E-Reader Update

About this time last year, I acquired an e-reader, which I blogged about here, and I thought it might be time for an update on whether the technology was really worth the $150 I shelled out.  Without a doubt the answer is yes.

I have learned a few things about myself with this e-reader. First, I am careless with my possessions in a way that I’m sure would get me called a “slattern” or something equally unflattering in a Victorian novel (I’ve lost the electronic pen and the cover that went with the reader.  It still works.)  Second, despite being trained in close reading, I will read almost any Victorian novel, no matter how garbled the text.  I have read entire novels where Google Book’s character identification software has substituted a question mark for an apostrophe.  Even whole un-paragraphed books.  No matter.  I still enjoyed Oliphant’s Phoebe Junior, Charlotte Yonge’s The Trial, and the first volume of Oliphant’s Hester.  Google Books didn’t digitize the second volume.  I like to think this replicates the experience of the circulating library, you know, when the next volume of the novel you were reading was out.

The number one thing that has changed my use of the e-reader has been renewing my acquaintance with Project Gutenburg.  I had previously used this purveyor of plain vanilla electronic texts to search for passages by keyword that I knew existed and needed to quote, but couldn’t find in my physical copy of the book.   Once I found the passage, I’d check the chapter and flip back to my physical copy.  But, as it turns out, Project Gutenburg now has their texts up in formats to suit every e-reader: ePub, HTML, and even the propriety Kindle format.  And because someone physically typed them in and proofread them, there are no garbled characters.  And if a novel has more than one volume, they’re all there!

Unfortunately they haven’t put up Hester yet.  But I think it’s safe to say that she marries her cousin.  (The brooding one, not the dapper one she turns down at the end of Vol. 1).

Victorian Curiosities at the Courtauld Gallery

Back in May, I went to see the exhibit, “Life, Legend, Landscape: Victorian Drawings and Watercolours” at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Many were works apparently shown for the first time. There were some beautiful Turner watercolours depicting Swiss scenes, such as “The Fall of the Rhone at Schffhausen” and “Brunnen, Lake Lucerne.”

I was most struck, though, by the female portraits, like William Etty’s chalk drawing “Female Nude with a Cast of the Venus De Medici” from 1835-7. An exploration of the real and the ideal, the illustration shows a nude model standing next to, and embracing, the cast of Venus. Oddly, though, the female forms are almost entirely identical, so that the painting doesn’t seem to reveal the shock of the real woman in contrast to the idealized sculpture. Continue reading