Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes for July 19, 2014

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
Dear Internet,
You can follow me on Pinterest on what I’m readingwatching, and listening.


Raising Steam by Sir Terry Pratchett
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
What I love most about Pratchett is his fantastical ability to create a Discworldian history over the probable cause of a “thing” that we have always accepted as part of our reality. The history of rock and roll, banks, postal service, newspapers (to name a few), and now the steam revolution have all been given a history with a very Pratchett twist to them.
But here’s the thing that finally dawned on me as I read Raising Steam – PTerry has always, ALWAYS been a shower, not a teller. Witty dialogue, great character development, fantastic descriptions, and footnotes that would melt your heart are the reasons why he is one of the few authors I continue to pre-order their books. But something is shifting now — I noticed it in Dodger where things didn’t seem quite on the up and up with his writing but I couldn’t figure out WHY. And the more I got into Raising Steam, the more I realised what was missing — PTerry is becoming a teller. Less on the witty dialogue and character development, more on a “here is a few paragraphs to cover what is needed for this particular scene.” PTerry’s “embuggerance,” as he calls it, is starting to show its mettle.
There is enough soul of the man who writes to make the words fly in the way they need, and to make the story come alive. But it is a little less shiny. Little less bright. A little less, well, him.
cakesandale Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
tl;dr Cakes and Ale  is proof in the pudding dead white dudes could write whatever the fuck they want and have it hailed as literary masterpiece, even when it is utterly beyond crap.
I picked this book up a couple of months ago and it has been the bane of my existence as the more I read, the more I hated it. It is poorly written and badly edited, with random thoughts dropped into the middle of scenes that do not make any sense to the story or plot. For example, near the end of the book while discussing the character, Rosie Driffield, in question, the narrator suddenly decides this would be a good time to go on a two page bender on the withal of telling a story in first person narrative. Then as suddenly as he leapt into that thought, he leaps back into his discourse of Rosie’s admirable/questionable qualities.
The book is littered with jumps like this. There was 30 pages leveled on the discourse of beauty, what it meant, how it was applicable to life, who got it, and who didn’t. Another 10 pages on the virtues of a secondary minor character who doesn’t show up until near the end of the book. Roughly 20 pages was spent discussing the attributes of a another character who never actually shows up later in the story.
Maugham name checks of the day famous literary talent, real and imaginary. He draws comparison between his protagonist, William Ashenden, and these literary giants and whom you realise is really a stand in for him. He fangirls over so many famous people, it gets kind of embarrassing.
The crux of the story is William Ashenden, the narrator, is asked by Alroy Kear, another London literary snob, to help him with his research on writing a biography of recently deceased late-Victorian author, Edward Driffield. Driffield’s wife, the second Mrs. Driffield, wants any mention of the first Mrs. Driffield, our supposed heroine Rosie, to be erased from Edward’s history for she was an amoral character to the ninth degree and whose influence over poor dear Edward nearly killed him. 
With this set up, one would think the whole of the story would be the bringing to life, discussion, and telling of Rosie Driffield’s relationship with Edward. Rosie is mentioned in the beginning of the book briefly and then it’s not until another 200 pages later she’s brought into focus again and then carried out. It was as if someone had said to Maugham, “Yo. You are far off plot here buddy, rein it in!” And he did.
The whole of the book is to examine the snobbery and the often absurd social mores of the late Victorians and later, the Edwardians, and how these attitudes were affected and perceived. I get that, I do. But in that vein, the book is so poorly executed I spent a lot of time wondering what the fuck I was reading. I checked the synopsis on the back of the book so often to verify that what it said was actually what I was reading and not something else entirely.
It is well documented Maugham had issues with women, as he often saw them as his sexual and affection competitors, so his women are often described and treated as if they scum on shoes because of their sex. It is also well established Maugham, despite impressive number of novels under his belt, is at his best as a short story writer. With that in mind, I would recommend you stay the hell away from Cakes and Ale. I cannot in good conscious even conceive how this book gets so much love because of how flawed it is from start to finish. It is not even coherent, and yet! Yet, the mere existence proves that a dead white dude could write anything and have it called a literary masterpiece.


  • You, Me, & Them
    An adorable and quirky show staring Anthony Head (Giles from Buffy) and Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper on Torchwood) as a May-December couple who have recently moved in together and struggling with the demands not only of their relationship, but also the demands of their respective families. Frothy and fun, I was pleasantly surprised by the series. Series 2 is coming soon!

Weekly watching: The LeftoversTrue Blood, Rectify, Halt and Catch Fire, A Place To Call Home, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, Elementary
What have you read/watched/listened to this week?

This day in Lisa-Universe in:

notes for cabinet particulier, part iii: sorting the research

View from the back deck
View from the back deck

Dear Internet,
As planned, I got up early and headed into Traverse City to get Jeeves’ tires attended to. I called the local BMW dealership and was told, despite confirmation from MINI Grand Rapids and the TC BMW receptionist, they do NOT service MINIs. His suggestion? Take my car to MINI Grand Rapids. When I pointed out a 160 mile trek on possibly bad tires was not a wise move, he suggested I head to Discount Tire (as I had originally was leaning towards) and also gave me the name of a local TC shop that specialized in MINIs and other foreign cars.
Once you get off of M-72 and start heading into Cedar and then further on to Throbbing Cabin is some of the best driving roads around, barring M-22 of course. I love this part of the drive when we come up here as this is the kind of roads where Jeeves thrives and begs to be driven on. There is a stretch of about five miles after you leave Cedar that is hairpin straight and goes up some minor hills; when you hit the apex of each hill, you can see Lake Michigan beckoning in the distance.
Uncertain to the status of the my tires, I drove ever so slowly down to TC and who am I kidding here? I was probably white knuckling it the entire way, waiting for the supposedly bad tire to just fall off and planning in my head how I was going to handle each and every bad scenario that landed in my brain.
Discount Tire was busy for 10AM on a Wednesday morning — me and all the OAPs hanging out getting our tires issues sorted. The tires are fine and the TPMS is all normalized (again). Rationally, I knew this was going to be true, but anxiety eats away at all rationality. I spent time on the deck last night staring at Jeeves as if he was a monster because I could not stop thinking of worse case scenarios of having massive car issue 160 miles from home. THIS! Despite having insurance, an incredible maintenance and warranty plan, tow truck numbers programmed in my phone, and local numbers (now) for car repair, I could not let it go until the nice man at Discount Tire told me everything was going to be fine.
I got back to the cabin several hours later than intended as I ran a few errands since I was out and about. After having lunch, I started getting settled into doing research for the book around 4PM and here it is four hours later and fuck man, I am overwhelmed.
On Monday night I started culling all the random tidbits I had been collecting for the last 18 months and began to import them into Scrivener. I broke each thing down to its own category for easier sorting and updated the research page for the project in the process.
Today’s work was much of the same as I found more locales where I had stored bits and bobs. I think in my head I always fancied myself to keep things neat and simple, but apparently I keep trying to find the best product for everything, test it out, and ultimately forget it and all the content I stored there. Today the culprit was Pinboard, which while it seems to prove useful for many, I need visualization to organize.
(Still sitting on Pinboard  is a good chunk of research I found for my viking and medieval lady boners which still needs to be imported over to their respective Scrivener projects. Marginalia for the win!)
Granted Scrivener has a learning curve, but once you get in the groove it starts to really make sense. Best thing I’ve ever done? Put all my notes, ideas, and everything into a single Scrivener project.
I’ve also been reading contemporary stories while I’m up here based in the Edwardian era – of which there is surprisingly not many.  I suspected with the rise of Downton Abbey that there would have been a huge influx of lit based in the Edwardian era, but no, there really isn’t. I know of less than half a dozen mystery series based in that era and handful of fiction books written in the last five years but that’s shockingly about it. Since I’m having a hard time finding contemporary books of that era, I’m going to create a bibliography over on my author site for read alikes. Because librarian, yolo.
I’m also collecting titles of works written in the era to read to get a better sense of the period. so watch it Lawrence, Forster, Galsworthy, and the whole lot of you. I am on to you. And lucky me, most of their work is available in the open domain.
(I finally finished Maugham’s Cakes & Ale, though written in 1930 much of the book takes place in the Edwardian era. Holy fuck, do I hate this book. It was just so awful for a large list of reasons I will be discussing later.)
Additionally, there is only a handful of sites dedicated to the Edwardian era and some of them are dubious in nature while others tuck that period in as very-late Victorian without giving the period its proper due. I was distressed to find that one of the sites that I had considered, due to the breadth of research and writing, to be a fabulous resource was passing on debunked knowledge as fact.
Case in point: I am supremely disappointed to discover Edwardian women did NOT pierce their nipples to make them more pert. This is repeated over and over again in many legitimate sites but apparently there is no reference other than to a correspondence page in the back of a publication from 1899 that was more of fetishism than actual fact.
I have a draft started for a blog post quaintly entitled, Who the fuck are the Edwardians and why should we care?, which I hope to write tomorrow. Because we should care, dammit.
Legit writer tools.

The mosquitos are eating me alive out here and it grows late. My treat for getting work done will be a vegan white russian, dinner, and a not so terrible book.

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2013, 2012, 2010, 1998

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes for May 31, 2014

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
Dear Internet,
Yesterday I updated Put A Cravat On It, the mother of all period piece series list that I wrote up back in December. It’s now closing in on nearly 100 shows to tap that vein when waiting for Downton Abbey or Miss Fisher. Enjoy.
P.S. You can now follow me on Pinterest on what I’m readingwatching, and listening.


The Raven’s Warrior by Vincent Pratchett
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
This book, a recommendation I saw somewhere, had all the right ingredients: Vikings, Arthurian legends, fantasy, and retellings. How can it be bad?
Hoo boy.
Let us start on page iv with the Editor’s note: Viken is a historical name in southwestern Norway, believed to derive from Old Norse word ‘vik’, meaning cove or inlet. Etymologists have suggested that the modern word “viking” may be derived from this place name, simply meaning “a person from Viken.”
This little note is almost entirely lifted from Wikipedia page for viken. The etymology of the word “viken” is correct, but how it relates to Vikings is horribly incorrect.
So there’s that.
The prologue which is a to give the book ambiance is lifted from Norse legend, except our bro dude here is Celtic (yes, there were some heavy influences but this is a very direct lifting of Norse mythology) and then we’re told the protagonist’s name is Vincent (Mary Sue much?). Vincent is kidnapped by Viken raiders who sell him at a market to a Chinese monk with a VERY mysterious past and then the story shifts to the monk’s backstory for a zillion pages that had no bearing on the story itself.
The prose is terrible. It’s written in mostly stream of consciousness with some dialog thrown in to make it a “story.” And there is description of everything everywhere about everything, which just reinforces the stream of consciousness technique. You have no idea who is talking when, about what, or to whom. The jump in direction and sudden shifting in points of view were edited badly.
Other points to consider:

  • He claims to be the nephew of Terry Pratchett – who is an only child. Vincent also marks it pointedly that he is related on his book bio.
  • His publishing house, YMAA, publishes titles mainly in martial arts / spirituality, but rarely fiction.
  • He (or someone) paid $69 to enter in the USA Best Book Awards, which after viewing their site just screams, “scam.”
  • People have commented on GR and other places they were embarrassed to hand his book out for World Book Night
  • The misuse of plain/plane, their/they’re/there, and other grammar and spelling atrocities.

I just can’t. Nope. Not gonna even try.
Currently reading
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
Still plodding along.
Unexpected Superhero by Kitty Bucholtz
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
First book NOT in Worldcat, so that’s interesting.
I picked this title up via the author’s booth when I was at Cherry Capital Comic Con last weekend. The cover was eye catching, the concept of a local to the area superhero was intriguing, and lately I’ve been hunting down superhero as prose novels. See Kelly Thompson as another, yet delightfully better, example of this emerging genre.
First thing I need to note: This is a Christian romance, first and foremost. Full stop.
Nothing wrong with Christian romance, there is a huge market for the material, but it’s not a genre I regularly read in. I’m having a hard time with someone writing a superhero novel while integrating all of the reasons why the characters are so superhuman is because of The Lord.
I’m only about 40 pages in to Unexpected Superhero, and I’m finding other issues as well (mainly plot and editing issues), so there will be more later.
Raising Steam by Sir Terry Pratchett
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
After The Raven’s Warrior and Unexpected Superhero being disappointments for a variety of reasons, I decided to dig back into good old Sir TPerry, for this has been hanging out on my bedside table for ages. Sir TPerry’s wonderfully taut prose and gentle merry making is a palette cleanser after the dreck I read earlier in the week. Long may he reign.


  • Mad Men
    I am feeling much better as to how this season progressed and I’m a bit sad at how some of the things have turned — Megan/Don, Peggy, and of course, Burt. I thought I had a good idea of where the show was going, but it seems I do not. I hope this doesn’t end up becoming another Sopranos.
  • Mr. Sloane
    Nick Frost plays a conservative 1960s accountant whose life is not heading in the direction he wants it to go. Or as the tagline states, who found the 60s were not all that swinging for him. Funny and dorky — fundorky? — you can’t help but want to cheer Frost on.
  • The Crimson Field
    During 2014, the Beeb is planning on running 2500 hours of television dedicated to WW1, and this was one of the shows. Crimson Field is about three field nurses, near the front, during the Great War and the people they encounter, the lives they change, and those who work with them. There is a lot of FEELINGS and you can feel the heavy influence of Downton Abbey. I really liked this show and the ending was set up for a second season. I hope.

Weekly watching:  Fargo, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Louie, Penny DreadfulGame of ThronesSilicon ValleyVeep, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, Doctor Blake MysteriesElementary
What have you read/watched/listened to this week?

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2012, 2012, 2012, 2012, 2012, 2009

Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes for May 17, 2014

Johann Georg Hainz's Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Johann Georg Hainz’s Cabinet of Curiosities, circa 1666. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

During the Renaissance, cabinet of curiosities came into fashion as a collection of objects that would often defy classification. As a precursor to the modern museum, the cabinet referred to room(s), not actual furniture, of things that piqued the owners interest and would be collected and displayed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Collectioun of Cunnynge Curioustes is my 21st century interpretation of that idea.
Dear Internet,
You can now follow me on Pinterest on what I’m readingwatching, and listening.


I’ve been really into BBC Radio these last few weeks and below is some of my current favorites. I’m not going to lie, Benedict Cumberbatch figures prominently in two of the series, so there’s that.


The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6) by Alan Bradley
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads)
At this point, there is not much more one can say about this series that has not said before, so I won’t regurgitate it all over again. I will say I’m not sure where this story is going is the right path. The twists of where Flavia is headed, the AHA moment Bradley springs upon us, and how Bradley neatly ties up some lingering questions seem kind of amateurish. But obviously I’m on the hook now for what happens, so bring on book #7!
Sex and Rage: Advice To Young Ladies Eager For A Good Time by Eve Babitz
(Amazon | WorldCat | GoodReads)
Earlier I said,

I was introduced to Babitz recently via a recent article about her in Vanity Fair. The idea of an intellectual good-time girl intrigued me as it should, and I was dismayed to find that her work is not only largely unknown but also out of print. I was able to get a first edition copy ofSex and Rage via interlibrary loan to read and boy, am I ever glad I did. Babitz is glorious as a writer, the work hums with the fastness of the era, of the good time unapologetic choices that Jacaranda makes, doing so with such easy going nature you are desperate for the drugs she’s on.

Two of the books main characters are cities (LA and NYC), who are plumped up in their finery to show you what they are really like during their heights. Make no mistake, this is very much a roman à cléf of Babitz’s life and I don’t think this book would have been successful any other way. The only way to capture the essence of the era and the city would have been to live it as wildly and as fully as Babitz. Once you get past this is a thinly retelling of Babtiz’s life and realise her wordplay is punchy and clean, the book sails forward in all of its gloriousness.
Currently reading
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
(Amazon | Worldcat | GoodReads)
This is supposed to be HILARIOUS. A laugh riot. Bawdy.  A modern retelling of Twelfth Night.  In reality? A trainwreck.
The premise of the story is a moderately successful writer is approached by the family of a  recently deceased big to do writer to write his biography. But there is a catch! The biographer has to erase all mentions of the dead writer’s first wife, who was so bawdy and outlandish, she turned him bohemian. Craz-zee.
Except, the linear story is a hot mess. We’re introduced to a nameless (at first ) 1st person unreliable narrator, a writer, at the beginning of the story who is fretting over accepting the call of a slightly more successful writer friend. Maugham then spends nearly 20 pages on what Mr. moderately successful is and isn’t.  Then as we start to get into the meat of the story, so-called Mr. moderately successful is then dropped from the story. I’ve spent the next 70 pages of the primary unreliable narrator basking in the glow of his youth, and where we find out he is the one who has met the dead writer when the dead writer was married to the bawdy first wife. While the crux of the story is to circle around the moderately successful writer writing the biography, I’m 1/3rd of the way through and Maugham is dragging this on.
Maugham is better known, and respected, for his short stories which are supposedly sublime. I keep thinking I have read Of Human Bondage, but I think my memory is faulty. So Cakes and Ale is meh.


  • Vikings
    The Vikings ended a few weeks back and I’m curious to see where this goes. Historically, Ragnar Lodbrok doesn’t last long past what we’re at now in history on the show, and they have been tap dancing around the settlement of England (and yo. Dane law.). Where will this go and how much will the producers manipulate versus the truth?
  • Penny Dreadful
    Gaslight retelling of various Romantic and Victorian nightmares (Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper, Dracula) starting a James Bond, a Bond Girl, and a Companion. One episode in and it shows a lot of promise. I’m curious to how they will continue intertwining the various mythologies into a single story.
  • Louie
    TheHusband is a big fan of Louie, so we’ve been watching this as it has been appearing. I find Louie’s comedy mostly great, but he always tends to have one or two jokes that fall flat with me.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Another new news show encompassing the weekly worth of events in half hour, but with a British spin.
  • Fargo
    Starring Billy Bob Thorton and Martin Freeman, along with a host of other big actors, on a spin of the Cohen brother’s movie.
  • Eurovision
    I cannot possibly encompass the gloriousness of Eurovision in a mere paragraph.
  • At Home With The Georgians
    Originally aired in 2010, it was rebroadcast this past week to begin the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the first George of England. It stars one of my favorite academic/presenters Amanda Vickery. What is really interesting about this series is not just the historical view of the Georgian era, but how much we think is modern in terms of how we view homes and living actually is centuries old. DIY is not a novel or new concept.

Weekly watching:  Mad MenGame of ThronesSilicon ValleyVeep, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Americans, Survivor: CagayanElementary
What have you read/watched/listened to this week?

This day in Lisa-Universe in: 2003