Saturday, 24 April 2010

I Interview Dead People: William Shakespeare

Do I really need to formally introduce William Shakespeare to you? I didn't think so. He died on April 23, 1616 and was born almost exactly 52 years before that. I know his birthday because of school and all but if I hadn't known it, the Twitter would have learned me yesterday. It was a day full of random Shakespeare quotations, or "quotes" as the yout' like to call them, but the last time I checked, quote was a verb, not a noun...Willy, am I right?

William Shakespeare: Of course you are, dear.

Bookphilia: Thank you. Will, you're looking a Are you sure you're up for this interview?

WS: Well, yesterday was Shakespeare Day, and it was very busy what with all the poetry readings and the quoting and the dressing up in tights and getting infested with a good case of lice-

B: How very authentic! I was trying out lead-based make-up and hoping my hair would start to fall out so I could don a red periwig like Elizabeth I's but apparently it takes longer than a day for it to work. Also, I was trying to find someone to lace up my stays and help me properly position the bumroll over my petticoats but-

WS: I like to dress up too, preferably as a boy playing a girl disguised as a boy, but please, not so loud....I actually have a huge hangover right now and my head is killing me. Shakespeare Day is a serious party night. *Looks even greener*

B: Will, you were...drunk? But you're...the Bard. Is what Marlowe said about you being overly fond of the ale true..?

WS: Well, sure, everyone loves the beer bong.

B: *Sigh*

WS: What's your problem? You don't imagine that geniuses like moi go home early and think of puppies and God do you? My work was real and true and I made it so by wallowing in the dirt with the vermin on the street-

B: !!!

WS: Er, by keeping it

B: I can't believe you - are you a...a...a POSER?

WS: Poser? Who're you calling poser? I'll kick- Ahem. YOU DO ME WRONG TO TAKE ME OUT OF THE GRAVE! THOU ART A SOUL IN BLISS BUT I-

B: You are a total disaster. And think I love you more for it. I love that underneath all our culture's striving to justify its idolization of you as the hottest literary shit that ever was or could be, the way it tries to extract serious biography from your extant laundry lists, and continues to try to prove that while every other Renaissance playwright collaborated you were really a "pure" writer, you're just a twitchy, awkward nerd like everyone else.

Christopher Marlowe: Speak for yourself, tart. You and Will may be lumps, but I'm more glam than the love child of RuPaul and Coco Chanel.

WS: Kit, get lost! Isn't it bad enough that you put poppers in my toasted cheese last night - now you have to hijack my interview! Hie thee hence, minion!

*Marlowe disappears*

B: How did you do that? You didn't even need to use your laser eyes!

WS: As Marlowe is one of my characters, I can do anything I like with him.

B: Wait, what?

WS: As I've pretty much been elevated to deity status, I can do anything. Which means this interview is over.
*Bookphilia disappears*

WS: Don't worry, she'll be back, whether you will or no.

Four Eight days will quickly steep themselves in night;
Four Eight nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities. Bookphilia's triumphant return to an interwebs near you.

Christ, I can't believe the things I'll do for money these days. *Shuffles off*

Thursday, 22 April 2010

So THAT'S why people always ask me how I get enough protein

P. G. Wodehouse's Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves is another hilarious exploration of the emotional roller coaster ride that is being married, engaged, or employed in the vicinity of Bertie Wooster. So many disasters are promised and narrowly averted in his presence that I wonder that neither he nor anyone else - especially the astute and extremely well-read Jeeves - has noticed this trend and suggested a thingummy to remedy it somehow.

Anywho, this novel picks up where the last Jeeves book I read (I can't even remember what it's called; perhaps I need a Wodehouse spreadsheet or something) left off. In this installment, Bertie is tempted against his will, again, to visit Totleigh Towers, the home of a drip named Madeleine who always threatens to marry him when her other relationships fail and her father who believes him to be an inveterate criminal.

This time 'round, the crisis is that Madeline and Gussie Fink-Nottle are about to break up over her insistence that he follow a vegetarian diet. He's cranky because he's feeling the lack of kidney pie and she's insisting that he be spiritual and sensitive like she and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley are/were. Anyway, it doesn't go well for them.

Besides enjoying myself in the reading of this book, it has also taught me why so many people ask me where I get my protein when they find out I'm vegan. It's not a league of uninformed health professionals responsible for imagining and propagating the myth that protein can be found only in flesh, oh no - it's Wodehouse! I'm certain that many, many more people in the world have read Wodehouse than have read dietary manuals and so I blame the Bard of Funny for this misconception and would have to kill him for it if death hadn't already killed him to death.

Vacation begins first thing Sunday morning and I don't know what kind of computer access I'll have while away. At the latest, I'll be back blogging in early May.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bookstore tourism

Oh friends, the first vacation in two years that my husband and I will have been able to take together is almost nigh! At an obscenely early hour on Sunday, we will be getting in a car and driving to our nation's capital. Lunch with a fellow book-lover and all around hilarious friend of mine that I haven't seen in 2 years or so will occur immediately upon our arrival. Woot, I say.

Working in a bookshop is great...but I need a little break from it. It therefore may make you scratch your head when I say how much I'm looking forward to getting some serious reading in. I get some fairly serious reading in here at work but it's not the same. Reading in a comfy chair, in the sunshine, with a fruity drink and hubby nearby doing exactly the same is a world away from reading during slow times at work. We read like fiends all over our honeymoon in Europe and will likely do the same when we're puttering about in Ottawa and Montreal. I've got two new books to take with me: Flaubert's A Sentimental Education and Mantel's Wolf Hall; I'll also take my Gogol short fiction collection as there's no way I'll get it done before we leave.

But for me, a vacation isn't complete without a fairly exhaustive tour of the bookstores of whatever city I'm visiting. My lunch-providing friend, Andrew, has already sent me a very promising list of second-hand shops in Ottawa. As for Montreal, I think I'll play it by ear and hope to stumble upon some gems as we walk around that lovely, lovely city. (I'll likely have already spent a shitload of cash in Ottawa on books, so a little less intentionality in that regard might be better on our second stop.)

(Have you been to Montreal? To me, it's the most gorgeous city in Canada, hands down. If I spoke French at all, I think ending up in Toronto mightn't have been such a foregone conclusion.)

But back to the idea of bookstore tourism. I doubt I have to ask if all of you engage in it, because I suspect the majority of you do. I guess the question is, why? I am an inveterate bookstore tourist because I hope to (and usually do) find books I've never seen elsewhere. But I also find it extremely comforting to know that book culture thrives everywhere, in very different sorts of cities and countries. Even before I became a bookseller myself, I loved talking to other indie booksellers about what motivated them to commit to a life that will certainly never lead to fame and riches. Most times, it's because they too are incorrigible book hounds and we often end up having great conversations.

I also like the quirks of personality that come through in indie shops - things such as how books are categorized, displayed, and how much the overflow infringes upon floor space. Or, to provide a more specific example of bookseller personality: Two years ago in Charlottetown, hubby and I found a used book store where the sign in front of the rare book section said something to the effect of "WE DON'T CARE WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE - COLLECTOR, BOOKSELLER, OR FAN - IF YOU TOUCH THESE BOOKS WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION, WE WILL KILL YOU." I kind of like that. And sometimes wonder if I should put up similar signs here, due to all the browsers who seem surprised when I tell them they can't rest their coffee cups on the shelves. I recall I bought a Wodehouse novel and The Conference of the Birds (a 12th-century Persian poem) at this cranky shop and was questioned closely for my strange combination of tastes. I like booksellers to engage this way, but they're all tired of seeing me here, so anonymity is another perk of bookstore tourism.

I suppose I should do some work now as I'm not on vacation yet. But don't think I won't be counting the minutes until Sunday.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The stars gathered together to play blindman's bluff

I wonder who I thought I was kidding, concluding my last post with the suggestion that I'd be too busy to read for the next little bit? Probably only myself. If you read Bookphilia at all regularly, you know better than I apparently do how hopelessly unable I am to resist my beloved books, no matter the circumstances.

I am about 100 pages into the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of Nikolai Gogol's Collected Tales and it's ridiculously good. I wish I had the time to simply sit and read it from cover to cover, which is something I almost never want to do with collections of short fiction; you may recall me taking 2+ years to get through volume 1 of Henry James' short fiction, for example.

What I find particularly compelling about Gogol's stories so far, is how seamlessly the supernatural and the real or natural coexist. In "The Night Before Christmas", Gogol tells the story of the love-stricken blacksmith Vakula who is trying to convince the village beauty to marry him. She's assigned him the Chaucerian (see The Franklin's Tale) task of getting her the tsarina's shoes as the only condition upon which she'll join with him. The devil, who's been hanging about looking for souls to tempt, see this as a golden opportunity for winning the pious young man's soul; however, as good-natured and naive as Vakula is, he manages to turn this spiritual assault to his advantage and ends up forcing the devil to take him to Petersburg to get the shoes!

Gogol describes them flying through the air (the blacksmith riding on the devil's back) and the sky is simply jammed with other nocturnal travellers of the air:
Everything was visible; and he could even observe how a sorcerer, sitting in a pot, raced past them like the wind; how the stars gathered together to play blindman's bluff; how a whole swarm of phantoms billowed in a cloud off to one side... (p. 51)
In Gogol's fantasy world, literally everything is alive and active; what shocks is not this busy supernatural world mirroring and mingling with our own, but how people just like ourselves behave. For while Vakula is provided with a great deal of evidence of his love's cruelty and shallowness, he finds it too surprising to be believable. It's thus not the aggressive interference of the supernatural in human lives that is problematic.

Rather, Vakula is thrown off by things and people not acting according to their place and role; he believes that the natural and logical result of him continuing to woo Oksana is that she will not only marry him, but do so because she loves him. As he flies through the air, he doesn't marvel at ghosts and witches and goblins, but he does fret that "He saw so many gentlemen in fur-lined coats that he didn't know before whom to doff his hat" (p. 52). That the world and its elements, human and otherwise, behave predictably and consistently is the expectation that lies at the hear of Vakula's actions and adventures.

And indeed, it also lies at the heart of Oksana's arrogance about the blacksmith, for when he fails to show up to church on Christmas day, her comfortable sense of where she belongs in the social structure is seriously upset. For Gogol, in "The Night Before Christmas" but also in the other two tales I've read ("St. John's Eve" and "The Terrible Vengeance"), it's expected that the natural and the supernatural will co-exist; it's the mystery of human motivation that baffles and terrifies most deeply.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Golly, that was fun!

I really like Neil Gaiman. I also really like Terry Pratchett. But I think I love the two-headed monster they form when they write books together. As far as I know, Good Omens is the only one (and likely the last, as Pratchett has the Alzheimer's, alas).

I think Good Omens is both the best Neil Gaiman book I've read and the best Terry Pratchett book I've read, and they've both written some pretty kick-ass things (Anansi Boys and The Light Fantastic, respectively). It was just so clever and hilarious and plot-ful. It relied on overused clichés of religious horror and made fun of them by filtering them through the clichéd lens of a coming of age novel. Awesome. Perfect.

In spite of the sheer nerdy pulchritude of this novel, I've been having a hard time reading lately. My distractability quotient is quite high right now. Which might account for why I'm writing a post like this after writing two moody and Deep posts about what to do with writers who are jerks. I'm feeling a bit mooncalf-ish (in the idly dreamy way, not the monstrous birth way).

And the reading-lessness of it all is about to increase for hubby and I are working manically to get ready to go on vacation (one particular instance of irony I don't find to be hilarious) and my part-timer just quit (yes, as I was in the midst of writing this post). Sigh. See you in a year? Boo. ;(

Monday, 12 April 2010

Is it possible to feel critically?

I've been thinking about that series of disjointed thoughts I dropped here yesterday. I think I made it seem as though my options for reading have been either intellectual or emotional; certainly, I've tried to separate the two throughout my years of schooling, in part because I had to. In fact, not separating them makes intuitive sense to me, but what makes intuitive sense doesn't, however, look good on any formal work I've produced. Here on Bookphilia, both are almost always present, in varying proportions, but I feel as though they're very rarely represented simultaneously; rather, I think I alternate my emotional responses with my intellectual ones and while that may or may not be entertaining, it's ultimately quite frustrating for me.

The reason I find this so frustrating is that I think the very best literature out there, regardless of how authors manage it, presents that seamless marriage of the thoughtful and the heart-ful (to coin a neologism that already has more sentimental and mushy connotations than I would like) - Cloud Atlas, David Copperfield, Silas Marner - my god!

I would like to be able to do such literature justice in my discussions here by mirroring this blended approach (or result, if we're going to try to leave the authors out of it), but there are very few things I've written in my life that I'm truly pleased with. Academically, most seemed too dry and empty and here, I often feel a little bit too jokey, mean, or maudlin, depending on the book. Not that jokey and mean aren't enjoyable and, I hope, pleasing but that sometimes these are easier, much easier, than what I imagine I could be doing. As for maudlin, what can I say? I don't hold back, which is why I couldn't read A Tale of Two Cities in public.

As a prof, I spent a great deal of time guiding my students away from what they were feeling about texts and towards what they were thinking (if anything). Essays talking about what a jerk Hamlet is to Ophelia aren't prize-winners in the university system, but if students were taught how to critically use their emotional responses to texts, instead of having them try to ignore that stuff altogether, something amazing might happen. However, I will obviously not be the one to lead such a revolution.

That said, I will continue to muddle along. Reading is not something I can happily live without and neither, it turns out, is writing about what I read, even if what I produce is a monstrous mish-mash of brilliant intellectual incisiveness and puddles of cyberspatial tears.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A man writes much better than he lives

Rohan over at Novel Ideas has just posted some thoughts on what do with biography in relation to the study of literature, in particular when writers of good books are penned by not so good people - you can read her full piece here.

One segment particularly stuck out for me:
Authors whose daily behavior is scandalous can compose stories of wondrous moral richness, sometimes actually realizing, as Samuel Johnson liked to insist, their own genuine ethical aspirations better than they ever do in “real life.” As he says, “a man writes much better than he lives.”
This is a nicely optimistic view that allows for a great deal of leeway in terms of readerly acceptance of the person behind the book; this idea also requires very little actual proof to alleviate partially, if not entirely, one's qualms about how to reconcile an utterly unlikeable person like Yukio Mishima (for example) with the transcendent works they create.

It certainly strikes a chord with me - but with the post-academic me. I realized when I got to this point in Rohan's essay that the academic me wouldn't have required any such emotional salve, that my ability to focus almost (but not quite, and that's key) exclusively on text has been ebbing away since I left the academy behind. I still resist the use of biographical criticism when thinking about literature for I somehow still believe  that literary creations, the best ones anyway, are still much larger than the brains that produced them.

Somewhere along the line I've become less resistant to letting what I know about an author influence my emotional response to their works - and this has turned out to be a dangerous combination, for imagining the writer to be somehow better than the average bear has invited a great deal of disappointment, with Mishima through John Nathan's biography and through meeting Sherman Alexie and seeing him be a jerk to me and the other fans at his reading.

Of course, why I read and how has been changing because how I write about what I read and to/for whom has changed. Trying to instill good reading habits in my students, for example, or showing that while I can engage with the historical context of the authors about whom I write, but not really their personal historical context, aren't balancing acts I need concern myself with anymore.

Reducing - or elevating - text to the product of pure intellect or something more transcendent like "genius" but still essentially as somehow beyond basic human emotion was mirrored in my and my peers' attempts to approach literature as the embodiment of pure intellect. I'm not certain if this is something true across periods in the study of English literature but in the study of Renaissance literature it was both expected and relatively easy, the latter because often, very little is known about the authors in question anyway.

I honestly don't know anymore if this was a good approach to literary studies, but it was at heart the only one garnering any real approbation. In any case, for me it was from the start an attempt that would involve a mammoth struggle. Personally, I know that the work I did on texts which I either disliked or felt neutral about is generally considered better than the work I did on texts I loved - and more telling, perhaps, the work on those less beloved texts was much easier to execute. Writing about 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (one of my favourite Renaissance plays) was excruciating, in part because I was emotionally invested in doing it justice, and because reading it for the 20th time didn't in any way mitigate my emotional response to its pathos.

Looking back at the academy I left, all I see is confusion and disarray, which of course probably entirely reflects the fact that I never felt entirely comfortable there; unlike my brothers in PhD arms, I never lost the ability to put down my pen and dive in an entirely emotional way into a good book (you should have seen the mess I was at the end of The Amber Spyglass, which I read while writing my thesis proposal!).

Keeping my emotional and intellectual responses to literature separate never really seemed entirely right - or perhaps more to the point, possible - for me. Engaging deeply with literature is a passion for me; I read everything passionately and some things would make me feel like they were blowing the top of my head off and making my heart seize up in an almost mortal way - 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, King Lear, The Winter's Tale - and then I'd have to compartmentalize that and articulate something, a transition I found to be both difficult and painful.

Clearly, the blogosphere is a better place for me, for it admits of all approaches. And based on things happening over at Novel Ideas, I like to imagine that Victorian studies at least is more flexible than Renaissance studies are; maybe other period disciplines will someday follow suit.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Something ugly and impossible to love

Reading John Nathan's biography of Yukio Mishima really put me off and so it's been a long time since I've read any of Mishima's works. Nathan's book made Mishima's spiritual flights of fancy seem rather more shabby and base than the author would probably have liked; it also effectively destroyed my pleasure in his work. I've been, as the result, both hesitant and unable to return to Mishima until recently.

I finally broke the deadlock, however, and read his 1953 novel Forbidden Colors (translated into English in 1968). This novel is rather a brave bit of literary business, telling as it does the story of what it means to be a young gay man in post-war Japan. And it's not told from any "safe" distance - the narrator reveals insights and experience with the hidden world he explores in such great detail, and with such a discomfiting mixture of revulsion and desire, that it's hard to imagine that these insights weren't directly Mishima's. Originality and an utter lack of fear have, for me, always made Mishima's works something approaching perfection.

With this novel as with all others (except maybe Thirst for Love, actually), Mishima goes places through his writing - bodily, metaphysically, intellectually - that no other writer I've encountered goes. Because of this, it was a joy to return to his unique and sometimes only half comprehensible, but always interesting, world. Reading Mishima's novels is to glimpse a world of literature that exists nowhere else, one that constantly upsets linear thinking processes; to do this with a linear narrative is both startling and what makes his work so important. Well, part of what makes it important. Perhaps if Nathan had focused more on Mishima's literary legacy and less on his personal life, I wouldn't find myself engaging so much with a merely adequately written biography of a brilliant writer instead of only with the brilliant writer.

In any case, I clearly haven't been completely able to get that Nathan-induced rot out of my brain, for even as I enjoyed large portions of Forbidden Colors, I couldn't help but feeling that the sorts of things that to used to fill me with unmitigated awe were really rather contrived. When Mishima wrote about the dry and dusty soul of one of the book's primary characters - the old and venerated author Shunsuke - I couldn't help but notice how similar were the shortcomings the narrator blamed him for to the things about Mishima himself that I used to become so happily bewildered by. It may be that I just wasn't as thoroughly impressed by Forbidden Colors as I was by the Sea of Fertility tetralogy or Confessions of a Mask, but I honestly am not certain.

I will, of course, try again - I have After the Banquet and The Sound of Waves sitting in my collection, and the latter was very difficult to find. But it may be some time before Mishima and I meet again.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Sarazens head without New-gate: resurfacing

Friends, it's been a tough week. I did a freelance editing job over the long weekend and it was nothing less than hellish. It turns out that a fairly deep edit of 150 pages over 3.5 days was too much to ask of me or most people; editing shouldn't leave you feeling like you've been punched repeatedly in the face and kicked everywhere else. Next time, there will be some renegotiation.

Now, I am back in the shoppe and it's very relaxed here right now. It is raining and very dark outside, which results in Torontonians either melting or staying inside with the good books they bought when it was sunny out.

I don't blame them, really, for staying in on days like this; wet pant-legs really are one of the most annoying things in this world. I just happen to come from a place where refusing to go out in the rain means you stay inside 5 of 7 days of the week, and so this sort of thing won't stop me. And besides, we know what happens in such situations: no fresh air and tv new books make Johnny any sane person go crazy.

As I am still totally a sleepy mess today, I'm grateful for the silence. I am also grateful for the fact that it is probably about to start thundering and lightning-ing out there. I absolutely love being in here when the weather is throwing a loud, angry fit. The mountains of books and rain on the windows put me in a very contented head-space, even if it is bad for business.

If the storm ends up directly over the store, that's even better; once when this happened, there was a thunder-crack so powerful that it made our "OPEN" sign shatter and fall to the floor!! Exciting times, good for reading ghost stories or novels by Yukio Mishima (for me, today, it's the latter).

What's new in bookstoreland
Well, not much. The cycle of buy books, sell books remains pretty consistent with, of course, ebbs and flows reflecting climatological events. One thing I have noticed lately, however, is that everyone and their dog is trying to sell their sets of encyclopedias. (You know there were too many door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen working in the '80s is so many dogs are finding themselves trying to get rid of the damned things!)

I've heard through the grapevine (because I refuse to use telephones) that even places like Goodwill won't take encyclopedias anymore - they just take up a lot of space and will absolutely never sell. And why would they? Even before the interwebs came along to make such things completely irrelevant, I always wondered how sensible it was to buy a stack of brutally heavy books that would be outdated in some ways before they even arrived at your house. Still, it hurts me to think of how many books, obsolete are not, must be ending up in the garbage right now.

This post was really leading up to the following
I've been keeping a file of the coolest place and street names I've come across in our online book-selling business and have a great collection for you today! Check it:

Stormville, NY
Citrus Heights, CA
Freedom, NH (yeah!)
Mystic, CT (oh YEAH!)
Volunteer Blvd, in a town in TN
Brigantine, NJ

And the last one seems too good to be true...wait for it...

Heffalump Rd, in rural SC. What! What genius of street planning went to A.A. Milne for names? Is there a Pooh Corner in this town? Can I marry him or her?? Such brilliance surely overcomes the hideousness of naming streets things like Factory Rd. I think the circle is complete.

PS-I shall, of course, keep this list of cool place and street names going and update in the future.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

I Interview Dead People: William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was one of the Romantic movement’s most important figures. He produced an astonishing body of poetic work and with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, established the terms and ideals by which the literary art of their time was defined (see Preface to Lyrical Ballads).

Bookphilia: Today, I am joined by William Wordsworth, Romantic numero uno and no friend of mine.

William Wordsworth: Well, I don’t like you much, either. You dragged me away from a really good episode of Survivor 437: Kim Kardashian’s Cousin’s Guest Bedroom!

B: Good lord, what is such a widely respected artist like yourself doing watching such mush??

WW: Reality television is the new Romantic poetry; it’s all about orchestrating emotional explosions everywhere, regardless of how inappropriate the context.

B: I see…but the stars of such shows aren’t always as…articulate as yourself.

WW: Well, that’s true. They are, generally, a bunch of ass-licking mouth-breathers, but the world has declined a great deal since I last wandered lonely as a cloud, so we must make due. Also, there’s nothing else on.

B: Why not skip TV altogether and do some more writing? If Shakespeare can still manage to write new plays then surely you can write some new poetry…?

WW: Well, I would. I REALLY would, but you know…the world can’t handle me anymore. Looks nervous, shifty eyes

B: Is that really why you’re not writing?

WW: No…Weeps inconsolably for a few minutes. My sister, Dorothy, won’t give me back my ink and quills unless I promise to write an epic pastoral gothic nightmare about an earthly goddess named Dorothea walking 20 miles out of her way to avoid crossing the paths of cows who stare horribly while munching hay in large fields.

B: Er….Well, that is a rather ridiculous topic…but maybe she has a point underneath it all…

WW: Bristling. Like what, pray tell?

B: Well, your poems are all so…self-involved. Maybe it’s time to branch out a little?

WW: Bitch, it is all about me. And cows have nothing to do with me. I’m William Wordsworth, for God’s sake. The only topic important enough for me to write about is William Wordsworth! Now, let me say something else even deeper and more awesome than what I just said, for I feel some blank verse coming on-

B: Why are you talking this way?

WW: What way?

B: Like a low rent trailer park denizen with more attitude than smarts?

WW: You’re the medium; I speak the way you think. How I say the absolutely unstoppable and crushingly deep shit that comes to me now reflects your pathetic little pea of a brain-brain.

B: Oh.

WW: Indeed.

B: Right then, let’s talk about your sister Dorothy.

WW: Oh, please, not-

B: I insist. While I think I don’t like your wanky poetry, I can see now that I probably haven’t read enough of it to be able to form a real, informed opinion on it. You see, I managed to sneak through uni without taking a course devoted to the canonical Romantic writers; in fact, my only Romantics class was about Romantic women writers, one of whom was your sister, Dorothy. We read her diaries, and they were as lame as a one-legged duck on broken stilts. EXCEPT, except, for the funny bits in which she describes walking 20 miles out of her way to avoid cows who stared horribly - and, of course, the incestuous bits.

WW: I object! Incest! That’s obscene, that’s-

B: I think so too! That’s why we should talk about it. Class discussion just wasn’t allowed to go there, so it’s high time you cleared things up for me. You know when you got married and Dorothy insisted on wearing your wife’s wedding ring and sitting between the two of you? Did you reciprocate D’s unspeakable desires?

Weeps again. Of course not! Who could love a woman fearful of such gentle, simple, natural, spiritual, earthy beasts as cows? She’s a monster, I tell you. She even tried, on my honeymoon with my wife, to-

Dorothy Wordsworth: William, really. This chit won’t understand. Ours was a love that transcended the gross semi-intellect of people not possessing the last name “Wordsworth”. Or perhaps Coleridge.

WW: Dorry, please, not now, not here!

DW: Oh, but my dear Will, there is no feeling more given to spontaneous overflow than our love, during which time each minute becomes sweeter than before-

WW: Rolls up in a ball, and begins rocking back and forth.

DW: Love, I will frame the measure of our souls and they shall be turned to hot brother-sister love! Why do you insist on provoking me with your resistance? Dorothy grows larger and more fiendish-looking as she speaks.

B: STOP!!! Get thee behind me, incestuous cow-hater! I’ll not have anyone but myself abusing William! Now, either go back to writing your illegal Harry Potter porn comic Surprised by Malfoy or I’ll send Cow Tse Tung’s army to kill you to death!

DW: I defy thee, thou nameless wretch! You too will submit-

B: Shoots lasers out of eyes and kills Dorothy Wordsworth.

WW: Momentarily speechless. Oh thank you! Everything is forgiven. Well, mostly. Really, how can you not like my poetry? It really is unsurpassingly brilliant.

B: Maybe I haven’t been fair to you. Had I known your incredibly dull sister was actually a succubus with big scary teeth, a surprisingly large vocabulary, and a taste for fan girl pornography, I wouldn’t have been so hard on you.

WW: …Er, ditto?

B: And all was peaceful again in the literary universe.

WW: Amen.