rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2016-05-23 11:43 am

Penric’s Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold

A novelette set in the Chalion world, in which Gods and demons are real, though powerful and supernatural forces rather than representatives of the concepts of good and evil. (People do generally think that Gods are good and demons are bad, but it’s more complicated than that.) It’s set about a hundred years before The Curse of Chalion. (This isn’t obvious in the text, or at least it wasn’t obvious to me; I think I found it in the author’s afterword.) You can start the series here; it’s unrelated to the other books, and a complete story.

A young man on a mission finds both his task and his entire life unexpectedly diverted when he becomes possessed by a demon. In this case, demon possession means having another personality sharing your mind and talking to you, not having your own personality displaced. In the process of learning about his demon in the hope of divesting himself of it, he learns a lot about himself, his world, and what he really wants from life.

The characters and story are likable and engaging, and the magic system and cosmology, which I enjoyed in the other books in the series, continue to be interesting. It’s a pleasant story with a cozy feeling, but a little slight, especially compared to the novels set in the same world. I was unreasonably distracted by a major character having a name that I have previously only encountered in a Shakespeare play, in a world which seems to have no relationship to ours, but this may not bother anyone other than me.

But if you like small-scale fantasy about well-meaning people, in a world in which altruism is neither stupid nor the sign of an approaching cement truck, you will probably like this. It reminded me a bit of The Goblin Emperor, though with a much more down to earth and informal tone. Bujold's Sharing Knives books also have something of this cozy, domestic feel, though they are romances and this is not.

Penric's Demon
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2016-05-22 02:06 pm

Fool’s Assassin, by Robin Hobb

I read this ages ago, but never got around to writing it up. So I may be misrecalling some stuff. Luckily, however, I read it on my Kindle and made liberal use of the note function, mostly to write stuff like “YOU IDIOT” and “Did you consider asking her, dumbass?” and “WTF! Idiot.”

This is something like the tenth book in a series with sub-series and related series and so forth. I would definitely not start here.

I’m not sure where I would advise you to start, or if I would advise you to start. There are two trilogies (“Assassin’s Apprentice” and “Magic Ship”) in which I loved the first book, had mixed but generally positive feelings about the second, and disliked the third. But they’re not standalone at all, so you can’t just read the first books because they end on cliffhangers.

Also, be aware that part of what I disliked about the third books was that they either failed to resolve mysteries or plotlines set up in the first books, or resolved them in ways which I found anti-climactic or annoying, so reading the third book just to find out what the hell was up with [X plotline you care about] may not result in a happy experience.

Spoilers for Assassin books: Read more... )

And then there’s more books that resolve some things but not others, and are incredibly padded – in one book, Fitz spends something like 300 pages angsting over whether or not to leave his cottage. Every now and then he breaks up the monotony by making some tea.

I felt like a compulsive masochist just picking this book up, but I had managed to get invested in a certain relationship between two characters (Fitz and the Fool) in the very first book, and wanted to know what was up with it despite my near-certain knowledge, based on something like nine previous books, that the book would be incredibly slow, the characters’ refusal to talk to each other or pick up on incredibly obvious stuff going on would drive me batty, and it would probably end with their relationship not having progressed at all. Spoiler: I was absolutely right! Also, if you thought Fitz made some stupid decisions in previous books… you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Whump fans note: If you wondered if anything could top a character being tortured to death, the answer is yes.

Cut for detailed, irritated spoilers, mostly involving weapons-grade stupidity and also tragic yet somewhat hilariously OTT whump. Read more... )

Fool's Assassin: Book I of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2016-05-18 01:19 pm

Amends, by Eve Tushnet

Note: I critiqued this novel in manuscript; the finished version differs from the one I originally read. My review is of the rewritten novel, not the original.

“This is the real damage of addiction. It turns you into a bad metaphor for yourself.”

Amends is a satirical mainstream literary novel about an ill-conceived reality TV show about a group of misfits in rehab. The characters were selected for an unholy combination of freak-show appeal and a TV producer’s ideas of diversity and likability, which bear about the same resemblance to the real world’s version of those qualities that reality TV bears to reality, which is to say an unsettling mixture of almost none with, occasionally, a surprising amount, Reality and real emotions seethe beneath the glossy surface, sometimes coaxed to come out and put on a show (and thus rendering themselves fake) sometimes erupting unscripted, powerful and filled with awe. Hopefully the camera caught it...

(Sharptooth, a wolf otherkin, was selected by the producers as focus for the audience to point and laugh; she’s unexpectedly canny in some ways and innocent in others, much closer to being an ordinary person with ordinary life problems than a number of seemingly more everyman characters, and generally a lot more than the producers, the other characters, and probably many readers bargained for. She’s my favorite character, both to read about and as one of the few I would actually want to spend any time with in real life. (Is she convincingly otherkin? Got me. She's definitely convincing as an imaginative young woman with some issues who grew up in a time when otherkin were a known cultural phenomena.)

The show and the novel are clearly meant as mirrors of each other; the backstage discussions on the show, its characters, and its audience invite the readers to inspect the structure and presumed intent of the novel. The show was intended to pull viewers in with sound-bite squalor, then reveal an unexpected amount of truth; the novel is clearly trying to do the same, but with glittering wit, snappy punchlines, and a takedown of contemporary culture in addition to simple squalor. The characters, initially sketched-in or even caricatures, reveal themselves to be more, both within the show and to the novel’s readers. But how much more? How real is anything when the camera’s rolling?

The prose and dialogue of Amends is a real pleasure, biting and clever and snappy, quotable and re-readable. At times it’s almost too polished. One of the points of Amends is how modern American society is constructed to allow us an endless amount of shallow quick fixes we can use to stave off whatever raw and terrifying emotions or reality we’re hiding from. Reach out, and there’s always something there to grab, whether it’s drugs and booze, TV and internet forums, or the cheap fake emotion of talk show revelations and suspiciously modern-sounding ancient religions. Take away the high, take away the social media, take away the camera, and is there anything left? Much as I enjoyed Tushnet’s way with words, there were a few places where her point might have been better made by leaving out the wisecracks, and letting the emotion come through unpolished and unadorned.

It’s possible that I would have read Amends had I not been hired to critique it in manuscript, as I liked Tushnet’s style, which I was familiar with from reading her blog. Or possibly not, due to not being much of a fan of the genres of both satire or the literary mainstream. If I’d passed it up, that would have been my loss. I confess to having fond feelings for this book due to my participation in its evolution, which no doubt add to my liking for the finished result. However, my personal liking is probably counterbalanced by my usual dislike for the genres it belongs to, and so it all evens out.

Amends isn’t my usual kind of book at all, but I liked it a lot. Sentence by sentence, it’s delicious. And while the satire is funny, a lot of the character interactions are downright hilarious. The metafictional conceit is well-done, and while reality TV is obviously an easy target, many of Tushnet’s subjects are less obvious and thoughtfully explored. I don’t think you have to have any particular interest in reality TV, addiction, or rehab to read the book; I’m not the sort of reader who would normally pick it up, and I liked it anyway. It’s not so much about addiction and sobriety as it is about living an authentic life in a plastic world. Or, sometimes, the other way around.

Amends: A Novel Only $3.99 on Kindle
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2016-05-07 11:40 am

Stranger made the 2016 Rainbow Book List!

This happened a while ago, but I was so distracted by health issues that I am pretty sure I never announced it. Well-- it did!

The Rainbow Book List Committee proudly announces the 2016 Rainbow List. The Rainbow List is a bibliography of books with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning content, and which are aimed at youth, birth through age 18. The Rainbow List also includes genres I don't read, like picture books, but if you have small children, that would be an excellent resource.

The Rainbow Book List

If anyone happens to know whoever puts those together, you might alert them that the sequel, to Stranger, Hostage, 1) exists, 2) continues (but does not conclude, there are four books total) Yuki and Paco's epic love affair, 3) has many more LGBTQ characters, both major and minor. I am pretty sure that the majority of the people who read Stranger have no idea that Hostage was ever published, so this isn't "You must love my book," it's "FYI, this book exists and you can read it if you want".

Again due to health, I have probably read less in the last year than in any year of my life since I learned how, so I have read very few of the other books on that list. I look forward to reading at least some, and I invite you all to give it a browse. Lots of excellent-sounding books on it. These particularly intrigue me:

*Selznick, Brian. The Marvels. In black-and-white pencil illustrations, Selznick depicts three generations of actors descending from the sole survivor of a legendary shipwreck. As that story closes, another unfolds in prose as young Joseph discovers his connection to the actors and his family history, and he embraces his uncle’s life story as it affects and changes his own.

McCarry, Sarah. About a Girl: A Novel. Astronomy buff Tally plans to go to college, solve the mysteries of the universe, and win a Nobel Prize along the way. When love complicates her friendship with the boy next door, Tally veers off on a quest to uncover her own mysterious origins. Astronomy meets mythology in a magical realist twist, and Tally’s questions get lost in the arms of a beautiful woman determined to forget her own past.

Wilke, Daria. Playing a Part. Tr. by Marian Schwartz. This import—the first teen book translated from Russian—follows Grisha’s coming-of-age in a Moscow puppet theater, as he reels from the impending departure of his beloved gay mentor Sam and the looming heart operation of his best friend Sashok.

*Tamaki, Jillian. SuperMutant Magic Academy. At this boarding school for paranormal teenagers the student body is a wild mix, from witches and shapeshifters to jocks and performance artists. Hilarity ensues.

Has anyone read any books from the list? Got any recs?
rachelmanija: (Engaged!)
2016-04-12 04:26 pm

His Animal Instinct: Gay Shifter stories to benefit LGBQ human rights internationally

Please share this far and wide. It's a very good cause.

His Animal Instinct: More Tales of Wild Pleasure is an anthology of gay romance stories featuring shapeshifters. All profits go to OutRight, which fights for the human rights of LGBTIQ people worldwide. It is an excellent organization and I have personally met its executive director. Please promote this anthology and make them some money. Also, the stories are fun.

Nine sizzling tales of gay paranormal romance! Ten best-selling authors bring you their hottest stories of shifters and the desires that cannot be denied.

From wolves to leopards, alphas to omegas, these men can change their shape… but they can’t change who they love. 

rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2016-04-12 03:12 pm

Cuckoo's Song, by Frances Hardinge

This was one of my favorite books of last year, and I have no idea how to review it.

It's best read entirely unspoiled, but it contains some elements that 1) I would normally warn people about, 2) might not be dealbreakers for people for whom they normally are, due to spoilery reasons, 3) even saying what they are is going to be either spoilery or misleading, 4) but I actually do want to warn people because they really are disturbing, but then the book goes in a completely different direction after that.

Also, most of what I liked about the book is extremely spoilery, but a lot of what made it so enjoyable was that I wasn't expecting it. I can say what happens in the first fourth or so, but again, the first fourth is really different in both tone and content from the rest of the book. ARRGH.

Okay, so, the book contains creepy body horror and a really disturbing (non-sexual) scene of a parent attempting to harm their child. There is an in-book reason for both that may or may not mean that readers who normally wouldn't touch a book containing such things would actually be OK with them in-context. The child is not actually harmed (though scared and upset) and the rest of the book is not disturbing at all, or at least it wasn't for me. Effectively, there is a genre-switch about a fourth of the way in. It starts as a mystery, quickly goes to horror, and then goes somewhere else entirely that is definitely not horror (though it has elements of… um… spookiness, I guess.) Also, it is almost entirely about women and girls and their relationships; there are important male characters, but they're secondary.

Setting is 1920s, post-WWI; I don't recall if we get an exact date, but the time period, like basically everything else in the book, initially looks like a colorful detail but turns out to be crucially important. 11-year-old Triss falls into the river and gets sick. She's sickly in general, so this isn't new; what is new is that her sister acts really weird around her, alternately angry and frightened and generally strange. And Triss herself feels changed, different, with bizarre cravings. Not for blood or flesh, but for much stranger things. Rotten, fallen apples. Doll's heads. Pincushions. And then her parents start whispering about her behind closed doors.

Triss is sure something happened to her in the fall in the river, but she doesn't remember it. Her doctor says this is normal after a shock. But she's not so sure...

And everything on out is giant spoilers for the entire rest of the book. Read more... )

Highly recommended, even in you do need to hastily skim some horrific sections near the beginning. Very vivid and original, with great characters. Definitely not a downer, despite the cover and intro.

Cuckoo Song

I feel bad for the cover artist. They went with the "creepy horror" (very off-putting to me) cover, but a more representative cover would have been spoilery. Probably something that just signaled 1920s; unsettling/non-realistic/odd would have been better.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2016-03-17 05:34 pm

A History of Glitter and Blood, by Hannah Moskowitz

Ambitious, weird, metafictional horror-fantasy set in a magical city where all but three faeries have fled post-war. It’s now occupied by tightropers who spit out ropes and live in the air, and gnomes who live belowground. Faeries are immortal and every part of their body has its own sentience; they shed glitter constantly and each speck of glitter has its own awareness, which they tune out because otherwise they’d lose their minds. They are not considered dead until there is literally nothing of them left, so the heroine carries her father’s ear and eyeball in a jar; it presumably is still able to see and hear, though not speak. Pre-war, faeries had a wary co-existence with the gnomes, which eat faeries, usually bit by bit. Each eaten limb stays aware until digested. I think. It’s a little unclear what you have to do to a faerie part before it ceases to be aware.

And that is just one of the many, many, many things which are unclear in this odd, frustrating book. The ideas are intriguing, original, and horrific; the execution often uses that maddening trick of excusing its flaws by pointing them out and saying that they’re deliberate. The plot makes no sense? Well, real life often makes no sense. The emotions are weirdly distanced? The narrator is traumatized and emotionally numb. Key incidents are incredibly confusing or elided altogether? The narrator is traumatized and doesn’t want to think about them. Basic facts like how the body part sentience is actually experienced, how big faeries and gnomes are relative to each other (the gnomes can eat a faerie in one bite, but can also have normal-sounding sex with them), what the tightropers look like, the characterization and relationships of major characters, how any race survives when almost all females are killed by the act of giving birth to their first child, etc, are vague or confusing or contradictory or make no sense? It’s because the narrator is a traumatized teenager writing about experiences they don’t understand or can’t face, not a professional writer.

Here’s an example:

Once upon a time there was a writer who couldn't write a fucking book.

I don't know what comes next. That whole chapter's going to need to get thrown out anyway. You completely forgot halfway through that you'd said it was raining at the beginning.

Was it raining?

No one's ever going to know and it's all your fault.

Put a fucking map in the next draft.


The novel held my attention and is certainly plenty weird and ambitious, but using “in real life a traumatized teenager would write an incoherent mess of a book” as excuse to write an incoherent mess of a book did not work for me. The novel was too realistic to work as surrealism, too inconsistent to work as fantasy, and the whole “everything makes no sense because the narrator is a traumatized teenager” device didn’t work for me. These are the exact same problems I had with Moskowiz’s other novel I read, Break, so this is clearly her signature style and I’m just not her audience.

The worldbuilding is really interesting, which made it all the more frustrating that it had so little focus and what we did get didn’t make much sense. However, the novel also does some unusual (spoilery) things with narrative and metafiction, so if you like that sort of thing and don’t mind the issues I had with it, it’s worth a try. The horror is more conceptual than graphic, but dismemberment is crucial to the plot. (One of the things I found most frustrating was that I was really intrigued by the concept of having scattered awareness via shed glitter, eaten body parts, clipped hair, etc, but because the characters tune this out, you rarely get a sense of what that actually feels like.) Note that it contains underage (late teens, not children, but still) sex work (not graphic, but still).

A History of Glitter and Blood
rachelmanija: (Default)
2016-03-15 03:13 am

Find this poem?

I can't recall the title or author. It was probably written pre-WWII, at least. It's about someone fighting a battle (a literal battle, though overall the poem is allegorical/metaphorical/has spiritual implications) and seems to be losing where he is. But though he can't see it from where he stands, his side is winning. The last few lines I think use dawn as a metaphor for victory.
rachelmanija: (Naked and dripping wet)
2016-03-14 02:46 pm

Aaron Burr's Journals: Halt and Catch Fire

[Rachel: But first, a little set-up.]

July 30, 1809. Went to my lodgings; all asleep and fast locked; tried at d'Aries's; ditto; knocked hard at each; no movement; resolving not to lay in the street. The old man came down in some trepidation, got light, and my bed was ready. Not a mouthful of bread or milk or anything eatable or drinkable to be had save pure water. Having dined on fillib [Bixby: His favorite filbunke] and walked at least ten miles, a supper would have been welcome.

Attacked by epinaises. [Bixby: For funaises. Bedbugs] Fought hard till 4, slaying thousands, but the number of the enemy increasing, resolved on a retreat. The sun had risen; began by taking the sheets, coverlid, and pillows out doors, beating and shaking them well; then stripped and changed my clothes, and laid me on the floor. Got a sound nap of five hours.

[This happened to me too, only it was ants. I had a cough, so I left a cough drop near my bed. Woke up coughing, stuffed it in my mouth, registered that it was acrid… and crawling… and so was I… I spat it out, leaped out of bed, and turned on the lights. Ants EVERYWHERE. I proceeded to enact exactly what Burr did, only with the additional aid of a water bottle. The ants won.]

August 29, 1809. I did go to bed at 10, promising myself a rich sleep. Lay two hours vigil; that cursed one single dish of tea! Note: My bed had undergone a thorough ablution and there were no bugs or insects. Got up and attempted to light candle, but in vain; had flint and matches but only some shreds of punk which would not catch. Recollected a gun which I had had on my late journey; filled the pan with powder and was just going to flash it when it occurred that though I had not loaded it someone else might; tried and found in it a very heavy charge! What a fine alarm it would have made if I had fired! Then poured out some powder on a piece of paper, put the shreds of punk with it and after fifty essays succeeded in firing the powder; but it being dark, had put more powder than intended; my shirt caught fire, the papers on my table caught fire, burnt my fingers to a blister (the left hand, fortunately); it seemed like a general conflagration. Succeeded, however, in lighting my candle and passed the night till 5 this morning in smoking, reading, and writing this.

[Rachel: Any story containing the phrase “And then I remembered that I had a gun” never ends well. It’s right up there with “Hey guys, watch this!”

I can’t decide what is most hilarious about this story. I mean other than everything. But just to start with, that does eventually occur to him to make sure the gun isn’t loaded but literally nothing else he does involves the slightest particle of “Maybe this isn’t a good idea,” that in however long it took him to make fifty tries at lighting the gunpowder it never occurs to him that there is a reason nobody lights candles with gunpowder, that despite being a combat veteran and a duelist he still hasn’t figured out what happens when you set gunpowder on fire, that he blames the completely predictable result on the amount rather than the fact of the gunpowder, that the candle actually did get lit, or that, once the candle was lit, he proceeded to use the light to immortalize his idiocy for posterity.

A legacy, what’s a legacy? In Burr’s case, it appears to be making himself surprisingly relatable to everyone who has ever accidentally set themselves on fire by doing something that was, in retrospect, guaranteed to do exactly that. The other thing I can’t decide is if this is more or less gloriously stupid than the time I set my pants on fire while I was naked and dripping wet. On the one hand, naked and dripping wet. On the other hand, his initial idea was to light the candle by shooting at it. This is why I don’t own a gun.]
rachelmanija: (Default)
2016-03-12 01:12 pm

Research help?

I cannot find a doctor who is willing to do extensive testing for a possible bacterial infection I may have. However, there are some labs which will do it without a prescription (or with some prescription signed by some random doctor in Idaho) if you pay out of pocket.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to research these labs and point me toward ones which don't look like total quacks. (i.e., if they find something, I probably actually have it.)

This is my main priority. However, if you come across any labs which are clearly TOTAL quacks that are guaranteed to find every bacteria in existence and send you a report saying so, send me a link to those too, so I can keep track of them. (Reason why is complicated; if you're curious, I can explain in email.)
rachelmanija: (Emo Award: Shinji agony)
2016-03-11 11:22 am

Aaron Burr’s Journal: Blackmailed by the Laundress

[Rachel: But of course, Burr’s luck does not last for long.]

Burr: 21. Quarrel with the blancbisseur [1], who carried off *** and refused to deliver them till I had given some handkerchiefs of another person which I never saw or had; so I must either lose my clothes, enter into a lawsuit or pay for things I never saw.

[Rachel: Or he could challenge them to a duel. No, wait, that didn’t go so well last time.]

[1] Bixby: The launderer; possibly meant for the laundress. If so, it should be blanchisseuse. The text is partially undecipherable. We should be glad to know what the launderer carried off!]

[Rachel: Burr’s clothes, obviously. Bixby’s efforts to understand Burr’s hellish scrawls in phonetic Swedish and bad French are clearly getting to him.

Meanwhile, I am dying of laughter at Burr getting his laundry held hostage until he returns handkerchiefs belonging to someone he never heard of. It could only happen to Aaron Burr. Or me. I once had my apartment manager hold my laundry hostage. When he finally returned it (upon threat of calling the police) I found that he had vengefully cut a scary clown face into one of my undies. Possibly the laundress also did this to Burr and Bixby just couldn’t read the entry that said so. He has several footnotes that just say, “indecipherable.”]

Burr: At 7 walked to Liston Hill (Wennerquiest's) to take supper and a bed in conformity with his several warm invitations. Found no one at home but a servant, who said he could give me nothing to drink but small beer and nothing to eat but the bro bru; so left a note for him on his table and walked home.

[Bixby: Burr, who spelled all Swedish words phonetically, was very uncertain about the word brad. Here in despair he writes two incorrect forms.]

Burr: 21. Rose at 6 for the first time in six months. Dreamed engaged to marry a huge ugly beast; name unknown; reflections; Mary A.; deliberated whether to blow out brains or perform engagement; waked by the striking of 6.

Do remind me to give you a dissertation on locking doors. Every person of every sex and grade comes in without knocking; plump into your bedroom! They do not seem at all embarrassed, nor think of apologizing at finding you in bed or dressing or doing — no matter what — but go right on and tell their story as if it were all right. If the door be locked and the key outside (they use altogether spring locks here), no matter, they unlock the door and in they come. It is vain to desire them to knock; they do not comprehend you and if they do, pay no manner of attention to it. It took me six weeks to teach my old Anna not to come in without knocking and leave and finally it was only by appearing to get into a most violent passion and threatening to blow out her brains, which she had not the least doubt I would do without ceremony. I engage she is the only servant in all Sweden who ever knocks.

[Rachel: I know that Burr actually did kill someone, and yet I seriously doubt that Anna actually believed in his threat. He seems singularly incapable of intimidating anyone. Which possibly explains why Hamilton refused to back down. If so, that is really sad. Anyway, it sounds more like Burr going ballistic on Anna just made her take pity on him and knock as a favor. See below for more support for this theory:]

Burr: Notwithstanding all my caution I have been almost every day disturbed in this way, and once last week was surprised in the most awkward situation imaginable.

[Rachel: Naked? Using the chamber pot? Having sex? Masturbating? Masturbating while murmuring “Alexander”? Goddammit, Burr, you usually have no problem with oversharing, so why be coy now?]
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: You keep using that word)
2016-03-10 12:18 pm

Aaron Burr’s Journal: Finally an Umlaut

[Rachel: Amazingly, Burr manages to spend quite a long time in Sweden enjoying himself, eating and drinking well, going to the theatre, and having sex with every woman in sight. However, presumably since he’s no longer distracted by lost luggage, dirty sheets, and getting arrested, he now has leisure to enjoy himself with his two favorite things, ladies and languages. I guess since French is the language of love, references to flirting and sex are often in French. Unfortunately for his editor, Bixby, Burr’s French is invariably abbreviated, ungrammatical, and/or misspelled. And then there’s Swedish, which Burr does not know at all, but that doesn’t stop him from using it. The result is that every other line is footnoted, and Bixby begins to slowly lose his mind.]

Burr: 19. Left the ball at 10; mal. a. t. ay ant tro. bu.

[Bixby: For mal a la fete, ayant trap bu. Headache from having drunk too much.]

Burr: Hosack came in at 9; left him there. Home at 2 p. Rhea?

[Bixby: Probably meant for Latin of rhubarb. See Glossary.]

Burr: Coucbe at 1 on the canopie; can't endure the down bed.

[Bixby: For canape. Sofa.]

Burr: 20. Rose at 5. Gueri de mal a T. mais pas bien.

[Bixby: Cured of headache, but not well.]

Burr: A servant recommended by Gahn as speaking English. He asked a dollar banco per day. Sent off. I could not understand a sentence he said in any language.

[Rachel: Neither can Bixby.]

Burr: Great vexation to make myself understood par Madame ou la jolie jungfru

[Bixby: By madame or the pretty maid. From now on Burr talks much of the jungfrus.]

Burr: Professor Arnt came in from Baron Munck to ask me to dine at Haga (sa campagne) on Monday, but was engaged to Gahn. Amus. av. jungf. deux heur.

[Bixby: For m'amusai avec la jungfru deux heures. Tres bien. Had fun with the jungfru (maid) for two hours. Fine!]

[Rachel: I know the “fine” is Bixby’s translation of “tres bien” but I can’t help reading it as his commentary on Burr’s fun with the maid and/or bad French, in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cornered-rat line reading of “So you sent the dogs after me; that’s fine!”]

Burr: A traverse I'antichambre. U. muse venoit. Ne saur. renvoir.

[Bixby: Probably for a trovers Vantichambre. U muse Venait. Ne saurais [la] renvojer. Across the hall, maid muse came. I couldn't send her back. (The word muse is used throughout the Journal by Burr in describing his amorous adventures. The literal meaning in French is "the beginning of rutting time." He evidently uses a very unusual word for the purpose of veiling his meaning.)]

Burr: 22. Aupre a tres jo. U. Un arran. ft. mais manq ; ne scats par quoi.

[Bixby: For Aupres une tres jolie U. [jungfru?]. Un arrangement fait, mais manqua ; ne sais pourquoi. With a very pretty maid; an arrangement made but failed; I know not why.]

Burr: 24. Pours i un U. ba. eng. 9 c. soi s.

[Bixby: This is a fair sample of the sort of riddles frequently introduced by Burr in the Journal. They are generally in French, in part, at least, and consist largely of abbreviations. This probably stands for Poursuivii une jungfru (or fille) badine (or handle). Engagement pour gee soir. Pursued a sportive (or common-place) lass. Made an engagement with her for 9 o'clock to-night. Ba. may stand for basse, inferior, vile.]

[Rachel: You get the picture. I’ll just reproduce a series of Bixby’s footnotes from the next section:]

[Bixby: Note the spelling and also the queer tautology! One might as well say in English,
coach-coupe!]

[Bixby: Here Burr again turns a French verb into an English verb. This means Hosack went out.]

[Bixby: Burr almost always uses the grave accent for the acute, when it occurs to him to use any accent at all.]

[Rachel: I think at this point Bixby is probably hitting the cream of tartar punch himself.]

[Bixby (translating from French): There is nothing that restores me after too much muse as does the hot bath.

[Bixby: "Do you speak French?" "Not a word," in very perfect French. (But Burr's
French is far from perfect.)]

[Bixby: For soeurs. Sisters. Burr generally misspells this word.]

[Bixby: Notice the umlaut this time, which is an improvement.]

[Bixby: The writer is improving. He is now within one letter of the correct feminine form of the word. It should be vieille.]

Burr: Sent out for sugar, coffee, bread, and a pipe; not one of these articles to be had. Consoled myself with a little skimmed milk and warm water and at 9 went to de Castre's. Supped on philibonka.

[Rachel: This prompts my single favorite footnote in the journal so far:]

[Bixby: Filbunke is a wholesome summer dish in Scandinavia and Northern Europe in general. Sweet milk is left to sour in a dish specially made for the purpose. Cream settles thick on top. Powdered sugar and grated ginger are mixed with it. Then it is eaten with relish. Burr spells filbunke in seven different ways, but always incorrectly.]

[Rachel: From then on out, Bixby makes a point of noting every single misspelling, as if in revenge for having to read them:]

Burr: Fillibonk pr. dine.

[Bixby: The fifth mode of spelling the word.]

Burr: Fillibonk at 4. You can't imagine what an epicure I am with my filbonk.

[Bixby: This, the sixth mode of spelling the word. Note that he spells it in two different ways in two successive sentences.]

[Rachel: I have to wonder if Burr is deliberately teasing either Theodosia or his editor to come. I love that he was still driving people round the bend seventy years after his death.]

[My personal favorite of the seven wrong spellings: fi Hi bonk a.]
rachelmanija: (Avatar: Zuko's heart is withered)
2016-03-09 10:04 am

Aaron Burr’s Journals: Breathing Causes Hangovers

[Burr has dinner with a family.]

The daughters very fine; the two elder, jolie, belle — la jeune, genie.

[Bixby: The two older ones pretty, beautiful — the young one a genius.]

[Rachel: I wonder if this, or this sort of thing, is where the line “My mother was a genius” came from in “Wait For It.” Burr always mentions when women are pretty. (He occasionally mentions when men are handsome – there’s a bit where he teases Theodosia by describing a man in similar terms without using pronouns, only to say, “Don’t get your hopes up, he’s a guy.”) But he also very frequently calls them intelligent, mentions their accomplishments, etc. Other than being more interested in their looks (and sometimes— often, actually— having sex with them, Burr talks about women the exact same way he talks about men.

The historic Burr not only personally viewed women as equals, but also held that as a political belief. This was left out of Hamilton because it doesn’t square with his characterization as a man who does not take strong stands, let alone strong stands on the radical fringe. Burr was an abolitionist, too, just like Hamilton. They had quite a lot in common, but maybe it was one of those cases where people hate each other because they’re more alike than different— they see what they most dislike in themselves embodied in the other, as in a dark mirror. (So was Hamilton too secretly a giant dork? You'd think if he was, he'd have written about it.)

Anyway, back to the diary. Which, once again, is a lot less dignified than reading any given bio of Burr would lead one to expect. After Burr meets the two pretty and one genius sisters, he proceeds on to a slew of entries beginning “hungover.” “Hungover again.” “SO hungover.” “So done with being hungover, not going to drink today.” Next morning: “Failed saving throw against getting drunk; hungover again.” “Took some laudanum; felt terrible the next morning. Took more laudanum to fix that.” I’m copying some of these, but there’s actually lots more. This may be the point where his overall situation finally starts to sink in.]

11. Having eat and drunk too much yesterday, was obliged to sit up till 5. Rose at 12.

13. Rose at 2 p. in very bad order, having been up three or four hours with the bu?

[Bixby: Drinking. Literally, with (having) drunk. On this day Burr wrote a letter to Jeremy Bentham in London in which he said: " I lead a life of the utmost dissipation. Driving out every day and at some party almost every night. Wasting time and doing many silly things."]

Took de ere. tar. punch. [Bixby: Took cream tartar punch — a favorite cure of Burr's when he was " in bad order" in the morning.] Finished letter to Koe. Began one of apology to J. B.

21. Rose at 12. Up all night with crem. ta. pun.

22. Couche at 2. Rose at 8. Read an hour in Ashe's "Travels," and did nothing till 12, when Captain M'Dowell came in and we walked to Holyrood Palace; a grand structure far above St. James's. To the Horse Guard's barracks, a very handsome establishment. […] Walked an hour seul in quest of adventure; got home without any, but with mischievous intentions.

[Rachel: I find it oddly endearing how often Burr confesses to doing nothing for hours. Nowadays it would be “played Candy Crush till 12.” Also love the “mischievous intentions.”]

25. After dinner taken up stairs by Augusta ; sent for soon by Baron Norton. Dinner and wines excellent. Madeira, champagne, hermitage, Frontignan, malmsey, claret, port, sherry.

[Rachel: No wonder he was in such need of cream of tartar punch!]

26. 26. Went to bed last night at 2; lay sleepless till 5; rose at 7.

29. Went to bed at 1 in bad order. Was waked at 8; a most infernal sore throat and too drowsy to rise; lay till 2 p. John M'Donald came in at least twenty times.

30. Had been intemperate. By way of cure drank excessively of cr. tar. punch; kept going till 5; very little sleep ; rose at 9. Bad order; very bad, but sore throat gone.

31. Drank hot whisky toddy to balance the oysters.

[Rachel: Dear God!]

[Now Burr is on the road again, with predictable results.]

1. The usual time of arrival is 1 P. M., but the coachman and the guard both got a little boozy, and each had a girl. Stopped every few minutes to drink. The coachman extremely insolent. With great difficulty got a very dirty bed, in a room with another, and, after an hour's perseverance, got a little fire and a glass of hot lemonade.

[Burr realizes he’s in danger of getting arrested for debt and decides to hide out.]

10. Out to look for obscure lodgings.

[Then there’s a long sequence in which he goes around visiting people and writes multiple notes of apology. Not sure if it was for the debts, for being drunk, for being Aaron Burr, or what.]

14. Slept one sound nap from 12 to 9! What has happened to make me such a sluggard? It must be the air of this country.

[Rachel: Yep. The air. That’s got to be it!]

18. Cre. tar. punch, which kept me up till 5. Madame P. sat with me till 3 and
nursed me with great tenderness.

[Rachel: Aww. Finally, he gets some comfort! At this point I feel like he’s earned it.]

19. K. called at 10. I was still abed. Rose at 2 p.

[Then there’s a long period where he’s legally prevented from leaving the country, his books and papers get confiscated (and he freaks out over the thought of everyone reading all about his hangovers), he’s threatened with arrest, and actually gets detained for a while. Cream of tartar punch appears in virtually every entry during this period. Then he finally is allowed to leave the country, to his great relief. But needless to say…]

28. Wind N. E. and rose to a gale. Beating all Friday and Saturday. On Friday no one at dinner but captain, mate, and myself. Friday evening (28th) I was taken seasick. Kept bed all Saturday and Sunday, eating nothing.

[Rachel: Burr arrives in Sweden, but of course things go wrong the instant he steps off the boat.]

Our baggage all passed without any troublesome search. Trunks merely opened for form. My sack, the article about which I was most apprehensive of trouble, on account of the books it contained, passed without opening. But my large trunk, containing all my clothes, is missing. I sent by the captain M'Donnaugh's letter to Malm et fih z, with a note requesting them to provide me a lodging. While at the custom-house, a brother-in-law of Malm came from him to show me my lodgings. Smith, the British consul, hearing that I had a letter for him from Colonel Mosheim, came also to tender his services. Mr. Oppenheim, of Memel, merchant, fellow passenger, very civil. Offered me a room at his quarters, which, fool-like, I did not accept. Alas! my trunk, my trunk!

[Rachel: This is at least the third time Burr has lost his luggage. The next day…]

Dressed as well as could be without my trunk, and breakfasted. Not in good order. Met here the captain and mate of the Diana. Both swear the trunk is not on board! The mate agreed to meet me at 7 at Todd's, at the landing. Walked there with the Lieutenant, one and a half miles. The mate not there. Took punch and pipe, and walked on a mile and a half further. Met the captain on return. Still insists that the trunk was put into the custom- house boat. The steward says the same. Engaged Smith and Malm to aid in search.

As the packet will sail tomorrow for Harwich, and the mail closes this evening at 5, wrote a postscript to my letters to T.B.A. and a letter to W. Graves about my trunk, enclosing to him the two letters for T. B. A. and a letter to Bellington, the agent of aliens at Harwich — a civil-looking animal — also about the trunk. Not only all my clothes, but my four letter-books, gone, gone! Went to Smith and Malm to urge them to search; but it is probable that my trunk never left Harwich. At 5 went to Smith's to give my letters, and lo, his young Swede had found my trunk on board the Diana! Huzza!
rachelmanija: (Bleach: Parakeet of DOOM)
2016-03-08 01:54 pm

Aaron Burr’s Journal: What a Curse to Have Two Coats at Once!

[Rachel: It is truly amazing how much his bad travel luck sounds like mine. Substitute planes for ships and trains for coaches, and this could be my diary. The hotel problems don’t even need any substitution.]

3. Had very carefully put Mr. Achaud's letter, my handkerchiefs, and other small articles in the pockets of the coat I intended to wear. Anna had put my room in order before I got down. After being two hours on the way, missed my handkerchiefs, and, upon quiet examination, discovered that I had taken the wrong coat. What a curse to have two coats at a time!

[Rachel: I once arrived in New York City during a record snowstorm with no coat. When I opened my suitcase to see if I had accidentally packed rather than wearing it, I discovered that I still had no coat but had brought two bottles of red nail polish. No idea why; no recollection of packing them or need for even one, let alone two. I was visiting colleges to see which I might want to apply to and decided I didn't want to live anywhere that gets snowstorms, so the trip definitely helped me make up my mind on that. Anyway, I completely identify with Burr’s coat and handkerchief predicament.]

27. Spent two hours in hunting for some bank bills, my whole stock, and finally gave them up as lost. Found them when and where least expected.

[Rachel: This too is my life.]

29. Caught in the rain, having yesterday left my umbrella at Brentford — no doubt lost.

[Rachel: Same umbrella he borrowed/stole from a friend? Given that this is Aaron Burr, I can’t tell if the answer is “yes, of course,” or “No, because he lost that one earlier and this is a new one.”]

Read out the review of the "Life of Washington" by Marshall and Ramsay. The review is full as stupid, and as illy written, as either of the books. Came down to bring up your journal since Saturday, the 7th, lest such important incidents should not be recorded. I know you will rave like a little Juno if you are not told what I do, and where I go every day. I could write six or eight very amusing pages of the incidents of the last three days, but they must be said and not written. (My journal is four days in arrear. Half will be forgotten. This is Saturday evening. I will try to recollect.)

[Rachel: I will give Burr this: he sounds like a pretty good Dad. He and Theodosia (“you”) obviously have a great relationship. For that matter, he also seems to have been an excellent husband to Theodosia senior (now deceased.)]

7. Went to the stage-house in Piccadilly to inquire for my umbrella, but with little hope. It was there, brought by the coachman; 1 shilling 6 pence. How very honest people are here, and yet I am cheated most impudently every hour!

Sunday. Took leave of B., and sent for hack to transport me and my trunk, being, as you will see by your map, three good miles. No coach was to be had. Went myself — no coach; so here is Gamp [Burr], at 1 in the morning, at Queen's Square Place, writing nonsense to T.B.A. [Theodosia] having let all his fire go out and the last candle just gone. Played chess an hour with K. I have ordered Ann to wake me at 7. For what? When shall I get off?

12. Tom is to bring word of the hour of the stage going to Gaddesden, being determined to go somewhere today. Tom did not return till 1, and brought word that the stage would go at 1; so got coach and went off at a great rate. The stage had been gone 10 m. before I got there.

[Rachel: This ALWAYS happens to him. If he’s on time, his transportation is late. If he’s late, his transportation leaves without him.]

I thought I would go and hunt for some coach going any hour today or night ; but having no place to put my trunk, was obliged to keep the coach. After running about for two hours and spending 9 shillings in coach hire, I discovered, what at any stage-house they might have told me, that no coach would go to Gaddesden till 1 P. M. to-morrow.

[Rachel: Burr gives up and gets a room at a hotel. Needless to say…]

A bed with very dirty sheets, to which I objected; but the maid assured me, upon her honour, that they were very clean, and that she put them on herself. So I am bound to think them clean; but shall, nevertheless, not undress.

[Rachel: Wise of him.]

Since beginning the preceding page, the servants have been three different times in my room to inquire whether they should put out my candles. To the first message I replied very distinctly that I always put out my own candles, and desired that I might not be again interrupted. This did not defend me against the two subsequent intrusions. The object of this affected civility is to save one inch of tallow. This very rigid calculation is universal.

[Rachel: Never not funny how the man who was a distinguished commander in the American Revolution, nearly became President, and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel is invariably bullied, blackmailed, defied, disobeyed, ignored, snubbed, ripped off, and ditched by maids, coachmen, laundresses, bootmakers, and random passengers. Check him out attempting to extract a piece of soap from the maid at his fleabag hotel:]

13. Rose at 9. At the tavern. No soap. Asked for a piece to wash hands. The maid said
soap was so dear that she could not give it without leave, but she would go and ask her mistress, which I forbid, but gave her 1 shillings to go and buy me a piece. She "would tell the footman" — every one in their department! A cake of soap was brought for 15 pence, which will probably last me three months, which is at the rate of 1 penny a week, and at this rate, if there should be twelve lodgers in the house, the value of the soap used by the whole would be 1 shilling 3 pence per week and about 3 guineas per annum!

14. Having made half a dinner at Queen's Square Place, drove off furiously to the White Horse, Piccadilly, to be in time for the Oxford stage. Having waited half an hour and the coach not come, the weather cool, went in to warm. Having warmed half an hour, and wondering at the delay, went out to see. The coach had been gone twenty minutes. My honest coachman, as well to be sheltered from the storm as for repose, had got inside and was sound asleep.

Oxford, December 22. Was called at 6, to be ready for the coach at 7. Gave my baggage to a porter, but, being stopped a minute to make change, he got out of my sight. I missed the way, and when I got to the Bolt Inn the coach had gone.

[Rachel: Of course it had.

What I want to know, since there don’t seem to be any pre-duel diaries, was whether this is just what Burr’s life was always like, or if Hamilton’s ghost was hanging out to make sure that nothing ever went right for him. I lean toward the former, possibly with some additional assistance from the latter: Burr seems more resigned than surprised by his endless catastrophes, and also this is the guy who eventually deals with the candle issue by trying to light it with gunpowder from a pistol he happened to have lying around. This is a man to whom catastrophes don’t merely happen, but are invited with open arms.]

My passage having been paid in the evening, there was no inducement to wait for me. Pursued and had the good fortune to overtake the coach. Found in it one man. Having preserved perfect silence for a few minutes by way of experiment, I remarked that the day was very mild, which he flatly denied, and in a tone and manner as if he would have bit me.

[Rachel: Burr does eventually manage to get a conversation going. He is then joined by a pretty young woman, who initially is friendly, but then…]

After various fruitless essays, and at first without suspecting the cause, finding it impossible to provoke anything beyond a cold monosyllable, I composed myself to sleep, and slept soundly about eight hours. (There must be something narcotic in the air of this island. I have slept more during my six months' residence in Great Britain than in any preceding three years of my life since the age of 14.)

[Rachel: Given the multiple entries to come that begin with “Hungover” or “hungover again” or “took hangover remedy immediately upon waking,” I would not be so quick to blame the air.]

12 o'clock. Still at Birmingham. Full of contrition and remorse. Lost my passage. Lost or spent 28 shillings and a pair of gloves. Every bed in the house engaged. No hope of getting on but by the mail at 7 tomorrow morning. The office shut, and no passage to betaken tonight. What business had I to go sauntering about the streets of a strange place, alone and unarmed, on a Christmas eve? Truly, I want a guardian more than at 15.

[Rachel: Yes. Yes, you are definitely in desperate need of a minder.]
rachelmanija: (Default)
2016-03-07 03:26 pm

In which "Hamilton" continues to save my sanity

If it wasn't for Hamilton, I would never have read Aaron Burr's journal. It continues to charm and delight; I will post more excerpts later. Like the entire last week and, for that matter, last eight months, today has been almost entirely taken up with medical stuff. I just got back from seeing one doctor and have to go do a test right now, which will take up most of the rest of the day. But at least I have The Secret Diary of Aaron Burr, Legendary Fuck-Up, to read in waiting rooms.

So far he has repeatedly lost his luggage, had his laundry held hostage, been chased from his bed by insects in the middle of the night and then lose a pitched battle with them, set himself on fire, and spent ten days obsessing over a blemish on his nose. Since all of this has also happened to me, this is making me feel slightly better about my own life. Like, at least I didn't kill the creator of the Coast Guard, New York Post, and America's financial system in a duel and then get tried for treason for trying to secede from the US and make myself Emperor of Mexico?
rachelmanija: (Avatar: Zuko's heart is withered)
2016-03-06 11:35 am

Aaron Burr’s Journal: Till The Proboscis Be In Order

This edition was edited and footnoted by William Bixby in 1903. Bixby’s introduction fills in the events preceding Burr's journal (the duel), taking great pains to explain that this was a different time and dueling was acceptable, and also Burr was pretty awesome and everyone with taste thought so:

Bixby: After a short tour through the South, where he [Burr] was received by the best society, Colonel Burr returned to Washington to resume his duties as Vice President of the United States. He presided over the Senate during the trial of Judge Chase of Maryland " with the dignity and impartiality of an angel and the rigor of a demon," and the day after the trial closed, his term being about to expire, delivered a farewell address to the Senate, which was so full of eloquence and pathos that most of the Senators were in tears when he concluded.

Rachel: I would you to keep this and everything you think you know about Aaron Burr, fictional versions included, as you read the excerpts from his actual diaries. Also, that he was considered to be extremely handsome.

One of my absolute favorite things about this edition is watching Bixby slowly lose his mind in footnotes as his admiration from Burr is swamped by his annoyance at Burr’s illegible handwriting and tendency to use words in languages which he doesn’t speak and can’t spell:

Bixby’s Introduction: Burr used French when referring to his discreditable adventures, ("accidents," he called them), but he used it very frequently for other purposes. He shows, indeed, throughout the entire Journal a singular fondness for using words from languages other than his own. This is childish at times. In Sweden he learned the words brod and mjolk, and then used them almost exclusively for three years thereafter, instead of the English words, bread and milk. He seemed immensely pleased when he could draw upon several languages to form a single sentence. For example, he wrote: "Bro. and cas. for din." Here we have four languages represented in a sentence of five words! Bro. is an abbreviation of the Swedish word brod, bread ; cas. is probably Burr's attempt to write the German word Kdse, cheese, and din. is his abbreviation of the French word diner, dinner.

Rachel: These excerpts are in chronological order, and start very soon after the beginning. He’s staying with or near Jeremy Bentham. This sets a deceptively elevated tone which will rarely be seen again.

The Journal of Aaron Burr

October 1, 1808. Bootmaker — a great liar; boots not done.

4. Rose at 6. Sent porter for trunk and boots. Neither done. Clothes not come from wash. Stage for Gaddesden to start at 12, and nothing ready; bought two shirts. Clothes and trunk came at 11. Packed up tout suite and drove comme diable [Bixby: like the Devil] to stage-house, Oxford street. Discovered that the hour of departure was one and not twelve o'clock.

[Rachel: Burr is living my life.]

9. Breakfast at M'Carthy's at 10, having agreed to ride with him to see the place of the Earl of Bute, said to have the best collection of pictures in England. Nobody was there.

12. Rose at 5. Got in stage at 6, intending to take post-chaise from Hamel Hemstead to St. Albans to visit Lord Grimstone; but no chaise was to be had, so came into town, where arrived at 10 o'clock. To Faleur; not content with his work. Impertinence of his goldsmith, whom I ordered out of the room for obtruding his opinions. F. is to mend his work, and I am to call to-morrow — thence to S. Swartwout. It was fortunate that I came to town, for yesterday he received orders to go on to Liverpool forthwith.

Received letter from D. M. Randolph; very melancholy. Speaks of the death of a most valued friend in America, which must be particularly afflicting to me. Who can he mean? I have heard of no death of the least consequence to anybody.

[Rachel: And here comes the Tale of the Nose. I have cut some stuff that’s incomprehensible, not that interesting, or just for length. But don't worry, I did not miss a single word of nose.]

23. On returning home, called at Turnevelli's, the statuary, and engaged to give him a sitting to-morrow at 11.

24. Rose at 9. Wrote to Sir Mark not to call till 1. Went to Turnevelli's. He would have a mask. I consented, because Bentham, et al had. A very unpleasant ceremony. To Sir Mark's; he was sitting down to breakfast. Walked together. Called at Herries and Farquar's, St. James's street, agents of the late Colonel Charles Williamson, to see for letters from T. [Rachel: Theodosia?] None! none!!

Found a note from Baron Norton, requesting an interview. No doubt some law business. Wrote him to call at 12 tomorrow. Sir Mark had engaged me to call on Signora B. Just as we were going out, casting my eyes in the mirror I observed a great purple mark on my nose. Went up and washed it and rubbed it — all to no purpose. It was indelible. That cursed mask business has occasioned it. I believe the fellow used quicklime instead of plaster of Paris, for I felt a very unpleasant degree of heat during the operation. I sent Sir Mark off, resolved to see no Signora till the proboscis be in order.

[Rachel: I think this might be my favorite line of the entire nose story.]

Wrote Ons. [Bixby: Madame Onslow], with whom I had engaged to pass the evening, apologizing. […] I have been applying a dozen different applications to the nose, which have only inflamed it. How many curses have I heaped on that Italian! Read to B. review of Leckie's work, which took till 9. K. came in, and we finished Thierry. I shall go early to bed (say 12), in hopes to sleep off my nasology.

25. Did not get to bed till 1. Rose at 9. Nose the same.

[Rachel: Is this reminding anyone else of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Age 13 ¾? Also, I so understand the "shall go early to bed/oops, stayed up reading LJ till 3:00 AM issue."]

At 11, went to Turnevelli's to sit. Relieved myself by cursing him for the nose disaster. He bore it like one conscious, and endeavored to console me by stating that the same thing happened to Lord Melville and to several others, and that the appearance passed off in a few days.

[Rachel: I can’t imagine that statement was in the least consoling!]

Took a hack, not liking to walk and exhibit my nose. Stayed two hours with Turnevelli. He will make a most hideous, frightful thing, but much like the original. After leaving Tur., being unfit for any reasonable thing, rode to Madame O.'s to apprise her that if she were disengaged I would call after dinner and play chess. It was agreed. Rode to F's to give him a written mem. pointing out the defects and containing precise directions. […] Chez moi [Bixby: my home] where I do nothing but muse for two hours.

[Rachel: I assume on his proboscis.]

26. Rose at 9. Went to Turnevelli's at 11; nose a little improved. Sat one hour. The thing grows more hideous at every touch. […] Roved about two or three hours hunting a chess table, or stand with chess board inlaid; did not find one to please me. Home at 3 to dress for dinner, being engaged to General Picton at the Tower Coffee-house. Went there, the nose notwithstanding, at 2.

26. I am out of all patience at being detained in town, and am in danger of wearying out my great and good friend Bentham. From Reeves's walked on to visit the Donna; but,
recollecting my nose, walked home.

[Rachel: That is the closest he comes to referring to the duel – the reason he’s detained is that he’s wanted for murder. But what’s he actually worried about? Well...]

28. Rose at 9. Nose a little improved.

Sent Tom to Graves for the laws of New York, and to Miller, bootmaker. It is now five weeks since I put into Miller's hands some of Bellamy's leather for a pair of boots. One pair which I could not get on, were sent and were returned. Since that I have had daily promises, but no boots. The shoes, which cost 17 shillings, I could not wear, and have given them away. Thus it is with every mechanic I have employed in London except my tailor, Beck, who lies a little, but far less than any other.

Waited till 1 for Tom's return, and then went to Turnevelli's. Sat one hour. Worse and worse! This was meant to please you; but if I had suspected that I had become so infernally ugly, I would sooner have.

[Rachel: I think the "you" is his daughter Theodosia, to whom he meant to send his journals. Bixby was so horrified by the thought of a lady reading about her father's sexual exploits and general TMI that he had a highly unconvincing note in the introduction saying that Burr undoubtedly meant to censor the hell out of them first. I doubt that very much.]

Roved about for two hours, ruminating on this sort of non-existence and on you. E.A., too, often accompanies me. Got home safe at 4. Mr. Elkton Hammond, merchant, to dine with us. A very intelligent young man; admiring the works of B. Has two sisters; one studies legislation, the other chymistry. The chymist said to be pretty. I am to dine there with B. on Thursday, when you shall hear more of them.

29. Rose at 9. I don't recollect to have told you that on my return from Weybridge, I had determined to set off immediately for Scotland. Six weeks have elapsed, and I am apparently (what hellish scrawls [1]; I must try to do better, or this precious mem. will be lost to you and to the world), apparently no nearer departure than on the day of my return.

[1. Bixby: The description is perfect!]

30. Wrote Madame Prevost and am now going to bed. The nose improves apace; hope it will be exhibitable to-morrow, and be fit for inspection of the legislatrix and the chymistress. Bon soir!

London, December 1, 1808. To Turnevelli's ; abroad. Glad of it, for I would give 5 guineas that the thing were demolished!

24. Sent trunks to get better locks. So much plague as I had to get trunks, and the locks are naught. To Turnevelli's, who had been to hunt me. Sat only twenty minutes. He is determined to go through with it ; tries to encourage me; finds it wonderfully like Voltaire; but all won't do. It is a horrid piece of deformity.

To Falieri; not ready. To Miss Mallet. The most rational being I have seen. Staid a whole hour, and greatly pleased with her. Good breeding and social talents in a degree very rare. Why don't I go there oftener? Because I do nothing that I wish or intend.

[Rachel: Oh, Burr.]

30. To Turnevelli's ; not at home; shall never be done with that fellow, and yet he tries his best; but the strange irregularities and deformities of the face defy all art.

10 To Turnevelli's at 2. I wish I had never begun with him.
rachelmanija: (Gundam Wing: Heero falling)
2016-03-05 12:00 pm

The Journal of Aaron Burr: Teaser and Emails

I began reading Aaron's Burr's diary while I was in a plane stuck on a runway, repeatedly delayed due to "rain in San Francisco" (not exactly a rare phenomenon), when I was attempting to get to SF for a potentially life-changingly crucial appointment that day. I had allowed myself three hours leeway in addition to the actual time needed to get to the appointment; those hours were rapidly ticking down as the plane was delayed and delayed and delayed. I later learned that there had been no rain in San Francisco at that time. (The plane was 2 1/2 hours late, but I did make the appointment.)

This proved to be the absolute ideal time to read the journal of Aaron Burr. It was written post-duel, pre-treason trial, while he is traveling around Europe to avoid being brought up on a murder charge. Theodosia Jr. is alive. The duel has not yet been mentioned (but I am skimming for the good stuff, and only halfway through, so I could have missed something.)

Burr's diary bears virtually no resemblance not only to any fictional Burrs, but also to ANYTHING you'd expect just from reading the events of his life. It is primarily about his hilarious travel misadventures, and in fact reads remarkably like a travel journal of mine just in terms of events - "it could only happen to Aaron." If you have read the excerpts floating online in which he sets himself on fire and obsesses about a zit on his nose, let me tell you, you have only begun to scratch the surface of the hilarity.

The version I have was put together in 1901 by William K. Bixtbt (typo for Bixby?), with a foreword extolling Burr and saying he was unfairly maligned, and noting that an earlier version was heavily rewritten and censored. So beware that one, I guess. He notes that Burr's handwriting is terrible, and that he uses many foreign words and also some private code, and that while he was more-or-less fluent in French, he also uses lots of words from languages he did not actually speak. The footnotes get more and more annoyed and snippy as the book goes on as the poor editor struggles to make sense of sentences which are 1) illegible, 2) written in three different languages, 3) in which every single word is misspelled, ungrammatical, or both.

I started emailing a friend from the runway. Here are a few of my emails.

10:03 AM. Transcription horrible. You must read anyway. It is hilarious. I am like five pages in and have already encountered the zit saga, which is even funnier in full, plus multiple complaints about bootmakers and much snark.

10:12 AM: He has now been going on about his nose for something like 10 pages.

10:27 AM: One of the very first entries:

Bootmaker a great liar; boots not done.

I feel that this [my plane getting stuck] is the sort of thing that would also happen to Aaron Burr. The nose thing is not actually a zit and the reason for it is HILARIOUS. He sounds like Cyrano de Bergerac.

10:32 AM: Burr is also having bad luck traveling:

After being two hours on the way, missed my handkerchiefs and, upon quiet examination, discovered that I had taken the wrong coat. What a curse to have two coats at a time!

It is like the time I arrived in NYC with no coat and two bottles of red nail polish.

10:51 AM: I am still on the runway. Meanwhile, Burr has somehow lost all his luggage and his carriage fare.

10:54 AM: Burr made it a few entries with no incident, but has now been hungover for two entries in a row.

11:00 AM: Burr is now hungover again. He drinks cream of tartar punch as a remedy. (Yecch.)

Also interesting, he really likes women. Not just to sex up. As people. He keeps noting whether they are smart, pretty, or both.

Resemblance to Miranda's Burr: nil.

Resemblance to Vidal's Burr: only in very limited areas.

11:03 AM: Burr just lost his umbrella and has taken (stolen? unclear) the umbrella of a friend. Fully expect him to lose that too.

Burr's Journal Online. Not sure if this includes the footnotes. I got my copy off Amazon for $1.99.
rachelmanija: (Modesty)
2016-03-05 11:09 am

The Return of the Mammoth (Modesty Blaise comics), by Peter O’Donnell

Modesty Blaise (like a female James Bond, only cooler and with more martial arts) and her knife-throwing platonic life partner Willie Garvin exist in both comics and books; I have read all the books, but not all the comics. They were somewhat formative influences on me, and you will understand why when I summarize the plot of this comic, which I found at Karen and Chaz’s house and had not previously read.

Willie is lounging shirtless in bed with one of his many girlfriends (he likes women, they like him, but Modesty owns his heart and soul) when he gets a call saying “Chloe’s in trouble! Come to Helsinki!” He immediately rushes off. The girlfriend, understandably concerned, calls Modesty, who goes to Helsinki in case he needs help. (This is way pre-cell phones, so she can’t just call him.) She figures Chloe is probably one of his girlfriends or exes.

In Helsinki, she spots a flyer for a circus where Willie sometimes performs as a knife thrower because of course he does, so she goes there to see if he’s checked in with them. The circus folk inform her that Chloe is his favorite elephant, who was recently confiscated by Russian scientists because she is a good genetic match for the frozen mammoth which they excavated from an iceberg. They intend to fertilize her to get a mammoth baby. Willie thought she’d be unhappy away from her sisters and also doesn’t want her experimented on, so he took off to rescue her.

Modesty goes back to her hotel to pack or something before going after him. But an international assassin on a completely unrelated mission spots her, leaps to the conclusion that she’s been sent to take him out, and sends his best goons after her. She takes out two of them unarmed, then gets trapped in a second-floor bathroom with more goons breaking down the door. Also meanwhile, the circus is parading through the streets below. So she strips down to her bra and panties on the excuse that this will look more like a circus costume than her rather modest previous outfit, squirms through the window, yells that she needs a trampoline, and leaps down once the circus people get it in place. Onlookers think this is part of the act and applaud.

This all happens in the first 4 pages.

Modesty then catches up with Willie and they hang-glide into Russia to rescue Chloe. The rest of the comic book (24 pages total) includes multiple gunfights, martial arts fights, several escapes on elephant back, Chloe knocking down the walls of a convenient semi-ruined castle on to more goons, and a climactic battle in which Modesty kills the main assassin with a gun to her head and both hands tied behind her back. (With her feet.) Meanwhile, Willie guards a wounded Russian general who was the original object of the assassination, in anguish because Modesty is wearing a bug in her bra, so he knows she’s in danger and can hear from her accelerated heartbeat that she’s about to make her move, but she made him swear to stay where he was rather than rush to her aid.

In the end, Chloe is restored to the circus and her sisters, Modesty is deeply moved by Willie’s devotion, and the Russian general says the scientists will just have to live without a baby mammoth. If there had been one more page, I’m sure a baby mammoth would have appeared.

Modesty Blaise: The Return of the Mammoth, Plato's Republic, the Sword of the Bruce (The Comic Strip Series)
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: Let me sum up)
2016-03-04 03:30 pm

Guess the canon!

I will give some sort of prize to anyone who can guess the canon (author, etc) from whence I just read this line of dialogue: "I don't know what else they do in that lab except fertilize other people's elephants from a deep-frozen mammoth…"

Hint: The speaker and person being addressed are hang-gliding into Russia.
rachelmanija: (Default)
2016-03-02 12:43 pm

Hamilton: Rise Up, Stand Still

Alexander Hamilton gets a huge amount of imagery of upward motion-- flying, climbing, rising, and so forth. He's a social climber clawing his way to the top; he has high ideals; a penniless immigrant rising up from the bottom; a scrapper fighting his way to the top of the heap; taking part in an uprising, one of the people rising up to rebel; a soldier and politician rising up through the ranks; an upstart rising above his proper place; he soars too high and falls; his final shot is fired into the sky.

Hamilton is the embodiment of ambition, ideals, greatness, drive, and hubris, all of which are symbolically expressed in reaching or rising upward: not just forward momentum (“see him now as he stands on/The bow of a ship headed for a new land,”) but upward momentum.

Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s opposite, antagonist, and mirror image, gets appropriately opposite imagery. He’s associated with stillness and waiting; being, not doing.

But Hamilton and Burr— opposites who have more in common than they realize, learn from each other, and sometimes adopt each other’s methods— share two images. One is “stand,” which reverses their usual imagery patterns: Hamilton is the one who takes a stand (literally stands still, but metaphorically speaks his mind) while getting more and more frustrated at Burr not taking one. However, whenever possible, even that phrasing is expressed in terms of Burr being the one to not move: “For once in your life take a stand with pride/I don’t understand why you stand to the side.” The second line re-purposes “stand” to once again mean “stay where you are; don't take part.” Similarly, when Hamilton stands ("See him now as he stands on the bow of a ship/Heading to a new land"), he may be still but the ship is carrying him forward.

The other image both men share is “fall.” Both men get a fair amount of falling imagery, and this time it means the same thing for them both: they fall in love, they fell from grace, they fell on hard times, they reached too high and it proved to be their downfall.

The shared imagery suggests that in addition to being each other’s opposites, they also have similarities and complement each other. Imagine how wide the world could have been if they’d joined forces instead of destroying each other…

Cut for extreme length: Read more... )