29 August 2012

The Moonstone Part 4 - Cry Because It's Over!


I dunno how Alice decided to break up the readings for this thing, but way to go on that one, lady.

H'okay, so. When last we met - which for me was not very long ago so I won't blame you if you missed my Part 3 post - Franklin had walked out of a fight with Rachel and said he "saw her and heard her no more," and we were all, OMG NOOOOOO!!! Because Godfrey turned out to be a money-grubbing douchenozzle and Rachel deserves someone nice even if she's not Marian.

So Ezra Jennings* comes back into the story with his piebald hair (?!?) and Mysterious Past and turns out to be quite a decent fellow, thankyouverymuch. Admit it - you suspected he somehow was behind all this for a hot second. Those piebald gipsy people are not to be trusted! But mostly because they try to save people from fevers by dosing them with brandy, quinine, and ammonia. How did we ever survive as a species before modern medicine, I ask you? And he has anecdotal evidence that Franklin's actions on Rachel's birthday night are due to opium because, you see, HE takes opium (it's totally medicinal!) so he would know. And he's writing a thingy on how the brain works, which must have sounded like  Fuck yea, SCIENCE!!! to the Victorians but at which I must admit I sniggered quite a lot.

But because this is fiction, they are able to recreate the moment and Franklin does indeed steal a bauble from the dresser and Rachel watches because she'll do anything - anything! - to clear his name, but after re-creating the scene up to the taking of the diamond, Franklin falls asleep on the couch.

So much for THAT theory. It is worth pointing out here that Betteredge has decided he dislikes Ezra Jennings - who has refused to accept the sovereignty of Robinson Crusoe - and so pesters him hilariously throughout. Oh, Betteredge.; I suspect that you and Miss Clack would have had great fun trading quotations from your respective holy books at one another, had you ever met.

But wait! All is not lost! The diamond is still in the bank - and once again the Victorians get the drop on us because we don't really understand pawning things to banks in this day-and-age or how that works, and Wilkie is of very little help explaining this so it must have been one of those Things that Everyone Understands kind of like parliamentary procedure or Bubble Tape gum. Sgt. Cuff has come back from his roses and written the name of the guy he now thinks did the deed on an envelope and given it to Franklin, who isn't supposed to open it until Franklin figures it out himself. Way to be a dick, Cuff.

So they go to the bank and watch the handoff of the diamond but everyone sees something different and they end up in the room of an inn where there is a dark-complected sailor dead in the bed and when his true identity was revealed this is what I said:

And then he turned out to be even MORE of a dickbag than we previously thought - what with the trying to marry people for their money and whatnot - because he was keeping a woman out in the country and giving her jewels and a house all in her name with the money from some kid's trust fund.

So, it was Godfrey all along, and he'd have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those damn kids Indians! Which in retrospect, I could have picked up on had I not been so excited by the myriad possibilities that Wilkie put before me; it became clearer that Godfrey needed money once he and Rachel broke up. BUT that is the mark of a great writer! Hiding things in plain sight! Distraction and obfuscation! Lady Verinder and Betteredge foreverrrrrr!

Damn, that was a good book. Wilkie Collins, I bow to you.

This book gets 11 of 11 Moonstones**

*NOT the ugliest name in all history. Oh Wilkie, have you forgotten SIR PERCIVAL GLYDE?!?
**Not actual moonstones. And no, that joke doesn't get old.

28 August 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

This post is brought to you by the Book Blog World's fabulous

from the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Bookish Confessions:
Everyone has at least one bookish confession (and in my case I have six). Join us in spilling our deepest held secrets around one of our most beloved pastimes. Everyone has a bookish confession. What's yours? If you have one feel free to share it, if not feel free to commiserate with ours -Julia

I dunno if this will go to ten, but usually once I've started to plumb my psyche for dark secrets, it's difficult to stop.

1.  I have broken up with (or refused to date) people because they don't read books. I don't mean "books I like;" I mean that they are self-described "non-readers," a word that sounds like Swahili or some other 100% incomprehensible-to-me language when it comes out of someone's mouth.


Now, in my defense, the guy I refused to date because he doesn't read also loves camping, hiking, snow sports, guns, and martial arts; which is basically a list of Tika-Repellent. Too bad - he was hot, but I like to have something to talk about between shenanigans.

2. I used to dog-ear the pages of library books. I KNOW.

3.  I have, on occasion, professed to have read a book that I either have not actually read (but usually own), have only read part of, intend to read, or have seen the movie of.

3a. I have also on occasion mocked people for not having read books I haven't read myself for the reasons previously stated.

4.  This New Year's week I marked all the books on my shelf that I haven't yet read; there were over 100 of them. Then I packed to move and am secretly hoping all the markers fall off in the boxes. Or magically disappear.

5. I read more blogs about books than I do actual books. This is partly due to Google reader on the sly at work and partly because I can't look away from my computer screen for more than 5 minutes. It's an addiction except there are no meetings. Just more blogs.

6. While I like lit-nerd discussion about character development and plot and author intention as much as the next girl, I enjoy the subset of book bloggers who are into snark and gifs and making fun of Wilkie Collins's giant forehead SO MUCH MORE.

7. I don't really care if I read enough women/minority authors. I very rarely register the gender or ethnicity of an author until I get to the back book flap, although since I lean heavily toward 19th c. British, it's a good bet I'm reading mostly white and male, and I generally like it that way.

8. I forget what 8 was for.

9. I was late to the Twilight bandwagon, but when I got there I read all 4 books in under a week. This is partly because I saved them for a Mexico vacation so I read them on a beach with unlimited tequila nearby, which probably kept me from throwing them across the room quite as often as I did. But I suspect I would have cruised through them no matter what.

10. I MADE IT! Let's see, 10 should be a big one. Hmm. Oh yes: I think that listening to an audiobook is just as beneficial - and sometimes more so - than reading the printed words on the page. Good audiobook narrators do their homework and know where the emphasis should be, which is something I often skip when I'm reading in bed at night. Audiobooks force you by their very nature to give each word the amount of time it takes to speak, and for classics especially I appreciate it.

What are your bookish confessions?

Wilkie's brain is big enough for all of them.

27 August 2012

The Moonstone, Part 3 - Paging Mr. Mesmer?

Well THAT was a surprise!

Let me back up a bit. First, Miss Clack grew decidedly more distasteful after last week's delightful Clack Tracts and the tossing-into-hansom-cabs thereof. She didn't attend Lady Verinder's funeral because she disapproved of the rector giving the service, then scorns Rachel for reaching out to her as a cousin and as a friend because Rachel should have been turning to God in her time of trouble.

I did chortle that Clack left Rachel - or will leave Rachel - one of those ridiculous books in her will.

And let's talk about Rachel, SHALL WE? Because somewhere between saying "yes" to Godforsaken Godfrey and coming back into the picture, girl grew a spine. It's a good look on her!

But again, I skip ahead. So the lawyer (Mr. Bruff? I'm on a train and my book is in my bag waaaay over therrrrrre and I am lazy!) has a narrative that basically says he took care of Rachel and Clack was annoying. Then Franklin comes back in - this time as a narrator - and he goes to Rachel's house and sees Betteredge who takes him to Limping Lucy, who despises Franklin because who should have had Rosanna Spearman's love? I think we all know!But Rosanna's letter leads Franklin to the box in the Shifting Sands - which, lest we forget, never gives up its secrets *except this one so maybe JUST ONE MORE because true love can never die LucyandRosanna4Ever* and the nightgown is there and it's FRANKLIN'S.

Here is where modern audiences are - for once - more shocked than Victorian ones, I think. Because what man wears a nightgown? Even drag queens probably wear shorts-and-shirts or at least a sweet Vicky's Secret sleeper to bed nowadays.

I hate that he looks better in this than I ever will. 
So hum. Franklin's nightgown, and Rosanna's secret is out and she is therefore absolved of any lingering guilt.

And then Rachel spills HER beans and reveals that it was Franklin the WHOLE TIME.

And ok, here's where we delve a little into the first time I read Wilkie, which was for a senior-level Brit Lit seminar in college. Our be-foreheaded patron author was, apparently, *way* into mesmerism. It shows up briefly in The Woman in White in the relationship between the fabulous FOSCO and his wife, although the word itself is never used. And here again in The Moonstone (no actual moonstones) we have a character acting completely out of character and to a higher degree even than Madame FOSCO ever did.

I'm not 100% sure about this, ladies, but I'm pretty sure that our dear Franklin wasn't acting under his own steam.

15 August 2012

The Moonstone, Part 2 - In Which Someone Steals... The Show

When last we met, I was preeeeetty sure that it was Lady Verinder who threw the Moonstone into the Shifting Sands and thus was the Cause of All This Hubub.

There be spoilers in these waters, me hearties.

For a few pages of part deux, I really thought there would be so much plot and plotting that I wouldn't regret having left all my little tabs and mechanical pencil at home while I gallivanted off to Canada to meet the wonderful Rebekah Joy Plett and Bree Ogden and spend the weekend chortling mightily over the naughty bits in ARC romance novels. Who would have known that the reverse cowgirl was so funny? (Anyone who's tried it, is who. If I wanted to feel like I was going to the gym, I would just go to the damn gym. Moving on!)

So I ended up pulling all my tabs from part 1 and re-using them in part 2, but then I didn't have enough tabs, so I'mma miss some stuff in here.

Let's talk briefly about Rosanna Spearman. Remember how in the beginning she was all, "I feel I shall meet my doom here, and yet it draws me," like some emo kid with a guitar he tries to get people to call by the emo name he's given it? And you want to be all,

Steampunk is ahead of you!
It never works. She offed herself in the Shifting Sand as expected, which resulted in a triumphant "I KNEW IT!" on Twitter. Foreshadowing has to play out or it's not foreshadowing.

Speaking of foreshadowing, what the HELL, Wilkie? Betteredge and Lady Verinder have this super-touching moment where he kisses her hand and then she leaves and I'm all,

But Wilkie doesn't listen to me, so the narrative leaves Betteredge and moves to London, but not before Betteredge says,"don't believe Miss Clack if she talks shit about me," whereupon we know two things for sure: 1) Miss Clack will be a narrator, and 2) she will probably be HILARIOUS.

And she IS. She scatters religious tracts titled things like, "Satan under the Tea Table"and "A Word with you on your Cap-Ribbons," like they're Smarties (cap-ribbons being notoriously sexy in Victorian times, I don't know if you knew).

Loose cap ribbons are the equivalent of loose morals! Mrowr.
And she brings religious books to her sick aunt and hides them about the house, and she thinks Rachel is the snootiest snoot ever, which makes me love her even though I have a moralizing relative like Miss Clack and he is INSUFFERABLE IRL.

The proposal scene between Rachel and Godfrey is completely stolen by Miss Clack, who is hiding behind the curtains and has decided to "meet her martyrdom like a primitive Christian" by arranging the curtains so she can both see and hear what's going on in the room. And then when Rachel accepts him - which I begin to believe is no more than Godfrey deserves, the prig - they start making out (as is only proper, just being affianced), and Miss Clack is SO SHOCKED that she doesn't know whether to stop her ears or close her eyes first, so she freezes and conveniently does neither.

"I attribute my still being able to hold the curtain in the right position for looking and listening, entirely to suppressed hysterics. In suppressed hysterics, it is admitted, even by the doctors, that one must hold something." (p. 237)
I sniggered into my novel on the plane and the lady next to me probably thought I was mental.

As amusing as Miss Clack is, this is where I'm pretty sure Wilkie's views on religion - or at least the smugly religious - come out. We had a bit of it in The Woman in White with the Very Religious Housekeeper who was completely duped by Fosco, in part because of her religion. And now we have Miss Clack, whose religious zeal is absurd and through which she allows herself to behave hypocritically.

And then, Lady Verinder dies of heart disease before Rachel can tell her she (Rachel) is engaged, but more importantly before she can confess her undying love for Betteredge and get him to FLY to her side and speak the words they've both been longing to hear.

You know what, Wilkie?

But not really because I need to know what happens.

08 August 2012

The Moonstone, Part I - Are You Hooked Yet?

This book is LOLARIOUS, you guys. Of course, since Reading the Bricks is my brand new baby blog, everyone here is likely already aware of this fact; I just have to reiterate because hello, Gabriel Betteredge, my new second favorite cantankerous old man narrator. (Don't fret, Frederick Fairlie; you will always be first in my heart. What have you do to with bosoms?)

But before we get into that, I'm going to discuss Collins's own introductions, which it has come to my attention may not be in some of your editions. 

The intro to the first edition is fine author-y stuff; "I hope you like this book, I worked hard, blahblah." But the Introduction to Later Editions is simply the stuff of hilarious legend: 

When this work was still in course of periodical publication in England and in the United States, and when not more than 1/3 of it was completed, the bitterest affliction of my life and the severest illness from which I have ever suffered fell on me together.
Of the physical sacrifice which the effort cost me I shall say nothing.
I doubt if I should have lived to write another book, if the responsibility of the weekly publication of this story had not forced me to rally my sinking energies of body and mind - to dry my useless tears, and to conquer my merciless pains.

In other words,

I'll be here taking opiates and writing my book.

So, mes amis, let us to the prologue!

Given Alice's disappointment (and mine too, the first time through) that The Woman in White contained no actual ghosts, I find it highly hilarious that The Moonstone contains no actual moonstones. It's a diamond.

You win again, Collins.

And then we get to the story, which Betteredge has to start over not once, not twice, but three times because he can't stop talking about himself and Robinson Crusoe (tedious book...) and apologizing for how boring it is to read about old men sitting in beehive chairs, when really I'd like to know what on earth is a beehive chair? It sounds terrifying.

I was planning to do a synopsis-type post, but as I'm checking what I've underlined in my book it's not so much plot as it is Wilkie just being a genius writer and creator of characters. Observe:

Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely for your benefit. [...] Lord! haven't I seen you with the greatest authors in your hands, and don't I know how ready your attention is to wander when it's a book that asks for it, instead of a person? (33)

Way to be modest, Wilkie.

Let's talk about characters!

There's Franklin Blake, aka Suitor #1, who Betteredge complains "had promised to be tall, and had not kept that promise," - way to disappoint, Blake. Plus he was brought up on the continent and so had a wild French/Italian/German side to his character as well as a steady English side, and who knows when any will be uppermost? This is mysterious!

There's Godfrey, Suitor #2, who occupies his spare time with the rights of women [furthering the Internet's suspicion that Collins was a closet feminist (at least on paper)], but then leaves town after the diamond Moonstone is lost.

And then there's Rachel. Oooohhhhh, Rachel. You couldn't pay me any dollars at all to be 18 again. First she gets a jewel worth roughly 1.4 million dollars, then she leaves it in a cabinet and LO! It is gone! And then she flounces and shuts herself in her bedroom and refuses to let anyone talk to her including the people investigating the loss of her diamond, which is not at all suspicious behavior.

Her mother is Lady Verinder, who some have suspected of being a little - maybe a lottle - in love with Betteredge, who is clearly requiting as much as his old, sexual harrass-y heart is able. (It's not immoral, it's habit!!) Awwwww.

There's Superintendent Seegrave, who is obviously the character Collins allowed his good buddy Boz to name. He's bumbling and puts all the servants' backs up and offends the wimminz - especially Betteredge's daughter Penelope, which is awesome because Betteredge gets all offended on her behalf and talks smack about him from then on. Penelope, by the way, is the person whose diary we are consulting as to dates for this trip down Gabriel's memory lane. We like her.

And then there's Cuff, the proto-Sherlock. He sees clues in paint smudges, loves roses because they are the opposite of detectiving, and is generally one bad mofo.
The great Cuff, on his side, looked at Superintendent Seegrave in that quietly expecting way which I have already noticed. I can't affirm that he was on the watch for his brother-officer's speedy appearance in the character of an Ass - I can only say that I strongly suspected it. (101)
I laughed out loud at that one while I was reading on my phone at work. Well done, Collins.

So far, everyone except Seegrave is a suspect, except what if it's him? That would be the reddest of red herrings, TEAM SEEGRAVE 4 EVAH!

The obvious choice here is Rosanna the Former Thief-turned-Housemaid, who has a hunched shoulder, which is iiiiiinteresting because of the outer-deformity-reflects-inner-deformity thing that 19th c. writers used so often (see: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others). I get the sense that Collins will be turning that little trope on its ear, otherwise whyfore the next 250 pages? Cuff would have pinned it on her in two shakes. But there IS something weird going on between her and Blake.

So many clues! Here is what I think: Lady Verinder pitched the moonstone into the quicksand to protect Rachel. But then why not just send it to Amsterdam and get it cut into smaller gems and thus (as we learn from the uncle's will) render the mystical value of the thing moot?

I spent most of these chapters feeling like one of those women who talks to the screen during horror movies:
Oh girl, don't hang out alone by the quicksand!
Oh, Lady, don't let her have that CURSED JEWEL that people will try to KILL HER FOR!
OH GURL, don't leave your GIANT KILLER DIAMOND in the house!

and also wanting to slap Rachel, who is only like Marian MAAARIAAAAANNNNNN! in that they are both female.

(Speaking of which, today I am shipping Marian and Cuff.)

And yes, Alice, I am in for a little Sarah Waters after this. maybe we can get her to comment on whether she's ever read any Wilkie, and whether she is Team Mariaaaaaannnnn or Team Limp-Wrist Laura. I am not biased either way, obvs.

04 August 2012

Our Read-a-long is Better than Their Read-a-long

Some read-a-longs and book clubs focus on things like literary merit, conventions, criticism, and comparisons. They are Serious Literary Business and do things like discuss how The Canon is white-washed and male, how The Help uplifted them on a cloud of Making Black Women Feel Better (no? Was that just my opinion?), and the endless debate of Austen vs. Brontes.

If they were a song, they would be sung by Celine Dion or possibly Sarah Brightman.

This read-a-long is not like that. We are more point-and-laugh at Wilkie Collins's huge forehead, talk smack about Dickens's dickens and where it may have been, and we don't debate Austen vs. Brontes because obviously the answer is the unfortunate-looking but genius George Eliot.

Basically, we are the Ke$ha of the literary criticism world.

01 August 2012

Fire it Up: The Moonstone Read-a-long

Once there was an author with a forehead of truly prodigious proportions.

Wilkie Collins 1824-1889
In true Victorian style, his forehead - that phrenological seat of all that is intellectual - foretold (HEH) his fate and he became not only a writer, but BFFs with that paragon of 19th century British literature, Charles Dickens. I've mentioned before elsewhere that Boz and Wilkie were best buds (I approve of alliteration), so I won't go into that here.

So. The Moonstone. I know next-to-nothing about this book except that it was written after The Woman in White, which I enjoyed immensely, that it's widely considered the first detective novel and some people consider it the best detective novel, to which I say, does The Moonstone have THIS?

I thought not.
However, as Alice was kind enough to mention, it does have a reference to the Siege of Seringapatam, which is a thing no one in these modern times of ours has ever heard of, but they should because it involved the hilariously-named Kingdom of Mysore. The potential puns are plentiful!

If you'd like to join this read-a-long, you can find information and a linkie here! Hop to it, lieblings! Collins and his forehead await to show the Kids These Days how shit is WROTE.