sovay: (Claude Rains)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2018-10-25 12:30 pm

Where have you been for so long?

I am reading Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868). It's not quite the first time—I read it once in high school, but remembered mostly that I really liked it. I still really like it. If it's the first detective novel, it's a great way to start a genre. I have not quite finished the book, but I have gotten far enough into the final act to meet Ezra Jennings:

The door opened, and there entered to us, quietly, the most remarkable-looking man that I had ever seen. Judging him by his figure and his movements, he was still young. Judging him by his face, and comparing him with Betteredge, he looked the elder of the two. His complexion was of a gipsy darkness; his fleshless cheeks had fallen into deep hollows, over which the bone projected like a pent-house. His nose presented the fine shape and modelling so often found among the ancient people of the East, so seldom visible among the newer races of the West. His forehead rose high and straight from the brow. His marks and wrinkles were innumerable. From this strange face, eyes, stranger still, of the softest brown—eyes dreamy and mournful, and deeply sunk in their orbits—looked out at you, and (in my case, at least) took your attention captive at their will. Add to this a quantity of thick closely-curling hair which by some freak of Nature had lost its colour in the most startlingly partial and capricious manner. Over the top of his head it was still of the deep black which was its natural colour. Round the sides of his head—without the slightest gradation of grey to break the force of the extraordinary contrast—it had turned completely white. The line between the two colours preserved no sort of regularity. At one place, the white hair ran up into the black; at another, the black hair ran down into the white. I looked at the man with a curiosity which, I am ashamed to say, I found it quite impossible to control. His soft brown eyes looked back at me gently; and he met my involuntary rudeness in staring at him with an apology which I was conscious that I had not deserved.

He's the former family doctor's distrusted assistant, half-English, with a tragic backstory and a disreputable character; he says of himself that "Physiology says, and says truly, that some men are born with female constitutions—and I am one of them!" Some pages after that we discover that he also has a terminal illness and an opium addiction. And a heart of gold, but that went without saying from those eyes.

I feel . . . attacked?
moon_custafer: (sidelong)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2018-10-25 06:04 pm (UTC)(link)

OK and now I'm picturing him as a young-ish Boris Karloff.
moon_custafer: (sidelong)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2018-10-26 12:56 am (UTC)(link)
Perhaps not. He was deep-eyed enough.
cmcmck: chiara (chiara)

[personal profile] cmcmck 2018-10-25 06:16 pm (UTC)(link)
I read it many years back

The comment on Romani Gipsy people as being dark skinned really gets to me- it's such a racist trope.

I have Romani ancestry via my paternal great grandfather who was full blood Roma- that makes me Didaki- part Romani.

As a result, I'm dark eyed (almost black) dark haired and very pale skinned like all the Romani kids I ever taught.
Edited 2018-10-25 21:04 (UTC)
cmcmck: (Default)

[personal profile] cmcmck 2018-10-26 12:47 pm (UTC)(link)
The Roma's origin myths see their own origins as lying in northern India.
lemon_badgeress: basket of lemons, with one cut lemon being decorative (Default)

[personal profile] lemon_badgeress 2018-10-26 01:47 am (UTC)(link)
I've read The Moonstone, and The Woman in White, and I'll finish The Lady and the Law tonight. I have greatly enjoyed every one of them, and with every one I have also had moments of "welp, that sure is a thing they thought a lot back then, and here it is being thought, yep". But the stories are so GOOD. I have no patience for epic fantasy these days, but Wilkie's doorstoppers are another matter. Not cluttered, just a smoothwound clockspring slowly unwinding in proper order.
lemon_badgeress: basket of lemons, with one cut lemon being decorative (Default)

[personal profile] lemon_badgeress 2018-10-26 05:22 am (UTC)(link)
IMO, The Woman in White is stronger than The Lady and the Law...everyone in tL&tL is MUCH more Extra? But I think if you enjoy the experience of reading tM and tWiW, then tL&tL won't leave you feeling like reading it was a waste of time.
poliphilo: (Default)

[personal profile] poliphilo 2018-10-26 11:17 am (UTC)(link)
My favourite is No Name.
kenjari: (Default)

[personal profile] kenjari 2018-10-26 03:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Have you read Sarah Waters' Fingersmith? If you have, you will have an extra layer of enjoyment in reading The Woman in White. If not, I recommend reading both of them without letting too much time lapse in between.
kenjari: (Christine de Pisan)

[personal profile] kenjari 2018-10-27 02:07 am (UTC)(link)
I read The Woman in White first and would recommend that order, as then you can see what Waters is doing with it.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2018-10-27 07:14 am (UTC)(link)
Woman in White is my absolute favourite.
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2018-10-27 07:15 am (UTC)(link)
He is still such a pleasure to read, isn't he? An underappreciated and difficult skill.
skygiants: the aunts from Pushing Daisies reading and sipping wine on a couch (wine and books)

[personal profile] skygiants 2018-10-26 03:24 am (UTC)(link)
I keep vaguely meaning to nominate Ezra Jennings (and Rosanna Spearman and Lucy) for Yuletide one of these years.
thisbluespirit: (Default)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 08:47 am (UTC)(link)
Haven't they both been nominated this year? I'm sure I've seen requests around.
thisbluespirit: (Default)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 09:27 am (UTC)(link)
There were a few requests. I don't think Lucy was nominated, but I thought somebody had Rosanna Spearman, or certainly she's been mentioned in requests I've read. I'd have to check the tagset, though, and I need to go get dressed instead!

But I was surprised and pleased as there were obviously a couple of nominators.
skygiants: Audrey Hepburn peering around a corner disguised in giant sunglasses, from Charade (sneaky like hepburnninja)

[personal profile] skygiants 2018-10-27 02:56 pm (UTC)(link)
I completely missed that it was in the tagset at all, I clearly need to go back and re-check!
asakiyume: (Hades)

[personal profile] asakiyume 2018-10-26 03:46 am (UTC)(link)
That description seems at the perfect intersection of the types you enjoy (in literature and film) and the types you write.
lemon_badgeress: basket of lemons, with one cut lemon being decorative (Default)

[personal profile] lemon_badgeress 2018-10-26 05:23 am (UTC)(link)
It really kinda is XD
thisbluespirit: (Northanger reading)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 08:45 am (UTC)(link)
Aw, glad you're enjoying it! I read The Woman in White aged about 15 or 16 when I was on my first epic classics binge and completely fell in love (especially with Marian Halcombe). The Moonstone is more polished, though, and I love it a lot too. But actually, all of his I've read I've got a kick out of, even the minor works. Armadale takes a little getting into, but is well worth it both for Lydia Gwilt (and the anti-hero) and just for having probably the most people with the same name in one book, for Reasons. And when you've been reading a lot of Victorian Lit, which I had, No Name's Magdalen makes a refreshing change. Also there's a sinister housekeeper with a pet frog. (or toad, possibly. It's been a long while since I read No Name.) And that later one where someone's random eccentric Scottish uncle turns out to be the hero of the book.

But The Moonstone while not technically the first detective novel, is the first proper - it does put all the pieces in place so very well, considering that was never what Collins was trying to do. And Sergeant Cuff is also accidentally very much a template for many of his spiritual descendents, complete with rose-growing quirk. (WHich is just that almost everybody's got a quirk in Collins, though.)
thisbluespirit: (reading)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 09:23 am (UTC)(link)
What's the technical first?

It deepends in what sense and if it needs to be a novel, rather than a short story, as there were many short crime/detective stories that predated it, but there's an 18th C crime novel of sorts Caleb Williams, a Danish 19th C novella Præsten i Vejlbye and Emile Gaborieau published Monsieur Lecoq in the same year as The Moonstone.

The Moonstone set the pattern for so much of the Golden Age stuff, though, and I'd say nobody would dispute that, but the law of human nature is that there's always someone who would dispute everything!

(I had to Google the above because I couldn't remember where I'd been reading it, because I read a lot of things both about Victorians and classic crime and I had no idea any more. The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders, possibly. Which is very interesting anyway - about the Victorians and their obsession with crime and murder & the literature that came out of it.)

I noticed that and approved. It made me much fonder of whole swathes of the main cast than usually happens with me.


(I'm never forgiving that guy who wrote a horror novel where Wilkie Collins was a serial killer. I mean, I shouldn't have read it, because obviously a horror novel on that subject was bound not to end well, as that's the duty of horror, but still.)
moon_custafer: (lurking)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2018-10-26 05:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Did fictional Wilkie Collins know he was a serial killer, or was he killing people in opium-induced blackouts without realizing it?
thisbluespirit: (Default)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 07:24 pm (UTC)(link)
He didn't know, but it wasn't the laudanum, it was Charles Dickens hypnotising him. :-(
moon_custafer: (sidelong)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2018-10-26 08:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Why am I not surprised Dickens turned out to be the real villain?
Edited 2018-10-26 20:05 (UTC)
thisbluespirit: (reading)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 08:07 pm (UTC)(link)
No, he wasn't! That would have been a bit better! He was just like unleashing Wilkie Collins true horribleness or something. I prefer to try adn forget, but I can't. blargh. /o\
kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2018-10-27 07:16 am (UTC)(link)
ashlyme: (Default)

[personal profile] ashlyme 2018-10-27 11:13 am (UTC)(link)
Urgh. Dan Simmons.
Edited 2018-10-27 11:14 (UTC)
thisbluespirit: (Default)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-27 04:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Urgh. Dan Simmons.

*nods in solemn agreement*
thisbluespirit: (reading)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 07:28 pm (UTC)(link)
It was astonishing to me how many tropes it appeared to anticipate, meaning only that it really created them. Plus it was better on women and what I would call postcolonialism if it weren't the actual height of the British Empire than many, many, many of its successors.

Indeed! (I once had to write an essay on something like that, but I have forgotten every word of it since. I really wanted to write something else, but it was one of those chosen essay things and I was never good at working out what I wanted to write, so always ended up doing something the teacher wanted me to write.)

I also think, now that I've read Dracula, that The Woman in White must surely have been an influence, but I have read a lot less on sensation, gothic and horror fiction, so I don't know if people have commented on that.

Was that Dan Simmons' Drood (2009)? If so, totally don't forgive Dan Simmons.

Yes! I am indeed never forgiving Dan Simmons. It was one of those books where I wasn't even glad I read it; my life would have been better if I hadn't!
moon_custafer: (lurking)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2018-10-26 08:08 pm (UTC)(link)
I also think, now that I've read Dracula, that The Woman in White must surely have been an influence,

Because of the multiple-narrator found-footage kind of feel?
thisbluespirit: (reading)

[personal profile] thisbluespirit 2018-10-26 08:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, that, yes, and Laura and Marian/Lucy and Mina, villainous Counts, mesmerism, and asylums. I mean, they do quite different things with it, but it was one of the first things I thought of.
alchimie: (Default)

[personal profile] alchimie 2018-10-29 06:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Read The Woman in White next, and then read Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret if you have not already -- I do not want to go on & on about her if you are already familiar, but she was contemporary with Collins and not only wrote sensation novels from a slightly different perspective (being a Victorian woman living with her married lover), but did her own version of Sgt. Cuff in some of her later novels.