As 2015 was ending I finished up a couple of works which merit mentioning. Firstly is Jane Austen’s Emma. I have read Austen before (Pride and Prejudice), intrigued by mention of Darcy as a model gentleman, Emma was thus my second foray into the author’s works, though I did not enjoy it nearly as much. The plot is familiar to most: Emma Woodhouse is a witty, self-assured, and quite attractive woman so enormously satisfied with her life that she seeks to manage others. She attempts to pair a few of her single neighbors up, disaster ensues, much chatter follows, and eventually everyone winds up married off – including her. There were quite a few utterly brilliant lines in here – a favorite, following a haughty woman’s “discovery” that Mr. Knightly was a gentleman, noted that he was unlikely to ‘discover’ her to be a Lady, given her manners. This was only a first reading, I think, given Emma’s reputation as Austen’s “perfect” novel. Perhaps I missed something in the end-year weariness.
Closer to my usual fare was Stagecoach: Wells-Fargo and the American West. As the title indicates, it is primarily a history of Wells-Fargo’s rise to fame in the 19th century. It was an unusual company, doing its best to fill a vacuum of infrastructure and service in the still-being-settled west. Principally, the firm provided banking and express services. Its commercial network provided both communication and transportation, at a dearer rate than the Postal routes but far more efficiently. It became most famous for the mail and treasure that traveled on stagecoach lines, and one chapter sheds a little light on the workings of stages in particular. After nearly dropping the ball on the transition to railroads, Wells-Fargo rebounded and became such a productive company that it drew the attention of trust-busters, who found the collusion of banking and railroads worrisome. The bank that exists today has only a tangential connection to the former behemoth of California, but retains the imagery of a stage coach — which proved a useful brand image even in the late 19th century, reminding prospective customers of how the west was won.
2016 is off to an excellent start so far, with How I Killed Pluto already read and reviewed, and another fantastic book following that. Right now I’m nibbling at a couple of books, but I’m really looking forward to what January holds. Today I chanced upon a list of books I scribbled down next year, and I must say…I forget about some of the most interesting books.
Oh! I’m presently watching The Last Kingdom, a BBC miniseries based on my favorite bit of Bernard Cornwell, the Saxon Stories series. So far it doesn’t stack up too well against Vikings, but the latter is…brutal.