these days, i mostly read things that are in the public domain. mostly because they are free—-no, actually not—mostly because of the randomness factor. and the principle of Valeur de l’Antiquité. in my experience, you’re about a million times more likely to turn up genuinely surprising and worthwhile creatures when you let yourself ramble in the public domain. (AND it’s free to ramble there.) oh the splendid victorian monsters i’ve turned up since i got a kindle! deep cuts—like `the history of sir richard calmady,’ about a hot high-living tormented young aristocrat who was born without legs….’the heavenly twins’, about long-forgotten purity-of-essence type feminist answers to The Woman Question….the constantly delightful ‘ordeal of richard feverel’, which is george meredith’s first novel, and which is sort of about hotly wayward sons and oppressive pedagogical fathers, and sort of about nothing in particular, and which contains possibly the most victorian sentence ever written ( : “An hour afterwards, Adrian Harley, Austin Wentworth, and Algernon Feverel were summoned to the baronet’s study.”). (possibly surpassed by: “Gertrude and Martha were dead; the former of consumption, the other drowned by the overturning of a pleasure boat.” from gissing’s `odd women.’)
anyway. ‘a crystal age’ is my latest monster. i was talking to my stepfather today and trying to explain it—‘it’s crazy, it’s like a victorian anti-technology utopian-type novel written by a south american biologist—but he was also british—and it’s also post-apocalyptic—it’s like, this botanist wakes up in the future, and in the future the only technology are big orbs that make ambient music, and animals are magically friendly and helpful, everyone is a vegetarian and everyone is really into decorative arts. and also manuscript illumination. and that’s the future. it’s like—anti-steampunk, i guess.’ ‘steampunk?’ ‘yeah, it’s like’—and i realized i have no idea what steampunk actually is—‘well, it was a nerd thing when i was in college, but i think it’s kind of mainstream now—it’s like people who are into victorian concepts of what the future was like—like jules verne—and technology from back then, like hot air balloons—and sherlock holmes, and clothes with gears on them.’ ‘does it have to do with finding alternative sources of energy?’ ‘no, no—i think it’s mostly an aesthetic thing. anyway, there’s no ideology associated with it as far as i know. it’s a dress-up thing. if you do a google image search for “steampunk”….’ `oh, i just did. yeah, i’ve seen this. it’s kids dressed like that. yeah.’ `well, so this is kind of the anti-steampunk novel, since this is a victorian fantasy about the future and it’s anti-technology, and steampunk is like a fascination with victorian fantasies about the future of technology…’ `mmm-hmmm.’
well, that was a thought that occurred to me today. (let us therefore mention the fact, for it seems to us worthy of record.)
it strikes me that i kind of live in my own weird post-apocalyptic victorian novel, spending all my time in feline society, downloading quaint + curious volumes onto my kindle. subsisting on popsicles and lentil soup.
w. h. hudson’s fantasy of the future is a nice one—-i mean, i like arts and crafts and animals. his future people are also extremely scrupulous. and they have names like yoletta. i imagine a paradjanov movie with some cocteau twins songs on the soundtrack—a world i would very much enjoy living in!