Sunday, February 28, 2010

My other Scottish addiction


About two years ago, I started collecting Caithness paperweights. I just love the look of them, and it wasn't until after I bought the first one that I realized they were made in Scotland.

The picture above shows my current collection. The one on the far left was the first one I bought. The green one, "Eagles in Flight", was the second. I got the red-and-purple one last fall. And the latest addition, the blue one on the right, is one I just bought yesterday, on an impromptu visit to the local store (Replacements, near Greensboro, NC) that sells them.

Aren't they beautiful? I find them very soothing and peaceful to look at.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Diana's German book-tour


For those of you in Germany, here is a little information about Diana Gabaldon's upcoming book-tour for ECHO DER HOFFNUNG (March 16-19, 2010).

Diana will be visiting Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin, and Dortmund on this tour. You can see more detailed information on Diana's German web site here.

This is the last of Diana's book-tours for AN ECHO IN THE BONE. I hope those of you who live in Germany will get a chance to meet her!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: THE KNIFE MAN

Those of you who've read AN ECHO IN THE BONE may remember Denny and Rachel's distant relative, John Hunter. As Rachel explains:

“John Hunter, bless his name. He is a famous physician, he and his elder brother, who is accoucheur to the Queen herself.” Despite her egalitarian principles, Miss Hunter looked somewhat awed, and William nodded respectfully. “He inquired as to Denny’s abilities, and hearing good report, made provision for Denny to remove to Philadelphia, to board there with a Quaker family and to go to the new medical college. And then he went so far as to have Denny go to London, to study there with himself!”

(From An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39 ("A Matter of Conscience"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Denny and Rachel are fictional, but John Hunter was a real historical figure, and a fascinating man, one of the pioneers of modern surgery.

If you're interested in learning more about John Hunter, or 18th century medicine in general, or if you just enjoy a well-written biography, I would recommend Wendy Moore's excellent biography of John Hunter, THE KNIFE MAN (subtitled "Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery").

Diana actually recommended this book to me more than a year ago, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.


My review of THE KNIFE-MAN

John Hunter was born in Scotland in 1728, but moved to London as a young man, where his elder brother William was an anatomist.

Some interesting bits of trivia from this book, that may be of interest to OUTLANDER fans:

- John Hunter kept a wolf-dog hybrid (similar to Rollo) as a pet for many years.

- He went to a great deal of effort to obtain cadavers for dissection, often resorting to grave-robbing. (You may recall that Jamie was horrified by Claire's proposing to do an autopsy on Betty, the murdered slave in FIERY CROSS. This seems to have been a very common attitude at the time.)

- His house in London contained an extensive collection of human and animal specimens, including a stuffed giraffe:

Unfortunately, the astonishing stature of the stuffed beast, estimated to have measured as much as eighteen feet, made its accomodation rather difficult. With the rooms housing his collection already bursting at the seams, Hunter was forced to hack off the giraffe's legs and stand it in his entrance hall. The sight presented a dramatic welcome to visitors and patients. (p. 197)

- He deliberately infected himself with gonorrhea in 1767, in an attempt to prove that gonorrhea and syphilis were caused by the same agent, and did in fact contract both diseases.

The experiment, as far as Hunter was concerned, had been a resounding success. It proved, to his satisfaction at least, that gonorrhea developed into lues venerea. In reality, it was a complete disaster. The experiment had been doomed from the outset, since Hunter had plainly used infected matter containing both syphilis and gonorrhea bacteria. The person from whom he had taken the venereal pus had evidently, like so many of Hunter's patients, been a victim of both diseases. The results of the fated trial would set back medical progress in terms of the understanding of sexual diseases for half a century. (pp. 136-37)

- He contributed a great deal to the understanding of fetal development. By dissecting the bodies of women who had died in various stages of pregnancy, John Hunter was able to determine that the maternal and fetal blood supplies were separate. He worked with a Dutch artist, Jan van Rymsdyk, who sketched pictures of the inside of the womb, laid open by Hunter's dissections:

Whereas previously anatomical pictures of babies in the womb had shown curiously adultlike figures floating in a shapeless void, for the first time van Rymsdyk portrayed the intimate relationship between mother and child in a completely naturalistic style. (p. 58)

- He performed the first successful defibrillation in 1774, on a three-year-old girl who had fallen out of a window. Hunter's views on the use of electricity to stimulate the heart are remarkably modern-sounding; clearly he was far, far ahead of his time, on this particular issue at least:

"Electricity has been known to be of service, and should be tried when other methods have failed," he advised. "It is probably the only method we have of immediately stimulating the heart." (p. 188)

Hunter was not without his flaws. For one thing, he had a lifelong aversion to reading (the author speculates that he may have been dyslexic), and therefore could not easily counter attacks by his professional rivals. For another, his obsession with obtaining unusual specimens sometimes led him to take extreme measures that seem grossly unethical by today's standards.

Just to take one example: Moore describes how Hunter became obsessed with obtaining the body of a giant named Charles Byrne, reputed to be at least 7'7" tall. When Byrne died in 1783, he left instructions that his body should be disposed of at sea, in order to keep his remains out of the reach of anatomists like Hunter. But Hunter managed to bribe the undertaker, by paying him the "colossal sum" of £500 in order to procure the giant's body, and had it smuggled into his underground laboratory, where he eventually recreated the enormous skeleton and added it to his collection. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Byrne when I read that.

John Hunter was a very interesting man, and Wendy Moore's account is a fascinating, sometimes horrifying, but always entertaining read. I would encourage you to take a look at it.

And for those of you who are NOT excerpt-avoiders, one final note:

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

John Hunter makes a "cameo appearance" in Diana Gabaldon's soon-to-be-published Lord John story, "Custom of the Army" (due out March 16, 2010, in an anthology titled WARRIORS). Those of you who have seen the excerpt featuring the electric-eel party may remember him. <g>

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ECHO in paperback


According to Amazon.com, the trade-paperback edition of Diana Gabaldon's AN ECHO IN THE BONE is scheduled for release on June 22, 2010.

Diana has mentioned on Compuserve that this trade-paperback version of ECHO will include an eight-page preview of the upcoming OUTLANDER graphic novel, THE EXILE, which is due out on September 28, 2010.

So, if you've been waiting to purchase ECHO until the paperback is available, or if you just want a copy that's easier to carry around with you, or if you're an obsessive collector who simply must have every edition of every Gabaldon book ever published <g>, you can pre-order ECHO in paperback from Amazon here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My favorite OUTLANDER song

If I had to pick one song that in my opinion most clearly expresses the depth of Jamie and Claire's relationship, it's this one: Marc Cohn's "True Companion".



I've loved this song for many years, and it was only after I discovered the OUTLANDER books in 2006 that I realized just how closely the lyrics seem to parallel events in Jamie and Claire's lives.

Baby I've been searching like everybody else
Can't say nothing different about myself
Sometimes I'm an angel
And sometimes I'm cruel
And when it comes to love
I'm just another fool

To me, that's Jamie. For all that he's a violent man, he can also be incredibly gentle and caring. And his love for Claire does indeed make him take foolish risks now and then.

Yes, I'll climb a mountain
I'm gonna swim the sea
There ain't no act of God girl
Could keep you safe from me

I think that's certainly true. <g>

My arms are reaching out
Out across this canyon
I'm asking you to be my true companion
True companion
True companion

Maybe it's stretching a point, but the "canyon" could be the abyss that's mentioned several times in AN ECHO IN THE BONE? (An abyss of despair into which both Jamie and Claire have fallen, at various points in their lives.) Or it could be the immense differences between them, the difference in attitudes, cultural mores, etc., between the 18th century and the 20th.

So don't you dare and try to walk away
I've got my heart set on our wedding day
I've got this vision of a girl in white
Made my decision that it's you all right

Claire did indeed try to flee several times, in OUTLANDER, before the wedding. And Jamie makes it very clear that he knew from the beginning that he wanted Claire as his wife.

And when I take your hand
I'll watch my heart set sail
I'll take my trembling fingers
And I'll lift up your veil

You may recall that Jamie's hands trembled during the wedding ceremony. <g>

Then I'll take you home
And with wild abandon
Make love to you just like a true companion
You are my true companion
I got a true companion
True companion

Another key part of Jamie and Claire's relationship: great sex! <g>

When the years have done irreparable harm
I can see us walking slowly arm in arm
Just like the couple on the corner do
'cause girl I will always be in love with you
And when I look in your eyes
I'll still see that spark
Until the shadows fall
Until the room grows dark

I love this. As much as we all hate to see Jamie and Claire growing older, it's inevitable that we will see further signs of their aging as the series progresses. But I don't mind, as long as they're still as much in love as ever.

Then when I leave this earth
I'll be with the angels standin'
I'll be out there waiting for my true companion
Just for my true companion
True companion
True companion

Again, I think these lyrics really fit the story very well. Think of Jamie in DRAGONFLY: "If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you...." The idea of a love so powerful that it can outlast even death itself is one of the most compelling themes of the series, to me at least.

What about the rest of you? Do you have a particular song that reminds you of Jamie and Claire, or any of the other characters in the books?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Most romantic OUTLANDER quote?

Happy Valentine's Day

In honor of Valentine's Day, here's a question for all of you:

What do you think is the most romantic quote from the OUTLANDER books?

For me, it's hard to pick just one, but I like this one very much:

"And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

That's from the scene in DRUMS where Jamie and Claire discover the site of Fraser's Ridge, and they discuss the prospect of Jamie's death. (One of those scenes that always makes me cry.)

What about the rest of you? Do you have a favorite romantic quote from the books?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Web site updates

Update to Diana Gabaldon web site

Diana Gabaldon has written a very long post on her web site, with updates on all of her current projects, some of her thoughts on readers' reaction to ECHO, and a (very brief) update on the current status of the OUTLANDER movie. It's definitely worth reading!

My blog's new look

Check out the new tabs at the top of this page! I just learned how to do that this week, and I will continue to rearrange things further in the coming days. I am trying to achieve a less cluttered look on the main page, and in the process, hopefully make the site load faster for everyone.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Diana's February appearances

Check out Diana Gabaldon's latest blog entry for a list of her public appearances through the end of February. All of them are in Arizona, which I suppose means she's serious about not straying too far from home so that she can actually get some writing done this month! <g>

She also mentions in this blog entry that she will be going to Germany in March. If I hear more details about that, I will post the information here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

OUTLANDER FAQ

Check out my new OUTLANDER Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page! Thanks to a new Blogger feature that allows the creation of static pages, I finally have the ability to create a separate FAQ page, which is something I've wanted to do for quite a long time.

You will notice that I've added a link to the FAQ in the new tab section at the top of the page.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for things to include in this FAQ, please let me know.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wildlife pictures

Here are a few more of the many species of wildlife mentioned in the OUTLANDER books. (All pictures are from webshots.com.)

Hippos. Kruger  National Park, Crooks Corner Phafuri,  South Africa by www.stormc.co.za

One hundred ten hippo--that was a lot of hippopotami, I thought, abstractedly envisaging herds of them marching down to the hollow, there they will wallow, in mud, glooooorious . . .

(From An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11 ("Transverse Lie"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I call this a

It had walked casually through the paddock fence, snapping the rails as though they were matchsticks, and stood now in the midst of the pumpkin patch by the house, vines jerking in its mouth as it chewed. It stood huge and dark and wooly, ten feet away from Jemmy, who stared up at it with round, round eyes and open mouth, his gourd forgotten in his hands.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 91 ("Domestic Management"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

SKUNK

"Ian," I said, taking refuge behind Jamie. "Call off your dog. Skunks are dangerous."
"They are?" Jamie turned a look of puzzlement on me. "But what--"
"Polecats only stink," I explained. "Skunks--Ian, no! Let it alone, and come inside!" Ian, curious, had reached out and prodded the skunk with his poker. The skunk, offended at this unwarranted intimacy, stamped its feet and elevated its tail.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 10 ("Jocasta"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Pelican

A pelican on the ground is a comical thing, all awkward angles, splayed feet, and gawky bill. A soaring pelican, circling over water, is a thing of wonder, graceful and primitive, startling as a pterodactyl among the sleeker forms of gulls and petrels.

(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 44 ("Forces of Nature"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Beaver swimming

She was drawing back her arm to throw the hook again, when a sudden chorus of squeaks and hisses shattered the evening calm, and a stampede of beavers broke from cover, trundling down the opposite bank of the pond like a platoon of small, furry tanks. She stared at them open-mouthed, and took a step back in reflex.

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69 ("A Stampede of Beavers"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Manatee

There was a small herd of manatees in the lagoon, big gray bodies gliding under the dark crystal water, rising gleaming like smooth, wet rocks. Birds were beginning to call in the trees near the house; besides this, the only sound was the frequent whoosh of the manatees' breath as they rose for air, and now and then an eerie sound like a hollow, distant wail, as they called to each other.

(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59 ("In Which Much Is Revealed"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gabaldon interview in The Scotsman



Check out Claire Black's very interesting interview with Diana Gabaldon in The Scotsman, Scotland's national newspaper. This interview took place during Diana's trip to Scotland in January.

Some highlights from the article:

She is fastidious, a lover of detail. Her novels number thousands of pages of densely packed prose, labyrinthine plotting, historical detail. She speaks in the same way that she writes, answering questions in long statements, leaving nothing out, dates, places, times. Gabaldon is a fan of specificity.

This is undeniably true, as anybody who's observed her for any length of time on Compuserve can attest!

Gabaldon is feisty, confident, openly irritated by the furore, or worse, the indifference with which her literary output is met. Partly that's an issue of genre, an entrenched disdain directed at all books that are popular – although it's hard not to notice that there seems to be an even greater opprobrium for Gabaldon since she is perceived to write for women, or perhaps because she is a woman.

Or perhaps because her books can't be easily categorized? I do think that genre has something to do with it. Especially given the fact that, as the article notes, the books were originally classified as "romance", even though they're so much more than that.

I think Diana would object to that word "feisty", because I've heard her say (on Compuserve, here) that it doesn't mean what most people think it does.

The article goes on to describe Diana's typical working habits:

I wonder what a typical day is like for Gabaldon, imagining a meticulously planned 24-hour period.

I laughed out loud at that, knowing what the answer was going to be. And sure enough....

"I work late at night. I'm awake and nobody bothers me. It's quiet and things come and talk to me in the silence. My husband gets up at around 5.30am, so I'll tuck him in around 9.30pm or 10pm and then I'll go and lie down on the couch with a book and my two dachshunds. If nobody needs me, and usually these days they don't, I'll fall asleep until around midnight. Then I go upstairs and work until 4am, and that's when I go back to bed for good. It suits me."

Diana's habit of being up and working in the wee hours of the morning is something I don't think I'll ever understand. But it's been very convenient for me, because I'm almost always online between 6 and 7 a.m. ET (corresponding to 3 or 4 a.m. in Arizona) and I can often get a very quick response to comments or questions posted on Compuserve at that hour of the morning.

I would encourage you to read the rest of the article for yourselves.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

LOL boards were down...but now they're back!

Those of you who follow the Ladies of Lallybroch site may have noticed that the message boards -- including the LOL Books Board, Excerpt Board, and LOL ECHO Board -- have been down for several days.

I have no connection with the LOL site myself (except as someone who occasionally posts on the boards). But I wanted to let you know that Judie is aware of the situation and is trying to contact the server administrators to get it resolved. In the meantime, if I hear any updates I will pass them along to you here.

I think it's rather ironic that the site went down on the very day that discussion of AN ECHO IN THE BONE was to have started on the LOL Books Board. Maybe someone up there really didn't want to give up the separate ECHO discussion board just yet? (Just kidding. Really.)

Let's hope they can get the site back up and running very soon! LOL is one of the oldest OUTLANDER fan sites, and a terrific place for Diana Gabaldon's fans to meet and talk about the books.

UPDATE 2-3-2010: The boards are back up!

Monday, February 1, 2010

January poll results

Here are the results of the January poll:

What do you think about the Lord John books and stories?

  • 27.9% - I enjoy them, but I prefer to read about Jamie and Claire.
  • 22.3% - I love them! I can't wait for "Custom of the Army" and SCOTTISH PRISONER.
  • 11.5% - I wish Diana would quit writing about him.
  • 9.9% - They add a lot of depth to his character.
  • 9.2% - I haven't read any of them yet, but I'm planning to.
  • 7.2% - I'm not interested in reading about a gay character.
  • 4.4% - I like seeing a different side of 18th century life than we get in the OUTLANDER books.
  • 4.0% - I started reading them after seeing what a major role he plays in ECHO.
  • 2.4% - I think they're boring.
  • 1.2% - Other

There were 251 votes total. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

I'm really pleased to see such a large number and variety of responses to this poll. I didn't vote in it myself, but if I had, I would have gone with the plurality on this one. I like Lord John's character, but it took a while for me to be able to understand and appreciate him, and I don't feel the same sort of deep emotional attachment to Lord John as I do to Jamie and Claire.

Please take a moment to vote in this month's poll, which is a reprise of a poll I did back in January 2009, about the upcoming OUTLANDER graphic novel, titled THE EXILE. Now that the book is available for pre-order, and a number of you have had a chance to see the sample artwork, I thought it would be interesting to see to what extent your opinions have changed in the last year. Also, my blog has gained many new readers since January 2009, and I wanted to give those of you who didn't vote in the earlier poll a chance to express your opinions, too. <g>