Favorite historical novels: Annamarie Jagose, Slow Water; Graeme Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project; Ian McGuire, The North Water; Robin Jenkins, The Awakening of George Darroch; Harry Tait, The Ballad of Sawney Bain; Lloyd Shepherd, The Detective and the Devil.
Favorite short story collections: China Mieville, Three Moments of an Explosion; Barbey d’Aurevilly, Les Diaboliques (The She-Devils).
Favorite genre anthologies: Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, eds., Echoes of Sherlock Holmes; Ellen Datlow, ed., Children of Lovecraft.
Snarkiest historical novel: Dario Fo, The Pope’s Daughter.
Least convincingly unretired detective: Inspector Rebus. I mean, I understand why Rankin has decided to keep writing this series, but really.
You learn something new…: I hadn’t realized there was a collection of Ernest Dowson’s short stories out there.
Most interesting older work of scholarship: Richard Griffith’s The Reactionary Revolution (1966).
Most interesting monograph not in my field: Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity.
Most important monograph on Catholicism and Victorian literature that nobody is citing because it’s written in French: Claire Masurel-Murray’s Le calice vide : l'imaginaire catholique dans la littérature décadente anglaise. Seriously. It came out in 2011 and has only been cited twice--by other French scholars. If you’re at all interested in these topics (Catholicism and literature; the Decadents; Catholicism and the Decadents) this absolutely ought to be at the top of your reading list.
Most bloodthirsty take on Jane Eyre: Lyndsay Faye, Jane Steele.
Most puzzling tendency in Jane Eyre rewrites: Marrying the Jane stand-in off to her Rochester equivalent, when the rewrite has otherwise made pseudo-Rochester pretty repellent.
Most successful Sherlock Holmes mashup: James Lovegrove, Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows (Cthulhu universe).
Most successful Sherlock Holmes parody: G. S. Denning’s Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone.
Best potshot at Arthur Conan Doyle: E. O. Higgins, Conversing with Spirits.
Needs more gore: Surely a mashup of Sherlock Holmes and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser universe ought to be “ow-ier”?
Most successful Lovecraft rewrite: Victor Lavelle, The Ballad of Black Tom.
I suppose there’s no use in renewing my annual plea, but yet again: WE DON’T NEED ANY MORE JACK THE RIPPER NOVELS. OR JACK THE RIPPER SHORT STORIES. OR JACK THE RIPPER MASHUPS. REALLY, WE DON’T. PLEASE WRITE ABOUT CUTE KITTIES AND BUNNIES INSTEAD.
Most atypically good-natured novel by Zola: La Rêve (The Dream).
Best nineteenth-century religious novels: Léon Bloy, La Femme Pauvre (The Woman Who Was Poor); Margaret Deland, John Ward, Preacher; Maxwell Gray, The Silence of Dean Maitland.
Nineteenth-century religious novel that seems least like a novel: J. K. Huysmans, Les Foules de Lourdes (The Crowds of Lourdes).
Most gruesome moment in a religious novel: In Bloy’s Le Désespéré (The Despairing), a former prostitute deliberately renders herself unattractive by, among other things, having all of her teeth removed, an event described in some detail.
Crankiest nineteenth-century religious novel: Edmond Randolph, Mostly Fools.
Religious novel with the most recognizable stand-in for Herbert Spencer: Robert Buchanan’s Foxglove Manor.
Religious novelist who makes Thomas Hardy seem bubbly, optimistic, and positively jovial by comparison: Léon Bloy.
Anti-Catholic novel with the weirdest afterlife: Ethel Voynich’s The Gadfly, which was a big bestseller in…mid-twentieth century Russia.
Most dismaying scholarly moment: When I realized that there was another novel by E. H. Dering (a.k.a. Leading Competitor for Worst Religious Novelist of the Nineteenth Century) out there. Noooooo.
Most repetitive nineteenth-century religious novelist: E. H. Dering, besides being bad, only seems to have had one plot.
Best Victorian deconstruction of George Eliot: John Oliver Hobbes, Some Emotions and a Moral.
Novel that prompted my students to ask “What the ?!#* was that?”: Hardy, Jude the Obscure (you can guess which scene).
Novel that presumably would prompt my students to ask “What the ?!#* was that?” were I to teach it: J. K. Huysmans, Là-Bas (Down There).
Novel with which my students had the most fun: Scott G. F. Bailey, The Astrologer.
Best novel reread for class: James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain.
Most antiquarian acquisition: A first edition of J. G. Lockhart’s triple-decker Valerius: A Roman Story (1821).
I’ve been looking for an affordable copy of this for years: Desmond Bowen, The Protestant Crusade; idem, Paul Cardinal Cullen and the Shaping of Modern Irish Catholicism.
Most aggravating postal delay: After several weeks, a copy of Francesco Manzini’s The Fevered Novel from Balzac to Bernanos arrived…a few hours after I submitted the article for which I had ordered the book in the first place. Ah, well, there are always revisions…
Desperate plea: Dear Oxford University Press: please stop publishing books in teensy-weensy font sizes. My hypermyopic eyes thank you.
Thank you: To Purdue University’s library for dumping its set of “Novels of Faith and Doubt,” most volumes of which have now migrated to my bookshelves.