Great White Snark: "I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."

So, I didn't finish my Fall Fashion Series.


But I will. I just haven't been in the mood. This is why I'm a shite journalist--I only write about what I want to write about when I feel like writing it. Bad for business...but I guess it's a good thing I'm not getting paid for this. =)

Classes have been going well. I'm in a couple of classes I love: Practical Criticism, which is basically just a course in close-reading, and British Authors, which focuses exclusively on Emily and Charlotte Bronte this semester. The class usually focuses on Oscar Wilde (CAN YOU IMAGINE?!?), so I was a little bothered that I missed a semester of Wilde. But I do love the Brontes, so it's not that big of a disappointment.

We've just finished our first novel, The Secret.

It's a series of short stories that Charlotte wrote when she was 14. Here's the deal: the Brontes had a miserable life. There were six originally, but the eldest two sisters died at ages 11 and 10 (due to malnourishment, cold, and horrid diseases contracted at an all-girls boarding school. Jane Eyre, anyone??), which left Branwell (the only son), Charlotte, Emily and Anne. To entertain themselves in the dismal hell-hole that was 19th century Yorkshire, they wrote stories in serialized format, like a magazine. Charlotte and Branwell formed a team, and Emily and Anne formed another team, and then the pairs would switch each week, reading the other set's stories. Which is pretty clever. But anyway, all the stories in The Secret take place in Charlotte's imaginary world of Verdopolis. It's a poorly kept secret that the Bronte's indulged in imaginary play until their mid to late twenties, earning them the label of insane. But Verdopolis is one of those worlds.

Emily and Charlotte were the two who most indulged in their worlds of Verdopolis, Angria and Gondal. As children, they based the characters off a set of twelve toy soldiers that their father bought for Branwell. They wrote the stories on these itty bitty little books the size of MATCHBOXES. INSANE.

The Angria manuscripts to scale. TINY.

Anyway, The Secret was fascinating. Here's the synopsis, per Amazon:

A rollicking adventure from the Bront√ęs’ imagined kingdom of Verdopolis, The Secret is a novel of intrigue, duplicity, and all-conquering love.

Arthur, the Marquis of Douro, his beautiful wife, Marion, and their infant son lead a happy and carefree existence in the city of Verdopolis—until a chance encounter brings the youthful Marchioness’ childhood governess back into their lives. The meeting proves to be the catalyst for an increasingly tortuous series of events involving blackmail, imposture, and shocking revelations regarding the birth of the young Marchioness. Will the Marquis ever forgive his wife her secret?

The synopsis is accurate. It's a great story; very interesting and one of those "whoa, what's going to happen next?" The only place it lacks is character development. However, considering that she was only fourteen, I am blown away by the quality of her writing. Holding it next to the crap I wrote at fourteen makes me look legally retarded. It's extremely interesting, and I'd love to read the rest of the Tales of Angria. She writes her world of Verdopolis and the Glass City with the mastery of myth-makers. She bestows a mythic, legendary, god-like feel to her characters. They become identifiable in the way that Hermes and Hera are (her heroine always wears flowers in her hair and has hazel eyes and a pet dove; the villainess always wears black and red velvet and black plumage in her hair. Even without naming them, the reader recognizes them when they appear.). It's fascinating, and worth a read. It's a quick, easy read too. I think I spent probably an hour and a half total reading the entirety of the book. DEFINITELY recommend it.

The Bronte family, purportedly drawn by Branwell. From L-R: Emily, Charlotte, Branwell and Anne.

Short Stories Read This Semester So Far That I'd Recommend:

1. "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner. This is probably my second favorite short story ever written. I LOVE it. It is utterly creeptacular, and so well-written. Also (SPOILER ALERT!), it's about necrophilia, and you don't find that out until the last sentence. AWESOME.

2. "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell. In which men (who are busy doing and accomplishing things) fail to solve the crime because they don't pay attention to things like knitting needles and fruit preserves. Trust: nosy woman neighbors know the deets. Leave it to them, mmkay?

3. "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I'm not a Hawthorne fan, but this story about literally and figuratively losing Faith in a devil ritual in the woods of Salem made me think and was generally pretty awesome.

4. "Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway. Epitome of Hemingway's "iceberg" style of storytelling. Spoiler alert: it's about an abortion. Pretty much ingenius.

5. "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. Vies for my number one favorite short story spot just because it's SO GOOD and so unexpected. If you read ANY of these stories, READ THIS ONE!!!

That's it. Sorry if you don't like lit and reading. No, I'm not. That's your problem. Read "The Lottery." It might change your mind. :)


  1. I don't mind at all that you took a break from fashion to discuss literature...
    And I would also like to say that I adore "The Lottery." I read it my freshman year in high school and it changed my life. It is by far my favorite short story: nothing else even come close. If you like it you should read Roald Dahl's short stories. If you haven't read any of his books and have only seen the movies, you are sorely missing out. He is a brilliant, creeping genius who writes masterful short stories.
    Go now. Read Dahl.
    P.s. I didn't realize the Brontes wrote short stories... Looks like I'll be adding that to my "to-read" list. Thanks!

  2. I took a short story class and I read all of those short stories :) I feel really proud of myself lol...
    I enjoyed "The Lottery" but I didn't enjoy "Hills Like White Elephants," talk about depressing!!
    I like your book reviews/class subjects.