective, but because he's a screenwriter the story immediately has more appeal. Some of the peripheral characters remind you of real people: the German expatriate director, the Montgomery Clift -look-a-like Tyler Graves etc. Even a few very real people make an appearance: Clark Gable's entrance came hilariously out of nowhere, Humphrey Bogart seems to pop up everywhere you go, and Bette Davis is mentioned as almost stabbing a creep with a nail file (makes total sense).
The articles at the end of each issue are also worth the read, despite that some of the topics have been dealt with millions of times before: Peg Entwistle, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Lana Turner vs. Johnny Stompanato, Jean Spangler, James Stewart, and Our Gang are all sharp peeks to the world of Tinseltown. For once I read the reader letters as well. Lots of great film and tv recommendations, and all coming from people who are passionate about old films....more
Just as fun as the first one, although for some reason it took me a while to get into the story, so I let the book rest a few days. The further I readJust as fun as the first one, although for some reason it took me a while to get into the story, so I let the book rest a few days. The further I read, the more addictive it became.
I loved the snarky exchange of words between (view spoiler)[Amelia and Emerson (hide spoiler)], and I was happy to see that their personalities hadn't changed one bit, but that they could still spar with each other despite the situation changing. People like them can seem a bit hard, though, but there were moments where their hard exteriors melted and they seemed more human. Not that they didn't seem human before, but now there were more faults visible as well, like with real human beings. It was pretty obvious, too, that Amelia wouldn't settle into tea parties. The way she appears next to the ridiculous Lady Baskerville, who's constantly fainting out of shock like your typical romance heroine, would make anyone want to escape with Amelia to the dusty digs.
The characters were more interesting this time around, especially the insane Madame Berengeria, who loved her bottle a bit too much and dressed like ancient Egyptians. Bigger bunch of people also meant there were more choices for the murderer, and although the identity wasn't a complete shock, I wasn't disappointed either. Peters handled the twists and turns with style.
There's a cat, too!
Ok, that was a bit random, but Bastet deserves a mention.
All in all, I liked the sense of adventure. I can't give four stars, because I still feel there's something missing, but for certain situations these are perfect light mysteries, and I'd love to know where Amelia ends up next.
"Bucolic peace is not my ambience, and the giving of tea parties is by no means my favorite amusement. In fact, I would prefer to be pursued across the desert by a band of savage Dervishes brandishing spears and howling for my blood. I would rather be chased up a tree by a mad dog, or face a mummy risen from its grave. I would rather be threatened by knives, pistols, poisonous snakes, and the curse of a long-dead king."...more
"A young man in one’s hotel bedroom is capable of being explained, but a corpse is always a hindrance."
Is there a better way to return to reading and"A young man in one’s hotel bedroom is capable of being explained, but a corpse is always a hindrance."
Is there a better way to return to reading and reviewing than write about a light, bubbly, vibrant, and sparkly mystery? When my studies calmed down a bit and my brain began to miss fiction, I started a ridiculously long classic, but then I noticed a book whose blurb made my heart beat a little bit faster. A detective story that is set in the roaring twenties and whose main character is a bold and unconstrained female private detective, can't be bad. Am I right?
My expectations turned out to be reasonable. Phryne is the soul of the book. Whenever you start a new series, you want to make sure that you like the main character who carries the weight of the story, so that you're interested enough to continue with the series. Phryne Fisher carries herself with style and enjoys the luxuries of life, but isn't arrogant or afraid to get her hands dirty in seedy back alleys. This unabashed and clever adventuress, who enjoys cigarettes and - quelle horreur! - sex, exists in an entirely different sphere than the rest of the characters. Especially the squeaky clean maid Dorothy seems puny next to her mistress, even though she does find courage in the end when things become dangerous.
On the other hand, the plot itself didn't have the spark I was hoping for. One important identity was easy to guess about halfway through, because Greenwood's hint is pretty heavyhanded. Not knowing Melbourne, I also couldn't pinpoint the events to Australia, because it seemed like any metropolitan city would have been the location, which of course is a shame since Australia is an interesting country. The endless descriptions of Phryne's dresses just radiated iffy chick lit vibes.
Although the fluffiness wasn't entirely my thing and occasionally style moved ahead of substance, I believe I could continue with the series if I ever need something that wouldn't require any brain activity. Based on this first installment the series might potentionally be addictive, and because of that extra that the 20s brings to the plate, things could be worse. Greenwood's writing style has the kind of perkiness and sharpness which in the end makes reading fun, and that's what you want from a cozy mystery. If, however, I don't feel like reading the whole series, there's the tv show that I'm going to check out at some point. Maybe I'll make those cucumber sandwiches and cocktails as seen on Phryne's website to get in the mood....more
A few days ago I was about to go to the summer cottage without electronic devices, and because I didn't feel like reading anything from the pile I alrA few days ago I was about to go to the summer cottage without electronic devices, and because I didn't feel like reading anything from the pile I already had, I went to the library to see if there were more Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody adventures. Apparently, the library hasn't acquired them in order (the horror!), so I have to buy the next one if I'm planning on reading it. Then I saw something interesting next to the other Peters's novels: crime novels where a monk is doing the investigating. A monk! This has to be good, I thought, and something totally different than the tediousness that is The Name of the Rose (1980).
I was laying on the pier and eating strawberries, when the skeleton was found from the field. From there on I was instantly hooked. I couldn't have been more wrong in my guesses for the culprit, although the ending made complete sense, and was even a bit medieval in a way. Although I prefer only the final revelation instead of the characters constantly repeating the evidence gathered so far and who could be guilty, I still enjoyed following Cadfael in his efforts to find who did it.
Things were also made more interesting by Cadfael being stuck in the monastery, since he had to ask permission for errands not related to his vocation, and because of that he had Hugh the sheriff to help him in the outside world. Not that Cadfael is a master detective. He and Hugh seemed pretty equal in their brain activity, although Cadfael is naturally the one who solves the case.
Not only that the mystery is rewarding, but Peters is also a wonderful writer in general. She depicts the environment and the monastic life vividly and beautifully, and weaves thoughts about life and religion into the narrative (of which the contrast between secular and monastic life was the most interesting). Her monks are imperfect and people's behavior in general is plausible and suitable for the time period.
My brain has a minor glitch what comes to the history of the Middle Ages, so the parts where Peters explains a little about the historical background went completely over my head. I have no idea who the king was, I can't remember who were fighting and why etc. That's just a small thing, however, because they're not important in understanding the plot. Although it should be noted that Peters never went to college but was self-taught, which is incredibly impressive.
The series is suitable for reading out of order, which is always a plus for me. I will store Peters in my mind for those days when I don't feel like reading anything particularly challenging, but still something a bit more serious....more
No niin, tässä on taas käytetty runsaasti infodumppauksia. Aikakausi on kieltämättä mielenkiintoinen, mutta odotan historialliselta fiktiolta ajankuvaNo niin, tässä on taas käytetty runsaasti infodumppauksia. Aikakausi on kieltämättä mielenkiintoinen, mutta odotan historialliselta fiktiolta ajankuvan luontevaa punoutumista itse juoneen. Nyt nuo erilliset tietoiskut kalskahtivat välillä museoesitemäisiltä. Ei esitteissä mitään vikaa ole, mutta fiktiossa tuollainen on lähinnä vaivaannuttavaa. Varsinkin kun tajuaa että jos ne siivoaisi pois, se ei mitenkään vaikuttaisi tarinan kulkuun. Toisaalta, itse mysteerin ratkominenkin oli hieman kuivaa, joten suuren tutkimustyön hyödyntäminen ei ollut se ainoa ongelma, puhumattakaan siitä ettei Heinon kirjoitustyyli oikein iskenyt....more
Osasin odottaa aiempien arvioiden perusteella Rougen ja Korpelan suhteen painottamista rikostutkimusten sijaan, joten siinä mielessä ei tullut mitäänOsasin odottaa aiempien arvioiden perusteella Rougen ja Korpelan suhteen painottamista rikostutkimusten sijaan, joten siinä mielessä ei tullut mitään yllätyksiä. Dekkariksi tämä oli silti omaan makuuni vähän liian kevyt. Ajankuva vaikutti myös aika päälleliimatun hätäiseltä: kadunnimiluettelot sekä aikakaudelle tyypillisten asioiden ja esineiden maininnat eivät syventäneet tarinaa luontevasti, vaan pysyivät irrallisina heittoina juonenkuljetuksen ja dialogin seassa. Hatunnosto kuitenkin mielenkiintoisesta aihevalinnasta (moneen kertaan nähdyistä kliseistä huolimatta). 1920-luku salakapakoineen ja viinatrokareineen on ikuinen mielenkiinnonaiheeni, ja Suomeen sijoitettuna romaanissa on salaperäistä uutuudenviehätystä, joka varmaankin saa vilkaisemaan vielä sarjan toistakin osaa....more