Austen is a satirist I don't know how we overlook it. Possibly because we've get to make a blockbuster-satire film. If YA literature keeps going the wAusten is a satirist I don't know how we overlook it. Possibly because we've get to make a blockbuster-satire film. If YA literature keeps going the way it is we may have to pull out Northanger Abbey from time to time to remind us of reality. Not that the pages of N.A. contain reality strictly, but they do contain a well-read lesson against the mis-use of fantasy in every day life. Not the use! If anything I think Austen reveals here how *all* of her characters are caught up constantly in fantasy and for all its macabre detail, Katherine's is the least harmful.
Two other points,
1. Henry Tilney is *extremely* under-rated. Far more romantic than Darcy IMO
2. This is a book about lanuage as much as it is about fantasy and growing up and Bildung. Language here is critiqued and pulled at in a kind of sub-plot, but when a motif of the novel is "novels" there is a lot I find very thrilling to that!
As a side note I'd love a list of literature that references the "three volume novel" and a study of the concept in literature. I can think only of Northanger Abbey and The Importance of Being Earnest but there must be others. ...more
Dickens is an author who can take you through a wormhole or down a rabbit hole. In the former voyage you get out on the other side after 600-800 pagesDickens is an author who can take you through a wormhole or down a rabbit hole. In the former voyage you get out on the other side after 600-800 pages (some of it skimmed in parts because of dialect) a little misty eyed and generally pleased, but in the latter you rarely make it past the bottleneck. I have been a fan of Dickens since my first rapturous reading of A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens experts may opine here that this is hardly one of his more mature works, but I don't care its glorious. I had always looked forward to, when I got to that point in my life, taking on Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend. I thought I would probably sit down to them some time after by 50th birthday with a glass of port.
Alas I have absolutely no patience, which--it turns out--is fine in this case.
If you can say a novel is "about" money Our Mutual Friend is about money. Dickens sets Old Mr. Harmon in the background, soured by all his money, and moves his characters through the fore-ground showing their little dances with cash and loans. In general the book reveals all the negative ways money changes people though, through his well known sleight of hand, Dickens manages to make sure none of his favorite poppets are hurt. (I don't say this with 100% seriousness though there is occasionally some element of exasperation in my dealings with Dickens.)
The plot is pure Dickensian-fantasy, a missing heir, his beautiful inteded (whom he has never met) his loving guardians mixed in with Dickensian hilarity: the bone articulator Mr. Venus who is madly in love with Pleasant Riderhood. Some of the jokes fall a little flat at first, Bradley Headstone, but even *that* one pulls through in the end. I won't spoil what any of these creatures have to do with one another. It's easy enough to find out if you must know and I'm more focused on their sharp bright figures from a different light.
Because while Our Mutual Friend has much that sets it apart from Dickens and his annoying habits (to this reader) what that mostly adds up to is pulling off all his Dickensian tricks with a much lighter hand than usual. This little redundant conversation for example,
'I am sure you look so, Ma. But why one should go out to dine with one's own daughter or sister, as if one's under-petticoat was a blackboard, I do NOT understand.'
'Neither do I understand,' retorted Mrs Wilfer, with deep scorn, 'how a young lady can mention the garment in the name of which you have indulged. I blush for you.'
'Thank you, Ma,' said Lavvy, yawning, 'but I can do it for myself, I am obliged to you, when there's any occasion.'
Here, Mr Sampson, with the view of establishing harmony, which he never under any circumstances succeeded in doing, said with an agreeable smile: 'After all, you know, ma'am, we know it's there.' And immediately felt that he had committed himself.
'We know it's there!' said Mrs Wilfer, glaring.
'Really, George,' remonstrated Miss Lavinia, 'I must say that I don't understand your allusions, and that I think you might be more delicate and less personal.'
strikes me as hilarious and insightful into the hearts of all the characters and their complex relationship. But similar ones in Oliver et al do not strike me so. Even if you don't like Dickens, I think Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend would be difficult but worth the read.
Two final points, as a Trollope reader I found the Veneerings especially hilarious and pointed. Also, how can you not love that title? "Our Mutual Friend." Not all of Dickens works have such wonderful names, (Oliver? really, it's about Oliver?) but here there's pure magic in terms of language. What sometimes feels contrived in Dickens here is only light and airy and--oddly enough-- *romantic*. Yes, there is a love story and it doesn't feel *drowned* in Victorian qualities. (Though other parts of the book surely enough are but thats no great complaint.) ...more
This is not a book I would go around blindly recommending to people. But if you enjoy sentiment, drama and obvious authorial insertions Trollope is prThis is not a book I would go around blindly recommending to people. But if you enjoy sentiment, drama and obvious authorial insertions Trollope is probably a safe bet. ...more