What I read
Finished JA Jance, Cruel Intent, and am sufficiently prepossessed by the Ali Reynolds series to download the boxsets of the next three and a couple of novellas.
However, decided that perhaps I should take a little break and read something else, so I read Simon Brett, The Strangling on the Stage (2014), one of the Fethering mysteries, though I'm not sure one reads these for the actual, you know, mystery plot. This one had amdram luvvies.
Patricia Craig, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (2015) - charity shop find, about which I found myself a bit meh - it didn't seem to me to quite mesh the various elements, but that may have been me - even before the William Mayne apologism. I wanted perhaps more about the books themselves?
Robin Stevens, Jolly Foul Play (2016) from local indie bookshop sale shelf - I'm still not entirely sold on Hazel Wong - I feel there's a place somewhere between 'perpetuating Orientalist stereotypes' and having her be a standard 1930s boarding school girl who happens to be Chinese - but this did, I think, introduce some complexity in relationships and I think I shall be reading others in the series.
On the go
I am still very much enjoying the ongoing serial by Avoliot, The Course of Honour.
Still intermittently plugging on with the Inchbald bio - still not up to Wollstonecraft interactions.
The Dorothy Wrench bio is still very much backburnered - somehow I just slip off it whenever I pick it up.
No idea, find myself between books.
I suppose a 'visionary historian' might find this out by, you know, having visions?* rather than being able to substantiate the claim from empirical evidence?
But really, when someone comes out with the following:
[W]e have gained enormous power over the world and it doesn’t seem to make people significantly more satisfied than in the stone age.my impulse is to snarl 'And you know the satisfaction index of the average Stone Age person on the Stone Age equivalent of the Clapham omnibus HOW exactly?'
It's a hard enough question to answer for far more recent epochs of history. Perhaps those Stone Age people were too busy surviving to the grand old age of 30 with enough teeth to eat with to pause and reflect on the quiet desperation of their lives. But I'm not sure that amounts to satisfaction with their lot.
I think there's a difference between 'gotta put up with stuff/make the best of things', as people did within really quite recent history if they can't see any alternative (this thought brought to you by a discussion last week about marriage and divorce in the UK in the second half of the C20th) and being satisfied with the way one's life is.
Will concede that, looking about at certain people in the world today who do have enormous power, and seem to spend their time in constant whingeing (one longs for the flounder to send them back to the vinegar-bottle [though I observe that I have conflated two versions of this folkloric motif]), perhaps 'enormous power' doesn't make for satisfaction, although I would hazard that a reasonable degree of control over one's circumstances does at least make for a more comfortable life.
*Or having that deep poetic intuition into Things claimed by Robert Graves re White Goddesses etc.
I liked David Mitchell's column in The Observer New Review section yesterday: Choose my own Netflix adventure? No thanks.
Apart from the point he makes that, actually, what one wants is to sit down and have somebody tell you a story -
- it also strikes me that in this particular allotrope of interactive narrative, presumably it is a case (as with the choices made by The Dice Man) that these are not entirely free and random choices but already set up by whoever's producing the thing.
So it's unlikely that you get the option to turn a grimdark noir narrative into an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza, or that you have the choice of observing that the ferocious monster has a thorn in its foot, the poor thing and, rather than fighting it or running away, you remove the thorn and you and the monster become besties 4evah.
So the choices are already made for you and the idea that the viewer is choosing their own adventure except within existing parameters is spurious.
Okay, I have sometimes read a book/watched a movie and thought things like, there ought to be a whole lot more of the snarky sidekick, or, get rid of that annoying child, but I'm pretty sure that the Choose Your Own Path thing would rest entirely on plot cruxes which might take the narrative in different directions.
The significant choice that one makes when reading/watching/listening is made before one starts, and has picked a noir thriller/screwball comedy/all-singing all-dancing extravaganza.
Bread during the week: the Honey and Sunflower Seed Loaf from Cranks* Bread and Teacakes, actually 50:50 strong wholemeal/wholegrain spelt flour (as it was the end of the bag of strong wholemeal), and mixed seeds rather than sunflower alone. V nice.
Saturday breakfast rolls: the Tassajarra method, 50:50 strong white/wholegrain spelt flour, maple sugar and dried cranberries rather than cinnamon and raisins. Nice.
Today's lunch: yesterday Waitrose fish counter had small whole seabass, so I bought two (which they gutted and scaled for me), and had I thought to purchase enough salt while we were there, could have made another essay at salt-baking them. But instead I mixed up a paste of crushed garlic, minced ginger and soy sauce rubbed it into them, having made slashes along the sides, and baked them in oiled foil, turned out very nicely. Served with Charlotte potatoes roasted in beef dripping, buttered spinach and sugar snap peas stirfried with star anise.
*Cranks was a chain of UK vegetarian wholefood restaurants, now defunct.
That thing when, in order to big up someone/thing, you put down some other one/thing.
(I have lived long enough to see, I think, previous attempts to reclaim Green from the status of forgotten or neglected novelist.)
Fair enough: there are lots of novels/novelists not as well-known/as much appreciated as they should be (but, really, I don't think The Young Visiters should be on that list though I saw it there some time during the week on some list of the kind).
But really, do you have to say that other better-known writers and works have attained their position for extra-literary reasons?
Woolf was shockingly neglected; her present status owes not so much to literary critics as to feminism. Jean Rhys was utterly forgotten until her last work, Wide Sargasso Sea, allowed her to be annexed later by postcolonialists.
Yes, second-wave feminism was entirely the reason that Woolf was widely available in Penguin Modern Classics editions and taught in course modules on C20th modernism when I was a freshfaced undergraduate in the late 60s: no, really, historian says, chronology does not support this argument.
And I'm not so sure about Rhys, either, I think her earlier works were still around and mentioned but everyone was surprised that she was a) still alive and b) still writing, when Wide Sargasso Sea appeared. In fact have notion that it was discovered by someone who was a passionate Rhys-fan and tracked her down in her rural seclusion. And it got a fair amount of buzz even before post-colonialism was A Thing.
This categorisation thing is of course one of the Russ cases - women being pigeonholed as not universal but classified in region or genre.
We wish to remark that having heard well of Green via the critical writings of Walter Allen on the English novel, we did essay one or two of them but we did not, somehow, take him to our hearts.
We note that the average British couple is heterosexual.
Those of us who have studied the history of sex advice would point out that Marie Stopes said at least 20 minutes was necessary - so if the average time is 19 minutes they're stopping just a little bit too soon.
I'm beswozzled by the emphasis on the 'shared orgasm', which appears to be that shibboleth of the 50s marriage manual (and also literary sources), the simultaneous orgasm, which tended to sound enough hassle to achieve as to rather undermine its status as the pinnacle of mutual pleasure. Is it really that great? It has always seemed to me that there was a good deal of ideology in its advocacy, especially as it was entirely contingent upon both partners achieving orgasm via penetrative sex.
We should like to know how the sex toy retailer who compiled the study obtained the sample of 4400 people (presumably 2200 couples? enquiring minds would like to know a leeetle more on this count). (We see that they retain a 'sex expert': enquiring minds would also like to know the qualifications for the post.)
Whoever they are, they seem to have a somewhat uncritical belief in the existence of the G-spot as a universal.
I am very inclined to be cynical and think that all those percentages and numbers and 27 degree angles are a spurious scientific coating to what we critical historians of sex would call, bollox and woowoo.
Partly to do with highrise buildings that provide a reasonable analogue to the cliffs, also:
It seems ironic that this supremely wild animal is safer in a busy city than the countryside. In rural Britain, peregrines are still illegally shot or poisoned. Conservationists believe that these birds of prey are illegally killed because they threaten the profitability of lucrative grouse shoots. Lindo also points out that pigeon-fanciers “absolutely detest” peregrines. “Any peregrine nesting in an urban area is less likely to be persecuted,” says Lindo. “Becoming more urban is a blessing, but they still face dangers when they wander. When the youngsters move off into the surrounding countryside, that’s where their problems start.”
This seems to resonate for me with Rebecca Solnit's arguments that The true impact of activism may not be felt for a generation. That alone is reason to fight, rather than surrender to despair and also that the impact may not be where it was initially directed:
Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.
What I read
JD Robb, Apprentice in Death (2016): the mixture as usual.
Jonathan Kellerman, Breakdown (2016): in which the usually revoltingly smug Alex Delaware cops to having issues of his own; and I think there might be trouble in store for his relationship with the lovely Robin, though maybe she is happy to retreat to her workshop and make musical instruments and only make fleeting appearances in the plot, rather like the dog (in fact I think the dog might have got more screen-time).
JA Jance, Hand of Evil (2007). These are not bad at all, and I've gone straight on to the third in the boxset.
On the go
Still the Inchbald biography, in which I have not yet got to her celebrated catfight with Mary Wollstonecraft.
JA Jance, Cruel Intent (2008).
No idea: I am very excited to see that the third volume in The Change series by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, Rebel is coming out, but not until May, chiz, chiz.
Honestly, this sounds like the beginning of a plot for one of those 60s/70s sf stories by blokes, just at the point when it was more or less permissible to put S-E-X into a story instead of gleaming phallic objects.
£90 bluetooth connected vibrator, which can be controlled through an app.... Its app-enabled controls can be activated remotely, allowing, for instance, a partner on the other end of a video call to interact.
But the app came with a number of security and privacy vulnerabilities, which added up to produce something that many would feel uncomfortable about using.
The app that controls the vibrator is barely secured, allowing anyone within bluetooth range to seize control of the device.*
In addition, data is collected and sent back to Standard Innovation, letting the company know about the temperature of the device and the vibration intensity – which, combined, reveal intimate information about the user’s sexual habits.
*Totally a 70s soft-porno movie waiting to happen, cast loose in time. See, e.g. Percy, which was, apparently 'the 8th most popular film at the British box office in 1971', a year that seems to have been The Year of the Humorous [??] Willy Movie, see also The Statue. There was even a sequel to Percy, Percy's Progress. Tell me again about that golden era of the movies...
Last week I was somewhat irked to run out of something that I thought I had a replacement supply of.
It turned out I didn't.
I wouldn't go so far as to say it makes me joyful, but it induces a placid contentment when I run out of Thing, but do not need to go out in order to purchase more of Thing, or place an online order and wait for delivery, because I buy 2 or 3 at a time and I have another package of Thing in a cupboard. (Surely this comes under the Benefits of Redundancy clause?)
This is quite over and above the edict that I have seen that if you get rid of something, you can always buy another.
While I do look around and think that I do need to some culling of books so that I can find the ones I actually want when I want them, and this might actually create some space so that I could sort through my files of research materials.
And I can see that it would be a good deal more efficient if I did manage to undertake some sorting and discarding, just as it is efficient to have spare Things, but I never seem to quite get to it.
Perhaps I should try that thing where you spend X minutes and that's all per day on it? (am by nature more of a blitzer, but there's too much to blitz.)
Bread during the week: Elizabeth David's light rye loaf, which turned out particularly nice.
Saturday breakfast rolls: basic buttermilk, 2:1:1 white spelt flour/strong white flour (as that was the last of the bag of white spelt)/medium cornmeal. Rather nice.
Today's lunch: game crumble, for which I casseroled the game casserole mix (pheasant, partridge, venison and mallard) with onion, garlic and bay leaf in red wine for approx an hour in a relatively low oven, then added a crumble mix of 2:1:1 wholemeal flour/strong white flour/medium oatmeal, with a sprinkle of mixed seeds and some crushed coriander seeds, and butter rubbed in, and cooked for a further 30 mins in a medium hot oven; served with flower sprouts (which they were selling loose in the whole foods/organic place) garlic roasted, chicory quartered and healthy grilled in avocado oil and splashed with tayberry vinegar, and padron peppers.
Jack Monroe wins Twitter libel case against Katie Hopkins - given the initial confusion of identities thing going on, I was really hoping someone would cite the case in which the Mitfords sued for libel over the wrong daughter having been reported as eloping to Spain ('whenever I see the words Peer's Daughter on a newspaper placard, I know it's one of you' said their mother).
In more serious business, MPs to discuss reform of UK's Victorian-era abortion law: though I'm a bit surprised that no-one lists all the provisions of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act that are now dead letters (e.g., what was quite a humane provision at the time given that previously it has been a capital offence, life imprisonment for sodomy. Also assume that abduction of heiresses is no longer a thing - ? made redundant by Married Women's Property Act?)
And in other news, I think this guy meant well: White men 'endangered species' in UK boardrooms, says Tesco chairman - because in context he said 'You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard' (about time, we remark, since everyone not in that category has had to).
Well, I seem to have all the ducks in a row to post off the application for grant of probate.
On the academic side of things, I have done some work on the thing I am doing for a non-specialist audience. Also some research for the thing for the centenary celebration that I am doing.
In Dept of Not Yet Forgotten, I have been asked to read someone's projected article, discuss someone else's postdoc research project, and to review a book. So haven't quite fallen off the radar. Also - did I mention this? - being a Meedja Nexpert, and advising on a museum exhibit.
In other research related matters, there is a research relevant exhibition I should get to before it closes.
In other business, I have indicated interest (if not wild enthusiasm) for being on some Wiscon panels, and am doing a reading (I'm thinking, swan).
In the world of culture, am going to the theatre for what seems like the first time for ages tomorrow.
In Dept Venturing Forth and Being Social, I have a couple of things on next week.
In Matters of Life Admin, now I have dealt with outstanding hair, teeth and GP issues, it must be about time to go and get my eyes tested, they are dreadful at sending reminders.
I'm pretty much on board with this: Recipes aren’t sacred, because there is nothing so dull as any tradition that has been preserved in a positively taxidermied state of statis -
There was an interesting display in the Lockwood Kipling exhibit, in which there was some mention of his dingdong with another promoter of Indian arts and crafts, but who wanted to preserve them in their 'authentic' traditional style, rather than seeing the tradition as a living thing, which LK did and wished to support.
When I was in New Zealand in the late 90s, one evening we were taken out for a meal in a restaurant which was like a time-capsule of 1950s posh restaurant dining (a tradition which, one admits, was probably never a culinary high spot), and then, I think it might even have been the following day, had a brilliant modern NZ style lunch in the brasserie at a vineyard.
On the other hand, experiment all you like, but failure teaches you something, and just because you've innovated doesn't make the thing good -
Comes and sit on the stair of shame, Jamie Oliver's kedgeree!
I was also not prepossessed by the deconstructed gazpacho at a trendy eatery in Madrid.
I think Laurie Colwin's line about what the cook wants to hear is not 'oh, how interesting' but 'more!' pretty much says it all.
A slight quibble with that article: 'the homogeneity of Italian food can be boring': WOT? - there are massive regional differences, what we ate in Naples and around the Amalfi coast was entirely different from what was on offer in Florence or Padua or Venice. But I daresay if you were in one spot for a length of time, the changes that might be rung would be limited.