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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Book 30: Jo Walton, Tooth & Claw

So I may not be pissed off enough at Victorian literature to have really fallen in love with this book. However, I have read an awful lot of Charles Dickens, much of it at gunpoint. (What can I say? I like Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rudyard Kipling.)

So the parodying-of-Victorian-virtues-by-portraying-them-through-the-eyes-of-dragons thing did not kick me in a squid, probably only because I don't have a big enough head of steam worked up over to want to eviscerate anybody for that reason. And I wanted more of the intrusive narrator; as he arrived somewhat late and never popped by for long, he felt a bit like an afterthought, and I very much enjoyed him. Also, one of the ways that I felt it stuck a little too close to the flaws of the source, as it were, is the briefness of both the physical and emotional climaxes of the story, which are managed in a single short paragraph.

All complaining aide, however, I liked just about everything about the book and I ate it up in about two hours. It was fast, fun, and flexible. The characters are largely delightful, with a deceptive shallowness of characterization that is a feature rather than a bug. and the sides are clearly drawn. The worldbuilding is very cute, in an ah hah hhah hah kind of way, and the narrative breezes right along with complications, counter-complications, and counter-counter-complications.

Definitely recommended.


One of mine, too.
You know, papersky is the only one who knows for sure, but I certainly didn't read that book as having a head of steam about Victorian "virtues." My reading was of a rather loving, though irreverent, pastiche of something much enjoyed.
That was my reading as well.
I like it better my way. Especially given how unconscionable Victorian mores are.

As wild_irises pointed out, the only person who can say what papersky intended is papersky herself. As for how we read things, we each have a different take. I'm not trying to persuade you to change your impression of the book, I was merely adding mine to the discussion.
*g* I got strongly deconstructionist vibes from it, especially regarding the sort of ridiculous behavior of people in Victorian novels.

Which I liked.
Interesting. I'd certainly agree about the deconstructionism. You can deconstruct something you aren't angry with, as well as something you are. Perhaps papersky has a soft spot for the Victorians where you have less of one.
I never said she was angry.

I said I would enjoy it more if I were more pissed off about it, rather than just sort of nostalgicly disgusted.
I think I've heard/read papersky say that she had been reading Victorian novels noticing the basic unreality of people's reactions. So she decided what if the incomprehensible societal strictures were actually biological limitations, and the book was born.

Ian and I have fun imagining other works as dragons. Jeeves and Wooster could work surprisingly well -- wouldn't even need to change Aunt Agatha one whit.
"Jeeves and Wooster could work surprisingly well -- wouldn't even need to change Aunt Agatha one whit."

LOL--what a wonderful notion!
I say! Jolly good idea.

The next time I read a J&W book, this thought is going to be at the back of my mind, making things more interesting. Thanks for that. :)

Go Trollope! Choose Trollope! ::waves gaudy coal-tar-dyed banner::

I think there are certain periods that sing to us; yours is the 16th-17th centuries, mine is the High Victorian.
there are certain periods that sing to us; yours is the 16th-17th centuries, mine is the High Victorian.

Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Me too!

Though, having said that, I have to admit I can't stand Dickens. But I did, after papersky had waxed so enthusiastic about him, try a Trollope and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also get most enthusiastic about Victorian feats of engineering and even the architecture and the art.
There seems to be some kind of rule where people are allowed to like either Dickens or Trollope but not both at the same time. I'm actually kind of fond of Trollope myself - I found Phineas Finn and its sequel quite entertaining, whereas I want to like Dickens (especially Bleak House) but keep getting hung up on the words.
The Trollope I read was The Way We Live Now, which was still uncannily topical if one thought about recent phenomena like the dot com boom and subsequent crash.

I liked the warmth and sympathy he appeared to display for his characters, even the good-for-nothing ones. Dickens, on the other hand, is too fond of caricature for my taste, not to mention the liberal use of coincidence in his plots.
I have read enough Trollope to know that I don't want to read any more. I also can't stand Dickens.
Dickens wins my retroactive approval (now that I never have to read him again) for one sentence in Bleak House:

Spontaneous combustion, of all the deaths there are, and no other!

I love that. I am going to have a character spontaneously combust for no reason mid-book sometime. Just to see what happens.

(And you have no idea how much pressure kit_kindred put me under to start off The Stratford Man, "Marley was dead to begin with."
The notion of spontaneous combustion came out of the London gin craze in the early 1700s.

A whole humors/elements combination thing about old women drinking gin which accentuated their hot & dry natures, until *poof*
*HOWL* And did you? You *should* have! Although I have a horrible suspicion I would've thought, "Huh, familiar," without quite pinging why. *laughs and laughs*
No, but I did work the joke into Whiskey and Water.

I'm halfway fighting the urge to start SM, however, "Christofer Marley died as he was born: within sound and stench of the slaughterhouses."

Which is true, by the way.

They were, however, different shambles.
I always think that science fiction and fantasy are excellent at writing metaphors as literal, and I liked T&C a lot because it was so funny about it. Also because I really liked decoding it, and there was something kind of nyah-nyah about the way that the literalism, the physical truth of Victorian cultural "truths", made the rules seem dumber.

Which I guess tells you something about me, at least, and I think a lot of Western society: no one really likes to believe that biology is destiny, but culture needs to be How It Is or you're in big trouble.
I liked the book when I read it late last year. (I felt bad about having to tell Jo, when I bumped into her at WorldCon the year before, that I hadn't read the book yet. I then remedied that failing. >:-)) I don't have the Trollope/English Lit background, but I enjoyed the way she skewered some earlier dragon-based stuff. Definitely a fun read.