A bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a career in libraries almost killed my fiction consumption. I’d read a story here and there, but mostly, I was reading articles, and nonfiction manuals and analyses of library services, assessment and copyright.
Then, one evening, I walked into our dining room-library-office and looked at the shelves full of interesting books that we had, for various reasons, picked up over the years. I reached out and I grabbed one. Probably by design, I grabbed one that I knew wouldn’t be to hard to get through – an Agatha Christie Poirot mystery. I followed it with another Poirot, then a young adult ghost story, and then, the spine of the Conjure Wife winked at me from a short stack of books on the shelf one down from the top.
It was a book that Richard had picked up, probably because of the cover or the ‘Gothic Horror’ emblazoned on the front. Everybody has their own method of selecting unheard of literature…pleasure reading. My method is to allow the title, cover and description to grab me, then to open the first page of the first chapter and read. If what I read doesn’t grab me, I open to a random page in the middle and read. If what I read the second time doesn’t grab me, I put the book down. This is a luxury of selection that I was not able to enjoy while getting my English Literature degree, and am not able to enjoy while researching and studying for my work. When I picked up the Conjure Wife from our shelves and tried my method on it, I found myself standing in a dimming room, facing the corner of books, while I read several pages without being able to tear myself away.
It was fascinating and timeless, set within an envelope of academia that seemed so familiar and yet different from what I experience every day. Fritz Leiber writes so that you know every corner of a room and every freckle on a person’s face without tediously focusing on any one thing or bloating his work with never ending descriptions. The scene is laid out like the action, so that they are both one thing, inseparable. In the same way, Scriabin’s Sonata No. 9 was so tied to the emotional state of the character/narrator that I wasn’t always sure which was being described; that I was propelled to seek out the music to hear the story in another way.
But, I can’t tell you any more about the story because Richard hasn’t read it yet.
In my quest for author voices I found that John Philip Sousa, great conductor and composer, had also penned an impassioned and oddly prophetic argument about phonograph music as a copyright infringement and a harbinger of the death of amateur music. Looking further, hoping to find more comments on copyright, I found that he had written fiction as well.
Can you imagine my surprise? Marching band legend, and writer of marches that permeate pomp, circumstance, cartoons and popular culture (who I recently found out is not as well known as I expected) was also a spinner of yarns! The Fifth String is a story that seems utterly familiar: a man going to impossible lengths to win the love of a lady, a quest to attain the unattainable, a deal with the devil, etc. The writing is perfectly engaging and walks at a pace that you might expect from a story published in 1902, and it is, every now and then, peppered with perfectly lovely imagery and delightful vocabulary:
“blinking-eyed cabs came up the avenue, looking at a distance like a trail of Megatheriums, gliding through the darkness”
Just in case you haven’t heard any Sousa, here is the March of the White Rose (not as ubiquitous as most, but I like the beginning):
Now, in his latest masterpiece, Sacré Bleu, the immortal Moore takes on the Great French Masters. A magnificent “Comedy d’Art” from the author of Lamb, Fool, and Bite Me, Moore’s Sacré Bleu is part mystery, part history (sort of), part love story, and wholly hilarious as it follows a young baker-painter as he joins the dapper Henri Toulouse-Lautrec on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the supposed “suicide” of Vincent van Gogh.
If you have not read any books by Christopher Moore, now might be a good time to start…because I’m telling you how awesome they are, right now. All of them. Okay… all the one’s I’ve read and I have read more than one. The most recent was Sacré Bleu. It was enveloping, alluring, and magical, the kind of book that makes you chuckle out loud in a crowded airport, no matter who looks at you funny. See the quote above; I’m not alone.
Art inspired by the story.
I read The Scarlet Pimpernel (Wikipedia) by Baroness Orczy (Wikipedia) right after reading the Count of Monte Cristo. I was desperate for some kind of sequel or anything else of Alexandre Dumas’ that could live up to it that wasn’t about the three musketeers. The Scarlet Pimpernel came to my rescue then, and thanks to project Gutenberg, I am now buried in sequels. You could say, I am making it a new obsession.
Books in order of publication:
- The Scarlet Pimpernel (1903)
- I will Repay (1906)
- The Elusive Pimpernel (1908)
- Eldorado (1913)
- The Laughing Cavalier (1914)
- Lord Tony’s Wife (1917)
- The First Sir Percy (1921)
- The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1922)
- Pimpernel and Rosemary (1924)
- Sir Percy Hits Back (1927)
- A Child of the Revolution (1932)
- The Way of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1933)
- The Scarlet Pimpernel Looks at the World (1933)
- Sir Percy Leads the Band (1936)
- Mam’zelle Guillotine (1940)
The novels and other collections of short stories were not typical sequels. They jumped about in time, each a piece of the French revolutionary world that the Baroness had created. Their huge popularity at the time drove her production as much as it inspired movie versions:
- 1943 movie with Leslie Howard
- 1938 sequel with Barry Barnes
- Another sequel in 1950 starring David Niven
- 1940 Pimpernel Smith starring Leslie Howard
- The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1955 (starring Marius Goring)
- 1966 Carry on Pimpernel
- 1982 movie with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour
- 1999 miniseries with Richard Grant
- 2010 rumblings of Michael Armstrong directing a new version with Neil Jackson.
But there is no comic. Oh, there were advertisements of The Pimpernel: An Adaptation Of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Doug Kissock, but it doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere, much like the 2010 movie plans of Michael Armstrong.
Richard and I are racing. His book: Giallo Meltdown: A Moviethon Diary is now available for sale on Amazon. I drew that cover ya’ll!
If you haven’t wandered over to DoomedMoviethon.com and tasted his literary stylings then, do! do! Richard’s writing is engaging and witty. It will pull you in, make you giggle, and embarrass you at the bus stop where people will gawk at you both for reading (who does that anymore) and for openly enjoying yourself in public. I say this because it’s true, not because I’m biased in any way.
So, I’ve mentioned TPP before, and I’m sure I’ve advertized my love of educational comics. Of course I love Economix: How our economy works (and doesn’t work) in words and pictures. And economics is important because it has a lot to do with trade and intellectual property laws, laws that often include strange little bits about internet monitoring, whether people own what they buy, and how much the government and other organizations can snoop on the casual consumer through what they buy. Included in the book is a nifty segment on TPP:
If I have not said this before, I love the internet archive. I imagine that the sentiment is shared by anyone trying to dig up old information. I have been saved by books digitized by the internet archive in my work, and in my private genealogy research.
I also love the Public Domain Review. It is almost like a best of the internet archive, in that it pulls out items of interest like the Curiosities of Puritan nomenclature (1888). Of course, the Public Domain Review also highlights items of curiosity in other places all over the net. It is a great place to find archival collections of all sorts that are normally not easy to pull out of a [insert name of search engine here] search.
Now if you, like me, have spent some real time with genealogical research then you have spent time with the nitty gritty of history. You have read over land grants, court transcripts, and small claims; you have dissected the language of historical sketches and town diaries written hundreds of years ago; you have wondered why 15 men within two generations of the same family are named Vine. So books like the Curiosities of Puritan nomenclature (1888) are interesting because they explain why surnames came about at all, where they came from, why there are so many Rogers and Johns, and much more.
I have just finished reading through Fan Fiction and Copyright : Outsider Works and Intellectual Property Protection by Aaron Schwabach, and since I can’t stop mentioning it to friends I run into and have lunch with, I’m going to mention it to you too.
You might think that an examination of fan fiction’s use of another’s intellectual property under copyright law might be a little dry and laborious. You might even think that such a work by a law professor would be like returning to school during the days of your most intense burn-out. You would be wrong. Not only does Schwabach present a work that bridges the gap between legal expertise and a layman’s understanding of extremely complex laws, to which the review in the Times Higher Education points as the book’s strength, he also convinces you that he has read all the Harry Potter books, seen the movies, and all the Lord of the Rings as well. In fact, his voice in the book comes across as that of a fan and intellectual consumer, not a wholly impartial observer. In a book with heavy treatment of fan communities and the way they celebrate their appreciation of a creative work, and one that attempts to reach those same fans with information relevant to their activities, this is extremely important.
Though I am sure that legal study introduces one to several interesting pieces of information, it is a way of studying human history, I am loathe to attribute Schwabach’s mention of London exclusive societies, ancient greek poetry, Mozart, WWII history, and ballet to his legal study alone. I could almost not contain my nerdgasm* when he pointed out that in the Dark Night the Batmobile does lose a wheel and the Joker does get away as is described in “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.”
Schwabach’s breadth of knowledge is impressive. He comes across as someone who would be a joy to talk with over dinner because he, for the most part, relates various tidbits of information with clear indication of his feelings and opinions of the thing itself, more evidence that he didn’t simply read up on the material as one would study for a research paper. All of this and very pointed and specific examination of legal precedent that builds the structure within which fans write their tribute to the characters and the worlds of the author’s they admire makes Fan Fiction and Copyright the best nonfiction I have read all year.
*when I say nerdgasm I refer to the excitement generated when one’s concentrated devotion to a medium allows one to understand a connection between two seemingly unconnected ideas. I do not mean nerdgasm as it is defined by the Urban dictionary.
Years ago, I undertook the ransacking of my memory to create an exhaustive list of books I’ve read. You might think that was crazy, one of my best friends did. And I probably did fail to remember some of the stories I had read during my near thirty years of life (at the time). But I used some tricks and did some searching and came up with something that was pretty complete.
Eventually, all I was left with were those books for which I could remember the cover or a few plot points, but could never find the right thing. The Things I Did For Love is just such a book – THE final book plot and cover details that haunted my memory and would not allow me to simply write off that I could not write it down in my Great Read It list.
Thanks to CLIQUEY PIZZA 2: more 80’s teen book series & pop culture, I now know what the title of this dang book is, and the author, and I can put it on my Read It list for good. In fact, once I read the Cliquey Pizza coverage on The Things I Did For Love, I automatically went out and re-purchased a copy that I intend to re-read just because it has been a massive thorn in my list for so long! …and because I’m not quite done reliving the cheesy teen romances that I used to love.
Thank you Cliquey Pizza for saving my list! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
But there is really good content therein. I don’t usually end up in situations where I might be beat up or anything else …now that I think about it – ‘or anything else’ has happened to me. I thought I was just lucky. Ok, so the technique of giving calm but nonsensical responses that Derren Brown describes in Derren Brown’s Guide to overcoming Awkward Situations – Entertainment – ShortList Magazine wouldn’t necessarily also have come in handy when I was being followed around the record store I worked in by a guy who repeatedly told me he liked my shape, and who continued on with other lewd comments and offers to take me home after my shift. That was a long time ago. But, Derren Brown’s advice on other situations is good to have in your head just in case. To sum up: awesome article, and hilarious in its description of the technique.