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Medellia's 2009 Reading #2

Club Read 2009

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Edited: Dec 31, 2009, 10:10am Top

In which the fun continues. Old thread here:

I expect to announce the completion of my first trip through Les Miserables soon. The last third of the book is a nailbiter! Go, Gavroche, go! Look out, Jean Valjean! Oh no, it's that nasty Thénardier again! *gasp* Javert's tied up! It's 1832, the barricades are up, and oh no I bet everybody's marked for death, huh. Better steel myself!

(keeping track of this year's completed books)
54. The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
53. Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
52. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
51. All Seated On the Ground by Connie Willis
50. Miracle by Connie Willis
49. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
48. Middlemarch by George Eliot
47. Victor Hugo by John Porter Houston
46. Temptation of the Impossible by Mario Vargas Llosa
45. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
44. Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov
43. Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll
42. The Ghost in Love by Jonathan Carroll
41. The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
40. The Longest Journey by E.M. Forster
39. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
38. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
37. Howards End by E.M. Forster
36. Maurice by E.M. Forster
35. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
34. Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt
33. Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith
32. The Riddle of the Traveling Skull by Harry Stephen Keeler
31. King Lear by William Shakespeare
30. Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
29. The Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupéry
28. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
27. The Painter of Signs by R. K. Narayan
26. Searching for Jane Austen by Emily Auerbach
25. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
24. Emma by Jane Austen
23. The Giver by Lois Lowry
22. Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt
21. The Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
20. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
19. Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
18. Outfoxing Fear by Kathleen Ragan
17. The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta
12-16. Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club series
2-11. Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books
1. Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault translated by Angela Carter

Oct 27, 2009, 3:11pm Top

This is really your first read, Medellia? Why did I think you had read it before?

I am determined to wait until December, I will not pick up Les Mis before that, I am firm...

Oct 27, 2009, 3:31pm Top

This is really your first read, Medellia? Why did I think you had read it before?
Dunno! Maybe because our dear 'Rique has already signed me up as one of the rodeo clowns for our group read.

On a side note, almost all of the critical works on Les Mis in my university library are currently checked out. This has not been the case with Proust, Austen, or Forster, so Hugo must have more lovers (or possibly researchers) than the others. I put in a few recall requests, and I own a book by Mario Vargas Llosa called The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and "Les Misérables."

Oct 27, 2009, 5:17pm Top

I followed the very interesting translation discussion on Les Mis and came down on the side of the McacAfee/Fahnestock. That I could get it for $8 certainly helped. Now I await the group read. Exciting!

Re your last thread: I find I make a much better "former" Texan. Though I grew up there, I haven't live there since 1978. I always claim, to the dismay of all of my family who are still there, that I would only move back if I had a job in Austin.

Oct 27, 2009, 5:29pm Top

Like theaelizabet, I also read the discussion on Les Mis translations and decided on the Fahnestock/MacAfee edition (and also for $8!). I had to do a bit of searching to find it locally, but I think it will be worthwhile. If the stars align just right, I hope to join the group read at the Salon - I'm really looking forward to it!

Oct 27, 2009, 6:25pm Top

theaelizabet- I have told my Texas family that the chances of my ending up back in Texas (even Austin) are pretty much zilch, and that even ending up within less than ~900 miles of TX is a bit of a long shot, if I have my way. They are also dismayed.

Glad both of you are hoping to join in on the group read. I'm looking forward to it as well. It's so nice to be on LT and hear everyone's thoughts. I haven't found a single real-life friend yet who has read Les Mis--and worse, I find it's a book I'm bursting to talk about.

Oct 31, 2009, 11:57am Top

Well, I finished Les Misérables on Thursday, at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. The largest cathedral in the world, incidentally. (It gets it on a technicality--St. Peter's Basilica is larger but not technically a cathedral.)

Gosh, what can I say? I loved it. I laughed, I cried, I cheered for the heroes and booed the villains, when I wasn't feeling sorry for them. There's something to satisfy just about anyone in here: great story, memorable characters, action/adventure, philosophy, theology, battle scenes, social commentary, history, poor, rich, young, old, funny, serious, word play and puns, fathers and daughters, dysfunctional families, sadness, happiness, angry young men, sweet young girls, angry young girls, sweet young men, and if that's not enough, a love story, including the loftiest, most beautiful passage on love I've ever read (it gets its own chapter!). There's suffering, there's hardship, but Hugo's so darned optimistic that you come away feeling good. Lots of quotable lines. Though I found the Waterloo section slow going (epic battle scenes still don't do it much for me), all the other "philosophical bits" that some folks find tedious, I found fascinating. And the work leaves me saying, man, I need to be a better person--here are some ways I can do that. Always a major plus for me.

Welcome to my favorite book list, Hugo. You're vying for the top.

Oct 31, 2009, 12:07pm Top

Well, I can't wait for a read of Les Miserables! I have my copy ready and waiting.

St. John the Divine? What a great place to finish it! A friend of mine lives there (in one of the onsite apts.) with his partner who is the music director? organist? (don't know his official title, but he was the one mentioned in the NYT article who who was warming up the organ in prep for the reopening after the fire.) Anyway, you couldn't have found a better place in NY to finished it. (okay, St. Bart's maybe)

Oct 31, 2009, 12:19pm Top

There will be more musings on Hugo as the December group read approaches and as I read some critical works. I've finished Mario Vargas Llosa's The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and Les Misérables and will post about it shortly.

A few words on connections to Proust that struck me as I read Les Mis. I'll be thinking more about this.

--Interest in words/language. Not just word play and puns, though both authors are fond of that sort of thing. Hugo has a long-ish digression in the book, a number of chapters, devoted to slang used by criminals. It reminded me of Proust and his interest in etymologies of place-names and such.

--Use of figurative language. Proust's metaphors & similes are copious and amazing; in the manner of poetry, they defamiliarize objects and ideas that we see according to habit, and make us look at them anew. Hugo is also very liberal with the use of figurative language. I get the feeling that Hugo uses this language to intensify rather than defamiliarize, but his similes & metaphors are often so odd (they lack the smooth feeling of Proust's) that they accomplish both at the same time.

In one passage, Marius's grandfather, M. Gillenormand describes his idea of a perfect wedding, which veers off into crazy visions of sylphs and nymphs and goddesses, swans and eagles, a car drawn by marine monsters, etc. This passage, which lasts a couple of pages or so, made me think of the famous "underwater metaphor" scene at the Opera in The Guermantes Way.

--On one page Marius considers the deaths of his friends in the barricade insurrection, reflecting on the strangeness and unreality of the scene, and of the idea that his friends are no longer living. "All these beings, dear, sorrowful, valiant, charming, or tragic--were they dreams? Had they really existed? . . . Then where were they all? . . . A fall into the darkness had carried off everything, except himself. It all seemed to him to have disappeared as if behind a curtain at a theater." This goes on. This strongly connects with Proust, especially in The Captive and The Fugitive.

--When Proust & Hugo introduce a new character into the narrative, we often get a sort of "psychological portrait"--they draw the character's inner world--before the character engages in any action. More often in Proust than Hugo, because sometimes, for dramatic reasons, Hugo lets a character enter and start acting and talking, sometimes before we know who this character is. But even then, he generally gets around to that "psychological portrait."

Another thing that interested me was Hugo's use of what Vargas Llosa so aptly calls "collective characters." The young men of the Society of the ABC are types rather than full-fledged characters; they each represent an aspect of a greater whole. This strongly brought to mind for me what Richard Powers does with the characters in Plowing the Dark.

Oct 31, 2009, 12:23pm Top

#8 theaelizabet: Oh, lucky him! I live in the neighborhood, and the cathedral is my favorite place in the whole city. When I'm feeling claustrophobic, I trot over there and am able to breathe again. :) I've heard an organist playing there a number of times--wonder if it was your friend's partner? I actually started the novel at the cathedral as well, and some time around page 50 I was treated to a lovely half-hour organ recital.

Oct 31, 2009, 12:41pm Top

The Temptation of the Impossible by Mario Vargas Llosa: an ok work of lit crit lite. Happily, the best chapters were the penultimate and antepenultimate chapters, on Hugo's religious and philosophical aims in writing the book, and the barricade section, respectively. According to Vargas Llosa, Les Misérables is a sentimental melodrama, not entirely lifelike, though it contains lifelike elements. " . . . It describes a surreptitious unreality, fashioned out of reality." (I agree.) So his aim in the book is to map out the elements that make up the fictive world of Les Mis.

I particularly enjoyed the barricade chapter--I was relieved to discover that I did not fail to find the revolutionaries' reasons behind, and aims for, their insurrection. In fact, it's not there in the text. Some critics have hit the history textbooks and "filled in" what is "missing" from Hugo's work. Vargas Llosa argues that this misses the point of the fictive world inside Les Mis. The real-life participants of the 1832 barricade insurrections represented a large variety of ideologies and aims; in the text, Hugo dissolves these differences into a "sentimental and utopian haze," "transforming history into fiction." He is not interested in portraying the particulars of this revolution; he is interested instead in a general and abstract portrayal of his personal notions of the progress of history, and the yearning for a better society. Hugo takes the materials of history and turns them to a figurative and symbolic use, speaking thus "of matters that are deeper and more permanent than that historical event."

Also interesting in the penultimate chapter was a consideration of Hugo's aims for the work in light of the huge (at least 100 pages? maybe more? I will have to research) "Philosophical Preface" that he wrote for it--unfinished and unpublished. We tend to think of Hugo's aims in writing Les Mis as being about portraying societal concerns; while this is true, and there are plenty of quotes from Hugo himself to support it, in the Philosophical Preface, Hugo claims that his motives were predominantly religious. As Vargas Llosa says, "to demonstrate the existence of a transcendent life, of which life on earth is a mere transient part." Hugo himself writes: "Destiny and in particular life, time and in particular this century, man and in particular the people, God and in particular the world, this is what I have tried to include in the book; it is a sort of essay on the infinite."

Edited: Oct 31, 2009, 12:51pm Top

Notes for myself on Temptation of the Impossible:

Chapter 1: "The divine stenographer"; narrator as simulacrum of Hugo himself, narrator as unifying factor in work

Chapter 2: web of coincidence (unifying factor); life of body & life of soul--descriptions in separate chapters but at effective moments collide; dialectic between freedom and fate

Chapter 3: characters as archetypical figures, their "ideal natures"; excess seems normal & "realism" seems unreal; Manichaean vision of characters; The Saint (Myriel), the Just Man (Valjean), The Fanatic (Javert), and the "angel with a dirty face" (Gavroche and Eponine); prevalence of chastity; collective characters (ABC, Patron-Minette, Fantine/Tholomyès + 3 other couples)

Chapter 4: work as theater, narrator as puppetmaster, locations as sets; changing names of characters

Chapter 5: problems caused by society (can control) vs ordinary suffering of human existence (cannot)--in Hugo's words, "human misfortune that derives from fate & social misfortune that derives from man"; Hugo's politics, belief in History as Progress, anti-death penalty; treatment of women; conflict between characters is because of social, moral & sexual prejuices

Chapter 6: object of barricade revolution unclear; actual participants in 1832 represented a variety of ideologies and aims--Hugo dissolves these differences into a "sentimental and utopian haze," "transforming history into fiction"

Chapter 7: Hugo's original (unfinished & unpublished) "Philosophical Preface"--main focus not on social problems, but on God & the "existence of a transcendent life"; good v. evil rather than justice v. injustice; in Hugo's words "an essay on the infinite; "total novel"; La fin de Satan? redemption of man in Les Mis paralleling Hugos' belief that at the end of time, God would forgive Satan and "infinite divine compassion would end up establishing a reign of absolute goodness"

Chapter 8: early criticism of novel; Lamartine's objections

Edited: Oct 31, 2009, 1:04pm Top

I'm currently reading a one-volume history of France, 'cause I'm a dunce when it comes to history, and with Proust and Hugo, let's face it, you gotta know your French history. After this intro work, I'll read another work or two, something on the French revolution and something on the 19th century perhaps. 'Rique, you said Carlyle's The French Revolution, but holy cow, 800+ pages? I'm not sure I'm that brave.

Next up in fiction: Possibly Crime and Punishment? I have a library book coming to me, Hugo & Dostoevsky by Nathalie Brown, which compares Les Misérables to Crime and Punishment. Seems like a good pairing, and I have to start Dostoevsky someday, right? (I tremble before his Mighty Russian Lit Godliness.)

If not C&P immediately, then probably Fagles' translation of The Odyssey. Read an abridgement as a youngster, but that's it. I just picked up this Fagles box set (Odyssey, Iliad, Aeneid), and found out afterward that my father-in-law is reading The Odyssey, so I thought that'd be a good father-daughter-in-law-bonding kinda thing.

edit: author name, aaaargh touchstones not loading

Oct 31, 2009, 1:06pm Top

Carlyle's book has a really good index, at least the ed. I have, so if you were to get it, use it more as a reference work for quickly looking up names and events should all else fail. My goodness, I wasn't even thinking how long it is!

Nov 1, 2009, 9:38pm Top

Argh! I'm looking EVERYWHERE for the Wilbour translation of Les Mis, and everywhere, all I see is Denny Denny Denny. What is the right-minded bookseller thinking? Or aren't there any right minded booksellers?

Does anyone know which translation is used in the Enriched Classics version http://books.simonandschuster.net/Les-Miserables/Victor-Hugo/Enriched-Classics/9... ? I even used the browse inside thing, and it looks as if Simon & Schuster have decided that the translator is not the least bit important, cos it ain't written anywhere inside that I can see.

*fuming impotently*

Oh, hi Medellia. All your comments above on Les Mis are so enticing that I am now tearing down walls to try to get hold of the crazy thing. Thanks, I think.

Nov 1, 2009, 10:22pm Top

Rena- At 656 pages, that volume must be abridged. My three editions range from 1200 to 1500 pages.

Are these booksellers you're looking at brick-and-mortar stores? 'Cause the Everyman's Library edition and one of the Modern Library editions both contain the unabridged Wilbour translation. You could buy them online, perhaps? They're pricier than a paperback, but my Everyman's edition is very nice.

Here's the Modern Library edition on Book Depository (Everyman's seems to be out of stock)--maybe the ISBN will help you in your search?:

Nov 2, 2009, 12:51am Top

I feel kinda silly for not noticing the page numbers. Thanks Medellia. I was looking both online via the ISBN, and also brick-and-mortar places. I'd actually come across the Modern Library edition online, noted its hardcoverness and its price, and was hoping for something a little more affordable, as other translations seem to be. (so I lied I guess, though it was the single and only Wilbour edition I found). It may not be possible, unless I find some amazing brick-and-mortar secondhand store that's actually patronised by people who read something other than Dannielle Steele once in a while. And I haven't found one of those locally yet...

Sorry to vent explosively on your thread and thanks for your help. Please continue with the learned discussion.

Nov 2, 2009, 10:19am Top

#17 Rena: Oh, I forget! There may be a solution. Wordsworth has a two-volume paperback Les Mis, Wilbour translation, and reasonably priced. (I am almost certain that it is unabridged, but if you want to make sure it's not, I noticed that tomcatmurr has this edition listed in his library. Maybe he could check for you, if he has it handy?)



Nov 2, 2009, 5:34pm Top

18 - I have the Wordsworth and it is unabridged.

And I also live near St. John the Divine!

Edited: Nov 3, 2009, 2:44pm Top

janepriceestrada- Whaddaya know! I had a good chuckle at your profile, "living in New York" being the reason for half your library. I hear that! My (typically tiny) living space is littered with books.

Finished Victor Hugo by John Houston. Just a quick survey of Hugo's works, randomly grabbed off the shelf at my university library. Can't say I particularly recommend it--there's surely something better out there that fills this niche--but it was useful for pointing out some themes and images that run across Hugo's ouevre.

Some notes:

--Spain as a "kind of home of the willful and sinister unconscious." p. 2

--Biblical material as prophetic vision, epic narrative

--"transformations of sinister figures will later preoccupy Hugo in manny of his narratives and plays" p. 10

--interest in painting, architecture

--the "grotesque" as opposite of the sublime, Christian dualism of spirit & matter (+ reconciliation and deconstruction thereof)

--light and dark, imagery of mountains and giants, the abyss

--pantheistic view of God as all-pervading love, impersonal deity

--God created man imperfect b/c otherwise he would've been equal to God, would've merged in Him, & creation never would've existed; God first made the universe, which then created evil

--shifts of perspective that changes evil into good

--Hugo & metempsychosis?

"the ultimate reality of language and its redemptory power in the face of life and death," Romanticism etc, 138

Nov 3, 2009, 2:37pm Top

Also, hubby and I read more of Wuthering Heights this weekend. Made it through Hindley's death. At that point it was getting on my nerves, with the swooning and gnashing and brain fevers and such. Hubby tells me that I'll begin to like it more again from here.

I did get a hearty laugh out of Hindley's knife-gun.

Edited: Nov 4, 2009, 12:06am Top

> 18 Thanks so much Medellia, I have ordered them. Let them go on record as being the first new books I have EVER bought online (I splurged and got Moby Dick as well). I've never been one to have much cash, so it's really quite exciting. Fairly ugly covers, but it's what's inside that counts, right!

Have you read Talbin's hot review about Wuthering Heights? Most of the points she makes resonate with my own reaction to the book, particularly about how none of the characters are likeable. Poor Emily B though, causing you so much amusement! I'm sure she was a passionate creature who took herself terribly seriously. How she would hate to be laughed at!

I find it intriguing, how Charlotte depicts love as a meeting of minds, of two people growing to understand each other as no one else does, as in Jane Eyre; while Emily depicts it as a sort of unshakeable destiny, without any real exploration of how it comes to be. I mean, the whole though-earth-be-destroyed-and-death- come-between-us thing is all very romantic I guess, in a teenage Twilight sort of way, but there's no depth in it.

Nov 3, 2009, 11:51pm Top

Meddy, I am kicking myself for having missed this discussion!!! What happened to those little stars I put up all over the place!!!!! and the discussion on opera with Lola over on the previous thread?

*gnashing of teeth in 5/8*

Nov 4, 2009, 9:08am Top

Amateur. I gnash my teeth in mixed irrational meters.

We've missed you, cat.

Nov 4, 2009, 7:36pm Top

>22 ChocolateMuse: Chocolate Muse

I mean, the whole though-earth-be-destroyed-and-death- come-between-us thing is all very romantic I guess, in a teenage Twilight sort of way, but there's no depth in it.

Yes! I still haven't read Jane Eyre (ducks head), but when I do, I'm really looking forward to comparing Charlotte's and Emily's points of view. One thing I thought as I read Wuthering Heights was that either Emily had a very strange childhood or a very active imagination (or both). In any case, one gets the feeling when reading WH that she had never really been in love. Perhaps that's what I love about Austen - she portrays all sorts of nuance in the various relationships.

Medellia - I'm really interested to read what you have to say about WH when you're done, especially since it was your husband who recommended the book. (I read my husband's college copy - when he saw it he just rolled his eyes. I don't think he liked it very much ;-) )

Nov 4, 2009, 8:03pm Top

Rena- I dunno, anyone who can create a character like Mr Lockwood must have a pretty good sense of humor. But I suppose I do sometimes picture Emily Bronte as having been preternaturally serious, in a dark way. (Don't suppose anyone has ever seen the internet cartoon "Making Fiends"? I watched a few of those "episodes," and I couldn't help identifying Emily B. with Vendetta.)

And yes, I have read Talbin's great review--one of those thumbs is mine. (Wisewoman also linked on my first thread to her excellent, more sympathetic review.)

One of the unconventional aspects of our relationship is that my hubby does all the swooning over Byronic heroes. (I know waaay better. ;) He has a total mancrush on Heathcliff. I confess I can't dredge up any sympathy for him, much less love and admiration, but I do find his vengeful curses amusing.

Nov 4, 2009, 9:14pm Top

Wow, I just read wisewoman's review and am left rather speechless.

*recovers speech with diifficulty*

All the same, I had seen at least some of those awesome insights she mentions, and I never intended to suggest that WH is shallow, silly or even not a great work of literature. I guess my reaction is rather a surface one - I just don't like reading the thing! I miss human warmth. It's such a cold book; the only heat is in its passions, which are generally ugly things - hatred, revenge, and Heathcliffe's obsessive love/lust/desire for Catherine.

I must say, the two times I read it, I was quite young - mid to late teens I think. Which is probably why I missed the humour. Some day when I feel like being thoroughly depressed, I'll read it again and approach it like you have, Meddy, and get a good laugh amid all the depression. I don't remember the bit about Lockwood fleeing fearfully from a happy relationship. That is indeed rather amusing.

I recently got terribly distracted by this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5GBxmVvbE0

I laughed at your hubby's mancrush on Heathcliffe. What's to love about such a villain anyway?

>25 Talbin: Talbin, I have just finished reading Jane Eyre for the mumbleth time, and it's left me with a desire to find out more about the Brontes themselves, partly to compare them to each other, and partly to relate them to their books. I look forward to your thoughts on it once you read JE!

Nov 4, 2009, 11:52pm Top

WH is a very strange and wonderful book. It reminds me of Faulkner set in 19th century Yorkshire. so much uncontrolled Passion. most unBritish.

for an alternative tongue in cheek take on Jane Eyre, I humbly submit my review to the assembled company. (is that ok Meddy? slap me down if I get out of hand)


Nov 5, 2009, 9:03am Top

Rena- Neither would I dismiss WH. As I've said, I admire the narrative style, the structure, and the color of it. But I do think there is something a bit Twilight-y about the Catherine/Heathcliff bit. (Would that Bella had died in the middle of the first book! Perhaps we would've avoided the few hundred million gushing fangurls.)

From The Lectern:

And if she withholds these things from us, who’s to say that she might not be withholding other things from us as well, or even distorting them in order to make her motives and actions appear better than they are, in order perhaps to justify herself to the reader, and to win the reader's admiration, or sympathy? Why should we trust her? Because she appears honest? Because she wears the style of honesty on her sleeve?

I hear ya! I automatically distrust every living creature I meet--especially you. Sometimes I even suspect that you're a human masquerading as a feline. :)

Edited: Nov 5, 2009, 9:10am Top

Btw, speaking of unreliable narrators and wisewoman's review, I'm not sure I necessarily take Mr Lockwood's word at face value. He's fond of professing a number of things about himself that are contradicted by his actions. His claim at the beginning of the book is that he worshipped a girl from afar at the seaside, as long as she didn't notice him; but that as soon as she noticed him and gave him a sweet look in return, he become cold, and she was flustered and finally persuaded her mother to leave the seaside with her.

While this is all possible (and Proustian, I might add), I considered the alternate interpretation that maybe he just came off as a creepy guy at the seaside who kept staring at her. They "decamped" because, well, he looked like a scary stalker. I also considered the idea that he loved her from afar, she never did notice him, and he left feeling like a loser, then covered his shame by bragging to us.

The narrator-characters of Mr Lockwood and Nelly are my favorite aspects of the book, although because everything connected with Joseph makes me laugh, he's a favorite, too.

Nov 5, 2009, 3:13pm Top

Your constant hints of Proust are going to catch up with me one of these days. I don't know anything about him; somehow we never bumped into each other in the halls of library and college. I am afraid to be sucked into another literary addiction... but I feel myself being drawn... *resists*

He's fond of professing a number of things about himself that are contradicted by his actions.

Hmm. What things? I don't remember anything like that, but perhaps I missed it.

While this is all possible (and Proustian, I might add), I considered the alternate interpretation that maybe he just came off as a creepy guy at the seaside who kept staring at her.

Perhaps. But what is there in the text to support that or your other alternate readings? I don't see any textual reason to doubt what he said. I think Lockwood is there for comic relief and also as a contrast to the WH crowd, people who were not afraid to love dangerously. What does the story gain by these alternate readings of his character?

I would think that if he were lying about his reason for leaving the girl, he would have come up with something a little more flattering to himself? I mean, yeah, he's saying she seemed to like him too, but fleeing from her regard is hardly a brave, assured, staunch thing to do. Why not leave out his feelings for her altogether and make her an odious fortune-hunter he had to escape? A case like that would surely make him look better to his readers... IF he were lying.

Edited: Nov 5, 2009, 3:42pm Top

You could join the Salon in June for the Proust read! I tell you, when readers love him, they love him. I'm sure I come off as horribly pretentious when I sprinkle Proust into casual conversation with people these days, but gosh, I just find myself reminded of him so often. At least I don't meet with quite so many blank stares when I reference Proust in front of my academician friends. :)

As far as things on which he contradicts himself, most notably, he gleefully describes himself as a solitary misanthrope at the beginning of the book, someone who is "exaggeratedly reserved." Yet after he arrives at Thrushcross Grange, he trots right over to Wuthering Heights to meet Heathcliff, practically forcing his way through the front gate and into the house. At the end of the next chapter, even though Heathcliff clearly doesn't want to see him again, he resolves to visit the next day. The next day is cold and rainy, and he says that he had half a mind to spend it by his fire instead, yet he runs off to Wuthering Heights anyway. At Thrushcross Grange, when he is sick, he can't seem to deal without Nelly's company, and he keeps her next to him late into the night. All the while he keeps dropping lines about what a loner he usually is.

There is nothing explicitly in the text that supports my alternate interpretations, but Mr Lockwood has already shown himself to be not completely reliable about himself--and he *certainly* shows himself to be a very poor judge of other people. He decides that Heathcliff is a capital fellow with gentleman-like manners even though Heathcliff is surly with him, won't shake hands with him, etc--even laughs at Mr Lockwood when Joseph sets the dogs on him and Mr Lockwood gets a nosebleed.

But the thing that I think most reliably bolsters my alternate interpretations is that in chapter 2, Mr Lockwood, thinking that young Cathy is married to Hareton, ponders on how Mr Lockwood himself must "make Cathy regret her choice." He fancies that Cathy is attracted to him, which is absurd, in my book.

Clearly, we can't take Mr Lockwood at face value when we're dealing with his judgements of other people. I don't think we can take him at face value when he's talking about himself, either, especially because I think he has an overinflated ego. We gain a broadened perspective by reinterpreting what he says--certainly I think we lose a great deal if we're not at least a little skeptical of what he says.

If he is bragging, and I think it's possible, it's not because he "fled her regard" but because he spurned her. I think it's the psychology behind leading someone on. Maybe the person is really interested at first, maybe s/he's just interested in kindling a return to gratify his/her own vanity, but the real ego boost comes when that person then takes the other person's regard and stomps on it. There's a certain type of person who would actually brag about this sort of thing and not realize that their conduct reflects ill on them; their train of thought is "this makes the person I'm talking to recognize how very desirable I am, that I can kindle love in someone else and then throw it away."

But maybe what he says is true. Certainly, his little "cruelty" dovetails nicely into Heathcliff's story, and Heathcliff's cruelties can be seen as a very exaggerated version of Lockwood's own bad conduct, while Heathcliff's boldness contrasts with Lockwood's timidity. I just think that with Mr Lockwood, we can't know for sure.

Hope some of that makes sense, I didn't mean to dash off such an essay. As Pascal says, ""I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short." :)

Nov 5, 2009, 4:26pm Top

Just popping in to say I enjoyed reading your accounts on Les Mis. I'll keep track of this thread as you read (if you read) Crime and Punishment since I read that one just last year and now that I think about it, I do see that and Les Mis as a good pairing.

Nov 5, 2009, 5:40pm Top

I'm in that phase where I'm dithering over what's next. I've been browsing Crime & Punishment, The Odyssey, The Pickwick Papers, and Middlemarch. The intro to Middlemarch in my Oxford edition is very tantalizing (zomg! I think she wrote this book with me in mind!), so I may swing that way first. Maybe.

School is picking up for the next couple of weeks, so I'm also tempted to pick up some piece of fluff and rest my weary brain. :)

Nov 5, 2009, 5:42pm Top

But I did just pick up the Hugo and Dostoevsky book from the library, and it looks potentially rewarding and approachable. The problem, of course, is that Dostoevsky is on a higher plane of existence than I am. Mayday! Mayday! This man is so far above my head and I want the time, energy, and money to acquire a ladder!

Nov 5, 2009, 6:14pm Top

>35 Medellia: - Gleep, far above your head? You make me feel like basement-dwelling Mr Nutt in the latest Terry Pratchett I'm reading now (*rebelliously throwing Pratchett into all this Proust, Hugo and Dostoevsky*)... I dare not look up, because if I did, I'd see somewhere far above me the dregs of society.

(That is certainly not intended to imply that I'm calling anyone on this thread dregs! Quite the reverse!)

Nov 5, 2009, 6:24pm Top

That is certainly not intended to imply that I'm calling anyone on this thread dregs! Quite the reverse!

She's an unreliable narrator and means the opposite of whatever she says. Everyone get her! ;)

('Sokay, we heart you, Rena.)

Nov 5, 2009, 6:50pm Top

That Jane Eyre sounds like a bee-otch! Why would I wanna read her, or that other Jane (Austin? or something?) who wrote some stuff.

**runs and ducks for cover**

29> even suspect that you're a human masquerading as a feline

True...or masquerading as a...felon!


Nov 5, 2009, 7:24pm Top

no no no Dostoevsky is not above your head at all. Trust me, the way you chuck Proust around, Dostoevsky will be a piece of cake.

However, Middlemarch is incredible. (I'm just surprised you haven't already read it.)

If we had a keen vision and feeling for all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.

Middlemarch II.XX

Nov 5, 2009, 7:38pm Top

See, I know that quote, 'cause it's all over the trains in the subway. 'Strue. It's not my favorite "Train of Thought" quote, though (don't hit me, that's really what they call those posters)--my favorite is the opening line from Kafka's "Metamorphosis." (As most of you know, "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.") Imagine going to work with that all up in your face, lol.

I have the feeling that once I read Middlemarch I'm going to be wondering where it's been all my life. Thanks for the encouragement on the big D, I'll tackle him with confidence.

'Rique, I'd respond, but I'm afraid it would be with a smack over the head.

Nov 5, 2009, 8:04pm Top

with a herring? Can I have a go as well?

I have the feeling that once I read Middlemarch I'm going to be wondering where it's been all my life. Thanks for the encouragement on the big D, I'll tackle him with confidence.

as you are me and I am you and we are the walrus, yes.

up until about 2001 I had no interest in George Eliot at all, her name summoned up mental groans for me. Then I read Middlemarch. Then I read it again, and again, and again, and then everything else by GE I could get my hands on. GE totally rocks. I think it was Virginia Woolf who said of Middlemarch that it was the first book written for adults (?)

Nov 5, 2009, 8:29pm Top

7> I know this goes way back up the thread, but thanks for the pics of St. John the Divine. I haven't been there in decades, but when my son was little (30 years ago) and we lived on Riverside Drive (in a building owned by Duke Ellington's sister) -- we used to go there almost on a daily basis. We roamed the interior and exterior. There were masons still in the yard working on a unfinished tower. It was Ben's "peacock park" -- do peacocks still roam? He fell into the pond in the garden one chilly Spring day. Ahhh -- youthful memories.

Nov 5, 2009, 8:32pm Top

I LOVE Middlemarch -- it's a gorgeous book -- the best of Eliot. Though Silas Marner and Mill on the Floss are pretty spectacular too.

Nov 5, 2009, 10:43pm Top

Murr: Love the VW sentiment! Not until recently has George Eliot been on my radar--through the years when I've heard her name, the only thought I had was of my best friend from school when I was growing up. A precocious lass, she was avidly devouring The Mill on the Floss for fun in 8th or 9th grade.

Janeajones: You're welcome! I go there frequently, too, and the peacocks do still roam. They keep the yard closed off, but the white peacock likes to hop the fence into the sculpture garden and try to bum food off the passersby.

Nov 6, 2009, 8:22am Top

Ooh, ooh, add me to the ranks of Middlemarch lovers! I found the first two hundred pages a little slow, but right around 201 I fell headfirst into it and stayed submerged till the end, when I came up choking a little. Amazing book. Do they quote this line on the subway?

"People glorify all sorts of bravery except the kind they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors."

Chocolate, don't be intimidated! You and I are very young and have lots of reading still to do. Take it one book at a time.

Getting back to the WH conversation, I have to admit, Medellia, that I never paid really close attention to Lockwood. He was just an excuse for the real story to be told! However, I have a few thoughts. First, if indeed he is a social creature posturing as a "solitary misanthrope," I don't think it's really intended to fool us. At least, I don't think he is lying intentionally.

His assessment of Heathcliff is probably due to insecurity and fear more than anything else. He wants to feel that Heathcliff and he are on the same level, men among men. He doesn't want to admit that Heathcliff terrifies him... and I think in this instance Lockwood is a stand-in for how we feel. It would be easier to pass Heathcliff off as a "capital fellow" and hurriedly move on. By doing that, we've approved him, and placed ourselves in the position of approvers, as if Heathcliff stood at our bar. I think when Lockwood tries to tell us that Heathcliff is all right, he knows and we know it isn't true; it isn't intended to deceive. Lockwood is trying to comfort himself.

I just don't see what those other possibilities for his backstory really add to the bigger picture. If he is a creepy stalker type, Healthcliff makes him look — well — utterly pathetic! And if Lockwood is a stalker, why is he not out stalking his object? Why would be bury himself away in the moors? The obvious answer is "if he got busted," but eh, I don't know. I'm not sure how that would relate to the larger themes of the book.

The idea of wounded pride is maybe a better one — that he never did get a smile from that girl, but something else entirely, and retired, mortified, to get over it as best he could. It could be... but again, does this give us any extra insight into the rest of the story? Does it serve the central relationships?

Most likely I am just a gullible reader who wants to believe narrators when they narrate :)

Edited: Nov 6, 2009, 9:22am Top

I may have steered our chat in slightly the wrong direction when I used the term "unreliable narrator"--an unreliable narrator need not always be deliberately untruthful. He can be, as I see Lockwood to be, dim and naive, with a clouded view of the situation. (Add to this that not only does he make poor judgements of other people, he also projects on them ("I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him," he says in a rare self-aware moment) the qualities that he believes he himself holds.)

I think you give him far too much credit--if he's really fearful and insecure about Heathcliff, why does he want to hang around him so much at the beginning? I think he's just flat dumb. I mean, here's a guy who made silly faces at the growling dogs until they set upon him and he was forced to shield himself with a table and jab at them with a fire poker. This is not a character to be taken seriously. :) And I understand what you mean, but really, for me to pass Heathcliff off as a "capital fellow" and hurriedly move on (unless you mean move on out of the room!) would require a truly amazing level of denial.

"Creepy stalker" was meant to be from the perspective of the daughter and her mother. Not all the men who ogle us in public are really stalkers (even if I do find them creepy sometimes).

At any rate, you continue to believe Mr Lockwood, and I'll continue to doubt him, and the universe will be balanced!

Edited: Nov 6, 2009, 9:37am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Nov 6, 2009, 10:20am Top

Wisewoman, that's EXACTLY what happened to me. I started it thinking, ok, another 19th century love story (which i adore) but nothing special. Dorothea and Celia looking at their late mother's jewellery yawn yawn yawn. and suddenly, out of the blue, that sentence that I quoted earlier in the thread hit me right in the solar plexus. I realised that I was reading something extra extra special, and quite different from your other 19th century novels. I was so stunned, I had to start the book all over again.

I was reading it on the bus at the time, and I still remember exactly where the bus was when it happened.

GE was an incredible woman. I admire intensely her commitment to her art and her eccentricity in the face of real unrelenting social pressure. She is one of my Saints.

Nov 6, 2009, 10:24am Top

Chocolatemuse, all joking about virgins aside, I kind of envy you, that you have not read that many classics. You have all these wonderful discoveries to make for the first time. Nothing beats discovering a great classic. Except rereading it all over again!

Nov 6, 2009, 3:31pm Top

Ok, guys, Middlemarch is next! It has officially been moved into my "currently reading" collection! (trumpet fanfare!)

Now I need to go away and have some lunch and get past the introduction so I can start reading the actual book!

Tomcat, you closed the deal, but I was also spurred on as I was browsing David Lodge's The Art of Fiction in the bookstore this morning. Chapter 2: The Intrusive Author (George Eliot, E.M. Forster). Ooooh, I love that aspect of Forster! Must! Read! Now!

Exclamation points!!

Edited: Nov 6, 2009, 5:35pm Top

Exclamation points, known in the publishing industry as screamers I believe.

hope thats not repetition, have to catch up on your thread as a whole medellia. You are knocking off the big tomes with nonchalant abandon -- and no, I think Dostoyevksy is very accesible to one who has made their way through Proust (though I have to say i found Constance Garnett's brothers k stodgy at times).

Nov 6, 2009, 11:53pm Top

48 Tomcat: Wow, that's crazy that the same thing happened to you! I better go check out what exactly is on page 201; I don't remember a specific moment that grabbed me. I should have started over like you did... but I was so absorbed in what was currently happening that I couldn't! And it's not that I didn't enjoy the first 200 pages. It will be interesting when I reread, remembering that first time.

I know you will enjoy it, Medellia!

Nov 7, 2009, 8:54am Top

Tony! Welcome to the new thread. Haven't seen you around much these days, hope all is well.

Thanks to all who offered encouragement on Crime & Punishment / Dostoevsky. I must've been trying to tackle him on a couple of low-brain-energy days. He'll be up soon, but now, Middlemarch.

Nov 7, 2009, 1:06pm Top

whew looks like I have to read Middlemarch. I've only read Silas Marner, which I liked in high school and I think reread it later and liked it still.

Nov 8, 2009, 9:02am Top

Vote Gore for Middlemarch!!!!


Nov 8, 2009, 10:21am Top

I totally should not have spent all day yesterday reading Middlemarch. But I totally did. Omg omg omg omg omg! I know that's not brilliant literary criticism, but it accurately sums up my feeling so far.

This book is far more dense and complex than I expected. I'm reading it at about the pace that I read, say, Richard Powers, and maybe only a smidge faster than I read Proust. (I read almost all day yesterday and only got through 150 pages.) She's so psychologically acute in her portraits, and they are all so full and rich--no wonder this book is so big.

I already get Dorothea. On the first two pages, I thought, yes! I also thought it silly that people pay so much attention to clothes! It's plumage, it's a class marker, it's wasteful, it's this or that thing that I consider useless or pernicious. I dress simply, I own maybe 6 or 7 outfits at a time, patch them up a little if they need it, and I spend little money on my wardrobe. My motivations are not exactly the same as hers, though they're not as far apart as one may think. And then the scene with the jewels, where Dorothea first refuses to wear such worldly things, then falls in love with the emerald necklace and has to justify it to herself. I laughed heartily.

So here I am walking down the street with hubby, telling him how I totally get Dorothea, and how she caved with that emerald necklace, and... ooooooh. I stop in my tracks. Look at that big scarf/shawl thing. It's multicolored, it's so pretty, ooooh! Twenty dollars, huh? Expensive. But, um, it'll keep me warm inside--winter's coming and the heat isn't always very reliable in the buildings on campus. And it's soft so it won't...uh...abrade my skin? *It's so pretty and I want it!*

We're birds of a feather, she and I. :) But seriously, on a personal note, I completely understand her yearning, her wish to "live a grand life," here and now, and her inability to figure out how to go about doing that. I'm very curious to see Eliot's answers.

Nov 8, 2009, 1:23pm Top

Medellia - I just want to endorse the accolades given to Crime and Punishment which is one of my absolute favourite all time books from one of my absolute favourite all time writers. I have yet to crack open 'The Brothers K' which is a sin.

It is lovely to read that you live your books. I hope you bought that scarf!!!

Nov 8, 2009, 1:38pm Top

I really love your posts about your reading! So astute and just so much fun. Can't wait for Les Mis and Proust, which I've momentarily set aside. (Gee, no pressure there, uh:))

Nov 8, 2009, 1:53pm Top

I'm so excited that you're enjoying Middlemarch! It is easily one of my favorite books ever, though I can never decide if it or Silas Marner is my favorite Eliot&madsh;they're both so wonderful, albeit in very different ways. Isn't it incredible how close she gets to describing people you know, including yourself? If someone described Lydgate to me, without my having read the book, I would never have thought he and I would have anything in common, but certain of his emotions, reactions, and aspirations reminded me of myself. Weird.

Nov 8, 2009, 7:44pm Top

>49 tomcatMurr: Murr, thank you. I will endeavour to be proud of my ignorance, while setting forth to lessen it.

I did actually begin Middlemarch some time ago, and must not have got up to the magic page 201, because I did that thing where I put it down temporarily one day and never got back to it. My reason for not loving it was that I couldn't get past GE's hang-ups, as I perceived them. Every sentence seemed to me to be saying, "see, I'm intelligent even though I'm a woman, and despite my disadvantages I can write as well as any man". This is no doubt grossly unfair, but there it is. I felt like I was hammering at this barrier of the author's need to prove herself, and couldn't get through to the story, or to the actual literature. I recall reading something somewhere about Eliot's grief over her disadvantage as a woman (someone, was it Eliot herself? said that a woman could never have written War and Peace, which was published around the same time) and I let that one-dimensional idea of GE influence my perception of the book to a ridiculous degree.

Now I want very much to try it again. (if I had world enough, and time... sadly, it might just have to wait in line.)

Nov 8, 2009, 8:11pm Top

So, did you buy the scarf? Inquiring minds must know!

Nov 8, 2009, 9:53pm Top

>55 tomcatMurr: Murrushka,

I am shocked. We do not mention Gore's connection to Middlemarch on LT. Gore played only a minor role in Middlemarch (chapter nine). Dorothea almost sees him, but doesn't. Later Will Ladislaw passes him on the street and almost but not quite sees him. Readers have never seen him in the text. He was removed from the novel by the Literary Police for posing as fictional character who wasn't fictional. Subsequently, he married Taffy or Tipper or somebody like that and took up politics.

Nov 8, 2009, 10:11pm Top

But I thought Gore invented Middlemarch, or was that Middle Earth?

Nov 8, 2009, 10:27pm Top

>63 solla: solla,

No, no, no. Gore almost appeared as a minor minion of Sauron, but nobody saw him, so he was dismissed from the book.

Nov 9, 2009, 12:08am Top

Hi, everyone! I see you've all been having fun without me--glad to see you here, carry on!

I'm sorry to disappoint, but I did not, in fact, buy the scarf. I warn you not to take this as a proof of my virtue. I held back merely because due to unforeseen circumstances, our budget was blown out of the water recently. However, it's money we'll see again by the end of this week--and then I'm making a beeline to the scarf guy.

ncgraham- I have Lydgate pegged as my brother. I absolutely roared when I read his line about how he had read enough literature when he was young, and that was quite sufficient--now he only reads books within the medical field. My brother's new girlfriend recently begged me to have a talk with him and get him to read anything with her that wasn't health-related--she said that he said he'd read enough literature when he was younger and wasn't interested in that right now. George Eliot, you're a genius!

Nov 9, 2009, 2:03am Top

Yes, well, obviously Lydgate's aversion to non helath-related books is obviously not one of the areas where I see a lot of myself in him. ;) That's hilarious about your brother, though!

Nov 9, 2009, 5:14am Top

I think I saw Gore in the scarf shop, and I think he bought your scarf! you better hurry down there, Meddy.

Nov 9, 2009, 8:09am Top

Medellia, it doesn't surprise me in the least that you are identifying so strongly with Dorothea. I really love how Eliot probes her inner life. It is, as you say, so realistic. I love the scarf story! Let us know when the precious item is safely purchased.

Add Middlemarch to your big-classics-to-eventually-read-but-not-all-at-the-same-time list, Chocolate! :) It is definitely worth it. I want to reread it now.

Nov 10, 2009, 4:16pm Top

Jeepers, every time I turn around there's 50 unread messages on this (or previous) thread! I have to admit now to skimming.

Oh! oh! oh! yay! Middlemarch!!!! I sweated through all those posts; it was a real nail-biter there for a while. But in the end, she picked Middlemarch! I have little to add to what others have said, but MM has become, over the years, one of my all-time favorite books.

Nov 11, 2009, 11:44am Top

Lois, it's swiftly becoming one of my favorite books as well.

I continue to identify with Dorothea, and I've also identified with Mary since she was introduced. What a character!

"Mary was fond of her own thoughts, and could amuse herself well sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap; for, having early had strong reason to believe that things were not likely to be arranged for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time in astonishment and annoyance at that fact. And she had already come to take life very much as a comedy in which she had a proud, nay, a generous resolution not to act the mean or treacherous part. Mary might have become cynical if she had not had parents whom she honoured, and a well of affectionate gratitude within her, which was all the fuller because she had learned to make no unreasonable claims."

Nov 11, 2009, 6:30pm Top

*gulp* I'm trying to resist, but the pull of Middlemarch has suddenly got even stronger...

I just realised what was wrong with me before! I wanted it to be another Gaskell! I'd just finished Wives and Daughters at the point I started MM, and wanted the same atmosphere to continue. Mistake. Big mistake.

Nov 11, 2009, 7:04pm Top

Come toward the light, Rena... Middlemarch is waiting for you here... Just walk toward the light...

My past experience suggests that there's often a wrong time for a great book. Now is the right time for me, with Middlemarch. I'd say that when you're in the mood to tackle the big issues of life and think about all the little corners of human individuals, that's when you should pick it up and not let go.

Edited: Nov 11, 2009, 7:10pm Top

(says Dorothea) "But I have a belief of my own, and it comforts me."

"What is that?" said Will, rather jealous of the belief.

"That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil--widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower."

"That is a beautiful mysticism--it is a--"

"Please not to call it by any name," said Dorothea, putting out her hands entreatingly. "You will say it is Persian, or something else geographical. It is my life. I have found it out, and cannot part with it. I have always been finding out my religion since I was a little girl. I used to pray so much--now I hardly ever pray. I try not to have desires merely for myself, because they may not be good for others, and I have too much already." . . . "What is your religion?" said Dorothea. "I mean--not what you know about religion, but the belief that helps you most?"

"To love what is good and beautiful when I see it," said Will. "But I am a rebel: I don't feel bound, as you do, to submit to what I don't like."

(...And I could just keep typing! But I stop here.)

Nov 11, 2009, 8:41pm Top

Lovely. Yes, I agree that this are right and wrong times for a great book. The late 70s was my Doctor Zhivago era. I should reread it now (if only they would stop publishing new books...or I would stop discovering new authors!)

Edited: Nov 15, 2009, 10:01pm Top

Dear Me,

Here is a picture for me. I will know who it is.

lots of love .


PS. Keep up the Middlemarch excerpts. I am enjoying them.

Nov 15, 2009, 10:41pm Top

Oh, wasn't he dreamy? *sigh* He looks like "Nacht und Traüme" sounds...

I had made it a little over halfway through Middlemarch by a few days ago, but I have been stalled since, thanks to the dreaded swine flu. Save me, Tertius Lydgate! What?! You mean you don't dispense drugs??? But seriously, hubby gifted me with the swine flu, but it is not bad for either one of us--I've had colds worse than this. Mostly, I'm tired and unable to concentrate for long, so when my brain is in gear I've been trying to get my work done, and then rest. I'm sure Middlemarch will get more attention from me by the end of the week.

I've been musing on George Eliot and how she connects with Victor Hugo. They both present a picture of moral and social progress in the world. For Hugo, this progress is essentially a force in the universe that emanates from God; history is progress. Eliot was a humanistic atheist; she said that she was neither an optimist, nor a pessimist, but a "meliorist." She believed that humans were making progress toward a better, more equal society, and that the world could be improved through human action.

Both also seem to have boundless reserves of sympathy. Hugo's narrator comes off as a benevolent grandfather type, and we are often forced into sympathy with the "bad" characters. Vargas Llosa wrote something about how Les Mis was really about "forgiving Satan" (an actual feature of Hugo's notions of eschatology). Eliot, too, has a habit of intruding into the narrative just when you find yourself most annoyed with a character, just when you're about to write him or her off as a lousy human being. She takes you aside and says, but look at what this character has inside--don't you sympathize? And anyway, look inside yourself, and tell me whether you can really judge this person.

I think I shall have more things to say about self, egoism, selflessness, and self-sacrifice in regard to both--Eliot particularly has some great insights into the perniciousness of egoism in one's life, and the way it affects others. But I'm finding myself fuzzy at the moment, so I'll post that later, with excerpts.

Edited: Nov 15, 2009, 10:54pm Top

Medillia dear, if the above is evidence of your brain on swine flu, I simply can't wait to read Les Miserables led by the clear-headed version. I'm counting down the days...

Edited to say "Get well soon." My daughter had swine flu, and while it's not bad, it's not fun. Do take care.

Dec 1, 2009, 9:48pm Top

Teresa, you're too kind! And I see from the "what page are you on" thread that you've begun your trip through Les Mis. Hooray!

I have finally recovered from the swine flu. I'm now running dreadfully behind and trying to play catch-up. But I did take time out to write a review of Middlemarch:

...Which as you can tell from my review, I absolutely loved.

I decided to keep up the ambition, so I started War and Peace last week. More thoughts on that soon(ish).

Dec 1, 2009, 10:29pm Top

*gasp* She lives! I knew this, of course, but you hadn't posted here in so long, I was wondering if you'd moved threads again. Glad to see you back and fully recovered.

Great review!

Read Middlemarch. Read it now.

Oh dear, I want to. I want to reread it so badly. And Les Mis too. But I need to finish LotR right now, and then I think I need a break from phonebook-sized rereads. Maybe to satisfy my Eliot craving, though, I'll read Scenes of Clerical Life. Now what to do for Hugo....

Dec 2, 2009, 9:37am Top

As discussed in your thread elsewhere, Nathan, I believe my next Eliot will be Daniel Deronda. And I suspect it's not so far off in my future. January or February sounds about right.

Also discussed on your thread, but written here as a public service announcement: I thought the 1994 miniseries of Middlemarch was excellent overall. I have my little nitpicks, but it's definitely worth more press than it gets.

Dec 3, 2009, 8:27am Top

I love your review, Medellia. You make me want to reread badly. I want to reread slowly and savor the book... I tend to read very quickly the first time through something. Great thoughts. I had a similar experience with the falling-in-love scene you mention.

Dec 3, 2009, 1:03pm Top


PM me right away. I must know who that scrumptious young man is. I fear I am making no headway with Les Mis. I am on a Hamsun/Byatt/fairy tale analysis trip. Drugs help on this sort of trip. Absinthe is good also.

Dec 3, 2009, 2:55pm Top

Thanks, Amy--when you do get around to rereading it someday, give me your thoughts please! Or write us all one of your lovely reviews.

urania: I am on a Hamsun/Byatt/fairy tale analysis trip.
You will write some comments on your Club Read thread? Pretty please? *clasps hands together pleadingly* I just received my Folio Society copy of Possession and have it on my next year's reading list...


Dec 3, 2009, 3:31pm Top

I believe it is Schubert.

Meddy, I agree that the Middlemarch miniseries deserves to be better-known, especially considering some of the other that are (*cough*SandyWelch'sJaneEyreandEmma*coughcough*), but I just don't remember being thrilled with it. It was not even a matter of factual accuracy ... it just didn't have the same "feel" as the book for me. I liked it, but it's not a favorite.

I think you'll enjoy Daniel Deronda, but remember to save time for Silas Marner as well—that's my other favorite Eliot novel.

Dec 3, 2009, 3:42pm Top

It was not even a matter of factual accuracy ... it just didn't have the same "feel" as the book for me.

Yes, it's not the same experience. I did prepare myself for that beforehand. It's never the same when you're taking a novel with an intrusive, philosophizing narrator and one where you're peeking into the character's heads a lot. I had the same experience of disappointment when I first watched the Merchant/Ivory adaptations of Forster (Maurice, A Room With a View, Howards End). So I attributed the difference in feeling to those conventions that really just can't translate to film. (Well, the latter can be done with voiceovers sometimes, but I don't always find this to be successful. The isolated "snowballing of voices in the head" moments in Middlemarch were fairly well done, I guess, but they didn't add much other than letting us know that the character was dwelling on the action that just happened.)

They certainly did write that adaptation with the readers of the novel in mind. There was a great deal that I had to explain to my husband, who hasn't read it (but I'll get him to read it sooner or later). A number of places where I had to tell him, "Ok, well in the book she had been thinking about this and this... but of course you can't know that."

I'll be getting around to all of Eliot's novels, I assure you, and probably soon. So we can talk about Silas Marner next year! Yay!

Dec 3, 2009, 5:11pm Top

I don't know, it's just ... different. I didn't have that feeling at all with the BBC's version of Daniel Deronda, which is written quite similarly—but then again, I didn't like the original novel as much as Middlemarch either. Ah well. Maybe I can continue my quest to read all of Eliot next year as well; I still have Adam Bede, Romola, Felix Holt and Scenes of Clerical Life to go.

By the bye, what do you think should be done with a poor misguided boy who didn't care for A Room with a View and barely got through it? Because such is yours truly.

Dec 3, 2009, 5:34pm Top

By the bye, what do you think should be done with a poor misguided boy who didn't care for A Room with a View and barely got through it?

Gasp! I'd toss him out the window! ;) Eh, I don't know what to tell you except that I'm thinking of rereading it very soon (one of the "monthly author reads" groups is doing Forster this month), and perhaps I'll write a review which will totally blow your mind and make you love the book. Probably not. But I'm surprised--I figured that anybody who likes comedy-of-manners type lit would love it.

I can say that beyond the fact that I think it's a pretty perfect little gem, the story appeals to me personally. I married my George Emerson, and I know how it feels to be Lucy Honeychurch. I feel the same way about Persuasion, except that I wasn't quite persuaded away from my dear Wentworth, thank goodness. I've been rereading Persuasion a lot this year (my 27th, same as Anne). I should write a review.

(Persuasion is doubly appealing to me. My beloved sister, 10 years older than I am, was persuaded away from her Wentworth, her first love, during her high school days. Flash forward to today: after some 18 years apart, they've now been happily together for a few years. The story is even more romantic than it sounds and involves an unlikely 19th-century literature-esque coincidence or two.)

Dec 4, 2009, 12:48am Top

#82, yes it is Schubert. to die for, right?

Dec 13, 2009, 12:26pm Top

My brain is being stretched to its limits and I am stressed out to the max, so I've been reading less War & Peace and indulging in light reading.

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis. Only the last two stories grabbed me. The first, "Miracle," was ok. The collection is a bit light on the science fiction. But "Epiphany" was a lovely, heartfelt story, and "Newsletter" was fun. In the latter, near Christmas, suddenly people start politely standing in line, reading serious literature at the airport, and generally being nicey-nice and getting their lives together. The protagonist figures out that alien parasites are taking over the human race. She wonders whether she should stop the parasites or not.

Also read Connie Willis's novella All Seated on the Ground. Another Christmas story. Available here:
I enjoyed it, very witty. Aliens arrive on Earth and all they do is stand around and glare. The protagonist's attempts at communication end up focusing on music. The final message of the story is somewhat of a cliché, I admit, but it's nice anyway.

I'm short on time. I'll wrap it up here and write about Annie On My Mind and maybe "Babette's Feast" later.

Dec 29, 2009, 11:36am Top

Precious little leisure time these days. Brain is jelly. Likely to continue through most of January. Sweet, sweet Wodehouse will carry me through. I read Carry On, Jeeves while on vacation, and most of The Inimitable Jeeves. Am likely to finish the latter before the New Year, then switch over to new thread. Picked up a bit more Wodehouse at Half Price Books while on vacation in Texas. I started watching the series as well a few weeks ago. Great stuff, really captures the essence of Jeeves & Wooster.

Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 7:25pm Top

I just finished Carry On, Jeeves yesterday! And Right Ho, Jeeves the day before! I fully agree - Wodehouse, my hero - even though I'm having slight guilt trips about neglected Les Mis...

I think I shall re-read Summer Lightning today... ahhhh, summer holidays :)

ETA: Meddy, I don't think I'll be able to access your new thread as long as Club Read stays private - when it becomes available, could you, would you, be so kind as to let me know somehow that I can get to it again in case I miss it for half the year like I did this year? I like your thread. Don't wanna miss it.

Dec 29, 2009, 7:35pm Top

>91 ChocolateMuse: even though I'm having slight guilt trips about neglected Les Mis...

Don't worry, you're not the only one! I'm taking a small break and reading a few mysteries. I just finished the convent section and felt like I needed a bit of the 21st century.

And - I don't think Club Read 2010 is private? Or am I wrong?

Dec 29, 2009, 7:46pm Top

Rena, how funny! So we're both reading Jeeves books these days. I took some little side trips while I was reading Les Mis, too.

I don't think, either, that Club Read 2010 is private. I just logged out and I can still see it. Does this link to my new thread work for you, Rena?

Edited: Dec 29, 2009, 7:54pm Top

>92 Talbin: Talbin, you are right! Sorry, I hadn't even checked, just assumed from the discussion I read before that it would be private at first.

I'm not sure whether to join or not - I know there are worries about the largeness of the group, and I'm a bit of an outsider.

ETA: Meddy, thanks! You popped in while I was paused on the page. Yep, the link works. I can't wait to follow your marvelous miterature meanderings in 2010 - thank you!

And I am about to leave Jeeves and start on Blandings, which I actually marginally prefer.

Dec 29, 2009, 8:25pm Top

I think you'd fit right in at Club Read (with so many Salon folks around here, I think you know a lot of us). But I'll be happy to follow your thread wherever you may go. I saw in Amy's thread that you may do the 75 Book Challenge--if you do so, would you be so kind as to pop over to my profile and send me a message with a link to your thread? I currently have the 75 Books group(s) on ignore, just because the high volume of posts & threads on there really clutters up talk for me. I'll probably stop ignoring it in Feb of next year once I have a chance to go through and red-x all the ones that don't interest me, but I don't have the time now.

Dec 29, 2009, 11:13pm Top

Rena-If you go the 75-book-route I'll star you over there. But I'm going to try Club Read and I'll be new, so you wouldn't be the only newbie there.

I'm still enjoying Les Mis, but also took a couple of quick side trips (Love and Summer and now The Quickening Maze) and I just today picked up a couple of lit crit books on Hugo from the library, so Les Mis is going to be an ongoing project for at least another week or so.

I took note of your Willis reads before Christmas, Meddy. I've read Lincoln's Dreams, Passage, and The Doomsday Book and have been meaning to read more of her for ages. Maybe this is the year. And now I'll hang my head in shame and admit that I've yet to read any Wodehouse.

Dec 30, 2009, 9:18am Top

Those are three Willis novels I haven't read yet. If I were you, I'd proceed directly to To Say Nothing of the Dog. It's great, even if you haven't read the Jerome K. Jerome. I have vague plans to someday read Three Men in a Boat and then reread To Say Nothing of the Dog.

I had my first foray into Wodehouse in '08. He's delightful if you like silly British humor. Right Ho, Jeeves is my favorite so far, followed by The Code of the Woosters. Rena, I will be getting to Psmith eventually & I picked up Blandings Castle while I was on vacation.

Dec 30, 2009, 11:06am Top

I first encountered Wodehouse in 2008 as well, Medellia. Laughing Gas was my first one, and I still remember how hard it made me laugh. I've since read mostly Jeeves and Wooster, with an excursion into Blandings with Leave it to Psmith and then The Luck of the Bodkins. All are very, very funny.

If you can find them, I HIGHLY recommend the audiobooks read by Peter Cecil. My favorite of the ones I've heard so far is The Code of the Woosters: Jeeves to the Rescue.

I have only seen one of the miniseries (I think it was Code of the Woosters) and it just didn't do it for me, somehow. You lose all that brilliant narrative humor.

I recommend Three Men in a Boat! It's extremely funny, and yet it also has some more contemplative passages that are very beautiful. And they aren't *just* there to be made fun of, either.

I admit I also took a quick detour from Les Mis over the holidays, rereading Pratchett's Hogfather just for the fun of it :). I'll update in my thread soon.

*is now debating whether to go to Club Read or the 75-Book Challenge*

Dec 30, 2009, 12:08pm Top

Thanks for the tip on those audiobooks, Amy! I'll definitely search them out. Ok, you've convinced me: next year: Three Men in a Boat.

*beckons Amy & Rena toward Club Read, welcomes Teresa* :)

Dec 31, 2009, 3:11am Top

> 98 - Amy, I think you meant Jonathan Cecil - I add my sincere and appreciative recommendations to that one. The only audio reader I've found who truly understands Wodehouse, and adds a whole extra element of funniness to it. If at all possible, get him reading Leave it to Psmith - that is an unequalled reading experience in my life.

I'm not a huge fan of Three Men in a Boat. Nothing like Wodehouse, and I found the humour too slapstick and predictable.

I'm getting inclined to join Club Read - only about 12 hours to decide now!!

Happy New Year everyone :)

Dec 31, 2009, 8:47am Top

Ack, yes, Jonathan Cecil. Sorry! I will look for his reading of Leave it to Psmith :D

Maybe I love Three Men so much because it was really my first foray into British humor, and it tickled me so much. I might not love it quite so much on a reread, but then again, maybe I would. I guess I'll have to reread to find out.

Dec 31, 2009, 9:31am Top

for something both surreal life and very funny...round Ireland with a fridge. Tony Hawks loses a bar bet and hitches the perimeter of Eire, dorm fridge in tow. Between them they find rides, work, romance, sport ( errr. the fridge takes up surfing) and, of course, more ale. Modern droll.

Dec 31, 2009, 10:20am Top

Here is the link to my new thread once more:

Happy Almost New Year to all you Gregorian calendar folks.

Finished yesterday: The Inimitable Jeeves. Started: Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit. More of that on my new thread.

Thanks for the recommendation, Bob. When I saw the name Tony Hawks, I thought, "the skateboard guy?" Apparently the "s" makes the difference. :)

Group: Club Read 2009

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