August 18, 2014

Help! The Historical Fiction genre is suffocating me!

That ought to get your attention. Haha.

Well, folks, it's like this.  I always used to consider myself to be a fan of historical fiction, until I tried reading more of the stuff that's come out in the last decade or so, and found myself getting more and more fed up with the whole genre.  (Before, you see, I read children's books, which were better in some ways.)

But here's the other thing.  I really love the IDEA of historical fiction.  I like to read about eras gone by, and if it can't be actual classics, it has to be set in a long-ago time period.  And there's tons of it out there-- it's hard for me to believe that none of it would be suited to my tastes.  I mean, this one's great.   But I had 'inside knowledge' that led me to that, haha.

As hardly any of you probably know, I've been working at a library for the last two months.  (I know-- swellissimus, right? :D I've really been enjoying it. Boooooks.)  I'm what they call a "page", and my #1 task is shelving the books.  And keeping them organized on the shelves.  Which takes work when there is a perpetual stream of people messing it up.

Um, anyways.
Not actually a book cover,
but it looks like it could be.

The point is, I see an awful lot of books on an almost everyday basis.  And I see tons of goooorgeous book covers.  (Also some really cheesy ones that just scream "corny story going on here!")  But, in the same way that you cannot judge a book by its cover when you don't like the cover, you can't judge a book by its lovely, appealing cover, either, because it might end up being blehhhhh.  Some of them also come with an intriguing synopsis, as well-- but those also often end up being blehhhhhh.

Nothing works.

And when I'm talking about historical fiction here, I mainly mean the romance-based Christian or "inspirational" ones. Because those seem to dominate the genre.  The historical fiction books I see that aren't Christian, I doubt because who knows what content they may have.

But the books being Christian, as I have found out, does not mean I am going to approve of the content.  Sadly enough.

Wow, I'm taking forever to get to the point.  The point is, I want your recommendations... IF you can think of any books that don't have any of the things I keep finding that are incessantly annoying.

What are those things?
Here is a list.  I'm good at lists.

  • Descriptions of and references to physical attraction.  (This is the Reigning Annoyance for me, so I'm listing it first.)  To the extent that I am uncomfortable reading this because it seems inappropriate. First of all, I don't want to be filling my mind with that, and secondly, these characters are usually not married (to each other, that is-- obviously it would be even worse if they were to somebody else, ha), and more often than not aren't even engaged or courting or whatever. Ugh.  Basically, I don't want the guy in the story to be thinking at us about the girl's looks concerning anything below the nose.  Let's just say that. :P If anything else is mentioned, it must be sparingly.  And on the other side, if I read one more description about a girl admiring a man's muscles? My head will explode. And THEN my blog posts will cease altogether. ;)   Anyways... even if it didn't make me roll my eyes and/or squirm and/or stop reading the book entirely, I would still hate the shallowness of it.  So many of the books seem to have the main characters be first attracted to each other in some kind of physical way and that's how the whole story seems to go.  In my opinion, Romantic Interest should begin by attraction to their character or personality, general manners, etc... and the rest will follow-- and doesn't need to be described.  Thinking someone is handsome/pretty is not quite the same thing, but it also shouldn't be the basis of romantic interest.
  • Speaking of the guy's thoughts-- I really prefer it if there is no Male Main Character Narrative in the story.  A lot of this is because of the issue listed above, so if that's not applicable, I might not mind this too much.  Still, a lot of the way guys think tends to annoy me (sometimes it's even worse if a woman is writing it, oddly enough), and unless I'm particularly fond of the hero, I'm probably not going to care about his point of view, or would rather leave it up to my own imagination.  (Plus, the constant switching of narratives gets old.) 
  • Characters kissing before there is any understanding between them, or doing it like every time they see each other.  (My preference in general is the wedding or even after-wedding kiss being the first, which I think is really sweet, but I'm not going to not read a book because they don't follow that.  However, I hate the Random "accidental" kissing.  Um.)  Also, I don't want any kissing to be too descriptive.  Eww.  Details are not necessary.  This kind of fits in with the first matter on the list. 
  • Wife-hunters and husband-catchers.  These people annoy me in real life, so I certainly don't want to be reading about them.  That is, those who seem to view marriage as the ultimate goal of life, or at least think they need to be married, and sort of view every unattached person of the opposite gender that they come in contact with in terms of possible spouse-material.
  • In general, girls who are boy-crazy.  Eww.
  • Also guys who are girl-crazy.  Eww. :P
  • When the main guy character is pretty much a jerk and the heroine dislikes him but the guy keeps pursuing her anyways, probably obnoxiously, but somehow they end up together in the end. Especially if, while the heroine dislikes him, she apparently is secretly attracted to him the whole time.  Um what.  (If you think this sounds like P&P you are wrong on so many levels and should probably not be reading this blog. Haha.)  
  • Anything either set in Texas or with a Texan as a main character, or the book being written by a Texas author.  No offense to anybody living in that state, but it seems like every book I've tried that apply to one of those cases have been full of the stuff I can't stand.
  • Actually, not a huge fan of the western storylines-- but I'm willing to bend on that one if it really is a good story.  (After all, I would probably be considered as living in the west myself.  But I've really never been a fan of the western-y stuff, so in that way maybe I'm an insult to my side of the U.S. :P  Well, the Oregon Trail is fun.  But cowboys and the like... nope.) 
  • In general, the book must be clean-- free of often-repeated or more-than-mild swear words, and if there are Adult-ish Topics they must be dealt with Discreetly.  If you can actually find a non-Christian book that meets those requirements, by all means recommend it, as long as it's accurately old-fashioned with old-fashioned principles and they aren't trying to insert Modern Stuff and pretend it was all the same back then.
  • The whole story must not be overwhelmingly Romance.  It can have romance in it, but there has to be other stuff going on with the plot to keep me interested.
  • Nothing too soap-opera-y, please.

So.  Can it actually be POSSIBLE that there is some historical fiction out there to meet those guidelines?  I'm giving it one last chance. *narrows eyes dramatically*  (By the way, anything 1950's or earlier will qualify.  Personally, if it takes place before the 18th century, I probably won't be too interested, though.)

And in case it is any help to you, here are some things I have a fondness for:
~The Edwardian era 
~References to Classic Literature are sprinkled throughout 
~Storylines that have a focus on close female friendship 

And here are things that bore me:
~You get the picture
~Too many French names that are hard to keep track of, haha

Okay, sooo... I'm anxious to see if anybody can come up with anything. ;)  (Note: it doesn't have to have been published recently.  For instance, maybe Christy is so good because it was written back in 1967.)

Oh!  One last thing-- recommendations for Christmas books and why you like them, one-two-three-go.  (I'd like to have some new ones this year, and I might as well get some Choices lined up ahead of time.  It can be for children or adults, old setting or new setting, as long as it's a good story and feels Christmassy, and of course is free of inappropriateness.)

July 20, 2014

JA Book Giveaway and Screencap Website

First of all, the lovely Miss Laurie is hosting a giveaway of various Jane Austen-themed books, so do go check that out!

And when I have one announcement to make I often think of another I've been meaning to do... you all should also check out this website, it has period drama screencaps and links to other ones, all in one place. :)  Some of the links to Grande-Caps site won't work but that's because said site is undergoing a change of domain right now and the person who runs Period Drama Screencap Source will correct the links as soon as she can. 

June 17, 2014

The Four Temperaments, As Explained By Characters in Period Drama

In recent years I've grown somewhat fascinated by personalities and studying them and knowing what makes people the way they are.  Which sometimes leads me to try to kind of pick people apart and figure out 'what they are', and I tend to ramble on and on about the subject to the possible annoyance of certain people I talk to a lot.  Ahemmmm.

I saw the Myers-Briggs personality test thing when it was kind of flying through the blogging world a while back, and that did interest me a lot.  I'd never seen it all divided up that way before... and from that I started thinking a lot about extroverts and introverts, too... I can get a bit... energetic discussing that. Heehee.

The first time I ever took a personality quiz was when I was around twelve-- my brother had found this personality book that had a quiz in it and we made everyone in the family take it.  It was covering the four temperaments-- Melancholic, Phlegmatic, Choleric and Sanguine.  I found it quite interesting to learn about each one and detect different mixes of them in people.

And they usually are mixed.  A lot of people have at least a tad of all the personality types, though most people are dominated by one or two.  In some cases, though, a person can be almost entirely one type, and when that happens it's like they kind of describe the category themselves just by being the way they are.

So a while back, I got to thinking of fictional characters and their personalities, and... well, I came up with one person for each temperament.  Here they are.

"People with this temperament tend to be egocentric and extroverted. They may be excitable, impulsive, and restless, with reserves of aggression, energy, and/or passion, and try to instill that in others. They tend to be task-oriented people and are focused on getting a job done efficiently; their motto is usually 'do it now.' They can be ambitious, strong-willed and like to be in charge. They can show leadership, are good at planning, and are often practical and solution-oriented. They appreciate receiving respect and esteem for their work." ~Wikipedia (hey, it's handy for short definitions, you know?)

This would be Robert Timmins from Lark Rise to Candleford. Sometimes I'm watching that and I'm just like, BOY is he ever Choleric.  He does seem to be the very definition of that temperament, seriously.  That's what started me thinking on this, really.  To explain the choleric temperament and to explain Robert Timmins... pretty much the same thing.

"People with this temperament may be inward and private, thoughtful, reasonable, calm, patient, caring, and tolerant. They tend to have a rich inner life, seek a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, and be content with themselves. They tend to be steadfast, consistent in their habits, and thus steady and faithful friends."

This is where Wikipedia kind of missed a lot... so I'm going to elaborate a little more.  They're very laid-back, avoid conflict as much as possible-- pretty much anything that makes them uncomfortable.  They often hate social situations. They have a propensity to be lazy.  A distinctive trait is also the sense of humor they often have-- it's also laid-back, usually dry and sarcastic, with a tendency to be quietly amused by other people.

Who does this sound like?  Mr. Bennet.  In a nutshell.  To me, he's always been the definition of this temperament.  He is a bit self-centered but that's kind of his own personal defect, as with any temperament; it just takes on a phlegmatic style. ;)

"People with this temperament tend to be playful, lively, sociable, carefree, talkative, and pleasure-seeking. They may be warm-hearted and optimistic. They can make new friends easily, be imaginative and artistic, and often have many ideas. They can be flighty and changeable; thus sanguine personalities may struggle with following tasks all the way through and be chronically late or forgetful."

We must have a girl in here somewhere, sooo-- Lydia Bennet.  I really don't think she has an ounce of anything besides sanguine.  Although she rather lets the weaknesses of the temperament overrule the strengths.  (You can read more about this temperament here.)

"People with this temperament may appear serious, introverted, cautious or even suspicious. They can become preoccupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world and are susceptible to depression and moodiness. They may be focused and conscientious. They often prefer to do things themselves, both to meet their own standards and because they are not inherently sociable."
(Go here for a more in-depth-- and not terribly long-- description.)

Moodiness.  The melancholic temperament is where that comes from, and when somebody is entirely melancholic, that can get a little... overruling.  I actually had several people cross my mind-- I dismissed Mr. Darcy as not quite enough melancholic (although he has a lot), and thought of Mr. Thornton too-- he actually IS a pretty good example.  Buuut in the end I settled on Mr. Rochester.

Edward Rochester is melancholic through-and-through.  Emotional, dramatic, passionate, (rather excessively) moody, often very introverted but not without the capability of being good company if he's in the right humor.  Also musical.  He's got it all, folks.  But he, too, tends to let the weaknesses rule.

So there you have it.

In case anyone is wondering about me, haha... I'm 70-something percent melancholic, next in line is choleric, and a little bit of phlegmatic and hardly any sanguine.  Back when I first took one of those quizzes, the time I mentioned at the beginning, I was almost as much choleric as melancholic, so apparently I've changed since then.  (My mom maintains that when I was younger I was much more outgoing than I am now and she doesn't know what happened to me.  Haaa.)

Speaking of which.  I must have my introvert vs. extrovert rabbit trail here.  Introverts can be outgoing, first of all.  They just require time alone to recharge, as opposed to extroverts who recharge by being with other people. (Yeah, yeah, you've probably heard this before.  But I'm putting it for the sake of anyone who hasn't.)  The more introverted you are the less likely you will be outgoing, I think, but the two are not incompatible.

Melancholic and phlegmatic go with introversion while choleric and sanguine go with extroversion.  You can kind of end up with a mixture... I think I've noticed that extroverts who still have some melancholic or phlegmatic tend to understand introverts better.  Then there are some extroverts who really don't understand us at all.  They don't seem to understand that not everybody CAN be perky and sociable or even just cheerful whenever they want to, haha.  That's kind of a pet peeve of mine sooo I'm going to stop now before I go into a rant. ;)

Aaanyways.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the literary/period drama characters and their temperamental connections... and anyone interested in this subject in general can feel free to ramble, and I'll ramble right back.

May 7, 2014

Have you heard the news? Netherfield Park is-- oh, wait.

As much as I had hoped that the year 2014 would inspire somebody to make a new—and worthy—version of Mansfield Park (because it is the 200th anniversary), and as disappointing as it is that that doesn’t seem to be happening, there are at least some delights in store, one of which is an old BBC radio version from 2003 of the story being rebroadcast.

Not quite interesting enough for you?  Okay, well, Felicity Jones, who plays Catherine Morland in the 2007 version of Northanger Abbey, will be Fanny Price.  Julia McKenzie, who is in a number of period dramas including Cranford and Little Dorrit will be Mrs. Norris… and, which seem to be the most popular names at the moment... wait for iiiit... our hero Edmund Bertram’s voice will be nobody’s but everyone’s favorite Benedict Cumberbatch (or maybe that should be ‘The One and Only’), while his older brother Tom is David Tennant.  (They’ve both been in period dramas, too… Amazing Grace and He Knew He Was Right, for example, but everyone seems to know them better from Sherlock and Doctor Who.)

I’m not really the Actor Fangirl type, but the fact that those gentlemen were going to be those characters DID excite me greatly, and I do think they’re quite superb actors, sooo… I’m looking forward to this.  Muchly.  Especially since there’s such a lack of good versions of this story.
(And I was a bit of a rebel, I suppose, putting a picture of Felicity Jones and not either of the guys, but... well, that's what everyone else is doing, and besides, we have HER in Regency costume. ;) )

The first broadcast will be May 12th, and every successive weekday for the nine following, and each installment will be fifteen minutes.

This is where you'll be able to listen; the first episode (and probably all of them) will be from 2-2:15 pm their time, which would be 6 am PST and 9 am EST for us Americans.  (If you're in-between, you can figure it out. Heehee.) Which could mean getting up pretty early for some of us, but from the looks of it, the radio at that link seems to have old broadcasts from the last week or so, so we'll probably be able to listen to it afterwards. 

Anybody else tuning in? :D 

*Update: Here is where you can get started, and here is a list of all the episodes.  They're available for seven days from when they were first broadcast, so don't get too far behind!

May 6, 2014

Excerpt of the Day (and some Janeite rambling)

After the workshop, I drift back to the Emporium, where I am alternately charmed and repelled by the merchandise on display.  For every apron or tea towel or mirrored compact bearing a genuine Jane Austen quote, there seems to be a key chain or plaque or note card adorned with a line found only in an Austen movie.  The real Jane Austen, I’m sure, would have died rather than write anything as maudlin as “Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the one person you can’t be without” or “Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another.” Hasn’t anyone around here READ THE BOOKS? I find myself wondering.  The movies had made Jane Austen more accessible than ever, broadening the base of her fandom and diversifying her appeal, and even as I register my silent squawk of protest, I feel a bit churlish… (But really—“Sometimes the last person on earth--?” That one wasn’t even in an Austen movie!  It was on the poster for an Austen movie!)  Once again, I’m face to face with the contradictions of fandom: I’ve come to a Jane Austen conference to enjoy the company of other Janeites, but I can’t help turning up my nose, just a little, at the gross ignorance—the sheer bad taste!—of people whose idea of Pride and Prejudice owes more to Keira Knightley than to Jane Austen.

In my reading of Among the Janeites, there have been moments—many moments, actually—where I groan inwardly, roll my eyes, and think such phrases as “oh, brother” and “ewwww no, stop” and even skimmed a little to get past some stuff.  But the paragraph above… it just spoke to me on a Deep and Personal Level.  (I wonder if that would qualify me as a “real Janeite” according to the ideas of its author, Deborah Yaffe?)

This isn’t going to be a review; I just wanted to share that bit with you and then ramble a little.  Because rambling is what I do best.  I can’t really recommend the book as a whole, and I don’t feel like getting into content advisory—but all in all, I did enjoy it and found a lot of the information rather fascinating; and the last chapter gave me both happy-warm-fuzzies and an ardent desire to attend the AGM—the Annual General Meeting, a convention of the JASNA.  Also to be a member of the JASNA…and the more that desire is cultivated, the more I am afraid to look and remind myself what the membership fee is.  Heh.
{Random update: Made myself look... fee for a year isn't as bad as I was expecting, really.  Hmmmm.  This is tempting. ;)}

But anyways.  It really did fill me with a great longing to be there…I never knew quite what those conventions were like till I read that.  I want to go and just run across people who name their babies and cats after Jane Austen characters, to wear Regency dresses and admire everyone else’s, to ohh and aww over some of the things people are selling and “silently squawk” over others (or, in the ideal situation, squawk to one or two other Janeite friends accompanying me because that would be far better than going alone); even attending the lectures sounds appealing, though it’s highly likely I’ll feel Extremely Irritated at some the opinions of both lecturers and other audience members.  Still, it would be… fascinating.

Back to this book… it definitely served to rekindle in me a desire to dive back, or further, into the world of Jane Austen, by suggesting a lot of new outlets, but mostly by showing me what woeful ignorance I seem to have when compared to Jane Fairfax a lot of other Janeites (and ‘scholars’).  I’ve got two new books on hold at the library and a list of some others to try, as well as quite a list of things to poke at online.  And this is an excitement I haven’t felt in a while, but that I’ve been missing…this pleases me.

I also enjoyed seeing the outcome of the author’s interview with my dear friend Miss Laurie—or, should I say, “Laurie Michael, the evangelical Christian.”  As she pointed out, though, there could be worse things to be called… and seeing her name in print in a book about Janeites and going “I know herrr!” is a very fun experience, especially since I got to hear all about the interview at the time. (Miss Laurie even mentioned my blog to the author… I wonder if she ever visited it?)

So, that’s all I have to say… I depart to do further Jane Austen research and daydream about being part of a big JA event.  Farewell for the present.

April 29, 2014

Why I Don't Like the Darcy Fandom: A Rant

Some of you, I think, may raise your eyebrows at that post title.  "Wait a minute.  Melody IS a Darcy fan... isn't she?  Or has she changed drastically lately?"

No, my dears.  I don't believe in doing that.  Changing drastically, that is.  Yes, I am a fan of Mr. Darcy.  He ties for top spot in my list of favorite heroes.  So why do I dislike the Darcy fandom?  Wouldn't I enjoy fellow admirers of Mr. Darcy?

Indeed, I do love finding people who agree with me.  But so many who have similar opinions as I do on Jane Austen subjects hold Mr. Knightley to be their definite top-favorite Jane Austen Hero.  Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with that; I quite understand it.  Mr. Knightley is very admirable.  Yet, I honestly think that many people flock to Mr. Knightley while ignoring Mr. Darcy because he is... ha, too mainstream.  Mr. Knightley seems like a real character, the perfect gentleman, but Mr. Darcy is... a Janeite stereotype.

Mr. Darcy, in short, has been changed-- how we think of him has been changed-- by The Fandom.  I'm currently reading Among the Janeites, and some bits in remind me of this thing that has always disgusted me... the notoriety that Mr. Darcy has become.  The people who basically started all this are the Wet Shirt fans.

Let me make one thing clear to you.  Colin Firth is NOT Mr. Darcy.  Colin Firth is an actor.  If you're a fan of Mr. Darcy because he's played by Colin Firth, or if your admiration for Mr. Darcy is increased because of the actor... you're not a true fan in my book.

Um.  What.
Unfortunately, you're the majority.  In the last two decades, Darcy has become some sort of odd fantasy object of a certain brand of women's imaginations, most of this sparked from the Colin Firth Wet Shirt Thing, which is not a subject I care to go into.  (Eww. People. Don't be disgusting.)  Even before Colin Firth, the name Darcy was thrown about as the Perfect Romantic Hero, his name becoming more well-known and different than his real character, which started being forgotten.  The reputation attached itself to Fitzwilliam Darcy like a leech.  It's like a phony tourist trap-- the true meaning and worth is hidden by the grasping commercialism.  Also yuckiness.

And then there are the people who think that Matthew MacFadyen was the perfect Mr. Darcy, and... y'know what, I'm not even going to go there.
(I was thinking about inserting this picture here, but I simply couldn't bring myself to do it.  No.  It shall not appear on my blog. :P)

It's gotten so that I feel I can't even be part of the Darcy fandom. I don't want to be associated with the nonsense.  In fact, I hereby proclaim myself to be an Independent & Separated Darcy Fan.  I'm not part of Their Group.  I like Mr. Darcy for the way that Jane Austen actually wrote him.
But the way it makes me feel is almost like, when people ask me who my favorite hero is, I SHOULD say Mr. Knightley instead of Mr. Darcy so that they won't brand me as part of that Darcy Fandom, or so they won't think I'm unoriginal and can't actually think for myself, merely choosing whatever is the most popular.

And that isn't fair.

From Lost in Austen.  (ugh.)

It would be a lovely thing if the head of every Janeite in the world could suddenly be wiped of any image they have of Mr. Darcy that was picked up from anywhere but the book itself, and we could begin fresh.  Now, I think that Colin Firth is the best film Mr. Darcy to date.  But that's because he's the closest portrayal to the book.  I wish people would stop taking any representation to be the beginning and end of the characters themselves.  There is so much more to Mr. Darcy, and it's even harder to see his point of view in the movies than it is in the book, where, except for a few hints at the beginning, we don't really know what he was thinking until the end when he and Lizzy have their long, heart-to-heart discussions.  But reading the book you just get a better feel of his character, and there are little things that you might miss if you don't look out for them.  Such as the fact that he has a sense of humor.  (But all THAT is the subject for another post.  One, in fact, that's half-written in my drafts somewhere and has been for a long time. Cough.)

And then if the same thing could be done for Mr. Knightley, and everyone could actually compare Jane Austen's real characters... well, it would be so much easier to separate fact from fiction.  (Fact being the book and movies being the fiction, you know.  Uhh... separate fiction from further fictionalized fiction? :P)  I, for one, would love to be able to do that, because it's awfully hard to NOT be influenced by the facial expressions and new-in-the-script quips of Mr. Knightley-as-portrayed-by-the-2009-miniseries. ;)

Are you ready for a secret?  I think Jonny Lee Miller's Mr. Knightley is a better representation of the character than Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy was.  I think some things were actually added a bit, even though it wasn't inaccurate to Mr. Knightley at all.  And I wish for a similar representation of Mr. Darcy. (That's a more realistic wish than the brain-wiping, I suppose.)

One that could refresh people's ideas and remind them of how the book goes, as well as bringing out some of Mr. Darcy's qualities that none of the adaptations have captured.

With no wet shirts involved.

P.S. This is my 200th post. ;)
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