Wednesday July 30th 2008, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Books
Warning: spoilers follow.
I finished reading From Hell‘s lengthy appendix and am rather sad to return the book to the library. There’s something about finishing a book that hooks you in some way – it’s very final, you know that those characters won’t be back, not unless there’s a sequel, which won’t happen in this case and which usually turns out rotten anyhow.
I think I am still horrified at the slaughter and that people had to die in such violent ways (by this, I include Druitt’s forced suicide). Even the book’s ultimately uplifting finale, with an older Mary Kelly driving off the spirit of her would-be murderer, leaves me unappy. Someone still died, if we take Moore’s premise, in Kelly’s place. It doesn’t negate the awfulness of the Miller’s Court murder.
Perhaps I should concentrate more on the Mary Kelly back in Ireland in the early twentieth century. She has four daughters. They are named Anne, Katey, Lizzie and Polly, for their murdered namesakes, Annie Chapman, Catherine Eddowes or Kate, Elizabeth Stride and Mary Ann Nichols or Polly. Mary Kelly, who was the youngest of the murdered women, here is the mother to the girls who take their names from the older ones. Kelly shows herself to be a caring and protective mother, teaching her young daughters right and wrong. This is a much more optimistic picture than the gory death scene.
Bicorn (also known as Bicrone) is a mythological creature related to the Unicorn with two horns that has the reputation of devouring kind-hearted and devoted husbands, and is thus plump and well fed. His counterpart is the Chichevache, which devours only obedient wives and is therefore thin and starving.
It’s interesting to note that the Bicorn’s prey is exclusively kind-hearted husbands; the Chichevache’s prey only needs be obedient, not kind. The difference is that women, while expected to be obedient on the surface, were presumably not excluded from harbouring secret grudges.
He is so awesome. He cooks yummy dinners. He lets me win at Princes of Florence and Alhambra by wide margins. He watches animal documentaries with me. He takes me to comic book stores. Yes, he is awesome.
Friday July 25th 2008, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Blogging
Guess what? I got my first guest blogging gig! I’m headed for the big time in bloggerdom now! Yeah, after six years I am finally getting some recognition.
To help out my friend Raul who is doing this crazy Blogathon-blogging-every-half-hour-for-24-hours thing for charity, I wrote a post. It’s slotted at 4 am. Contains some hogwash about a freak animal. You can read it and Raul’s other posts on his blog, Hummingbird 604. His chosen charity is the BC Cancer Agency.
Lately, I have twin obsessions, one on the topic of sharks, the other with Hitchcock films.*
While reading Dan Auiler’s Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic, I read this:
The entire script [the 1948 film Rope] was shot in sequence, in a series of ten-minute (full-reel) uninterrupted takes, creating a huge challenge for everyone involved. The single-take gimmick had stopped being an amusing novelty during production and had become an actor’s nightmare. The pressure for an accurate performance was almost unbearable. With each take lasting at least ten minutes, the tension ratcheted upward every passing minute. A gaffe in the first few moments was meaningless – little time and money was lost – but an error near the end of a ten-minute take was devastating to everyone involved, especially the poor soul responsible.
I was curious. A quick perusal of my library’s DVD shelf turned up Rope. I sat down to eat in front of the TV on Wednesday night, ready to find out what these ten-minute takes looked like. Perhaps I should have read the fine print.
It’s very painful. Not just watching the actors, but trying to keep from getting dizzy as the camera follows the characters around the room.
Did I mention it’s a single-room drama? I should have remembered that there is nothing more awkward than watching a bad party, except for actually being at a bad party. I should have learned my lesson after sitting through BuÃ±uel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, the story of another agonizing party.
I ended up with a headache. On Thursday, the headache hadn’t subsided. My two theories as to the cause of this Rope-induced headache is that either I feel too much for the actors or else I am hurting myself with the need to run out of this claustrophobic party.
Nevertheless, as part of my Hitchcock obsession, I must finish watching this movie. Just not tonight.
*I watched Vertigo and went to San Francisco to hunt down the filming locations at the beginning of this month. I didn’t blog about my trip yet because I haven’t edited the photos.
In 2003, one of my friends went through a Jack the Ripper phase. Thanks to her interest in reading all about the Whitechapel murders and lengthy monologues about her horror at it all, I went away kind of curious. I ended up going through my own Jack the Ripper phase. Every now and then I still re-read the Wikipedia page on Jack and his victims.
For years I meant to pick up the From Hell graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. From Hell refers to one of the many letters Scotland Yard got from ghouls claiming they were Jack the Ripper; this letter is the only one suspected of having actually come from Jack himself. It arrived with a box containing a human kidney. The organ may have come from Catherine Eddowes, one of the murdered woman, who was found disembowelled and missing a kidney.
From Hell pulls together the various suspicions and characters associated with the Jack the Ripper murders. The story works from the premise that the murders were committed as part of a conspiracy, not by one lone psychopathic murderer. Everyone, it seems, has a part to play. Walter Sickert, John Pizer (or Leather Apron), Prince Albert Victor, Montague John Druitt all make an appearance.
I most recommend Moore’s extensive appendix. I essentially read the book twice, once without the benefit of the notes, the second time, once I found the notes, I flipped back and forth to the referenced pages. Moore wrote the appendix with equal parts erudite bibliography and familial conversation. At times, he is modest (he supposes only one person would ever be reading his notes), apologetic (for forgetting from where a reference may have come), appalled (when referring to Ripper’s state of mind during Kelly’s murder), and chatty (his work area is tottering with books, please come and clean it).
From Moore’s notes, one fact above all stands out, making the book worth it. Canonical Ripper victim Polly Nicholls wakes up from sleep in the lowest form of Victorian accommodation. Sleepers sat on a bench for a penny, slept while held from falling forward by a rope stretched across their chests. In the morning, the proprietor unfastened the rope from one end and let the sleepers fall into wakefulness. Really, with this sort of knowledge, one could become a slum lord the likes of whom our lovely city has never seen.
Now for the spoilers.
It’s a good thing that Gull, as the Ripper, is not a sympathetic character. The women, even despite their occasional drunken sloppiness, are likeable. Nicholls can’t get her miserable penny lodgings because she has only a tuppence and is sent out into the night to earn her “doss money.” She is more pathetic as she tells her sad story to her customer Gull before he kills her. Then annie Chapman’s alarming illness before her death, as she drags herself around, thrown out from shelter to fend for herself. Eddowes’ own demise, when a complicit policeman reports her by her unfortunate alias – Mary Kelly – to Gull, is an awful case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong identity.
As anyone who watched the movie knows, the real Mary Kelly supposedly escaped and someone else killed in her place. This is not entirely sheer fancy on Moore’s part. At least two people saw Mary Kelly in the morning, after her death around 4 am and before the discovery of her body at 10:45 am. One of the witnesses, a Mrs. Caroline Maxwell, in this book claims that at 8:30 am Kelly stood outside her apartment, having barfed from having had “the horrors.” Obviously, Moore wants to imply that Mary Kelly had gone into her apartment. She saw another woman, one of her guests from previous pages (Julia, I believe, because of the curly hair), murdered in her place as she slept in Kelly’s bed. If you haven’t seen the horrors inflicted on whoever’s body lay in Mary Kelly’s bed that night, here’s a link to the crime scene photo.
The mutilation of the corpse was so extensive, contemporary forensics were so primitive, that, if it had not been Kelly but one of her friends, no one could verify the corpse’s identity.
Perhaps, having grown to rather like Mary Kelly, the reader might feel a sense of relief that she got away. However, when we really think about it, some other chick lost her life.
I am deducing two things from this: one, this area is full of rats, hence the evidence in the form of dead rats; second, that these rats are lackadaisical about their lives. I don’t see quite so many dead rats on my walks in other parts of town. My dead rats must be so much in love with living that they never see death until it’s too late.
I asked Matt what he does best, and we brainstormed a bit: he does very well at being compassionate and is also good at quick-thinking. I couldn’t think of anything when it came to me. Matt suggested that I am perceptive, in a real world way. (He said this probably because I tend to discuss world history a lot.)