29 August 2009

And back to the Anguilla trip report.

Well, it looks like August is heading for a blazing finish in terms of my blogging. Yay! Because it's cold and rainy outside now, courtesy of the most recent tropical storm, I'm Havana Daydreamin'. So I'm beating those nor'easter blues by returning to my Anguilla Trip Report.

Anguilla Day Two

Blast and curses! That yacht is still anchored outside our door! I fervently hope today is its last day on Meads Bay. I woke up early this morning, around 5:45 a.m., because I forgot to put on my sleep mask. So I got up and started reading a new book on the balcony—the utterly charming The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. At 9:00 a.m. as I write this I’m about ¾ of the way through it. I must stop for a light breakfast; otherwise I will surely run out of books before the trip is over, and that would certainly be a tragedy!

Roy's Bayside Grill

We spent the morning out on the beach and then moseyed down to Sandy Ground to have lunch at an internet café we had seen the day before. We’ve been having bad luck with our internet connections on this trip, as the high speed that was promised at Carimar has been so far unavailable during our stay. Since we’d promised to keep in touch with our family (who were also pet sitting), we figured we’d take our laptops to lunch to take advantage of free wi-fi. Roy’s is where we ended up, and while it was pleasant enough, I can’t say that I’d go out of my way to go there again. I wasn’t able to pick up Roy’s wi-fi for starters, which left me a little grumpy. But aside from that, the meal was very expensive for food that I’d call fine, at best. Two grilled chicken sandwiches with French fries, one rum punch, one bottled water, and one slice of Key lime pie came to just over US $60, including tax & tip! At half that price I would have been much more satisfied with the value. The rum punch was awful. Syrupy sweet—to the point that I added several slices of squeezed lime to the glass and even so could hardly drink it.

This guy was racing on De Tree

Still, the location was pleasant, there was a wonderful kitty who curled up on my lap while I read my book, and we enjoyed watching some guys down the beach get their boats ready for the next day’s big boat race around the island.

On the return from lunch we decided to do a little more exploring to get our bearings. So we followed the road as far as it would go, first down a dirt road that ended up on private property (oops!) and then to Trattoria Tramonto, which looks very inviting. Then we followed the sign down to Mangos restaurant and got out to look around. From there we could see the other side of the Viceroy construction site, and while it’s an eyesore no matter how you slice it, it looked marginally better from that angle. We made a few pictures of the beach—nobody on it, which is just the way we like our beaches. If there had been any shade we probably would have lingered. Instead we headed back to Carimar, picking up a couple of boys who were heading to Sandy Ground and giving them a ride as far as the turnoff for Oliver’s. What polite kids they were!
Mangos seen from the Beach

Debating between Straw Hat and Mangos for the night, we decided upon the latter. Based on the menu that Carimar had, I had my mouth set on one particular entrée – the sesame snapper. Great was my disappointment when the chef informed me upon my inquiry that yes, it was made with cilantro, and no, the dish couldn’t be adjusted to be made without it. Feeling a bit churlish and that there would be no pleasing me, I ordered the simple grilled snapper, which turned out to be just wonderful. DH ordered the shrimp Provencal and declared it was among the best dishes he’s eaten in his 30+ years of traveling to the Caribbean. We finished off a simple but excellent apple tart a la mode. Two cocktails, a bottle of fizzy water, tax and tip came to US $140.
Beautiful, deserted Barnes Bay

Some books to consider...

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost. Troost is following in the footsteps of my favorite travel writer, Bill Bryson, providing readers with a narrative arc that is equal parts humor, philosophy, self-deprecation, and actual information. When his girlfriend, Sylvia, takes an NGO job, they move to Kiribati, a nation of tiny coral atolls lying forgotten in the South Pacific. What he imagined would be two years of ease in tropical splendor, writing the great American novel, turned out to be two years of arduous sweating in tropical squalor, where subsistence wealth isn’t an oxymoron so much as a way of life. You’ll never look at fish, dogs, or beer the same way after reading this book, and if you’re like me, you’ll be chomping at the bit for more.

ONE FOOT WRONG by Sofie Laguna. Hester Wakefield is without a doubt the most unfortunate and pitiable child I’ve ever encountered in the world of literature. Kept imprisoned by her unbalanced, zealously religious mother, she has only fleeting contact with the outside world, and the only life she knows is one of torture, pain, and abuse of every imaginable stripe. She meets her first and only friend when she is banished to an asylum and from there she makes halting steps towards recovery. This book is almost relentlessly dark and certainly not for the faint of heart, but readers who stick with it will discover an ending that practically defines poetic justice and a character whose haunting life will resonate long after the book is put down.

28 August 2009

Random Things I Wish Other People Cared About as Much as I Do

I'm in a snit. There's no use denying it. I was listening to an audio book in my car today and it struck me that for the first time in I don't know how long, I heard the word "utilize" used correctly. So it's at the top of my snark list for today.

1) There's a difference between the words use and utilize and the latter is not just a fancy synonym for the former. Learn the difference.

2) About half the time when people say namesake they really mean eponym. Learn the difference.

3) Bemused is not a variant of amused. Learn the difference.

24 August 2009

Pamela Aidan is da bomb...

...if you like Jane Austen fanfiction, that is. Her peerless Mr.Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, which tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view, is the best Austen fanfic I've ever read. And believe you me, I've read a ton of it since I've been back at the Odyssey.

Admittedly, the middle tome, Duty and Desire is skippable, as there's very little Lizzy/Darcy interaction. Aidan has basically created an entire Ann Radcliffesque gothic tale of mystery and madness that takes place during that time between Darcy's taking leave of Netherfield and his arrival at Rosings Park. Besides a few touching interludes with Miss Georgiana and a breakout role for Darcy's valet, Fletcher, there's not enough of the P&P story to make one linger over it for very long. (Not that it's bad. It's just not the story I was longing to read.)

Not so for the first and third books in the trilogy, however. In An Assembly Such as This and These Three Remain, Aidan manages the balance between a modern writer's sensibilities and the original Regency setting marvelously. It's all appropriate and right and fitting and after completing the trilogy the reader is left with the feeling that she knows Mr. Darcy quite intimately.

Not too intimately, of course. Aidan is never coarse as so many fanfic writers are, throwing Darcy & Lizzy into bed every 5 pages or so. I actually read one sequel to P&P that was pretty much all sex, all the time. No, really. The author said she set out to write about the year following their wedding but ended up only writing about the first three months because Lizzy and Darcy were heading for the boudoir a few times every chapter. And it wasn't even the good kind of smut. More of the "his loins were on fire for her" and "she yearned to be as one with him" nonsense. I mean honestly...Either make with the sexy talk or delicately allude to their newly awakened physical awareness of each other. But don't do it halfway and expect either type of reader to be satisfied. I'm just sayin'.

So I digressed a little bit. But for all of you out there who love P&P and want just a little bit more of the story, Aidan's books are the way to go. They're the most satisfying of the 100 or so various sequels and novels inspired by Austen's works that I've read. 

Jane Austen fanfiction

Since the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies made such a splash on the pop culture scene earlier this year, I've been pondering the phenomenon of Jane Austen fanfiction. Fanfiction, for those of you not already aware, is basically taking already existing characters from literature, movies, TV, or whatnot and using them to write original fiction. If the characters are from works that are not yet in the public doman, then writers cannot make any money from these fics but that's not the case for Jane Austen's characteres. As such, fanfiction writers have really flooded the market in the last two years with sequels(or companion pieces) to all of her works, but of course P&P is the one most frequently honored in this way.

Some of them are quite, quite good. Some of them are awful. Most fall somewhere in between, being not particularly well written but somehow satisfying the craving we all have to know more about Lizzy & Darcy after they get married. My sales reps keep me in good humor by keeping me in Austen fanfiction, so in the last few years I've read a slew of 'em.

P&P&Z, about which I've blogged here and elsewhere, is pretty well done (and so financially successful that the publisher is releasing Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters next month) and thoroughly entertaining. If you're not already a devoted P&P fan, though, it's probably not the best book to pick up if you'd like to become one.

I recently read my first Sense and Sensibility sequel called Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe. Though all of the old Dashwood family make an appearance, this novel centers almost exclusively on Marianne and Colonel Brandon after their marriage. They are, of course, passionately in love, but their lack of open communication creates strife between them, especially when that old blackguard Willoughby returns to the neighborhood. Readers who are well-versed in Austen will find most of the novel predictable, but it's such fun revisiting favorite characters like these that I, for one, find it easy to overlook the prose and plot points that I would otherwise find lack merit.

About Jane Austen fanfic more anon, but for now it's time for me to get out of bed and get ready for work. And just to whet your own appetite for S & S & Sea Monsters click this link to see a promotional YouTube video that Quirk Books, the publisher, has assembled for our viewing pleasure.