Very excited about an enthusiastic review of AMPP at The Novel Approach!
It was easy to get wrapped up in this story. This universe is so incredibly well thought out, and feels so historically correct, it’s easy to forget that there is any fantasy element to it at all.
A Most Personal Property is a deeply romantic and charming story. The tension between these two boys in the first half of the book was nearly unbearable. But, when they start to figure things out, they reeeeaaaaally start to figure things out, if you know what I mean, *wink wink*.
and, lastly, this:
It is now a bit more than 24 hours since I finished the book and began the review, and I can’t stop thinking about these characters…Good book, you guys. Really good book.
In writing a turn-of-the century story, I wanted to include as much detail from the period as was practical, to give the characters a real world to live in. Young people in New York in 1900 would definitely have gone to the shore and visited the amusement park. Steeplechase Park opened in 1897 and more or less created the template for all the amusement parks that would follow.
The steeplechase ride the boys go on in A Most Personal Property looks fun and exhilarating, but it also seems very possible for people to just fall off the horses and break their necks.
The steeplechase ride was definitely in place in 1900, but I can be less sure about Blowhole Theater. References indicate that some version of it was always part of the steeplechase ride, so I chose to include it. The video is quite obviously from the mid-1920s, but you certainly get the idea!
Verisimilitude note: Today, the season at Coney Island ends at Halloween, and I have it ending in October in the book. However, it’s likely that in 1900 the season actually ended in September. I really wanted to send them to an amusement park, but it just wouldn’t have worked in the September timeline, so I used the modern schedule.
My youthful fixation and enduring fondness for Bowie was the impetus for the trip, the Rosas performances were a chance to see a dance company we were first captivated by 20+ years ago, and the Art Institute visits were because we’re starved for art here in the hinterlands. The Mr. doesn’t share all of my fascinations (gay porn, for instance), but we crave a lot of the same stimulus, and I’m grateful we enjoy so many of the same things.
We were at the Art Institute looking at European paintings, and I was expecting room following room of just that, but the Mr. comes up and taps me and says, “Come see,” and leads me around a corner and I literally gasped and my heart skipped a beat because I was faced with an entire wall-sized case of Joseph Cornell boxes, which was basically like being 6 and being given an extra Christmas. Now, if he’d left me to my own devices, I eventually would have made my way to the Cornells and been nearly as delighted, but it made them even better that he wanted to give them to me.
There were so many amazing things at the Art Institute. I like miniature things particularly well, so I was very happy to discover the Thorne Miniature Rooms, particularly this one that is an amazing replica of the front hall of The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home here in Nashville.
The Bowie exhibit was great. I know just about everything there is to know about Bowie between about 1970 and 1983 (my period of special interest), so it wasn’t really a learning experience so much as a voluptuous wallow in high-level nostalgia. You’re given a headset, and as you move through the exhibit, you hear different music and snippets from interviews, and it’s just really well done. He seemingly kept every single thing that ever passed through his hands, and the costumes are in impeccable condition.
The costume was on display, and the song was playing over the headsets, but I was disappointed that they didn’t show the entire Starman Top of the Pops performance (video below) that was so shocking to 1972 audiences, what with Bowie’s generally alien appearance and the casually possessive way he slung his arm around Mick Ronson’s neck. I must admit, I have a certain fondness for Bowie’s original, slightly terrifying teeth, which are much in evidence here.
These boots are a thing that should be available to purchase in the museum gift shop. I made do with a catalog that has a picture of the boots, but obviously that’s nowhere near as satisfying.
Anyway, if you’re in Chicago for GRL but have a couple of hours to spare, the Bowie exhibit at the MCA is definitely worth seeing if you have any interest in his career.
I’d only been to Chicago once before a decade or so ago (to see Nick Cave and Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle) and that was a short trip fraught with traffic weirdness, but this was less frenetic and much more pleasant. We did a lot more walking than I ever get to do here (Nashville is not a walkable city), we ate a lot of Do-Rite Donuts, and we also had a great meal at Beatrix (half the price of MK, but unfortunately 10x the douchiness in our fellow patrons). Oh, and of course we went and stood beneath the Bean.
Verdict: Well, it’s no NYC, but I’d happily go back :)
The Ganymede Quartet books present a different version of slavery than what you’re familiar with from history books. It’s also definitely not a BDSM type of slavery. It’s based entirely on class and economics rather than race; while there are black slaves in the story, there are also black masters.
Historical slavery isn’t my area of expertise, and, for any number of reasons, I have no business trying to speak on behalf of people who were actually enslaved in the United States. My books are not books about historical slavery. Historical slavery isn’t sexy. Contemporary sex trafficking and slavery aren’t sexy. But exploring power dynamics in a slavery fantasy…that can be sexy.
Power dynamics are most often discussed in relation to BDSM scenarios but, again, this is not a BDSM story. Not even remotely. Henry is legally in the superior position, but in every other way he’s woefully out of his depth. Martin wants to do whatever Henry needs, and sometimes that means he has to take charge through subtle means. But there are no whips or collars involved, and Henry would prefer if he never heard the word “Master” pass Martin’s lips.
I had the idea of a slave who was proud of his slave status and the training he’d received, and who was eager to begin work, and a master who was reticent and shy and afraid to use his slave. I wanted the slave and master to be of the same race to further separate my dirty fantasy from historical slavery. I wanted a Victorian/Edwardian setting because I wanted to afford my characters the benefit of electricity and telephones, but I didn’t want it to be too modern. I also wanted to play a little with the idea of a United States where the Civil War never happened, and I imagined a version of the United States where indentured servitude didn’t die out but instead morphed into a slaving industry that would actually breed and train slaves in a quasi-industrialized fashion. There are no doubt many reasons this never could have happened, but this is, ultimately, a fantasy novel; it’s a fantasy with a hefty dose of reality decorating a far-fetched premise.
I’ve gotten the impression that some people expect these books to be BDSM stories because they involve slaves, and are subsequently disappointed when BDSM scenes don’t appear. Slave stories are perhaps typically BDSM stories, but they don’t actually have to be BDSM stories. My take on a slavery fantasy may or may not be to your taste, but I’ve never claimed that it’s something it’s definitely not, and that it was never intended to be. Please enjoy it for what it is.
If you haven’t read Keira’s highly-acclaimed gay Amish romance, Forbidden Rumspringa, you’re missing out on a wonderfully angsty, romantic love story and a glimpse into a community you might not be familiar with. Isaac and David’s story is unforgettable and I recommend it wholeheartedly!
Martin is working on a piece of music throughout the GQ series and I never name it, but I definitely had a specific piece in mind. I am not deeply knowledgeable about classical music or musicians, but I know what I like, and I absolutely love the Bach partitas and sonatas for solo violin, especially Partita No. 2 in D Minor and its challenging chaconne.
I have recordings of these works by a variety of musicians, and originally the version of the chaconne I had in mind for Martin was by Lara St. John, a favorite of long standing. I searched on YouTube to find video of her or anyone else playing the chaconne, and I came across this:
I’d never heard of James Ehnes. With his brown suit and conservative haircut, he looked more like an insurance salesman than an artist to my critical eye. My expectations were low when I hit play.
OH MY GOD. Plaintive, sobbing notes full of longing, played with precision. It is more than a little sexy to me! Every time I listen to this (and I listen to it a lot), at the 6:30 mark I always have to actually stop what I’m doing and watch him play.
Mr. Ehnes performed with the symphony here last year, although unfortunately he didn’t play Bach. But I took binoculars so I could watch his hands and was as excited as a tween at a One Direction concert. I’ve got his studio recordings of both this Bach and the Elgar I actually saw him play, and while the recordings are beautiful and among my favorites, I think he’s a performer whose playing becomes much more expressive and impressive in the presence of an audience.
Anyway, I am definitely not claiming that Martin would play this terribly difficult piece nearly this well, but only that this is what he would have in his head; this would be the ideal version he would be attempting to match or surpass when he practiced the piece.