I did not review a book earlier today. It might have looked like I did, but that is a lie. You cannot believe everything you read on the internet, after all. I apologize to everyone who thought they saw a review earlier, and I apologize especially to the author, editor, market, and publisher of the book that I categorically did not review earlier, for the error. I am feeling incredibly foolish and guilty right now. So very sorry, everyone.
If it makes anyone feel any better, I shall be spending the foreseeable future curled up in a blanket in a corner, pretending I don’t exist.
Back in the spring, I wrote about historical women who lived amazing, adventurous lives and deserved recognition in the form of novels. I’m still waiting for most of those books to surface, but as it turns out, someone has written a novel about Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. I know this because the publisher of the novel reached out to me a couple days later and offered me a reading copy. Naturally, I said yes, and I finally got the book a couple weeks ago. They haven’t explicitly asked me to review the book publicly, but I feel it’s the least I can do.
First, the story: the book traces Margaret from birth to death, first stories to last, from country manor to court-in-exile to married life to London and on. It’s written in an engaging, lovely literary style that’s both easy to read and packed with dialogue and descriptions. I enjoyed the read quite a bit, and I have a hunch it wasn’t as easy to write as it looks.
It’s very much a fictionalized biography, which I wasn’t expecting. Danielle Dutton has clearly done her research as to when and where things happened, where Margaret was when, and what sort of person she was. (There are quotes from her novels and from contemporaries too.) It never really reads like a bio, though. Margaret’s thoughts and moods shine through too much for that, it flows entirely differently, and it’s not so much about recording Margaret’s life in detail as it is about recording the sensations of it.
The novel’s very feminist as well, which I did expect. One can’t write about an early female novelist and essayist with a love of science and outlandish gowns without taking that tack, I don’t think. There are moments of “this lady had gumption” and moments of “life was tough for women back then”, and both build Margaret up as a person rather than detract from the story by getting preachy—except for maybe a couple moments. Maaaaaaybe. A lot of the more obvious feminist bits come from the Duchess herself, and man, was she angry. No wonder she upset the establishment.
All that said, I liked the book but didn’t love it. I think that’s partly my fault—I went in expecting something deep and sweeping, covering everything in detail instead of just the important bits—and partly the fault of my reading list—I’ve read some Very Good Books this year and they’ve made just about everything afterwards seem lesser. (Don’t get me wrong on the first point, though. Margaret the First absolutely works as it is; it just wasn’t what I was expecting.) I also tend not to read a lot of literary fiction, and certainly not literary-historical, so that probably contributed too.
To sum up: very interesting, very beautiful, very readable, flawless as far as I can tell, but didn’t light a spark in me. I was really kind of hoping it would.
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton comes out in March and can be preordered here.
I’ve run out of ideas.
Not for novels and short stories and such. Those just keep coming whether I want them or not. But for blogging? I’m not feeling it these days.
Judging by how many pictures and short posts I’ve put up in the last few weeks, you might have noticed.
I started blogging here again for a few reasons: to share historical tidbits I’ve run across in my novel research; to share linguistic info and writing tips; to maybe find a few like minds. But I’m not really doing any research at the moment, and my ideas for tips are either highly technical or sound too pat, and I’m clearly the wrong person to find like minds because I’d have to devote at least an hour or two a day to go through WordPress and find them, and between my day-job, my writing time, and my need to eat and sleep and occasionally clean things, I don’t have the time.
I suppose I could sleep less, but that wouldn’t be pretty, trust me.
It doesn’t help that I’m still dealing with the aftermath of last Monday, which struck my confidence a pretty big blow, and getting that back is rocky because I’m still running into posts and advice that tell me I’m doing everything wrong. I’m fairly certain I’m not, but who knows?
So here are some questions for you, whoever you are, reading this:
- What would you like to see me write about?
- How do you keep going through a blogging funk? Any tips for me?
- (Bonus question) What am I doing wrong on this blog, because most days it feels like nobody cares about my posts at all?
The person who introduced me to The Decemberists did so by describing them as only writing songs that inspired fiction. While I do love their music and lyrics—there’s this lush, poetic quality, narratives, folk tale motifs, that sort of thing—I’m not seized by a need to novelize everything they’ve done. But there are a few songs that I do want to draw from at some point, because every time I hear them, they inspire my curiosity if nothing else.
The Decemberists became a launching point for other, well, I call the genre “indie folk”. Not sure if that’s accurate or not, but there you go. These are other bands who use traditional instruments and folk motifs and storylines in their music. And again, there’s the odd song I want to dig deeper into someday. Maybe. If there’s ever time.
What about you? What songs do you want to explore someday?
- Is postmodernism, the drawing together of disparate elements to create art that would not be recognized as such even a hundred years ago, a good thing or a bad one? Does it show a kind of creativity that our ancestors did not have, or does it pervert the nature of art and therefore necessitate rejection? Is it all a matter of degree? Should I go with my gut on this and do what feels right?
- Do I have the right to write about non-white and non-straight people in my novel, when I do not have firsthand knowledge of their experiences but plan to research and get beta-readers? Do I have the right to try to publish such a book?
- Am I being terribly gross and colonialist in other ways, and again, do I have the right to try to publish if so?
- Is the disparate elements aspect of postmodernism not actually a new thing, because everyone creating art has always drawn from multiple sources of inspiration, especially when writing fiction?
- Am I spending too much time on Tumblr and letting it warp my view of reality?
- Am I not a real writer because I’m not driven to make it a full-time thing and quit my day-job? Because I’m not constantly writing when away from the day-job?
- Why is my plot falling apart, exactly?Is my writing any good or am I just biased?
- Is the internet going to jump on me for asking these questions? Am I going to lose the future agent I don’t yet have when they find this?