Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sunsets Notwithstanding

47. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

When I got home for Thanksgiving, I didn't intend to fully reread this childhood favorite, but between last night and this afternoon, I did. Obviously, I'm not the one making the meal! I remembered the charming characters and events and wanted to revisit those passages that bore resemblance to my own experience at college. I'm afraid my social life has not quite lived up to Anne's, but it hasn't fallen too short either. I haven't received so many proposals yet, but that contributes more to my relief than anything else.

Anne of the Island chronicles the college experience of Anne Shirley, formerly of Green Gables. Montgomery expresses many timeless sentiments through Anne and her "chums" and their house mother, Aunt Jamesina. They experience the pressures of studies and social lives, along with the rarely mentioned but present tension of being among few female students. Anne reflects on turning twenty, and the establishment of her character. Her friend Phil tries to conquer her general indecisiveness as well as decide who to marry. Sidenote: Philippa Gordon or "Phil" is one of my favorite characters in any book ever. She reminds me of a couple of my most light-hearted, impulsive friends. Anne wrestles with money woes, scholarly woes, literary woes, and romantic woes as well. She writes a story for which the most just criticism is her liberal descriptions of sunsets. Reading this book again, and paying attention to detail, those passages are interspersed everywhere. L.M could no more resist flowery descriptions than Anne, and while it is undeniably overkill, there is still something sweet in it, one feels she really did appreciate beauty that much.

I can never get enough references to fairyland and "kindred spirits," there is something one finds in the Anne books, and all Montgomery's books really, that you either relate to or you don't. It is like Aunt Jamesina's definition of gumption, " Any one who has gumption knows what it is, and any one who hasn't can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it (206)."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Questionless, A Pale Imitation, Haply, Amusing

46. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox

What if Don Quixote's peculiarity were transported across the European continent and English Channel, from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth, into the person of a young noble woman? Charlotte Lennox, a female novelist making her way in an England only beginning to respect her profession in men, and still somewhat disdaining fiction in favor of history, tried to answer this question. Yet, her use of Cervantes' form and style is to comment on the absurdities of her own society and perhaps particularly the position of women.

Arabella, the Female Quixote, is addicted to romances as the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance was to his novels of chivalry. She is raised in isolation, and only introduced into society at age eighteen, after the death of her father. Her uncle is appointed her guardian, and her male cousin Mr. Glanville falls in love with her, as her female cousin Miss Glanville envies her for her beauty and delights in exposing her absurdities.She entertains notions that any man who dares declare his love for her should be banished, which is difficult as she supposes all men perpetually besotted.

Arabella is also like the Don in that her sentiments can seem quite reasonable and admirable, when she is not discussing her favorite topic. Mr. Glanville's love for her is supposed to be based on this, and of course her beauty (as Lennox cannot omit this romantic prerequisite), but I had trouble sustaining belief in it. He is constantly exasperated and distressed at her fancies. He does not at all sympathize with her, nor is he even familiar with romances. In this respect, he reminds me of Mr. Darcy. He wishes to marry a woman whom he cannot respect. What kind of love is that? It is my modern opinion that if one cannot accept someone as they are, then you are not in love with that person, simply an idea of what they could be. In that way, he is as fanciful as herself.

The book is much shorter than its predecessor and so contains less amusing elements and ways of making its points. However, it is more straightforward, and while often in stylistic language, language that is still more accessible to today's readers. I would recommend The Female Quixote without scruple to fans of the Knight, readers of romances who might wish to poke fun at themselves, and those interested in the rise of British feminism.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In One Smooth Move

It is nearing the year's end, and I still have nine books to go. As I declared when I read The Ultimate Hitchhikers' Guide and counted it as one, I am not ashamed to go back and count those books as five.

Accordingly, at this time, I am officially increasing my total to 45, in order to appropriately acknowledge that massive effort.

I would also like to announce, lest anyone suggest I am shirking, that I am currently in the midst of; Northanger Abbey, Mrs. Dalloway, The Female Quixote, Brisingr, and The Famished Road.

So, if I finish all of those, or the other book I'm scheduled to read before the end of the semester i.e. The Castle of Oltranto, or any other work, of course, I will have reached my goal.

Support? Snaps? Something?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Virtue Endured

41. Pamela; Or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson

This eighteenth century classic barely dignifies notice. This is over five hundred pages, in the eponymous character's letters, of expostulation on the proper behavior of a servant whose master wishes to rape her. Worse, Richardson is in dead earnest. Oh, sure, social commentary on the contemporary relationship between rich and poor, and Victorian ideals for women can be found here, but the popular conduct manuals of the time are probably comparatively fascinating. Pamela is an insufferable heroine, obsessed with her Virtue, and yet not possessed of the sense not to marry a man who several times attempted to rape her. The would-be rapist, Mr. B, is a wimp as a villain, as he never actually commits his intended crime, and yet he expects the (albeit complying) Pamela to yield to his every wish the instant he presents her with the coveted ring. A single passage from this novel is enough to confirm its subject, any historical or literary merit I doubt it contains, and the absolute lack of necessity of reading further.