Come with me as I bounce 'round the Internet, from blog to book, to book site to who knows where!
Start: Geranium Cat's Bookshelf
I have no idea why but I've had this blog on a tab at the top of my screen for days now. I must have been searching for something and came up with her blog as a hit, followed it, then forgot why I was there. I'm 46. This happens to me a lot.
But anyway, you won't be surprised to hear GCB is a book blog. A lovely, active book blog, too. The post I've been reading today is about Mariana by Monica Dickens (yes, she's related to HIMSELF). GCB is using this to qualify for the year 1940 in the many-blogged "A Century of Books," which I've also decided to join as it sounds like fun and also a good way to read more diversely. In my case, the end date for this project will be when my soul separates from my body, shortly before my body rolls into the crematorium.
In this challenge you read one book from each year in a particular century, the 20th in this case. And I just figured out what led me here! GCB was on the list of participants I found who knows where and for whatever reason I clicked through to see her example of how it's done. Well, in her case it's done in a table format. So I stole borrowed that with a quick copy/paste and now it's ready to go on my own blog.
Shining, happy smile!
You may not have realized Dickens's's's had a vague relative who was also a writer, and if you didn't I feel rather proud for having taught you that. But about this particular book, GCB writes:
"Here's a book which fits comfortably into its genre, except that the author
wouldn't remotely have considered herself to be writing a genre novel. Because
it's very much a representative of that early twentieth-century phenomenon, the
middlebrow: those endlessly interesting uneventful novels about little people
and little things, the kind in which we see ourselves and our daily concerns
mirrored and discover how we might ourselves deal with life's smaller
vicissitudes and failures. If the broad sweep of life and death, war and peace
is encountered here, it's at the domestic level, and is more likely to be a
complaint about the servant problem during wartime than the death of a loved
one, although many of these quiet books have moments of great poignancy."
This encapsulates the middlebrow novel perfectly. It's a favorite genre of mine but it's gotten pushed to the side of my current reading by all the contemporary books I read for review, as well as the classics I read for the library's Classics Book Group. And I know a lot of people consider middlebrows to be a waste of reading time, because there are no guns or blood or exploding bits. But it's not true that nothing happens. If you love Jane Austen you'll be familiar with the ease with which some dismiss her books as boring, women's books or romances, or <insert favorite dismissive word here>. Underneath what some see as shallow, there's all the truth in the world. You just have to know how to read it. Sounds odd, but it's true.
Most of us live middlebrow lives. Would you say nothing much really happens to you? To the world you present a solid facade but each one of us has a story – thousands, actually – that could make another's hair turn grey, laugh uproariously or give you a sympathetic hug.
Middlebrow fiction is about US.
If you'd like to read more about Mariana have a look here at GCB's review. It's wonderful. It's on my reading list, too. As for Monica, I loved this passage from the Wikipedia bio of her:
"Known as "Monty" to her family and friends, she was born into an upper middle class London family to Henry Charles Dickens (1878–1966), a barrister, and Fanny (née Runge). She was the grand-daughter of Sir Henry Fielding DickensKC. Disillusioned with the world she was brought up in – she was expelled from St Paul's Girls' School in London before she was presented at court as a debutante – she decided to go into service despite coming from the privileged class; her experiences as a cook and general servant would form the nucleus of her first book, One Pair Of Hands in 1939."
Don't you love her already?
Persephone has republished some of her works (pricey but beautiful paperbacks) and Amazon has loads for the Kindle. If you have a great library system, you may be able to find some there, as well. If you're like me and enjoy learning about the author herself, her autobiography is called An Open Book. Another one goes on the reading list!
From GCB proper, to a book on her sidebar – Robert Neill's Witchfire at Lammas. I have no idea who Robert Neill was or anything about his writing but I know when a title and book cover catch my eye. In this case, the book is a Vintage Penguin of the blue group… And the title sounds wonderfully gothic. Considering GCB's reading tastes, this could be one to explore.
When I went on a Robert Neill hunt I of course found the Wikipedia bio first, where I learned:
"Robert Neill was a British writer of historical fiction. He was born in Manchester, southern Lancashire in the northwest of England, the setting for his best known work, Mist over Pendle, a novelisation of the 1612 witchcraft trials in Pendle, Lancashire."
Not much to go on, to say the least but my gothic hunch was correct. The full bio has a list of his works, which helps, but I don't know if it's complete. Let's dig some more…
I found another link when I typed in "Robert Neill author," but it turns out this is another Robert Neill. Another fiction writer, in this case from Mississippi, around the area where I was born. He went to college at Ole Miss, where I'll be in just under two weeks…
His name is Robert Hitt Neill and here's a bit from his bio:
"Robert Hitt Neill is a native of Brownspur, Mississippi, a small plantation community. He graduated with honors from Leland High School, where he was also an All-State football player. He played football at Ole Miss when the Rebels were the Number One Team in America. He married his college sweetheart, Betsy Henrich, who was an Ole Miss Top Six Beauty and Rebelette. They have three grown kids: Christie, Adam, and B.C., who along with husband John has given them two grandsons, living in Leland."
Interesting, because he's from MS, but this is what really caught my eye:
"He has published 10 books, 1500+ magazine articles, written a weekly syndicated newspaper column for 24 years, and spoken over 1500 times in 25 states as a professional storyteller. He has won dozens of writing awards, and has been nominated three times for the Pulitzer Prize."
Say WHAT? Never heard of the dude and he's been a Pulitzer nominee, born within a stone's throw of my part of Mississippi. After having a look at Amazon, to check out his books, I'm thinking the Pulitzer reference may have been for his journalism. His books are about things like hunting turkeys. While there's certainly nothing wrong with hunting turkeys for food, I can't quite reconcile that and the Pulitzer Prize.
Another search turned up nothing but more listings of the original Robert Neill's bibliography. This is when it's time to either do full-on research- which would require using the library's databases, finding parts of the interweb not on Google - or go elsewhere.
Let's go elsewhere, because I'm too OCD for this much studious work on a Saturday.
There's another tab open on top of my screen, this one for the blog You Can Never Have Too Many Books. Wonder how that got there?!
Am I the only person who does this, visits a blog with intent then just leaves the page open in a window for days on end, forgetting why you were there? Maybe it is just me.
So, what brought me here? I have no bleeping idea, but check out her current reading list!:
- Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
- The Winds of Marble Arch – Connie Willis
- The Morville Hours – Katherine Swift
- The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction – Alan Jacobs
- Howard's End is on the Landing – Susan Hill
- The Most Beautiful Villages in England – James Bentley
So, I don't know why I was here. Maybe it was an older blog hop session and I clicked on the name because it was too compelling not to, had a poke around, then left the window open. In any event, she and I are clearly reading kin. I know or follow lots of people on her sidebar, too. We're connected in several ways but don't know each other.
Come to think of it, don't you wonder how many degrees of separation there are between book bloggers? Judging from how frequently I see bloggers I know on other people's blog lists I think it just may follow the same six degree rule.
And, just how many book bloggers are there? Can't imagine how you'd count, especially considering the transient nature of a lot of bloggers. I've been here six or seven years now and that's decent longevity. Not so for all bloggers, though. I've hit my share of dead ends, blogs like deserted ghost towns, tumbleweeds blowing across their home pages.
In some cases that's not a bad thing, either, for the sake of book bloggers everywhere. Some losses aren't worth mourning.
So, let's end today's hop here. The lesson learned is we readers have a plethora of interests in common and we're spread all over the web but if you pull one silken strand you're likely to very soon find a blogger or writer or book you recognize. You may also find a wholly different person but one you have some sort of connection with, as was the case with the two authors with the same name, one who wrote gothic fiction of the sort I love to read and the other native to the same general area I am.
Curiouser and curiouser. If you came along on my blog ride, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
The Masculine Middlebrow, 1880-1950: What Mr. Miniver Read by Kate Macdonald
Middlebrow Literary Cultures: The Battle of the Brows, 1920-1960 by Erica Brown and Mary Grover