The past few days have been a bit weird, reading-wise. I was reading Geek Love – recommended to me by Toryssa as an antidote to the trite blahness of Water for Elephants (Water to Elephants? I can never remember) – and then when I wasn’t reading that, I was reading the Brownings’ letters to each other when they were a-courting.
It’s been strange. Geek Love is two stories running consecutively: the main character, Olympia, is a hunchback dwarf from a family that deliberately bred freaks in order to make their circus all interesting, and she’s telling the story of her childhood. And then she’s also got things going on in the present with her tail-having daughter and this woman who wants to give the daughter surgery to de-tail her. Oh, and Olympia’s brother Arty (who has flippers instead of hands and feet) has a cult of people that get their limbs cut off. But then *spoiler* the circus blows up. So oh well.
Interspersed with letters from Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, in which they are so damn cute that my brain perpetually explodes. Every time I think I can’t love Robert Browning any more, he says something even sweeter and I have to reset the scale.
And then back to Geek Love with the amputations and the telekinetic Chick kid. The transitions have been weird.
Sorting through this confusion, I find that I do not care for Geek Love very much. I didn’t like the family dynamic. It was creepy, of course, the creepy parents with their creepy plans for the kids, and the creepy siblings with their creepy behavior, but it was sort of predictably creepy. Creepy in ways you really could have anticipated. Geek Love was such a strange book that I kept losing track of how blah the family dynamic actually was, but after a while I’d notice some discontentment feelings and discover that the source of the feelings was that the relationships between the family, while dysfunctional, were not interestingly dysfunctional. You always knew what everyone was going to do. I lost interest long before the book ended.
Oh, and? I was also displeased with how the *spoiler* circus exploded. It was like the author just got sick of the Binewski family and was trying to figure out what she could do to get rid of everyone so that she could get back to Olympia in the present in order to end that storyline unsatisfactorily too, so she was like, Well, hey, I’ll just blow everyone up.
I am much happier when I contemplate the Brownings. Do you know about the Brownings? If not, it is definitely worth your while to go and look up the Brownings and learn a little bit about them. And go ahead and read The Barretts of Wimpole Street. And then go ahead and read their letters to each other. The ones from 1845-1846 are all the letters there ever were, because after they were married, says their son, they were never separated.
A sad (but nice) story: On Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s last day (of life, I mean), she was sickly and he was fretting, and when he offered to bathe her feet to soothe her she said, “Well, you are determined to make an exaggerated case of it!” and she died in his arms and the last thing she said was that when he asked her how she felt, she said, “Beautiful.”
(That story makes me teary-eyed.)
The Brownings are lovely. I always want to give them a hug. They’re so brave and humble and affectionate and dear, and they always send letters to tell each other how much they love them. When I read their letters I feel like that episode of Buffy where she’s all upset about Xander and Anya having a fight and she’s all, “THEY HAVE A MIRACULOUS LOVE!”
That’s me. About the Brownings. Darling Brownings!
…I’m not bragging or anything. I’m just mentioning. Robert Browning? He was born on my birthday. So unless you were born on 9 December or 23 April, and actually even if you were born on 9 December or 23 April, I still pretty much win at Best Birthday. Because Robert Browning was a gifted writer and also a completely lovely person.