I decided that I should read The Castle of Otranto before I embarked on any major readings for The Mysteries of Udolpho. Otranto came first in the Gothic timeline so the reading is useful when looking at Radcliffe's inspirations.
Walpole's piece is quite short (only about 110 pages, more if you include his lengthy prefaces) but it remains hard to read because of the lack of convention in punctuation usage. A particularly difficult passage comes near the end of the book; the evil Manfred tries to charm information out of the household domestic Bianca (who, in the tradition of rustics, is comically dense) and the back-and-forth conversation is nearly impossible to follow, filled with hyphens, commas, and absolutely NO quotations marks. You can't skim those three pages. On the whole, though, the novel is enjoyable and you can appreciate the Gothic elements. Ghosts, oversize pieces of armor, lascivious noblemen (non-Englishmen all), fainting ladies, long-lost sons who turn out to be aristocratic even though disguised as a peasant. What fun.
It is also worth a chuckle to look at this from a Protestant Englishman's point-of-view. All these Catholic Europeans, tsk, tsk, tsk, running about, praying to saints, preying on their dead son's ex-fiance, commanding a wife's confessor to tell her to consent to a divorce. It's cast in such a lurid light that no self-respecting Briton would ever behave in such a rash, Popish manner, even though the whole thing smacks of the Henry VIII Bizzaro-world circus that was his first marriage (desperate for male issue and the like).
Current book-in-progress: Like, whoa, too many again, but now I can start Udolpho in earnest!
Current knitted item: Red variegated scarf; I'm almost through the second skein so I'm thinking I'm going to switch from the moss stitch to seed stitch just for fun.
Current movie obsession: I put the new Ballet Shoes starring Emma Watson in; haven't watched any of it, yet, but I'm sure it's cute (one of my favorite books as a child)
Current iTunes loop: Enya ...And Winter Came