22 May 2014

Bless his little heart!

Yet another privileged male rants about women and their love of romance novels, apparently based on reading two books, and promptly gets taken down by clever, articulate women people. By the way, if anything, some of the responses in the comment section beneath the original article are even better than the SMTB post and the accompanying comments (albeit not as stingingly funny).

(By the way, I have a low opinion of Fifty Shades of Grey, but I wouldn't dream of saying anything negative about the people who enjoy it. What you enjoy is not what you are - if it was, I'd have been diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder years ago).

12 May 2014

The monstrous country house to end all monstrous country houses?

I spent a considerable time looking for interior and exterior photos of a house or houses to accompany this description, but I finally gave up. And no wonder:

        It was an astonishing building. A Victorian architect, fortified and encouraged by the Ancred of his day, had pulled down a Queen Anne house and, from its rubble, caused to rise up a sublimation of his most exotic day-dreams. To no one style or period did Ancreton adhere. Its façade bulged impartially with Norman, Gothic, Baroque and Rococo excrescences. Turrets sprouted like wens from every corner. Towers rose up from a multiplicity of battlements. Arrow slits peered furtively at exopthalmic bay-windows, and out of a kaleidoscope field of tiles rose a forest of variegated chimney-stacks. The whole was presented, not against the sky, but against a dense forest of evergreen trees, for behind Ancreton crest rose another and steeper hillside, richly planted in conifers. Perhaps the imagination of this earlier Ancred was exhausted by the begetting of his monster, for he was content to leave, almost unmolested, the terraced gardens and well-planted spinneys that had been laid out in the tradition of John Evelyn. These, maintaining their integrity, still gently led the eye of the observer towards the site of the house and had an air of blind acquiescence in its iniquities.


     The interior of Ancreton amply sustained the promise of its monstrous façade. Troy was to learn that “great” was the stock adjective at Ancreton. There was the Great West Spinney, the Great Gallery and the Great Tower. Having crossed the Great Drawbridge over the now dry and cultivated moat, Troy, Fenella, and Paul entered the Great Hall.

     Here the tireless ingenuity of the architect had flirted with a number of Elizabethan conceits. There was a plethora of fancy carving, a display of stained-glass windows bearing the Ancred arms, and a number of presumably collateral quarterings. Between these romped occasional mythical animals, and, when mythology and heraldry had run short, the Church had not been forgotten, for crosslets-ancred stood cheek-by-jowl in mild confusion with the keys of St. Peter and the Cross of St. John of Jerusalem.

     Across the back of the hall, facing the entrance, ran a minstrels’ gallery, energetically chiselled and hung at intervals with banners. Beneath this, on a wall whose surface was a mass of scrolls and bosses, the portrait, Fenella explained, was to hang. By day, as Troy at once noticed, it would be chequered all over with the reflected colours of a stained-glass heraldry and would take on the aspect of a jig-saw puzzle. By night, according to Paul, it would be floodlit by four lamps specially installed under the gallery.

     There were a good many portraits already in the hall, and Troy’s attention was caught by an enormous canvas above the fireplace depicting a nautical Ancred of the eighteenth century, who pointed his cutlass at a streak of forked lightning with an air of having made it himself.


     ...an enormous drawing-room which looked, she thought, as if it was the setting for a scene in “Victoria Regina”. Crimson, white, and gold were the predominant colours, damask and velvet the prevailing textures. Vast canvases by Leader and MacWhirter occupied the walls. On each occasional table or cabinet stood a silver-framed photograph of Royalty or Drama.

From Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh.

10 May 2014

Reading report for April 2014

I sit here watching the Eurovision Song Contest as a write this. The Russian twin sisters are on, singing a typical Eurovision song, not too bad but hardly memorable, but it will be interesting to see how they fare when it comes to the voting because Russia isn‘t exactly popular in Europe right now.

But now it‘s time for the books. I read 27 of them in April. I would have loved to make it 30 – a book per day – but that‘s the way it goes.

The reason I was able to read so much was a that I took 6 days of vacation time I had left over from last summer and combined them with the Easter holidays and the first day of summer (third Thursday in April and a bank holiday in Iceland). With three weekends included it made 16 days of no work which, however, just happened to coincide with bad weather. I think it rained just about every day, so I mostly stayed in and read.

The books were a mixed bag: some romance, some memoirs/biography, crime, a literary novel, travel, articles/essays, cooking, folk and fairy tales, and comics. There was an unusually large number of standouts, but the favourite was Attack of the Deranged Killer Snow Goons by Bill Watterson. This is a collection of Calvin & Hobbes comics, and I have a weakness for them.

The rest of the standouts were:
What the Dog Saw. A collection of essays about various subjects by Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is a thoughtful writer who delves deep into his subjects and writes with insight and understanding about such various subjects as dog-training, the profiling of criminals and advertising.

Furðustrandir (Strange Shores) by Arnaldur Indriðason, an Inspector Erlendur mystery, in which he investigates an old disappearance that arouses his suspicion.

The Control of Nature by John McPhee, three essays about the attempts of humans to control nature, in the United States and in Iceland.

The Book of Sushi by Kinjiro Omae & Yuzuru Tachibana. This is a little gem of a book that covers sushi from various angles. It doesn’t cover all kinds of sushi, but does have recipes and instructions for the two most common types. (I am now reading a book about Japanese cooking).

At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig by John Gimlette. This is a fascinating travelogue about Paraguay, with glimpses into its colourful and tumultuous history.

I also would like to mention the terribly titled Don't Tell Mum I work on the Rigs – she thinks I’m a piano-player in a whorehouse by Paul Carter, about his life working on oil rigs all over the world. It seesaws between gruesome and funny and occasionally manages to be both at the same time.

The Books:

  • Rhianne Aile: Cursed. Paranormal romance, M/M.
  • Tamara Allen: Whistling in the Dark. Historical romance, M/M.
  • Arnaldur Indriðason: Furðustrandir. Mystery.
  • Muriel Barbery: The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Literary fiction.
  • Nicki Bennett: Always a Bridesmaid. Romance, M/M.
  • Ally Blue: These Haunted Heights. Paranormal romance, M/M.
  • Ally Blue: Naked Richmond. Romance, M/M.
  • Sue Brown: Complete Faith. Romance, M/M.
  • Paul Carter: Don't Tell Mum I work on the Rigs. Memoir.
  • Einar Kárason: Mér er skemmt: Æviskáldsögur. Memoir.
  • John Gimlette: At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig. Travelogue.
  • Malcolm Gladwell: What the Dog Saw. Essays/articles.
  • Georgette Heyer: Devil's Cub. Historical romance. Reread.
  • Amy Lane: Gambling Men. Romance, M/M.
  • John McPhee: The Control of Nature. Travelogue, essays.
  • Ólafur Davíðsson: Íslenzkar þjóðsögur IV. Folk and fairy tales.
  • Kinjiro Omae & Yuzuru Tachibana: The Book of Sushi. Food.
  • Nora Roberts: Sea Swept, Rising Tides, Inner Harbor. Contemporary romance. Rereads.
  • Alexander McCall Smith: The Girl Who Married a Lion. Folk tales.
  • Sverrir Kristjánsson & Tómas Guðmundsson: Undir hauststjörnum. Biography.
  • Ariel Tachna: Healing in His wings. Sci-fantasy romance, M/M.
  • Ariel Tachna: Fallout. Romance, M/M.
  • Janet Warren: A Feast of Scotland. Cookbook.
  • Bill Watterson: Attack of the Deranged Killer Snow Goons. Comic strips.
  • Coralie Younger: Wicked Women of the Raj. Biography/history.

And there you have it. I end this to the strains of the San Marino entry in the Eurovision song Contest. It surprised me when it made it into the finals, but on second hearing, it’s not too bad, sounds like a timeless Eurovision song that could have come from any decade of the contest. However, I hope the Netherlands entry wins. (I’ll be happy if Iceland makes it into next year’s contest).