Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Thirty - David Copperfield - Part 9 3/4

Can you imagine Dickens getting drunk!? He certainly wrote a realistic "dissipation" scene! (That word reminds me of Darcy's letter to Elizabeth - when describing Wickham he says Wickham's life was one of "idleness and dissipation.")

We should totally bring back the word dissipation.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Thirty - David Copperfield - Part 1.5

Just taking time to say how much I LOVE Aunt Betsey and Mr. Dick and I do not trust Uriah Heep!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Thirty - David Copperfield - Part One

I am loving this book! I was hooked from the start and am enjoying it immensely. Perhaps the first person point of view lends intimacy and perhaps David is simply an amazing character, or perhaps both are true. A couple of wonderfully witty quotes -
...and he had a white neck-kerchief on, that was not over-clean
It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she was; dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and voice; and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose, as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers, she had carried them to that account.
When someone dies and when [a character who shall remain nameless to avoid spoilers] is given the news, it is told in a most indirect way. It reminds me of that joke about the cat being on the roof -- 

A man goes out of town and asks his friend to check on his cat while he's away. When he calls his friend after a couple of days the friend says, “Your cat died.”

“How could you be so cruel?” he asks. “Did you have to say it so bluntly?”

“How else would I have said it?” his friend asks.

“Well, you could have told me that the cat is on the roof. Next time I called, you could have said that the fire department came out but even they weren’t able to get the cat down from the roof. After another call you could have said that my cat died. It would have been less of a shock that way.”

The last day of his vacation, the man calls his friend to ask how everything is going. His friend says, “Your mother is on the roof.”

The indirect way was the acceptable manner in Victorian times - though Dickens obviously disapproves of unwavering stoicism. But does the rejection of stoicism lead to wimpiness? Just how much emotion is acceptable? The person described in the next quote is a monster –

I do not doubt that she had a choice pleasure in exhibiting what she called her self-command, and her firmness, and her strength of mind, and her common sense, and the whole diabolical catalogue of her unamiable qualities, on such an occasion.
Dickens illustrates that etiquette for its own sake is folly. This woman’s strict adherence to etiquette leads to rigidity, which leads to suppression of emotion, which leads to unkindness. How can unkindness be considered proper? Isn’t the purpose of manners to enable others to feel comfortable?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Twenty-Nine - Love In The Time Of Cholera

Gabriel García Márquez
Love In The Time Of Cholera is about pride - and about prejudice. I underestimated this book, I think because I didn't trust where Marquez was taking me. The last hundred pages flew by. Before that it was simply a discussion of life and love. I see now that Marquez presented clues in all those pages... he told me that one character is desperate without saying he was so. Marquez said it through narrative rather than dialogue, but I got the message. The title is so poignant!

One thing I am continually grateful for is that I was born in an era when women have choices. We no longer live in a time in which we must marry before twenty-two or face the rest of our lives as old maids destined to live with a sibling and his/her family. We can marry yet not lose our identities like the widows of this book who wanted to die when their husbands died because they never had an identity of their own and suddenly were left without the only selves they had known for most of their lives - half of a couple. 
For women there were only two ages: the age for marrying, which did not go past twenty-two, and the age for being eternal spinsters: the ones left behind. The others, the married women, the mothers, the widows, the grandmothers, were a race apart who tallied their age not in relation to the number of years they had lived but in relation to the time left to them before they died.
And woe be unto the widow or widower who wants to remarry! I'm not sure how old you have to be to realize that love has no age limit. It seems that when we're young we cannot imagine anyone over the age of ____ (fill in the blank with whatever age seems old to you right now; that age tends to increase in proportion to your own age) being in love, wanting companionship and/or possibly enjoying a physical relationship.

How do you make love last? How do you get over a lost love? This book discusses so many things - the history of Columbia, deforestation, double standards, business relations, making a "good" match, religion, ceremony, and mostly, life and love.

The calendar provided inspiration for me to finish this one - I want to start David Copperfield for the Two Bibliomaniacs books to movies challenge. Good old Dickens - at least I know what to expect with him. I know that I shall meet a character who is saintly against all odds, bless him.

P.S. In between reading sessions of this book I listened to the audio book of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. It was brilliant!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cholera Schmolera

Reading this book is such a chore! I’m determined to finish it because I don’t hate it  - but I'm definitely not a fan. It’s all narrative - sentences, paragraphs, pages of narrative with a little bit of oh-by-the-way you know that doll you put on your bed? It’s, like, growing and stuff. Seriously, dude, the dress is getting shorter and it’s not because it shrank in the wash.

There are some gems hidden amongst the thorns. A mother cares for her sick son and discovers that he is lovesick – “The symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.” Um, all righty then.

So – is this book supposed to be one big metaphor? I don’t know. It feels like work reading it, but when I do get into reading I can continue for some time. But the lack of desire to pick the book back up means I’ve still only read 131 pages!

I've been doing... other stuff. I watched the BBC's Cranford and smiled when a rather stodgy character distastefully remarked that Dickens is "popular fiction." Isn't it odd that some people assume anything widely appreciated has no intrinsic merit?