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So Many Books... - What's a name?

May. 10th, 2011

10:30 pm - What's a name?

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I have been useless at posting recently. Pretty useless even at keeping up with other people's posts, but definitely use.less. at doing my own. And now I'm not even back posting with a fun rant. I generally like Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes books quite well, and think they have a lot of very engaging elements. But in The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline there's a bit about 'invalids' that simply has to be challenged. (I'll put it behind a cut, shortly.)

In pleasanter names - the lovely asakiyume, who has one of the nicest RL names I know, sent me a jar of this honey, which is sweet in every way. (Okay, that's pretty cheesy - or corny, if you're in the US - sorry! Cheesy/corny-ness aside, it's the truth.)

And one of the highlights of the year in books has been announced - MotherReader's Sixth (Sixth!!) Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. I can't wait to start planning the books - with any luck, the new Penderwicks book will arrive in time for it too.

Back to names, Younger Daughter has her last exam tomorrow morning (classical studies - Plato & Roman letter-writers) - it's been a fairly arduous stretch for her. I had a look at index cards she'd done for a module on Athenian drama and Roman comedy, and the Terence plasys were unreal - names were recycled constantly, and trying to keep track of the Pamphilas, Phaedrias (that one's not even a female character) and Philumenas is ridiculously hard. They all seem to have sets of prostitutes, main characters and fathers - though Y.D. says the mothers are at least easy, as they're usually Sostrata. I was very taken with the name Philumena (pronounced, as far as we know, more like voluminous than I'd have expected) and went around saying it for a day.There was a girl in my school named Philomena Mulligan - a name so rhythmic I think even my two will remember it till their dying day.



Enola goes looking for the elderly Florence Nightingale, in order to try to find her landlady, who's been mysteriously kidnapped. She thinks she may be dead, in fact, but on going to the nursing school Nightingale established, is told she never leaves her home. And we get this passage:

"She's, ah, um, she's an invalid?" Bad news, or so I thought, for I knew invalids as peevish, malingering, demanding people who simply chose not to be valid, so to speak. Scarcely a household in upper-class England had not at one time or another suffered under the paradoxical power of the invalid. Many a lady thwarted had taken to her bed for the sake of ordering folk about.

When she finally manages to speak with Florence Nightingale, Enola realises that she's been wrong about her, because she's in fact, a 'rebel' like Enola - taking to her bed in order to avoid the time-wasting that is the daily life of most women of her class. But this does nothing to challenge what Enola has said about invalids, which is downright vicious.

It could be argued that most people reading won't equate Victorian invalids with people today with disabilities, but I simply don't think that's enough to excuse the kind of sweeping, generalised prejudice displayed here. This side of the Atlantic, we may have seen an upsurge in the talk about disability cheats, and people 'lazing' around at the expense of the hard-working in the last year, with David Cameron's attacks, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been a lot of rubbish voiced for many years, into which this diatribe fits all too neatly.

Comments:

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From:asakiyume
Date:May 10th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
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Why hello, fellow Soliga honey partaker!

People's impatience with and casual dismissal of the chronically ill is part of what makes it so terrible to be chronically ill. It's a horrible shame :-(

Lucky daughter to soon be done with exams!
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:May 11th, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
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Fellow Soliga honey partaker is a wonderful name!

Yes, exactly, about the casual dismissal. I just don't get why so many people seem incapable of thinking beyond their own (one can only assume) comfortable existences.
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From:asakiyume
Date:May 11th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
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Long-term suffering makes people profoundly uncomfortable. If it can happen to others.... No! People's minds reject that train of thought and insist that it's some flaw in the suffering person that's to blame, or that the person isn't really suffering. But yeah...we have to acknowledge that some things aren't easily fixed, or even fixable at all, and that then, especially then, people need support, friendship--all those things that make life possible and bearable.
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From:diceytillerman
Date:May 11th, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
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Hey, we say cheesy too! And some of us say shmaltzy. :)

And I agree that the "invalid" portrayal is very relevant today and has been so all along. I hear it a lot.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:May 11th, 2011 07:45 am (UTC)
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Okay, so maybe it's just the reverse - that we don't say corny this side? (I get massively confused with where what part of my language comes from!) Shmaltzy is bilateral, anyway. :)

I know you hear this kind of crap a lot, and it's so wrong in every way.
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From:semyaza
Date:May 11th, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
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That's painful to read -- for the attitude and the prose style. I'd have thought that we understood enough now to know that Victorian invalids were ill and not malingering and that Nightingale took to her bed because she was sick.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:May 11th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
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I'd have thought it too! I started making a list of the many illnesses one could suffer from in Victorian times, but then decided everyone reading this would have got the point already and wouldn't need to wade through such a list.

WRT Nightingale, there's an odd afterword, in which Springer claims that the question of why she spent her post-Crimea life as an invalid is 'hotly debated among scholars'. I'm certainly not a scholar, but it looks rather as if the debate is about whether or not she had depression as well as an extreme case of brucelosis, which hardly makes her taking to her bed the 'peculiar conduct' Springer calls it. Gah. (Frodo's expression is perfect!)
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From:semyaza
Date:May 11th, 2011 09:08 am (UTC)
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The 'why' might be debated but surely it's more a debate about what was wrong with her than whether there was anything wrong at all?
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:May 11th, 2011 09:58 am (UTC)
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Exactly. (What I was trying to say, but chronic sleep lack and morning headache probably made me even more unclear than normal!)
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From:fjm
Date:May 11th, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
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Sigh. Straight out of Heyer. Although she does have a few women who are genuinely ill. Never men tho.
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:May 11th, 2011 07:58 am (UTC)
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Sigh indeed. It's been long enough since I've read most Heyers that I don't remember her malingerers/genuinely ill women. Of course never the men! (This rant seems even odder for the supposed feminist slant of the books.)
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From:steepholm
Date:May 11th, 2011 05:53 am (UTC)
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Yeah, 'cos if there's one thing our perky detective might have heard about Florence Nightingale before meeting her it's that she'll do anything to avoid hard work...
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From:lady_schrapnell
Date:May 11th, 2011 08:01 am (UTC)
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Heh! Yeah, she was renowned for letting honest, hard-working families support her lazing around.

I did think it odd that Enola had heard so little about her, in fact, though that might have been just so's she could do a bit more detecting in tracking her down. I guess.
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From:asakiyume
Date:May 11th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
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LOL, right! Definitely the first thing one thinks about in connection with Florence Nightingale.