Sad Willow

(no subject)

I have just rewatched the first episode of Torchwood and found myself deeply entertained by all the bits that make no sense/are just ridiculous. In no particular order:
- Why does Jack like to stand on top of really tall buildings? (Oh god, don't answer that.) Why does nobody call the police when they see a man standing on a very tall building?
- If you had a pterodactyl, would letting it fly around Cardiff in daylight really be a good idea?
- Gwen's whole anti-Retcon letter to herself, in all its poorly-punctuated glory. Cannot help thinking that handwriting it (or, god forbid, telling Rhys) would have made it harder to destroy the evidence than typing it.
- If Jack and co. were right there in the hospital when the Weevil attack happened, it would have been good if they could have perhaps prevented the murder. Just a thought.
- I am amazed that nobody in Torchwood Three has yet seen Jack die and come back to life, as it seems to happen all the time.
- If you wanted to commit a load of untraceable murders, why use such a distinctive murder weapon?
- Gwen should consider not wearing a high-vis jacket when trying to spy on people.
- Jack, WHY WOULD YOU ASK SOMEONE WHAT DEATH WAS LIKE? I mean, I get why, but it clearly did not help the situation.

Oh, Torchwood.
Sad Willow

(no subject)

I just finished reading Conundrums for the Long Week-End, a Christmas present from my parents. It's about the Lord Peter Wimsey books and how they reflect the world in which Sayers was writing. Just my sort of thing (which is why I asked for it). However, it was a bit disappointing. Rather than an in-depth exploration of the books, it felt more like a recap of the plots, together with fairly basic contextual information. Sayers discussions on LJ seem to be much more interesting and original in general.

It's not helped by the fact that the authors seem to be mistaken about various points. (They are based at US universities, and presumably are American; I think part of it is a lack of familiarity with British culture.) For instance, we are told that "Wimsey belonged to a family of sportsmen, skilled hunters who had nonetheless never killed a fox". This is something of a misreading. In Whose Body? the narration mentions that "He belonged to a family which had never shot a fox". I'm sure the foxes still ended up dead - I can imagine Peter having an outbreak of soft-heartedness and calling the hounds off, but I cannot imagine for a second his father or Gerald (or Helen) doing so. That line appears when Peter is making his mind up to go and visit Freke in an attempt to play fair; it's about playing the game, rather than the authors' seeming suggestion that the Wimseys are a compassionate lot.

"Though Dorothy L. Sayers worked hard to create a sense of the real in her novels ... she employed several devices to remind readers that they were reading a story, that none of these horrible, murdering people were real. The most obvious of her tricks was the naming of places and characters. No one would conceive that places with names such as Riddlesdale, Little Dorking or Little Doddering could actually exist. ... Vera Findlater, Bertha Gotobed - who would believe that these were the names of real people?"
Um. I think this may well be a US/UK difference, because as an English reader I can readily conceive that places with those names could exist, seeing as there is indeed a Dorking, a Riddlesden, and various other places with similar names. I also have no trouble believing in the names used as examples.

I find these assumptions - that all readers must react in the same way to these authors - rather bizarre. They also leap to conclusions a bit - we are solemnly told that "Harriet Vane's closest friends and supporters in Strong Poison are a lesbian couple". Which they certainly could be - the text isn't explicit either way, and I know many people like to read Sylvia and Eiluned as a couple, which I am completely in favour of. But it's something where there's evidence for both sides - they might be, or they might not, and just flatly stating that they are a couple, with no exploration of the evidence in the text or why you've come to that conclusion, seems to be missing the opportunity for a more interesting discussion.

One for the completist, I think. There are some interesting moments (I have been led to muse on just what the status of Sherlock Holmes is in Lord Peter's world), but it's nothing that you wouldn't get from reading the books and having a basic grasp of 20s and 30s UK history.
Sad Willow

(no subject)

Contemplating the weird disconnect in the Harry Potter universe between wizards and Muggles, I remembered this line from Tonks in OotP: "Very clean, aren't they, these Muggles?" said the witch called Tonks, who was looking about the kitchen with great interest. "My dad's Muggle-born and he's a right old slob. I suppose it varies, just as it does with wizards?"
This is someone whose father is Muggle-born. She must have some connection with and knowledge of the Muggle world, yet she still discusses them as if they are some weird alien species who are so different to wizards that she never before considered that preferred levels of tidiness might vary. (Try replacing "Muggle-born/Muggles" with one ethnicity and "wizards" with another to see just how weird this is.)

Last day at work tomorrow. I am feeling very strange about it.
Sad Willow

(no subject)

I have just finished reading Villette. I must admit that I can't quite see the appeal of M. Paul. (I am the same age as Lucy Snowe. If my suitor told me not to look at certain paintings because they were improper for a young lady, and sat me down in a corner to look at pious works instead, I would not take it very well.) And the pacing of the ending is really abrupt and odd.

Sign of how things have changed in 160 years: I cannot imagine a current novelist describing a couple who had lost a child as experiencing "no excessive suffering" in their lives and claiming that they were "blessed, like that of Jacob's favoured son, with "blessings of Heaven above; blessings of the deep that lies under"". That was jarring. (Also, other people find Paulina deeply irritating, right? More so as a child than an adult, but still.)
Sad Willow

Happy New Year!

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Sad Willow

(no subject)

On the BBC's list of census oddities:

"Seaside resorts are often near the top of the divorce league - but no-one is really sure why."

Because to get a divorce you need to go to Brighton and get caught with a woman by the hotel's chambermaid! It's all very simple.
Boys in books

(no subject)

I was in Waterstones last week, and discovered that they had a bookcase devoted solely to what they called "Cosy Crime". It included Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie, to my great bemusement.

Here is the ending of Unnatural Death:

'An evil woman, if ever there was one,' said Parker, softly, as they looked at the rigid body, with its swollen face and deep, red ring about the throat.
Wimsey said nothing. He felt cold and sick. [...] Six o'clock had struck some time before they got up to go. It reminded him of the eight strokes of the clock which announce the running-up of the black and hideous flag.
As the gate clanged open to let them out, they stepped into a wan and awful darkness. The June day had risen long ago, but only a pale and yellowish gleam lit the half-deserted streets. And it was bitterly cold and raining.
'What is the matter with the day?' said Wimsey. 'Is the world coming to an end?'
'No,' said Parker, 'it is the eclipse'.

And this passage from The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club:

'Muttering', Wimsey remembered, had formerly been the prelude to one of George's 'queer fits'. These had been a form of shell-shock, and they had generally ended in his going off an wandering about in a distraught manner for several days, sometimes with a partial and occasionally with complete temporary loss of memory. There was the time when he had been found dancing naked in a field among a flock of sheep, and singing to them. [...] Then there was a dreadful time when George had deliberately walked into a bonfire.

And, of course, the ending of Busman's Honeymoon:

'They hate executions, you know. It upsets the other prisoners. They bang on the doors and make nuisances of themselves. Everybody's nervous.... Caged like beasts, separately.... That's the hell of it ... we're all in separate cells.... I can't get out, said the starling.... If one could only get out for one moment, or go to sleep, or stop thinking.... Oh, damn that cursed clock! ... Harriet, for God's sake, hold on to me ... get me out of this ... break down the door....'
'Hush, dearest. I'm here. We'll see it out together.'
Through the eastern side of the casement, the sky grew pale with the forerunners of the dawn.
'Don't let me go.'

The light grew stronger as they waited.
Quite suddenly, he said, 'Oh, damn!' and began to cry - in an awkward, unpracticed way at first, and then more easily. So she held him, crouched at her knees, against her breast, huddling his head in her arms that he might not hear eight o'clock strike.

Annie's speech when confronted in Gaudy Night has been left out due to length, but it's about as un-cosy as you can get.

Sayers' work (in addition to the murders, Poison Pen letters and so on, which are only to be expected in crime novels, even cosy ones) include suicides and attempted suicides, mental illness, discussion of war, drowning, bigamy, drugs, homosexuality (arguably. And obviously this is not at all like suicide, but I think doesn't quite fit into the "cosy" category, which I am mentally defining as "things that wouldn't upset your average Daily Mail reader), extra-marital affairs and lots of unmarried sex. Christie I know less well, but And Then There Were None is chilling, at least one book contains a murderous child, and the motive for the murder in Murder on the Orient Express is the kidnapping and murder of a very young girl, the latter not stopping the murderer from collecting the ransom money. I think the Waterstones staff might be confusing "cosy" with "Golden Age detective fiction".

(I did not say anything about it, because last time I raised my concerns with a display at Waterstones I got the very distinct impression that the member of staff I was talking to thought I was crazy. But still, it is a ridiculous category for those books.)
Sad Willow

(no subject)

In my last shift at Oxfam, I found and bought a book called The Complete Medical Encyclopedia and Household Doctor - no date given, but judging by the illustrations it looks like it's from the 30s. It's in surprisingly good condition (or it was, until I left Oxfam in a ferocious rainstorm and, despite my having an umbrella, the book got soaked and the red dye on its cover started to run). I love things like this - they're such a window onto the past. And, of course, some things are hilarious. Some highlights:Collapse )
Sad Willow

(no subject)

I am currently in a room at the Oxford University Club, listening to Hertford's "silent disco" (a misnomer if ever there was one) from the floor below. Avril Lavigne's "Sk8r Boi" was just greeted with wild enthusiasm; the attendees appear to be word-perfect. (That said, aren't we all?)