kcobweb: (austen)
I just finished.... um, almost.... reading The Necromancer, or The Tale of the Black Forest by Karl Kahlert - another trashy novel of the late eighteenth century. This was just about unreadable, I thought - no plot, just a series of loosely connected tales about spooky things happening that may or may not involve ghosts. As in Radcliffe, everything that seems spooky and supernatural and otherworldly has a very plausible rational explanation. This had the most contrived and laborious frame narrative I have ever encountered - at one point, Person A gives Person B a manuscript by Person C, who then tells some of the story in the words of Person D who further quotes Person E's tale. That's too many iterations of nested narrative for me. If I had to put down the book (and that happens frequently, due to the small child's demands) - when I picked it back up, it was almost impossible to figure out who was talking.

OTOH, I think this is, in parts, the slashiest book I've ever read. If I liked it better, I'd construct a slash story using only selected (and remixed) sentences from this book - but I don't want to spend that much time re-reading it, so it's not going to happen. :)
kcobweb: (austen)
The Italian: or the Confessional of the Black Penitents by Ann Radcliffe. This is another of the Austen "horrid novels", which I have decided to read. I have been reading this at night - slowly, just a chapter or two at a time - and I'm *finally* done. This was, um, slow going. Nothing happens for the first 60 pages, and then little bursts of action alternating with more of nothing-happens. I didn't care too much about the characters, who were basically blank slates. Radcliffe did have several figures here who were basically stolen straight outta Shakespeare - the garrulous peasant/servant who is trying to be helpful, but instead rambles for a page instead of telling you the time-sensitive information he's got? Yeah. Shakespeare did it better. Oh, and I did totally guess the Mysterious Seekrit Identity of a particular character who had no reason to be there other than that she would really turn out to be Our Fair Heroine's Long-Lost Mother. (There, now I've spoiled it for you if you read it. Sorry.)

Time to give myself a little break before charging back into the next one of these. :) Fortunately, the rest on the list are written by folks other than Radcliffe - I think I'm a little Radcliffed out right now.
kcobweb: (austen)
I just read The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons, and it was *awesome*. This is one of the horrid novels that Austen refers to in Northanger Abbey (and the intro to my copy says that scholars originally thought those were all made-up titles, because copies didn't survive, by and large - these were trashy novels that teenaged girls checked out of circulating libraries and passed around and literally read to pieces). Anyway, I found out from AustenBlog that Valancourt Press is reissuing new editions of these, and thought I'd check it out. This one was written in 1793, and predates Udolpho and many of the other Gothic novels you've heard of.

And it was *great*. Action-packed. The first 20 pages feature a haunted castle, part of the truth behind the haunting, a flashback of a running away from a lecherous (incestuous) uncle, and a violent kidnapping. And it just proceeds from there. There is lots of purply prose and high-falutin' talk. Near the end, someone ends up in Tunisia on their way - by sea - from Normandy to Germany. :) It is hilarious, albeit unintentionally so. I am gonna have to read all the other horrid novels now, because this one just rocked!!
kcobweb: (reader)
Hey, you go weeks without internet or TV, and you know what? There's lots more time for reading. Huh, go figure. Of course, I didn't keep careful track, so I will only list the ones that I still remember (i.e. made some sort of impression on me).

Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand. Not at all my sort of book, I would have thought - but I got really into this. She really sucks you in - it's well-paced and just enough description to make things quite vivid. I know absolutely nothing about horseracing, so I couldn't even anticipate that the horse was going to win particular races - just that *eventually* he must win some, or he wouldn't be famous. The people in the book were all fascinating characters - there was an interview with Hillenbrand in the back of the book in which she talked about that being one of the things that drew her into the story in the first place - the owner, the trainer and the jockey all have their stories, and they *lived* for that horse. Lotta fun.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Mrs. (Ann) Radcliffe. Um, this is basically a trashy novel from the 18th century. And I have been meaning to read it *forever*. (I'm sure [livejournal.com profile] saltcod will remember "My lord! my lord! The Helmet! The Helmet!", which is from Castle of Otranto - that was one of the original Gothic novels, and this was one of the first really big successful ones.) The first part is a very draggy travelogue (establishing our heroine and giving her a boring wussy-boy to fall in love with), the middle part *ROCKS* and then it all kind of goes flat and boring for the final third. I would be reading along and chortling madly, and then a few pages later totally caught up in the suspense of it (one time, at a crucial moment of something being revealed, I actually squeaked aloud). It's very uneven - though, to her credit, things like the traditional way we think of "pacing" for novels just hadn't really come into being yet. The Evil Villain is so ineffectual that he actually lets Our Heroine escape without really seeming to notice or care (thereby rendering him much less scary in my opinion), and then the author kills him off off-stage (as it were) a few chapters later. Um, huh? Also, by the end, she gets all wrapped up in these complicated maneuvers to explain all the creepy mysteries from earlier, most of which make no logical sense. Very uneven, but I'm still glad I read it. Definitely good for a few laughs.

Of course, having read that, I had to reread Northanger Abbey, which was completely brilliant in contrast. Now that I know what Austen was making fun of, it's even better. :)

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