Bookworming, Metarambling

Reviews of Things: North and South

Welcome, my faithful steadfast readers, all three of you. As you can see, I spent almost entire year without blogging and while it’s not been a huge hole in my life, I could use some of the public introspection that blogging provides, particularly as I hate Facebook so I can’t use that most common outlet. But, clearly I just don’t have time for the proper reviews that I meant to be writing here – what with my two jobs, kid and, you know, life. So instead I’m looking for a better formula, one that would allow me to post faster and with more enthusiasm.
Please join me for the test ride of Mildly Enthusiastic Reviews of Things with the first test subject: North and South that I finished lately. I’ll try to post a review every week of something that I found particularly interesting (though in the end if I make it every month that will be still better than my current posting rate; we’ll see though, I aim high).

er-northandsouthNorth and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Category: Books

Find it on: Amazon

What it is:
Classic social and romance novel. Tells the story of Margaret Hale: her perfect hair, staunch morality, bleeding heart, many unfortunate experiences and a few instant conquests. It also describes the difference between the life in the South and in the North of England during the Industrial Revolution in an interestingly unflattering way.

How I found it:
I like to read a Victorian novel every spring and once I went through all Bronte sisters and Austen’s novels, I broadened my net, finding Elizabeth Gaskell. She’s way less exciting than those ladies but she has good points, too.

Summary judgment:
It’s not a masterful work: the story is messy, with uneven tempo and almost entirely dropped storylines. But it’s a decent read for all that.

Best things about it:
I liked John Thornton. I didn’t find him realistic at all but I like a romance story to seduce me with the idealized male character. I don’t like idealized females at all but with the man if I’m to find him attractive, he should be a bit over the top. His mother, on the other hand, was a beautiful portrait in its realism.

Worst things about it:
See above for the idealized females. I couldn’t care much less about Margaret with her unsurpassed beauty, queenly conduct and always proper behavior. Also, the second half of the book is such a rollecoaster of misery that it really tired me by the end of it.

Other pluses:
It had an easy tempo for the most part of it and quite memorable depictions of various places. I liked how Gaskell differentiated between London, Helstone and Milton, all locations drawn with their own distinct colors and scenes. She also managed to keep most of the lesser characters very believable.

Other minuses:
The preaching, with the main characters speechifying about their economic beliefs. It felt like a Christian-Marxist essay put into the story – or like a story written around one.

How it enriched my life:
I guess I’m filling gaps in my English literature knowledge. I’m also tempted to use the name Thornton for a character in a Victorian RPG. It’s a good name.

Fun fact:
As I was finishing the book on a train, a guy riding next to me suddenly stopped flipping through his newspaper and asked me what I was reading – and I couldn’t remember Gaskell’s name. Admittedly, he surprised me and also I was taking breaks from Gaskell to read his newspaper over his shoulder and I think it was just his way of suggesting that I stop? Not sure. Still, that was mildly embarrassing.

Follow-up:
I think I’ll try something else by Gaskell but not any time soon. I’ve got a lovely edition of Penguin Cranford, so that one is most likely.

Recommended for:
Patient people with taste for old-fashioned slow-budding romances or anyone interested in fictionalized history of industry.

Enjoyment:
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Next time: Tabletop RPGs (maybe)

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Metarambling

Fresh Beginning

I have had a blog for years, I think eight or nine years by now, and my blogging has gone through phases. At first I had an updating journal I explicitly called not-a-blog, back when I thought webcomics were the best thing in the world. But as my interest in comics waned, I embraced blogging with less and less self-consciousness until it became and addictive habit fueled by two things. Firstly, I had a need for an internet persona, a cool (if self-deprecating) and snarky kind that justified my point of view. I didn’t use names but I used everyday occurrences and random opinions to build a polished vision of my life. Of course, it was still pretty nerdy, something that, particularly then, went without saying if you had a blog at all. The other powerful motivator was feedback, both from real life friends and ones I only met online, a wonder in itself. Unlike on most other occasions I got to write thinking about readers and it energized me.

I designed my blog myself, coded it and wrote new posts in notepad sprinkled with rudimentary styling, proud of not using any provider (those were the days of Livejournal, which I hated like a plague and thought myself pleasantly above those who used it). It went through a few rather ugly phases until I settled on a minimalistic look my brother helped me code. It worked fine for a long while, even if the updating process required knowing what didn’t work and going around it, I did just fine. Until I stopped updating.

By then I had a design blog together with my partner and the blog is going strong. Even though it takes much more time to update than scribbling a few paragraphs about a movie or the weather, we keep at it regularly and with gusto. But I started finding all the other kinds of posts for my original blog too much of an effort.

I blamed technical difficulties and told myself I would write more, had I an easier way to post. So here’s testing that theory: will I indeed post more again, now that I’m using the familiar WordPress interface? Will I come up with new excuses? Or will I actually own up to the truth: Both the need for an internet persona and a sense of audience are gone now. What’s left are random opinions on books, TV shows, music and, sometimes, other things as well, together with the fact that I still like the idea of having a blog, a place to vent your views even without anyone reading. What’s also left is a sense of a piece missing, where my ease of writing used to be. Once I felt language was my tool to be explored and used for whatever I needed it. Now the tool has gone rusty and I would really want to have it shiny and polished again. What you should also know is that I suck at metaphors.

This blog is, for all intents and purposes, just a continuation of the old one but, I think, I’m going to focus more on reviews and such. I will miss my original design but at least all the apostrophes will stop changing to quotation marks. Nothing stupider or more cliche than the first post in which you wonder whether the blog idea will work out at all. But hey, at least it’s honest, and it’s only a first post in one sense.

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