Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Blogger Fashions: When Lit Meets Pop Meets Blog Talk; & Mary Stewart's This Rough Magic

Book bloggers design fashions. 

Not Can-Do Cardigans, Whatever Skorts, or Kickit Bermudas. We're talking about bookish fashions. Book bloggers influence, reinforce, and sometimes create trends in bookselling.

Ellen at Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two suggests we might enjoy Linda H. Peterson’s Traditions of Victorian Women’s Autobiography: The Poetic and Politics of Life-Writing, and perhaps we'll rush out and buy it. Jacket Copy writes about a new release of John LeCarre's  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and it reminds us we've neglected him lately. 

Publicists also send bloggers free copies of books they want to promote.  So there might, for instance, be a rush of certain books getting reviewed by the bloggers at the same time. 

And there is an altruistic blogger fashion of writing zealously about books that are not in fashion.  Lost, cozy, or middlebrow classics often are featured.

We read our share of classics, but middlebrow mysteries are getting us through the night.  It was 95 degrees today.  We're not from Texas; we're not used to it.  A splash of Mary Stewart's This Rough Magic, set in Corfu, is refreshing.  The heroine even saves a dolphin.

Middlebrow Writer of the Month:  Mary Stewart.

Mary Stewart, consigned to the ghetto of romantic suspense, deserves more acclaim for her well-written mysteries than she receives.  Unlike Daphne du Maurier, who is now hot due to Virago's and Sourcebooks' reissuing of her books, the popular Mary Stewart has never been out-of-print. Yet somehow Stewart, a very good writer who was a lecturer in English literature before she married and who quotes Shakespeare freely in her novels, is classed with Victoria Holt rather than du Maurier.  New attractive trade paperback editions have recently been published by Chicago Review Press and Hodder and Stoughton, and that should boost her popularity with those who have rejected Stewart
sbooks in "romance" editions.

In This Rough Magic, the witty, likable narrator, Lucy Waring, an out-of-work actress, escapes gray London to visit her pregnant sister, a banker's wife, in Corfu.  Phyllida says she'll name her baby Prospero if it's a boy. 

I laughed. 'Poor little chap, why on earth?  Oh, of course...Has someone been telling you that Corfu was Shakespeare's magic island for The Tempest?'
"As a matter of fact, yes, the other day, but for goodness' sake don't ask me about it now.  Whatever you may be used to, I draw the line at Shakespeare for breakfast."
In the bay, a tame dolphin approaches Lucy.  She realizes the classical stories about dolphins who play with humans are true.

"And here, indeed, was the living proof.  Here was I, Lucy Waring, being asked into the water for a game.  The dolphin couldn't have made it clearer if he'd been carrying a placard on that lovely moon's-horn of a fin."

Then she hears a humming sound and realizes it is a silenced rifle.  Someone is trying to kill the dolphin. She jumps in front of it furiously to stop the shooting and is determined to find the shooter.  Why would anyone shoot a dolphin? Could it be one of their neighbors?  Surely not Julian Gale, a beloved actor who retired to Corfu after a breakdown and who often quotes The Tempest.  His son, Max, a sullen composer of a score for The Tempest?  Or Godfrey, the charming photographer (of work unrelated to The Tempest)?

Smuggling, dolphin rescues, romance, and murder occur in this fast-paced mystery.  Stewart's intelligent, upbeat voice is charming and entertaining.  This is one of my favorite Stewarts--a great place to start.


susan in toronto said...

I could go on rereading Mary Stewart forever. Last summer, hot up on returning from a trip to Skye, and attending a performance of The Tempest at Stratford Ontario, I happily delved into Wildfire at Midnight and This Rough Magic. And The Moonspinners for a chaser.

Frisbee said...

I'll have to reread Wildfire at Midnight.

I think Stewart is so good--much better than Daphne du Maurier, whose works are so popular these days (relatively), or at least judging from people online.

I don't dislike du Maurier, of course!