Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Thirty-Five - Middlemarch - Part One

Isn't the English countryside beautiful? This is my desktop background at work.
Not that I'm writing blog posts at work. That would be wrong.
Middlemarch, an early 19th century English town, contains quite a number of interesting characters. A few snippets for your enjoyment -
A man's mind—what there is of it—has always the advantage of being masculine,—as the smallest birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm,—and even his ignorance is of a sounder quality.
Hence he determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling, and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill it was… he concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force of masculine passion.
I am not a fan of these stereotypes. If we dislike being considered as a stereotype ourselves we can hardly stereotype others. Besides, I've known men who are vapid and women who are vapid; men who are brilliant and women who are brilliant. I don't believe we need to keep having this discussion, yet I still frequently hear stereotypes of one gender or the other. There now, my political rant for 2012 is over.

Middlemarch includes a letter of proposal which pales in comparison to Frederick Wentworth’s. Just a snippet of this one –

For in the first hour of meeting you, I had an impression of your eminent and perhaps exclusive fitness to supply that need (connected, I may say, with such activity of the affections as even the preoccupations of a work too special to be abdicated could not uninterruptedly dissimulate); and each succeeding opportunity for observation has given the impression an added depth by convincing me more emphatically of that fitness which I had preconceived, and thus evoking more decisively those affections to which I have but now referred.
My, my dear sir, I do believe you have hidden a compliment in there somewhere. Was it intentional?
Not he! Humphrey finds everybody charming. I never can get him to abuse xxxx.* He will even speak well of the bishop, though I tell him it is unnatural in a beneficed clergyman; what can one do with a husband who attends so little to the decencies? I hide it as well as I can by abusing everybody myself.
Spoken by the wife of Humphrey (the poor dear). Sounds like a Mrs. Norris, doesn't she?

We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!" Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts—not to hurt others.
I like the sentiment but am not a fan of the narrator suddenly stepping out of the scene and speaking to the audience. 

… for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them.
This struck me but I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

Re: medical standards -

Also, the high standard held up to the public mind... did not hinder quackery from having an excellent time of it; for since professional practice chiefly consisted in giving a great many drugs, the public inferred that it might be better off with more drugs still, if they could only be got cheaply...
Aren’t we the same today? We want a pill for everything and I’m no different. I do not understand why, in the 21st century, a drug has not been invented to prevent my hair from becoming gray. I got my first gray hair at 25 and it's only gotten worse since then. Do you have any idea how much time and money I expend to keep my hair its natural color? It’s absurd. Give me a pill, someone. I’ll even be involved in the clinical trial. 

*Name removed to prevent spoilage

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Birdsong & Great Expectations - New BBC Productions!

Birdsong is one of the best books I've ever read and it's finally being made into a movie! The female lead is Clémence Poésy (Fleur in the Harry Potter movies) and the male is Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford (I'm unfamiliar with him). It also features Matthew Goode who I saw in Imagine Me and You, a most excellent movie. The new Great Expectations production is directed by Mike Newell (another HP movie connection) and stars Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham (I cannot wait to see her take on this character!), Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Jaggers, and Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Joe (she was Anne Elliott in the 2007 adaptation of Persuasion).

PBS' Masterpiece Theater will air both Birdsong and the new Great Expectations! I don't know about you, but I need something to look forward to. January is always difficult - there's a let down after the holidays and the new year looms large. There are indeed great expectations in January.