Things I’ve Read Instead of Writing:

I am poking along on my book endeavor.  Admittedly, I’ve done a fair bit of research in the time I haven’t been writing, but I’ve also done a fair bit of Other, as well.

I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, and I’m not sure I’m crediting the right person with it, but I think it was Linda Ellerbee who was the first person I ever heard articulate this problem:  “You want a clean house? Tell me I have a work deadline. You want me to meet a work deadline? Tell me my mother is coming to visit.”

The hubs informed me the other night that I’m going to have to stop “McClellan-ing” this story and start using the army I have to fight the war I’m in. This is true. And when I went through my bibliography, I realized I’ve used a lot more sources than I originally thought I had. So that’s nice.

But in the meantime…

I’ve read Treasure Island and The Yearling with my kid. I listened while he read most of Robinson Crusoe aloud.  I have read countless reports for work.  I’ve read another slew of newspaper articles from 1871-1873, and chunks of books on the election of 1872, and about women, marriage, and society during Reconstruction.

I’m also part of the way through the Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies, which is delightfully grumpy.

Over the weekend, I read Auntie Mame aloud on the drive back from dropping our kid at camp.  I’d never read it before; only seen the movie. The movie does a fair bit of justice to the book, but the book is really worth picking up. It’s a nice blend of loving mockery of so many things, from clothing to attitudes to politics. I think it holds up rather nicely even if you don’t get a lot of the topical references.  (Thanks, Dad, for sending it to me!)

At the other end of the spectrum is an 1871 potboiler/cautionary tale called Mabel Lee.  It is hilariously overwrought, full of florid description and thickly veiled allusions to desecrated honor.  It also offers a rather pallid portrait of the Feminine Ideal — it appears the ideal is to be abducted by a man you don’t love, defend your virginal honor, and in doing so, go insane five minutes into the whole business–then upon being rescued some time later, spend a year in Paris regaining your senses. Miss Mabel starts out all frothy and childish and yapping about faerie queens and marriage, but imbued with a Deep Sorrrow around the eyes at her father having died around the time of her birth, with a pages-long fascination with assorted aesthetics — potential suitors paraded before her, women she knows, ribbons for bonnets, etc. She goes glassy eyed within one paragraph of realizing a man has done her wrong, and takes her sweet time getting over it.  (The Evil Abductor takes a bullet in the lungs when he struggles with his captors.)

And yet, I suspect I will be discussing this book at some length in mine, as so many details dovetail so nicely with my real-life story. So you-all can be looking for that — someday, I hope.

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About arwenbicknell

Editor by day, author by night.
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