Author Archive

Odyssey Week 2 Post to Come

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

I am caught between a rock and a hard place, the origin of which we haven’t yet reached in our reading. As Sting sang, it’s between Scylla and Charybdis, though I often can’t remember which is the rock and which is the hard place, until I remember Marathon Man, and the brother’s code name, and that usually puts it to rights.

Anyhoo. I will do a proper write up of sections 4-6 this week later today after I finish (is it ever possible to actually finish?) the holiday card project. I’m catching up after 5 years of not doing it, and there’s been a fair amount of spelunking and sleuthing for addresses and contacts.

Also, my husband G. Grod abandoned the Fitzgerald and I abandoned the Lattimore translations, both in favor of the Fagles, which we find much more readable, not only in content, but in form. It’s a lovely trade paperback in a large font.

I’m putting this up in case you want to start commenting or questions before I do the proper write up.

Ten Gifts for the Readers & Writers in Your Life

Monday, December 15th, 2014

This post has been bubbling in my head for a while and if I put it off any longer I won’t get it out before Christmas. Alas, I may be getting it out too late for you early-present buyers, but for you procrastinating ones, here ya go.


1. Good journal. I like Moleskine and Claire Fontaine. I tried a low-rent Barnes and Noble brand last year, and regretted it.


2. Cute notebooks. Field Notes. That is all.


3. Good pen. One of the best presents I ever got was the Namiki Vanishing Point Fountain pen. These Pilots are also pretty.


4. Writing gloves. Love these from Storiarts.


5. Bookish Ts, like these from Out of Print.


6. Book subscription or bundle. Lizzie Skurnick Books has a couple subscription options, plus is selling a bundle of the All of a Kind Family books. Persephone Books site is down, but they have subscriptions, too. Emily Books has a carefully curated subscription of E-books.

7. Noise cancelling earphones, maybe these?

8. Gift card for local, indie bookstore, find yours here.


9. Chocolate (or your favorite snack of choice). May I suggest the plain truffles from Maison du Chocolat. (Hint, hint.)

10. Coffee (or your favorite bevvie of choice). I use my Aeropress almost every day.

Anything I forgot?

Sandman Read Wk 2: THE DOLL’S HOUSE

Sunday, December 14th, 2014


It is 9:30 on Sunday night, and I’m staring at this page, and it’s staring back to me, and I wonder, how on earth can I do justice to the sprawl of flaming crazy awesomeness that is volume 2 of The Sandman, The Doll’s House?

If you’re on twitter, join us with the hashtag #SandMN. If you’re not, then follow along here on Mondays. The reading schedule is here.

This collection opens with #9 “Tales in the Sand”, an African “folk tale” made up entirely by Gaiman, and refers to other tales, which he also made up.

(You really have to watch out for Gaiman. In American Gods, he made up some Slavic goddess, Zorja Polunochnaya, and depending on how you look her up online it’s really easy to believe that she was an actual goddess, and not something Neil just pulled out of his…head.)

We get the story of Nada, the woman we briefly met in #4, A Hope in Hell, who had been imprisoned there after rejecting Dream, or Kai’ kul, the incarnation of her people. If this is the men’s version, how much more scathing must the women’s version of it be? We got some indication of this before, but Dream can be a real jerk. Also in this story, we get images of hearts, as well as the difference between men’s and women’s stories, both of which will be themes throughout the series.

#10, “The Doll’s House” in which we meet the twins, Desire and Despair, as well as Rose Walker, who learns she is the granddaughter of Unity Kinkaid, who was impregnated and had a baby while she slept in issue #1. When Rose dreams, the page goes sideways. We get to see one of my favorite recurring characters, Goldie the gargoyle, who adorably says “meep” and “aarkle”. We get yet another appearance of the three witches, one of Gaiman’s favorite myths that he deploys throughout his work. And we meet the Corinthian, an escaped dream, and a very bad man.

#11 “Moving In.” Rose moves into a house in Florida so she can track down her younger brother Jed. She’s watched by Matthew, Dream’s talking raven, who used to be Matthew Cable in the series Swamp Thing. Jed is in a very bad place, and is having odd dreams that are homages to Windsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.

#12 “Playing House” we meet Lyta and Hector Hall who have been playing Sandman under the tutelage of two escaped dreams. Hector is really a ghost, but Lyta has been in a suspended pregnancy. Dream, being a jerk again: “The child you have carried so long in dreams. That child is mine. Take good care of it. One day I will come for it.” And then he lets Jed get away and fall into the hand of the Corinthian.

#13 “Men of Good Fortune” seems plopped in there, but it’s the prior engagement Dream mentions when he runs off after telling Lyta he’ll be back for the child. We meet a guy named Hob, but even better we meet some hack playwrite named Will. Dream talks to them both, and interesting things happen. This is one of my favorite issues (all the ones with Shakespeare are.)

#14 “Collectors.” That’s Neil Gaiman modeling for the Corinthian on the cover. If you didn’t like the horror in issue 6, 24 Hours, this one is pretty horrific too. But Dream unmakes the Corinthian, so while he may be a jerk, he’s pretty badass. Plus Gilbert comes back with Jed, yay!

#15 “Into the Night.” Barbie has the coolest dreams, doesn’t she?

#16 “Lost Hearts.” That’s Neil Gaiman again on the cover. Does it bug anyone else that he is his own Mary Sue/model for the King of Dreams?

Gilbert turns out to be a place, Fiddler’s Green, and while he can’t stand in for the death of Rose, Unity can. I love this exchange:

Dream: I don’t understand–

Unity: Of course you don’t. You’re obviously not very bright, but I wouldn’t let it bother you.

And we learn that the whole thing has been a long game played by Desire to bring down Dream, and he threatens Desire, whose house is a doll.

I love this, too:

Dream: We of the endless are servants of the living–we are NOT their masters. WE exist because they know, deep in their hearts, that we exist. When the last living thing has left this universe, then our task will be done. And we do not manipulate them. If anything they manipulate us. We are their toys. Their dolls, if you will.

So, what did everyone else think?

The Odyssey Readalong Wk 1 Bks 1-3

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014


Welcome to The Odyssey Readalong!

Who’s with me?

My husband G. Grod is supposed to be but he can’t seem to finish reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Girl, but once he does he says he’s going to start The Odyssey, because he’s gung ho to read Ulysses next year.

As you may know by now, we’re weird like that in our family.

But, since I’m the moderator, I not only read the first 3 sections already, but also did a smidgen of research on them. This epic was written sometime between 600 and 800 BCE (that’s Before Common Era, because, especially since we’re talking about the Greeks it makes more sense to use this non-Christian descriptor even though Jesus was so important, whether he was the savior or not, that BCE and BC are the same.) That means it’s had longer than most works to be studied and debated. There is so much to know that I’ve decided I’m going to try and keep things simple, on a need-to-know basis for helpfulness in the upcoming Ulysses readalong.

About The Odyssey in general: it may or may not have been written by a poet named Homer, who may or may not have been the same one who wrote The Iliad, which was about the 10-year Trojan War, where The Odyssey is about Odysseus’ 10-year journey home from the war. There’s lots of argument for and against. One theory has it that The Iliad was by Homer, and the Odyssey by a child (Homer Jr.?) or apprentice. There are many translations, I’m reading the one by Lattimore since we had it in our house.

Book 1 opens with an invocation to Athene, goddess of wisdom.

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in his spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
Even so he could not save his companions, hard though
he strove to,; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,
And he took away the day of their homecoming. Fom some point
here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.

Book 1 is part of the first four books about Odysseus’ son, Telemachos. There is quite a lot here about a murder of Aigisthos, but I want to focus on the big O, who is being held as a sex captive by Kalypso on her hard-to-pronounce island Ogygia. Poseidon the powerful and moody sea god is angry with Odysseus and is impeding his trip home. We learn later it’s because O killed Polyphemus, a cyclopes and child of Poseidon.

Athene wants to move things along, so she goes to Ithaka, disguised as a guy named Mentes. Telemachos shows him/her hospitality, and she favors him and learns first hand how annoying all the suitors are who want to marry Odysseus’ wife Penelope and become king, because he’s been gone so long (20 years now ) they assume he’s dead. The suitors are eating all the food and partying and generally not being good guests. Athene hints to T that he should go find out for himself.

Book 2: Telemachos calls a meeting to complain about the suitor situation. The suitors complain because Penelope had tried to put them off by weaving a funeral cloak for Laertes, Odysseus’ father (who wasn’t even dead yet!) and every night she unraveled her work till a maid ratted her out to the suitors. Zeus sends eagles as a sign, but the crowd won’t agree on the meaning. A man named Mentor speaks up against the suitors (this is where we get that word from!) but the crowd is unmoved. Athene disguises herself as Mentor, tells T to get ready for a journey then disguises herself as T and goes about the town, recruiting for the ship, then T and Athene/Mentor and the new crew leave Ithaka.

Book 3: T goes to Pylos to get news of O from Nestor, who fought with O in the war. They arrive in a sacrificial dinner to Poseidon which they wisely do not disrupt. Lots of lines about Agamemnon and Menelaos, but I’m going to continue to not pay much attention to them other than that Odysseus waffled between which brother to follow home, and picked wrong because Menelaos and Nestor made it home. Nestor says lots of nice things about O and how T looks like O, and then Athene reveals herself as an eagle, and Nestor promises both a sacrifice of a gold-horned calf to her and horses to T for the road trip to Sparta to find out more about O.

Initial impressions: this is not a hard read, and is about Greek gods and goddesses and heroes, so full of ripping stuff. Interestingly much of the mythology is fresh in my mind from recent readings with my sons of the Percy Jackson series, which is good with some details, as in the Cyclopes being sons of Poseidon.

I’m not sure why it took so long for T to start complaining about the suitors, and why no one had gone to look for O before, but the story had to start somewhere, and 10 years plus 10 years is a nice round number.

What did others think and what questions do you have?


Monday, December 8th, 2014


Welcome readers to the online readalong of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic-book series! We’re reading one of the 10 main graphic novel collections a week over December and January.

This week we’re discussing Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, or issues 1-8 of the series. I’ll be posting here, and we’re tweeting under the hashtag #SandMN.

This post will be to start the conversations.

I was hooked by all the literary references and the comic-book ones too, even if I didn’t know who Scott Free and the Martian Manhunter were. (AND, guess what–you don’t need to!) BUT, that said, “24 Hours” is one of the most horrific issues I’ve ever read. I shudder when I remember it, and it’s one that friends have told me stop them from continuing through the series.

It certainly is one of the most overtly horrific issues of the series. Also, it’s the first after artist Sam Kieth (of The Maxx) dropped out. (Makes me wonder if he dropped out because of the script of “24 hours”.)

I advise people to read through issue 8, ‘The Sound of Her Wings’, before bailing. That issue, with its dramatic reveal, is one of my all-time favorites both of the series specifically, and comics in general.

A note about editions: I’m reading from the Absolute Edition Sandman Volume 1 which reprinted the series in large, lovely slip-covered editions, and what sold me on buying something I’d already owned twice (first in single issues and then in the 10 issue of graphic novels.)

Below is a good example of how wonky the color was in the original series and GN reprints. The original of p. 11 in issue 1 is on the left, the recolored version on the right. I’m not a color expert, but looks like an oversaturation of Yellow that made poor Stefan Wasserman’s face green. In the recoloring, it doesn’t look so weird.


Please note that when you send a comment it goes to moderation till I approve it. Otherwise, we’d be slammed with spam, and no one wants that.

What did everyone else think? What version/edition are you reading?

From the Archives: Five Holiday Gifts

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Second day of December, third day of Advent, not too late this year in re-posting this as we gear up for the holidays.

I’m thinking this year of leaving off gifts to love (they have plenty of stuffed animals and the elder has dust mite allergies) and to read–our house is filled with books, so is the library, plus we buy books all the time. Instead I”m musing, wondering if there’s a way to combine gifts for the both of them so that we have fewer, but awesome-r presents this year.

In the meantime, I’ve picked them up some new long johns.


From the archives, on gift giving for kids:
Star Tribune 12/24/89 - Pat Gardner “Tender Years”

The weeks of hectic preparation are coming to a close. Within days, the magic will begin to unfold for our children and, vicariously through them, for us. Just as we remember those wonderful Christmas Eves and mornings long ago, our children will one day look back on these days. How will they remember them? What are you giving your children this year?

I know one family of modest means that makes a great effort to celebrate Christmas in the best way possible. Their children always find five gifts under the tree. And more than that, the gifts are always accompanied by a parent. Here’s how they do it.

The children always receive a gift to hug and love. Sometimes it’s a doll or maybe a stuffed animal. Every Christmas each child has something to care for, to carry along and finally at night to share a bed, secrets and dreams.

The wise parents know that the children will themselves learn to care for others by practicing on dolls and stuffed animals. Mom and Dad demonstrate rocking the stuffed bear and wiping the doll’s face. They talk about being gentle and giving care.

More important, they treat their children tenderly. They make a special effort at this busy time of year for a little more lap time, more frequent hugs and all the physical care and attention their young children need.

The children in this family always receive something to read. The parents know that to give them books is to give them wings. The little ones get books, and the big ones get books. Books aren’t foreign to any member of this family. Books are treasures. And more than that, they become a daily connection between parent and child.

The wise parents know that the best way to raise a reader is to read to a child….They share curiosity. They take the time to listen patiently to their beginning reader. They share discoveries. Through books, these parents explore worlds within their home and beyond their front door with all of their children.

The children receive toys and games. These parents are concerned about each child’s skills and find fun ways to enhance their present capabilities and encourage further development. For a grasping baby, a crib gym; for a beginning walker, a push toy; for a pre-schooler, a shape and color sorter; for a beginning reader, a game of sequence and strategy.

The parents know that play is the work of childhood. They understand that to meet a child at her level of accomplishment is to encourage success in play. Success stimulates motivation and interest in a challenge. So the parents judge their toy and game choices carefully. Not too easy, but not too hard.

They they do the most important thing. They play with their children. The children see that learning is a toy, that it’s fun to challenge oneself, that play can be a very social activity, that it’s OK to win and also to lose and that Mom and Dad wholeheartedly approve of play.

The children in this family always receive a gift of activity. From a simple ball or jump rope to a basketball hoop or a pair of ice skates, they always have one gift that encourages action.

The parents know that those children who, by nature, are very active may need to be channeled into acceptable and appropriate activities. And they know that those children who, by nature, are very passive may need to be encouraged to move with purpose. But their message to their children is that physical activity is important and good.

These parents make their message clear by joining their children in physical play. They skate and play catch. They’re on the floor with their crawlers and walk hand in hand with their toddlers. They get bumped and bruised and laugh and shout. They sled and they bowl. And many times in the next few weeks when resting on the couch sounds much more inviting, these parents will give their kids one more gift. They’ll get up and play with them.

The children always receive a gift of artistic expression. They might find crayons, paints or markers in their stockings. It might be a gift of clay this year or rubber stamps or scissors and glue. The materials change, but the object remains the same: create with joy.

These wise parents aren’t terribly concerned about the mess of finger paints. They’re more concerned about the exposure to unique sensations. They want their children to use their imaginations. They want their children to approach life in a hands-on fashion. And they want them to express themselves through their artistic activities in ways that exceed their vocabularies.

From the Archives: How to Layer Like a Minnesotan

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Winter has hit early and hard this year. NB: I am not complaining. That would be stupid to complain, as I choose to live here in the frozen tundra. And so, I will once again share my accumulated wisdom after many winters here.

Preparing to Go Outside: The Order of Operations

First, determine the outside temperature. This system of layering will be too warm for above 20F, but below that should stand you in good stead.

Next, remember what your mother said: use the toilet.

If you wear eyeglasses, consider contacts, as they don’t steam up. I’m heading steadily into bifocal territory, though, so I rarely wear my contacts anymore. Steamed lenses are better than loss of close vision.

Apply moisturizer to face, neck and lips. Heck, everywhere. During the winter, I forego sunscreen to maximize what little vitamin D I can get from the sun.

In order, don:

1. Underwear (underpants, and bra if you wear one)
2. Undershirt (thermal or silk, longer length is best)
3. Long johns (thermal or silk). Pull waistband over bottom of undershirt. This will keep your lower back (or overbutt, as my 7yo calls it) from unwanted exposure.
4. Socks, long and thick. Pull tops over bottoms of long johns.
5. Shirt(s)
6. Pants, over bottom of shirt. Do NOT tuck overshirt into long johns.
7. Sweater
8. Snowpants
9. Boots, hat and scarf
10. Gloves/mittens. Gloves inside mittens is the warmest, but diminishes dexterity.
11. Coat. The lower the temp, the puffier and longer it should be, covering at least your butt and the top of your thighs.

This order of operations has you always pulling something over a previous layer, rather than tucking in a subsequent layer, which makes for a smoother line and means you don’t have to double back, for example if you accidentally put boots on before snow pants.

Stay warm. And remember, it’s only six months till spring.

Start Your Engines: Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” Readalong

Monday, December 1st, 2014


My friend Jeff K, who leads Twin Cities’ Books and Bars, the folks of Beer + Comix at Wild Rumpus, and I are doing a readalong of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic-book series. (Original post was here.)

(This is in addition to my Odyssey readalong, because I’m a glutton for punishment.)

The original series was 75 issues plus some specials. They’re most commonly collected in 10 graphic novels. Full-price retail is about $20 each though they can be gotten for less at and other retailers including your local, independent comic shop. Digital copies are available for $12.99 each at Comixology. Most libraries have the ten volumes as well as some of the other collections (Absolute, Annotated, and Omnibus). They are also fairly easy to find used.

I’ll have weekly posts here at Girl Detective on Mondays, plus both Jeff and I will be tweeting about each week’s issues starting Monday, too.

On Twitter, Jeff is @BooksandBars and I’m @kjboldon. We’ll use the hashtag #SandMN for our discussions.

We’re reading over December 2014 and January 2015. The dark of winter will be a great time to read or re-read this intricate, atmospheric work.

12/1/14 start reading Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes v. 1 (issues 1-8)

Blog post and tweets go live on 12/8/14 about Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes v1, #1-8 (8 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 12/15/14 for Sandman: A Doll’s House v2, #9-16 (8 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 12/22/14 for Sandman: Dream Country v3 #17-20 and Sandman: Season of Mists v4 #21-28 (12 issues)

BREAK for holidays and to catch up

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/5/15 for Sandman: A Game of You v5 #32-37 and Sandman: Fables and Reflections v6 #29-31, 38-40, 50, Special #1 (14 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/12/15 for Sandman: Brief Lives v7 #41-49 and Sandman: World’s End v8 #51-56 (15 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/19/15 for Sandman: The Kindly Ones v9 #57-69 (13 issues)

Blog post and tweets go live on 1/26/15 for Sandman: The Wake v10 #70-75 (6 issues)

Meet up! We’ll meet in person on Monday January 26, 2015 at 6pm at Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis to discuss the series and celebrate.

Are you interested in reading along? Do you have questions, or need advice? Email me at girldetective (at) girldetective (dot) com, or ask in the comments, or tweet at me. I hope you will join in!

Odyssey Readalong!

Monday, December 1st, 2014


I know you all have LOTS of time over December, right?

Me too (HA!) so to fill my idle time, I’m doing not one but TWO readalongs! Both will take place over December and January. One is for Neil Gaiman’s comic-book series The Sandman.

The other is Homer’s Odyssey, which I’m reading in preparation for a group readalong of Joyce’s Ulysses in 2015 that will take place from February to Bloomsday June 16, 2015.

I will be posting about the Odyssey chapters as I go, and tweeting about them as well with the hashtag #TCOdyssey. Posts for each new section will go up on Wednesdays.

The Odyssey is divided into 24 sections. I’ll read 3 sections a week, which in one of my translations is between 40-50 pages a week.

I have not committed to a translation yet, but own both the Fitzgerald and Lattimore, and am considering buying the Fagles. Go with whichever edition is easiest for you to lay hands on. Here is the link at Project Gutenberg, which contains the condescending introduction:

rendered into English
prose for the use of
those who cannot
read the original

12/1 or later: start reading Homer’s Odyssey sections 1-3

Blog post and tweets go live 12/10/2014 on sections 1-3
Blog post and tweets go live 12/17/2014 on sections 4-6

break for holidays/catch up

Blog post and tweets go live 1/7/2015 on sections 7-9
Blog post and tweets go live 1/14/2015 on sections 10-12
Blog post and tweets go live 1/21/2015 on sections 13-15
Blog post and tweets go live 1/28/2015 on sections 16-18
Blog post and tweets go live 2/4/2015 on sections 19-21
Blog post and tweets go live 2/11/2015 on sections 22-24
Odyssey done, woo hoo!

Please let me know: does this schedule make sense of what to read for what date? I often thinking I’m being clear and am not. As David and Nigel say:

David St. Hubbins: It’s such a fine line between stupid, and uh…

Nigel Tufnel: Clever.

David St. Hubbins: Yeah, and clever.

Upshot: start reading now, read sections one, two and three by next Wednesday, then visit her where I will write about it, you can comment, and you can also comment on Twitter at #TCUlysses.

“Wuthering Heights” (1939) Oberon/Olivier

Monday, November 24th, 2014


Because I am an obsessive nerd, I am preparing for my book discussion of Wuthering Heights by watching as many of its film/tv adaptations as I’m able. Also because I’m an obsessive nerd, I’m trying to watch them in order, guessing that later adapters were influenced by earlier ones.

I began with what is the earliest widely available, and perhaps best known, adaptation, Wuthering Heights (1939) directed by William Wyler, with Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, and Merle Oberon as Cathy 1. The film doesn’t include the second generation, though “Mrs. Heathcliff” does appear in the opening scenes, sitting sullenly by the fire when Lockwood foists himself on Wuthering Heights.

Tagline: A servant in the house of Wuthering Heights tells a traveler the unfortunate tale of lovers Cathy and Heathcliff.

This adaptation has the same problem as many subsequent ones. The book shows the characters at three major stages: childhood, early teens, and late teens. Heathcliff and Cathy are approximately the same age. Cathy dies giving birth to little Cathy when she is only 19. Yet Olivier was 32 and Oberon 28 when the film was released, and they play Cathy and Heathcliff for the early/late teen parts. The iconic photo of them on the moors shows two adults, rather then the two approximately 15 year olds. The introduction to the Oxford World’s Classic edition of WH I read says that the scene it depicts isn’t in the book. I differ and argue that it does depict from the book, only with actors so much older that it skews the effect.

Here’s what didn’t work for me, things that tend to coincide with things that depart from the book. The actors in general were older than in the book, especially Lockwood (who is supposed to be a young city dandy) and Nellie (supposed to be the same age as Hindley). The movie retreats from the gruesome, violent image of Lockwood dragging the ghost’s wrist over broken glass, which I think helps set up the story as a ghost and horror tale as well as a love story. Heathcliff before he runs away is handsome and well-spoken, barely scruffed up.

What did work: I liked that they used the framing device of Lockwood and Nellie, and don’t mind that they omitted the second generation. Though it’s necessary to the book, a movie two hours or less has sacrifices to make, and if you’re only going to tell the story of Cathy and Heathcliff, then do it and do it well. To contrast, I felt the 1992 Kosminky adaptation with Binoche and Fiennes tried to cram too much in.

Olivier when he returns as Heathcliff is mesmerizing and handsome and compelling. I liked Oberon’s haughty spirit and ferocity as Cathy. This may have been because she despised Olivier. According to the IMDB trivia:

Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier apparently detested each other. Legend has it that when William Wyler yelled “Cut!” after a particularly romantic scene, Oberon shouted back to her director about her co-star “Tell him to stop spitting at me!”

I also liked Niven as Edgar Linton. I thought he was both effete yet handsome and strong enough of an actor to carry off what is often a thankless role.

The more adaptations I watch, the more I like this one. It’s not perfect, none of them are, but it’s reasonably faithful to part of the book especially the wild spirit of it, the acting is strong, the look is distinct, and in general it’s a enjoyable and well-made film to watch.

For more Wuthering Heights goodness, including a good compare/contrast of many of the adaptations, visit The Readers Guide to Wuthering Heights UK.

And for all the Bronte news you can shake a stick at, visit Bronte Blog.

The 2014 “Wuthering Heights” Film Binge

Monday, November 24th, 2014

My book group Gods & Monsters is discussing Wuthering Heights this Sunday. In preparation for it, I’ve re-read the book and gathered all the adaptations that I can get, streaming or from the library. Last year I did the same for Jane Eyre, and finally blogged about the seven adaptations I watched.

Wuthering Heights, a more complex narrative, has even more adaptations! There have been eleven major ones, of which I’m hoping to watch nine, because two are proving problematic.

The 1953 film, Abismos de Pasion directed by Luis Bunuel, is not available on DVD in my library system or my usual streaming options. Two of Six sections of it are available on Youtube, but in Spanish without subtitles. Given how well I know the book, watching probably wouldn’t be a problem, but for now, given there are nine other adaptations easier to watch, that feels like a bridge too far. At least one writer/reviewer out there favors the Bunuel, but I wonder if that’s affectation and/or knowing that others can’t quibble because it’s so hard to find.

The 1978 miniseries with Ken Hutchinson as Heathcliff and Kay Adshead as Cathy 1, was hard to find, but I used some of my librarian connections to procure a copy of the DVD from Chicago instead of buying it from amazon. When I went to watch it last night, it’s not coded for the US, so I may not be able to watch it. Given that it’s over 4 hours, I can’t say I’m devastated, but still.

I’ll try to post one by one about each movie, labeling them with year and Cathy/Heathcliff actors and then do a gathering post at the end.

“Brooklyn Burning” by Steve Brezenoff

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

I know Steve, so I’m biased, but as I did with Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex and Violence (the books are both published by Carolrhoda Lab), I very much liked and admired his book Brooklyn Burning.

Our narrator is Kid, who hops back and forth between last summer and this one. Kid, whose gender is never spelled out as is true for some other characters in the book, had a crush last year on Felix, and something bad happened. Earlier in the present year, a fire destroyed a warehouse, and the police suspect Kid did it. As Kid meets Scout, the two summers intertwine as we learn why Kid began living on the street and what really happened to Felix, and with the fire.

Then I looked up. I didn’t notice that your ears stick out, just a little, so you look like a pixie sometimes, or an elf. I didn’t notice that the corners of you mouth always seem like they’re trying to smile, while the rest of your mouth wants to pout. I didn’t notice the little bump on your nose, near the bridge but slightly to the right-the bump I’d trace with my finger over and over, not soon enough. I didn’t notice your long hands and rough finger-tips, or the dozens-is it hundreds?-of bracelets on your left wrist, made of busted guitar strings.

I noticed your eyes, because they looked wet; maybe it was a trick of the light-the fluorescent and neon lights falling over your face from the bodega next door. But I didn’t think about love, and I didn’t see right down to your heart. But I must have stared-did I?-because there was your spirit, right there before me, and when you found my eyes I knew I’d pulled that spirit back from someplace amazing, not Greenpoint, not the summer sidewalk in front of Fish’s bar, smelling of old alcohol and piss.

But it must have been a trick of the light, because when you stood up, you were smiling, and your bright eyes looked alive and right there, with me, on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, Earth.

This is a love letter to Brooklyn while also being a gender-open love story. I really enjoyed meeting Kid’s family of choice over the book, too.

“Sex and Violence” by Carrie Mesrobian

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

I know the author, so I’m biased, but I really did both like and admire Carrie Mesrobian’s first novel, Sex and Violence.

Evan is 17 and something of a pick-up artist as he moves around the country with his professor dad. At a boarding school in the south, he starts fooling around with a girl on the sly. When some of the guys find out about it, they beat him badly, making him question his former coping methods.

… I believe strongly in condoms. They avert babies and disease. They make you seem responsible, not slutty. They make the girl relax too, because you’re taking care of the risky part. Like you’re a professional. Roll it on, squeeze the tip, turn back to her, ready, set go. Like I’d just done a little disappearing act on myself and became something confident and wonderful. You can’t see through my latex disguise! You will love this so let’s get down! You don’t want to know how many times this worked in my favor.

God I feel like a fucking asshole sometimes. All the time, really.

His dad moves them both up to a lakeside community in Minnesota, and Evan has to figure out something new: how to make friends.

The book centers on Evan’s trauma, but includes many other aspects like work, figuring out his father, family history, and living in a small community. Together, these make for a satisfyingly complex read as Evan tries to get his act together. The book itself is also a lovely object, a good size for reading, with the cover image of water repeated on certain pages inside, as is a tiled pattern, a reference to Evan’s first attack.

Jane Eyre: ALL the Adaptations!

Monday, November 10th, 2014

I CANNOT believe I didn’t blog about all the Jane Eyre adaptations I watched a year ago when I read Jane Eyre for my book group Gods & Monsters. I wrote about all the Jane-related book reading I did here and thought I wrote about the movies. In fact, I so don’t believe it I need to go check again…

OMG what kind of blogger am I that I watched seven (7!) adaptations of Jane Eyre last year and never wrote to tell you about them? Well, I better get started. Alas, the binge watching of seven adaptations and the passage of a year haven’t left me with sparkling details but I’ll do my best. If I had it to do again, I’d make notes as I went comparing things like the falling-off-the-horse scene, the burning bed scene, the attic scene, Pilot the dog, the relative ages and attractiveness of the characters (Joan Fontaine and Susannah York were ridiculous as Jane, both too pretty and too old). I wish I could remember which Jane was whiny, which pouty, which weepy, etc. This really does beg for a spreadsheet. Or is that TOO much nerdish obsessing? Reader, with Jane Eyre, is there such a thing?

1944jane 1943: screenplay by John Houseman and Aldous Huxley, starring Orson Welles (Mr. Rochester), Joan Fontaine (Jane), Agnes Moorehead (Mrs. Reed), and a VERY FAMOUS ACTRESS in her first, uncredited role. This one is entertaining to see Welles chew scenery and barely fall from his horse at all, but Fontaine is a disappointingly wimpy Jane.

1970jane 1970: starring George C. Scott and Susannah York. Music by John Williams, which was painful to listen to. Guess he needed those next 7 years to become awesome for Star Wars. York way too old and glam to play Jane, but George C was surprisingly decent, probably the least conventionally handsome of all the Rochesters. If I remember correctly, he was also the most physically scarred at the end–I think he was missing a hand. Some Rochesters barely looked any different.

1983jane 1983: 6 hours! with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton. Zelah had the right look, but was too old for the part, and she was on the wimpy side. My favorite part was the scene after the almost wedding where she leaves her bedroom and Rochester is in the doorway. This adaptation was long and unthrilling in other ways, but that particular scene was outstandingly hot. Again, sorry, can’t recall, but if any of them had Rochester cross dressing as the gypsy, it was this one. Not sure it did, though.

1996jane 1996: directed by Franco Zeffirelli, starring William Hurt (Mr. Rochester), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Jane). I liked Gainsbourg as Jane, but detested Hurt as Rochester; he’s blond and American and just wrong.

1997jane 1997: Ciarán Hinds and Samantha Morton. The age difference, and Hinds not being conventionally handsome, and Morton as young and plain all worked in this one but I remember little of it. Hinds might have been the most bi-polar of the Rochesters.

2006jane1 2006: 4 hour BBC miniseries of Ruth Wilson (currently in The Affair) and Toby Stephens (son of Maggie Smith!). A solid production, but the most memorable part of it for me was the ending: there was a huge family picture, with a miniature painting of St. John added like they do in reunion photos, plus Grace Poole was shown holding the baby. They redeemed surly drunk Grace Poole!

2011jane2011: directed by Cary Fukunaga, starring Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Michael Fassbender (Rochester) and Judi Dench as (Mrs. Fairfax). This was my favorite. Fassbender might be too handsome for Rochester, but he got the crazy just right. Wasikowska was pale and slight and young and very like Jane: strong willed and impressive. This was perhaps the only one that didn’t open with Jane as a girl, but rather with her wandering the moors, then jumps around in time. I didn’t care for Jamie Bell as St. John–not handsome enough, and very easy to resist in this version.

So that was the second part of last year’s Vast Eyre-Bender (pun courtesy of friend Vince). 7 adaptations and about 20 hours.

This year, the book group is reading Wuthering Heights for November. And I’ve been nerdishly obsessing about adaptations. Guess how many are possible to lay hands on? ELEVEN.

The list goes to ELEVEN.

Not sure I’ve got that kind of stamina. The discussion’s on 11/30/14. We’ll see.

“Wonder Woman: War” and “Finder: Third World” GNs

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

The 4th volume of the current Wonder Woman series, War, continues strongly. It’s full of gods and monsters, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. This volume spans worlds and mythologies jumping from Olympus to Earth to New Genesis. There’s a series of faceoffs with the Big Bad, the Firstborn, and an impressive ending that makes me eager for the next set of stories. Good story, good art, one of my favorite comics right now, and one of the few superhero books I read (along with Marvel’s Hawkeye.) If you want to know where to start, go to Volume 1 of the current run: Blood.

Finder: Third World by Carla Speed McNeil is in full color, and it’s BEAUTIFUL. I love this series, and will soon have been reading it for decades. This one’s a series of connected short stories about Jaeger, and we get more tantalizing bits about his past. Want to know where to start? Talisman is a great place.

“Ulysses” Group Read 2015!

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014


The Ulysses group readalong is happening! Read and tweet from February to Bloomsday (June 16) 2015, and I’ll be blogging about it here.

We’ll tweet with the hashtag #TCUlysses

Twin Cities readers can celebrate when we’re done with a meetup at Anchor Fish and Chips. (I wouldn’t be opposed to weekly meetings there, either, though my cholesterol might.)

2/9/15 Start Ulysses which has 18 parts of various lengths

2/16/15 discuss and tweet sections 1, 2= 32 pp
2/23/15 discuss and tweet sections 3, 4=29 pp
3/2/15 discuss and tweet sections 5, 6=40 pp
3/9/15 discuss and tweet section 7=29pp
3/16/15 discuss and tweet section 8=28pp
3/23/15 discuss and tweet section 9=30pp
3/30 section 10=31 pp
4/6 section 11=31pp
4/13 section 12=45pp
4/20 section 13=31pp
4/27 section 14=37pp

5/4-5/18/15 read, then discuss and tweet section 15 (150 pages in my ed.)

5/25/15 discuss and tweet section 16=44pp

6/1-6/8/15 read then discuss and tweet section 17 (65 pp in my edition)

6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18=37pp

6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Group meetup and celebration to follow at the Anchor Fish & Chips in NE Minneapolis.

I’ve never even attempted this behemoth–too intimidating. But I’m raring to give it a go, and looking forward to the support of a group while reading!

“Why Did I Ever” by Mary Robison

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


A writing friend recommended Mary Robison’s Why Did I Ever to me after she read something I’d written that was in the same style.

I bet my writer friends can relate to when you read something by someone really good, realize you’ll never be that good, and resist the urge to crawl into bed and never write again. That’s kind of the feeling I had while reading Robison’s book, which has subtitles, and beautiful writing, and is disjointed but works as a whole, and is overall damn impressive and damn humbling.

Our unreliable narrator is Money, a Hollywood screenwriter who has several exes, a boyfriend named Dix who lives in New Orleans, two adult children who have significant troubles, and much, much more. Money is on the hook to write a script about Bigfoot, and things aren’t going well, at work or at home.

You Can Fly But Your Body Can’t

My first seat was in first class between Penny and Belinda. Before I poured Rémy Martin down my throat and had to come see what the folks back here think of things.


‘Cool out, you know, I didn’t mean it, I don’t really hate you,’ I hear someone say.
While, over the intercom, the pilot jabbers. He’s explaining that some dysfunction, once we’re on the ground, can be easily fixed with a pin. I don’t know, at that point, how much any of us will care. Maybe I’m drunk, but seems like they could give the plane to the Arabs once we’ve all made our connecting flights.


The beer nuts just served to me in a cello packet are the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted in my life. Back at Dallas-Fort Worth I put an Otis Redding CD into my player and I doubt I’ll ever have a reason to take it out. Through the window, trigonometry, under a silky pink sky.

This is a book I never would have found without a friend’s recommendation, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but most definitely to writer friends and short-story fans.

“Flora and Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo

Monday, November 3rd, 2014


And because I don’t have enough book groups, HA!, I am going to another one tonight with my elder, 11yo Drake to discuss Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.

(Let’s see: Books and Bars, my women’s book group, Gods & Monsters, Beer and Comics, Book Scouts (a twitter group, we’ll be reading Ulysses and Infinite Jest next year), Sandman readalong that starts next month and this new one, which is parent/child. Yep, 7 reading groups. INSANE.)

Flora and Ulysses is Kate DiCamillo’s the author’s second Newbery Award winning book; the first was The Tale of Despereaux. The subtitle is “The Illuminated Adventures” and points to the nostalgic, timeless era the book is set in. It’s a mix of chapters, illustrations, and comic-book storytelling. A squirrel encounters a voracious all-terrain vacuum cleaner, and is unexpectedly changed. Flora, who loves comic books, names the squirrel Ulysses and hopes he will fight villains. Instead, the squirrel’s superpowers are less showy: he writes poetry. Oh, all right, he can also fly.

Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic but Ulysses’ transformation begins to turn that around. She is a fan of a fictional comic book Incandesto!, and often quotes from it:

Holy unanticipated occurrences!

which is a lovely call back to Golden Age comics. In many ways, this reminded me of a middle-grade version of Michael Chabon’s love letter to that era, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Flora and Ulysses often made me laugh, but like Kate’s other books, it is also consistently sad. Flora’s parents are divorced, her mother is a romance writer who discourages Flora from reading comic books, her father is lonely, sad, and socially inept, a boy she meets is temporarily blind and has been banished from his home, Flora’s mother wants to literally kill Ulysses.

There are many reviews on Good Reads that complain about these aspects of the book, that they’re negative, not realistic, don’t send the right message, or aren’t clear enough in their story.

DiCamillo’s books for older readers have always contained sad truths about the relationship between children and adults. She is open in her author talks about how she includes this in her books so as not to pretend to children that ugliness and difficulty don’t exist.

What I appreciated about Flora and Ulysses, in addition to how it made me laugh, was how it was about difficult ideas, like how villains aren’t as obvious as they are in real life, how people we love can act villainous sometimes, and what a risk it is to love others. The book contains difficult ideas that are true, but also wondrous and lovely things that are true, all wrapped in a story with clever phrases and repetition to remind the reader that we’re in a story, not real life. There is a mythic, fairy-tale element to the story that I think the people who criticize it for not being realistic are, perhaps, missing.

Some More from CLOUD ATLAS, plus a bit on the film

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Do you have that thing, writers, where you keep something you want to write about nearby as a reminder, and then it lurks, and lurks, and eventually you forget what you wanted to write about?

I’m pretty sure I was so full of geek joy when I finished Cloud Atlas that I wanted to share ALL the quotes that I’d flagged. We’ll see if they still resonate months later.

But first, my husband G Grod and I watched the 2012 film Cloud Atlas, though it was generally trounced by critics. It was a collaboration among the Wachowski sibs and Tom Twyker (Run, Lola, Run) so even if was bad, we knew it would bad in interesting ways. But it wasn’t bad. It was ambitious, missed the mark a couple times, and was super long as you would expect a compression of 6 novellas would be. But I enjoyed it nonetheless, in spite of putting some actors in Asian face, some over-tidy re-interpretations, and the worst, IMO, casting adult Tom Hanks in the role of boy Zachry.

Two things that might have improved the watching: 1. splitting it over two nights. 2. Possibly watching the extras in front of, or instead of, the movie. They were many but the interviews with directors and cast plus clips was at least as fascinating as the movie, and made me like it more.

Now, some quotes:

Implausible truth can serve one better than plausible fiction.


A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.


And I marked a few others, but those were my favorites I think. And now I will shelve Cloud Atlas, which enters the home library as one we like well enough to have his n hers copies.

“Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

This was recommended both in Entertainment Weekly and by a friend, plus I’m on a memoir tear lately, so thought Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan would be a good fit.

Cahalan was a young, successful newspaper reporter when she started having mental and physical problems. She was tested, hospitalized and declining until a team of doctors worked to test a diagnosis for something new.

Cahalan has carefully reconstructed details of her decline and hospitalization both from tapes, patient records, interviews and more. She herself remembers little to none of the worst month of her illness.

Her story was intriguing, and soundly written, but by the end I didn’t fully engage with it. There was something about it that lacked a depth of insight, or humility, or some element that would make this resonate with me on a deeper level.