Review: Herland

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


“The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of those texts most American kids encounter in high school, but, as a literary critic in training at a women’s college, it’s popped up as the ideal candidate to practice feminist theory on in the class that teaches you about the major schools of literary theory. It’s also popped up in one of my history classes. So Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a very familiar name to me, but only because of that one short story. But her bibliography is much deeper than that, and includes a utopian trilogy of which Herland is the middle installment, flanked by Moving the Mountain and With Her In Ourland. I’ve tried reading Herland once before, as a kid discovering Project Gutenberg in high school, but I thought it was time to give it another shot.

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Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sherlock Holmes canon has become comfort reading for me—insofar as reading material new to me can be. There’s just something wonderful about 1880s London, mysteries that place the focus on people rather than how shocking the crimes are (I have mentioned modern mystery and I don’t get on, yeah? Please feel free to prove me wrong), the hint of the Gothic that runs through it, and, of course, Holmes and Watson, best friends for life. I basically end every novel and collection sighing, “Oh, boys.” I just honestly enjoy spending time with these characters, which is a downright miracle for an episodic and open-ended series for me. Nice work, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nice work.

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The Sunday Salon: Digital Reading Apps

I find the panic over the rise of digital books overblown. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—until someone invents a ten dollar reading device that won’t electrocute you in the tub, physical books are safe. Yes, the industry is going to go through some growing pains to get used to it, but the music industry and the film industry have already been there and come out more or less fine. But digital reading is here to stay, and I find it immensely useful. I can’t split my focus between two print books, but I can split my focus between one print book and one digital book. With the addition of Iona the iPhone to my herd of electronics and my usual habit of reading digital books while blow-drying my hair, I’ve had plenty of time to think about digital reader apps and which ones are worth one’s time—and the two that I think fits most book bloggers’ needs.

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Review: Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

This is the first nonfiction title I’ve read from Project Gutenberg, I have to say—the other one on my list is The Golden Bough, which I’m quite looking forward to. (Although Joseph Campbell just swiped at it in the portion of The Hero With a Thousand Faces I’m reading. But he’s really androcentric, so he can bite me.) I’m under the impression that this is a Nancy Pearl recommendation, but I added those recommendations into the old list before I started marking down where they came from. In any case, Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria is considered to have changed how biographies addressed their subjects; on top of that, it was one of the first recipients of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (which was also awarded to another favorite piece of mine, Lady Into Fox).

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Review: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre, like the works of Jane Austen, is one of those novels that you feel you know from cultural osmosis. For instance, I knew the basic plot of Jane Eyre well before I tucked into the novel for class—I’m a literary critic-in-training, for Pete’s sake! But I’d never read it—or, if I did attempt it at an early age (y’all know how bad my memory prior to fourteen is), I didn’t get very far. So I felt a little cocky as I began Jane Eyre; there couldn’t be any surprises in store for me. And then I couldn’t stop reading it—I had to know what happened next. The moral of the story is—don’t trust cultural osmosis. (Except when it comes to Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a work ruined by cultural osmosis. Whoops.)

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Review: Phantastes

Phantastes by George MacDonald

As you well know, fantasy is my genre—I’m pretty sure I bleed The Legend of Zelda. But modern fantasy as we know it was shaped by J. R. R. Tolkien, and I want to learn more about fantasy as it stood prior to the game-changing The Lord of the Rings. I’ve featured Lord Dunsany’s 1924 novel, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, on The Literary Horizon before, but Phantastes is a much earlier work that was published in 1858. (Both, incidentally, are part of the now defunct Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which looks like a good resource for my casual investigation into pre-Tolkien fantasy.) C. S. Lewis considered his reading of Phantastes at 16 as the “night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized” (100). With Phantastes in the public domain, I thought it was as good a place as any to start.

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Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Normally, I don’t presume to claim a character for Team Ace, but I really must insist here—textually, Holmes is into no one, to the point that Watson notices it and mildly disapproves of it. I say this because the Irene Adler/Sherlock Holmes ship is a difficult one to sink. I’m not talking about subtext here, but just the text; there are some people out there who theorize that Holmes actually married her during “A Scandal in Bohemia”, which is one of those things that makes me realize fandom is much, much older than we think it is. I’m all for rioting in the subtext (I certainly do!), but when my mother thinks it actually happens in the books, I need to remind everyone that Holmes is playing on my team in the text. And we sit out games. Everybody clear? Alright, then let’s dig into The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

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Review: The Sign of the Four

The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My leisurely stroll through the Holmes canon via Project Gutenberg continues; luckily, I need only to procure myself a copy of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes when the time comes, and I can’t imagine that being too difficult. I’m enjoying it so much to the point of perhaps discovering another fandom; my fellow fen are quite sweet and it’s been booming steadily since the 2009 film. But, of course, my enjoyment doesn’t mean that The Sign of the Four is without its problems.

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Review: Lady into Fox

Lady into Fox by David Garnett

If I remember correctly, Lady into Fox came to me by way of Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust, as the entirety of my initial reading list did. Picking it up after forgetting about it for two years meant I was in for a surprise. I knew the main concept–it’s in the title–but I hadn’t realized that it had been written in 1922, set in 1880, or even that was a slim little novella at 91 pages. But I think surprises are good when consuming media–we’re all just so spoiled these days.

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Review: A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have a lot of hair. (I swear this is relevant.) Blow-drying it takes some time, so I usually browse the Internet while I do; I’ve only got one hand and I’m going to get water on anything closer than a foot away from me. The last weekend in September, however, I decided to try and use those moments to do something productive–read the various digital books that have fallen into my hands one way or another. I decided to start it off with finally reading a Sherlock Holmes novel, which has been a glaring gap in my literary education for quite some time now.

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