Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This is Not to be Bourne

One of the best scenes in Pride and Prejudice is Lady Catherine de Bourgh's smack down of Lizzy that doesn't quite go to plan. She had intended for Lizzy to meekly agree to all her demands with regards to her nephew, therefore it is quite a shock when Lizzy doesn't play ball. Yes, Darcy's declaration of love might be the most loved, and the opening line the most quoted, but to me, NOTHING beats this scene. What Lady Catherine says flows off Lizzy like water off a duck's back and this makes her incensed, crying out "This is Not to be Bourne!" Lady Catherine can not believe her words are insignificant to Lizzy, yet they are, which lead to how I handled the treatment of this piece. I used the same paper stock as I did for my first piece in this series, "Every Savage Can Dance." Yet I reversed the treatment of the figures. In "Every Savage Can Dance" I used pencil over a ground of gesso. This lead to the figures popping out of the background and having definition with the line work on top. Here I didn't want the figures to pop. I wanted them kind of ghosted, to show that Lady Catherine's words will not impact Lizzy's decisions one bit. Therefore I laid down the pencil first and laid the gesso over it, obscuring the lines. Lady Catherine might think she has impact, but she has left no impression at all. While I admit that this piece might not be the most dramatic that I made in this series, I do think that it went exactly to plan with getting the meaning across. So shall I call it a success?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Published by: Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 180 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told... until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: "Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me."

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat...

Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!"

A little Stephen King novella for you!

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Published by: Subterranean
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 128 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone—999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher—a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death's crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death, and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge what they see as a wrong.

It's a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it's too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him."

Followed by a John Scalzi novella, with the typical bad cover art of Subterranean Press.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Published by: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds meets Nimona in this novel about art, fandom, and finding the courage to be yourself. Features illustrations by the author throughout. Perfect for readers of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, this is the second novel by the acclaimed author of Made You Up.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl."

OK, yes, I did first go, oooooh, the title! But the description sounds cool as well...

Ex Libris: Stories of Librarians, Libraries and Lore edited by Paul Guran
Published by: Prime Books
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Portals to all the knowledge in the world, libraries are also created universes of a multitude of imaginations. Librarians guide us to enlightenment as well as serving as the captains, mages, and gatekeepers who open the doors to delight, speculation, wonder, and terror. Both inspire writers of speculative fiction to pen wonderful tales woven around them.

This captivating compilation of science fiction and fantasy short fiction showcases stories of librarians-mysterious curators, heroic bibliognosts, arcane archivists, catalogers of very special collections-and libraries-repositories of arcane wisdom, storehouses of signals from other galaxies, bastions of culture, the last outposts of civilization in a post-apocalyptic world . . . grand adventures and small sagas of the magical places we call libraries and the wizards who staff them!"

Even IF this collection didn't have all the authors it did, seriously, it's about libraries, I'm in. 

Aunt Dimity and the Widow's Curse by Nancy Atherton
Published by: Viking
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Nancy Atherton's twenty-second cozy mystery in the beloved, nationally bestselling Aunt Dimity series.

It's early April in the small English village of Finch. Lori Shepherd's husband and sons are spending Easter break camping, and Lori is perfectly happy to be left at home with Bess, spared a week of roughing it with a curious toddler. The two attend a village events committee meeting and Lori is astonished when the elderly, soft-spoken widow Mrs. Annabelle Craven stands to make an announcement: she's decided to hold a quilting bee in the old schoolhouse.

At the quilting bee, Lori ends up seated beside Mrs. Craven, delighted at the opportunity to learn more about her neighbor's life in the village of Old Cowerton. But dear, sweet Mrs. Craven's stories reveal a startling secret about her first husband's death.

With Aunt Dimity's advice, Lori sets out to learn the truth about what the residents of Old Cowerton refer to as the "widow's curse"--and the deeper she digs, the more horrifying the tale becomes, until she discovers the most astounding revelation of all."

Aunt Dimity, the female and dead Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Murders. 

The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry
Published by: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 30th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 160 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"What does it mean to be male in the 21st Century? Award-winning artist Grayson Perry explores what masculinity is: from sex to power, from fashion to career prospects, and what it could become—with illustrations throughout.

In this witty and necessary new book, artist Grayson Perry trains his keen eye on the world of men to ask, what sort of man would make the world a better place? What would happen if we rethought the macho, outdated version of manhood, and embraced a different ideal? In the current atmosphere of bullying, intolerance and misogyny, demonstrated in the recent Trump versus Clinton presidential campaign, The Descent of Man is a timely and essential addition to current conversations around gender.

Apart from gaining vast new wardrobe options, the real benefit might be that a newly fitted masculinity will allow men to have better relationships—and that’s happiness, right? Grayson Perry admits he’s not immune from the stereotypes himself—yet his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness, and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, updating masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups."

I'll admit I didn't know who Grayson Perry was until recently. Then I watched him on Graham Norton, and damn, so intelligent and witty. So yes, I'm picking up this book!

Friday, May 26, 2017

It is Enough to Know They are Discovered

"It is Enough to Know They are Discovered" captures that moment when Lizzy and Jane finally learn that Lydia and Wickham have been found in London and, for that moment, "it is enough to know." Whatever else happens in the uncertain future must be tempered by the fact their location is no longer unknown in that vast and teaming metropolis. The original illustration by the brothers Brock includes Mr. Bennet as well, but I felt like he didn't fit. He added a domineering presence, at least in the illustration, and I thought that this was far more of an intimate moment between two sisters regarding their concern for their youngest sibling. Which is why I decided to render the image in watercolor. This is a medium that girls of the Regency period would have been familiar with, and though the Bennet sisters don't have any pretensions or inclinations in the direction of non-musical talents, they would be familiar with it nonetheless. As for the paper choice, I used paper that had flowers in it. The reason for this is twofold, one of the things that stuck me about Pride and Prejudice is the amount of time spent out of doors. Lizzy always has a healthy glow of exercise and exertion about her. But more importantly, they read this letter out in the little copse near there house. Most likely it's to keep away from the prying eyes of Mrs. Bennet, but I still feel that this intimate moment needs to be in the context of the vastness of nature.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Every Savage Can Dance

When I was working towards my BS in art at the UW-Madison I had an assignment to do a series of pieces, all the same size, that were interconnected. At the time I was heavily playing tabletop card games like Steve Jackson's Munchkin, so I envisioned the project as a set of playing cards that explained my personality. There was "A Vicious Feline of Extreme Loyalty" at plus three points that cancelled out my "Inability to Figure Out Your ID," existential angst being a college prerequisite. There was a good fairy balanced by a bad fairy, and physical traits like back problems and corrective vision. But it was my "Jane Austen/Darcy Obsession" at minus one point that captured my imagination. Is it any surprise? I was admittedly an addict. But I viewed it as a gentle and genteel addiction, hence it only encumbering me to a factor of minus one. Yet in creating this piece inspiration stuck and I had this need to continue on, to re-interpret famous Jane Austen illustrations in new mediums that captured the emotion behind the image. Jane Austen had sparked my sensibilities to create and create I must!

As to where this all started? When I was little we had a select few volumes of Jane Austen's work from the first color edition. As to why we didn't have the complete set, that would be down to my grandmother and her sister dividing all the family books based on their sensibilities. I loved the illustrations, despite their pastel hues leaning heavily on pink. The illustrations were done by the brothers Brock. They were technically brilliant, but sometimes the precision was at the expense of the emotion. C.E. Brock actually illustrated all Austen's novels again and again, I think in an attempt to find more fluidity and emotion in the work, but leading it to also be very similar in style to his contemporary, Hugh Thomson. And yet they never captured to me the precise fluctuating meaning of the scenes, finding the underlying truth that needs to be spoken. Therefore I decided to continue to re-imagine the drawings of the brothers Brock, infusing book illustrations typical of the turn of the last century with added layers of meaning and emotion that the novels have given me, and it all started here with my "addiction" newly retitled "Every Savage Can Dance."

This piece depicts the scene wherein Sir Lucas is trying to tempt Darcy to dance with Elizabeth by claiming the merits of dancing as being a part of civilized society, yet as Darcy points out, every uncivilized one as well. Though Elizabeth is still hurt from his snubbing her at their first meeting and therefore refuses his hand, never knowing that he has since developed a tendre for her. I used a gilt patterned paper to indicate that Regency opulence we all envision, but as for how I reinterpreted the drawing? I removed Sir Lucas and took Darcy and Elizabeth away from their surroundings. They are set apart and alone, much like the cheesy dance scene between Elizabeth and Darcy in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that had the right idea but the wrong execution.The cool colors of their forms, just gesso and pencil, indicate that while this might be the greatest love story ever told and they stand apart, they are not yet together. I hope this captures a bit of what this scene means to you and that you will enjoy this trip down memory lane this summer as I explore what led me to create this series and how they reflect my love of Austen and how her brilliance has inspired me to create.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
Published by: Harper
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel—a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition. But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.

A page-turner that draws on both meticulously researched history and an exuberant imagination, Dragon Teeth is based on the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Cope and Marsh; in William Johnson readers will find an inspiring hero only Michael Crichton could have imagined. Perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted, this enormously winning adventure is destined to become another Crichton classic."

New Michael Crichton!!! Muppet arm flail!!!

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Demonologist radically reimagines the origins of gothic literature’s founding masterpieces—Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula—in a contemporary novel driven by relentless suspense and surprising emotion. This is the story of a man who may be the world’s one real-life monster, and the only woman who has a chance of finding him.

As a forensic psychiatrist at New York’s leading institution of its kind, Dr. Lily Dominick has evaluated the mental states of some of the country’s most dangerous psychotics. But the strangely compelling client she interviewed today—a man with no name, accused of the most twisted crime—struck her as somehow different from the others, despite the two impossible claims he made.

First, that he is more than two hundred years old and personally inspired Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Bram Stoker in creating the three novels of the nineteenth century that define the monstrous in the modern imagination. Second, that he’s Lily’s father. To discover the truth—behind her client, her mother’s death, herself—Dr. Dominick must embark on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

Fusing the page-turning tension of a first-rate thriller with a provocative take on where thrillers come from, The Only Child will keep you up until its last unforgettable revelation."

For some reason I really like reimaginings of Dr. Jekyll... like A LOT. 

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 720 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sunny Los Angeles can be a dark place indeed in Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the sequel to the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Lady Midnight. Lord of Shadows is a Shadowhunters novel.

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late."

Yes, I know, I hate this series... but it's like a car wreck... I just can't look away...

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family riven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royal fought through couture gown sabotage, and the heir to one of Asia's greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he's not alone. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on their matriarch’s massive fortune. With each family member vying to inherit Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of speculation and sabotage. As her relatives fight over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by her ex-husband—a man hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to China’s second richest man, billionaire Jack Bing, still feels second best next to her new step-daughter, famous fashionista Colette Bing. A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a kidnapping at Hong Kong’s most elite private school to a surprise marriage proposal at an Indian palace, caught on camera by the telephoto lenses of paparazzi, Kevin Kwan's hilarious, gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia's most privileged families and their rich people problems."

Crazy Rich Asians has been not picked in our book club hat so many times I am trying to jump start it now with the ARC request. As of the moment I'm typing this I still haven't started, but I will!

Jessica Jones: Uncaged! by Brian Michael Bendis
Published by: Marvel
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Paperback, 136 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"After a decade, Jessica Jones is back in her own solo series! A lot has changed in the Marvel Universe and there are many secrets hiding in the shadows - secrets only a special woman like Jessica Jones can hope to uncover. Alias Investigations is open for business, and of all the many mysteries to discover, her new case may be the most dangerous one! This blistering new series is filled with haunting revelations from Jessica's past, and answers to some of the biggest questions about the new Marvel NOW! universe! From Jessica Jones' original creators comes an all-new chapter in the world-famous private eye's ongoing adventures!"

Here's the thing... the Jessica Jones series, awesome, the comics... not so much. So with most people knowing the show and not the comics, I'm guessing this isn't going to be that well liked... Also why does Jessica look EXACTLY like Gina Bellman from Coupling? 

Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love by James Runcie
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The eagerly anticipated sixth installment in the Grantchester Mysteries series, now a major PBS television series as well. The sixth book in the James Runcie's much-loved Granchester Mystery series, which has been adapted for Masterpiece's Grantchester starring James Norton, sees full-time priest, part-time detective Sidney Chambers plunged back into sleuthing when he discovers a body in a bluebell wood. It is May 1971 and the Cambridgeshire countryside is bursting into summer. Attending to his paternal duties, Archdeacon Sidney Chambers is walking in the woods with his daughter Anna and their aging Labrador, Byron, when they stumble upon a body. Beside the dead man lies a basket of wild flowers, all poisonous. And so it is that Sidney is thrust into another murder investigation, entering a world of hippies, folk singers, and psychedelic plants, where love triangles and permissive behavior seem to hide something darker. Despite the tranquil appearance of the Diocese of Ely, there is much to keep Sidney and his old friend, Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, as busy as ever. An historic religious text vanishes from a Cambridge college; Sidney's former flame, Amanda Richmond, gets a whiff of art-world corruption; and his nephew disappears in the long, hot summer of 1976. Meanwhile, Sidney comes face to face with the divine mysteries of life and love while wrestling with earthly problems--from parish scandals and an alarmingly progressive new secretary to his own domestic misdemeanors, the challenges of parenthood and a great loss."

Yeah Sidney! I'm ALWAYS ready for more Sidney!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Diane: These Trees are Really Something

In honor of the return of Twin Peaks, I thought it would be fun to post an old paper I wrote in undergrad for my Forestry Class, I give you, from 2002: Diane: These Trees are Really Something! And yes, there are footnotes! Oh, and spoilers!

Before the present time, forests were not viewed as idyllic locations for a weekend getaway but as something far more sinister, a lurking threat. “Forests have always invited the creation of myths and legends, given their size, age, density and abundance of wildlife.” (Guries) The woods were viewed by many cultures as a place to avoid, and a place of great danger. These beliefs of evil in the forests were passed down among generations through stories and folktales throughout the world. From Native American legends to Celtic fairytales, the forest was not a place where you wanted to be found unawares. The forest was a land of unknowns, a land least familiar, and where fear is born. (Bancroft-Hunt 70) It was believed there were “supernatural beings which lived in inaccessible places deep in the forests…vast numbers of dangerous beings with a propensity for causing harm.” (Bancroft-Hunt 70) Danger resided in the woods, whether real or not, the fear was there and the woodlands were avoided wherever possible. Many Native American tribes believed that the spirits of the dead would retreat into the dark of the forest where “these spirits became malevolent, and then their presence in the dense forests was a constant threat to the unwary.” (Bancroft-Hunt 70) Spirits and creatures resided in the depths, but soon progress would take away and dull the fear.

Progress came and diluted the mystique of the forests. “The earlier time was not a golden age from which the present has declined but a strange age to be set right for the people who are here now.” (Handbook of North American Indians 593) Setting things right involved the clearing of forests, hard toil and work for the secular. (Guries) The idea that “law and order stopped at the forest edge with only savages” within gave great impedes to its clearing. (Guries) Whether the savage was mystical beasts and spirits in the minds of the Natives, or the Natives themselves in the minds of the Whites, progress led to the clearing of the forests. With the shrinking of the forests, legends faded. The forest was no longer this place of bewilderment, the dangers within were forgotten, for the time being.

“I’ve never seen so many trees in my life…Diane I almost forgot, got to find out what kind of trees these are, they’re really something.” (Pilot) The American public was introduced to FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, with his love of coffee, doughnuts and trees, “big majestic” (Pilot), when Twin Peaks premiered on ABC in April 1990 with “a cinematically brilliant 2-hour season opener that sent the country talking.” (Bravo) This quirky show created by David Lynch, “the Jimmy Stewart from Mars”, brought us into the fictional North West logging town of Twin Peaks. (Kirkus) The show began with Agent Cooper’s arrival in Twin Peaks due to the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, but went far beyond the typical detective show, far into the depths of ancient Native American and Celtic mythology. Twin Peaks went into the woods. With David Lynch’s “combination of clarity of eye and a sort of calculated unclarity of mind” (Lawson) he presented us with “an unsettling, sometimes darkly comic vision of the ominous unknown lurking beneath the commonplace and the everyday.” (Bravo) David Lynch brought back the nightmares of what was lurking in the forests that our ancestors knew but we had almost forgotten.

Twin Peaks’ “attention to mood and minute details, and its construction- designed to increase tension, suspicion and unease” never could be more well applied then to the fully realized vision of the forest that was created. (Quill) In an interview David Lynch said; “In my mind this was a place surrounded by woods. That’s important. For as long as anybody can remember, woods have been mysterious places. So they were a character in my mind.” (Rodley 162) This idea of the forest as a unique entity had never been explored on television. This idea that “every forest has its shadow” had long been pushed aside for more pedestrian uses, such as camping and recreation. Twin Peaks went into the “forbidding, although undeniably beautiful, aspect” of the North West where the forests were deceptive; “where high canopies of leaves create a dark, dank twilight world inside the forests, even on sunny days, and where the constant sound of dripping water is evidence of the damp which gives rise to a deep carpet of lush, brilliant moss.” (Bancroft-Hunt 9) For a show to delve into and capture these emotions and fears is unique. In regard to the location David Lynch said: “Those beautiful Douglas Firs. Actually the place is very important. I don’t know how to explain it all. I just pictured this kind of darkness and this wind going through the needles of the firs.” (Quill)

The darkness within the woods surrounding Twin Peaks was felt by all, characters and viewers alike were affected when “scenes [were] intercut with ominous shots of majestic evergreens bending in a stiff wind.” (Quill) These ominous shots bring to mind the feelings local tribes had that “wind whistling through the trees the creak of the tree trunk…were all suggestive of the close proximity of some spirit.” (Bancroft-Hunt) But there was an evil presence, a feeling long before the show delved into mythology to explain the dread. The sheriff, Harry S. Truman, said: “There’s a sort of evil out there. Something very, very strange in these old woods. A darkness, a presence, it takes many forms. But it’s been out there for as long as anyone can remember.” (Episode 3) Twin Peaks contained many odd people who had connections to forest mythology and the activities in the forest. There was the Log Lady, whose log spoke to her and told her portents of what’s to come, such as with the Chinook legends where logs could guide you and help you to the other world. (Ferguson) Major Briggs was a member of the Air Force and Project Blue Book whose work was originally outer space but in the case of Twin Peaks the woods surrounding. There were also Giants and Midgets who figure prominently into Native American and Celtic stories dealing with the woods who guided Cooper on the quest for Laura Palmer’s killer through dreams. (Ferguson) Within the forest surrounding Twin Peaks two aspects of mythologies where predominant. One is that of forest wildlife, mainly owls, being supernatural and dangerous. The other idea is, that within the forest were places, realms that lead to other worlds. Good advice given to Cooper on his arrival in Twin Peaks was “I’ll advise you to keep your eyes on the woods. The woods are wondrous here, but strange.” (Episode 12)

In legend and in Twin Peaks the simple line whispered by the Giant to Agent Cooper sums up all known ideologies, specifically Native American, about owls: “The owls are not what they seem.” (Episode 8) Native American tales speak of owls as dead souls, as a force, an evil that exists within the depths of the forests that is to be avoided, or a dead shaman soul now shape shifter. Or even as a connection to other worlds. “The Land of the Dead is regularly depicted…as being near to the world of the living, even though there is no return. There are direct connections with it via…some animals and birds, particularly owls, are thought to be dead souls.” (Bancroft-Hunt 97) The call of the owl was an omen, “the hooting of owls was also thought of as the voices of spirit people.” (Lewis 31) Within the plot lines of Twin Peaks, not only do the owls signal death and danger, such as they did the night Laura died, but they are also evil in themselves, capable of clouding men’s minds. Owls are present when two characters mysteriously disappear, very reminiscent of the story of the Windigo, an owl like creature who takes captives deep in the woods. (Wood) But when Major Briggs returns he has no memory of his abduction save a giant owl, big “enough to cloud my mind and memory.” (Episode 20) The final aspect of owls in Twin Peaks deals with the supernatural being of Bob. Bob is a possessing spirit, typical of stories of possessing spirits among Natives, a “gluttonous, lecherous trickster-transformer.” (Handbook of North American Indians) Bob is able to enter people making them “kill without recourse.” (Lewis 27) It was Bob while possessing Laura Palmer’s father Leland who actually killed her. Upon Leland’s death, largely brought about by Bob, Bob takes his form that he inhabits when not in human form, that of an owl.

Owls aside, the forests of legend contain great places of danger, and mentions of meeting places of other worlds. In Indian, Celtic and even Tibetan mythology there are portals, places of access to the world of the dead or other worlds. In Celtic and Tibetan myths there where 7 portals and they where located in the woods, under trees. (Linsell 84) Evil and the dead where believed to reside in the places deep within the woods or at specific locations. In Twin Peaks these locations took the form of the White Lodge and the Black Lodge. “The White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule men and nature here reside. There is also a legend of a place called the black lodge, the shadow self of the white lodge. The legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection.” (Episode 18) While the White and Black Lodges do not actually exist in mythology, the idea of a similar place does, and in Blackfeet legend it is said “the dead, who are themselves shadows, live in shadow lodges.” (Grinell 275) Therefore the idea of these shadow lodges for spirits was brought back from legend. In Twin Peaks Agent Cooper’s agenda after solving the murder of Laura Palmer shifts to the finding of the Black Lodge and the entity known as Bob.

It transpires that Agent Cooper believes that Bob comes from the Black Lodge. “I think [the Black Lodge] is where he comes from. I think the Black Lodge is what you have referred to in the past as the evil in these woods.” (Episode 28) The powerful forces in the forest are now directly connected to these two locations and the specific mythologies that they represent. The entrance to the Black Lodge is “a circle of 12 Sycamores, Glastonbury Grove.” (Episode 29) As Agent Cooper says with a finger snap, “The legendary burial place of King Arthur.” (Episode 29) For the location where one world meets the next David Lynch has gone to Arthurian Legend and that of the legendary burial place of King Arthur, Avalon. “For Glastonbury is the Isle of Avalon, to which after his last fatal battle on the River Camelot, King Arthur was by magic ‘bourne away for the healing of his wounds’.” (Trehorne 7) The two places are one and the same. Glastonbury besides being where Arthur died was also the source of many other legends connected with the first meeting of Guinevere, the Holy Grail, and even as a retreat for Lancelot and the other nights when they became hermits following their quests. (Lacy 198) But “there is one factor common to them all, namely a reference in some form or other to a Celtic Underworld or beyond-world, a magical abode of healing and of peace.” (Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Tradition 16/17) And what is the Black Lodge than an entrance to a “beyond-world” where once you get through it you reach the White Lodge where you are at peace. There are also references to Glastonbury being some kind of a labyrinth, which is what Agent Cooper finally faces once inside the Black Lodge, with the same hallway and red room over and over again. (Lacy 199) The inside of the Black Lodge is a strange place where everyone talks backwards and there is always music in the air. Again here we see imagery taken from Native American legend because it was believed “in another realm…where everything was backwards, dwelled the ghosts.” (Normandein 29)

Twin Peaks was a unique television show not relying on convention, but breaking down barriers and delving into the past. Consciously we had left our fears of the forests long behind in myth and legend. But subconsciously in our dreams the fear was still there. “The soul was believed to leave the body at night, when it traveled into the Other World, from which dreams originated.” (Bancroft-Hunt 81/82) In the land of Twin Peaks, this Otherworld, this Black Lodge, where Agent Cooper’s dreams are, lies within the forest. David Lynch went back to this dream world, these ancient fears of the woods that were echoed in Laura: “I know I’m going to get lost in those woods tonight.” (Episode 11) There is an old fear of the woods, preserved deep in us and our tales that David Lynch tapped to bring Twin Peaks to life. Through the Native Americans to the Celts we have evidence of the belief of evil and fear in the woods. An evil and fear that existed again in the world of Twin Peaks. “The sound wind makes through the pines…What we fear in the dark. And what lies beyond that darkness.” (Episode 18)


Bancroft-Hunt, Norman and Werner Forman. People of the Totem: The Indians of the Pacific Northwest. New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1979.

Bial, Raymond. Lifeways: The Blackfeet. New York: Benchmark Books, 2003.

---.Lifeways: The Tlingit. New York: Benchmark Books, 2003.

Boss, Kit. "David Lynch teased us all Season with his dark, intriguing TV series - and oh, how we loved it - 'Peaks' pique." The Seattle Times. 30 Sept. 1990, Sun. Final ed: L1.

“Bravo creates new programming showcase ‘TV too good for TV’, David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ cult series, first program acquisition.” PRNewswire 18 Jan. 1993, Entertainment, Television, and Culture.

Chuculate, Eddie D. "'Across Indian Lands' Features Natural Sounds." Albuquerque Journal. 22 September 2000, All ed.: p1.

“Episode 1.” Twin Peaks. ABC, April 12, 1990.

“Episode 3.” Twin Peaks. ABC, April 26, 1990.

“Episode 5.” Twin Peaks. ABC, May 10, 1990.

“Episode 6.” Twin Peaks. ABC, May 17, 1990.

“Episode 8.” Twin Peaks. ABC, September 30, 1990.

“Episode 9.” Twin Peaks. ABC, October 6, 1990.

“Episode 12.” Twin Peaks. ABC, October 27, 1990.

“Episode 14.” Twin Peaks. ABC, November 10, 1990.

“Episode 16.” Twin Peaks. ABC, December 1, 1990.

“Episode 17.” Twin Peaks. ABC, December 8, 1990.

“Episode 18.” Twin Peaks. ABC, December 15, 1990.

“Episode 19.” Twin Peaks. ABC, January 12, 1991.

“Episode 20.” Twin Peaks. ABC, January 19, 1991.

“Episode 21.” Twin Peaks. ABC, January 26, 1991.

“Episode 24.” Twin Peaks. ABC, March 28, 1991.

“Episode 25.” Twin Peaks. ABC, April 4, 1991.

“Episode 26.” Twin Peaks. ABC, April 11, 1991.

“Episode 27.” Twin Peaks. ABC, April 28, 1991.

“Episode 28.” Twin Peaks. ABC, June 10, 1991.

“Episode 29.” Twin Peaks. ABC, June 10, 1991.

Ferguson, Diana. Native American Myths. London: Collins and Brown, 2001.

Fraser, Rob. “A to Z: Twin Peaks.” Cult TV May 1998: Season 2, Episode 5.

Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Tradition. Edited by James P. Carly. Cambridge: D S Brewer, 2001.

Grinell, George Bird. Blackfoot Lodge Tales: The Story of a Prairie People. Lincoln: Bison Book, University of Nebraska Press, 1962.

Guries, Raymond. Forests of History and Legend. Forestry 100 Handout. 12 September 2002.

Handbook of North American Indians: Vol. 7 Northwest Coast. General Editor Williams C. Sturtevant and Volume Editor Wayne Stuttles. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1990.

Kirkus Review. "Some of Me." The Kirkus Service, 1997.

Lawson, Mark. "Red herrings and cherry pie; It's the television series people were talking about the morning before, never mind the morning after. If you missed the first episode of David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks', don't worry: with this thriller, plot doesn't come into it." The Independent (London). 28 Oct. 1990, Sun. ed: p.16.

Lewis, Claudia. Indian Families of the Northwest Coast: The Impact of Change. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press Chicago, 1970.

Linsell, Tony. Anglo-Saxon Mythology, Migration and Magic. Middlesex: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1992.

Lynch, David. Images. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Marriott, Alice and Carol K. Rachlin. American Indian Mythology. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968.

Nadelson, Reggie. "A Nation gripped by something very weird; what's this? David Lynch's soap opera Twin Peaks is a bigger hit than Dallas. Reggie Nadelson faces up to a new obsession." The Independent (London). 23 May 1990:p.20.

The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. Edited by Norris J, Lacy. New York: Garland Publishing, 1996.

Norman, Howard. Northern Tales: Traditional Stories of Eskimo and Indian Peoples Selected and Edited by Howard Norman. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.

Normandein, Christine. Echoes of the Elders, The Stories and Paintings of Chief Lelooska edited by Christine Normandein. New York: DK, 1997.

“Pilot.” Twin Peaks. ABC, April 8, 1990.

Quill, Greg. "Blue Velvet TV for Twin Peaks, David Lynch is scaling his odd and disturbing brand of film making to the size of the small screen, with a miniseries that is likely to resemble nothing you've ever seen on TV before." Toronto Star. 1 April 1990, Sun. 2nd ed: C1.

Rodley, Chris. Lynch on Lynch. London: Faber Faber, 1997.

Royle, Nicholas. "A to Z of David Lynch." Time Out. 12 Dec. 2001: p.32-34.

Trehorne, R. F. The Glastonbury Legends. London: The Gesset Press, 1967.

Wood, Douglas. The Windigo’s Return. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Young, Judy Dockery and Richard Dockery Young. Race with Buffalo and Other Native American Stories for Young Readers Collected and Edited by Richard and Judy Dockery Young. Little Rock: August House Publishers Inc, 1994.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Playing the Tourist: Pemberley

If one were to walk in the footsteps of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice I think we can all agree that when one thinks of Pride and Prejudice there is only one destination possible, and that's Pemberley. This is especially beguiling to American readers where we seriously don't have grand manor houses or even castles strewn about the countryside protected by a National Trust. But as Lizzy and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner clearly show, these great houses were just as beguiling to Brits over two hundred years ago. Because who doesn't like to wander around big beautiful houses seeing famous works of art in a setting that isn't strictly speaking a museum? But the question becomes, where is Pemberley? You could go to Lyme Park, which was the house used in the BBC miniseries, but to me, more known for being used in a season three episode of Red Dwarf, and yes, I know I have weird priorities. Or you could have even bought Wentworth Park fairly recently, where they were claiming that the house's notoriety came from the fact it was the basis for Pemberley. A "fact" that no one has really ever agreed on. But to me I think Pemberley as Austen saw it is most likely Chatsworth

It's not just that Austen knew of the house and compares Pemberley to Chatsworth that makes Chatsworth a good contender, as well as both real and fictional houses being in Derbyshire, it's also actually been used as Pemberley in the P.D. James continuation Death Comes to Pemberley as well as in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen. In fact they have the Matthew Macfadyen marble bust still there, though they request that you don't buss the bust. They have a Regency Ball there every summer which I long to be invited to! But even if that doesn't get you excited there is a deal breaker in my mind that makes this great house a must stop, and that's the connection to the Mitfords. Deborah Mitford, one of the famous Mitford sisters, was the Duchess of Devonshire and the family seat is Chatsworth. She not only spent her life surrounded by the literary, but she helped save the house after the tragic death of the heir and went on to make it a thriving business that allowed her to extensively expand the house's art collection with modern masters. So go for your Darcy dream, stay, and you can literally stay on the property, for the Mitford milieu.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Miniseries Review - Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice
Based on the book by Jane Austen
Release Date: September 24th- October 29th, 1995
Starring: Colin Firth, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker, Julia Sawalha, Polly Maberly, Lucy Briers, Benjamin Whitrow, Alison Steadman, Marlene Sidaway, Anna Chancellor, Lucy Robinson, Rupert Vansittart, Lynn Farleigh, Joanna David, Tim Wylton, David Bamber, Lucy Scott, Lucy Davis, Christopher Benjamin, Norma Streader, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Nadia Chambers, Harriet Eastcott, Anthony Calf, David Bark-Jones, Roger Barclay, Christopher Staines, Tom Ward, Paul Moriarty, Victoria Hamilton, Alexandra Howerd, Adrian Lukis, Bridget Turner, and Emilia Fox
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

As Mrs. Bennet screeches to her family that "Netherfield Park is let at last" little does she know that this one event will so significantly alter the fate of her five daughters. Of course she had planned that the eligible young man who had rented the estate, Mr. Bingley, would marry one of her daughters, though she didn't think that in the end she'd have three of her five daughters married within a year of each other. While the eldest daughter Jane falls instantly and irrevocably in love with Mr. Bingley, her sister Lizzy's path is far murkier. Mr. Darcy is at first nothing but pride and hauteur, refusing to even dance with Lizzy at the local assembly. Soon after her fine eyes catch his attention, but could his previous snub spell doom of ever getting Lizzy? The path of true love never runs smooth and as Mr. Bennet states, "a girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then." And when a ghost from Mr. Darcy's past reappears in his present and quickly wins over Lizzy and all her confidantes it appears she might have finally found the man to lose her heart over. But no one and nothing is as it seems and sometimes life has other plans in store. In a time when marrying for love might not be in the cards, marrying for money is a necessity, more so for the five Bennet girls as their estate is entailed away on their cousin, the odious Mr. Collins. But can love still find a way? Can that which before was unwilling to bend learn to? Can character flaws be fixed? Can love, the marriage of true minds, with a tidy fortune for felicity be obtained? Or are they doomed to heartache and unhappily ever afters?

There are only a handful of films, television shows, and miniseries that are touchstones in my life. From The Princess Bride to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Inheritance these are part of my DNA. The 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is one of them. Every time I have watched it is a special and cherished memory to me. From my first watching it on a blazing July day in the summer of 1996 with all the shades drawn to weathering an ice storm trapped at the house of my friend Sara's parents while she was visiting from graduate school to "P P and P" (Pride and Prejudice and Pizza) last celebrated in Cambridge on an early summer night wherein they got our pizza order at the wrong location and it resulted in us only getting to watch the first episode that night. Each of these moments is special to me and I can easily transport myself to that moment in my life in an instant. I wore out the VHS set that had pride of place on top of my dresser and was my prized 18th birthday present. I have more DVD copies then I can count, always wanting to upgrade to the newest edition. I even have the tie-in edition of the book, just so I can look at the lovely Colin Firth forevermore. This was the miniseries that made me a miniseries addict. Prior to this I was all about movies, but I realized that miniseries and later TV shows with strong mythology appealed to me more because they weren't restricted to two hours, they expanded and had a life of their own. A scale, a scope that was able to capture all that was needed for the story to be told with no omissions, no ellipses. Pride and Prejudice, you might not know it, but you changed my life, and not just because of a wet shirt.

Yet that wet shirt is what this miniseries is known for. I remember seeing an interview that summed up the phenomenon that was Colin Firth in this miniseries in that his emerging from that lake forever changed the world. And I don't think anyone can deny it. After all there was that atrocious statue to mark Pride and Prejudice's bicentenary of Colin Firth in the Serpentine. But the shirt scene isn't the be all end all, yet it's indicative of why this adaptation is so successful, and that's because it's brimming with life, it's vivacious. I'm not just talking outdoor pursuits or horseback riding or Mr. Darcy fencing and then taking a dip or Lizzy running through the country side, I'm talking about the life in the Bennet family. They are a real family! They are talking over each other, they are laughing, they are rolling their eyes, they are experts at the side-eye and arched brow, they are living their life fully and enjoying themselves. The smile always playing about Lizzy's lips, THIS is the Lizzy Austen envisioned in her book and that Jennifer Ehle perfectly brought to life. The book can be a little staid for those who aren't into clever wordplay and character studies. Yet the key is this timeless book is alive! These characters live and this adaptation brings this home to the audience. The background of each scene is peopled with life, surrounding the characters with life. Animals, drunks, people talking, dancing, everything about this adaptation is just alive. Over twenty years later and I'm still in love with this miniseries and seeing new things each time. I mean Lydia and Kitty actually had red cloaks to match the officers!?! Priceless and yet, so human.

What is interesting about how Andrew Davies decided to adapt the novel is that he externalizes almost all Lizzy's thoughts through conversations with Jane. In the book when Lizzy announces her engagement to Darcy to everyone it's kind of a "haha fooled you, you all thought I hated him but I LURVE him" moment. Because while the readers of the book will know her changing feelings over time her family has been kept in the dark. Yes, even Jane. This sisterly bonding goes back into the life poured into this adaptation. By them confiding in each other every night it's something the audience can relate to. Everyone has at some point in their life poured out their heart to a confidant and this therefore becomes a touchstone for the viewers. What's more it also allows greater insight into the Bennet family, the power dynamics, and why Lydia gets her way, while Mary is often ignored. It's a little time in every episode to reflect on what's happening. This is almost a built in recap without being all cheesy and annoying. Yet what I think it does most successfully is deepen the character of Jane. Yes, I know, you're all thinking I should be talking about how it allows more time to swoon over Darcy while gazing into mirrors, but while it does do that, it does more for Jane. Jane is almost too perfect. She's like a little porcelain doll. It's no wonder why Darcy didn't think she was in love with Bingley. In these conversations we not only see Jane's reserve, but we see beneath it, to her heart. You truly feel for Jane as you do for Lizzy.

Though externalizing Lizzy's thoughts has a flaw, in that they sometimes don't come out quite right. The part I'm thinking of is when she first sees Pemberley. The entire time she's walking the grounds and the house and listening to these marvelous stories about a young Darcy her feelings are in tumult. You can sense that her opinion of him is moving quickly from admiration to love. Later when she announces her engagement to Jane and jokingly dates her love as starting when she first saw his house the joke falls flat, despite their smiles and laughter. Because the joke comes across as callous. This isn't how it comes across in the book. Seeing his house did change her opinion, but it wasn't the structure, it was the people within that structure, the love and care he has for his staff and all those connected to him. By putting an emphasis on this joke and reinforcing it with lines about how she could have been mistress of "all this" makes her appear the basest fortune hunter which she dreaded Darcy to think her. This one line delivered in this way, without any of her internal admiration, diminishes their love story. Darcy and Elizabeth is a love story for the ages. Literally one of the greatest literary love stories ever, and Davies ever so slightly knocks it down a peg. Davies has always had interesting takes on the books he adapts, and I love the hear his reasons for changes, but I don't think there is any reasoning that could make me OK with this.

What I find most amusing in this adaptation is that Davies is SO shipping Mary and Mr. Collins. The truth is I don't think anyone who has read the book hasn't thought, well, if only Mr. Collins had set his sights on Mary all would have turned out alright. But they never really go deeper into the fact that Mr. Collins would never accept Mary. He is an ambitious man, Lizzy satisfies his ideas of what a wife should be, without knowing her, and Mrs. Bennet is glad to get her least favorite daughter out of the house. He would never lower his sights to Mary. He would never condescend to even consider her. Therefore you do feel bad for Mary, but at the same time, her character got a bit of a boost by being next to the whole reason for Pride and Prejudice, and that's Mr. Collins. See, I think most people, even Austen herself, were so caught up in the love story of Lizzy and Darcy that they never realized that Mr. Collins with his pretensions and rhapsodizing about Rosings Park was stealing the show. Thankfully David Bamber knew he was the star and seriously, gives a star performance. Every second he is on scene is a delight to behold, while at the same time you're cringing. Just little things like how he waves to Charlotte when Lizzy and Maria are departing the parsonage, priceless. I mean, despite how sometimes Andrew Davies annoys me, he knew the necessity of bringing back Mr. Collins after Lydia's elopement, so, just for that one scene, any issues I have with this adaptation, which are few, are forgiven. My issues with he adaptation of Wives and Daughters though...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

The House at Bishopsgate by Kate Hickman
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A haunting, magical story of a cursed gem and the people who suffer in its wake, set in seventeenth-century London.

Most men of stature wouldn't marry their betrothed after she'd been kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery in the harem of the Great Turk, but Paul Pindar, wealthy merchant and former ambassador to Constantinople, is not most men. When Paul and Celia, finally reunited, return to London in 1611, his house at Bishopsgate has stood empty for nearly a decade. A phalanx of carpenters, upholsterers, and gardeners have been summoned to restore it to its former glory.

But all is not as it seems. Celia is frail, and their marriage, despite her longing, is childless. Traumatized by her experiences, she is unprepared for English society and the duties of managing a house with a full staff. Paul arranges for Celia's old friend, Annetta, to join them in England as Celia's companion, but Annetta arrives to find that another woman, the widow Frances Sydenham, has insinuated herself into the Pindar household. Lady Sydenham seems to have a mysterious hold over Celia and, Annetta suspects, increasingly over Paul.

Who is this woman, and what are her motives? Like everyone else, including members of the royal family and Pindar's greedy brother Rafe, she is fascinated by the Sultan Blue, the legendary diamond Pindar has brought back from the Middle East. All of London wants to get their hands on the jewel, despite the dark magic properties that are said to surround it, but Paul Pindar might be the only merchant who doesn't have a price."

Betrayal, jewels, can anyone else say they'd be willing to miss out on this adventure?

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
Published by: Walden Pond Press
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner Laura Ruby comes the first book in an epic alternate history series about three kids who try to solve the greatest mystery of the modern world: a puzzle and treasure hunt laid into the very streets and buildings of New York City.

It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it."

Mysteries, and puzzles in New York? Sold!

Behind the Mask edited by Tricia Reeks and Kyle Richardson
Published by: Meerkat Press, LLC
Publication Date: May 16th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 290 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others. It is partially a prose nod to the comic world―the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure. But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask."

Yeah, I too was swayed to get this by the NAMES in this book!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review - Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Published by: Modern Library
Publication Date: 1813
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

The leasing of Netherfield Park by a young single gentlemen of fortune makes Mrs. Bennet's day. For she is determined on one of her daughters marrying him. Who cares if nothing is known of the man, the desirability of the man is set by liquidity and location. Luckily for this nervous mother of five Mr. Bingley does seem inclined to fulfill her deepest desire as he starts to fall for her eldest Jane. But he brings with him such a haughty friend, Mr. Darcy, who becomes notorious for snubbing her second daughter, Lizzy, at the local assembly by not dancing with her. Lucky for Lizzy she sees it as a narrow escape from this proud man whom is now nothing more than an anecdote in her mind. But in trying to secure Mr. Bingley for Jane Lizzy is again and again thrust into the path of Mr. Darcy and little does she know that against every instinct he is falling for her. Though he isn't the only one who has unwanted and unsolicited affections for Lizzy. Her odious cousin Mr. Collins arrives on the scene to try to secure her hand. A hand she will never give to him. There is one she might give her hand to, a Mr. Wickham, who has recently arrived and enlisted in the army. He is an amiable type who has a tragic past, made more tragic by the actions of one Mr. Darcy. Can Lizzy juggle all the men in her life with what her heart really wants for herself and her family? Or will she make all the wrong choices and end up a spinster with a battered heart? Only with time, travel, and much heartache will her future and her happiness be decided.

Pride and Prejudice is an interesting re-read for me because I think of all of Austen's novels it is the one I go back to the least. This might seem odd because I think the majority of her fans would rank this as her best novel, and I do agree from time to time though my rankings are very fluid. The reason I don't go back to it as often as the other novels is that Pride and Prejudice is rare in that, to me, it is the only book written by Austen that has a pitch perfect adaptation. I am of course referring to the 1995 miniseries adapted by Andrew Davies and starring a soaking wet Colin Firth, counteracting the commentary in this edition by Sir Walter Raleigh wondering if Darcy could swim. Take that Sir Walter Raleigh, the one who wasn't an explorer but an English scholar and yes I had to look that up because I was wondering if Walter Raleigh might be a time traveler as well as an explorer for about five seconds. Though what the adaptation has done for me is to break up the narrative into six sections coinciding with the episode breaks. This is even more ingrained in those who started with the VHS set long before DVDs were a thing where each episode was it's own tape. Therefore I know the story so well I'm just waiting for the next "set piece" to happen. This takes away the spontaneity of the story, because you're always knowing and waiting for what happens next. I don't get as caught up in the narrative and start to question if I'm right on what happens next, because I know it all too well.

Much as my rankings of Austen's books fluctuate there are some things that are constant. For me in the narrative of Pride and Prejudice that is Charlotte Lucas. Oh how I adore Charlotte and in more than any part of Pride and Prejudice Lizzy's incredulity of why Charlotte would be induced to accept the hand of Mr. Collins just pisses me off. Lizzy is an unrealistic romantic and sees by the example set by her parents that one should only marry for love. In this period of time this is totally unrealistic. When Mr. Collins is rejected by Lizzy he is entirely right in saying that she may never get another offer of marriage. Especially with a war on, young eligible men weren't growing on trees, and add to that that Lizzy is virtually penniless she has very unrealistic expectations. Yes, this is a love story with or hero and heroine overcoming each others faults, but seriously, if any of us readers were sent back to that time period we'd more than likely be in Charlotte Lucas's shoes and should be lucky to have her pragmatism. She's twenty seven, a perilously old age for a woman entering the marriage market, from a large family, and has not much hope of having much money when her parents die. An eligible young man arrives, yes he's silly, but he has a very secure position, an inheritance which will eventually be in the same village as her parents, and the ear of a very influential lady. She also probably sees that through flattery she can control him. Here's to Charlotte, the voice of reason!

What's more is that IF Charlotte's advice had been followed by more characters in this book there would have been a lot less heartache. Charlotte advises Lizzy that Jane needs to show more than she feels to secure Bingley. It's Jane's lack of outward emotion that enables Darcy to separate her and his friend. Yes, I'm sure that even if Jane had been very demonstrative in her affections towards Bingley that Darcy would have found a way to still separate them, but I think it would have been far harder. Darcy explains that Bingley has crushing self-doubt and just a few words on the lack of outward emotion displayed by Jane is enough to make him doubt their connection. If she had shown more then perhaps Bingley wouldn't have been as easily persuaded. Perhaps he wouldn't have secreted himself away in London all winter without going back to Netherfield. Yes, there's a lot of perhaps here, but again, look at it from a female perspective at this time, what's the risk of showing one man more affection than you might feel? The worst that could happen is you'd be labeled a flirt. But at least if he is interested you're more likely to secure that hoped for proposal. If by that time you realize he's a loser, well, do what Lizzy did twice and reject his offer. Ah Charlotte, you are the voice of reason amongst so many silly girls as Mr. Bennet would put it. Though I'd disagree with him that you are the silliest.

This reading I started to wonder more on what exactly it was that drew Wickham and Lydia together. Because the reason it works as a seismic shift in the plot is that it's so unexpected. That Lydia would be stupid enough to elope isn't in question, the question is why Wickham? Wickham and her had had very little interaction on the page. Wickham has to flee Brighton and his regiment because of his debts and decides to take Lydia along. Why!?! It's advantageous for neither of them. So why do it? From Lydia's point of view I just think she wanted to be the first sister to marry and show them all up and Wickham provided her with this opportunity. To stick it to Lizzy, Wickham's previous favorite, seems just like the icing on the cake. It's Wickham I just don't get. Yes, he has a penchant for seducing young girls, but that's where money is involved. The ONLY way this all makes sense is if he had some added insight. Lydia is too indiscreet to keep anything from anyone, so I wonder, did Wickham think that Darcy would in some way be eventually connected to Lydia's family because of something she said? Whether through Bingley and Jane or even through Darcy and Elizabeth. This is the ONLY way this holds together. It's the MacGuffin that brings everything to a conclusion and there's just too much left unexplained. What ifs and perhaps, but no definitive reason. Are we just supposed to ignore it and focus on the happily ever after? Because I'm seriously not the kind of reader who can ever let go of anything. How devious was Wickham really!?!

In fact, there was a detail during Lydia's scandal that fascinated me and I never really noticed before to do with the servants. Of course everyone knows of the servant Hill, as Mrs. Bennet is often screaming her name. But all the other servants are kind of not mentioned. Which, to be fair, was the way it was, there's a reason shows like Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs appeal to people, because they give a voice to all the characters and show the connections, not just what all the rich people are doing. Therefore I found it very odd that Mr. Bennet requested that when the servants were in the room that they refrained from discussing the situation with Lydia. I understand him wanting to keep a lid on things, but with the way Mrs. Bennet was carrying on, with the way news of Wickham's debts were spreading like wildfire, the news was all over town in a matter of minutes, so why keep quiet in front of all the servants who aren't Hill? Also can we really trust and rely on Hill to keep her mouth shut? Don't you think the only way the servants handle their masters is by gossiping about them and swapping insane stories? Which makes me realize I really should read the book Longbourn by Jo Baker because it's Pride and Prejudice as seen through the eyes of the servants. Perhaps she answers all my questions? Oh, I wonder if she answers my theory as to cellphones being the modern day equivalent of women's work. AKA, as a way to avoid eye contact with that special someone who makes you nervous. Can you image Lizzy using a cellphone to avoid Darcy admiring her fine eyes? Because I sure can.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Playing the Tourist: Georgian London

Yes, I could wax lyrical like Marianne about the beauty of Sussex where Norland Park is located, or rhapsodize about Devonshire and Barton Cottage, but I won't. Because to me the most important location in all of Sense and Sensibility is actually London. While other books by Austen mention and even visit London through the narratives of other characters, no other book uses it so successfully as a backdrop to our heroines heartaches as Sense and Sensibility. To me the heart of the book is that time in Mrs. Jennings's house on Berkeley Street in London, in the heart of Mayfair. While I most think of anything "Berkeley" in London as being associated with that lovely miniseries Berkely Square, I must now make a place for Elinor and Marianne there as well. While much of the short street is now filled with the modern, from Starbucks to a Holiday Inn, the facades of many of the shops hearken back to an older time.
 Going Northwest up Berkley Street to Berkley Square away from Piccadilly you will see some remaining Georgian architecture on the far side of the park. Yes, there's still the occasional more modern edifice, more Victorian or Art Nouveau, but what's wonderful about London is the old is there, just hiding around a corner, waiting for you to find it. In fact comparing this map from 1830 with modern day London you can see how little has changed in almost two-hundred years! If you're wanting to walk in the footsteps of Sense and Sensibility I couldn't recommend anything more fun than walking around Mayfair. From Berkley Street it's a short seven minute walk to Conduit Street and the Middletons, and two streets over are the Palmers in Hanover Square. If you decide to take a slight detour north into Marylebone beware, because Willoughby lurks near there, as do the Dashwoods! We won't even discuss where Lucy Steele lives, it's so unfashionable!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Based on a True Story by Delphine De Vigan
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The international hit that sold half a million copies in France: a chilling work of fiction--but based on a true story--about a friendship gone terrifyingly toxic and the nature of reality.

Overwhelmed by the huge success of her latest novel, exhausted and suffering from a crippling inability to write, Delphine meets L.

L. embodies everything Delphine has always secretly admired; she is a glittering image of feminine sophistication and spontaneity and she has an uncanny knack of always saying the right thing. Unusually intuitive, L. senses Delphine's vulnerability and slowly but deliberately carves herself a niche in the writer's life. However, as L. makes herself indispensable to Delphine, the intensity of this unexpected friendship manifests itself in increasingly sinister ways. As their lives become more and more entwined, L. threatens Delphine's identity, both as a writer and as an individual.

This sophisticated psychological thriller skillfully blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and artifice. Delphine de Vigan has crafted a terrifying, insidious, meta-fictional thriller; a haunting vision of seduction and betrayal; a book which in its hungering for truth implicates the reader, too--even as it holds us in its thrall."

Sounds like the best of Highsmith!

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Amanda Quick, the bestselling author of ’Til Death Do Us Part, transports readers to 1930s California, where glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins…

When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…"

Anyone else a sucked for old Hollywood scandals? 

Manners by Margaret Wise Brown
Published by: Little Golden Book
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 24 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From the author of Goodnight Moon: a never-before-published story!

There is a way to close your mouth when you chew
and a way not to close your mouth when you chew.

In this witty book by Margaret Wise Brown, adorable animal characters show how good manners can open up the world to a child. Simple text uses opposites to illustrate a good way and a not-so-good way to wait in line, eat at the table, behave at a party, and treat an animal. Even the youngest children will quickly understand the message, brought to them in a gentle and amusing way. By the author of Goodnight Moon—who knew a thing or two about how to reach and teach young readers."

And this is how you behave at an orgy! That is seriously funny if you know anything about Margaret Wise Brown's life...

The New York Times Footsteps by The New York Times
Published by: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: May 9th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A curated collection of the New York Times' travel column, "Footsteps," exploring iconic authors' relationships to landmarks and cities around the world

Before Nick Carraway was drawn into Daisy and Gatsby’s sparkling, champagne-fueled world in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald vacationed in the French Riviera, where a small green lighthouse winked at ships on the horizon. Before the nameless lovers began their illicit affair in The Lover, Marguerite Duras embarked upon her own scandalous relationship amidst the urban streets of Saigon. And before readers were terrified by a tentacled dragon-man called Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft was enthralled by the Industrial Trust tower-- the 26-story skyscraper that makes up the skyline of Providence, Rhode Island.

Based on the popular New York Times travel column, Footsteps is an anthology of literary pilgrimages, exploring the geographic muses behind some of history's greatest writers. From the "dangerous, dirty and seductive" streets of Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante's famous Neapolitan novels, to the "stone arches, creaky oaken doors, and riverside paths" of Oxford, the backdrop for Alice's adventures in Wonderland, Footsteps takes a fresh approach to literary tourism, appealing to readers and travel enthusiasts alike."

OK, someone get me this book and then pay for me to relive it? 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Movie Review - Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility
Based on the book by Jane Austen
Release Date: December 13th, 1995
Starring: Tom Wilkinson, James Fleet, Harriet Walter, Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Emilie François, Gemma Jones, Hugh Grant, Robert Hardy, Elizabeth Spriggs, Alan Rickman, Greg Wise, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie, Imogen Stubbs, Allan Mitchell, Richard Lumsden, Lone Vidahl, and Oliver Ford Davies
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

John Dashwood is implored by his father while dying to care for his stepmother and three stepsisters due to inheritance law precluding them from his estate. John is quickly talked out of this necessary kindness by his unscrupulous wife Fanny who quickly descends on the mourning Dashwood women to take claim of her new home and count the silver. Elinor is trying to be practical while her younger sister Marianne is beside herself with grief while their youngest sister Margaret has opted to just hide. Their mother would quickly remove them from this toxic environment if it wasn't for the arrival of Fanny's brother Edward who helps with Margaret and forms an instant attachment to Elinor. Fanny abhors this connection and makes it clear to Mrs. Dashwood that her whole family has specific plans for dear Edward and that an unadvantageous match would lead to his being cut out of any of his prospects. Mrs. Dashwood hastily accepts the kind offer of her cousin, Sir John Middleton, to come and live at a cottage on his estate in Devonshire. There the four women are soon surrounded by a society that is very interested in them, especially a Colonel Brandon who only has eyes for Marianne. Sir John's mother-in-law makes it her sacred duty to tease the young girls and to find them advantageous matches. But both Elinor's and Marianne's hearts are irrevocably gone long before Mrs. Jennings has any say. Elinor still pines for Edward and Marianne, Marianne has met the man of her dreams in Willoughby, a romantic and lover of Shakespearean sonnets like herself. But the course of true love never runs smooth. Willoughby leaves Devonshire for London and Edward is secretly engaged to a young cousin of Mrs. Jennings, Lucy, whom his family will surely object to more than Elinor. Everything comes to a head on a trip to London. Will their hearts ever be mended or are they forever to be bruised and battered and broken?

My mom likes to say that when we went to see Sense and Sensibility in the movie theater there wasn't a dry eye in the house. While I do remember moderate sniffles, it can't compare to the copious crowd weeping of Hamilton which I recently experienced and freely admit I was a large contributor of. Of all Emma Thompson's films for some reason Sense and Sensibility is the one I return to the least, well aside from Love Actually, but we shall not go into my hatred of that film here despite how many cast similarities there are. I've never really wondered about this until I rewatched Sense and Sensibility after rereading the book and I think I've put my finger on it. While there's an intimacy to the books of Austen they are no means small, they encompass the whole of human emotion and what it is to be a woman. Yet with the way this adaptation was filmed the story feels small, almost trifling. The time constrictions coupled with what this necessitates makes the story of Elinor and Marianne somehow less. What struck me is having not seen it in a few years it's weird because despite the cast it feels like a low budget costume drama not a film up for copious academy awards. But then again on the heels of this production the Pride and Prejudice miniseries staring Colin Firth issued in a new era for the costume drama. They have exploded on television in the last twenty plus years and with advancements in cinematography and locations and costumes, this just feels limited and at times claustrophobic. There are too many close-ups and no sweeping vistas that people, like me, who regularly watch shows like Poldark expect. Instead we're just stuck with a lot of sheep.

When I was rereading the book, as I mentioned in that review, I was struck by how Colonel Brandon, while considered old, is actually younger than me. So when approaching the film again after so many years I couldn't help but think, was Emma Thompson perhaps too old to play the role of Elinor being in fact the "old" age of Colonel Brandon in real life? Did she in fact need a flannel waistcoat herself? Or flannel underthings? But the truth is I should never doubt Emma Thompson. NEVER. Having wrote the screenplay she knew exactly what to bring and when and you never once think of her age, which astounded me as she was working against my prejudice. In fact with her performance there are just rankings of what was best. What I most loved wasn't so much in her reserve and in being stalwart, what was amazing is at which points she decided to break that reserve and tap into her reservoir of emotion. Because in the book there are key scenes where Elinor loses her calm and has to regain it, times when I'm not 100% sure work for her character, therefore the changes that Thompson instigated in this instance were perfect. Elinor breaks only twice, once when she's at Marianne's sickbed and once again when she realizes that Edward is free to declare his feelings for her. Two perfect moments, because these are the two people in the world she can't life without. And as for when Edward declares himself? Just watch how Thompson turns her hysterics into tears of joy and you will be in no doubt as to why she was nominated as "Best Actress" in 1996 for this movie. Though I would request she NEVER wears that checked dress again, it looks like the bedsheets from Steve Harrington's bed on Stranger Things.

Though there are still weird omissions and rejiggering that Thompson did in her adaptation that I'm not quite sure of. Yes, there's changes necessitated by time and the narrative being streamlined to fit into a little over two hours of screen time. So therefore I can forgive Lady Middleton being sent swiftly to her grave and Lucy using the kindness of Mrs. Jennings to expedite her own journey to London, though it's entirely straining credulity to believe that Elinor and Lucy would discuss Edward on that carriage ride! Mrs. Jennings has a nose for gossip! Edward not visiting Barton until the end makes a little less since, but still works, but then there's the changes that didn't leave me scratching my head by yelling on the TV that the change made NO SENSE! My biggest problem was of Lucy not having a sister. This is a BIG hurdle. Why? Because Lucy is cunning. The ONLY reason in the book that her secret engagement to Edward is revealed is because her sister, thinking that she's fully one over the whole Ferrars family, blurts out at breakfast that Lucy and Edward are engaged. Both the film's version and the book's version have an equally dramatic reaction on Fanny's part. But there is no way that Lucy would have voluntarily told Fanny, no matter the encouragement, if Lucy wasn't 100% sure of everything. This utterly changes Lucy's character and you can't quite rectify who she is in the movie with the remnants of that cunning bitch from the book. Why would she manipulate Elinor so? Why would she swap Edward for Robert? She's made too nice. The only way she works as a character is by having her sister as the other half, much like Elinor needs Marianne!

Yet I can not be so cruel as to say that all the changes were negative. The way they were able to subtly show the Dashwood's penury through them not being able to purchase new clothes for mourning or always lamenting the lack of sugar and beef perfectly sums up their plight to a modern audience, even if the savvy reader will notice that Thompson actually halved their income. But where Thompson's adaptation soars is in actually giving Margaret purpose. Margaret as the youngest Dashwood is used to affect three times in the novel, once to blurt out to Mrs. Jennings about Elinor's love of Edward, once to seek help when Marianne falls and Willoughby rescues her, and finally to see Willoughby ask for a lock of Marianne's hair. Other than these scenes she is a nonentity, she doesn't matter, and in fact once her elder sisters traipse off to London she is maybe mentioned once or twice more. Whereas Thompson makes her a fully fledged character who loves the idea of travel and pours over an atlas for hours. She is an independent young woman of spirit who wants to be a pirate. She encompasses the future of what women can be within this limited time period. In fact the expansion of Margaret's character has so inspired fans that other writers, like Beth Deitchman in her lovely Regency Magic book Margaret Dashwood and the Enchanted Atlas, has taken Thompson's infusion of Margaret with an actual personality as a jumping off point for her reinterpretation of Austen's world. What's more is that Margaret's character helps to build up the character of Edward, who, let's face it, is a little lacking as Austen wrote him. With Edward taking an interest in Margaret we can see why Elinor falls for him with all his good and laudable qualities.

But the majority of Edward's faults are fixed in the casting of Hugh Grant. In fact, the combined casting of Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman make up for any defects these characters had as they were originally written. Because really, we've forgiven Hugh Grant for far more than lack of character over the years with him just breaking out that trademark sheepish grin while that floppy lock of hair falls over his eyes. The lack of depth, the engagement to Lucy, the reticence, are all washed away because seriously people, that grin, that stammer, it's like this character was written for Hugh to bring to life because he and the character become one. And as for all those fans out there who repeatedly say that yes the Colonel is a good man but how could Marianne ever love again after Willoughby? Firstly, Willoughby is scum, he didn't even take Marianne secretly home in this version! But more that that, who wouldn't melt to have Alan Rickman look at them like that? When he first sees Marianne playing the piano, thankfully sweetly if artlessly actually sung by Kate Winslet, you are just WAITING for the two of them to get together. But the nail in the coffin of Rickman's casting? His melodious voice. Seriously, I don't think there is anyone who has that kind of liquid voice that can be seductive but also menacing when need be. How I wish Thompson had included the duel just to hear him call Willoughby out! But the reason I bring up his voice is that Marianne is very much into the spirit, the animation one brings when reading aloud, and Edward is found very lacking. How could Rickman EVER be found lacking on this score? It was a foregone conclusion, not just that he'd win the girl, but that Thompson would throw in a scene of him reading to his beloved Marianne. So while there are some things I scratch my head about I should just sit back and listen to Alan Rickman's voice.

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