moon_custafer: (Default)
Book 8, Ch. III
I think the Count Rostopchin who shows up here is a real person and the father of Sophie Rostophchine, la Comtesse de Segur, AKA the author of half the books I read in French Immersion.

Ch. V
Smarmy Boris marries Julie, who is basically a Goth, but very rich:

To Boris, Julie was particularly gracious: she regretted his early disillusionment with life, offered him such consolation of friendship as she who had herself suffered so much could render, and showed him her album. Boris sketched two trees in the album and wrote: "Rustic trees, your dark branches shed gloom and melancholy upon me."

On another page he drew a tomb, and wrote:

    La mort est secourable et la mort est tranquille.      Ah! contre les douleurs il n'y a pas d'autre asile.

Natasha meets her future sister-in-law and has a strained awkward conversation.

Ch. IX

The floor of the stage consisted of smooth boards, at the sides was some painted cardboard representing trees, and at the back was a cloth stretched over boards. In the center of the stage sat some girls in red bodices and white skirts. One very fat girl in a white silk dress sat apart on a low bench, to the back of which a piece of green cardboard was glued. They all sang something. When they had finished their song the girl in white went up to the prompter's box and a man with tight silk trousers over his stout legs, and holding a plume and a dagger, went up to her and began singing, waving his arms about.

First the man in the tight trousers sang alone, then she sang, then they both paused while the orchestra played and the man fingered the hand of the girl in white, obviously awaiting the beat to start singing with her. They sang together and everyone in the theater began clapping and shouting, while the man and woman on the stage—who represented lovers—began smiling, spreading out their arms, and bowing.


moon_custafer: (Default)
 It’s, like, 1810 by now

Pierre is back together with Helene, though it’s a marriage in name only. Actually it seems to work better this way: she’s somehow got a reputation for being witty as well as beautiful, and he’s her quiet, good-natured husband. Actually he’s thinking about God and the meaning of life the whole time, but no one notices.

ETA – and, um, having somewhat erotic dreams about the head of the Masonic order.

“And he’s very nice, very, very nice. Only not quite my taste—he is so narrow, like the dining-room clock…. Don’t you understand? Narrow, you know—gray, light gray…”

“What rubbish you’re talking!” said the countess.

Natasha continued: “Don’t you really understand? Nicholas would understand…. Bezukhov, now, is blue, dark-blue and red, and he is square.”

“You flirt with him too,” said the countess, laughing.

“No, he is a Freemason, I have found out. He is fine, dark-blue and red…. How can I explain it to you?”

Natasha is synaesthetic, apparently.


Meanwhile, Berg & Vera’s relationship appears to be a happily awful one:

Berg smiled with a sense of his superiority over a weak woman, and paused, reflecting that this dear wife of his was after all but a weak woman who could not understand all that constitutes a man’s dignity, what it was ein Mann zu sein. * Vera at the same time smiling with a sense of superiority over her good, conscientious husband, who all the same understood life wrongly, as according to Vera all men did.

moon_custafer: (Default)
Trying to recall who it was posted a link, back before Christmas, to a Project Gutenberg collection of E. F. Benson spook stories, but I've been reading through them the past few days, so thanks.

I'd read at least one ("And the Dead Spake") as a child, and one or two others felt vaguely familiar. I'm positive I've read a different story, possibly by Roald Dahl, with a similar theme to "The Man Who Went Too Far;" I can't recall a thing about what happens in it, just that somebody tries to create their own Eden through meditation and things inevitably go violently bad with no obvious trigger because humans can't have nice things.

I looked up Benson's Wikipedia entry and facepalmed to read that he'd been a champion figure-skater, along with his other talents. More disturbingly, his death from throat cancer loads even more body horror into "How Fear Departed form the Long Gallery" and "Caterpillars."

Other stray thoughts:

The endings are awfully abrupt, and sometimes a bit anticlimactic. I was disappointed that something like "The Gardener" didn't end in a showdown, after the amazing build-up, but I guess Benson doesn't roll that way.

You'd think Hugh Grainger in "The Gardener" and "The China Bowl" is the same Hugh Grainger from "The Bus-Conductor," but I can't tell since he never mentions, when a haunting comes up, that he's encountered such things before; of course if it's the same narrator he wouldn't need to.

Cats in Benson stories appear to be invariably (a) sinister, and (b) large and gray. If they were solely the former I'd assume Benson just didn't like cats, but the recurring physical description makes me wonder if he had a large gray cat himself and liked to wryly Tuckerize it into the stories.

I really want to know more about the people of Achnaleish.
moon_custafer: (acme)
In one of those stupid how'd-that-even-happen accidents, last night I lost my balance crossing the living room, twisted downward trying to regain it and somehow stubbed my toe hard against a dvd box set that was sitting on the floor. I could wiggle my toe afterwards, so it's not broken, but this morning it's swollen and painful. I'll try to stay off it for a couple of days, but the toilet seat handle needs replacing and all the other usual things need doing.

When not injuring myself, I spent the evening re-reading Sayers' Montague Egg stories. I never much liked these as a kid, because they weren't about Wimsey, and also the plots were harder for me to follow. They are still a bit harder to follow -- they're extremely short, often ending abruptly as soon as Egg has made the remark that will set the police on the right track. I think this may be a deliberate choice, along with the liminal settings that most have -- small hotels that cater primarily to business, public houses where a mix of locals and travelers caught by the bad weather discuss the local murder. The stories have the problem that people nowadays always point out with Miss Marple, that it strains credulity that the protagonist always just happens to be around when a murder is committed. I've decided to handwave this by assuming that each story actually takes place in one of a group of separate universes, nearly indistinguishable from each other. It's an explanation that suits the character.

Egg, like half the men in the room, always fits the description of the suspect. I think he might look like a very young Ralph Richardson, or James Corden if you were to adapt the stories now (unlikely, given everything I've said above, though I'm starting to think it could work as a web series). Except for his interest in any mystery he happens into, he seems to have no life beyond his job as a commercial traveler in wines for the firm of Plummet & Rose. He wears a trilby (which evidently had different associations then), and has a professional knowledge of wine, which features in some of the stories, but his only real quirk is his devotion to the Salesman's Handbook, which gives advice in little rhyming couplets. Sometimes he writes his own when a new situation arises. I suppose it's possible he has actually written all of them. He doesn't seem like he'd actually need such mnemonics -- he can, if he shuts his eyes, recall in detail everyone who shared a train compartment with him, several days after the fact. The Handbook's maxims are primarily about behaviour, but Egg seems to have little trouble interacting with people, at least on the short-term level required of him. The police never really suspect him, perhaps because anytime they might, he always gently points out that he already realizes they ought to, and doesn't take it personally. Thirty or so years later, he might end up being George Smiley, if British Intelligence is intelligent enough to recruit him when war breaks out.
moon_custafer: (acme)
Looked up this passage, because it was the only bit that stuck with me from an early Raymond Chandler story, before he hit his stride. The story turned out to be "Smart-Aleck Kill" Basically, the detective's search takes him to a louche house party:

He went past the blond man down the hall and turned under an arch into a big old-fashioned room with built-in china closets and a lot of shabby furniture. There were seven or eight people in the room and they were all flushed with liquor.
A girl in shorts and a green polo shirt was shooting craps on the floor with a man in dinner clothes. A fat man with noseglasses was talking sternly into a toy telephone. He was saying: "Long Distance-Sioux City-and put some snap into it, sister!"
The radio blared "Sweet Madness."
Two couples were dancing around carelessly bumping into each other and the furniture. A man who looked like Al Smith was dancing all alone, with a drink in his hand and an absent expression on his face. A tall, white-faced blonde weaved towards Dalmas, slopping liquor out of her glass. She shrieked: "Darling! Fancy meeting you here!"
Dalmas went around her, went towards a saffron-colored woman who had just come into the room with a bottle of gin in each hand. She put the bottles on the piano and leaned against it, looking bored. Dalmas went up to her and asked for Miss Crayle.

That's not even a case of period sleaze coming off as charmingly quaint by modern standards. That is the sort of thing that David Lynch copied years later. Nothing so obvious as nudity or open drug-taking is going on, but everybody's just... off. It's terribly effective. I still can't recall the rest of the story.


Apr. 18th, 2013 08:39 pm
moon_custafer: (Default)
OK, not sewing tonight, because of a (probably weather-related) headache.

I saw a hawk of some sort while waiting or the bus after work. This isn't unusual, but it wasn't one of the harriers I normally spot north of Bloor St. It didn't have the ragged wing shape, and it was working alone, wheeling and darting about.

After watching a couple of videos of birds of prey in flight, I'm leaning towards peregrine falcon for the speed; I just wish I could remember for sure if the wings were that pointy. Otherwise, most likely a red-tailed hawk, which would be more common in this city.

I'm not crazy -- the story I recall reading in the New Yorker some twenty years ago *was* by Murakami: Sleep. It looks as though this is the complete story, ambiguous, ominous ending and all. I'd wondered for years whether it was an excerpt from a novel, and had just broken off on a cliff-hanger, but nope.

There's a thing I've noticed with both Murasaki and Banana Yoshimoto -- I don't know whether it's an artifact of the translation process, or a favourite technique of post-modern Japanese writers; the *events* of their stories are frequently bizarre, but the narrative style is almost boring -- usually one of the characters recounts the events in an utterly straightforward manner, like a high-school student writing an essay. Yoshimoto's N.P. involves suicide, half-sibling incest, attempted murder and a collection of stories that may be accused -- but it takes place almost entirely in crowded modern Tokyo, and in broad daylight, with the characters saying things like "I'm afraid their love is doomed and will destroy both of them. But it can't be helped. Would you like another cup of coffee?"
moon_custafer: (Default)
Had a slew of Sherlock Holmes dreams last night, including one which was basically a gender-swapped version of 'The Copper Beeches,' and a steampunk one that I didn't get to see the end of, but which had a sequence where the heroine is kidnapped by someone with a skyhook and a zeppelin, and then escapes by seizing an inflatable raft and jumping while they're over a river, after telling the villain she trusts gravity more than she trusts him.

Later, she regroups with Holmes and Watson, and they come across a password-locked entrance which turns out to be very "speak friend and enter" -- as Holmes points out, it's a door - the logical thing to say is "open." He has to say it three times, though, because the first couple of times the door tries to trick him with false images of different rooms he can't enter.
moon_custafer: (ostrich)
Seems I'm not the only one with questions about Inspector Javert's methods:
moon_custafer: (covetin)
green_trilobite's been watching a lot of tv mystery series of late. A couple of thoughts that have occurred to me:

1. In all the golden-age mysteries I've ever read, when the Stupid Police (tm) find a body with a wristwatch or nearby clock smashed in the struggle, they always use it to estimate the time of death - and it always turns out the murderer moved the hands and then smashed the timepiece on purpose to throw them off. In recent police procedurals, OTOH, the smashed clocks keeps turning out to be exactly what they seem.

2. In the Six Napoleons (cut for spoiler) Read more... )
moon_custafer: (Default)
A woman on the bus was reading this Mills & Boone novel; same cover image, too, but flipped and cropped. I have to admire's cross-referencing - the "similar books you might like" list at the bottom includes titles like The Greek Tycoon's Baby Bargain and The Fiorenza Forced Marriage. I sense a sub-genre here.

Part 4

Sep. 15th, 2009 09:22 pm
moon_custafer: (Default)
I think this story is officially getting weird.

The Very Secret Journal of Elizabeth Anne Watts, in the Fourteenth Yr of her Age

In 1873, workers replacing the wainscotting in a wing of M------- College found a tiny bound volume, scarcely two inches along the spine.

Entries for October - November, 1840, appear below:

Read more... )
moon_custafer: (Default)
Things take a turn for the worse. Also I think I've been misspelling Cochran's name.

Extract from the diary of Ezra Jennings

Read more... )

Pt 3

Sep. 7th, 2009 06:56 pm
moon_custafer: (Default)
In which Cochrane works alone, and an interesting case presents itself

Read more... )
moon_custafer: (Default)
Disclaimer -- Amos Cochrane belongs to David Milch, Ezra Jennings to Wilkie Collins. Please don’t sue/haunt me. My knowledge of 19thcentury medical colleges is pretty much derived from Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson, so this narrative is no doubt riddled with errors. M------ medical school is fictional, hence the lack of vowels in its name. Don’t try any of this at home. Do not bleach. Hand wash in lukewarm water and dry flat.

Read more... )


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