A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Category: For Fun

The Regal Rules for Girls by Jerramy Fine

regal rulesI picked up The Regal Rules for Girls:  How to Find Love, a Life – and maybe even a Lord – in London by Jerramy Fine because I figured it would be a fun book, especially since as a young girl I had fantasies of being whisked off to Balmoral by the Prince of my dreams and even kept pictures of eligible royal bachelors scotch-taped to my bedroom wall:  Prince Andrew and Prince Edward of the UK and Crown Prince Felipe of Spain.  Yes, I always wanted to be a Princess and truth be told I still do despite the fact that I now know that the fairytale is an illusion and more bother (perhaps) than it’s worth.  There’s more to being a Royal than fabulous hats, tiaras, and riding horses.

The cover is cheesy to say the least but includes some amusing tips.  Ms. Fine explains how to begin making your dream of meeting the royals and the aristocracy come true.  Rule number 1 you need to go to the UK, specifically London, to hang where you are most likely to rub elbows with the Castle Crew.  Rule number 2 one must learn their manners and the rules of etiquette.  Manners is something which unfortunately gets short-shrift in the US but is absolutely essential in the UK.  It goes on about what to do if one is introduced to the Queen, how to dress, how to RSVP to a wedding invitation (hand-written please), where it is appropriate to wear hats, to avoid anything other than the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, and the ins and outs of the British Season.  Most importantly:  Do not fake a British accent!

She advises American girls who want to nab an Englishman, royal or not, that it is good to brush up on one’s history.  It’s probably a good idea to know that Queen Victoria is Prince Harry’s great-great-great-grandmother if you plan on walking down the aisle at Westminster Abbey.  I think that if you don’t even know this commonplace detail you are not worth your Wellies.  I found myself giggling over this book and how it brought back memories of all my lovely fantasies of becoming royal.  I was amused right up until she answers the question, “Why are Roman Catholics excluded from the line of succession?” I nearly lost it!  This book states that this exclusion dates to the time of Henry VIII’s failed attempts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his eventual establishment of the Church of England when the Pope would not grant what he wanted.  This is not true; not by a long-shot.  Henry VIII’s daughter Mary Tudor  reigned after the death of her brother Edward VI and was a Catholic.  She was nicknamed “Bloody Mary” for her penchant of persecuting Protestants.  Catholics were not formally excluded from the succession until the passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701.  Thanks, James II (look it up, it’s riveting history).  Up until that time it was preferred that no Catholic ascend the throne but they were not officially excluded.  She adds further insult to injury by suggesting that one read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory to gain more insight into Henry’s break from Rome.  Really, she actually suggests that an American girl read an historical fiction that takes severe liberties with “actual” events to learn about royal history?  This is ghastly advice!  We, Americans already have a bad rap when it comes to historical knowledge and this recommendation of the well-meaning author is too much to be borne.

Listen, young ladies, I am not professing that one stop dreaming of becoming a royal, it is fun to fantasize (I, myself, still have delusions of grandeur) but if you want to become knowledgeable about British and royal history pick up a history book.  The real stuff is so much more interesting than the fiction.  And even if you don’t bag a Prince you’ll be amazed at how impressed Englishmen can be when a cute American girl is informed about English history.  I recommend reading a biography of Henry VIII while practicing your curtsy.  Ms. Fine insists that you keep your heels, head, and standards high.  I agree but those high standards should also be directed to the books you use to gain knowledge.  Trust me, even if Prince Harry is not impressed by your knowledge of his family history you can bet your future father-in-law and Harry’s grandmother will be.standards high

Hello, my name is Marilynn… and I am a Bookaholic.

bookaholicsbannernew2012I have come to the realization that I have a problem.  It’s one I’ve lived with my entire reading life. From the moment I could read those silly Dick and Jane and Spot books I was addicted. The Oxford English Dictionary defines addiction as follows: The state or condition of being dedicated or devoted to a thing, esp. an activity or occupation; adherence or attachment, esp. of an immoderate or compulsive kind. I cannot stop reading. I cannot stop myself from buying or borrowing books.  I cannot stop thinking of books.  I have two shelves full of books that I have not yet read and yet the compulsion to acquire more is constant.  Like an alcoholic at a bar I cannot safely enter a bookstore or library; I do not leave empty-handed.  The urge is a strong one and I always convince myself that it’s just one book and I can stop at any time.  The Urban Dictionary defines a bookaholic as someone who keeps buying books to add to a stack of unread books or someone who has a strong passion for and desire to read all the time, or someone who has a strange fetish for books.  The diagnosis?  I am a bookaholic.

If there is any possibility of gaining a book I will jump at the chance.  I live in Brooklyn and occasionally people put out books they have eradicated from their shelves, deposited in a box with a note saying “Free.  Please Take”.  I cannot pass these up and have gained many books this way.  One time I actually saw the person put the box out on their front step and I practically ran, dragging my young son half a block, to make sure I had first dibs.  In this instance, I hit the jackpot:  about ten almost new hardback copies of Terry Pratchett Discworld books! I stuffed as many as I could in my bag and carried the rest under my arms. Those books are still under my desk at work! [I’ve read some of them but I insist on reading them in order of publication.]

I constantly buy books, borrow books, sniff books (yeah, I know, it’s weird), I like to feel the texture of the paper, I always have a book and a spare in my bag (because you never know). If I do not have reading material I suffer from excruciating withdrawal, call it biblio-DTs. I take a book with me when I am on a date or out with friends, to lunch, to coffee break, to meetings, to a bar, and to the movies. People who know me well know that this is not a reflection upon them. They are my enablers. Anyone who isn’t just doesn’t understand me.

My sister says, “At least it’s a harmless addiction” but is it really? I would rather go without food than not buy yet another edition of Pride and Prejudice!  Earlier today I stepped into a bookstore (I know I shouldn’t have but I had a gift card [see enabled; thanks Eva]) and purchased six new books.  Six!!  The cashier (hi Eric!) told me I always buy interesting books so you know I buy A LOT.  And you know what?  I’m not in the least remorseful.  Nope, not at all.  After all, it’s an innate biological need and I don’t really want a cure.

My name is Marilynn and I am a totally un-penitent bookaholic.  It’s nice to meet you.

Beach Reading 2012

When the temperature begins to rise the last book I want to read is a serious tome.  With the onset of the care-free days of summer my brain does not want to be taxed.   I want a good story, something I can bring to the beach and enjoy with the ocean breezes and nap if I am so inclined.  In other words, I don’t want a committment, I want a summer romance.  For example the ubiquitous Fifty Shades of Grey is included on this summer’s list.  This doesn’t mean I will only read poorly written crap.   In fact, I have some classics on my list but what all these books have in common is a good story where I do not need to analyze plotlines, hidden agendas, characterization, etc.  Some may be well-written and book club worthy others are included just for the pure joy of reading a story even if poorly written.  So here’s the Beach List for 2012:

1.Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson  (so much fun, pure joy)

2.Miss Timmin’s School for Girls by Nayan Currimbhoy (could not put it down, a good mystery)

3. Summer by Edith Wharton  (the title says it all)

4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (again, seems summer-appropriate)

5. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (mostly to see what all the hoopla is about)

6. The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (a good story and wonderfully written)

7. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin (because I need to finish the 4th book before I can borrow mys sister’s 5th book)

8. A Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor (because you can always use a little Jane Austen)

HELP! Should I read or watch, first, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (film)

I have just watched an HBO First Look about the film Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre and am immensely intrigued.  The story seems so fascinating and the acting so superb that not only do I want to see the film but I also want to read the book.  I vaguely remember the television mini-series in 1979 that starred Alec Guinness and an even vaguer memory that perhaps one or both of my parents read the book.  I do remember that at the time I had absolutely no interest in the mini-series or the book.  Spy thrillers are not my favorite genre; they are too modern, too slick for my “stuck in the 19th century” sensibility and besides, Alec Guinness was Obi-Wan Kenobi and my child’s mind despaired of seeing him portray anyone else.

So here’s my dilemma, do I read the book first or see the film while it’s still in theaters?  Normally, I am a stickler for reading the book.  Mostly because the book is always better but also because I do not want to be influenced by another’s vision of the story.  This was not always the case.  As a child, I was mostly introduced to books after watching the film or Masterpiece Theater adaptation.  Films such as The Lord of the Rings (1978), Brideshead Revisited (1981),  A Room With a View (1985), The Razor’s Edge (1984), Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), and Out of Africa (1985) were all seen before I read the book and were my introduction to authors I had never heard of.  Looking back,it is apparent that the film adaptations of the late 70s and early 80s shaped my literary interests.  I devoured the books that had been adapted and influenced my interest in other books by the same authors (Maugham, Tolkien, Forster, Dinesen, Lawrence) which further led me to other writers, mostly English.  Masterpiece Theater was literally very English-oriented and my Anglophilia may have developed at this time or been enhanced by it.  I rarely deigned to read American books or contemporary literature and instead dived into the worlds of Dickens, the Brontes, Greene, and Doyle.

As I developed my literary interests I became fastidious about reading the book first.  If I knew a film based on a book (I was interested in) was to be released I would rush to the library to check out the book and race to finish it.  I was always very disappointed in the films.  No screen re-working of a novel can perceive the nuances of the written work.  Although as I have matured I realize that choices are necessary when making a book into a movie and that sometimes a film can be very successful despite not being accurate to the book but capture the mood, atmosphere, or character of the book.  I appreciate this now and enjoy contemplating the screenwriter’s choices.

Cover of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

Cover of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

But all this does not answer my initial question, should I read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or watch it?  I am leaning towards reading it first, old habits die very hard and I am somewhat inflexible on this.  But I also think that in this instance, it being a genre that I am not overly fond of, that seeing the movie first may pique my interest and enhance my reading experience.  I can’t make up my mind!  So I will ask you, reader, what should I do??  Read or watch??

The cast of Downton Abbey visit New York and I was there

Highclere Castle

I was one of 25 lucky facebook winners to attend a very special PBS hosted, season 2 screening of Downton Abbey and cast Q&A.  I was shocked that I had won (I never win anything) and was excited, very excited.  On December 15th I attended with my 10 year old son, Edward.  I was slightly worried that he wouldn’t have fun, that this would be one of those things that children get dragged to and are miserable the entire time.  I have brought him with me to Jane Austen events and he’s always behaved admirably but lacked a certain enthusiasm, understandably so.

We have watched several costume dramas together with middling success.  He has seen a few episodes of season 1 of Downton Abbey with me but I never noticed any great enthusiasm for the show.  He usually played with his Legos at the same time and I found it hard to discern if he paid any attention.

Apparently he was!  He was excited, to say the least to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event.  His favorite character is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, deliciously played by Maggie Smith.  He thinks her witty and sarcastic one-liners incredibly funny.  He despises all the wrong sort (Thomas and Mrs. Bates) and loves all the right sort (Anna and Matthew Crawley).

The event, itself, generated a lot of excitement and anticipation and my son enjoyed himself immensely.  While partaking of the hors d’oeuvres and beverages he very comfortably discussed with two very nice young ladies his interest in science.  Upon hearing this, they stated that they worked for GE and that perhaps if he worked very hard and did well in school he could work for GE as an R&D scientist one day.  My son was being recruited at the age of 10!

Once seated in the auditorium, the room darkened and the familiar theme music announced the start of the screening my son began applauding enthusiastically.  And as the view of Downton Abbey came up on the screen my son leaned into me and asked, “Mom, wouldn’t it be fun to live in that house?”  I smiled and had to agree with him that it undoubtedly would be very fun.  I believe he enjoyed the screening as much as I did.  Afterwards, he remained engaged during the Q&A, clapped and chortled and shivered with excitement.  All I could think was how watching costume dramas when I was his age on Masterpiece Theatre fueled my obsession with all things English and how funny that these kinds of things can be passed to younger generations just through exposure.

Afterwards, we patiently waited in line to meet the stars of our favorite show, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, and Joanne Froggatt.  They were gracious and generous with their time and were genuinely impressed that Edward was a fan.  While waiting on the line, PBS cameras asked if they could interview him (he was the only kid present).  He handled it like a champ!  He answered their questions intelligently and with the unaffected enthusiasm of a 10 year old.  I was amazed by his poise (I certainly never had his self-confidence when I was his age).  Afterwards, he told me how nervous he was; I told him he handled it like a pro.

All in all, this was an amazing experience on so many levels.  It was nostalgic because PBS has always been a favorite television station of mine, I was overwhelmed with feelings of infectious joy and camaraderie, and the connection with my son over a mutual interest is incomparable.

Here he is in the edited footage from that evening:

Persuasion

Thanks Jennifer for sharing this.

Period Drama Men // Sharp Dressed Man

Modern men take notice:  these gentlemen had a room full of women absolutely swooning.  Clearly we are starving for more than the man-boy look so prevalent today.  It would go a long way if you gents would make more of an effort.

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