Monday, April 30, 2007

Weird Semester Theme?

Okay, so I thought it was a bit funny/cool when right after we read My Father's Mask in class, my Italian professor went off on a whole lecture about masks (maschera in Italian, just in case anyone was wondering) in the play Enrico IV. Zach should know what I'm talking about.

Now, I'm starting to think this is some sort of weird theme for my semester, because we got into the same topic in my Dante class the day after we did the paper presentations and I started reading that article Andy had on masks. Granted, the Dante class is also taught by the same Italian professor, but...

Anyway, to my point: Anyone else have weird crossover themes with their classes? As this is about the third time this has happened to me, I'm starting to wonder if my professors don't get together and conspire at the beginning of the year. :P

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gentleman, Start Your Engines.

I would like to do a bit of a survey for my paper topic. We all know about the gentleman of Strange & Norrell and the novel's use of the term "gentleman." What I need to know from you guys and gals is, what is your definition of a gentleman? It would be helpful if you could give me your real-world definition as well as your interpretation of how the term is used in the novel. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Paper Topic

So, I have decided to tackle Elizabeth Hand's "Kronia" for my paper number two. I am really interested by the stream of consciousness and the infinite realities Hand presents. I feel that the quote is really significant. But I am trying to figure out in which direction I should go with my paper: the infinite realities that split off by different actions or decisions one can make--relating that to the theory briefly discussed in class and trying to piece together the alternate realities streaming throughout the story, or something on memories, or both??

Tree Killer Topic

I have a few ideas that I just need to flesh out..
1) on the Tarot and Childermass, touching on the history of the Tarot then getting into the significance of Childermass having the cards and the significance of the cards that are laid down when Childermass and Vincultus
2) a study into the use of pairs as main characters in stories. Focusing on Strange&Norrell, Childermass&Vincultus. With this I'd look at other stories, like Northwest Passage, that have pairs. So, I'd do some research into the significance behind the number '2', which is the part I'm worried about because that involves more.. unreliable? sources..
3) a study into novels being very plot driven like a role-playing game and whether this is sloppy or intentional. Andy mentioned something about this last week. It would involve looking into this trend and the trend in video games, also the age-group audience. I think I could make a valid point that novels are being written like rpgs because that's the audience they're aiming for. Hehe, it's like the authors are trying to get us gamers away from the compters with books that are similar to the games we play... Which I am totally all for; I read those kinda books anyways. But how do I make 10 pages out of this?

Paper Topic

Since we watched Spirited Away, I have rented a few of Miyazaki's other films. From watching and reading about them, I have discovered that there are a several recurrent themes in a lot of his work; enviromentalism, coming-of-age through a quest, unsterotypical antagonists, magic of course, and so on. For my paper I want to focus specifically on the common motifs in Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind. I thought of using Howl's Moving Castle instead of Nausicaa, but I know it was orignially a book by Diana Wynne. Since I haven't read it so I don't really know how much of the film is Miyazaki's own invention and how much is Wynne's. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas please let me know.

Howl's Moving Castle and Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrel

Howl's Moving castle is an oscar-winning animated film by Hayo Miyazaki (Spirited Away) based on the book Diana Wynne. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend it. It shares a few things with Strange & Norrel. It's set in Europe during what seems to be an analogy to one of the World Wars. The king incorporates wizards and witches into military use like in Strange & Norrel. He even has a full-time sorceress adviser.


For my paper I have decided to write about The Gentleman and how he fits into traditional English Fairy lore. I have found loads of information on fairies, and have come up with some good comparisons, but I can't help but think that I need to somehow narrow down my topic. Maybe to a compare and contrast between two different kinds of fairies we've read about in class, perhaps? Do y'all remember any specific short stories that star an interesting fairy-like character? All the short stories are starting to run together for me now. What is y'all's opinion?

a new thought

i thought i remembered andy asking us how our definitions of the fantasy genre have expanded or changed over this course. i was thinking about this and i realized one major revelation that has come about in my own definition of fantasy. i always thought of fantasy as mystical, imaginary characters and places that could never actually exist in the world today. however, i was horribly mistaken in my close-minded view of this genre. despite imaginary characters who may be witches or cats or creepy men who kill their wives, there are still very real elements to all of these tales. i can relate to most every story we have read in some way or another, and its made me like this genre of literature a lot more. i used to never pick out a fantasy book to read, and from here on out i will certainly give them a second glance.

Some paper help.

So if you remember last Wednesday, you're probably not surprised that I would like to do my paper trying to answer "Who civilized who?" in consideration of the English and the denizens of Faerie in Strange and Norrell.

Part of that approach, however, is trying to find a text to reference ot help put in perspective, and I was wondering if any of you knew of a solid comparative text -- historical or fictional -- that might be of use.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Harry Potter & Mr Norrell

I was desperately trying to find a way to incorporate Harry Potter into my paper topic and I thought about something that was similar between the two novels (although I won't be writing about it...because I think I'm going to write about the importance of prophechy in each book), but I was also thinking about each author's use of alternate history. It obviously pops up over and over in Strange & Norrell, but in Half Blood Prince, when the two ministers (muggle and minister of magic) meet at the beginning, the "other" minister talks to Fudge about the terrible things that have been happening on his end...and Fudge points out that they have both been experiencing the same events. I know it is not strictly an alternate history, but it is a parallel universe i guess, I just liked that part of the novel, thought i'd throw that out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

My exhaustingly exhaustive title for Paper One

"Cutting the Cord: The Creepy Momma’s Boys of Psycho and ‘Catskin,’ Archetypes of Tangible Social Fear"

Keep your eyes peeled for my next papers, "Fighting with Foo: Dave Grohl's Musical Transformation" and "A Portrait of Fear: Why Cats Are So Fuzzy."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Something Random...

Have you ever clicked the 'Next Blog' link at the top? I just did.. got a Spanish blog then a German blog! lol!


i wasn't really sure what to blog about this week so i thought i'd point out a cool detail in one of my favorite parts of the novel. in the scene where we see lady pole dancing at the ball...i loved all the details about the clothes and costumes, especially the dress made totally of was details like this that despite making this novel 1006 pages also add so much to the picture i create in my head while reading

Table open for bets...

Anyone want to venture a guess as to when the next novel will come out? And how long it will be? I'm rather intrigued by S&N; I may actually read a sequel :D We should write to her and give her ideas of what we think will be in the book that she's still working on...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Interesting Fact Nugget

With all the mention of actual historic events in this is no wonder that Suzanna Clarke would include a fairy kingdom named after a place she once lived...from wikipedia: "At one point in the book, reference is made to the Faerie kingdom of Pity-Me. This is in fact a real place in County Durham, North East England. Clarke was living in County Durham in 1992, when she started writing the novel."

Definitely not something I expected to turn out to be real

Name Meanings

So I was curious, with all the talk of the importance of names, and decided to look up what some of the main character's names mean:

Jonathan - gift of God
Gilbert - trusted oath
Stephen - crowned in victory
Arabella - answered prayer
Walter - powerful warrior, ruler of an army
Emma (Lady Pole) - complete, whole

I don't know how many of these name meanings were intentional on Clarke's part, but I think it's pretty amazing how well some of them fit, especially Stephen's & Emma's.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fairy tales in the news

The AP story about the breakup of Prince William and Kate Middleton not only invokes fairy tales in the lead, but includes a "Frog Prince" reference in the fourth paragraph.

Further discussion on Stephen Black

I know I have another post dedicated to Steven Black, but it took me a while to scroll down to it; thus, I thought it would be prudent to make a new one.

I'm almost completely convinced that Stephen Black will become the new Raven King. The further evidence that I call upon to support this is that in chapter 68 ("Yes.") when Strange and Norrell are trying to appease the Raven King, they cast a spell to make Northern England bow down to "the nameless slave." This results in Stephen Black having control of Northern England for enough time that he vanquishes the gentleman. Given the importance put on names during magic spells throughout the book (cf. the pillar of darkness), I believe that the use of the nameless slave will have some import upon the next book.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

on Tarot cards and interesting thoughts

So after I read and commented on Brian's "Childermass" post, I decided to do some research on Tarot cards, specifically the "Cards of Marseille" that he has. Having a set of Hanson-Roberts tarot, which is similar in style to the most common Rider-Waite cards, I know a bit of the history of tarot. There are many different accounts of the history of the tarot cards. In my comment, I quoted the history as being just another set of playing cards, founded in 14th Century Italy. Now, my book says that tarot dates back to some 3000 years ago in the Middle East, and became popular in the 14th Century, that part being conistent with common histories. Really, all we know is that the predecesor to the modern tarot deck was designed in the 14th Century as playing cards. It is possible that other, more ancient forms of the deck, were produced, but not to the extence of the tarot deck. It wasn't untill a few centuries later that occultists took in the deck as a form of divination and thus gave the modern connotation to the deck. The term "Tarot of Marseille" that Childermass uses for his deck actually didn't come around until the early 1900s, and was coined for the grouping of cards made from the area. Unless I'm missing something.. I sense a bit of research error on Clarke's end?
images of the TdM:
and you can also google it to find more ( i did 'history of tarot' and 'cards of Marseille' )

And for my intersting thought: Since I'm a high-fantasy, science-fiction kinda girl, I can make more connections to those kinda books than others. So, when I was reading S&N, I found the relationship between Norrell and Strange to be quite similar to a pair of brothers in a popular series. Is anyone familiar with Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis's Dragonlance series? I can only relate to the Legends 3 part book they pubplished. Back to topic, I found and interesting relation with Strange and Norrell to Cameron and Raislin. Cameron/Strange being the one who went out and actually did things with Raistlin/Norrell being the academic who was more content to sit brooding and studying in his library. Except, of course, Norrell isn't hellbent on taking over the world..


I was thinking about this and am I alone in thinking that Childermass was my favorite character in that book. He just seemed like he had a great backstory that only Susanna Clarke knew about - his background in Tarot cards and various forms of inquiry come to mind. I think it would be very interesting to see at least a short story about how Childermass came to work for Mr Norrell and what sort of things he had done before. It was very easy for him to fall into the background yet every time he comes up he does something interesting. Is any one else with me?

Raven King??

So I was thinking about some of the questions we are supposed to discuss in the next few class sessions and I am a wondering about one of them. We were discussing how certain characters in the novel are not given true names such as The Gentleman and the Raven King. However, at certain times in the novel the Raven King is referenced to as John Uskglass so is that not his real name?? An example is found on pg 506 in the paperback third line from the top. (It is in the chapter "All the mirrors of the world" (36) when Strange is talking about how slanderous himself and Norrell have been to the Raven King after walking in the paths behind the mirrors.)


everyone please look up pictures of the actor henry gibson (he's in the disney movie luck of the irish and i think wedding crashers) if you don't know who he is by name! he might be a little old but other than that for some reason he is exactly how i picture norrell in my head. i feel like he'd be perfect in the imaginary castings we were doing in class!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why Strange and Norrell dominates Lord of the Rings

Ok, I thought it was interesting when we were talking about Tolkien creating a strictly British mythology (no Frenchman allowed!). But then I thought about it, and last time I checked Middle Earth is not England, and I'm sure I'm missing something huge like what each part of Middle Earth is supposed to represent, but Clarke's representation of magic in England seems much more tangible than Tolkien's attempt at mythology for the nation. Don't get me wrong, I love Lord of the Rings, but while Tolkien spent his life trying to create an entire world in which fantastical things happen, Clarke did just fine using a setting that already existed.

Ok this might sound really stupid but I was really excited about it when I thought of it

Need some advice everyone, after Andy's questions about who would play each character in Strange and Norrell, I thought a really cool story idea would be to pretty much be a screenwriter for the film and write about what stays and what goes. I thought it would be really fun and interesting, but I'm interested to hear what you all think, because I'll need to go back to the drawing board if it turns out I'm an idiot.

Follow the White Rabbit...

Okay, this is completely random, but I just found a post-it note I had stuck in my copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell a few weeks ago. On pg. 267 (of the hardcover), there is a story that includes tiny people that ride white rabbits, and the first thing I thought of was Kelly Link's story Stone Animals (I think that's the correct one...) and the white rabbits in that. Then, I started thinking about white rabbits in general (of course, the one in Alice in Wonderland came to mind first, and then The Matrix), and I thought I'd check a couple of things out. I'm not sure how productive my internet search was, because most of what I found was related to old superstitions, like that saying "white rabbit" three times would make the smoke from a campfire change directions (?), etc. Anyway, I found several interesting sites, including the following blurb, but I'm not sure how credible the source is (or how relevant the information), but I thought I'd share it and my weird train of thought with everyone.

From this site:

Humility, bashfulness, and caution. Associated with Earth and Moon goddesses. Rabbit's feet are lucky charms in many countries.
British: One old custom was to say as the first words of the day,"Rabbits," or, "White rabbits," three times on the first day of every month for good luck.
European: In the Middle Ages. European wedding rings often had a rabbit engraved on them to insure the newlyweds would bare many children, although the Church saw it as a symbol of lust.
Greek: Fertility and melancholy. Sacred to Aphrodite. People ate rabbit meat to gain the fertility of the rabbit.

Monday, April 09, 2007

American Gods

Before this class I wasn't aware of who most of the authors we have read were, even Mr. Gaiman. Since the start of this class and our reading of Coraline, I have become a bit of a Neil Gaiman fanatic. Last month I read Anansi Boys. Inbetween readings of Strange & Norrell I read American Gods. Good Omens as well as Fragile Things (which I am especially excited about) are both sitting on my book shelf, ready to go.

With that said, American Gods may be one of the greatest novels I have ever read, and I am sad that it is not still on the reading list (but I understand why Andy likes to mix it up every now and then.) I have never read a story that can be as hilarious as Jim Carrey or Bill Murray one minute, and as frightening and thrilling as Hannibal Lector the next. I've never gotten as mad when reading a book or watching a movie as I did at one point in this book (For those who have read the book, think laser-sighted accuracy, after which I proceded to throw my book into a wall and stomp out of my apartment), or laughed out loud so hard, or just been plain freaked out (I can never look at Lucille Ball the same way, ever again) as I was when I read this book.

I've always had a love for Mythology, and the way that Mr. Gaiman blends the Gods of different mythologies together is very well done. Anyhow, just wanted to recommend this book to everyone if you get the chance to read something new.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Just thought I'd throw this out there...

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I found this the other day. It's a FAQ about the book put together by Susanna Clarke some time ago.

As far as who the author/narrator of this history of Strange Norrell is, well, it's apparently her.



One of the most striking things to me in this novel was Clarke's way of describing things, especially her use of colors. I don't know about you, but I would love to have a dress the color of autumn, a box the color of heartache, or a gown made of rainstorms and regret. It seems to me that one of the problems fantasy authors run into is attempting to portray objects and people who aren't of this world, so adjectives used for this world don't work. Clarke seems to have bypassed this problem in a very creative way that uses everyday language to accurately convey what she is imagining while still maintaining a high level of fantasy. Thoughts?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Raven King Part Deux plus Spoilers.

Do not read until you've finished the book.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: the Movie

So I was curious the other day, and swung by and did a search for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. While it's only in pre-production at this point, and there's no cast announcement, there are still the forums where lots of other people are already discussing the same things we did in class. You have to register to see them but that's easy enough done. What really surprised me most is that everyone else seems to be discussing a lot of the same names we brought up to play various characters. I feel validated. ;)

Raven King Part Deux

Ok, I really like this idea of Stephen Black as the next Raven King. I mean, first there is the name, Black, and the color of his skin, black. But, also, he's the nameless servent, he's never met his parents, he has been kidnapped by a fairy (just like the Raven King), and The Gentlemen is trying to make him...guess what...a KING. I mean, Susanna Clark shouldn't even write the next book because we've obviously already figured out her agenda. Stephen Black, the long lost heir to the kingdom in the North...I can see it now.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rewriting History and Fairy trickery

I didn't think of this in class when we were discussing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell's rewriting of English history, but in one of the footnotes tells that on his conquest of the British Isles, Julius Caesar met the fairies and they promised him his greatest wish, to rule the world. And in accordance with their usual form of granting favors, Caesar didn't enjoy it very long.

Class meets today in Martha Parham West ...

... and will until further notice, I'm told. See y'all at 2 p.m. Central.
As far as class goes today, are we meeting in Nott or Parham?


So... I was about to write my review of my story.. but now I'm confused about what story I had. I thought I had Northwest Passage cause I gave Liz the Horse one and stole NP from Nick... But Tiffany already commented on it? I'm so confused lol I don't want to not do my review.. but I don't know what to review now :p

don't read unless you've read the end!

after wading through this novel, i was so glad to reach the bittersweet but happy ending of jonathan and arabella...i needed that little bit of hope after some of the darkness throughout a lot of these 1006 pages. and i'm sure a lot of people would disagree so i guess i'm just a sucker for happy endings but still, it was definitely what i needed at the end of this book.

American Morons

This story sent a chill down my spine when I read it. I am one of those people that always thinks about what I would do if I was in a situation like Kellen and Jamie. I did not understand why the Italians were so hostile though, because unless I missed something American kidnappings and murders do not happen often in Western Europe (if I am mistaken please let me know), but the issue of being perceived as moronic and ignorant is very prevalent in other parts of the world, and that theme seemed to really resonate in both the main characters. Although Jamie tried to seem inspired and up to date with the world, all she really told the men was that she voted for John Kerry. That doesn't really prove anything when you think about it, conservative or liberal doesn't really translate. Of course it means that she does not support Bush, but the Italians still perceived her as an ignorant American. Kellen was the more stereotypical American in a foreign country, and that did not serve him well either.

I was wondering mostly about why they keep referring the the Italians as Romans? To me that means that the author is trying to make it seem like the characters are in a more blood thirsty and vengeful setting. I know that they were just outside of Rome and that could have been the explanation, but it seemed like the two Americans were set up against a more medieval people who were bent on revenge.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Northwest Passage

So I read this story at night in complete silence with all of my roommates gone which probably was not the best decision. When I first began to read the story I was wondering why it was in the fantasy genre but after getting farther along in the story I changed my opinion. I don't know if it was the atmosphere that I read the story in or the story itself but it pretty much freaked me out a little bit. I love horror movies (ones that aren't solely based on gore) and this proved to be to my liking way more than The Hills Have Eyes movie which is mentioned in the story. The eerie feeling that someone is watching you doesn't make anyone feel comfortable. Also, I liked that the 'figure' which used to be Jack was not described in the end. It leaves the reader to make up the worst imaginable vision for themselves. Overall I am still a little creeped out.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


sorry this is coming in so late but i read "vacation" and all i can say is...what? i thought i was really going to like it in the beginning, but in the end i was left befuddled. however, i still think like it even after the bizarre ending that really could be the start of another story.

i enjoyed it because the main character is on this "vacation" from the reality that his wife is sleeping with his neighbor and friend, Walter. this is such a huge problem in the world today so i thought it was a cool idea to write a fantasy story about something that is such a real issue.

the country of aristea is the confusing part of the story, along with the strange jokes of the cab driver and the sighting of tom blankenship, the main character's friend from home. why the joke about ugly women? why the dark room with all the ugly women in it? what is the significance of the cab driver calling the protagonist his brother? finally, what are the aristeans looking for from these tourists if not trading?

these are all the questions i was left with after finishing this story. i enjoyed the way the story was written, flashing back and forth between his thoughts of home and his current situation in aristea, and the tale certainly kept my interest. i just feel like i'm missing the deeper meaning to the story since i can't figure out the answer to any of the questions i asked above. still, props to vacation. it's well written and left me wanting more.