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Sometimes an Outlander fan just has to rant.

Do you watch/read Outlander? If you don’t, this post will mean nothing to you. On the off-chance you do, here are some thoughts after my viewing of the finale of the fourth season of the TV show:

There’s such a self-centered, intractable, and judgmental quality about Jamie and Claire (each), sometimes, both in the novels and the show that makes them uncomfortably human and not easy to like and the story so complex.

It’s the kind of ‘Outlander’ thing that makes this story so visceral an experience for the reader, and viewere, too, it seems.

Frankly, it’s irritating. I can see its use, but I wonder about the common sense – really? – in the writers’ room. If they are just being true to one of the frustrating complexities of the book, fine.

That’s one of the things that makes Outlander itself.

But do they really think it reflects *well* on Claire to look at Roger – who’s only been selfless and almost lunatically selfless and honorable – and practically stare him down with the threat that he’d better make the right choice for their daughter? Or for Jamie, instead of taking the huge serving of humble pie that he, yet again, deserves, to insinuate that Roger may not be good enough for Brianna, so maybe get lost? I mean, he should talk, right?

There are other people in the world.

But do they really think it reflects *well* on Claire to look at Roger – who’s only been selfless and almost lunatically selfless and honorable – and practically stare him down with the threat that he’d better make the right choice for their daughter? Or for Jamie, instead of taking the huge serving of humble pie that he, yet again, deserves, to insinuate that Roger may not be good enough for Brianna, so maybe get lost? I mean, he should talk, right?

Very Outlander, but then you see the after-the-show discussion of the writers and one of them says that there were a lot in the writers’ room who feared Roger would be viewed as “irredeemable” that he had to think through his decision about staying with Brianna and the baby. It would be nice if there were some nod in the show to acknowledge the insufferable arrogance of those two. Do the writers recognize their insufferable arrogance? The must.

But it would be nice to see Roger respond to them at some point by telling them that their holier-than-thou, sometimes brutish, reckless way of dealing with other people (like him) had him second guessing whether he should ally himself with nuts and proud peacocks like them.

Outlander, you are relentless. You always sneak up and make a cathartic outburst of words feel necessary…

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Umm…Do people understand what they read?

Well, it’s the middle of the night, I can’t sleep, and I don’t usually blog anymore. But I have a question and the outlet of a blog, and maybe one person in the world might find this interesting, so here goes:

Why do people read criticism into perfectly innocent, fact-based commentary?

I ran across some old Twitter criticism about an old WaPo article about Jane Austen. You know she was great, I know she was great, lots and lots of people know she was great, and it’s clear the WaPo contributor knows she’s great. There is no condescension of Austen in the article, and no derision of unmarried women, by the way.

There is simply fact: Jane Austen did not marry. Jane Austen wrote about love. It’s ironic and sad that Jane Austen did not marry if she had wished to, which maybe she did.

In fact, the WaPo writer, herself, underscored the main point of the article in its last line: “No doubt she caught the bitter irony that the only way for Austen to improve her own lot was to keep writing and never marry.”

But, according to this Mashable article, Twitterers – or whatever you call people who use Twitter – got all fired up complaining of a Tweet that teased the article by, really, just juxtaposing condensed facts to reveal an irony. They found the teasing Tweet below WaPo standards. (That’s what they choose to be offended by? There’s so much stuff to legitimately criticize in WaPo….but another time, maybe.) They, for some goofy, out-there, maybe-everyone-was-having-a-crappy-day reason, seemed to think that this poor WaPo writer was equating a lack of marriage experience with an amazement that Austen could write about its pursuit.

She didn’t.

Unless I missed some revealing phrasing or words, nothing like that was implied, much less stated.

So, another question: Is it worth writing an article that praises and empathizes with someone when you will be attacked for writing something imagined in the heads of the readers? For no good reason, mind you. There was no ambiguous language. The words and implication simply were not there. 

I didn’t write the article, but even I find it infuriating.

Then, there are the miserable comments. A petty criticism about writing style that seem to be fueled by the affront (remember, all imagined) to Austen, a criticism that actually proves the WaPo writer’s point, an accusation that marriage equaled fulfillment for women.

Do they teach the identification of main ideas in school anymore? Or implication?

Never mind that the author was stating facts. Never mind that she clearly felt a marriage vs. career conflict was cruel to women. Never mind that so many people have already made plenty of comments about the ironies in writers’ lives and their stories. (Oh, look at that adventure writer…You know he atually lived quite a sedate life!) Readers wanted to criticize and, dammit, they were going to do it.

Well, now I have, too. But, at least, there was something to, you know, actually complain about.

And, here’s a thought. Austen, with her dry look-at-life-screwing-us way, would – Dare I say it?  – probably have had a criticism, too: Why is everyone so taken aback that yet another writer has acknowledged some facts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts after reading a book…

The book I read is called The Witch of Lime Street, Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World and is written by David Jaher. It’s about a Boston society woman who claimed to be a medium but was successfully debunked (more or less) by Houdini and others.

limestreet.jpgSo, I’m just pouring a few thoughts onto the page because they occurred to me and appealed to my ruminating mind strongly enough that I wanted to share, should anyone be interested in reading them.

First, I sailed through the book. It’s interesting material for many different reasons.

Second, ‘sailed’ may be true in the sense that I read the book pretty quickly, but it took effort because there was something in the wordiness and construction of the narrative that had to be dealt with. Also, the writer had a way of referring to something before naming it, and then identifying the name. This is a device writers use, of course, and which works often; sorry to say, it didn’t work here, at least for me. Something to do with the unnecessary slog of wordiness that seemed to be trying to be artfulness, but perhaps simplicity may have been better.

Third, as someone mentioned on Goodreads.com, the book managed to be less informative than one would imagine. It was quite detailed, in some cases bogged down with detail about how test seances were conducted. Despite that, it leaves on wondering so many things: how did she actually do the tricks? what was the result of the investigation into the Crandons and the orphans they kept trying to adopt? what about a summary of the ultimate verdicts on the Crandons? She was deluded? She genuinely thought she could channel her brother, but she did tricks to help people believe what she believed to be true? He believed in these paranormal things, and she took a cue from h
im, and then deluded herself?

Fourth, where are the footnoted references? The writer says that the sourcing could take up a book of its own, and I suppose you don’t need footnotes for everything, but maybe a list of the sources that were used in each chapter might be good. There’s a nice list of books at the end, but I would have liked to know where particular facts and information was drawn from.

I wondered further about sourcing when I dipped into another book on Houdini that referenced the Crandons and did a little cross-referencing. Footnotes would have been nice, perhaps, not necessary, but nice.

Fifth, and further on the topic of navigating information, I was trying to remember a few items from the book after finishing it and turned to the index to help me find them, but there were no listings for the key words that might have helped me. For example, I wanted to find the name of the orphan, Horace Newton, who briefly stayed with the Crandons before, apparently, deciding to go back home to England instead of being adopted by them. I couldn’t remember his name, so I tried words that I remembered from that section, like these: Doric, or
phan, adoption. They weren’t there. Finally, I remembered a person’s name, and found that person (DeWyckoff) in the index, which finally helped me find that section.

Regarding the index, another time I looked on a page that was supposed to mention a keyword (according to the index), and it wasn’t there at all. Occasionally, this is the way indexes are, very annoyingly. I imagine they are hard to put together (though today with computers??).

 

Prior to reading this book, I had no idea about this bit of miscellaneous Boston history, so it was nice to learn about it, and the reading was engrossing. It is the kind of book that, both because it is interesting and because it leaves out information, leaves you wanting to investigate the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

On the fake media outrage, an exceedingly brief commentary…

…because it’s a big topic with lots to say, and I’m just putting a portion of it into a nutshell here.

The thing about this ‘fake media’ outrage is this:

We have a huge problem in that we want to be able to verify information merely by seeing the name of a particular newspaper, or to be able to eschew information merely because of the name of a website. Names equal reputations, I know. But reputations are not always what they are cracked up to me.

So, you read something in The New York Times? Don’t think it hasn’t been through the wrong kind of filter. (Read Unspeakable by Chris Hedges and David Talbot for a former NYT reporter’s take on the NYT.)

Read something on a site you don’t know? That doesn’t mean it isn’t factual info. Or that part of it isn’t.

We need to learn to do MORE than just look at a name to just the validity and legitimacy of information.

 

 

I actually read a Stephen King book.

You could knock me over with a feather. Who thought he’d ever write a book that I’d pick up and read. Writing teachers have said what a great writer he is, and don’t think I wasn’t flummoxed at that info. But, actually, he is. At least, 11/22/63 is great. Unexpected and unusual use of the time travel theme and lots of emotion are two components that, for me, were compelling. I had known that if I tried a King book, this would be it. It was a good pick.

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Oh my, oh my…

Doesn’t the title of Diana Gabaldon’s ninth Outlander book just make you “Oooooh!”?

She has the most fantastic titles.

I had no idea that the title was already out. Or did I? Doesn’t matter because now I have the fun of that discover again. Maybe. Who knows? I’m not really sure.

See the giddy effect bookish news can have on a reader?

 

 

A new trend in mysteries? Let’s hope!

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I used to read lots of mysteries as a kid. You know, Nancy Drews, Trixie Beldens, that sort of thing. Loved living those characters’ lives. For me, it was always more about the people, places, and situations than the mystery plot. But, that could, of course, be quite compelling, too.

As an older person, I haven’t been into them as much. But now I seem to be getting back in. One reason is, perhaps, the new mysteries that Sourcebooks (a publisher that truly seems to put care into its beautiful paperback covers) have released. Seems like there’s 3 different series started, all female detectives. I’ve read only Radha Vatsal’s A Front Page Affair, but I enjoyed it a lot. Again, we have an engaging female detective, young, privileged, smart, who conveys an enviable sense of freedom in a time long ago. There are very authentic-feeling tidbits liberally inserted seamlessly throughout the book telling us about life at the time. The author surely had great fun researching everyday life from primary sources! Vatsal has a fanstastic blog, too, showcasing bit of random wonderful historical information from the early twentieth century era of her novel. As readers know, it’s great fun to go behind the scenes of a novel with its author.

I’m hoping this attention to and fun documenting of nostalgic miscellanea is a new literary trend. It differs from other writers’ attention to historical detail in the delight that seems to be taken in peppering and highlighting the narrative with distinct and distinctive glimpses of the past. Hooray!

And, there are two other series starting that promise engagine female sleuthing protagonists. Haven’t started them yet, but I did amble over to the author websites: I think this love of various and sundry unburied historical delights might, indeed, be a trend. Here’s hoping….