Myth Monday: BULL by David Elliott (Review)

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If Lin Manuel Miranda,  Rick Riordan, and Ernest Cline had a baby together it would be Bull by David Elliott (and that combination is still not as weird as the Minotaur’s actual parentage. So.).

The original myth that includes the Minotaur is focused on Theseus, the hero from Athens and Ariadne, the princess of Crete, who falls in love with him. Theseus goes to Crete because he is determined to kill the monster of the labyrinth, the Minotaur that kills 14 Athenians every 7 years (or every year depending on the version). I discussed the Minotaur in one of the Percy Jackson monster recap posts.

I love mythological retellings, and I’ve read a lot of them, but Bull was a wild, imaginative, and very weird ride, even by my standards. It retold a very old story, but delivered a fresh tale via some really great twists.

First of all, it retells the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of the half-man, half-bull monster – named Asterion, “Ruler of the Stars,” by his mother, and called the Minotaur by his stepfather, who is revolted by the way Asterion was conceived. It was an excellent choice to explore this character in an empathetic way, turning him into a tragic character that loved and could love others. Through Asterion’s story, the book highlights how humans can be monsters and how monsters can be human.

Other characters get their speaking moments as well: King Minos and his daughter Ariadne, supporting characters from the myth, are here; there are point-of-view sections from Minos’ wife Pasiphae (the Minotaur’s mom), and god of the sea Poseidon. All of the characters take their turns narrating the story, but only Poseidon gets to see everything at once, and perhaps influence events as he sees fit.

Whaddup, bitches?

Am I right or am I right?

That bum Minos deserved what he got.

I mean, I may be a god, but I’m not

Unreasonable, and when I am, so

What?

 

-Poseidon’s opening lines in Bull

Second, it uses a variety of poetical styles to capture each of the characters. There’s a nice afterword where the author talks in detail about each poetical mode he chose for each character and why, but they also tend to use different language. Poseidon generally uses more slang and profanity, for example. Other characters sound more formal or more childlike. Pasiphae, the queen, who gets knocked up by the bull, has some really beautiful sections early on, but as the story goes on her lines show how the entire situation is affecting her mind.

I know what I

know I know what

I see none of you

is that different

from me.

-Pasiphae, in response to her critics

 

Pasiphae’s daughter, Ariadne, also gets some great sections in this book. Ariadne is one of my all-time favorite mythological characters, and she gets a good gig in Bull, although not a lot of closure (SEQUEL, DAVID ELLIOTT??? SEQUEL???).

Until then, I’ll be demure.

Charming! Sweeter than sugar!

The perfect little princess!

No more and no fucking less.

-Ariadne, discussing her plans for freedom for herself and her half-brother

I love her.

Thirdly, Bull includes more than just the basic Theseus-and-Minotaur story. Besides going into the reasons for why Poseidon takes a disliking to Minos and Pasiphae, and giving some insights into the Minotaur’s sad childhood, it also combines elements of Daedalus and Icarus into the story. Daedalus is a genius inventor in Greek myth, and is most famous for his labyrinth (created to hold the Minotaur) and his wings (made in order to help Daedalus and his son escape from King Minos, who is keeping them prisoner as his pet inventors). I really liked how Bull interwove a lot of Daedalus’ story with Asterion’s. It also looked at Theseus from a different angle, and personally I found it refreshing to have Theseus relegated to a second-tier status, existing only as a deluded bully and villain. I have never been a huge fan of Theseus, can you tell?

I do have some criticisms. The ending is very abrupt and doesn’t have much closure for pretty much anyone except Asterion. The female characters have an especially rough time: Pasiphae and Ariadne start out as really excellent characters, but the story can only end in tragedy if their agency is completely destroyed, and once it is, their personal tragedies fade into the background of the primary tragedy of Asterion. I mean, I understand, because the book is named after the Minotaur and it’s about him, but it left the book weaker and less-fleshed out than it could have been.

On the whole, Bull was entertaining and thoughtful. Even more important, Bull made a fantastic character out of one of the oldest villains. Asterion was likable, but flawed, and doomed.

One day my fate will change.

Till then, I’ll cope

with whatever plans Minos has for me.

So bring it on, O king!

I’ll play my part!

It’s theater!

A work of genius!

Classic tragedy.

A masterpiece of Melpomene’s art.

Or is it Thalia’s play? A slapstick comedy.

Whichever, catastrophe or farce,

The script, I think, needs to be improved:

I wear a mask that cannot be removed.

 

Northanger Abbey: Bath!

As I mentioned in previous #ReadMorland posts, Bath was a very fashionable resort town in England at the time that Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey. However, by the time the novel was published, Bath had lessened in popularity, but plenty of people would still go there to take advantage of the hot springs and the mineral water, recommended by doctors everywhere for pretty much any malady. If a person was in perfect health but had some money and free time, they could go to Bath and promenade, shop, go to the theatre, the shops, their friends’ houses, etc etc etc. In Northanger Abbey, the only character we’ve met so far who is actually supposed to be in Bath for their health is Mr. Allen; everyone else is just hanging out. One of the reasons that Bath was so popular at this time was because many buildings had been built or remodeled earlier in the century by John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger (bets on what the Younger’s son was named???), and many new entertainments were moved in or set up.

Check out the map below for a quick summary of key places in Bath, and see my notes below for the specific Bath locales mentioned so far in the novel and what they are.

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Source

In Bath:

The Upper Rooms/The Lower Rooms: were part of the Assembly Rooms built by the John Woods. You could go here for dances or concerts. These weren’t rooms, but whole buildings.

The Pump-room: was part of the Lower Rooms. This is where you could go and drink mineral water like a hipster.

The Octagon Room: was part of the Lower Rooms and is actually an octagon in shape. You could also play cards here.

“Mr. King”: Mr. Tilney is introduced to Catherine and Mrs. Allen by the master of ceremonies, named as Mr. King by Tilney. James King was master of ceremonies in Bath from 1785-1805.

Tompion Clock: is a really nice, famous clock in Bath. There’s a nice blog post on it here.

“the theatre”: where Catherine sees the play is the Theatre Royal in Bath.

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Theatre Royal

The Crescent: is The Royal Crescent, also designed by the John Woods. It’s a crescent-shaped row of fancy fancy houses. This is where you would go if you wanted to show off your new dress/husband/gig.

Milsom-Street: was a street for fashionable shopping and was full of fancy houses. I guess nowadays it is…also for shopping. But less fancy.

“the book”: is essentially a guest-book for everyone fancy who is staying in Bath. The master of ceremonies tracked who was in town, and where they were staying, and FOR SOME REASON this information was public which is terrifying to me.

Edgar’s Buildings: were located on Milsom-street. So. More fanciness!

Pulteney-street: is a residential street, and a fashionable one at this time. In the novel, the Allens live here while in town. In real life, Jane Austen lived here for a time.

Nearby Bath:

Thorpe threatens taking Catherine to many places, some absurdly far, such as Bristol (another fancy hot springs resort town), and some much closer, such as Claverton Down and Lansdowne Hill, both suburb-areas of Bath. Clifton and Kingsweston are villages a few miles from Bath.

Wick Rocks: Thorpe claims to have heard Tilney say he was going to drive all the way to Wick Rocks. This is part of the River Boyd.

Blaise Castle: is mentioned several times as a possible destination by Thorpe. Turns out it is not a castle at all but a folly. This pleases me greatly. I can only imagine what Catherine would have said if they had actually gone there and Thorpe had tried to pass it off as a real castle ruin.

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Blaise Castle

 

 

Scripture Sunday (27)

Scripture Sunday is a weekly quote-post to highlight Bible passages I’ve read recently that I found particularly interesting. My translation is the New International Version.

From my reading this week:

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

-2 Kings 9-14

Why I chose it:

Moral of the story:

Stop being such a drama queen and just obey God.

 

Northanger Abbey: Ch. 1-9

According to the schedule we should be through chapter 9. It wasn’t that many pages but BOY there is a lot to cover. So let’s get started.

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“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine” (chapter 1).

As opening sentences go, this is a good one, and very effective for setting up what this book is going to be like. It immediately makes us expect 1. Catherine to be a very ordinary sort of person, and 2. that our pre-existing suppositions about her will be overturned sooner or later. One of the things I like about this book is that even though it warns us up front what it is going to do, it still turns things on their head multiple times throughout the book.

The heroine: What do you all think about Catherine, so far? I know she is annoying to some readers, but while she isn’t my favorite Jane Austen heroine, I also love her to pieces. She’s more realistic than most Young Adult heroines. At the start of the book, she has no idea what she’s doing. She considers her family/close friends as infallible. She’s naive, ignorant, and easily led, but she’s also kind, and she’s not stupid. She won’t knowingly do something wrong or that will hurt someone else (e.g. “quizzing,” pointing out silly things about others in order to mock them). If she admires someone, she has absolute faith in them (obviously this is both a strength and a flaw).

In her relationships, Catherine is pretty passive so far. She’s happy to enjoy others’ company and let them do the thinking (probably because she is too aware of her own ignorance), and she doesn’t make above-average efforts to make plans or force herself into intimacy with others. She wants to be more acquainted with the Tilneys but hasn’t forced herself into their way yet. We will see how she progresses! Obviously she has a long way to go to maturity and being the awesome lady she could be. But I guess that’s why I like her – she’s unformed, but has so much potential: “Her heart was affectionate, her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind-her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty- and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is” (chapter 2). Sorta harsh, but sorta true. Several references have been made about Catherine’s “humble vanity” and how easy it is to satisfy her, because she isn’t vain. What cracks me up about this is that while the narration is trying to tell us that because she’s so humble, she isn’t stuck-up or obsessed about her looks, it doesn’t point out that a side-effect of her humility is that people like the Thorpes can easily lead her to believe they love her by flattering her a little. This is, of course, very intentional on the narrator’s part. It’s good to pay attention to what the narration isn’t taking pains to point out, but by reading between the lines is very obvious. Sneaky, tricksy narration.

Catherine’s abilities or lack of as a “heroine” are mentioned countless times in the novel. Take a look at these and consider whether Catherine’s behavior or characteristics, although they may not be appropriate of a heroine, are laudable or not. For example, in chapter 8, if she was a heroine she would have believed Miss Tilney to be Mr. Tilney’s girlfriend, and if so, then there would be a ton of melodrama before the confusion could be cleared up. Instead, Catherine uses logic to ascertain that she must be his sister, thereby avoiding the melodrama and “conflict” worthy of a heroine. Most of the heroine references are humorous on at least one level, such as the comparison of Catherine’s “fortitude” in that same chapter when she is sitting by herself through no fault of her own, with the fortitude of heroines when they have to endure being “disgraced in the eye of the world, to wear the appearance of infamy while her heart is all purity” etc etc.

Supporting characters: So far the primary supporting characters are the Allens (Mr. and Mrs.), the Tilneys (Mr. and Miss) and the Thorpes (Mrs., Mr., and Miss).

The Allens seem kind but clueless – Mrs. Allen is described several times as having nothing in her heads but clothes and gowns. Mr. Allen often abandons the ladyfolk to their own devices, although I love the bit at the end of chapter 3 where he makes sure to check out Mr. Tilney’s background in case he’s not good enough for Catherine.

The Tilneys are very mysterious figures so far – we haven’t seen much of them but Catherine thinks them perfect in every way.  I really love how much mystery is set up regarding them, not because they’re trying to be mysterious and intriguing, but because Catherine just hasn’t managed to spend much time with them yet, although she wishes to. I’m used to the 2007 Northanger Abbey movie so when Mr. Tilney is described as “not quite handsome” (chapter 3) I want to snort in disbelief. Mrs. Allen knows they come from a good, rich family.  I really like all of the flirting between Catherine and Tilney, especially in chapter 3 – Austen girls don’t get to flirt very much, as a rule, and it’s adorable. The conversation about journal-writing is one of my favorite scenes so far. But then again – Catherine really likes Tilney, and what do we really know about him? He’s not even as exciting as Udolpho: “while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable” (chapter 6).

The Thorpes are all different brands of selfish and make me want to commit defenestration. Mrs. Thorpe is obsessed with her kids and takes it to a ridiculous level (loving your kids is obviously great, but, um, calm down, Mrs. Thorpe, also your kids are animals).

Mr. Thorpe is constantly treating his mother and sisters carelessly, at best, and cruelly, at worst. I hate how Catherine is convinced to think well of him because he’s Isabella’s brother and Catherine’s brother’s friend, and they both think well of him so OF COURSE he must be okay! Get it together, Catherine. It’s not until chapter 8 when she starts to “resist such high authority [of Isabella and James], and to distrust his powers of giving universal power.” Mr. Thorpe also asks some pointed questions about Catherine’s relationship with the Allens, which will come up again later.

Dictionary note: Mr. Thorpe’s “whole scrape” (chapter 7) when meeting Catherine is apparently a clumsy bow. “Tittuppy” (chapter 8) is the funniest word I’ve found this year, and means rickety or unsteady.

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Thorpe’s gig would look something like this. Source

And of course, dear Isabella. I admire her skills of manipulation and social savvy, but she really is the worst. She is constantly claiming how much she loves Catherine, or how much she will or will not do a thing, and then none of her actions back up her words. “My attachment is excessively strong,” Isabella claims in chapter 6, in reference to her friend Miss Andrews, and then in the same breath bad-mouths her. The narration really does a number on friendship on these first chapters, as it is based around Catherine and Isabella’s extremely unbalanced relationship. “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love” (chapter 4), which is probably true, if a platitude, but it is juxtaposed with the way Isabella never supports Catherine if it is inconvenient to her, especially in social situations. For example, in chapter 8, where Isabella announces she won’t abandon Catherine, and then promptly does so, leaving Catherine without any buddies or boyfriends. For a crowded social party, this SUCKS.

The narration also makes sure that we know that Catherine doesn’t know how a friend should act in many situations. For example, when Isabella drops hints about how much she looooves clergymen, “Perhaps Catherine was wrong in not demanding the cause of that gentle emotion- but she was not experienced enough in the finesse of love, or the duties of friendship, to know when delicate raillery was properly called for, or when a confidence should be forced” (chapter 5). This is a hilarious observation on female (and male??) friendships where all hints must be taken by force and brought out into the open. But it also implies that there’s manipulation going on that Catherine is too ignorant (or honest) to pay attention to.

The Setting: Most of our story so far is set in Bath. Later on I will do a full post on the town and some of the specific town-sites mentioned, but there are few things to note now. As I mentioned in the introductory post to the readalong, Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey about 20 years before it was published. When she wrote Northanger Abbey, everything in it was very hip and current. For example, gothic fiction was very trendy and Bath was a very popular and fashionable resort-town. However, by the time the novel was published, Bath was still a resort-town but not as fashionable or as populated. Keep this in mind as you read. The references to “taking the waters” in Bath was because Bath has natural hot-water springs full of mineral water. So places like the “Pump-room” mentioned are places where the rich vacationers with doctors’ notes would go to drink some nice healthy mineral water, or take a bath in it. There’s a fast-and-furious overview of Bath’s baths here.

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By Thomas Rowlandson, 1798. Source.

Novels and fiction: Chapter 5 ends with a tongue-in-cheek defense of novels. Keep it in mind for later in the book. Is the attitude presented here indicative of Northanger Abbey‘s attitude toward novels as a whole? Does it change? Where and when? etc etc. I’ll do another post on gothic fiction as a whole, and on the specific references to it in this book. There are a lot of them, as you probably noticed!

Sportsball Sidebar: I’ve been reading the Oxford World’s Classics edition this time around, and it has amazing footnotes! One thing I learned was that the reference to “base ball” in chapter 1 is, according to the Oxford English dictionary, the first literary reference to baseball (or rounders) in the English language. Jane Austen just casually manages to make an epic sportsball word-drop and I LOVE IT.

Check out the #ReadMorland conversations on Twitter and Instagram!

 

Myth Monday: Mythology in Wonder Woman (2017)

SPOILER WARNING for Wonder Woman (2017) starring Gal Gadot. I am not kidding about the spoilers. I will have all the spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, you should go do that.

But meanwhile, I’ll be here chatting about the use of mythology in the movie. Because this is Myth Monday and I love Wonder Woman and this is what I do.

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Buckle up, kids!

So, first, I’m going to take a look at the mythology we saw being used in the Wonder Woman film.

One of the first exposition dumps we get is from Diana’s mom, Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons. She explains that back in the most ancient of olden days, there were gods; only two of these gods are named: Zeus, and his son Ares. Spoilers – these are Greek gods. The island of Themyscira is vaguely Greek, I guess? So this seems fine so far. Diana’s mom explains that Ares, the god of war, moonlighted as the god of assassinations and killed off his entire family.

Why? Because he disagrees with them, because he is so full of war, I guess? War is horrible, but it is also a fluid concept in culture and history. There are lots of reasons to fight wars but soldiers generally fight with the idea of protecting their own people/land/family, rather than killing them. So Ares’ behavior is psychotic, but I suppose he doesn’t have anyone else to War with besides his family.

Anyway. In the movie’s lore, Zeus manages to land a crippling blow on Ares, so while all the gods are dead, Ares is mostly dead, nursing his wounds somewhere. Hippolyta and the other Amazons are hanging out on their island and staying Ready for the day when Ares returns. Ares is the villain of Hippolyta’s story, and therefore of Diana’s. For much of the movie, we see Diana focus with single-minded intensity on this mythic monster, this Evil Incarnate that must be destroyed, like a Dark Lord in a fantasy novel, before anywhere in the world can be good or peaceful again.

What’s especially great about this is that it forces the audience to be aware of two things at once: 1. how completely naive Diana is to believe that killing one person will make the whole earth a paradise; and 2. that we the audience often have this same belief when watching “superhero” movies: Spiderman just has to defeat the Goblin, Batman has to defeat the Joker, Captain America has to destroy Hydra, and then everything will be fine, everything tied up neatly, the heroes will kiss and fly off into the sunset.

Wonder Woman of course gets a little more complex than that, after setting it up this way.

But I’m going to turn around and talk about Greek mythology for a second.

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I’m sure he’s a great guy. Source

In Greek mythology, Ares is the son of Zeus. He is the god of war. And he is, in general, an arrogant bloodthirsty dingbat. But he doesn’t just represent humans who are possessive jerks and determined to fight and kill each other. He also represents the glory of defeating an enemy, martial prowess, and fighting for your people/honor/land/fame. For ancient Greeks, these were commendable qualities. Ares, like all of the gods, had his good and bad features, good and bad moments, and had to balance them out. He was also in love with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and wasn’t in the habit of killing off his family members.

 

 

In the Wonder Woman comics, Ares is present from the very first issue in 1942.

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Ares and Aphrodite in Wonder Woman #1. Source

This article does a good job of giving a quick overview of Ares in Wonder Woman comics, at least from 1987 on – it glosses over the early years, and ignores Ares’ first appearance. He’s always around, though, if only in Diana’s backstory, and often either lurking like a creeper or taking a more active role as Diana’s arch-nemesis.

It’s interesting to keep the origins of Ares, Greek god of war, in mind when watching a movie like Wonder Woman, in which he is a pretty solid evil dudebro. At one point in the movie, he tries to persuade Diana to join him in destroying the world through war, with the ultimate goal of creating a brand new perfect world of peace. That…I mean, that doesn’t even make sense. If your whole purpose of being is war, so much so that you killed off your own family, “peace” is not a goal that you would have. I’m convinced that Ares only uses this argument as a ploy to try to get Diana on his side, rather than his actual plan. But that’s speculation.

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Source

The other problem that Diana faces, of course, is that the REAL Ares was the enemies we made along the way! Humans have a real problem with war and conflict, and even defeating War Incarnate isn’t going to stop our determination to hurt each other when we’re angry or scared.

Ares is a good contrast to Wonder Woman, who is all about spreading peace and love, whether through political diplomacy or martial protection. It will be interesting to see if they use the Ares character in future Wonder Woman movies, or if he’s relegated to a place in her past as a sort of boogeyman that she no longer needs, a catalyst used to inspire her.

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May Reading Wrap-up

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Good grief I read a lot of comics last month. I’d heard a lot about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (by Ryan North) and it stood up to the hype! My favorite ongoing series is Lumberjanes (currently being written by Shannon Watters): I adore every single issue.

I READ SOME NONFICTION I DID A GREAT JOB. My favorite was My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead, which is partly autobiographical, partly George Eliot biography, and partly Middlemarch discussion. I want more books like this.

There were two fiction releases last month that I was Extreme Hyped for and that lived up to that hype: Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner and So You Want To Be A Robot And Other Stories by Merc Rustad. A+++!

Nonfiction:

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda (5/5 stars)

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead (5/5 stars)

The Genius of Alexander the Great by NGL Hammond (2/5 stars)

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (4/5 stars)

 

Fiction:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (3/5 stars)

Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka (5/5 stars)

The Hidden Kingdom by Tui T. Sutherland (4/5 stars)

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (5/5 stars)

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (4.5/5 stars)

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (4/5 stars)

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (4/5 stars)

Rogue One by Alexander Freed (4/5 stars)

So You Want To Be A Robot and Other Stories by Merc Rustand (5/5 stars)

The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (2/5 stars)

A Choice of Destinies by Melissa Scott (5/5 stars)

 

Comic Books/Graphic Novels:

Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson (5/5 stars)

Lumberjanes: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson (5/5 stars)

Lumberjanes: Band Together by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters (5/5 stars)

Lumberjanes: Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters (5/5 stars)

Thor: The Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron (4/5 stars)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Power by Ryan North (4/5 stars)

A-Force: Hypertime by G. Willow Wilson (4/5 stars)

Ms. Marvel: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson (5/5 stars)

Ms. Marvel: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson (5/5 stars)

Chewbacca by Gerry Duggan (3/5 stars)

Darth Vader: Vader by Kieron Gillen (3/5 stars)

Darth Vader: Shadows and Secrets by Kieron Gillen (4/5 stars)

Darth Vader: The Shu-Torun War by Kieron Gillen (3/5 stars)

Obi-Wan & Anakin by Charles Soule (4/5 stars)

Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron (2/5 stars)

Avatar The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow #2 by Gene Luen Yang (4/5 stars)

Avatar The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow #3 by Gene Luen Yang (4/5 stars)

Avatar The Last Airbender: The Search #3 by Gene Luen Yang (5/5 stars)

Avatar The Last Airbender: The Rift #1-3 by Gene Luen Yang (3/5 stars)

Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whiteley (4/5 stars)

Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan (4/5 stars)

 

Northanger Abbey: An Introduction

This post contains no spoilers for Northanger Abbey, for those of you who are reading for the first time (lucky you). Welcome to the first post for our readalong!

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This is a very serious blog where we discuss very serious things.

If you’re unfamiliar with Jane Austen, you can read a brief biography of her here. She’s a pretty big deal, especially when it comes to English novels. But don’t take my word for it.

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Northanger Abbey was one of the first novels Jane Austen wrote: she wrote it during the 1790s and it is set in during that time. In the book, Austen makes a lot of references to current culture, and set much of the action in Bath, which was a very fashionable social resort at the time. As a whole the novel is considered a satire of the Gothic novel genre, which was very popular and trendy at the time – at least for novels, which were considered a lower form of popular entertainment. In other words, everyone was reading them but not everyone was admitting it. I’ll do another post later on centering on Gothic fiction of the time.

Northanger Abbey was first called Susan, and then Catherine, following the convention of many novels of this century which followed the misadventures of a heroine, usually as a way to show young ladies of the time how their virtue would be rewarded or their sins punished. Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson (published 1740) is one of the more famous of these. Gothic novels of the time sometimes followed this trend as well.

Jane Austen sold the manuscript of Northanger Abbey to a publisher in 1803, but they held on to it for a long time. She was able to buy it back from them a year before she died in 1816, but the revised book wasn’t published until 1817 (along with Persuasion).

Some questions to keep in mind while reading:

  • Is it affectionate toward Gothic novels, or is it satirical, or is arguing against them? Or some combination of these?
  • In each scene, which character is exerting the most power? And over whom?
  • How is language and communication being used or abused by each character?

If you haven’t checked out the #ReadMorland tag on Twitter or Instagram, I encourage you to do so! I’ve been posting daily discussion questions. Feel free to participate or just lurk!

Reading schedule: We should have chapters 1-9 read by June 9th!