Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

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I made all these posts and the ‘Category’ is still spelt incorrectly July 17, 2010

Yes, I’m very aware that the past few posts have been categorized under the name ‘Powder and Path’ rather than ‘Powder and Patch’ … I’m not sure how to change it for one, and for another … I don’t know why it is but my fingers type ‘path’ instead of ‘patch’ about 80% of the time when talking about this book.

Hm.

Ah well.

So – final post. I usually talk about family here but … strangely that’s missing. Well, maybe not strangely.

The last few words of the book are actually found in the last post where Cleone is talking to Philip about the contents of the locket (aka: she kept his real hair in a locket – shock, awe, surprise, whatevs).

We assume they marry.

Do we assume they have children?

Yeah, probably.

Do we assume they live happily ever after.

Yeah, probably that to.

But we aren’t actually shown it. We aren’t given that’ ‘family’ element that the other books end with. We’re led to just assume. And you know what, I’m fine with that. I’d rather assume that read ten or more extra pages of coddling children and the protagonists saying how lucky they are as they caress each other or have sex. Again.

In the end, the book was refreshing. It ended on a light note just as it began on a light note. As I’ve said many times – this book isn’t around to make you really wonder. The ‘Romance’ is already established, the couple is established, it’s more about the ‘romance’ of appreciating what the one partner really does have to offer the other, when the other is confused over what she wants.

I feel like I’m continuously repeating myself. But, this will be a short post.

I really thought I’d have a lot to write about here concerning structure, but I don’t. Obviously, the internal structure is different. The two protagonists meet but are already in love by the beginning. The impediment really isn’t an impediment of the usual sort (a rival) – it’s a style that’s the impediment and that’s easily overcome. And then we do end happily ever after.

But we’re thankfully spared the details.

I wonder, though, how popular the notion of not actually ‘seeing’ the happily ever after is. I made a choice earlier this year when writing my own novel (that isn’t a romance) of whether or not to show this one scene (this is completely unrelated – but it is worth a pause) because the reader would perhaps want it – but I found it unnecessary. The reader isn’t a child. And I think Heyer is on the same sort of wavelength.

Why write out what the reader knows?

Or, even, if they don’t marry – isn’t it fun to speculate? It’s like … Inception … mwahaha – you thought I could go without mentioning it.

At the moment, I’m more for the ‘let’s think about this’ rather than the ‘oh … happy ending.’ Plus, as I’ve also said many a time, it’s such a change from all those that I have read.

I don’t want to repeat myself anymore but I’m sure you get the idea by now. As for the book next week, I will say we’re doing a time warp. And … that’s all I’m going to say. Surprise surprise.

And just for fun – I love this picture of Gary Oldman:

Look at the GQMF!

Anywho, until next week …

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Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.

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I never really did like 18th Century Style

Yesterday, I saw Inception. And yesterday, my mind was blown. So, I took the day to sit around, contemplating how awesome that film was and how on earth I can get someone to take me to see it again.

And again.

I love movies that make you think and are sort of puzzles in themselves. And that fight scene? You know the one I’m talking about if you’ve scene the film. I’m adding that to my list of best moments of cinematography.

Don’t ask me what the others are because I’m already wasting too much time blabbing on about this fabulous fantastic movie. But one of them is the chase in the woods from The Piano. There.

Oh, and –

Okay - I'm finished but I want my imagination to think of things like this! (no, the picture doesn't move so don't wait for it to)

Anyway – yesterday I planned on talking about the style that men take on in Powder and Patch. It’s a fair enough topic because, really, the dress that is popular is made to sound incredibly feminine in the book. And before you make the whole ‘that’s period’ argument – I realize that, but the way that it was written, the attention that is brought to the clothing is interesting.

My hypothesis – in a nutshell – is that Philip is more like the romantic hero ‘man’ in the beginning, goes through the transformation into a French … I don’t know what, those were the parts you could skip the dialogue because pages would be spent on stockings and ribbons and fabric … and Cleone realizes that she doesn’t want a little French doll, but the Philip that she knew before – the ‘romantic hero’ with un-powdered hair and what not.

While it’s clear from the beginning (there’s even a proposal of marriage met with the fact that Philip isn’t proper – not that Cleone doesn’t love him), that Philip and Cleone are in love and what not – there is a rival. This rival, Bancroft, represents the ‘change’ that Philip must undergo to have Cleone – hopefully – realize he is fit to marry.

“The Apparition [Bancroft] wore a coat of palest apricot cloth, with a flowered vest of fine brocade, and startling white small-clothes. Red-heeled shoes were on his feet, and his stockings were adorned by sprawling golden clocks. He carried an amber-clouded can and a jewelled snuff-box, while ever and anon he raised a cobwebby handkerchief to his aristocratic nose. He minced down the street towards the market-place, followed by the awe-stricken glances of an amazed population.” p. 23

In contrast – this is Philip:

“Philip’s coat was made for comfort; he would have scored the stockings of Matthew Trelawney. He even refused to buy a wig, but wore his ownbrown hair brushed back from his face and tied loosely at his neck with a piece of black ribbon. No powder, no curls, unpolished nails, and unpainted face – guiltless, too, of even the smallest patch – it was, thought Cleone, enough to make one weep. Nevertheless, she did not weep, because, for one thing, it would have made her eyes red, and another, it would be of very little use. Philip must be reformed, since she – well, since she did not dislike him.” p. 15

Heh – I like the last line there. It makes the narrator endearing – and the character of Cleone easy to understand. I like clever little lines like that.

Anyway, you can obviously see the contrast between the two men. Bancroft, is, as we will learn with Philip, educated in French design. Philip ends up, after all, going to France to get his … ‘education’ I guess we’ll call it.

Oh, and for reference – a patch was a bit of fabric used to hide pock marks on the face and whatnot – if my research is somewhat reliable. See – this is why I like my 19th century. Sure, they were crazy in themselves … all those hair broaches and such … but patches? Huh.

Anyway – Philip’s aim is pretty much to become Bancroft. So he goes to France, learns how to dress and talk in a really very annoying manner and returns. Of course, inside, Philip hasn’t changed – he just wants to make Cleone ‘realize’ what she’s asking of him and what she really does want.

Here’s a bit of Philip’s transformation:

“Under his deft hands Philip squirmed and screwed up his face. He complained that the haresfoot tickled him, and he winced when the Marquis pressed two patched on his face. When Francois dusted his cheeks with powder he sneezed, and when a single sapphire ear-ring was placed in his left ear he scowled and muttered direfully.” p. 55

Yeah … give me the other male protagonists any day. We, as readers, are let in to what Cleone’s gotten wrong. I think that’s key into how this fashion is portrayed. Sure, it’s the rage, but it doesn’t fit Philip – and it doesn’t fit Cleone.

And how to we know this? The final ‘revelation’ so to say – the locket Cleone keeps (that we learn of only in the last two chapters of course) contain something:

“‘Is it not? Ah, Cleone! Tell me, my dearest, what is in your locket?’

‘Something I meant to burn,’ she murmured.

‘But did not?’

‘No – I could not.’ She fumbled at her bosom and drew out the trinket. ‘See for yourself, Philip.’

He opened it. A rolled lock of brown hair fell out and a town scrap of parchment. Philip turned it over.

‘Yours till death, Philip,’ he read. ‘Cleone, my love.’

She buried her face on his shoulder.

‘Your – hair – your poor hair!’ she said.” p.183

So – simple enough. She wants the old Philip back. He teases her of course saying that it is all cut off (yeah, but it will grow back the reader fills in) and that he’s going to write a sonnet about her eyes (that has to be a joke, too, since he’s back to being Philip-Philip).

So it’s pretty much – change for me, oh wait, I liked you better before, why did I ask you to change, that’s what I really wanted and was too blind to realize it.

But it’s also interesting to see that the change is a highly feminine one – one that could easily fit into the whole ‘Romance genre’ – the well built men and what not. Could you imagine someone like … the male protagonist of Viking in Love dressing up like this? No, of course not.

There’s some sort of male ideal at work here. One that’s not as prevalent in the other novels as much as it is here – it’s something we sort of take for granted in those books. The men are already built up as these paragons of masculinity, ready to ravish his love at any minute (I say his ‘love’ because I’m going on a search where the female role – or even the male role – is played by the same sex – plus, it will give me a good fuel to let me rant on about why we need to allow same sex marriage – the fact that it is only allowed in a few states is absolutely ridiculous – love is love be it between a man and a man or a woman and a woman – it’s no one’s place to say that’s wrong – ANYWAY! Save that for that time …).

So – Philip, we’re to assume I believe, goes back to his usual ‘country’ ways that make him more appealing to Cleone. He’s dipped into a sort of feminine sexuality but Cleone saw that damage that did – she wants a man and in the end – well, I think we should believe that that’s what she gets.

Just like every other heroine we’ve read so far.

Huh. Look at that.

So ... is this why it's a 'Romance Novel'

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Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.

 

So … what to write about … July 15, 2010

I find myself strangely stumped at what to write about with this book. I know I’ve set a question for myself – but I’m finding it hard to really … sink my teeth into this text. So, let’s see. I’m going to draw an outline for myself for the next few posts.

Today: The idea of control and power, how it is approached in this novel

Tomorrow: Sexuality and how it is treated through clothing, manners, etc. (this one’s interesting in someways … it will probably also contain ‘gingers!’)

And since tomorrow will be a double post or shoved off to Saturday: The overall structure and does the reader get the same thing out of this book that they do others – and, what is that ‘thing’.

Okay. I feel better now – I have a little more direction.

Oh yeah! Oh yeah! By the way! Finished 'North and South'! Finally!

I should be in a good mood after all – I had my first phone interview today for an actual job and I also get to start a Dickens later (The Old Curiosity Shop – I finished North and South so be on the look out for a mini-review at … some point). So … Yay!

Anyway – power and control … I guess we could stash this under ‘rank and title,’ but I’m not so quick to do so. Why? Because Powder and Patch is more period-ly realistic. It’s not something I’ve ever really talked about before – but since the structure of this novel is different, since the period in which it was written is different, it’s something worth dwelling on.

Yes, title and rank does give leeway to characters in these novels – but it’s not really realistic, is it? I mean, sure there are exceptions – but come on – are you fooled?

Still, though, it’s annoying to read something ‘realistic’ – that’s something I have to admit.

“‘You think that Clo is reasonable-minded, and able to care for herself, needing no master?’

‘I – no, I don’t!’

‘That’s what I say. Goodness me, how blind you are! If you didn’t consider that you had to care for Cleone and guard her from everyone else and herself, you wouldn’t love her. Now don’t be foolish!'” p. 155-6

“‘Take that girl and shake her. Tell her you’ll not be flouted. Tell her she’s a little fool, and kiss her. And if she protests, go on kissing her. Dear me, what things I do say!'” p.156

The second quote is funny – I’ll give Heyer that, but the first is … well, realistic for the 18th century. A woman was to be owned/controlled by her husband, she was property. And, in this novel where the characters are blatantly two dimensional, one cannot see that aspect of the period any clearer.

Cleone is a woman and that is all. Sure, she plots some – but that is with the help of Philip’s father. And her plot falls in on itself for she discovers that what she wants isn’t really what she expected.

Cleone is the epitome of damsel in distress. She does nothing to help herself but faint, cry, and kiss when needed. Her title is simply the country bumpkin. And that’s about as dimensional as Cleone gets.

And, even when she kisses, it’s Philip who goes around and makes things right (meaning, he gets different men (rivals, somewhat) to release her from her engagement.

“Cleone could not speak. She stood where she was, trembling uncontrollably.

‘I have the honour of informing you, mademoiselle, that you are released from your engagements.’

Was there a note of laughter in the prim voice?

‘I – thank you – sir,’ whispered Cleone. Her teeth clenched in an effort to keep back the tears. She was blinded by them, and her bosom was heaving.

There was a slight pause. Why did he not go? DId he wish to see her still more humiliated?

‘I have also to offer, on Sir Deryk’s behalf, his apologies for the happenings of last night, mademoiselle.’

‘Th-thank – you, sir.’

Again the nerve-killing silence. If only he would go before she broke down!

‘Cleone …’ said Philip gently.

The tears were running down her cheeks, but she kept her head turned away.

‘Please – go!’ she begged huskily.

He was coming around the room towards her … Cleone gripped her hands.

‘Cleone … dearest!'” p.180

Now, you’re probably thinking – god, Cleone is the most annoying little thing with no backbone like the other women blah blah blah …

Blah ...

But let’s back up because we can’t really throw Cleone into the same group as Harriet or even – though I’m loath to mention her – Alethea. Cleone is from a whole different school of the ‘Romance’ novel.

She’s just … there. There as a plot device. She is the object our real focus is working towards. The subject doesn’t seem to be Cleone, but change – what can be done to achieve love or realize love. Cleone doesn’t have to gut a pig. She doesn’t have to kill a man. She just has to be in love with Philip for the story to work.

And that’s what she does.

She’s less annoying when you see her through that perspective – yes, this is a Romance novel of sorts – but the romance is in the actions rather than the characters themselves. So – no actual sex either – we don’t need that for this sort of romance.

And I like the change – a good, funny romance novel with obvious characters … that’s light reading to me.

But here’s Betty Draper slapping someone just to give  a little Spice Girls ‘girl power’ to this post (and to remind you that Mad Men returns in 10 days!):

Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price!

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(and that Palate Cleanser better be epic ’cause it looks like a fantastic cross between Deadwood and Carnivàle … oh god Carnivàle! Why! HBO! Why did you cancel that show!)

Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.

 

Time and the Narrator July 13, 2010

My Initial Reaction to the Narrator

Now, my overall question is still: why is this a romance novel?

I think starting with the narrator, though, and the narrator’s pace is an important. After all, it’s the narrator who decides how we ‘get’ the story. My initial reaction was – eh. I like when narrators become characters themselves (this happens once and a while – the narrator gets all meta-fiction-y on us and addresses the reader). But, I had written ‘show don’t tell’ in the margins a lot but, in the end, I sort of … understood the narration style.

It was hard to get used to the time jumps:

“He had gone; now he had come back, the business details settled to his satisfaction, but with not wig.” p. 16

“That night he gave a card-party. The play was high and the bottles numerous. He lost some money, won a little, and was put to bed by his valet long after dawn. He awake later with a splitting headache, but he considered himself a man. That was in September.” p.59

Not to mention a play-by-play of a duel stretched over three pages in the form of a sort of soliloquy (pages 90-92).

I was a bit annoyed with the pace. Especially since the exposition was given dialogue, but the real meat of the book was brushed over and just told to the reader in short paragraphs with a little free indirect discourse once in a while when the characters met up. I found myself skipping a lot of the dialogue for it was taken up with talk of fashion and very little scheming – plus, there was little to scheme since the two protagonists were already in love from the beginning (but more on that in another post).

It was hard to adapt to reading this sort of style – but by the end I had an appreciation for it. The story wasn’t a complicated one – so why complicate it with unneeded description and whatnot? The book gives you exactly what it tells you – there are no surprises … at all.

The narrator is straight forward – just like the story.

So how does this lead into the whole ‘why is this in the romance section’? Well, the narrator, in her/his straightforwardness, makes it just about that. It’s the story of a man reforming (or at least pretending to reform to show the woman what she really does want she had all along) for a woman and the silliness that comes with it. There’s no side plot – it’s just that.

While I said in the last post there is very little ‘romance’ itself – that’s true. There’s no need for wooing – we get very very little of it. The girl is wooed from the start – this is more of a story about Philip than Cleone, so to say: Philip becoming a man who wears Powder and Patches.

And, wears them for love of Cleone.

Okay – there’s our romance … I guess. Again, I’m confused. I liked the wittiness of Philip trying to become why Cleone thinks she wants but it didn’t fit ‘romance’ in my mind. It was a comedy of manners, as I’ve said, and, if given the choice, I would have put this novel in just plain ‘fiction’ before ‘romance.’

The narrator revolves around society, not around love. The narrator goes in depth into fashion, into customs, into everything but ‘romance’ – yet, the characters deal with all of these because of romance.

So – is that creaky sentence the reason this novel is considered ‘romance’?

Absolutely no idea. But, I think it may be some sort of a start.

Yay!

Anyway, I think – in keeping with the length of this novel, I’ll follow it in the posts. Concise and quick – plus, the kids were over today and I had twins following me around for a few hours.

And that’s another thing … children … there are no children at the end of this novel. In this novel … but I think that’s for another post, too. The … ‘breaking of structure’ or just ‘a different structure.’

Maybe that’s really why I liked it – it wasn’t like everything else …

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Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.

 

Period Period Fiction July 12, 2010

As promised in the last vlog, a picture of this week’s book – Georgette Heyer’s Powder and Patch – on the shelf with the other novels of this genre:

see the difference?

There was a lot that that attracted me to this book beyond the difference in shape – the cover, as I also mentioned in my vlog, was different.

'Powder and Patch' by Georgette Heyer

There was no Fabio-type man clutching a woman on the cover. The length was odd. And, more importantly, when I flipped through Powder and Patches I found it missing.

‘It’ being sex.

The quick answer to the last point – the absence of sex – can be easily marked off by the ‘period period fiction.’ Powder and Patch was a novel originally published in 1930. Not that the time period is the excuse, but the Author’s bio provides more insight into why the ‘usual’ aspect of these types of novels was missing:

“Author of over fifty book, Georgette Heyer is one of the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the regency period her own Her first novel, The Black Moth, published in 1921, was written at the age of fifteen to amuse her convalescent brother; her last was My Lord John. Although famous for her historical novels, she also wrote twelve detective stories. Georgette Heyer died in 1974 at the age of seventy-one.” p.185

First of all, the author was still quite young when writing this novel but also – there was no formula yet – was there? Plus, if she continued to write from the air she took when writing for her brother – there’s no need for sex at all. Secondly (and this enforces the former, I suppose), her first novel was written for entertainment – I like that. Thus – Heyer seems to be writing to entertain – but in her way.

And then there’s that third thing: she’s a historical novelist. It’s stressed not only in the biography but throughout the book – this is historical fiction.

When I finished the novel I asked myself: why the heck was this in the romance section? As I predicted in my vlog, this was very much a comedy of manners. A … Wodehousian sort of romp of the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, so little is actual romance, that I’m still trying to figure out why it was marketed as such.

The story is insanely simple (I read the back cover in my vlog – and nothing at all strays) – the characters are two-dimensional, but in a good way, and there’s no fussing about anything other than the simple, black and white plot that had these little 2D characters tripping over each other and laughing about it.

As I said – I liked this novel (not the best thing I’ve ever written – especially since there was no translation to the French some of the characters speak – FOOTNOTES PLEASE!) – but why wasn’t it put in plain fiction?

My guess is that was what it was placed in when originally published (I’ll have to do a little research into that, of course – but it still brings up the question about Wodehouse … but more on Wodehouse later). Beyond that – I’m clueless. I certainly wouldn’t have placed it in the Romance section.

Now, it’s not because I’m biased – because I liked the novel, because it didn’t follow the formula, because it was a comedy of manners. It’s not like I want to ‘rescue’ this book from it’s place in B&N – I’m just wondering why it’s there.

So – this week, I’m going to try and figure that out … with the text. I think structure will be interesting to talk about as well – but looking at why this novel is sold under ‘Romance’ look be interesting to look at.

Breaking it down … nah – I’ll just surprise you in the next few days.

And if you couldn’t tell – yes, I’m quite drowsy. Enjoy this cat and dog .gif.

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Reference

Heyer, Georgette. Power and Patch. Naperville: Sourcebooks, Inc., 1930.