the weather is finally deciding to turn (at long last and alleluia!). of course that means my brain is kicking into high gear over a dozen projects i want to get cracking on. among these projects, i had this idea that i would really love to adapt s. weir mitchell's Summer of St. Martin into a comic form. i have blogged about this story before, and while there's nothing particularly exciting about the basic plot, the story sticks with me because it's sweet and very autumny, and so just right for the season. it also appeals to me as a challenge because it's nothing but a conversation between two people who are sitting on a bench in a forest in which the leaves are falling all around them (it's all very romantic). it would certainly give me an opportunity to work on the nuances of character expressions, etc.

like i have the time.

filed away in my "big list of graphic adaptations" are a number of horrifically complex projects. In Pursuance of Said Conspiracy remains among them ~ along with this demented fantasy i have had since a long time ago in which i am determined to do a graphic novel adaptation of the Jesuit Relations ~ which i still think would be awesome and i have all manner of ideas for it, but oh my! what an undertaking that would be!

so yeah. i don't know where mitchell falls into this. it would be a short piece (24 pages would cover it, i think), so maybe more reasonable than those larger, more ambitious projects. but still, it's not as though i don't have a ton of work already on my plate.

oh sigh. if i had millions of dollars i would hire an army of artists.

guess i better go get a lottery ticket.
lookingland: (angel)
( Apr. 19th, 2009 10:02 am)

Let's see ~ a list of things that might make a book delightful: under 150 pages long (check), illustrations (check), George Washington (check), snow! (check), Christmas (check), Valley Forge (check!).

With a list like this, S. Weir Mitchell's A Venture in 1777 can't help but be satisfying!

Okay, so the story isn't all that much. Young Tom Markham and his twin brothers (but mostly Tom) conspire to steal an important military secret from Colonel Grimstone and relay it to Valley Forge just after Christmas. Their house is occupied by the British and they'd like very much to get rid of their unwanted guests ~ and get their father back (he is currently a prisoner of war).

Mitchell apparently enjoyed writing "historical" fiction and has a number of books set during the American Revolution and Washington's term as President. This particular little tome, he wrote for charity with the proceeds going to the Philadelphia Church Home for Children. The book isn't terribly fancy, but it does have some nice vignettes and illustrations (spot colored in cyan). The artist, unfortunately is uncredited, but you can see what nice work was done in the image below.

I have to say it was especially nice to read this simple, uplifting little story after what's been passing lately as bedtime fare. A little Mitchell is a good tonic for the ills of research. Though there is mention of the privations at Valley Forge in this book, the story is clearly written for a young audience and so the hardship and violence is kept to a minimum. That does not mean it isn't full of adventure, however, and the capture of Grimstone, especially, is a good time. I especially like Tom's sense of "fairness" in handling these matters (oh chivalry, thou art dead). Tom as a principal character is nicely restrained and his interview with Washington is the best part of the book (totally expected, of course, but also totally satisfying).

Near as I can tell, the story is entirely fictional outside of the circumstances of the war. General Washington would appear to be the only "real-life" character. I've haven't yet read any of Mitchell's Revolutionary War novels, so I don't know whether he's predisposed to adhere to much fact. His Civil War novels are certainly grounded in fact, but the historical people who appear in them generally pop in and out of scenes rather quick (much like Washington in this one).

By the way: Two amusing things about the illustration above: Tom is fifteen (nearly sixteen). In the picture he looks more like twelve! Also, do you really think Washington wore stockings at Valley Forge? Much as I like the picture, the shoes, I had to laugh at.
it's taking all my willpower not to bid on this.

because owning two copies already just isn't enough.

i am so sick.

: o p

meanwhile, i have increased my weir mitchell collection by three (soon to be four) this past week, and am likewise resisting this.

edit: oh holy crap! to say nothing of this!

(and this is why i have no business on eBay. period.)
in reading news: last night i finished reading s. weir mitchell's When All the Woods Are Green (such a nice title). i couldn't find any substantial synopsis of the book online. only a single sentence: a family in the Canadian woods. then i read the book and realized that's about all the synopsis it deserves.

this book was an appalling 400+ pages. and i finished it. it was an endless prattle from start to finish between some hoighty campers who considered themselves terribly droll. about 150 pages in there was the hint that the story might be about a murder. then, about 300 pages in there was a bear attack and that almost got interesting. fifty pages later a child's gravestone was stolen and wow what a great plot that might have made. but the characters continued to talk about fly fishing and ancient greek poets and i don't even know what ~ witty nonsense, only it wasn't terribly witty, mostly just nonsense. and then in the last twenty pages of the book, the murderer made her move, shot a guy and only wounded him in the shoulder, and the last ten pages were endless denouement about the guy and the girl finally getting together to live happily ever after.

ye gads what a turd of a book. i've never thought mitchell was a "great" writer, but up until now i had at least enjoyed his stories. this was a waste of a good premise (the stolen grave, rolling rich campers for their money, hunting bears), as well as some perfectly good characters (nerdy ned lyndsey, who got almost no book time after the first few chapters and oliver ellet who was adorable but completely pointless), and had the most annoying heroine in the history of literature (whiny, stuck-up rose lyndsey). blarghhhh.

in writing news: i have spent most of the day working on various projects and have settled in to the writing this evening, though with some unease. it's very hard to cope with a protagonist who is a racist. i never used to let this bother me because i used to avoid the presence of scenarios in which the fact would come up. but clearly i can't write an epic about the Civil War and Reconstruction without addressing the issue. so i've been doing a lot of reading and trying to get some perspective on the exact kind of racist i'm writing about. and it's hard because characters in books are allowed to have flaws, but i have such a low tolerance for racists myself it's hard to permit such a flaw (and especially seeing the degree to which it manifests). and besides, character flaws are usually pc. archie bunker would never fly today. today, it's okay if your character is misanthropic ~ as long as they treat everyone equally bad. but you can't have a character who hates jews or black people or homosexuals. it's too easy to judge.

and today i was idly shopping around online for some perspectives and wound up watching the first part of Goodbye Uncle Tom, which is a heinous film. what is it about me that reads a review in which a film is declared shocking and exploitative and i immediately have to see it ~ i did the same thing with Soldier Blue and i was pretty grossed out about it. i am dead certain i will have nightmares after watching only 40 minutes of Goodbye Uncle Tom, which is ludicrous and offensive in turns. i don't know quite what to make of it, but much of the truth of what it portrays is revolting enough to make me queasy.

America doesn't like picking at its scabs. boy does it have some doozies.

painting of a Richmond slave auction
by english artist Lefevre James Cranstone (1862).
Richmond sold an average of 10,000 slaves a year
in the 30 years preceding the Civil War

you see pictures like this and everything looks so cheery and clean and colorful! then you take a real hard look at what this business was really about (i mean really look at it), and the suffering and indignity of it all can really overwhelm you. it's hard then, as a writer, trying to find ways of making a character blind enough to the humanity of slaves as some vile, egregious justification for their own lack of empathy. merg.

okay, not so cheery a thought on which to end this post. i hope everyone is having a less gruesome weekend!

: D
in a bid to unearth the most impossibly obscure documents ever summoned at this particular liberry, i am attempting to get my hands on this little bit of bizarre (innerliberry loan has been good to me so far!). it would be very interesting just in terms of asylum care in the 1880s, let alone that mitchell and hartranft were on the commission that slopped it together. prolly dry as coprolite, but hey, i've read weirder/worse.

exhibit A:

Hartranft, John F., Richard C. McMurtrie, Joseph A. Reed, S. Weir Mitchell, Joseph T. Rothrock, L. Clarke Davis, and George L. Harrison. Report from the Commission to Examine into the Present System for the Care of the Insane of the State, etc. Philadelphia: The Commission, 1883.
it would have never even occurred to me in a million years, in spite of the fact that both of these men are pennsylvanians, that they would ever be on a commission for anything together.

i have not pursued much on the matter of hartranft's post-gubernatorial position as a warden for crazy people. it's sort of out of the range of my interest in hartranft. but i might get interested. especially since steers is ruining my other angles (kidding).

for my own amusement, this is an insane asylum
from Mr. Hanty's hometown.
i don't believe he ever worked here.
lookingland: (ghost rider)
( Jul. 9th, 2008 07:23 am)
i've read a lot of books this summer (some of which have been surprisingly fun like last week's Brief Honors: a Romance of the Great Dividable, which was a morality tale about the evil of big corporations ~ written in 1877!). as i have been reading this summer, i have thought it would be fun to share some of these books in more depth (i wish i had journaled more about Montmorency because those books are so much fun and the plots are so twisty). so i thought i would like to blog a book in august ~ just for fun, give a blow-by-blow of my impressions for each chapter. i can't decide which book to choose and since i am no longer a paying lj peep, i cannot make the pretty poll thing, but feel free to express yourself in the comments if you have an opinion.

these are the candidates on the docket:

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Dalquist ~ at 725 pages this is quite the tome, but less daunting than Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (which i am still mulling through). also, i love the chapter format (had to send away to Ireland for it special). It's a fantasy adventure, but what if it sucks and then i will spend all my energy quibbling? that isn't a good thing. or i might challenge myself to not quibble, which would be fabulous.

Loveless by Azarrello ~ okay, it's a graphic novel, but it has twenty four parts, so it would be substantial enough to report on, i think. grim western, mature themes, probably lots to enjoy and/or criticize, and it's not as huge an investment as a "real" novel.

Oh Please Read Something New out of Your Vast S. Weir Mitchell Collection! ~ because i still have a handful of books i have been saving and you know how i love to go on about this guy's work, complete with side stories on obscure post-Civil War minutiae. of the books of his that i haven't read i would probably choose John Sherwood, When All the Woods are Green, or In War Time. I'm leaning toward In War Time because it opens with an army hospital post-Gettysburg and i am a ghoul for that sort of thing.

or, if none of these ideas seem fun to you, feel free to suggest something completely different ~ on the understanding that i rarely actually read book recommendations because my tastes are entirely too flaky. so if you want to increase the chances that i might actually look at something you suggest, just make sure the plot doesn't rely on telephones, cars, or understanding the least bit about the 21st century ~ because all of that might be too much of a challenge to my enfeebled antiquarian brain.
my idea is to read this book in August and just do a periodic update on its progress in an impressionistic sort of way (not necessarily a blow by blow, though spoilers would definitely be included, so consider that).

by the way i do have three other books on my reading list this summer, which i will probably be taking with me on vacation at the end of the month (so they aren't good blogging prospects, i don't think, it being hard to blog on the beach): The Birth House by ami mcKay, The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas, and The Year of Jublio by howard bahr.

opinions, oh flist of mine?

: D
i am generally having a good day, which makes it somewhat perplexing as to why i feel like chucking it all like Gauguin and moving to tahiti (i really need to make that into a tag). i've been drawing (or rather struggling through the drawing ~ which is okay, it's progress). and i took the doggies to the park and i went grocery shopping. i ought to wash dishes, but maybe i will get to that after dinner.

i feel like writing a long thing about writing and confronting demons in our work, but i don't really have the words. today i was working on [ profile] lanyn's prompt with sorta unexpected results and though i love the scene and think on some level it could be brilliant if properly executed, i have rampaging trepidation about posting it because it will likely offend people (and it should!), but i cringe at being the cause of offense. i don't know if i am wise enough to tackle with effectiveness some of the more complex themes in my own work. and this is the sort of scene that seems easier to write than to draw (because the drawing feels like such a reduction sometimes). like every flaw of the illustration makes it somehow more offensive.

i dunno ~ this makes sense in the wasteland of my own head, i guess. i'm prolly pre-worrying and pre-flipping about nothing and should just post the picture and let you all be the judge (which i will, i promise).

and this is just because this post needs a picture

last night i read a short story by s. weir mitchell (obsessed, i know) called "House Beyond Prettymarsh". if i had known what sort of story it was, i would not have read it before bed because it was freakin' yarghy as all get out (totally unexpected). basic premise: guy decides to have an idyllic day taking a sail and is intruded on by an acquaintance he can't easily shake. they get caught in a storm and wind up at an old abandoned house (recognize this formula?). nothing much actually happens: the house is weird, one of the rooms is burned as if set on fire, they discover a smashed and rotten cradle in the basement (with a single baby's shoe), then have a spectral encounter with a woman in a mirror that sends one of them screaming out into the rain. it was just creepy enough to unsettle me (which isn't easy ~ i know few writers who can actually scare me). mitchell had an interest in spiritualism, which he writes about in a number of his other books (and which was all the rage in the last half of the century), but this is the first straight up ghost story i have come across by him. a serendipitous halloweeny treat.

anyone have any favorite ghost stories they want to share?
lookingland: (shark)
( Oct. 26th, 2007 09:58 pm)
first off, for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:

no. 59 ~ The Guillotine Club by s. weir mitchell. this is a sequel of sorts to A Diplomatic Adventure. at first i was impatient with it because it was too much Grenville and Alphonse and not enough Captain Merton, but once Merton arrived on the scene, hilarity ensued. the premise is kind of silly: two secret french "clubs" of opposing politics challenge one another to a duel every year and an unfortunate count who belongs to one club and has been nominated to the other by his crazy uncle has been ordered to challenge and fight himself (unbeknownst to either side that he is, in fact, the same person). machinations abound, but nothing they do manage to get the count off the hook. in the end, naturally, Captain Merton saves the day with some impromptu swashbuckling. it's a clever story ~ even if rather silly. i enjoyed it, of course.
in drawing: i'm struggling with the usual "issues" and am coming to the conclusion that one style is as good as another ~ all have their plusses and minuses, and that regardless of what i do in real media, i end up losing a lot of fidelity after the processing ~ both in terms of texture and nuance as well as just stuff getting obscured by dialogue, etc.

take, for example, the image below. i was finally (after about 8 runs) pleased with how it came out, but reduced and desaturated, it loses a lot of the detail. so i named the file "get used to it" because clearly this is just going to be the way that it goes.

: o p

that said, i guess i launch on the 28th. which means i need to get drawing!
lookingland: (stamp)
( Oct. 10th, 2007 10:25 am)
alleluia the weather has finally turned (after a weekend of devastating near-90 temps ~ ugh!). it's crisply in the 50s in the morning. tea time!

: D

for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 58 ~ Far in the Forest by s. weir mitchell. this one got off to a slightly rocky start: a bit slow and a bit grindy (good Lord, woman, just throw yourself at the man!). but interestingly, the couple's hesitation is sort of the point of the thing, and mitchell pays off all his tedious lumberjacking stuff with a climax that's pretty amazing. liked this book more than Westways in the end, and actually think it could make for a good film (it's that well plotted). i was thoroughly pleased, and as with some of mitchell's previous works, rather surprised by the level and candor of some of the violence. just when you think you're reading a rather pastoral romance, gruesome things happen. The horrific way in which he kills the villain in this one is a winner+.
in other news, no news ~ just bopping along. still drawing, slowly, not doing much writing, though, and feeling a wee itchy about that. i really would like to finish my conspiracy novel in some form by Christmas.

it's turning all autumnal ~ yay!
in writing: just noodling so you can prolly skip it. )

in reading: for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 56 ~ A Diplomatic Adventure by s. weir mitchell. strictly an adventure story with some priceless amusements including a single case of mistaken identity that results in three duels (the character of Captain Merton is hilarious when he accepts the challenge even when he has no clue what's provoked it, and i love how he gives his enemies musketeer names). Merton's falling in love with a woman he's never seen is also wonderful, alongside his subsequent theft of a piece of ribbon (brilliant) that leads him to finally meet the mysterious spy (and marry her, of course). i love the fact that this romance happens entirely in Merton's head and then ultimately off-scene. the last chapter is throwaway recapitulation, but the rest of the book is highly entertaining. still not quite as good as New Samaria, which remains my favorite.
i started Far in the Forest last night and only read a chapter. i really ought to take a break and read something else, though.

in film: lastly, i watched Seraphim Falls last night.

[some spoilers in this review!]

liam neeson chases pierce brosnan down out of the mountains into an appalling desert, torturing him along the way. yeah, fun stuff! but i could watch either actor skin cats and prolly still be entertained. the ending got a wee convoluted and i don't know how i feel about the resolution, but i was still entertained. it's a pretty straightforward story about vengeance and forgiveness, but could have been helped with a wee better development of the characters. i kept wondering through most of the film: why does pierce brosnan's character keep running? what does he want to live for? that question never gets answered (in fact, it gets compounded when we find out that he lost both of his sons right before his eyes fighting at antietam).

so all in all i enjoyed it (especially the fact of so many horses dropping dead from the chase ~ not because the horses die, but because for once we get some realism: horses aren't machines; they need water and food and rest!), but overall, if it had been a book before being made into a film, the book woulda prolly been much better. the cause of animosity between the two men is obvious (i think) at the start, but when the flashback moment is revealed, it was still effectively chilling, brosnan's line: you said the house was empty! and the soldier answering: of rebs! ~ geh! quite horrifying, regardless of the cliché. and i love the impression the director gives of brosnan leaving the farm, taking off his sword, and basically walking out of the war and of that former life forever. i wish the symbol of the knife he carries ever afterward had been more clearly explained, however. i feel there was a missed opportunity there.

the usually suave pierce brosnan
takes quite a relentless beating in this one.
lookingland: (house)
( Aug. 21st, 2007 03:46 pm)
schtuff for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 53 ~ The Romance of a Christmas Card by kate douglas wiggin. the premise of this one is rather complicated: one woman has a son who skipped town for adventures. she paints Christmas cards of her friend. her friend has been abandoned with twins by her deadbeat brother. the Christmas cards cause both men to return home again after a lengthy absence. it's a fun Christmas story and i was amused that it included such a profligate brother who knocks up and marries a notoriously wicked woman, then ditches his own babies after she kicks the bucket. those Victorians were so romantic.

no. 54 ~ The Snow Image by nathaniel hawthorne. i think a lot of people find hawthorne heavy-handed and excessively preachy. this little snow story is likewise in that vein, but he's never bothered me (is it just me or does anyone else think hawthorne was hot?). anyway, two children with the ridiculous names Violet and Peony build a girl out of snow who comes to life. their father, a wholly too-practical man with no imagination, thinks the girl is real, insists she come into the house, and she, of course, melts by the hearth. the moral of the story is something about "don't mess with things that you don't understand" or something. it's a strange, sad story.

no. 55 ~ The Comedy of Conscience by s. weir mitchell. this is the 6th of mitchell's books that i have read (i think). this is an odd story about a woman whose purse is picked on a bus by a man with a large wart on his face. in the commission of the crime, the man drops his diamond ring, which turns out to be worth a princely sum. after much scrupling, the woman advertises for the "real" owner to pick up his ring. the press gets wind of the story and bends it all out of proportion (to ridiculous lengths). then the criminal tries to claim the ring, but is thwarted by the woman's friend (and love interest). the most bizarre thing about this story is that the woman, desiring no further notoriety, lets the thief go once he confesses. overall amusing ~ not as good as New Samaria, but entertaining.

Wiggin's book is a nice one:
with lovely illustrations throughout
okay, so i finally finished Westways (at 500+ pages, it's pretty long for me ~ my attention span seems to cap off at about 350). so here are my notes for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 52 ~ Westways by S. Weir Mitchell. a reviewer had said that the first half of the book was really strong and then it sort of went sideways and lost itself. i tend to agree. soon as the war finally arrives, rather than getting more dramatic, the novel devolves into a long quagmire of letter-writing and minor subplots (some of which are pretty amusing, but nothing substantial). Mitchell suffers us through the whole four years of war and finally brings the two Penhallow men home, both wounded, with the squire shot in the head and not quite himself anymore. the denouement then consists of them trying to "fix" the squire while John wins back Leila's love. villain Peter Lamb is satisfactorily dispatched, but Mitchell leaves his mother sort of nebulously hanging and the whole bizarre thing about reverend Mark Rivers being in love with Leila is inexplicably dealt with by simply sending him away, which is a shame because he's one of the more complex and interesting characters ~ if not a bit Morse-like. i wasn't altogether disappointed with the ending, but it did drag a bit for what was to be the inevitable conclusion: the restoration of the happy home, etc.
couple of really interesting things in the text: a fictional depiction of Czar NastyOwlFace which feels, to me, dead-on. dunno if Mitchell ever met Stanton, but he certainly agrees with all of his contemporaries as to the man's character. a brief scene with Lincoln is also interestingly in keeping with the characterization of the president. other famous people who traipse through: General Hancock and Dr. Askew. i was hoping for a glimpse of some more famous pennsylvanians (like Mr. Hanty?), but oh well.

the other interesting thing is a rather overt subplot that involves the rape of a woman, which i thought was shocking for the era in which this was printed. rather than having a tearful woman come forward claiming she had been "insulted" by so-and-so, Mitchell actually depicts the drunkard Lamb emerging from her house and her chasing after, accusing in language, Mitchell says, "to leave no mistake as to what had been done." Lamb is dealt with by the Union army by being tied to a tree with a note pinned to his breast stating his crime and inviting the Rebels to do with him as they see fit (love this scene!). unfortunately, Lamb escapes punishment because for some inscrutable reason, Penhallow takes pity on him (which is totally infuriating). but ultimately Lamb gets his.

all in all a fine read with some great small story arcs and some wonderfully drawn characters (Leila and John are particularly well-written in a very otherwise victorian novel where usually the couple in love is usually the most cardboard).

in film: yes, i watched Night at the Museum (call it palate cleanser for that wretched spartan movie). and yes, i thought it was funny (even if stupid). i can't hlep but be a fan of owen wilson, and the concept just appeals to me too much to dislike. among my favorite moments is the chaotic end battle where night watchman larry (ben stiller) is forced to try to reign in some control over the entire museum, which has gone berserk. the harangue could have been a lot funnier, but this part cracked me up well enough:

larry: civil war dudes: you guys are brothers for god sakes!
you've got to stop fighting. North wins, slavery is bad.
sorry. don't want to burst your bubble. but South:
you guys get the allman brothers and...Nascar.
so just chill!

i would just like to add that anyone who thinks i'm too harsh in my film reviews, this is a perfect example of something completely stupid to which i would joyfully give a thumbs up.

okay must go make pizza for breakfast, write a paper, and then work on my book ~ happy sunday all!

: D
was roused out of bed by a terrific storm at about 3:30 in the morning. stumbled around, closed windows, listened to the rain. now i am yawning like the grand canyon (so much for getting extra sleep on the weekend).

for my birthday i was gonna order a whole mess of s. weir mitchell's books, but after carefully pruning through them and making selections and going through every used bookstore online, i piled about $60 worth into my alibris shopping cart and then just didn't feel like ordering them.

yesterday i read (and for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 51 ~ New Samaria & The Summer of St. Martin by s. weir mitchell. this is two stories bound together. the first is really fun: a rich man has an accident in a far away town, is robbed of his identity, and forced to beg on the street with a man he had previously treated rather harsh. includes a hilarious confrontation with a cop, a circus clown, and the man all arguing over a gold watch. and a dog named Tramp (must'n't forget the dog!).

the second story is exceptionally (and i really hate to use the word) sweet. a general in the twilight of his years sits in a fog of nostalgia and is visited by the young daughter of a friend who thinks all her suitors are beneath her. they play a game in which they pretend he's 25 and courting her and she refuses him despite his most gallant attempts to win her affection. we later learn that he lost the love of his life and never married, but we don't what precisely happened. it's all very innocent and charming and romantic ~ if a little sad. then they go in supper together and there's no promise that their game meant anything more than that ~ but i'd like to think maybe it does (hey, Poppet married a woman 20 years his junior late in life, so it wasn't unheard of then for young girls to fall in love with charming generals without the match turning out to be a foolish disaster).

illustration from "The Summer of St. Martin"

i'm still reading Westways (it's a long book!). but as i was getting ready for bed, i was trying to think about what it was about mitchell's writing that compells me (subject matter, certainly). but mitchell is a weak writer in many ways ~ his characters tend to talk about nothing a lot and repeat themselves. he has a habit of writing whole scenes that explain what just happened in the scene prior. this is the first full-length novel of his that i have read and he didn't have this problem in his shorter works, so i'm assuming at the moment he was just better in the shorter form (short story, novella).

but his ramblings don't really bother me. he knows how to weave a decently intricate plot (Westways has several arcs going all at once), and his characters are both steady and alive. halfway through the book they've gone through a lot of changes, but you still recognize them all. mitchell was definitely a student of psychology and seemed to understand people well. where most victorian novels fail (creating wooden people with stilted language and cliched gestures), mitchell succeeds ~ even if he could use a winch to tighten everything up (already i think Westways could probably lose about 100 pages and not really miss it.)

anyway, so he's good at characters and he's especially good at making storytelling easy (which, for me is a big deal because i can write and craft words, but i am not a very good storyteller). he seems so absolutely comfortable and confident that he knows where it's all going and when he needs something to happen, it does. it makes me reevalaute my own transitions in particular ~ i always feel like there's "stuff in between" that's missing. i really need to work on that.
i would just like to say, for the record, that until i came across his name in Rehabilitating Bodies: Health, History, and the American Civil War by lisa a. long at the beginning of this year, i had never ever ever before heard of S. Weir Mitchell, nor read any of his works, nor known anything about them.

so i can't account for the fact that his characters are disturbingly similar to my own sometimes (and have the same set of names even! Hunter, Preston, good gravy, common enough names, but honestly!), his plots are even more so (drug addicts, quadruple amputees, married people of opposing north/south politics), and his themes generally likewise (racism, the psychological effects of war, maiming and the idea of "wholeness").

so yeah, he's kinda pissing me off lately.

just thought i would say that ~ for the record.

picture of the day: "hope deferred" ~

in Victorian art, the carelessly tossed gloves
symbolize absent-mindedness or possibly compromised virtue
for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 12 ~ The Autobiography of a Quack (and "The Case of George Dedlow") by silas weir mitchell. mitchell's stuff is so interesting. his preoccupation with the underside of the medical profession reveals the ways in which the culture of his generation had their own peculiar neuroses. not much to the story here. a young dissipated man takes up doctoring but doesn't actually want to do the work part of it, so falls into all sort of creepy schemes and winds up a homeopathic spiritualist who just dispenses pills and communes with the dead. of course he gets what's coming to him. my favorite phrase in the whole book is "the melancholy spectacle of my failure" (gee, i wonder why that is?). i already discussed George Dedlow before. while describing the story to someone this weekend, they pointed my nose toward Johnny Got His Gun. Honestly, sometimes i'm sure i have been living under a rock. now i have to read that before i can proceed.

anyway, having read his short stories and two novellas, i guess it's time to tackle a novel by mitchell and see if he can sustain over an even longer work.

no. 13 ~ Without Blood by alessandro baricco. a wee book by the author of Silk, which made my top ten of all time last year. i'm less enamored of this one, though its a powerful story, well told. unfortunately i sorta feel like it's a redux of The Night Porter, but watered down as a result of its non-specificity (in terms of time and place). i think baricco tries to give it a new twist by putting the character of Nina in control of the situation (control being a relative term here, since he defines revenge, by nature, as being a destructive force). i got impatient with the story, though it ended well (if not enigmatically). but The Night Porter is a much more powerful take on the victim/abuser complex.
wee warning to my flist peeps who read my film reviews and sometimes add things from my list to their queues: The Night Porter is an extremely difficult film (i couldn't even find a picture from it that i thought would be appropriate to post here). it's incredibly disturbing and i don't recommend it for the squeamish or the sensitive. it's been controversial forever, but i tend to think it's an important film (though have no desire to ever watch it again).

finished my contract, went to have pie with a friend.

i did a ton of reading this weekend. otherwise i didn't get any writing done, which is a shame. but i did turn over a dozen possible entry points in my head. i'm having a hard time placing the first scene. clearly i need to just start writing and see where it goes from there. i'm having a struggle getting my head out of 1862 and into 1874/75. it's just such a different world.

didn't read lj most of the weekend, alas. got a lot of catching up to do!

happy monday all!

: D
for the [ profile] 50bookchallenge:
no. 6 ~ Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries: Photographs of Surgical Cases and Specimens, Otis Historical Archives by julian e. kuz. the first of kuz's books (this being the big mamalinchi of medical photography). i confess i caved and ordered a copy of this one for myself. couldn't see my way around having it and the library wants their copy back. it cost me, but it's worth it. when you have a definiitive text, you have a definitive text. not much more you can say about it.

no. 7 ~ The Hawkline Monster: a Gothic Western by richard brautigan. i enjoyed this until the departure from reality was so great that it rendered the outcome utterly pointless. call me an old-fashioned girl, but i like my surrealism to have a throughline. this was entertaining and mercifully a quick read. if it had been any longer, i would not have had the patience for it. i guess overall that's a wee disappointing for a book i've been looking to read for over a year. oh well.

i love the idea of the three-story
yellow house in the middle of the yellow field
surrounded by a ring of snow.
no. 8 ~ Little Stories by silas weir mitchell. i have no idea what i find so fascinating about this guy's writing. there's nothing special about it. it leans a little dark and a little "fabulous". maybe just knowing the undercurrents makes it more fraught or something. this little book was interesting enough that i'll try one of his larger works. see what he can do.

no 9 ~ Rehabilitating Bodies: Health, History, and the American Civil War by lisa a. long. it's taken me a long time to work my way through this one (and i confess i skimmed a chapter on gender and a chapter on race). although this book isn't what i thought it would be about, it's proved an invaluable roadsign for other, more relevent sources. i was looking for something more literally along the lines of the title, but this is an academic work on the body of early post-war literature and the mythologizing (and romanticizing) of the war, etc. it does talk a great deal about health, but the rehabilitation here is almost purely literary. very dense writing, but yielded a lot of interesting things (including dr. mitchell, above).

i'm glad i stuck with it even though it wasn't what i was looking for and will prolly talk about it more later.
i'll prolly finish Madden's Sharpshooter tonight. and here i thought i wouldn't step up to the challenge. i'm doing okay so far! whooo!

: D

and it's all sorts of snowing outside right now!