April 30, 2009

Middling mysteries, but free

Lady Molly of Scotland Yard is written from the painfully worshipful view of her, clerk?, upper servant?, who takes her as a champion of feminine intuition and guile in the plodding world of Scotland Yard. The first few stories are mildly interesting bits of Edwardian life, especially feminine life; I noted one illegitimate child put to be raised by a village woman, with the mother certainly thought less of but not scorned or ostracized in the village; and another young woman of good family who fenced and boxed.

They didn't do much for me as mysteries -- if there were clues, they were social enough that I missed most of them; Lady Molly is supposed to be 'condensing fact from the vapors of nuance', as another writer had it, and I miss nuance from a culture even as little different as that. The only really interesting mystery is of Lady Molly's origins; I can *imagine* that over the course of the whole, the worshiping servant discovers them -- perhaps accidentally -- perhaps disillusioned -- perhaps more worshipful yet -- ... But I only imagine, because I didn't finish.

Max Carrados has an equally improbably competent sleuth, this one blind and rich, with a rather stupider professional inquiry agent as the narrator and foil. The puzzles are more material, and hold up to changing time a little better, and I think there are more clues for the reader.

From the U. Penn. Celebration of Women Writers: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, Baroness Orczy

Project Gutenberg etext #12932: Max Carrados, Ernest Bramah

Posted by clew at 05:39 PM

April 12, 2009

The Triumph of Individual Style, Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor

This is the best book or essay I've ever seen arguing that you can dress to make any body beautiful. They do not merely argue that you can make any body look more like 'the' desirable body; they reproduce art of the last several hundred years in which (female) bodies in wide variety, stunning array, are depicted with attention and admiration, and then they translate some of that art into reasonably-modern clothing. Dozens of features are picked out with examples of how to camouflage or highlight them -- *each* is to be either hidden or flaunted; high bosom hidden, large tummy flaunted, etc etc. Clothing would be a lot less dull and depressing if everyone thought this way.

The line drawings by the authors are noticeably 1980s, that being when the book was written, but the clothes are of such a mad variety of cut that few of them are hopelessly dated; you can think, Oh, not that belt in this decade, but the waistband works.

They get more general, analyzing bodies by asymmetry, scale, texture, proportion, as well as the usual bosom-waist-hips combination; and they have color chips in a wide range, covering a great number of the unexpected undertones we can have (eight varieties of melanin, is it?). I think the reader is supposed to clip out her colors, so if you're buying it used, check those pages. The examples are mostly Anglo-Norman, but the art includes 'ethnographic' as well as 'fine', so most backgrounds occur at least once.

Hat tip to PatternReview, where I'm sure I saw this recommended.

Find in a Library: The Triumph of Individual Style

Posted by clew at 01:07 PM
« March 2009 | Main | May 2009 »