Monday, January 4, 2016

Adieu to you, and you and you and you --



As 2015 was ending I finished up a couple of works which merit mentioning. Firstly is Jane Austen’s Emma.  I have read Austen before (Pride and Prejudice), intrigued by mention of Darcy as a model gentleman,  Emma was thus my second foray into the author’s works, though I did not enjoy it nearly as much.  The plot is familiar to most:  Emma Woodhouse is a witty,  self-assured, and quite attractive woman so enormously satisfied with her life that she seeks to manage others. She attempts to pair a few of her single neighbors up, disaster ensues, much chatter follows, and eventually everyone winds up married off – including her. There were quite a few utterly brilliant lines in here – a favorite, following a haughty woman’s “discovery” that Mr. Knightly was a gentleman, noted that he was unlikely to ‘discover’ her to be a Lady, given her manners.  This was only a first reading, I think, given Emma’s reputation as Austen’s “perfect” novel. Perhaps I missed something in the end-year weariness.


Closer to my usual fare was Stagecoach: Wells-Fargo and the American West.  As the title indicates, it is primarily a history of Wells-Fargo’s rise to fame in the 19th century. It was an unusual company, doing its best to fill a vacuum of infrastructure and service in the  still-being-settled west.   Principally, the firm provided banking and express services. Its commercial network provided both communication and transportation, at a dearer rate than the Postal routes but far more efficiently. It became most famous for the mail and treasure that traveled on stagecoach lines, and one chapter sheds a little light on the workings of stages in particular. After nearly dropping the ball on the transition to railroads, Wells-Fargo rebounded and became such a productive company that it drew the attention of trust-busters, who found the collusion of banking and railroads worrisome. The bank that exists today has only a tangential connection to the former behemoth of California, but retains the imagery of a stage coach -- which proved a useful brand image even in the late 19th century, reminding prospective customers of how the west was won.

2016 is off to an excellent start so far, with How I Killed Pluto already read and reviewed, and another fantastic book following that.  Right now I'm nibbling at a couple of books, but I'm really looking forward to what January holds. Today I chanced upon a list of books I scribbled down next year, and I must say...I forget about some of the most interesting books.

Oh! I'm presently watching The Last Kingdom, a BBC miniseries based on my favorite bit of Bernard Cornwell, the Saxon Stories series.  So far it doesn't stack up too well against Vikings, but the latter is...brutal.



Danish tourists inquiring about the time. 

VIKINGS!



4 comments:

  1. So... Not impressed with Emma or Last Kingdom (so far)? I really liked the main characters in LK. Utred, his brother Regnar, his girlfriend and his best mate I thought were all excellent.

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  2. I am warming more to it now that I'm a few episodes in. The first one just seemed particularly...unsophisticated, regarding the dialogue.

    With "Emma" it's the same reaction as to other classics: a respectful distance. I thought it witty at times, but the overall story didn't set fire to my soul.

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  3. I *really* didn't like Emma at first - the book or the person - but as she developed I ended up viewing it as a master class in character development. Not my favourite of hers - that's P&P by a long way - but still (IMHO) a great classic.

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  4. I can definitely see that. One of the best scenes is where Knightly realizes Emma has been sabotaging one relationship in hopes of creating another.

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