Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine

From Dublin, Ireland.

We didn’t get to spend too much time at the Guinness Factory, just enough time to (surprisingly) enjoy a half pint in the sky bar and then browse the gift shop.  My eye was drawn to the pretty rows of glassware, though I wouldn’t really have any use for such things!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine

Love & Friendship. Or Lady Susan. Either way, it’s a new Jane Austen movie.

Jane Austen published only published four full length novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma.  Two more, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published a year after her death at the age of 41.

I’ve read all of them at least once, and seen multiple film and television adaptations of every one.  So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about the release of a new Jane Austen movie, based not on any of the six novels, but on an entirely new-to-me story!

Lady Susan is a short epistolary novel, sometimes even called a novella or novelette, written in Austen’s youth and published after her death.  The epistolary format, popular at the time, means that the entire story consists of letters written between the characters.  (Sense and Sensibility was originally drafted in this format as well.)  It’s not necessarily a style that lends itself well to adaptation into screenplay, as it generally lacks dialogue.

Love & Friendship poster.pngBut director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco) was up to the challenge.  His movie adaptation Love and Friendship, which borrows the name of another piece of Austen juvenilia, is pure Austen and pure entertainment.

Recently widowed, Lady Susan arrives, unannounced, at her brother-in-law’s estate to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. While there, she becomes determined to secure a new husband for herself, and one for her reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica, too. As Lady Susan embarks on a controversial relationship with a married man, seduction, deception, broken hearts, and gossip all ensue.

Now, a word of caution: if your experience with Austen involves only things like Colin Firth jumping in a lake, you may find yourself a bit lost with this one.  Our main character, Lady Susan, cannot properly be called a heroine at all.  She is smart, scheming, and manipulative; recently widowed, she is young young to still be beautiful and charming, but old enough to have a sixteen-year-old daughter (whom she only views in terms of benefits to herself–in fact, that is her attitude towards people in general).

She is the center around which all the characters orbit, willingly or not.  Kate Beckinsale is absolutely wonderful in the role; in fact I really preferred this to her turn as the titular character in Emma twenty years ago.  Lady Susan is a bit like Emma, except that she ends without redeeming herself at all (despite what the credits say).

The rest of the cast and characters were also enjoyable, and they nearly all get some funny lines and scenes (several taken directly from the source material).  There are a few characters added, enhanced, or slightly altered compared to the novella, and I found them to be positive changes.

The film is only about an hour and a half long, and the pacing is very quick, with a lot of action happening off-screen.  In this way, I think it stays true to the novella, but you do have to work to keep up.  The beginning in particular is confusing, as we are introduced to a great number of characters in a short amount of time, and all the relationships between them are very important to setting the stage for the rest of the movie.

L&F also has a different feel from the polished BBC and movie adaptations of Austen’s other works.  The soundtrack is lovely, as is the scenery (it was shot in Ireland), but the cinematography and editing give it the feel of an “indie” movie.  It was clever at times, but a bit disconcerting at others.

I’m not sure why they felt the need to change the title, as it doesn’t really relate to the story and is confusing for Austen fans who may have read the actual Love and Freindship [sic], which is also epistolary.  Perhaps it just seems more “Austen” to those used to S&S and P&P.

In short, if you like Austen for the romance, you’ll probably be disappointed.  If you like Austen for the sharp wit and satire, you’ll be in heaven.  While Lady Susan is not Austen’s most satisfying work, I think Austen fans will generally find the film (and the novella on which it’s based) worthy of their time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Local


From Inishmore, Aran Islands.

This tiny café was crammed with tourists who all found a cheery welcome as well as hearty food and delicious cake.  It was recommended to us by our local minibus guide, and definitely showcases the charm of the Aran Islands.  I loved the traditional thatched roof and the beautiful flower arrangements.  I have never seen so many gorgeous window boxes as in Ireland!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Local

GeekyNerdy Book Club: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Welcome back to GNBC, a bimonthly virtual book club hosted by Geeky Musings from a Nerdy Girl.

VintageWe’re back to nonfiction this month with Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman.  There is a lot of information in this book, not just about Wonder Woman but also about her creator William Moulton Marston and the women in his life that influenced the superheroine.

I came to this book not knowing a lot about Wonder Woman.  I’ve never read her comics, and I wasn’t alive for the 70s TV show, so my primary experience with her was the DCAU’s Justice League and JLU cartoons.  To me, she’s always been the weak point of DC’s Big Three: too powerful to be interesting, and too…fashion-challenged to represent comic women as a whole.

But with this year being the 75th anniversary of her creation, I was eager to learn more about Wonder Woman, and I’m happy to report that I am now definitely on Team Wondy.

I got off to a bit of a rocky start with this book, because I was turned off by the tone; the author’s intro has things like “Stop the presses. I’ve got the history of Wonder Woman.” that I found hyperbolic, bordering on smug. (For context, those sentences echo lines from a WW comic, but the reference felt more patronizing than something that would come from a fellow geek.)

My irritation continued into the details of Marston’s psychological experiments (which included developing a lie detector test).  This was not the fault of the author, but rather Marston himself, who was apparently a terrible scientist.  His “experiments” often barely warrant the name, with small sample sizes, questionable methodology, and dubious conclusions; yet he was constantly trying to “sell” his science to the media and the public.  Reading these descriptions, it’s hardly surprising that experimental psychology is currently undergoing a reproducibility crisis.

Also irritating is the fact that it was Marston’s name on all these papers, professorships, etc. when his wife Sadie Elizabeth Holloway had nearly identical credentials and worked on many of these projects with him.  For me, she was the most interesting “character” in the story.  My respect for her was cemented by her reaction to Marston’s ultimatum regarding his affair with Olive Byrne; she agreed to let Olive live with them, but Holloway would keep her career and let Olive raise the children.  Also, after Marston’s death she lobbied heavily to take over writing WW, but naturally was denied, which lead to a decline in quality of the comic.

Part way through, the book shifts into the history of early 20th century feminism, which I knew shockingly little about and found fascinating.  This leads up to the introduction of Olive Byrne, who was Margaret Sanger’s niece.  Olive was also very interesting to me, because while she seemed perfectly happy living the kind of “nontraditional” lifestyle that she did, she also lied and lied and lied about it until her death, even to her children regarding who their real father was (Marston).  Her bracelets were the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s.

By the time we got to the actual creation of Wonder Woman I was quite enjoying the book.  I had never even seen a strip from WW’s original run, so I was thrilled that the book makes liberal use of the images from it.  After reading this, I feel like I can really understand and appreciate Marston’s vision for Wonder Woman, who was strong both physically and emotionally and whose ultimate goal was “community.”

This vision has unfortunately been deviated from over the years, resulting in a Woman Woman wields a swords and shield and kills people while spilling out of her bustier.  It will be interesting to see which version we get in her feature film debut next year.

Lastly, for another perspective on this book, I was able to hear the granddaughter of William Moulton Marston and Holloway, Christie Marston, answer some questions at a Wonder Woman symposium last month.  Her opinion of the book was that it was “fiction;” she particularly disagreed with how the Moulton family was portrayed.

Fiction or not, it was a very enlightening and thought-provoking book.  It may be a bit dense in places for casual readers, but I would definitely recommend it to comics fans or feminists.

Poll: Help me pick my project for NaNoWriMo 2016!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant Banner

I have effectively finished the second act of my current “practice” novel that I’ve been working on for three years, and I’m continuing to work towards finishing it completely.  I feel like it will be done soon, and I want to be able to start something new in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I have three stories in my head that I could possibly start writing, and I’d love to have some input about which one my readers find most interesting.

The Island, The City, The Mountain (YA fantasy trilogy)

This is an idea I’ve had in my head since high school: a group of teenagers with elemental powers, the last of their ancient civilization, fighting demons out of myth to protect their world.  The first book is kind of a prequel, followed by a duology.

I’ve written one chapter of the 2nd book previously, and started the first book several times but nothing’s stuck.  I could start on either the first or second book.  I have the characters pretty well developed, and a general plot direction, but nothing specific.

The Gladiator and the Goddess

This is a terrible title and definitely not something I would ever name a book, but it gets the point across.  This is a historical fantasy with a touch of romance, and it owes a lot to Guy Gavriel Kay’s books.  The idea first came to me in a dream: a girl in a Roman temple being possessed by the spirit of a healer goddess.  The gladiator with a secret past is her protector on her quest to free the spirit.  Ugh, this sounds horribly cliche; I need to work on my blurbs.

This may be the story I am best equipped to start writing seriously.

War Story

Yeah, that’s not a real title, either.  A recent college graduate with serious anxiety issues is sent to be a strategic adviser to the commanding prince on the front of a years-long war effort to repel an invasion.  Partly inspired by Kristin Cashore’s Fire.  I have a beginning and an ending in my head for this story, and not much in the middle haha.  This is only very light fantasy; no overt magic, but set in an alternate world.

Well, what do you guys think?