Saturday, July 21, 2007


...gone to the Motherland via a rather old-skool style residential course in Bath, complete with extremely uncomfortable mattress and endearingly eccentric tutor. (Done, hence earlier quietness).

Mainly I will be avoiding things electronic, although not quite to the point of sporting tinfoil headgear, I hope. I will probably also eat some strawberries.

In the meantime, something to consider may be sub-genre, or even genre hopping writers (I've taken Kelley Armstrong's new book with me). Or tango singing.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

In which things take a sinister turn… (including Blogger's inexplicable refusal to let me add a title. Which would be - if I could add it - Part Secundex)

Reader, I bought the book. Gripped by a fatal combination of nostalgia and pity, I shelled out 40 (£1/US $2) crowns for the x-actoed x-Lindsey. I couldn't help but think that almost any prospective buyer flicking through the mangled pages would have likely immediately returned it to the shelf. And then? Landfill.

Having bought it, it seemed only fair (and economical) to take it for a trip down memory lane. Which was when I discovered the full horror of the situation. Not the "of its time thing, either", although yes, I blush. (See below for details).

Anyhow, all that neatly excised early-80s "preliminaries-to-the-dance-as-old-as-time" malarkey? All those heaving, swelling metaphors sliced off and scattered to the (wild) wind? All those prurient gazes forever poked out with a big stick? All gone? Not ezackly. The unseen wielder of the blade missed a bit.

Quite a big bit actually. In fact something like 3 and a bit pages. And then another 2 page chunk. There are probably another few lurking to stumble up the unwary (somehow, nostalgia could only take me so far). The only difference between these scenes and the expurgated ones before and after were that the intact ones involved the heroine and her (eventual) wun twue wuv. Not the heroine and the villain most eeeeevillle. Or the heroine and admirers A, B or C. That's a Boolean "OR" by the way. It's not that kind of book.

But, yeah. Heroine, hewo and surprised-while-bathing-in-the-stream-leading-to-the-obvious scene? Well, that's okay, it appears.


Yep. It seems the mad axe editor had more nuanced views than I expected. It's not so much a blanket ban on smut, as a crocheted (matrimonial?) shawl. With some FLIPPING BIG HOLES in it. For the unseen hands that wielded the x-acto knife, it ain’t what you do, it’s who you do it with.

I repeat. Whaaaaattt???

And let me just point out for the record, that in certain cases, only a few words were chopped out. As in:

The first time she met him, even while he was demanding payment on the note he had won from her father, rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb Jessie’s body. ("Him" = unwashed mass of filthy-minded eeeeviiilllle villain. Jessie is the feisty rancher-girl heroine with a nice line in frocks. Hairoine too, looking at the cover. But seriously, how offensive can a master of eeeevilll be in roughly half a line? In her father's presence? When she has all that hair?)

Or: …Rodrigo, (not the hairo, as discerning readers will immediately realise on account of - Look! Cowboyspeak! - the slightly deflated nature of his mullete d'amor. Except I think Rodrigo's hair preceded his entry. Sorry.)

Rodrigo, standing at the window overlooking the courtyard, turned and saw her (or hair). The (dunno, but context dictates that it be about four words of window-based dodginess. Even in Amsterdam this takes longer. Maybe the pelmets cast shadows that looked like amusingly-shaped root vegetables on the hacienda floor.) but there was only one light, across the room, and it was impossible to see inside the curtains. (Wow. Impossible to see. As if he were night blind. That's almost as if he were actually blind. BLIND, I tell you. And EVERYone knows what makes people go BLIND. Cataracts.)

Or the missing 2 1/2 words (the first starts with "o", but it's a tricky one) and then second line when Jessie is chit-chatting to a wandering brave (not in the wild wind, it would seem, given the rather dull and stationary nature of their hair) who approaches her starlit campsite.:

"No o(oohhh? oooouuu? oowwwwu? oooobuggerit) the Cheyenne tongue?"
(Do NOT think that. Jessie is pure. She is good. She is innocent. She is...err...)
”I am Looks Like Woman, friend of the Cheyenne. I have a fire to share and food…”
(She is dumb. Sigh.)

And yes, I blush.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Would you? Could you?

I am somewhat perturbed…

Possibly even disturbed. Nay, even distrubed. And distroubled too. All of them. Because some unknown person, possibly not a million miles away from me may be all of this and more. Some individual who not inconceivably shares this city with me, who tromps over the same cobbles, rides in the same trams and patronises the same bookshops as me is a mutilater of book(s).

Last weekend I discovered a second-hand Johanna Lindsay novel with a full smutectomy. A surgical boob-removal of the printed kind.

Ladies (and gentlefolk who haven't turned away at the signs of an impending girlie froufrou rant) I am speaking of Brave the Wild Wind here. By Johanna Lindsay. Published in 1984. I read this book when I was fourteen. I may have ended up with some slightly peculiar ideas about ranching in late 19th century Wyoming, but I was not scarred for life. I knew breasts existed by then, even if they were but a distant dream. Heaving or not, they didn't do much sullying that I noticed. I still offer my seat to old people and pregnant women in crowded buses. I floss and eat a fibre-rich diet.

But the copy of this book that I picked up over the weekend to flick through in a wavelet of aqua-and-tangerine-tinged nostalgia has been altered by nameless hands. A knife has been used to carefully cut out lines of thund'rous passion. Or even just the odd thund'rously passionate word or two on certain pages.

Now these days, I might take issue with some aspects of the book that didn't particularly bother me when I first unearthed it in the stacks of a local library many, many moons ago. Lets just say it's "of its time". And in certain ways this actually makes it kind of interesting to revisit 20-odd years later.

But as for the slice and dice operation? A couple of possibilities occur to me.

1. Censorship (boo!hiss!). I can't imagine someone making lace from lasciviousness like this for their own personal reading pleasure. It makes the pages too hard to turn. It is far, far easier to just skim over the bothersome parts or even grab a handy marker pen if motes offend the eye to the point of blurred vision. At least this has the advantage of leaving the non-trashy, possibly plot-related passages on the reverse side intact.

I can't help but think that if gaps are the aim of the exercise, then this level of effort to excise squidgy bits from reading material indicates the determination to Make A Point. Look! Look at the gaps! Look at the emptiness where once was badness! Gentle readers, see how you too can save your fragile minds from this pollution! Seize your x-acto knives and free yourselves from the chains of overly-wrought passion!

So this leaves me with at least one possible alternative.

2. You know those notes created by cutting words out of printed material favoured by many old-skool whodunnits? After enough coffee I can imagine at least a few occasions when life in Prahahaha would require that someone communicate anonymously and yet amateurishly the need to press mounds, skim curves, and pebble all manner of things. It's that kinda place. Sticky glue, print-stained fingers and all.

But I do worry about what they did to the mule.