Forget ’50 Shades of Grey.’ Go Read ‘Clarissa.’


With the much-heralded release of the film version of the much-heralded book, it’s hard to avoid thinking about Fifty Shades of Grey, the work that has given fresh hope to a million unknown optimists writing self-published fanfiction, that made pornography respectable and brought bondage into the mainstream, and has become a touchstone for terrible prose. But this weekend I found myself instead thinking of something else; I found myself thinking of Clarissa. A book I read almost seven years ago and am unable to get past.

You want a story of dominance and submission? You want a rich, creepy, brilliant, controlling male lead? Robert Lovelace leaves Christian Grey eating his dust. And Clarissa Harlowe, handsome, clever and rich, but born in the wrong century and created by the wrong author, makes Anastasia Steele look more loser-ly and pathetic than she already is. There is drama, heartbreak, betrayal, drug use, Stockholm syndrome, cliffhangers and gender battles. As God is my witness, there’s everything.

This book is amazing. Why is it not better known? Continue reading


What Are Chapters For?

In the long time that I have been away from this blog, I have not been entirely unproductive. Among other things, I’ve been revising The Jane Austen Project and am now through Chapter 6. In honor of that, I have decided to post Chapter 2 here.

I’ve also been thinking about a lot of things, like Downton Abbey, which deserves a post of its own, only I don’t know where to start, and also, not completely unrelated, about chapters. For one thing that intrigues me about Downton Abbey is the issues it raises about the different ways there are of telling a story, and chapters have something to do with that. How do we decide where they begin and end, and what do they have to do with the architecture of a novel? Continue reading