Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday's 'Forgotten' Books: The Corinthian

Georgette Heyer should be a household name; that's the only thing that qualifies this as a "forgotten" book. Heyer is still a nonpareil amongst romance readers, but little known beyond that group. I only learned about her because of Stephen Fry; for his 50th birthday he had a short program on his "guilty pleasures" and one of them was Heyer. She came along at just the right time for me,  as her lively cant became incorporated into the ongoing serial that's now been published as The Mangrove Legacy.

Heyer is primarily responsible for making The Regency a genre all itself, though she wrote mysteries and stories set in other periods as well. For readers who rip through Austen's works and then lament there is no more, Heyer is a treasure trove. She doesn't just capture Austen's period; she also shares a great deal of her sense of fun and wit. In short, her books are a delight.

The Corinthian provides an excellent example. The title is slang for a man of fashion, the type who spend an awful lot of time worrying about the state of his cravat. A very drunk Sir Richard Wyndham one night happens upon the runaway Penelope Creed; both are facing a marriage they do not wish to engage upon and the tomboyish Pen convinces Wyndham to chaperone her on a coach trip to her childhood home -- and of course along the way, he sobers up, she reveals herself to be more than the "child" he continues to call her and they get mixed up in various misunderstands and crime. Delightful stuff that will amuse anyone; Heyer's skill at bringing characters to life is superb, her dialogue crackles with good humor. The covers her work appears within, however, seem designed to appeal only to romance readers, alas. Trust me -- and Stephen Fry! -- Heyer is wonderful.

I'm off this morning to the airport: Atlanta and then Memphis where Miss Wendy will whisk me off to Oxford. We're hoping to have a lot of fun ringing in the new year. I'm looking forward to seeing her new home and the land of Faulkner.

A rather Leary sort of poem (or so at least I once passed it off without a murmur of dissent) I wrote has been accepted by the Journal of Asinine Poetry. I'll let you know when it's available. The short humor piece I did for State of Imagination will be up tomorrow I believe. Look for "A Plea on Behalf of the Small Hat League."

It's the little things that matter: in the midst of a very irritating day yesterday, I was cheered by receiving a card in the mail -- a holiday card from Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. Cue fan girl squee. It's hard not to do so, even though having met them -- they're both so nice and easy going -- I can understand the frustration with the public persona created by the media (and pop songs). At least they have a good sense of humor about it: I remember Alan telling a story about walking past a football match on the green in Northampton, when a waggish cabbie stopped to shout, "Say, Alan, do you know the score?" Hee! Yes, that's the "reclusive" writer, who spends an awful lot of his time rambling around the city and talking to people. Never believe the press.


Debra Hyde said...

I have a stack of Heyer to get through myself, both print and ebook. Maybe I should probably knock off the steampunk reads and load up my reader with a Heyer novel or two.

This, I consider after deciding I really want to re-read du Maurier's The House on the Strand.

Yeesh, but there's never enough time.

Todd Mason said...

You know, quite aside from the CF fans who knew Heyer's work in that field, her Austenian works were celebrated by a subset of sf/fantasy fans who would hold "Heyer Teas" (nudge, nudge, High-er Teas) at their conventions in the 1970s, and perhaps earlier and probably later as well. Romance fandom hasn't quite taken off a thoroughly as CF fandom in terms of conventions and such, but to the extent such events go beyond the RWA (or erotica cons), I suspect those teas might be the seed.

Todd Mason said...

And, as I belatedly discovered while doing my FFB about a Joan Aiken collection of suspense and horror stories, she was clearly no slouch in this arena, either (I'd known about her gothics for decades, but hadn't realized she, too, was an Austenian/Heyerian).

C. Margery Kempe said...

@Debra -- good to see so many Heyer books are available as ebooks. Du Maurier is terrific, too. Tamsin Grieg reads Jamaica Inn as Book at Bedtime on Radio 4.

@Todd -- CF? Oh, there are HUGE romance cons and all over the world, too. As I've been dipping my toe into that world, I am amazed at how huge and widespread the field is -- even the academic side of it. I went to some rom panels at PCA last year for the first time. Interesting stuff.

Todd Mason said...

CF="crime fiction" opposed to speculative/fantastic fiction or historical and/or western fiction and/or contemporary mimetic fiction and/or surfiction/metafiction and all those other porous categories. I knew about the RWA-driven conventions and am not too surprised that romance fandom has effloresced in this wise.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Oh, duh! If I were not so logy from giant breakfast, I'd have figured that out. All these little subcultures in which I have a foot or at least a toe, but never quite embrace wholeheartedly. Not a joiner, I suppose, but I do learn from them all.