Monday, January 17, 2005

?Odious thinks I should post something about the Brontes; he’s been reading Villette, which sparked a long conversation since he finds it very odd. He was commenting on the vague illnesses caused by, apparently, depression, and I told him that he has to remember what the time period was like (I said, in fact, “You know, you’ve read Freud”, but then realized that of course he hasn’t!). Life was difficult for everyone in the 19th century, but especially, I think, for poor gentlewomen. Women of the working class could at least work, as servants or in shops, while well-to-do women were taken care of by their families should they be unfortunate enough not to marry; but women like those in Charlotte and Anne Bronte’s novels were, like the Brontes themselves, doomed to wretched cold lives as seamstresses or teachers. Odious was appalled to hear me say that Agnes Grey has an even more depressing life than Lucy Snowe or Jane Eyre, but I think it’s true, and it may also be why Anne Bronte is less popular than her sisters. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are archetypal classic novels–their characters cry out to be recognized and remembered, and thus are more readily accessible to the reading public. They really are great books and are rightfully hailed as such, but Anne’s novels strike a different chord. She was more obviously a feminist of her time than her sisters; as it says on the back of my copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, “the slamming of that bedroom door reverberated throughout the literary world!” While I love Jane Eyre with all my heart, and appreciate the wild beauty of Emily’s prose, Anne’s characters are deeper and richer, and her writing paints, I think, a more accurate picture of life. There are no great heroes or heroines, or tremendous loves and battles of will, but only the quieter, harder, everyday struggles that are perhaps less exciting to read about but at the same time more resonant.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Days go by; life is...well...continuing; I escape by reading. I made the mistake last week of picking up Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, and was from that point doomed to do nothing but sit glued to a chair until I’d finished both that trilogy and the following one, the Tawny Man. I know I’ve posted about these books before, but whatever I said bears repeating–her writing is truly astounding, and her characters all the more endearing because they are real in their flaws and mistakes and occasional blindness. I realized during this reading that I can’t agree with her philosophy because I don’t believe in the division of body and soul (that is, that a body can exist in this world without a soul, for any amount of time, or vice versa, or that bodies are somehow interchangeable), and yet the bonds this allows her to create are beyond philosophy. I think it’s like the flying and other impossibilities in kung-fu movies–Odious says those are metaphors for things that can’t be shown or even really explained, just as the Skill and the Wit stand in for bonds too amazing for us to fully understand.

I was looking through my reading notebook last night, where I’ve written down things I want to read, as well as cut-out blurbs from catalogues, and to my surprise I found one for Assassin’s Apprentice. After putting it in there I must have completely forgotten about it, since I remember picking up the first two books of the series at a library book sale, rather at random. It’s always odd to read someone’s summary of a book you’ve loved deeply, and see both their interpretation and attempt to encompass the whole of something in just a few words. That’s partly why I don’t give book reports here–you can go to Amazon for that–but rather my own thoughts about the book in hopes of inspiring others to share what I’ve enjoyed so much.