31 March 2014

Books Completed Since March 1

Where are all the books for March? Well, I was finishing the winter magazines I didn't read in the winter because I was catching up reading the Christmas magazines. And I was dipping into The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries almost every night. And because I started a bunch that I haven't yet finished. So that's why there are only...goggle...three books in here. Be assured I was reading. :-D

book icon Sherlock Holmes FAQ, Dave Thompson
Two things are very obvious after reading this book: Dave Thompson loves the series Sherlock and doesn't like the series Elementary. And he manages to check off a selected list about Sherlock pastiches and books with Sherlockian protagonists, including Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce novels, and never once mentions Laurie King's now at-least-ten-book series featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell. I think I know what that means. :-)

Using the gimmick of naming the chapters as if they were the titles of Sherlock Holmes adventures (which does get tiresome after awhile) and writing as if the narrative is a Victorian mystery, Thompson tells the story of Arthur Conan Doyle, son of an alcoholic father and a mother who protected him from his rages, the story of the "Strand" magazine, and finally all about the canon story-by-story and interesting notes about each (a River Song warning: spoilers!), followed by commentary on Holmes media adaptations, going all the way back to the William Gillette play that gave the world a Holmes eternally in deerstalker cap and with meerschaum pipe.

In addition, the book is dotted with numerous illustrations of Holmes illustrations, photographs of actors who played Holmes and Watson, movie posters, cigarette cards, Sherlock Holmes games, and more. If you're a Holmes devotee, you may not find anything new here, but it's in a smart package that's altogether enjoyable if you, like me, can't get enough of the world's favorite consulting detective. 

book icon Louisa Alcott: Girl of Old Boston, Jean Brown Wagner
This is a charming, child-oriented biography in Bobbs-Merrill's "Childhood of Famous Americans" series, illustrated with darling silhouette illustrations. As a juvenile biography from the 1940s, it takes a simple, childlike view of Louisa's early life and much of the reality of what actually happened is missing: the endless, grinding household work; going hungry because her father's teaching didn't bring in much money; the Alcotts' mercurial fortunes. But as a simple introduction to Louisa's childhood, it's perfect for a younger child interested in "how people lived."

I was amused by the endpapers, which feature some of the famous women portrayed in the series. In probably my favorite "Dear America" novel, Lasky's Christmas After All, her young heroine Minnie accompanies her sister to the Bobbs-Merrill Christmas party (her sister works there) and is given a biography of Martha Washington. Minnie makes a face and asks why they don't do biographies of more interesting women, ones who do things, like her favorite, Amelia Earhardt. According to the end papers, Bobbs-Merrill apparently "took Minnie's advice" and did do a bio of Earhardt. :-)

book icon  Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, Anne Jamison and others
Fanfiction isn't anything new. It wasn't born with Trekkies writing Mary Sue fiction about Spock. Unauthorized sequels to Jane Austen novels popped up almost immediately, and sequels and alternate versions continue to appear (a novel about Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servants was just recently released).  J.M. Barrie wrote Sherlock Holmes fic along with Peter Pan; Sherlockian "fanfic" has existed almost as long as there has been a Holmes and Watson, and Arthurian fanfiction and sequels to noted novels like Don Quixote dot literature. Austen herself even wrote fanfiction as a child, about the Duke of Wellington.

Anyway, as a fanfiction reader and writer, I had, had, had to have this book, and in general I enjoyed it. I have the two classic fanfiction books, Jenkins' Textual Poachers and Bacon-Smith's Enterprising Women, and this looked as if it were a good update into the world of today's internet fanfiction. And so it is; just past page 100 the past of mimeographs and offset printing has been overtaken by online fic, and I was enlightened.

Still, things bothered me. First, for anyone who likes fanfiction but who is sensitive to swearing, be advised this book is full of strong language. Second, there seems to be an overreliance on Twilight fanfiction in the narrative. Third—where's all the gen fanfic? Almost every online fanfic addressed between pages 107-388 is het or slash fic. I have no objection to adult fic. I've written adult fic. But where are the character studies, the adventure tales, the hurt/comfort, the fill-ins? I came out of the book with the bemused impression that 100 percent of online fanfiction is about sexual encounters, and it only confirmed that I have no interest in who Bella Swan bonks. So—it's enjoyable, it's informative, but it's rather one-sided. Be forewarned.

No comments: