- Jun 21, 2015: Remarks on "The Mysteries of Udolpho"
- I just finished reading the 1794 novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe. It's considered one of the seminal Gothic Romances, alone with The Castle of Otranto and The Monk.
It's solidly in the romance genre, as defined now: girl meets boy, various obstacles keep them apart, obstacles vanquished by end of novel, girl and boy get married live happily ever after. The "gothic' part of Mysteries is purely atmospheric, as all the apparently supernatural events are explained away by human action.
That being said, there's a reason that literature classes study Jane Austen and not Ann Radcliffe--she's just not that good. Jane Austen is much, much better.
Issues I had with the novel, such that I can see why Jane Austen parodied Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey (It's on my To Be Read list):
Women in 2-D!
There are four types of major female characters in the novel:
- innocent, young, beautiful upper-class girls, who are so sensitive and innocent that they inconveniently faint whenever anything exciting happens, or when the idea of anything exciting happens. Someone needs to loosen their corset stays or something.
- hysterical servant women.
- Kind, generous, compassionate and conveniently deceased upper-class ladies who are relatives.
- Shallow, spendthrift, self-centered to the point of meanness, and living upper-class matrons who are relatives. Something tells me that Ann Radcliffe did not get along well with her older female relatives.
Elizabeth Bennett would have been embarrassed by the lot of them.
As in Tolkien's work, we get a lot of the author's poetry randomly interspersed in the novel, purportedly written by the various characters. This is one case where I would have preferred the character's poetry writing to be an Informed Attribute. The poetry is distracting, not that great, and interrupts the flow of the story. (And, in the E-book I was reading, incorrectly formatted, which really didn't help)
Idiot Plots and Informed Attributes
These are connected, as we have several characters--the heroine Emily St. Aubert and the secondary parental figure Count de Villefort who are described as rational, anti-superstition, trained in reason and philosophy, who nevertheless behave like irrational idiots.
In Villefort's case, the otherwise skeptical man who doesn't believe rumors of hauntings and suchlike is willing to believe every bad rumor he's heard about Valancourt's(the romantic lead) character, in spite of having met the man in person and knowing his family. This only happens when the plot requires it, of course.
In Emily's case, in spite of supposedly being quite anti-superstition and a rational devotee of Reason, she's quick to assume every weird thing must be a supernatural horror and doesn't look for alternative explanations--when the plot requires it.
And let's not forget that classic bad romantic trope, the tragic misunderstanding that keeps the couple apart for half the book that could have been cleared up with five minutes of honest conversation.
ETA: One minor thing that drove me nuts several places in the book: our heroes, both male and female, have the singular ability to lose a mountain trail in broad daylight, not find the well-known inn their accompanying guides supposedly were taking them to, and insist that the cleverest thing to do is keep on walking in the dark looking for the missing inn. In the mountains, complete with floridly described cliffs and chasms. In the dark. Because obviously that's the way to find a place--try to walk off random drop offs in the dark.
Seriously, someone needs to teach these people the concept of "making camp at dusk". If you can't find the inn, guess what, you can sleep in the carriage and your useless guides can at least tend the fire and keep watch.
The author has an explicit Aesop tacked on in the afterword: good, virtuous people triumph in the end and live happily ever after while evil people die horribly even if they temporarily get to push around the good guys. Not only is this obviously not true in Real Life, it's not true in the book. The completely innocent Marchioness dies painfully of poison, the merely shallow but not evil Madame Montoni (neé Cheron) dies badly; the gentle, kindly father Mons. St. Aubert dies of illness after losing his family fortune and outliving his wife and the Marchioness (who he loved as a young man), leaving his beloved daughter an impoverished orphan, and the completely honorable Mons DuPont drifts out of the book at the end, sad over unrequited love. The real Aesop is "if you are a main character that the author likes, you get to live happily ever after", but that's hardly a surprise.
The implicit Aesop is that one should use reason and control one's emotions and do not trust rumors and appearances, but investigate things that don't make sense. It would have been a much shorter book if the major characters who were supposed to be rational had done that. On the other hand, IF Emily had listened to the rumors around Montoni's character and run off with Valancourt instead of following her guardian aunt to Italy with her new husband Montoni, it would have been a much shorter book. Or at least a different one. Admittedly, Emily neither acted on the rumors nor did she investigate the matter rationally--she did nothing and just went along with things (not that she had much chance to investigate).
In general, Emily was just the kind of overly-sensitive, excessively sheltered twee character that I just want to grab and shake some sense into. Not that it would help, she'd just faint and be feverish for days over the shock to her senses. (Maybe she needs some quinine for that recurring illness?)
Her reaction to Valancourt's supposed disgrace was, frankly, not mine. My reaction would have been: "Clean up your act, get out of debt, and come back when you've proven you can control yourself and your spending habits and then we'll talk." Incidentally, that would have provided him an opportunity to realize that what "I" had heard about him was possibly not the same as what he actually did. Instead, Emily was all weeping and crying and "You have lost my esteem FOREVER, go away and don't even try to talk to me," without mentioning what he'd supposedly done, since obviously he knew how disgraceful he'd been.
This book would have been thrown at the wall several times if I weren't reading it on an e-reader that wasn't built for that kind of abuse. I am looking forward to reading Northanger Abbey to see just what kind of takedown Jane Austen did to it.
- Mar 9, 2015: Not Always Right, Honorverse edition
- My first thought on reading this entry was "So Victor Cachat does his retail shopping in Texas?"
- Feb 22, 2015: Time sure flies when you're not having fun
- Wow, I haven't posted here since last July? Is that because LJ/DW is becoming less relevant, or because I have been depressed for a long spell. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, as they say. I have been posting on Minecraft Forum about mod works off and on, playing on The Wake, and not much else. I retreated from Tumblr because I stay up too late reading stuff that just gets me spun up and angry, and it's a terrible medium for communication. You can't do conversations worth a flip there, so I can't really talk about what pisses me off. Also the mob mentality there is really annoying--if you say something someone interprets crosswise as being rude about the Cause du Jour, you get a bunch of young idiots dog-piling you and telling you you're a horrible, terrible person who should just die. Oh wait, that's the entire internet.
Maybe if I just dumped all the 'follows' that brought up the Cause du Jour and kept only the Transformers pron & RP ones, I'd enjoy it more.
I haven't written anything except RP posts in ages, which is usually a sign that I'm not in good mental health. Right now I'm not in good physical health--got an inflamed tendon in my elbow, aka "tennis elbow", and wearing a wrist stabilizer (yes, you use it for the elbow condition too, as the tendon in question is pulled on by the muscles that make your hand grip tightly) makes it cumbersome and slow to type.
State of the Cynthia: I have tennis elbow, I'm working on Minecraft mods (slowly), I'm employed still, the spouse is in good shape after years of all kinds of not-fun hospital stuff, and I'd like a dog and some large cats. Also, someone needs to clean the fish tank, it's 3 weeks overdue and one arm is out commission.
- Jul 23, 2014: Minecraft mod: akkamaddi's Sterling & Black
- Just posted my 2nd Minecraft mod; this time, it's a port of someone else's code to Minecraft/Forge 1.7.2.
akkamaddi has not been able to work on his mods, and he gave permission to all and sundry to pick up his open source code and update it. At my daughter's request, I ported akkamaddi's Sterling & Black. It was an interesting project, and I may pick up and port some of his other mods.
- Jul 17, 2014: Just posted my first Minecraft mod today
- Sinhika's Bark, which is a mod to add things to do with tree bark to Minecraft--including making unbreakable birch bark canoes.
I actually started it some time ago, and had a semi-working version for 1.6.4, but never released it. Recently, at the request of some fellow players who were really annoyed by Minecraft's incredibly fragile boats (lilypads break them), I dusted it off, and re-wrote it as a Minecraft/Forge 1.7.2 mod and have finally released it.
- Jul 16, 2014: I'm on Slashdot!
- Slashdot published a news item I submitted to them about Sony Online Entertainment's recent outage: Sony Forgets to Pay for Domain, Hilarity Ensues.