Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Animals in Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 27: Animals from Books (these could be mythical, real, main characters, sidekicks, companions/pets, shifters, etc.) (Submitted by Paige @paigesquared and Jennifer Y. @ Never Too Many to Read)

For this one I decided to keep it simple and go with animals of any kind: pets, sidekicks, main characters, side characters, real and fantastical.

1.

Maruman (cat) from the Obernewtyn series– Maruman is a cat with whom the heroine of the series, Elspeth, communicates mentally. He as bouts of madness and a tendency to make cryptic statements about the heroine, Elpeth’s, fate. He’s a “Moonwatcher” or a guardian for Elspeth on her quest.

2.

Flush (dog) from Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf-  This is Woolf’s “biography ” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. In it we get some dog’s eye view observations of the world but we also get some very human musings. We see Elizabeth’s romance with Robert Browning from Flush’s perspective, but we also see Flush himself grow from a stifled lapdog to a dog-about-town.

3.

Fern (chimpanzee) from We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler- The Cooke family consists of Mom and dad, Rosemary, her brother, Lowell, and her sister Fern. Fern is a chimpanzee, being raised alongside humans for the purposes of science. When the book opens, Rosemary is 22. She hasn’t seen Lowell in 11 years and Fern disappeared when she was 5. As the book progresses we come to learn what unraveled her family.

4.

Lorelei (dog) from Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst- Paul is a linguistics professor who comes home from work one day to find that his wife has fallen from an apple tree in the backyard and died. The only witness to the death was their dog, Lorelei. Desperate to know whether his wife’s death was an accident or a suicide, he tries to teach the dog to talk so that she can tell him what happened. It’s really about Paul’s grief, but Lorelei is an important character throughout.

5.

Gogu (frog) from Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier– This is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Jena and her sisters (and Gogu) travel to the Otherworld through a secret passage each month. But when danger threatens both worlds, Jena must keep them both from falling apart. Gogu is her companion throughout. She can talk to him and hear his thoughts, but he might have a secret…

6.

Small (horse) from Fire by Kristin Cashore- Small is the protagonist’s horse. He carries Fire everywhere, including into battle. There’s nothing really unique or special about Small, unless you count his loyalty.

7.

Rosie (elephant) from Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen- Jacob Janowski is an orphaned veterinary student just shy of a degree. When he is hired by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, he is put in charge of caring for the circus animals. That includes Rosie, the untrainable elephant that is considered the greatest hope the circus has of making it through the great depression.

8.

Desperaux from The Tale of Desperaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo – Initially I didn’t want to include children’s books on this list, because there are soooo many that use animals as characters. But this story about a mouse who loves music, literature, and a princess named Pea is really a lovely book for any age. Yes, the anthropomorphized characters do suggest a younger audience, but there’s a lot of an adult to appreciate here.

9.

Cat (cat) from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote- Holly Golightly is unwilling to form emotional attachments. She finds and takes this feline into her home, but refuses to give it a name, because she is so reluctant to attach herself to anything in her life. But attachments sometimes form whether we want them to or not.

10.

The animals on the farm in Animal Farm by George Orwell- I have to give some credit to Orwell for using animal stand-ins to represent important figure of the Russian Revolution, most notably Stalin and Trotsky, as played by two pigs.

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)

For this one I decided to stay simple and go with books that feel like/ remind me of springtime. Themes of nature, rebirth, renewal, hope, and second chances abound!

  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– It’s a miserable February when two English ladies see an advertisement “To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.” They end up spending their April with two other ladies. The only thing these four have in common really is dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. The month they spend in a medieval castle in Portafino, Italy, is transformative for all.

2. The Lake House by Kate Morton– This is actually not my favorite Kate Morton book, but it does strike me as the most spring-y. Alice lives on her family’s estate in Cornwall. Her baby brother, Theo vanishes without a trace one night after a party, and the family, torn apart, abandons the lake house. Decades later, the house is discovered by Sadie, a young detective with the London police force, who is staying in Cornwall with her grandfather. Her investigation into what happened long ago connects her with Alice, and some shocking revelations. I think the themes of healing and second chances make this one feel like springtime.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This childhood favorite is all about rebirth, renewal, second chances, and of course, gardens! Mary is raised in India and sent to her uncle’s gloomy English manor after she’s orphaned by a cholera outbreak. As she tries to crave a new life for herself on the moors, she discovers and abandoned garden. In making the garden grow, she helps herself and others grow as well. She brings healing, and new life, to a grieving household.

4. Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillipa Gregory- Technically these two books make up the Tradescant duology, but they’re both pretty stand alone, so they can be read in either order. The first book is about John Tradescant, royal gardener in 17th century England. The second book follows his son, who immigrates to America (which was then colonies). The only thing that the father and son, and the two books, have in common is their name, and their strong connection to nature.

5. Arcadia by Lauren Groff- In upstate New York, in the 1970s, a few idealists found a commune on the grounds of a decaying mansion (Arcadia House). They vow to work together and live off the land. The books follows the utopian dream through it’s demise. This may seem almost: anti-spring! After all the living off nature idea falls apart. But the people change. They grow. They realize they have to face the wider world outside, and they emerge when they’re ready to take it on. To me that seems like a springtime theme.

6. Persuasion by Jane Austen- This is actually one of my least favorite Austen books (which still makes it better that about 90% of other books!), but it’s themes of first loves and second chances make it great for spring. It’s about a couple that falls in love and is separated by fate. Years later, they meet again. Older, wiser, and still in love. Is it too late for them? After all, they’ve both grown and changed… Of course not! Spring is the season of second chances.

7. Spring by Ali Smith-Spring is the third novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet. All of the novels have connections but they’re all stand alone and can be read in any order. All are about contemporary Britain, but also in a larger sense about the attitudes of the western world. This book has a focus on immigration and refugee crises. While the depiction of detention centers is sometimes hard to take, there is also a sense of optimism and hope that we can learn and change, that feels spring-y.


8. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf– This imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s loyal canine friend is a story of love, companionship and renewal. It’s also a story of transformation, change and growth. We see Flush go from stifled lap dog to cosmopolitan dog about town.

9. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter- This book opens on the Italian coast in 1962. A chance at romance between an innkeeper and an aspiring actress is cut off. But 50 years later it might get a second chance thanks to some Hollywood hustlers. This could have been a cynical Hollywood satire, but Walter gives the story a sweetness that is accompanied by wit.

10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed- Cheryl Strayed is in sort of a personal, metaphorical winter at the beginning of this memoir. And much of the content takes her though actual snowpack! But she emerged from the winter, stronger, wiser, and most of all, hopeful: a metaphorical spring ends the winter.

Top Ten Tuesday: Before I Was Born

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 2: Books Written Before I Was Born (These can be books you’ve read or want to read!) (submitted by Davida Chazan @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog)

Well, they didn’t have books before I was born, they carved them onto stone tablets… Just kidding, I’m not quite that old! These are the books on my TBR that were written and published before I was born:

1. Armadale by Wilkie Collins (1864-66)- Collins wrote mystery/thrillers way back in the 19th century. I loved his Woman in White, and I really enjoyed No Name and The Moonstone, so I look forward to giving this one a try. Together these are considered Collins’ four great works

2. The King’s General by Daphne DuMaurier (1946) Over the years I’ve been slowly reading all of DuMaurier’s life’s work. This one is next on my list (unless I unexpectedly come across something else!). It’s set during the English Civil War, which I don’t really know much about.

3. Maggie-Now by Betty Smith (1950) Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an all time favorite of mine. I also loved Joy in the Morning. I haven’t heard much about this one, but I’m hoping it’ll be one of those unknown classics.

4. The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf (1925-1932) This series of essays was originally published in two volumes (one in 1925, the other in 1932) but I’m counting it as one because it’s my list and I can do what I want! I think I like Woolf best as an essayist.

5. The Lark by E Nesbit (1922) I love E Nesbit’s children’s novels like The Railway Children and Five Children and It, and I’m really looking forward to diving into some of her work for adult readers.

6. The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann (1936)- I loved Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz, and this sequel revisits two primary characters from that book, ten years later. From reviews, it seems they’re both older but not all that much wiser. But would it be any fun to read if they were?

7. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker (1940)- A friend of mine recommended this recently and it sounded delightful.

8. The Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (1967) I’ve been fascinated by the 1975 film adaptation of this novel for years, but I’ve never read the source material! Haven’t seen the Amazon prime remake either. I must get to both of them soon!

9. Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson (1934) The first of four Miss Buncle novels this one has been on my TBR for a long time. I never seem to get to it, in spite of hearing good things about it.

10. The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart– For a long time, I’d thought that I’d read all of Stewart’s work. Then I discovered a whole list of novels that I hadn’t read! I’m rationing myself and working my way through slowly to savor them! This is next on the list.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Pets

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 17: Characters I’d Name a Pet After (These could be your own pets (present or future), you could pick 10 different animals and tell us the name and animal type, or you could choose 10 names that would make fun cat names, etc. Put your own spin on this one!) (submitted by Nushu @ Not A Prima Donna Girl)

I decided to put my own spin on this and make a list of my favorite literary pets.

1. Wilbur the Pig in Charlotte’s Web by EB White– Yes the story is “about” Charlotte and Wilber, but Wilber was a pretty good pet to Fern too! She saved him from being slaughtered after all!

2. Toto the dog in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum– I think of Toto as a sort of mascot for the Wizard of Oz actually. He’s also a constant real world friend that Dorothy has with her through all the craziness of Oz.

3. Flush the dog in Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf – This is an imagined biography of a real dog, who was pet to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He’s delightful, but the book also gets in some commentary on city life at it’s best and worst, class differences, and female emancipation.

4. Hedwig the owl in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Yes she’s haughty, but she’s loyal companion to Harry, and a reliable postal service.

5. Clifford the dog in Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell– I loved these books as a kid. Though I kind of felt bad for Emily Elizabeth: falling in love with a tiny red puppy only to have him grow up to be the size of a house!

6. Alfonso the horse in Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.– I was jealous of Pippi for having a pet horse at all, but one who lives in the house!? Luckiest. Girl. Ever. The pet monkey was pretty cool too.

7. Winn-Dixie the dog in Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo– This dog (a stray found at, and named after the supermarket) helps the main character make friends as a community sort of forms around her.

8-10. Luath and Bodger (dogs) and Tao (cat) in The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford- Is this cheating? Becuase I couldn’t really pick one from this book, I had to go for all three.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Parties

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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July 21: Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional. Submitted by Nandini @ Unputdownable Books)

I decided to do fictional festivals/events  for this one. I’m not much of a party girl to be honest, but some there are some  literary soirees I might be tempted to attend. I decided that nothing thrown by Jay Gatsby was allowed on this list. Big parties really aren’t my scene.

81hkqvsgyl._ac_uy218_1.  The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– The literary masquerade party in this one sounds like one of the few parties I’d really get into!

“He sits at the bar, feeling like a failure and yet overwhelmed by all that has happened as he attempts to catalog the entire evening. Drank rosemary for remembrance. Looked for a cat. Danced with the king of the wild things. Excellent-smelling man told me a story in the dark. Cat found me.”

61-q3ssh0l._ac_uy218_2. The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I might be persuaded to attend Bilbo Baggin’s eleventy first birthday party. If nothing else, I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to attend many eleventy first birthdays in my lifetime.

“I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am.” Deafening cheers…. Cries of “Yes” (and “No”). Noises of trumpets and horns…. Indeed, in one corner some of the young Tooks and Brandybucks, supposing Uncle Bilbo to have finished (since he had plainly said all that was necessary), now… began a merry dance-tune. Master Everard Took and Miss Melilot Brandybuck got on a table and with bells in their hands began to dance the Springle-ring: a pretty dance, but rather vigorous.

But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster near by, he blew three loud hoots…. “I shall not keep you long,” he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. “I have called you all together for a Purpose…..” There was almost silence….

91d11myiibl._ac_uy218_3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway’s party. This one has a lot of build up and a gentle success marred only by news of a suicide. Because no party is perfect. But in this case, bad news might make the fun even sweeter.

She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.

71v4ebr1nxl._ac_uy218_4.The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton– One of the most opulent literary parties in my mind is the Wellington-Bry ball when Lily Bart appears in a tableau vivant.

The noble buoyancy of her attitude, its suggestion of soaring grace, revealed the touch of poetry in her beauty that Selden always felt in her presence, yet lost the sense of when he was not with her. Its expression was now so vivid that for the first time he seemed to see before him the real Lily Bart, divested of all the trivialities of her little world, and catching for a moment a note of that eternal harmony of which her beauty was a part.

71cmat1al._ac_uy218_5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- This book (and Austen in general) has a few good parties; but I went with the one where Jane and Mr. Binghly fall in love and Mr. Darcy declares that Lizzie is ” tolerable.”

When the dancing recommenced, however, and Darcy approached to claim her hand, Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of ten times his consequence. Elizabeth made no answer, and took her place in the set, amazed at the dignity to which she was arrived in being allowed to stand opposite to Mr. Darcy, and reading in her neighbours’ looks their equal amazement in beholding it. They stood for some time without speaking a word; and she began to imagine that their silence was to last through the two dances, and at first was resolved not to break it; till suddenly fancying that it would be the greater punishment to her partner to oblige him to talk, she made some slight observation on the dance. He replied, and was again silent. After a pause of some minutes, she addressed him a second time with:

“It is your turn to say something now, Mr. Darcy. — I talked about the dance, and you ought to make some kind of remark on the size of the room, or the number of couples.”

He smiled, and assured her that whatever she wished him to say should be said.

513t3s6mwl._ac_uy218_6.Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Note to self: if you ever marry a widower do not attend a costume party dressed as his late wife, however unintentional it may be. And don’t listen to your evil maid’s costume suggestions either. Yes, it’s an awkward party, but it wouldn’t be a boring one.

That was why I had come down last night in my blue dress and had not stayed hidden in my room. There was nothing brave or fine about it, it was a wretched tribute to convention. I had not come down for Maxim’s sake, or Beatrice’s, for the sake of Manderley. I had come down because I did not want the people at the ball to think I had quarreled with Maxim. I didn’t want them to go home and say, “Of course you know they don’t get on. I hear he’s not at all happy.” I had come for my own sake, my own poor personal pride.

71m1o7fy1fl._ac_uy218_7.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– I might go to Mr. Rochester’s house party. If nothing else, the host disguising himself as a fortune teller would be fun!

When I heard this I was beginning to feel a strange chill and failing at the heart. I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment; but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order; and it was wonderful how I got over the temporary blunder—how I cleared up the mistake of supposing Mr. Rochester’s movements a matter in which I had any cause to take a vital interest.

91dwzgedaml._ac_uy218_8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll– I’ve actually never been to a tea party, but if this is anything to go by, they can get pretty wild. Though it might get tiring having to change seats every few minutes…

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.”
“You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

61uzqqwbnnl._ac_uy218_9.Invitation to Waltz by Rosamund Lehmann- Like Mrs. Dalloway’s soiree, Olivia Curtis’ first ball has a whole novel dedicated to it. While her more socially adept sister threatens to overshadow her, this party is both more and less than Oliva expects.

“And they waltzed together to the music made for joy. She danced with him in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death.”

81e67pau6hl._ac_uy218_10. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding– I’m not much of a drinker, so unlike Bridget, I wouldn’t be hungover at Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s turkey curry buffet. I would also (always!) be able to tell Mark Darcy a few titles when he asks what I’ve read lately.

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Springtime Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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May 5: Things I’d Have at My Bookish Party (choose 10 things: items, accessories, foods, people (real or fictional), decorations, activities, etc.)

This week’s topic didn’t grab me, so I went in my own direction again. It’s finally starting to feel like spring in my neck of the woods, and even though I think of myself as a “winter person,” behind my mask and beneath my gloves I’m starting to celebrate.  So I’m sharing ten books that feel like spring to me:

51p9iawrnol._ac_uy218_1.The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I think that this book is perfect for spring, because we follow this orphan who comes to England from India. She’s bereaved and isolated, but she finds the secret garden. As she brings it back to life, her own health and spirits are also rejuvenated.  It’s about renewal and rebirth.

 

 

41etjy5BOOL._AC_US218_2. Spring by Ali Smith– This is part of Smith’s seasonal quartet. Each book is stand alone, but has subtle links to the others.  This one focuses on characters that seem very separate: Richard is an elderly director who is grieving after the loss of his friend and Brit works at a migrant detention center until she meets Florence, a young girl travelling to what she hopes will be a better life. It examines current events in Britain, which in this case probably aren’t too different from the US, but  it also weaves together the characters and ideas to create a larger picture. The characters’ relationships and their values are highlighted and questioned against these larger issues.

812ey934m8l._ac_uy218_3. A Room With A View by EM Forester– Miss Lucy Honeychurch, A Proper English Young Lady, is destined for a Respectable Marriage, until she takes a vacation in Tuscany. She meets George Emerson, who is travelling with his father, and “In the company of this common man the world was beautiful and direct. For the first time she felt the influence of Spring.” When she returns to Italy respectability tries to take over her life once again, but Lucy has already become open to a different kind of life.

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-14. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim– Yes, I know it’s May, but this book still applies. It’s about four Englishwomen with little in common other than the fact that they need a break from their daily lives. They decide to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April. The new location restores them and brings them new perspective in different ways.  When the men in their lives join them (sometimes by invitation, sometimes not) the transformation can’t help but overcome them as well.

 

71-ozsgkwsl._ac_uy218_5. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf-This book is an imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog, Flush. From a dog’s eye view, we get a chance to see Elizabeth as a young invalid who spends most of her time indoors. She manages to meet Robert Browning (initially a fan of her work) and they fall in love. He whisks her (and Flush, naturally) off to Italy (I’ve never been to Italy but I get the sense that it’s the place to be in springtime!). We see Elizabeth transform through Flush’s perspective, and we see Flush transform as well: he goes a lapdog to a dog about town.

51tsapquwul-_ac_us218_6. Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson– On the first day of spring in  1911, Susanna Weber, who runs a dress salon in the titular square in Vienna, starts to keep a diary. In it she records the lives of and stories of herself and her neighbors. Other than being literally set in spring, this book feels springy to me because it’s about life: good, bad, and occasionally ugly.

 

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_7.Anne of Avonlea by LM Montogmery- Read just about any LM Montgomery book and you’re almost sure to find a beautifully written description of spring. I suppose that I chose this particular book because it’s about growth- Anne’s growth and that of her friends. They’re in the spring of their lives here. It reminds us That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”

 

81wnvagspxl._ac_uy218_ml3_8.Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed–  When Cheryl Strayed started to hike the Pacific Crest Trail she had lost her mother and her family dissolved,  her own actions had brought about the end of her marriage to a man she still loved, and she was lost in a mire of substance abuse. She was in an emotional winter. While she treks through miles of snowpack and hot desert, she grows and changes. She emerges from her journey renewed and reborn, in a personal spring.

 

91mfkvjzw-l._ac_uy218_9. Emma by Jane Austen- For some reason I always associate this book with picnics. I can recall one important picnic scene, but in my head it seems like Emma and friends are always going on a picnic. But I also think of Emma as a springtime character. She embarks on several (disastrous but well-intentioned) attempts at matchmaking only to realize how in the dark she really is. Finally she comes through a bit wiser and the world opens up around her. Her mind opens up. She’s in a metaphorical spring.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_10.Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen– The Waverly family is endowed with usual “gifts” that make them outsiders in their small time home of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has special powers. Claire is a caterer who brings a magical touch to her dishes with these plants, but her sister, Sydney fled town as soon as she was old enough to go. When Sydney returns, daughter in tow Claire’s quiet life it turned upside down. Sydney and her daughter tear down the boundaries that Claire had put up around her heart, leaving her wide open.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last 10 Books With One Word Titles I Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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March 3: Books With Single-Word Titles (submitted by Kitty from Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner)

For this one I decided to do the last ten books I read with one word titles. I made a few rules for myself: Subtitles don’t count. “The” counts as word. Titles that are names are acceptable. I usually add some commentary, but since this is about economy of words, that doesn’t feel right!

81wnvagspxl._ac_uy218_ml3_1. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 

81o0w3k8oyl._ac_uy218_ml3_2. Panchinko by Min Jin Lee

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3. Spring by Ali Smith

91txkgehbnl._ac_uy218_ml3_4. Moonrise by Cassandra King

81lrqhg4fgl._ac_ul320_ml3_5. Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

81xr45udqkl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. Educated by Tara Westover

a1wovobgowl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Melmoth by Sarah Perry

81tljs7lr7l._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Circe by Madeline Miller

81lfdckpnjl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Winter by Ali Smith

71pwec3g0ol._ac_ul436_10. Flush by Virginia Woolf

Women in Historical SFF

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how prevalent women are in contemporary Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature as writers and literary characters, and how that should be recognized. There have been some really great pieces that address this and also bemoan the genre’s conflicted relationship with women in the past. This is only a sampling:

2016-08-14_ent_23609335_i1However, most of these critiques and praises are aimed at contemporary SFF. When I think about SFF, I start to wonder why it was ever perceived as a “men’s genre.” It’s hard to see where any literary genre starts, but a case can certainly be made the that modern SFF novel was born with a teenage Mary Shelly, writing Frankenstein in 1818. Of course you could make the case that the genre was born in the seventeenth century, when Margaret Cavindash wrote The Blazing World.  In 1762, Sarah Scott wrote the Utopian novel A Description of Millenium Hall. So the argument can be made that the roots of the genre go back a hundred and fifty years before Shelly started writing. In any case, women played a formative role in the very roots of the genre. Shelly was undoubtedly an influence on Jane Webb Loudon, who wrote The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty Second Century in 1827.

15849412Feminist Utopian novels such as Man’s Rights (1870) by Annie Denton CridgeMizora (1880-81) by Mary E. Bradley Lane and Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915) were somewhat prevalent before WWI. After the war, women were even more prolific in the genre. Gertude Barrows Bennett (aka Francis Stevens) is credited as “the woman who invented dark fantasy,” penning a number of novels in the early twentieth century. Her work, including Claimed and Citadel of Fear, influenced the likes of HP Lovecraft. Thea von Harbou is best known as the wife of filmmaker Friz Lang, but she was a writer, actor and filmmaker in her own right. She wrote the futuristic urban dystopia, Metropolis, in 1925. She later rewrote it as a screenplay for Lang’s adaptation that eventually became the classic 1927 film of the same name. In 1928, Virginia Woolf ventured into the genre with Orlando. Though that novel is often looked at as a pioneering work in terms of feminist and transgender studies, it’s also undeniably a fantasy. It’s about a character, born in Elizabethan England as a man, who undergoes a mysterious sex change at the age of 30 and then lives another 300 years without aging perceptibly.

51x2b6udvlml._sx352_bo1204203200_By the 1930’s Catherine Lucille Moore (aka CL Moore) had created the character Jirel of Joiry, who appeared in a series of sword and sorcery stories originally published in the magazine Weird Tales. Jirel of Joiry was a female warrior in an imagined alternate version of medieval France. Fun side fact: in 1985 SFF author Mercedes Lackey wrote a song called Jirel of Joiry and included it on her album Murder, Mystery and Mayhem. After WWII writers including Shirley Jackson, Judith Merril, and Alice Eleanor Jones came to prominence. By the 1950’s and 1960’s authors including Joanna Russ, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer BradleyMadeline L’Engle , Angela Carter and Ursula K Le Guin, had begun publishing.

Today you could argue that women dominate the speculative fiction genres with Harry Potter, the Hunger Games and Twilight. Dive even a little deeper and you’ll turn up Diana Gabaldon and Charlaine Harris who both had their bestselling fantasy series’ turned into hit TV adaptations. And that’s just the tip of the bestselling iceberg! In fact, women have produced some of the most notable and influential works in the speculative fiction genre. Beginning (perhaps) with Frankenstein, and continuing with Orlando, The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wrinkle in Time, The Handmaid’s Tale, and many more. So why is there a perception that their involvement with the genre is something new?

Well, I think that part of it is that the contributions of women to literature have been overlooked and ignored historically. Part of it may be due to the fact that many of these authors initially published under pseudonyms, initials or gender neutral names. But it makes sense that a genre that depends on seeing the world not as it is but as it could be, might appeal to writers who have been dismissed and ignored due to factors such as race, class, and gender.

In fact, I think that it can be argued that speculative fiction and SFF is where storytelling as an art form begins. Oral tradition featured folklore and mythology. Telling stories is a nurturing act in which the listener is connected to the storytelling through the story. Historically women filled this nurturing role. The 9th century fictional Scheherazade is both a character and the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights, in which she saves herself from execution by telling stories. This oral tradition of fantasy has been recorded by men (the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault) but also women. Madame d’Aulnoy coined the term “contes de fées (fairy tales)” as we now use it, 130 years before the birth of the Grimm Brothers).

So women have been shaping, creating, writing, and playing a starring role in SFF and speculative fiction since it began. How about finally giving them credit for playing a major role in the creation of the genre, and its development, instead if treating it as something new?

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Owned

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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August 27: Books I’ve Read That I’d Like In My Personal Library (perhaps you checked it out, borrowed it from a friend, received it for review, etc. and want to own it yourself.) (Submitted by Annemieke @ A Dance with Books)

Most of these I got from the library originally

51i6ln7tmul-_ac_us218_1. The Library Book by Susan Orlean– I got this (rather fittingly) from the library. But it’s a beautiful book physically. I want my own copy.

71pwec3g0ol._ac_ul436_2. Flush by Virginia Woolf– I read this as an ebook, and I still own it that way, but I really liked it and I want a physical copy.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_3. Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield- I’d like to read this one again at some point.

51wn17e1xil-_ac_us218_4. Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel– This is a novel in letters so it’s easy to pick up anywhere and just read one. They’re really funny so I’d like to have it on hand to read bits and pieces from time to time.

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5. Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson- Some of these lesser known stories and essays are better than others,  but I’d like to have them on hand, especially since some of them highlight Jackson’s humorous side, which we don’t often get to see.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_6. A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara– This book was beautiful but difficult to read. I’d like to revisit it at some point,  knowing the plot, so that I can appreciate some of the other elements.

51-xlyewull-_ac_us218_7. Crush by Richard Siken– I’m rather fussy about poetry but Siken’s work is vivid and compelling enough for me to want to revisit it often.

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8. M Train by Patti Smith– I have Smith’s other book, Just Kids, but I actually like this one much better.

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9. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr– I read a book dealing with similar subject matter shortly after this and as a result they’re sort of blended in my mind. But I remember this one was vastly superior so I’d like to reread it and have it clearer in my memory.

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10. Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak– This is a childhood favorite that I’ve been trying to find forever. I may just order it from Amazon at some point.

 

Persephone Readathon #3

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51bl0b8nefl._sx352_bo1204203200_Jessie @ dwellinpossibility is hosting the third annual Persephone readathon this week. I’m excited to dive back into some Persephone titles. This week I’ll be reading Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. It’s been on my TBR for a while, and I’ve heard great things about it. Set in the days following WWII it’s about a father looking for his son.

For the last readathon, I read Saplings by Noel Streatfield which is another story of parents and children amidst the backdrop of WWII. I found it heartbreaking and haunting, and I hope that this lives up to that standard.

71pwec3g0ol._ac_ul436_Additionally I’ll be participating in the Persephone Readalong. We’ll be reading Virginia Woolf’s Flush, which is a “biography” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel. I love the idea of a biography of a famous person’s dog, but the book isn’t just about that. ‘Although ostensibly about the taming of a pedigree dog, Flush addresses the way society tames and classifies women,’ writes Sally Beauman.

I’m looking forward to a great week of reading and challenges! Is anyone else participating in this year’s Persephone readathon?