generally lowering the standard of this blog



Penelope Pitstop : The Universal Church

Sylvester Sneakly : Jorge Bergoglio

The Ant-Hill Mob : Authors of the Filial Correction

© Matthew 21:38


Just a disclaimer: I got to this quiz through a link of a link of a link (of a link of a link?) of this blog; through a Catholic Mommy Blog, anyway (and I forget which, sorry).

The original poster claimed it got her secret dreams alright, i.e. Astronaut.

Great, I thought, I’d also like to get ‘Astronaut’.

With this in mind, I ticked the boxes, and got:


I do not know if to cry or to laugh.

At least the actor perfectly represents my secret ambition: that of becoming a Nice Dragon.

Recent happy events have led to a hiatus in the progress of the master work that is the Bodis Riper, procuced by Seraphic‘s Inner Child.

Time to consider what may have been the inspiration for that work of art – though I am not privy to the artists deliberations, mind: the novels of Georgette Heyer.

Would you read this? Only with a discrete brown covering, probably.

Would you read this?
Only with a discrete brown covering, probably.

Fact is, I first learned about Georgette Heyer by a comment of that very Inner Tschild, telling the (deceased) authoress to eat her heart out, if I remember correctly (and though this is somewhat uncharitably phrased, I have to say it is not utterly without a foundation.)

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) is not at all well known in Germany. This may have something to do with the atrocious quality of translation: Magdalena once picked up a copy for free, to return it after having read only a very few pages. Even readers of the English original might easily be deterred more than is warranted by the utterly awful covers of some of the editions. More recently, fortunately, the current publisher has gone back to more tasteful ones.

Heyer is credited with having established the genre of Regency Romances – romances set in the Regency Period, i.e. the time of Jane Austen. Of course, Austen is a formidable precursor, and it is easy to incur the disdain of her present-day fans. On the whole, I think, Heyer manages very well.

Maybe to start with the negative points:

If you read all the 50+ regency novels she wrote, you are apt to find some repetition of motif. But then: Would you read all her 50+ regency novels in a row unless you basically liked them? Sort of touché, I think. Another point to consider is that [correction] Heyer had to feed a family. Given that, it may be seen as quite astonishing that she does, actually, kep quite a standard of quality.

Mutch better already, ain't it?

Mutch better already, ain’t it?

There are, of course, a number of differences to Jane Austen. In fact, if interested, you might actually like to read the Wikipedia article (yes, I said this). Heyer gives information on stuff Austen’s reader would have known, when we do not. Things like who would dress which way, what did the dresses look like, what was the procedure in duels (no duels in Austen, I agree, but still the threat thereof). The remarkable thing is that these things are really absolutely unnoticeably slipped into the narrative – no case of Shown Their Work at all.

Another difference is that aspects of Regency society off-limits for Austen are referred to: While females of the upper classes were guarded strictly, lest their all-important reputation be lowered or lost, gentlemen were not necessarily thought worse of if they had their opera dancer or two, unless their trespasses did concern Ladies of Society. Austen’s female characters know nothing of this – in fact, it is never referred to. It is in Heyer’s works, albeit never in any crude or explicit way.

Related to this, there is a considerable number of male heroes who have to be classified in the category of ‘rakes’. Some of them are, objectively, sympathetic, and some are not. I would I had the reference of one of Seraphic’s posts on ‘falling for Mr. Darcy’, cautioning present-day females not to think a certain classy set of bad guys particularly attractive.

But then, on the plus side, is this:

These novels are extremely readable. No lapses of language (to my non-native mind), no anachronisms. In fact, Heyer was quite a specialist in her chosen period:

Determined to make her novels as accurate as possible, Heyer collected reference works and research materials to use while writing. At the time of her death she owned over 1,000 historical reference books, including Debrett’s and an 1808 dictionary of the House of Lords. In addition to the standard historical works about the medieval and eighteenth-century periods, her library included histories of snuff boxes, sign posts, and costumes.[38] She often clipped illustrations from magazine articles and jotted down interesting vocabulary or facts onto note cards, but rarely recorded where she found the information. Her notes were sorted into categories, such as Beauty, Colours, Dress, Hats, Household, Prices, and Shops; and even included details such as the cost of candles in a particular year. Other notebooks contained lists of phrases, covering such topics as “Food and Crockery”, “Endearments”, and “Forms of Address.” One of her publishers, Max Reinhardt, once attempted to offer editorial suggestions about the language in one of her books but was promptly informed by a member of his staff that no one in England knew more about Regency language than Heyer.

Wikipedia 🙂

Her novel on the Battle of Waterloo was considered to be a historically admirable piece of work by someone who should know about it (though it is too late for me to actually look up who). She researched period letters for the slang of young bucks, such as ‘to make a cake of oneself’.

In general, her prose is very, very readable (not like so many female ‘historical novels’ today!) Witty dialogues, nice plot twists, (unless, as I said, you read all 50 in a row),  high romance – including (mostly non-lethal) duels, and always a happy ending, i.e. two people, or even several sets of them, getting happily married.

The ideal girly yet modest thing (though there is passionate kissing, mind) to pleasantly rinse one’s brain and wistfully think of times when there was, at least in the privileged classes, a definite politeness and rule-book-to-follow approach between the sexes.

As close as it gets to unqualified recommendation from my side.

… but maybe you need a birthday present soon?

I was having a pious telephone conversation with Magdalena where we pondered how to make praying the Holy Rosary attractive to children who are not that much steeped in Catholic culture. Magdalena suggested that, in analogy to what appears to be the thing in childrens’ books, there should be a rosary available that says the Hail Mary when you squeeze the beads. I idly typed ‘electronic rosary’ into Google. While half of me wishes I had not, the other half looks at it as one of the high points of the day.

Just two examples (only the tasteful ones, mind!):

Electronic_Rosary_1 available here 


available here, but also here.

Words fail me.

[And this is but the tip of the iceberg. Beware, if I ever feel really bored, I might post some of the other stuff I found.]


As I mentioned, Seraphic has started to continue writing chapters of the ‘Bodis Riper’. And once you have re-re-re-read, and re-re-re-re-read the whole thing, what do you do, waiting for new instalments? You proceed by association: great fiction with crush-worthy male protagonist –> Lord Peter Wimsey –> last Dorothy Sayers novel you gave your mother as a birthday present –> reference to Ruritanian novels.

Ruritarian novels. – No? –Well, well, well: ‘Ruritania’ seems to be the very equivalent of ‘Alice and Bob’ when referring to countries. More specifically, it has become a ‘generic term for any small, imaginary, Victorian or Edwardian Era, European kingdom used as the setting for romance, intrigue and the plots of adventure novels’.

And it all started with this novel: The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) by Antony Hope Hawkins (1894), and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau (1898).

Neither novel, and I would like to stress this, is great art (this is, after all, a series on pop culture). Nevertheless, it makes quite amusing reading, at the very least on a meta-level (I will come back to that phenomenon when addressing Star Trek). The hero is an English gentleman, and the whole story has a lot of stiff upper lip and of the ‘If’ spirit (which it predates, I know, I know). While there is a LOT of cheesiness, a minimum standard of good taste is still maintained in this respect. O yes, there is drama galore, including the story of an entire novel [moderate spoiler alert] with quite some casualties all starting just with a rather unnecessary, or at least imprudent, love letter. But even though you pretty well know what is going to happen (helped by plentiful foreshadowing) tension is kept, and within the rather unrealistic setting, WSoD* is relatively easy. What contributes to this, and also, IMHO, to the artistic value, is that both novels [Spoiler Alert] end sadly, in a way.

Informed by Wikipedia that the expressions of ‘Ruritarian’ and ‘Graustarkian’ novels are used almost synonymously, and seeing that the Graustark series consists of quite a number of novels, I valiantly dived into it. With regret, I have to say. There are very few novels I actually stopped reading. This one came terribly close. In fact, towards the end, I just scanned the text to see if the outcome was as I thought it would be, or if there would be some saving surprise (hint: it was, on the whole, worse than I had thought). The hero (as is the author) is an American, and all through the story, he is great just because he is an American (Not saying the Ruritarian novels are not full of, let us say, patriotic idealization. But at least it is far more subtle, and, within the story, deserved.) And that is another aspect: Even within the story setting, the characters are not only inconsistent and unbelievable, but outright vexing. No WSoD here, no. Towards the end [moderate spoiler alert] I would have viewed the beheading of Grenfal Lorry, if not with approbation, at least with relief. I am (in spite of what I will report on in this series) no reader of the sort of ‘romance’ novels sold at news agents as crassly coloured booklets. Still I suppose that, paradoxically, McCutcheons somewhat greater gift with language makes these his flights of improbable, implausibly, ouright annoying high emotion probably even more painful to read.

Enough. The conclusion of this first installment (and I am just warming up; there is better stuff , hopefully, coming up later): If you wish to pleasantly flush you brain, or are amused by retro pop-culture: Read The Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau. Avoid the Graustarkian novels unless you are really thrilled by So-Bad-It’s-Good stuff (and maybe even then).

*Willing Suspension of Disbelief


Deary deary me. How serious and intellectual this blog has become. No offence meant, of course. I just wonder if we have entirely lost shoe post readers by now [if not, give a sign of life, please…], because, if so, it is probably all my fault. Now I do have this absolutely brilliant series on pop culture in my head, ranging from Ruritanian novels over Georgette Heyer, Isaac Asimov and Start Trek to the Vorkosigan series (chronologically, that is). Plus cool webcomics, just you know. I just feel cowed by the standards set here because finding time for serious reflection is – difficult. I wish I could just let my inner child write, who does not care for this.

And this leads me to the hot tip of the month: Seraphic is CONTINUING the BODIS RIPER ! Who would have thought it! If you do not know it as yet, go here – that is the start of part 3 only, but if you send Seraphic’s Inner Child some really cool fan art, who knows if she will not send you parts 1 and 2 as well (I don’t, but you could ask her…[sorry Seraphic, this is no attempt at blackmail]).

Oh yes. And I found this draft that is three years old, but could have been re-written a number of times in the interval. Just as a shoe post in between.

A Cynic’s Notes to Self  – No. 38

Never travel in trains without earplugs.

Unless you are really filled with unshakable universal charity, this constitutes at least a near occasion for sin. It is highly unlikely that you will manage to offer your fellow passengers’ annoying behaviour up without first harbouring uncharitable thoughts to a degree that at least cancels any later merit.

You will not feel indulgent towards the elderly man opposite you who, with highly inefficient headphones, allows you to listen to his music in nearly original volume, not if the absolute high point of this music is ‚Dschinghis Khan’ and your thoughts continually and helplessly slip from your work to fantasies of grasping his discman and jumping on it. His varying the noise composition by munching unindentifiable, but very crunchy snacks over a prolongued period will not soften your heart.

You will develop no sisterly feelings for the young woman, just slightly older than yourself, who starts a conversation with an apparently nice and sensible business man opposite to her. You will rather think that in that conversation, sense is distributed uncommonly asymmetrically between the two partners. Her casually mentioning her working hours (till 9 pm); or how much nicer long-distance flights, to Canada, for example, usually are compared to inter-European flights; or how annoying train travel is, with all the long distances you have to walk on the platforms instead of just getting directly from the luggage reclaim to the taxi: none of this will further endear her to yourself.

In the end, you will be annoyed at yourself for starting violently at her mentioning her dissertation: has your experience still not told you that completed doctorates are a remarkably weak predictor for individuals’ intelligence?

All this is but very slightly set off by the profound sympathy between yourself and the man opposite to you, whose frantically moving lips indicate that he is finding the book he is reading somewhat hard to follow in the present circumstances, too, and who occasionally exchanges glances of shared suffering with you.


the former editor of First Things who has made waves in the U.S. by supporting same-sex ‘marriage’ is a Mr Bottum. Habent sua fata nomina? 

Next Page »