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Showing posts from February, 2013

Wieland

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When I chose Wieland: or, The Transformation for my history class, I was not expecting a masterpiece of plot, philosophy, or characters.  I did expect a good old-fashioned Gothic tale with a dash of melodrama, an eerie edifice, and maybe a ghost or two.  Sadly, this is the third book connected to my class that disappointed me, and while it was vastly more fast-paced, it was also quite a bit worse than The House of the Seven Gables or The Prairie.  Would I read more Charles Brockden Brown?  Maybe, someday.  Not in the near future.

Wieland introduces us to the narrator, Clara Wieland, her brother Theodore and his family, and their mutual friend, Henry Pleyel.  These characters live in a surreal sort of isolated, literati circle, centered around Theodore's home, Mettingen (which would seem to fit better in Victorian England than its actual setting: pre-Revolutionary America).  Their perfect lives become interrupted by seemingly supernatural occurrences and the arrival of a mysterious …

The Prairie

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Chronologically last in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking series, The Prairie follows the wagon train of Ishmael Bush and his family, who are journeying into the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase.  The Bushes make their own laws and shun society, even that of an old, solitary Trapper who stumbles across their campsite.  He does not fail to notice that one of their wagons is closely guarded, carrying something or someone that never sees the light of day.  A chance meeting with a Captain Middleton and a party of hostile Sioux sends events and characters into a crazy chase across the prairies, where friendships and hatreds arise from unpredictable sides.

I had high hopes for this book, assigned reading in my Early American Arts, Music, & Lit class.  Even now, I would still like to read The Last of the Mohicans, which features the protagonist - the Trapper - in his younger years.  Overall, The Prairie was like Seven Gables in that the concept was great and the execution wa…

Paris in the Twentieth Century

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This is a remarkable book with an even stranger setting - written in 1863, set in 1960, and not published till 1994.  It's not such a stretch, however, to include it in the Turn of the Century Salon, as Jules Verne was writing novels up through the early 1900s, and he is always associated with the original "steampunk" genre from this time period.  Paris in the Twentieth Century is classic steampunk: a coming-of-age story combining 20th century technology with late Victorian culture.


By Cezary Piwowarski (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
His reputation sullied by a school prize for Latin verse, young Michel Dufrénoy comes to live with his aunt and uncle, who hope to convert him into at least an adequate banker and a "practical man."  Michel attempts to live up to his uncle's expectations, but it is soon found he is unfit for even the lowliest job in commerce and industry.  Eagerly, he resigns himself to the life of a "st…