Ninety days . . .

. . . and counting.

Since I’m aiming to spread the exciting content (i.e. the excerpts) out a bit, this time you get something a bit more dull. Unless you’re one of the people who apparently loves hearing me geek about the historical research, in which case, my research bibliography may count as very exciting indeed.

If the Midnight Never Come bibliography is any example, that list will continue to grow as I keep remembering other books that should be on it. But at least it’s something to start with.

0 Responses to “Ninety days . . .”

  1. wishwords

    How do you choose your research books? I’m assuming that you don’t just grab every book on the time period that you see. Is there a site that you trust for recommendations? Do you just read a ton of summaries? Are there certain scholars whose bibliographies you go by?

    The reason I ask is because I need to research Mozart, and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all that’s available.

    • Marie Brennan

      It varies on the topic — but oh boy do I know what you mean by being overwhelmed.

      One of the first things I did for this novel was go onto Amazon, search for various relevant topics, and start adding those books to my wish list. The more I did that, the more Amazon’s recommendations function pointed out seventeenth-century things to me (WARNING: it will take forever and a day to make Amazon stop pushing those things at you once you’re done). So that gave me an array to start with.

      From there, I read the Amazon reviews, focusing specifically on high ratings that say something of substance about the book, and also checking out the lowest ratings to see what their grievance was. This turns out to work surprisingly well on nonfiction; you get more thoughtful reviews than most of the ones for novels, and the low ratings will often either be “dude this book was BORING!” or a scathing commentary on the scholarly blind spots of the book in question — which latter is highly useful in picking sources. The downside to this method, of course, is that the more obscure a topic becomes, the less likely the book is to have reviews; it may also be lacking the “Search Inside” feature, so you can’t see the Table of Contents.

      Not all of my research is done on Amazon, of course. I also go onto my (university) library’s catalogue and poke around with search terms until I find what are the proper LCSH keywords for the thing I’m trying to read about; then I chase those to any relevant books I can find in their system, and browse them in person to see if they’re worth checking out or buying online. That’s generally more of a Stage Two thing, once Amazon has gotten me rolling in the right direction.

      Finally, I also use LJ! ^_^ People here know all kinds of random stuff; especially for a topic as well-covered as Mozart, it can be very handy to say “hey, who’s read biographies of him, and which ones were good/totally not worth my time?” You need some way to cull out the noise from the signal, and sometimes that method pays good dividends.

      If you’re going after something really obscure (which you’re not, but I figured I’d toss it out anyway), finding a professor who has it as a specialty area can be handy; then you can ask them for sources. (That’s what I did for the Gentlemen Pensioners in Midnight Never Come, after having no luck via other methods. WARNING: may lead to you browbeating random strangers into mailing you their dissertation because it turns out there are only two books on the topic, both of them from the 1920s, and neither of them reliable.)

      • wishwords

        LOL I’m guessing that last paragraph is from experience.

        The first thing I did was query my flist. I got crickets. (I actually need to know about the last years of his life, when he was writing Requiem. There is such a lot of crap out there.) I will probably go looking for communities on LJ soon. And try your other suggestions.

        Thank you.

        • Marie Brennan

          Sorry — you got me on a roll of pinning down my own methods, without thinking about which ones you might or might not have already tried.

          You could try looking for help in a music department; presumably some of the people in there are history-of-music types, at least secondarily to their musicology work, and God knows there are enough Mozart scholars out there. And if you can find somebody who’s written specifically about his Requiem, they’ll probably be all flattered by your interest.

  2. owldaughter

    I *love* bibliographies! But I am a geek that way.

  3. wadam

    Considering the size of the academic contingent who reads your blog, why would you think that there would be anything but excitement at the prospect of a big, juicy bibliography?

    Meanwhile: do you still check your IU email? And if not, how can I contact you? I have some folklore-related business to send to you.

  4. sora_blue

    So so soon…

    Um, because you are the one person I can think of to ask… do you know of a general information source about the cultural atmosphere of the later Victorian era? I’m trying to research and I just end up lost in the details because there’s so much happening.

    • Marie Brennan

      Well, as you say, there’s so much happening — so what are you after specifically? And are you looking at England or the later American 19th century? If the former (which I figure), then Liza Picard’s Victorian London is a decent general source on daily life 1840-1870, but that’s a) probably earlier than you mean and b) necessarily limited in what it can discuss, because of the daily-life focus and the diversification of Victorian culture.

      • sora_blue

        It would be a place to start. Day to day life would definitely help. Thank you!

        I’m looking around England 1867, but the majority of changes to the timeline would have already taken place. My big concern is how the classes relate to one another. How do the gentry and peerage interact… that sort of thing. I know there’s a parliament at that point, but I’m not recalling how influential the monarchy remained.

        • shui_long

          David Newsome, The Victorian World Picture is not a bad place to start. Asa Briggs is a reliable and readable guide to the period: see his Victorian Cities, The Age of Improvement and several other books. G M Young Victorian England: Portrait of an Age may also be useful.

          • sora_blue

            Thank you, I’m making a note of these titles. I knew this would be the right journal to ask on. πŸ™‚

          • shui_long

            To answer your question more directly, I’d regard 1867 as “mid-Victorian” or “High Victorian” – a period when Britain was flourishing, self-confident, well-established as a major manufacturing and trading nation, and coming to think of itself as an Imperial power. Since the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria had all but withdrawn from society (the “Widow of Windsor”) but was still very influential. The power of the Prime Minister was growing, but he was very much the senior member of the cabinet, and leader of the Queen’s Government, with her express consent. The second Reform Bill of 1867 almost doubled the number of those eligible to vote – but the franchise was still limited to male householders. Members of Parliament were drawn substantially from the ranks of the landowning gentry – but increasingly their wealth had come from manufacturing or business, not from inheritance. If “trade” was still looked down on by the old nobility, it could no longer be ignored, and the grand country houses of the Victorian period were being built by the merchants, the bankers, and the manufacturers. The same men acted as magistrates in administration of justice, and ran the increasing business of local government at County level, including police forces (a recent innovation in most areas, under an Act of 1856), lunatic asylums, workhouses and prisons; and were often to be found supporting the building of public hospitals, schools, and the building or restoration of churches.

          • sora_blue

            This is wonderful–thank you so much!

          • Marie Brennan

            I have so many well-informed people on my LJ. πŸ™‚

          • shui_long

            We try… though keeping up with the level of serious historical research you do for each book would be a tall order. (And – at least in Midnight Never Come – you use only a tiny fraction of it directly, though the underlying knowledge and understanding of the period informs the whole book.)

          • Marie Brennan

            Well, it helps that I get paid for it, and therefore can afford to devote large amounts of time to it.

          • shui_long

            I strongly suspect that you’d still do the research even if you weren’t paid for it…

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