Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi. A nonfiction book about Sabella Nitti, a woman who was found guilty of murdering her husband in 1923 Chicago – making her the first woman to be given a death sentence by an American court. (Note: not really. Plenty of women had hung or burned or otherwise received capital punishment before Nitti, but a lack of historical awareness meant that the lawyers, judges, and general public at the time reacted as though this was a new development, and chose to be proud of it or appalled by it as their personal politics dictated.) She is probably best-remembered these days as the inspiration for the Hungarian-speaking woman in the musical Chicago; here she is protesting her innocence during the Cell Block Tango.
Nitti was an Italian immigrant, illiterate, a farm wife, ugly (at least according to the reporters covering the case), and spoke no English or mainstream Italian, but only a fairly rare dialect called Barese. In addition, she was saddled with a defense lawyer who seemed to be actively losing the ability to maintain a train of thought – his behavior during the trial was remarkably unhelpful to her cause, and he would later be sent to a mental asylum. These factors almost guaranteed she would receive a guilty verdict despite the fact that it was never even clear if her husband was actually dead (it seems likelier he just decided to abandon the family), much less that she was the one who killed him. The local sheriff and one of Nitti's own sons seem to have been the prime movers in pinning the crime on her, despite the lack of evidence.
The depiction of the prejudices and passions of 1920s Chicago was where the book really shined. Women had newly gained the vote, and many saw the potential death sentence of a woman as connected to that – with power comes responsibility. Others argued that women were inherently deserving of mercy: "She is a mother and a mother has never been hanged in the history of this country. I do not believe the honorable court here will permit a mother to hang.” And then, of course, there was the issue of looks, of proper decorum – the pretty, fashionable yet obviously guilty women judged innocent by their all-male juries, and Nitti condemned to to hang.
The first 2/3rds or so of the book, when Lucchesi is guiding the reader through Nitti's life before her husband's disappearance and the subsequent trial, are pretty great. Unfortunately the last third loses the thread. Lucchesi detours into describing the backstories of various prisoners Nitti would have met or other contemporary court cases in Chicago; none of it seems to have much to do with Nitti, who disappears from the page for chapters at a time. Some of these would become the inspiration for other characters in Chicago, but since Lucchesi won't mention the musical until the epilogue, the reader is left to make the connection on their own or be confused. Others, like the two chapters spent on the Leopold and Loeb case, just seem to have interested Lucchesi and were vaguely connected, so she threw them in as a afterthought.
Overall it's a good example of historical crime writing, even if it needed a better structural editor.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD EVERYONE READ IT IMMEDIATELY. A novel set in 1746 New York City, the book opens with the arrival in town of Richard Smith, fresh from London and bearing a bill for a thousand pounds. All of the novel's action is compacted within the next 60 days, as New Yorkers wait to receive word from England proving Smith is who he says he is and if he really is owed such a fabulous sum; in the meantime they (and the reader) are left to figure out the mysterious Smith: a conman who should be thrown in the city's freezing jail? a wealthy aristocrat who your daughters should be encouraged to woo? a French spy, come to exploit the division between the city's new-born political parties? an actor, a Catholic, a gay man, a libertine, or possibly even a Turkish magician? Through it all Smith delights in giving no answers, reveling in the New World as a place to remake himself as well. I generally am suspicious of books that deliberately hide information from the reader, but it's done so well here and leads to such a delightful revelation that I think it was the perfect choice.
Spufford's style is a moderate pastiche of 18th century novels; here are the opening lines as an example:
The brig Henrietta having made Sandy Hook a little before the dinner hour—and having passed the Narrows about three o’clock—and then crawling to and fro, in a series of tacks infinitesimal enough to rival the calculus, across the grey sheet of the harbour of New York—until it seemed to Mr. Smith, dancing from foot to foot upon deck, that the small mound of the city waiting there would hover ahead in the November gloom in perpetuity, never growing closer, to the smirk of Greek Zeno—and the day being advanced to dusk by the time Henrietta at last lay anchored off Tietjes Slip, with the veritable gables of the city’s veritable houses divided from him only by one hundred foot of water—and the dusk moreover being as cold and damp and dim as November can afford, as if all the world were a quarto of grey paper dampened by drizzle until in danger of crumbling imminently to pap:—all this being true, the master of the brig pressed upon him the virtue of sleeping this one further night aboard, and pursuing his shore business in the morning. (He meaning by the offer to signal his esteem, having found Mr. Smith a pleasant companion during the slow weeks of the crossing.) But Smith would not have it. Smith, bowing and smiling, desired nothing but to be rowed to the dock. Smith, indeed, when once he had his shoes flat on the cobbles, took off at such speed despite the gambolling of his land-legs that he far out-paced the sailor dispatched to carry his trunk—and must double back for it, and seizing it hoist it instanter on his own shoulder—and gallop on, skidding over fish-guts and turnip leaves and cats’ entrails, and the other effluvium of the port—asking for direction here, asking again there—so that he appeared most nearly as a type of smiling whirlwind when he shouldered open the door—just as it was about to be bolted for the evening—of the counting-house of the firm of Lovell & Company, on Golden Hill Street, and laid down his burden while the prentices were lighting the lamps, and the clock on the wall showed one minute to five, and demanded, very civilly, speech that moment with Mr. Lovell himself.
However, it's 18th century language hiding a 21st century attitude; this is a novel deeply aware of gender and racial divisions, for all that they're mostly hidden behind humor and a page-turning sense of suspense. 1746 New York is shaped and haunted by the ghosts of the slave revolt of 1741, and its shadow lies over every page, thought it's only ever directly addressed in one on-page conversation (though goddamn, it's a conversation with resonance). Smith meets and begins to court Tabitha Lovell, who is described as a "shrew" by her family and the rest of this small-town New York. Her portrayal though, is much more complex than that stereotype, and it's never quite clear how much she is an intelligent woman brutally confined by social strictures or how much she suffers from an unnamed mental illness.
I really can't recommend this book enough. I came into it not expecting much, but it turned out to be exactly what I wanted.
I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.
Mount TBR update: No change: 18
What are you currently reading?
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley. A new book by the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a book which approximately one million people have recommended to me and yet I still haven't gotten around to reading. But, uh... I've got this one! :D
* Hannibal (dreamkist)
* The Raven Cycle (delacourtings)
So while we already have a few recs to look forward to in July, it would of course be awesome if we had some more recs. There is still plenty of opportunity for you to jump in and volunteer to rec next month (or to convince your friends to do some reccing). And many cheers for all of our members who volunteer to rec, especially if you rec regularly. Your valiant repeat efforts keep the comm alive.
Looking even further ahead so far only NO reccer has volunteered for August, so that month definitely still needs some love (and recs! *g*) too. So please consider reccing in a fandom of your choice, whether small or huge, and comment on the sign-up post and volunteer for July, August or even further ahead if you are so well organized, that you know your fannish interests and time commitments in advance. It's only four recs as a minimum, and you can rec any genre or rating. Or promote us to your friends or in your favorite communities so others do the work.
Open Rec Posting
The monthly open reccing period for all members starts now and lasts until the end of June. Since the general prompts don't seem to work as inspiration, I've decided to stop adding them, but to keep the open reccing period in case anyone wants to slip a rec in, without having to come up with three others for a fandom. However the recs do still have to conform to the usual rec format and follow the rules for what is allowed to be recced here.
(Comments here are disabled, because I want to bundle volunteering in the sign-up post so that nothing gets lost, and you can see the list of claimed slots there too.)
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Derek Hale/Stiles Stilinkski
Content Notes/Warnings: none
Artist on DW/LJ:n/a
Artist Website/Gallery: DA
Why this piece is awesome: Roncheg has two amazing styles, loose yet detailed animated style and stuff like this, heavy and intense yet minimalist. The line work is wonderful and the piece is sexy without being explicit
W said he woke up to the emergency alert on his cell, but supposedly my response was to mumble something about 'having already done talked to the North Wind last night, *hand-wave-gesture* and it's fine,' upon which I went back to sleep. When I woke up properly it was in fact, fine, I had no idea the storm was that severe, or that it had done anything else other than rain a bit. It had been a clear starry night when I went to bed, and when I woke up, the rain was stopping and nothing in the yard was disturbed.
The passing low-pressure thingy probably contributed a lot to me being a miserable non-verbal cuss this morning though. I never considered it because I'd completely missed the thing.
( More pictures under the cut )
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Lydia Martin
Content Notes/Warnings: none
Artist on DW/LJ:n/a
Artist Website/Gallery: tumblr
Why this piece is awesome: normally I don't do the same artist twice in a month but I couldn't resist reccing this piece it's so gorgeous. How the artist makes these colors work I'll never know but it's a vibrantly alive portrait of Lydia that smacked me in the face enough to get me off my Sterek kick for a moment.
Link: lydia martin
It's been ages since my last proper update. Highlights!
I got a camera for my birthday back in March...
( obligatory kitty pics )
( obligatory I-can't-stand-my-face selfies )
Then the current round of Holmestice began, PRECISELY when the Livejournal TOS fuckery hit the fan. I will not say that this round has been a clusterfuck, because I think it mostly hasn't been? But gdi, pulling off this round has been more effort and cursing than any of us planned for. Happily, I have great co-mods, and there is wonderful satisfaction in looking at ALL THE THINGS and knowing we helped facilitate that happening. Even if we're still trying to finish backing up the damn comm.
In early May we went to Colorado and Wyoming for a week to visit grrlpup's family. Not half an hour out of the airport, we got caught in an impressive hailstorm; Grrlpup is still wrangling with the rental car and insurance companies over how many thousands of dollars that storm is or isn't going to cost us. The rest of the trip was pretty good, but socially taxing. As always, it was wonderful to see her friends and family; as always, I was very happy to get back home again.
In June, grrlpup had her birthday. We have become my parents' generation: when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she asked that I actually do that one home-improvement task I'd been promising to do for two years. So I spent a few days bolting and screwing bookshelves to the wall, while pretending I wasn't doing any such thing.
Her: What are you doing? Are you painting boards? Why are you painting boards?
Me: [flagrantly painting boards] Boards? What boards?
( front room shelves )
Later today, crazy_marcia, for whom we crewed the Badwater Ultra and with whom I used to climb mountains, is coming to visit.
(For those who didn't know me back then, the Badwater Ultra is a 135/143-mile footrace through Death Valley and up to the top of Mt. Whitney, always held during the height of summer. And by "height of summer," I mean 120-degree heat, woot! The two mountains I've climbed with her are both non-trivial: Mt. Whitney by the Mountaineer's Route, and Mt. Rainier, which involves glacier travel, and thus is a technical climb. Both mountains are near-abouts 14,500 feet high and Exciting Shit Went Wrong on both peaks.)
Anyway, I'm weirdly nervous about seeing Marcia -- it's been an age since we last spoke, and I got lazy and fat and don't have adventures anymore, and what if she doesn't like me now??? -- but scanning back over these old trip reports, I feel very silly. We're going to sit around and gossip, not pull one of our what-were-you-even-thinking-people-die-
(Actually, given that Marcia will be in attendance, I would not be the least bit surprised if we save someone from a close brush with death later today. FURTHER BULLETINS AS EVENTS WARRANT.)
God, we’ve known Zyfron ten years! Whaaaaaat? They were the big name behind healthymultiplicity.com for years; we were the johnny-come-lately so it seems funny that folks see it as our site now. (Don’t worry, I badgered them to do some stuff again. We’ll see if they do!) Due to reasons that likely aren’t my place to say, much of the Gemini archive has been lost. If any of you guys downloaded and saved any of it before then, it’d be a huge boon to us.
Pulled an all-nighter, then didn’t get in until 3 AM due to flight delays. We are wicked sleep-deprived and blurry slurry right now.
⌈ Secret Post #3825 ⌋
Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.
( More! )
Secrets Left to Post: 03 pages, 61 secrets from Secret Submission Post #548.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 1 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
The first secret from this batch will be posted on July 1st.
1. One secret link per comment.
2. 750x750 px or smaller.
3. Link directly to the image.
- Doing it RIGHT: http://i.imgur.com/KuBug.png
- Doing it WRONG: http://imgur.com/KuBug
Optional: If you would like your secret's fandom to be noted in the main post along with the secret itself, please put it in the comment along with your secret. If your secret makes the fandom obvious, there's no need to do this. If your fandom is obscure, you should probably tell me what it is.
Optional #2: If you would like WARNINGS (such as spoilers or common triggers -- list of some common ones here) to be noted in the main post before the secret itself, please put it in the comment along with your secret.
Optional #3: If you would like a transcript to be posted along with your secret, put it along with the link in the comment!
My theme for so much of this exchange is "oh my god I just wish this existed why isn't it out there???" so I would really be just delighted to see what you come up with for all these tiny underloved pairings. Thank you so much for offering one of them, by the way. Please treat my prompts as suggestions, not as requirements; if there's a story you're dying to tell about one of these pairings, I will read anything that skips my DNWs, so go for it.
General Yes Please: porn & kink (see my smutswap letter for more on my preferences there), adventures, fight scenes, monsters, fluff, playing with game mechanics, worldbuilding, nerding out about robots/demons/other sapient nonhuman perspectives.
General Not For Me Thanks: mundane AUs (high school, coffee shop, etc.), deathfic, kidfic, misunderstanding angst, hopeless endings, abusive relationships, bigotry or oppression as a major plot point, bigotry or oppression written into a setting where they haven't been shown to exist in canon, scat/vomit, infantilization, forced feminization.
Extra Stuff I Love In Various Canons:
( Read more... )
( Read more... )
I’m always boggled by how little understanding so many Republicans seem to have of abortion issues. Between letting the church crash the state’s party with the whole “life begins at conception” thing and Mike Pence wanting to force women to throw funerals for their miscarriages and abortions, it’s clear that this group of almost exclusively white men have no idea what’s actually entailed in the personal experience or medical physiology of pregnancy.
Case in point: the Republicans from New Hampshire who just accidentally made it legal for pregnant women to murder people.
Senate Bill 66 defines a fetus as a person after the 20-week mark, thereby allowing anyone who causes the death of that fetus to be charged with manslaughter or murder. However, the bill–which was passed by both the House and the Senate, but not yet signed into law by the Governor–uses incredibly vague language in making exceptions for abortion. When defining the crimes it protects against, the bill specifically excludes “any act committed by the pregnant woman.”
The bill also makes an exception to the fetal homicide law for “any act committed at the request or direction of the pregnant woman or for the benefit of the pregnant woman,” and “any act performed by a physician or other medical professional in the course of such physician’s or medical professional’s professional duties.” Many are pointing out that that language essentially legalizes assisted suicide.
It took more than a week for Republicans to notice what they’d done, and quickly amended the bill through a process “normally used to correct spelling and grammar,” according to the AP.
— Paige Sutherland (@psutherlandNHPR) June 22, 2017
On its surface, SB 66 doesn’t look like an anti-abortion bill. After all, it specifically makes an exception to the fetal homicide law for cases of abortion, right? But New Hampshire Democrats are insistent that this is a “vehicle to undermine protections established by Roe v. Wade.” Giving legal status to a fetus is a slippery slope, undoubtedly ending in fewer rights for women. As BuzzFeed points out, the law itself is unnecessary, since there are already additional penalties for crimes against pregnant women. SB 66 is simply a step towards establishing legal rights for fetuses.
But since Republicans don’t actually understand that there is a HUGE difference between a fetus and a person, this is where we end up. Roving gangs of pregnant women, freed from the normal laws of society, killing people at will. I assume.
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—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: The White Witch / Jadis & wolves & dwarf
Content Notes/Warnings: n/a
Medium: acrylic & digital
Artist on DW/LJ: n/a
Artist Website/Gallery: goldendaniel
Why this piece is awesome: This is such a fantastic portrait of Jadis. Very different from almost every depiction I've seen before, but very fitting both to her incarnation as the White Witch and as the Empress of Charn. Here she's both beautiful and scary and also looks very, very powerful.