Magic, Goth, and Feminism

(Quick reminder – I am back in school so columns will be catch as catch can.)

I was flipping through my Kindle the other day, the best way for me to read because I can make the text as big as I like, and I realized I had read a few more books this year that I thought I had. I've been trying to get through Moby Dick, which I started at the beginning of the year. I'm only about sixty percent through, so I should probably finish it around Thanksgiving. In between marathon sessions of reading about whale anatomy and obsession I've read a few other books.

White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat is the first book in the Curse Workers series. As you can surmise from the name it's set in a world where some people have magic, which they use to manipulate those around them. It's close up magic, not like the Cups and Balls, more like you need to be close enough to touch the recipient of your magic. The curse, which can actually be a good curse, is delivered with skin to skin contact, so curse workers can wear gloves to keep from inadvertently using their abilities. Curse working is illegal, so most of the workers are aligned with big crime families.

Cassel Sharpe is a teen who is the only member of a family of curse workers who has no abilities. His mother uses her magic to help her in her career as a con artist and Cassel has learned how to take advantage of people from his family. As the story begins he is dreaming of a white cat. He awakens to find himself on the roof of his boarding school. He is promptly kicked out of school and embroiled in a series of confusing events, which all seem to be related. White Cat is another terrific, fast paced book from Holly Black, who has gifted us with Tithe, Valiant and the Spiderwick Chronicles. You can read an excerpt here:

The Monk: A Romance

If you're a fan of long-winded, archaic, hyperbolic writing you'll love The Monk, by M.G. Lewis. Written by a very young author (nineteen at the time of publication), this Gothic novel is a little extreme. Each paragraph begins with a long poem, none of which are to my taste, and each story has another story imbedded in it. We start off learning about a monk, who is AMAZING. He is so wonderful that the entire city flocks to hear his sermons. Before long we are encountering a pregnant nun, a woman disguised as a man, the ghost of a nun, kidnapping, treachery, supernatural resurrection, sword-fights, deals with evil spirits, sexual assault, and lots of people professing their love for one another. The Monk was written at about the same time as Frankenstein, and has some of the same language quirks. As it is well out of copyright you can get it for free at several sites. There are lots of formats available here: I grabbed it from Amazon because I am the laziest person in the entire universe.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women and The Subjection of Women

I read two books about the denial of rights rights, which were interesting, but somewhat depressing. They were written by Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley's mother, and John Stuart Mill. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Ms. Wollstonecraft was written in 1792 while The Subjection of Women by Mr. Mill was written in 1869. Despite being written three quarters of a century apart they deal with many of the same issues, some of which are still problematic today. I would have thought we would have made more progress in that time. The more recent book is slightly more hopeful. The arguments are well presented and thought provoking. They are both available for free online.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is from Allie Brosh, who has returned to Hyperbole and a Half after a long absence. She has been suffering from major depression and has not been able to post. She wrote and illustrated a fantastic description of what her life has been like over the past year or so. If you or anyone you know have been or are depressed you will find much that is familiar. And if you are one of the lucky ones whose brain chemistry is perfectly balanced you'll get a good idea of what it can be like and what not to say.