Happy Birthday, Daphne du Maurier

by kara on May 13, 2015

Rebecca is one of my favorite novels, ever.

.

via the Paris Review

The moment of crisis had come, and I must face it. My old fears, my diffidence, my shyness, my hopeless sense of inferiority, must be conquered now and thrust aside. If I failed now I should fail forever.
―Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

It must be wonderful to be one of those pedestrians who own the streets. To be one of those people who walks where he likes with Ratso Rizzo–like entitlement, or, better yet, is gracious enough to usher a car forward when, in fact, the car has the right of way. Such people, of course, never give a timid wave of appreciation—a tacit “thank you for not killing me”—when a car lets them cross.

It must be wonderful never to assume your name has been left off the list, or that your card will be declined. It must be wonderful not to have the moment of anxiety, every time you pass through automatic doors, that they will not open. It must be wonderful not to cry every time someone slights you, and feel bruised for days afterward. It must be wonderful to be Rebecca de Winter, rather than her nameless successor.

Whether you consider Rebecca escapist fun, or an uneasy picture of the Electra complex run amok, or a masterpiece of Gothic storytelling, one thing is for sure: du Maurier paints one of the most accurate portraits of shyness in all of English literature. The narrator has none of Jane Eyre’s reserves and mysterious poise, none of the position and dignity of Jane Austen’s uncomfortable heroes. She is instead consumed by the particularly agonizing egotism that is shyness: a paralyzing self-consciousness that is reinforced by every slight, every harsh word, every reaction of the world, real and perceived. (I suppose I should add a spoiler alert here, for those unfamiliar with the plot of Rebecca.)
That she should ultimately triumph is not surprising. Shy characters always triumph. (They are, after all, created by writers.) But the ending of Rebecca is unusual. Usually a shy character has to change: his gifts are recognized and celebrated, he becomes the leader he was always meant to be. He comes out of his shell. Think of just about any children’s book and you’ll recognize the pattern. The heroine of Rebecca, however, manages to get everything she wants on her own terms. She routs her rival, gets her man, even sees the house that has oppressed her destroyed. Yes, she is good in crisis, but as any shy person can tell you, crisis is the easy part: it’s the challenges of day-to-day living that are difficult.

By book’s end, she has not changed, but, rather, reduced the world to the tiny scale with which she is comfortable. She and her husband are alone, he is dependent on her, and she is no longer faced with the manifold social ordeals that, conventionally, a heroine would master. It is hard to say who is redeemed and who’s corrupted. Or, indeed, whether anyone has changed at all. Is it the ultimate triumph, or a nightmare? That’s probably part of the appeal.

When you wave at a car, the wave seems to say, Thank you for not killing me. Maybe it is less silly than strutting around, holding up peremptory hands and pretending you have dominion over all the cars of the streets. But when you thank someone, aren’t you seizing the moral authority? By reminding them of their power, aren’t you asserting your own? Maybe not. Maybe it’s just good manners.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

by kara on May 2, 2015

Ruth Rendell died today and the world feels emptier already. I probably spent 2.5 solid years reading all her books. And i keep thinking it she’d had more time (she was 85), there would have been more. She was writing right up to the end. Some writers run out of steam. Not Ruth.

Ruth, deservedly the most decorated of British crime writer, transformed what had become a staid and formulaic genre into something that offered scope for a different kind of crime novel. She turned it into a prism for examining the world with a critical eye.

Two lines from one of my favorite of her novels, A Judgement in Stone: the opening with line: “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read and write”

and “She was happiest when sitting about and reading. She had read thousands of books, seeing no point in doing anything else unless you had to.”

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Lady Rendell of Babergh, writer, born 17 February 1930; died 2 May 2015

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

by kara on April 21, 2015

Françoise Sagan

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

my new book just arrived.

by kara on April 16, 2015

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

My Haters, Myself

by kara on April 16, 2015

via Amanda Hess at Slate My Haters, Myself – Mastering the art of the haterbrag.

Jennifer Weiner at a PEN America event on April 6, 2015. A slideshow projected on a screen behind her was loaded with pics of Jonathan Franzen striking stuffy promotional poses.

(Photo by Corrie Hulse)

Jennifer Weiner has sold millions of books, spent a combined five years on the New York Times best-seller list, and amassed 109,000 followers on Twitter. Last week, she descended into the basement of New York City’s Ace Hotel to share a handful of her self-promotional secrets. The talk, sponsored by the PEN American Center, was titled “How to Be Authentic on Social Media,” but its true subject was how to promote your book on the Internet without making everyone hate you. Weiner advised authors to tweet about the things they love (for Weiner, it’s the reality TV romance competition The Bachelor); to tweet about the authors they love (Roxane Gay and Gary Shteyngart are two of her favorites); and to tweet about their own projects “sparingly, carefully, modestly, thoughtfully, and absolutely as little as possible”—and let their now-loyal crew of social media followers spread the word. The talk was a handy primer, charmingly delivered. But it referred only obliquely to Weiner’s true social-media innovation: Co-opting her haters into her personal brand.

In 2010, Weiner coined the term “Franzenfreude” to mock the extensive and fawning media coverage that met Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, Freedom. When Franzen unexpectedly returned the slight, frowning upon “Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion” in an essay published in the Guardian in 2013, Weiner cannily recast Franzen’s dig as a badge of honor, changing her Twitter bio, for a time, to “Engaging in Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion.” Years of sustained, adversarial brand building followed. On Twitter, she’s dubbed Franzen “the worst Internet boyfriend ever,” branded his literary allies “Franzenfriends,” and gleefully organized an “unFranzen” party to coincide with Franzen’s keynote address at next month’s BookExpo America. In advance of last week’s talk, she promised to finally “explain how ‘Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion’ works” and joked that she was prepping for the event by spending all day Googling photos of Franzen. Um, it wasn’t a joke: A slideshow projected on a screen behind Weiner was loaded with pics of Franzen striking stuffy promotional poses. Throughout the evening, Weiner hammily referred to him as, alternately, Jonathan Franzen, Lonathan Janzen, and Shmonathan Shmanzen. “Dude, you know a lot about Jonathan Franzen,” the event’s host, Emily Gould, noted when it was all over. Replied Weiner: “I like to be prepared.”

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

On the NIghtstand

by kara on December 2, 2014

By Sarah Waters
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594633119, 576pp.)

Publication Date: September 16, 2014

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

RIP PD James

by kara on November 28, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crime writers P.D. James (left) and another one of my favorites, Ruth Rendell

One of my favorite crime novelists,  PD James, has died aged 94. Her agent said she died “peacefully at her home in Oxford” on Thursday morning. She penned more than 20 books, many featuring sleuth Adam Dalgliesh, and sold millions of books around the world, with various adaptations for television and film.

Her best known novels include The Children of Men, The Murder Room and Pride and Prejudice spin-off Death Comes to Pemberley.

The author told the BBC last year she was working on another detective story and it was “important to write one more”.

Born Phyllis Dorothy James on 3 August 1920, the author did not publish her first (fantastic) novel, Cover Her Face, until she was 42. It was a critical success, but she continued working for the Home Office – where she held a job in the forensic science department and then the criminal law department until 1979.

She gained international recognition in 1980 after the publication of her eighth book, Innocent Blood.

During the 1980s, many of James’s Dalgliesh novels were adapted for television on ITV, starring Roy Marsden in the in lead role. The BBC later adapted Death in Holy Orders and The Murder Room in 2003 and 2004 respectively, starring Martin Shaw as the detective.James’s 1992 dystopian novel The Children of Men was adapted for the movies by Alfonso Cuaron in 2006.

The author was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association’s Diamond Dagger award in 1987 for lifetime achievement, and received the Medal of Honour for Literature in 2005 by National Arts Club. She also served as a BBC governor from 1988 to 1993.

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

On the Nightstand

by kara on November 28, 2014

Before I go to Sleep by S.J Watson

(Harper Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780062060563, 368pp.)

Publication Date: February 2012

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

On the nightstand

by kara on October 26, 2014

 

The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar

By Terri Cheney(Atria Books, Hardcover, 9781439176214, 288pp.)

Publication Date: March 1, 2011

 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Science Sleuths

by kara on October 10, 2014

Ebola, global warming, heat death, yadayadayada, it seems as if even day a new type of medical or environmental horror is attacking us from the headlines. The Vallows are sciencey people, engineers, doctors and research scientists and me, a cartoonist who likes to read about stuff, particularly if there is an element of MYSTERY afoot. Germs and detectives might not seem like they’re connected. But their link, as a certain fictitious sleuth might say, is elementary. Here are some books I have read recently that you may ALSO enjoy!

 

Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis by Helen Bynum

I have always been fascinated by the romantic “wasting” disease. It started as a kid when I read the story of Poe’s child bride’s death by consumption. She is entertaining guests in the parlor on the harp (or was it a piano?), and suddenly starts spitting up blood. She spends the next months growing paler and more wan and more beautiful, glowing with the disease. During the Romantic Age, TB was called “consumption,” from the Latin, consumere, to waste away and for a brief period, became a stylish mark of tragic beauty. The pale and wan English poets, like Keats and Shelley, symbolized the melancholy ideal of the romantic and consumptive youth of the 19th century, such as Mimi, in Puccini’s La Bohème. Romantics began to believe consumption was associated with gifted and talented people; Thoreau, dead at 45; Chopin, 39; and Robert Louis Stevenson, 34. It was the professional and popular opinion then, before the discovery of germs, that consumption was a constitutional trait.

[click to continue…]

{ Comments on this entry are closed }