Beautiful Georgian home in decay? Check. English country vistas? Check. An expose on a crumbling class system? Check. A believable, yet not entirely r...moreBeautiful Georgian home in decay? Check. English country vistas? Check. An expose on a crumbling class system? Check. A believable, yet not entirely reliable narrator? Check. Well-drawn characters? Check. Descriptions worth savoring? Check. A can't-put-it-down-can't-wait-for-the-bus-ride-home suspenseful plot? Check. Tingles of the spine and other extremities? Triple check.
A true Gothic psychological thriller with a brain! Couldn't put it down.(less)
One reviewer described Hardwick as a "portraitist in miniature" and this seems very apt. In this collection of critical essays (critical only in the s...moreOne reviewer described Hardwick as a "portraitist in miniature" and this seems very apt. In this collection of critical essays (critical only in the sense that they engage in some close reading of texts; I wouldn't consider them academic), she turns an erudite and gently puzzling tone to the work and life of the Bronte sisters and their characters; Sylvia Plath's incantatory "heroine" status in 20th century poetry; Virginia Woolf & Bloomsbury; the female characters of Ibsen; and the complex creative relationships between the Fitzgeralds, the Carlyles, and the Wordsworth siblings. In the title essay, she explores illicit sex as a character-defining act for certain literary characters of a certain era. Throughout, Hardwick explores the intersections between what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a woman writing, what this means for female characters, and what it means to be a muse. I didn't necessarily agree with all of her evaluations, but learned many pertinent biographical facts that do further illuminate these beloved authors and their equally beloved characters. Especially interesting were the essays on the Brontes, Plath, Jane Carlyle (I now have every intention of reading her collected letters), and Ibsen's "A Doll's House." I've always found the character of Nora troubling, and Hardwick does a great job confronting the character from a fresh and sympathetic perspective. All in all, a thumbs up.(less)
This book is split into two sections of essays. The lyrical essays in the first section are probably of more interest to the general reader, since the...moreThis book is split into two sections of essays. The lyrical essays in the first section are probably of more interest to the general reader, since the critical essays are often in response to other works of French literature (not having read all of them, it's a bit harder to follow Camus's arguments). The very last section contains some interviews with him, where he emphatically denies being a nihilist.
What was unexpected for me is that the lyrical essays are almost all nature essays in some respect, or about the combination of man and landscape. One of these, "The Desert," is probably one of the most beautiful essays I have ever read. Even when I disagreed with Camus, his prose, descriptions, and turns of phrase have a kind of indelibility, an indelibility that seems as if only those words, in that order, could provide the right shade of meaning for what's expressed. To me, this is always the most beautiful, and moving, writing -- writing that organizes and hallows the world by its very form. These are travel essays; they are meditations on existence; on mens' lives (unfortunately, women are there to be like a landscape--a surface from which to draw pleasure in looking); on religion; youth; the spirit at odds with the corruptibility of the body. The perfectly chiseled prose leaves me speechless and almost unable to argue, even when I don't agree. Reading the lyrical essays, and then some of the critical essays and interviews where Camus sets himself apart from the literature of the absurd and some of his contemporaries, I see his point. It is not disgust at all that wells from these short, vivid, and meditative pieces, but rather a kind of boundless ability to confront beauty, accepting joy and terror together. There is a kind of arrogance, to be sure, especially in his focus on Mediterranean culture, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment. It's tempting to reach for even more lofty statements of my own to recommend this anthology, but I'll be more concise and simply say that I loved it and plan to treasure it.(less)
Thank God for this book, as it saw me through a few hours of airport inanity. I blinked back tears; I laughed like a weirdo; I forgot I was stranded a...moreThank God for this book, as it saw me through a few hours of airport inanity. I blinked back tears; I laughed like a weirdo; I forgot I was stranded at Chicago O'hare. A great, witty, cleverly-plotted read.(less)
One doesn't usually associate the venerable Woolf with light reading, but I found this collection of essays, reviews, and critical analyses to be just...moreOne doesn't usually associate the venerable Woolf with light reading, but I found this collection of essays, reviews, and critical analyses to be just that: a pleasant primer to Woolf's theories on the history of women's fiction and her famous arguments regarding 500 pounds a year and a room of one's own.
The first half of the book collects a series of articles and responses to male critics regarding the past, future, and present of the female literary dilemma, as Woolf saw it. Even more illuminating, however, is the second half, in which we are privy to Woolf's thoughts regarding such literary heavyweights as the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, and George Eliot, as well as the flawed, if vital literary output of authoresses such as the Duchess of Newcastle, Aphra Behn, and Eliza Haywood. These treatments are short, breezy, punchy, and often humorous.
Here are her thoughts on Jane Eyre: "The drawbacks of being Jane Eyre are not far to seek. Always to be a governess and always to be in love is a serious limitation in a world wich is full, after all, of people who are neither one nor the other." (that one's for you, Elizabeth ;-)
Surprisingly, Woolf criticizes Charlotte Bronte and Eliot for allowing their own feminist outrage to stamp their works with a "personality" of pleading and remonstrance; she felt this distracted from the purity of their art. I disagree with her on this point, but loved these brief snapshots into the mind of a great author in critical contention and engagement with her forebears. Her brief portraits reveal just how much the life shaped the art for these extraordinary authors and speculates, almost mournfully, what more they might have achieved as artists under a better star.(less)
A very delightful and thorough biography of Marian Evans/Lewes. I'm not sure the lay reader who hasn't read at least two of Eliot's works would enjoy...moreA very delightful and thorough biography of Marian Evans/Lewes. I'm not sure the lay reader who hasn't read at least two of Eliot's works would enjoy it, but the textual interplay between art and life was really fun to uncover. I think I actually enjoyed the beginning sections of the book when Evans was still finding her way towards fiction the most. Many fascinating letters survive from this time. One real tragedy is that no letters survive between Eliot and her longtime companion George Henry Lewes. Surely one of the most enduring and passionate literary love stories of all time, between such unlikely figures! Alas. I bet they wrote some great letters. However, still highly recommend this biography for any fan of Eliot and the Victorians! (less)