le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

oh my god The Daisy Chain

I have been ruining my eyesight over Charlotte Yonge's THE DAISY CHAIN for the last - not quite week. I started in earnest on Sunday, and just now (late thursday) finished. Oh my god - painful, painful reading.

Let's begin with the proliferation of Margarets. I understand why the name circulates, but it is BAD FORM to end up with five characters, several of them major characters, with the same name.

Then, we have Ethel and Norman, and Harry and Mary - I'm supposed to enjoy seeing these names? Yonge clearly lacked imagination because we also get a second Norman. crrrikey.

the prose reminds me of Oswald's attempts, in E. Nesbit's Bastable books, to write in flowery prose, of maidens and daisies and whatnot. it's not especially flowery, but something about it feel stilted and funny, like Oswald's take on it - this made me snicker. In my utter immaturity, and disgust at the book, I also enjoyed having a good snicker over the Mays' pet project, the village of Cocksmoor (heh heh - insert beavis & butthead laugh).

There is one nice bit about Tom and Mary - "it is a common saying that Tom and Mary made a mistake, that he is the girl and she the boy" (49). This bit of transgenderness crops up quite a lot - Tom ends up a very foppish Etonian, and Mary is a sweet but dullish roundfaced girl who dotes upon her seafaring brother (Harry). But throughout Mary yelps and plays and runs quite wild - very boylike - and Tom frets about the cut of his frock coats.

ugh. i deserve a real literary treat after this one - but what is next on the Reading List that fits the bill??? I wonder what i shall choose - stay tuned......

The cover of my edition refers to Yonge's "High Church Anglicanism" which is an understatement of the century. This book is manual to self-sacrificing religious zealotry, and it makes me ill. From the first pages when Ethel is not permitted to wear spectacles (because they'll weaken her eyes and are unbecoming), I hated this book. Ethel, extraordinarily poor-sighted, is then rebuked for squinting and holding texts and prints too near her face.

It's a book about erasing one's own needs and wants. Ethel makes the sacrifices so everyone else in her family can be happy. She swears never to let anyone or anything come between herself and her father (when she's like 18 years old - creepy, hi Freud!), and resigns herself, in conclusion, to a life of certain loneliness and solitude. She is happy to do this, though, because of her faith in god and afterlife.

in some ways, it's positively medieval - longing for, working towards and loving the thought of death, which will bring you to the glorious afterlife.

as a devout atheist, this was nauseating and depressing. it made me queasy and sad to think of dozens of girls renouncing their own happiness in sacrificing themselves for their families or husbands - with the weak claim that to do one's duty IS happiness.


my edition is 667 pages long, very, very small print. a tedious story, I'm glad it's over and I shudder to think of ever revisiting it. this book - its ideology - has made me very, very angry.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

shiver me timbers!

That Robert Louis Stevenson is something else! I read TREASURE ISLAND for the first time way, way back at the start of my children's lit studies (fall term, 1998! my second year of undergrad!), and felt kind of alienated by it. I felt like I was a girlie-girl reading a Boy Book.

Nine years later, I think it's a fantastic awesome book and I'm loving it! I have about a chapter or two to go to fully finish it, but what a book! How piratey! The dead man-compass on Spyglass Hill! the Jolly Roger! Tipping the Black Spot! It's great. And having just read both Peter Pan and Swallows & Amazons, it's nice to refresh my frame of reference. Has there ever been a more peculiarly wonderful creepy character than the Sea-Cook?

Kidnapped kind of baffled me. I really enjoyed reading it - Stevenson sure knows how to tell a story. And I was curious to follow the plot - I was caught up in David's plight. But I felt that something much more significant was going on in the book, politically, than I could really keep up with. My Scottish history is truly abysmal - I have a very vague notion of bonny prince charlie and some connection to the French, but that's about it.
I wonder about Stevenson's decision to set his book during this time period, and what it means for his own times. Some kind of Scottish nationalism, I imagine, though truly, I don't know. I was expecting a much more ship-bound book; this tour of the heather was a surprise, but a pleasant one. I liked the feel the book had of being fog-bound in odd corners of a uncertain land - never knowing if friends or enemies were in the next village over. The Scots "dialect" Stevenson writes for his characters flummoxed me at times; my edition had only a very, very few notes to help the ignorant american reader with the terms and spellings. Despite that, I found it a thoroughly captivating book, and that is actually quite a compliment.

I'm not sure what I'll read to follow up on the excitement of Stevenson. I have some poetry - Lear's nonsense, and Belloc's cautionary poems - but even though I know I'll like them, I have a hard time really sticking with poetry. one or two at a time is enough for me.

I need to read the Pooh books, though, for the syllabus I'm planning AND for my project, so maybe I'll hit them next.......

But Treasure Island for sure is in my list of Must Reads as well as Must Haves. I don't own a copy of it, and this must be rectified! When I decide I need to own a book I've read, that is how you know it's a good book.