O, Lucy Mangan, bless

James M Barry

A really out-there piece in the Pride and Prejudice at 200 thing in today's Guardian Weekend Review:

The older I get, the more I admire the pragmatist. Romance is fine in books.... But I took, then and now, Jane Austen to be not so much a pleasant few hours' diversion but a manual for life, and looked beyond the dazzling protagonists for better guides through it.

Step forward, then, Charlotte Lucas, you magnificently clear-eyed, steel‑spined, iron-willed creature who, while everyone else is mooning over dance partners, parsing glances and bobbing curls hither and thither, is taking a cold, hard, dispassionate look at her situation and making a reckoning of the fates to come.
Charlotte, standing calm and still in the middle of all the flap and pother... and gazing with a cool, appraising eye on her own and everyone else's best chance of the greatest happiness while everyone else's vision is either blinkered with pride, blurred by prejudice or occluded by simple stupidity (Lydia! Mrs B!) offers a valuable, if not ideal, corrective. I cleaved to her as a teenager and I cleave to her now. And if part of me wants to rewrite the implied end of her story so that she and Lady Catherine end up having an affair and the shock of the revelation kills Mr Collins, leaving his affairs in a state that contrives to return the Bennets' estate to them while Lady C sells Rosings and moves herself and Charlotte to Bridport where they open a boutique hotel for Georgian lesbians and die happy at the age of 110, well – who's to say I'm wrong?

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A light collation of linkspam

Bah humbug

O, Talbot Baines Reed, could you be any more obvious 'Victorian boys' school slash' about your titles? - added today on Project Gutenberg, The Cock-House at Fellsgarth and Tom, Dick, and Harry. Am reminded of short story by, I think, JIM Stewart in which nephew of elderly unmarried scientist of distinction believes him to have been collecting Victorian erotica (schoolboy fladge subset) on the basis of spotting an invoice for a title of this nature at some enormous price, and when the man dies sets about burning the collection for fear of scandal. Then learns from one of the dealers with whom uncle did business that it was actually priceless collection of Victorian school stories.

John Crace's Ultimate Guide to End of Year Best Book Lists - well, it amused me:

1 The novel that would have won the Booker prize if the fools in charge had given me the job rather than that lightweight Stella Rimington.

2 The King James's Bible. The most compelling piece of poetry in the English language. Not that I've read it. Or intend to.

3 The "luminous" first novel of one of the students on my creative writing course.

4 The truly wonderful novel by my good friend that was unaccountably left off every literary prize long-list.

5 The new collection of poems and fragments from D'Erek, the authentic black voice of the underclass and the dispossessed.

6 The book that finally makes sense of string theory and shows you how to use quantum physics to get a haircut like Brian Cox.

7 The heartbreaking biography of a previously unknown major war poet who was killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme having just completed the first verse of his only poem.

8 The paperback edition of the thought-provoking novel by one of my best friends that was published in hardback last year. I know this doesn't strictly count but he doesn't have anything else out this year and it's the only way I can squeeze him in.

9 The shocking deconstruction of modern culture that revealed D'Erek was in fact a white Oxford graduate.

10 The 37-page novella about a man who doesn't have much to say that felt as rich and satisfying as many 400-page full-length novels.

11 The book whose title I can't quite remember by an author who once gave me a jacket quote.


Sense About Science publishes its annual review of celebrities' misleading claims, including Cowell's intravenous vitamins - however, an unusual deviation into sense emanating from the Duchy of Cornwall, usually associated with woowoo of the woowooiest:

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall... had warned of the potentially damaging consequences of dieting: "A whole generation of young women could be affected," said the Duchess. "What particularly concerns me is the rise of osteoporosis in young people and its link with eating disorders."

Dietitian Sian Porter said the Duchess was on a sound footing: "During childhood and early adulthood bones develop their strength. Therefore it is very important to strengthen bones in the first 30 years of life to 'stockpile' calcium and other minerals. Following a restrictive diet, particularly cutting out food groups like dairy without substitution, can put your bone health at risk.

"As president of the National Osteoporosis Society, Her Royal Highness is clearly well informed about diet and bone health.

Boom year for the grey seal, large blue butterfly and mining bee but bad news for frogs, toads and newts.

Scott's Last Expedition marks centenary of explorer reaching pole. Exhibition at the Natural History Museum will highlight the untold stories of the expedition, including its scientific mission:

On Christmas Eve, Scott's team had treated themselves to a special meal of horse meat flavoured with onion and curry powder. "Then an arrowroot, cocoa and biscuit hoosh sweetened; then a plum pudding; then cocoa with raisins, and finally a dessert of caramels and ginger," wrote Scott.

I thought one of the problems was that they wouldn't eat the horses?

Pandagate: anger as BBC chooses Tian Tian as December woman 2011: but is this any worse than 'one in four selected women includ[ing] those involved in marriages'? Sigh, groan, headbang, and a nicely rotted codfish to those at the BBC responsible.

However, at least Women kick back against comic-book sexism.

Exotic creatures discovered living at deep-sea vent in Indian Ocean - all of them pretty much eligible to be 'Disturbing Animal of the Week'.

Bethlehem church cleaning turns into dust-up between rival monks.

Britain has been accused of "sheltering communists" after refusing to hand over a cache of Stasi files revealing the names of British spies who worked for the East German secret intelligence agency during the cold war. Putting on my professional hat, this suggests an intriguing little problem around the Data Protection Act. Because these files sure contain sensitive information relating to named and identifiable individuals. I suspect one might have to put in an application under Freedom of Information to get access.

Food writing can be a dangerous business -

[T]he cautionary tale of the exploding churros will keep a few of us awake tonight. The precise details are too painful for me to dwell on but, briefly, a Chilean newspaper has been successfully sued for £79,000 by readers who suffered burns after attempting its recipe for the popular deep-fried snack.

A useful resource from the British Library: Timelines: Sources from History: Asians in Britain

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writing gastropods chains

Bah humbug

This was on a spam email in my inbox today.

Weirdfic prompt? Gastropod kink?

And in the realm of you couldn't make it up, according to a report on one of my listservs, somewhere there is a student paper on the bromance of Ratty and Mole, comparing it to Holmes and Watson.

I am not sure if this is a potentially productive idea: A scholarly treatment of the issue of Sex in Science Fiction is currently under consideration for publication - or whether it's tying itself into unnecessary definitional knots.

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Various random things make a post

Bah humbug

In the context of a discussion on another lj recently, mentioned that very occasionally I have met women who do that 'there's no knowledge but I knows it' assumption in discussion but that (unlike the perhaps rather more pervasive male equivalent) it seems much more inflected for age/class/gender. In fact thinking about this later I thought that I've observed it in certain women who qualified in a challenging learned profession at a time when there were rigid quotas for women on the entry courses. Like the one who informed me that of course there was no gender prejudice in said learned profession in her day - either she'd been very lucky, or hadn't thought through things like the quota system that meant that women were competing with other women for places. And was all about making authoritative pronouncements about things outside her field which were WRONG.


Was reminded yesterday of a family saying of my childhood - 'Surprise, surprise! Kippers for tea.' - the punchline of a cartoon about two teddybears cohabiting in a woodland cottage: one day one of them is returning home, and a certain kippery aroma is being wafted on the breeze, and the other wee things of the woodlands comment 'Kippers for tea tonight, Teddy!', and in the final frame the home-keeping bear opens the door going 'Surprise, surprise! Kippers for tea'. Which became a catchphrase for telegraphed surprises.


Two links:
Scientists create illusion of out-of-body experience
The original manuscript of On the Road has gone on display at the Barber Institute in Birmingham.


A couple of snippets from this week's Time Out, not on their website alas:

Brief review in the Art section of Women Who Read Are Dangerous: 'a compelling selection of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs of women reading through the ages'.

Interview in the Gay and Lesbian section with Rupert Smith, whose 'nom de porn' [sic] is James Lear. He got into writing erotic novels when someone paid him £1000 for a porno rewrite of Stevenson's Kidnapped (The Low Road, if anyone's interested...) - and apparently he is surprised that he has a significant female readership. (O rly...)

James M Barry

Okay, I am not the person who is ever going to jump up and down and go 'wheee!' at the prospect of a biopic of James Miranda Barry which promises that it's likely to be heavy on the 'secret forbidden lerrrrv' theme.

But while kudos to Natasha McElhone for getting this project off the ground, she is far too tall to play Barry, who was under 5 ft. (Though I suppose this didn't stop long lean Peter O'Toole playing the diminutive Lawrence of Arabia.)

At least the text of the article (if not the title) makes it clear that JMB was 'the first woman to graduate as a British doctor', rather than the very first to practise medicine or surgery, but the statement is hardly contextualised. (Because the development of professional qualifications and formal medical education and the decline in status of female practitioners over the course of the C18th is not exactly sexy, is it?)

And there have been several biographies and novels and at least one television programme.

Barry is, of course, endlessly fascinating.

Even if what I want from a story about Barry is RPS involving her and Florence Nightingale following their famous spat during the Crimean War ('Mr Barry is no gentleman' - Florence, you said a mouthful), because that is such a meet-cute/initial sparky hostility moment.

I am a bad, bad person

queen victoria is not amused

But in the course of a conversation with (to the best of my recollection) 1crowdedhour at Fourth Street Fantasy I invoked the concept of George Eliot Interactive Fiction.

And o dear, I have now started plotting the Middlemarch Choose Your Own Adventure. Ms Evans would not be amused, I fear:

It goes something like this:

Dorothea Brooke:

  • Marries Sir James Chettam
  • or
  • Joins a Deaconess Order
  • or
  • Dies of typhoid caught from the cottagers she is philanthropising among
  • or
  • Is revealed as the next Vampire Slayer


  • Has several unfortunate deaths in his practice and leaves Middlemarch
  • or
  • Is stalked by a female patient to the scandal of the community
  • or
  • Dies of typhoid contracted in the course of his professional duties
  • or
  • His researches lead him into creating a monster which runs amok


  • Is offered a nice fellowship at an Oxford college shortly after his dinner with the Brookes and disappears from the plot entirely
  • or
  • Nurtures a secret lust for Will Ladislaw (why else is he supporting him?)
  • or
  • Starts to learn German so as to keep up with the latest developments in his field
  • or
  • Is revealed to be a vampire

Fred Vincy

  • Dies of typhoid
  • or
  • Is crippled for life in his hunting accident
  • or
  • Does inherit vast amounts of moolah from Featherstone
  • or
  • Is beguiled by the Queen of Air and Darkness who is in the area looking for a teind to hell

Mary Garth

  • Gets Featherstone to marry her on his deathbed and is a very, very rich widow
  • or
  • Writes (under a pseudonymn) a bestselling sensation novel
  • or
  • Marries the Rev Farebrother
  • or
  • Uses an occult mojo to transfer bodies with Rosamund

.... I think I'd better stop.


Though, in terms of literary perversions, I was thinking recently how much I would like to read Imlac/Rasselas slash, written, but of course, in the true Johnsonian style.

State of the hedgehog

Bah humbug

Still having problems with the central heating and hot water. After boiler servicing on Friday there was a recommencement of the wailing of the system. Engineer came again on Satruday morning and thinks it is fan in boiler needing replacing (this will happen on Tuesday). Oiled fan and it was okay for a bit but then started up again, not just when the heating is running but also when it's just the hot water. Waaah.

Woke up unnecessarily early this morning and had problems getting back to sleep because, well, cold, and also hip started twingeing. Good thing I am not working next week, at least.


Yesterday evening to Sadlers' Wells (first time since their extensive refurbishment) to see Los Farruco: 'the royals of the flamenco world, present a truly authentic display of gypsy flamenco - mixing song with acrobatic turns and fast, furious footwork' (this was at partner's special request).

It's a family group, which makes some of the dynamics a bit weird when you think about it - the principal female dancer is the mother of the lead male. However, it was lovely to see a dance style in which the women were largely of a certain age, and all of fuller figure. Not to mention some exceedingly fit young males strutting their stuff - I know it's supposed to be about courtship and mating displays, but when you get two male dancers doing the dance-off symbolic combat thing, hmm, more than a touch slashy?

Suspect that there were a lot of subtleties that we missed through not knowing that much about flamenco and the different styles, the points people look for etc.

All in all, very enjoyable.

Slashing history


Riffing off some of the discussions about fanfic around recently, and also thinking that the equivalent to the jeremiad about the decline of SRS academic litcrit in history linked in my last would probably be the WOEZ decline of grand narrative of war, diplomacy, the business of government and high politics, with maybe a nod to things like the Industrial Revolution as pretty much impersonal forces. The important story of Dead White upper-class Males (with a few Dead White Women who happened to be queens) and their activities.

And thinking that the kind of history I do and which I like, is like some forms of fan-fiction, which are developing the spaces and the unsaid within the texts - exploring hinted at backstory or writing the stories of minor characters or what happened outside the canonical narrative.

Which is what a lot of history in various fields these days is doing. Some of it is quite overtly slashing the grand narrative by talking about the implication of ideas around gender and sexuality in beliefs about national identity and consequent impact on national policies. (See e.g. Lisa Cody's Birthing the Nation for C18th uses of the mpreg motif...) And some of it is turning away from that grand narrative to look at the impact of government and high politics, war and diplomacy, changes in legislation, etc, on people's lives. Or to see the influences that could be wielded by people who weren't DWU-CM.

Random bibblings

Bah humbug

Thinking further about the comments in this thread on Ratty/Mole as OTP, reminds me that I have long thought that there is something very 'hello sailor!' about Ratty's encounter with the Sea-Rat.... (Matelot, Matelot)


Another 'have just moved house and can't find anything' dream: cut because other people's dreams are boringCollapse )


Since several people have been posting poetry, here are links to William Empson and Louis MacNeice reading their own poems at The Poetry Archive


Buffy series 8 comicsPossibly spoilery if you haven't read them?Collapse ).


Bah humbug
Reported via one of the lists I'm on:
John Lauritsen's new book, *The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein*, disintegrates the Mary Shelley myth, demonstrating that *Frankenstein* is not just a scary story, but a work of profound and radical ideas.

- The real author of *Frankenstein* is Percy Bysshe Shelley,
not his second wife, Mary.

- Male love is a central theme of *Frankenstein*.

According to Lauritsen, the theme of romantic male friendship runs from the very beginning to the final page of *Frankenstein*. Sometimes the expressions of male love are remarkably direct, but at other times they are expressed in coded language or references known only to the "initiated".

Which makes me think of radical new interpretation of Frankenstein: claiming Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley as an ur-slasher.

Meme of icon slash silliness

Delphic sibyl

In which one takes one's icons, alphabetises them, and then pairs them up to see what might happen...

Omitting the large number of erinaceous images, I seem to end up with femme-slash:

Clio and the Delphic Sibyl: a muse and a sibyl seems a boringly appropriate match, no?

Hygiea and Hypatia: I sort of envisage Hygeia seeking help of Hypatia and her mathematical skills to add a spot of epidemiological rigour to her endeavours, and it all goes on from there... and Hypatia being a pagan philosopher would have presumably been quite okay about relationships with goddesses.

James Miranda Barry and Justice: interesting but fireworky and fraught with scenes, at least from JMB, I suspect. Not sure that Justice would be terribly on-side about JMB's duelling propensities, and might be a bit too inclined to be fairminded about e.g. Florence Nightingale, with whom JMB had famous run-in.

Marie of Roumania and Queen Anne: again, two female monarchs, what could be more appropriate? so much more suitable than pushy duchesses.

Rebecca West and Trotula: I see them engaging in lovely feminist bitchfest about the awfulness of men obliterating women from the historical record, and even reconstructing them as 'really' men, but I think that's where it remains. Maybe some useful health tips from Trotula.

A chase of the wild goose

Bah humbug

Another enjoyable day in the archives. Have got some good solid work in, but pretty sure I will need to come back. There are other collections I need to visit as well. Time, I think, to start looking into sources of funding.

Trying to cleanse my mind of images of Shaw/Wells slash - there's a note in GBS's letters to HG Wells over Fabian Society matters, chiding, mocking, mentoring, suggesting that GBS and Jane Wells are about to run away together (or that Charlotte Shaw will join all three of them in a menage a quatre) that could read as flirtatious. Wells clearly drove GBS up the wall with his naif approach to the realities of working in a democratic organisation with committees and procedures.

Am reaching conclusion that I probably need not only to read a good recent biography of Wells, I need to check out some of his works as well. Because he was such an influence on the kind of people I want to write about. Not just the scientific romances or the early comic novels of lower-middle class life, but his more social problem novels that get much less reprinted.

On entirely different subject, in pursuit of a voltage adaptor (or US compatible phone charger). Following serrana's suggestion, I tried the AAA (the walk was a bit further than it looked on the map, but doable), and they were Very Helpful Indeed. They suggested places where I might find such a thing, and even, given my transportless state, went to the extent of ringing up the Surplus Store (which was walkable) to see if they might have one. They even provided me with a map. Top marks!

Unfortunately, when I had hiked in the heat (it was still extremely hot) to the Surplus Store it turned out that what they had was a set of adaptor plugs, not voltage converters, and I already have a viable plug.

However, in department of small blessings, it was quite close to a restaurant which was not fast food (everywhere else I have come across in the vicinity of the campus has been fast food, usuaally quite good fast food, but I'd like to sit down and eat something that's brought to me, and not with a plastic fork). And I had a remarkably delicious meal of BBQ ribs with fixings. And a margarita.

Also, this hike had brought me back more or less to the end of town where I am staying, just somewhat further westwards. Plus I could do with some healthy exercise.