Want to read with me? Follow this link to view the list and pick a book (or a few!) to read along with me. I'd love for this project to be collaborative, and will post anyone's thoughts beside my own.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The troublesome ones in a family are usually either the wits or the idiots.

Middlemarch, Book III - Waiting for Death by George Eliot (Marian Evans)

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
Our story resumes with Fred Vincy finding himself in debt (again) and unable to pay (again). This time, he has borrowed a rather sizable sum from Mr. Garth, Mary's father (remember - Fred has the hots for Mary).  Fred hatches a harebrained scheme to trade his horse for a less-expensive one, but the new horse promptly lames itself (apparently some animals were harmed in the making of this book) and Fred has to confess to the Garths that he can't pay them back. The lovely Garths are astounded, and are forced to use the money they've been saving for 4 years (to put a son in school) on their daily expenses and beg their eldest, Mary, for her savings as well.  Fred feels terrible, and then falls ill. Lydgate nurses him back to health (and Rosamond, Fred's sister, seizes the opportunity to flirt with Lydgate).  Meanwhile, when Dorothea and Casaubon return from their disastrous honeymoon in Rome, we find out that Dodo's sister Celia has gotten engaged to Dodo's earlier suitor, Sir James Chettam.  Dodo and Casaubon have a fight over a request for a visit from Will Ladislaw, and Casaubon has some sort of fit. Lydgate comes to the rescue again and Casaubon recovers, but Lydgate tells Dodo on the sly that Casaubon has a weak heart, and if he doesn't cut back on his Strenous Studies, he may die rather quickly. Dodo is horrified (because for some unknown reason she cares about sallow Mr. C).  Meanwhile, Mrs. Bulstrode yells at Lydgate for leading her daughter on (because she heard through the grapevine Rosamond and Lydgate were flirting InaPprOpriately in Public) and when Lydgate goes to chat with Rosamond about it, they end up getting engaged (even though Lydgate had NO intention of getting engaged). Fat and unpleasant Mr. Featherstone's health goes downhill and all of his family and the Vincys are speculating about his will.  He calls Mary up to his room in the wee hours and frantically begs her to burn one of the two wills he's created and to take all the money in his cash tin, but she resists him and after letting him sleep off his fit, realizes that he has, in fact, kicked it.
 Spoiler Over: Continue Here

On the Garth family's house
- "We get the fonder of our houses if they have a physiognomy of their own, as our friends have. Fred liked the Garth house, knowing it by heart even to the attic, which smelt deliciously of apples and quinces, and until today he had never come to it without pleasant expectations." reminds me of the Light's house - although I'm pretty sure their attic doesn't smell like apples. ;)

Mrs. Garth, on instructing her children while tending to the needs of the house and family
-"She thought it good for them to see that she could make an excellent lather while she corrected their blunders 'without looking', that a woman with her sleeves tucked up above her elbows might know all about the subjunctive mood or the torrid zone, that in short, she might possess 'education' and other good things ending in '-tion', and worthy to be pronounced emphatically, without being a useless doll.

Mrs. Garth, to her youngest son:"That apple-peel is to be eaten by the pigs, Ben; if you eat it, I must give them your piece of pasty."

Mrs. Garth, to her daughter: "How rude you look, pushing and frowning as if you wanted to conquer with your elbows! Cincinnatus, I am sure, would have been sorry to see his daughter behave so." tee hee hee. this reminded me of my French host mom yelling at her son, Vianney, to keep his hands out of his lap at the kitchen table. "Qu-est ce que tu fais là? Les mains sur la table, s'il te plaît!"

On a town-wide game of telephone leading to false conclusions about Mr. Lydgate's origins:
"Mrs. Taft, who was always counting stitches and gathered her information in misleading fragments caught between the rows of her knitting, had got it into her head that Mr. Lydgate was a natural son of Bulstrode's, a fact which seemed to justify her suspicions of evangelical laymen.

On Mr. Casaubon's unenthusiastic soul:
"To know intense joy without a strong bodily frame, one must have an enthusiastic soul.  Mr. Casaubon had never had a strong bodily frame, and his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight; it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking of its wings and never flying."

Mr. Casaubon's response to Mr. Lydate's suggestion that he take up some hobbies like fishing, toy-making, or wood-working:
"'In short, you recommend me to anticipate the arrival of my second childhood', said poor Mr. Casaubon with some bitterness. 'These things', he added, looking at Lydgate, 'would be to me such relaxation as tow-picking is to prisoners in a house of correction.'" Hagh.

On glowing from the March wind:
"He asked for Mrs. Casaubon, but being told that she was out walking, he was going away when Dorothea and Celia appeared, both glowing from their struggle with the March wind." I went for a nice run this morning and I feel SURE that when I returned I was positively Glowing from my struggle with the March wind. :0)

Passages I found particularly pleasant:
- "There was always a little storm over his extravagance if he had to disclose a debt, and Fred disliked bad weather within doors."

- "That he should ever fall into a thoroughly unpleasant position - wear trousers shrunk with washing, eat cold mutton, have to walk for want of a horse, or to "duck under" in any sort of way - was an absurdity irreconcilable with those cheerful intuitions implanted in him by nature." the Horror! to wear trousers shrunk with washing and Eat COLD Mutton! I can barely imagine.

-"To superficial observers his chin had too vanishing an aspect, looking as if it were being gradually reabsorbed. And it did indeed cause him some difficulty about the fit of his satin stocks, for which chins were at that time useful." heheheeheheheheh. 

 -Mr. Garth, on not hastily jumping into an engagement: "That's the long and short of it, Mary. Young folks may get fond of each other before they know what life is, and they may think it all holiday if they can only get together; but it soon turns into working day, my dear."

-"Mr. and Mrs. Casaubon, returning from their wedding journey, arrived at Lowick Manor in the middle of January.  A light snow was falling as they descended at the door, and in the morning, when Dorothea passed from her dressing-room into the blue-green boudoir that we know of, she saw the long avenue of limes lifting their trunks from a white earth and spreading white branches against the dun and motionless sky."

- on Dodo's return to the blue-green boudoir she once admired: "Her blooming, full-pulsed youth stood there in a moral imprisonment which made itself one with the chill, colourless, narrowed landscape, with the shrunken furniture, the never-read books, and the ghostly stag in a pale, fantastic world that seemed to be vanishing from the daylight."

-"The world would have a new dreariness for her, as a wilderness that a magician's spells had turned for a little while into a garden."

My lovely mother is doing a read-along for this one on her e-reader and she's Beating me! Granted, she's not training for a half-marathon, finishing her Master's thesis, or looking for a full-time job. But still! So onwards I plunge, into Book IV of this wondrous tome, Centerprocession!

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

We Middlemarchers are not so tame as you take us to be.

Middlemarch, Book II - Old and Young by George Eliot (Marian Evans)

Spoiler Alert: Plot Summary
I've decided to give you my notes as the plot summary:

- Bulstrode (friend of Featherstone's and acquaintance of Fred Vincy) grudgingly writes letter about Fred to Featherstone. Fred *not* gambling on Featherstone's future death.
- Fred loves Mary Garth (currently living with Featherstone, plain and with few prospects); Mary tells Fred: in Your Dreams!
- Rosamond likes Lydgate (new town doc); he likes her, but plans to wait a decade to marry (seriously burned in a past life)
- Town chaplaincy comes to a vote between Farebrother and Tyke -- Lydgate decides it. Tyke wins!
- Will Ladislaw (Casaubon's cousin) and german painter friend Naumann see Dorothea in a museum in Rome - Naumann wants to paint her.
- Naumann paints Dorothea and the sallow Casaubon.
- Will visits Dorothea on her own; falls for her; she likes him, but as a Friend
- Dorothea and Casaubon - trouble in Paradise!
Spoiler Over: Continue Here

To change things up, I'm going to paint you a portrait of a few different characters by giving you a sentence (or two) that sums up their personality in a nutshell:

Mr. Lydgate (the new town doctor)
- "I have not yet been pained by finding any excessive talent in Middlemarch." hagh.
- "For the first time Lydgate was feeling the hampering, threadlike pressure of small social conditions and their frustrating complexity."

Fred Vincy (Featherstone's nephew, Rosamond's brother)
"When Fred got into debt, it always seemed to him highly probable that something or other - he did not necessarily conceive what - would come to pass enabling him to pay in due time."

Mary Garth (lives with Featherstone, Fred's in love with her)
"I think any hardship is better than pretending to do what one is paid for and never really doing it."

Rosamond Vincy (Fred's sister, in love with Lydgate)
"'Fred, pray defer your practising till tomorrow; you will make Mr. Lydgate ill. He has an ear." heh. heh.

Dr. Sprague and Dr. Minchin (the other town doctors)
"In short, Dr. Sprague had weight and might be expected to grapple with a disease and throw it, while Dr. Minchin might be better able to detect it lurking and to circumvent it."

Reverend Edward Casaubon (Dorothea's hubby, Will Ladislaw's cousin)
"With his taper stuck before him he forgot the absence of windows, and in bitter manuscript remarks on other men's notions about the solar deities, he had become indifferent to the sunlight."

Dorothea Brooke (now Casaubon) (Celia's older sister, Casaubon's wife)
- "She did not really see the streak of sunlight on the floor more than she saw the statues; she was inwardly seeing the light of years to come in her own home and over the English fields and elms and hedge-bordered high-roads, and feeling that the way in which they might be filled with joyful devotedness was not so clear to her as it had been."
- "I am not a sad, melancholy creature. I am never unhappy long together." reminds me of a Proust line, "I was only unhappy for one day at a time."

Will Ladislaw (Casaubon's cousin, in love with Dorothea)
- "Will Ladislaw's smile was delightful unless you were angry with him beforehand: it was a gush of inward light illuminating the transparent skin as well as the eyes, and playing about every curve and line as if some Ariel were touching them with a new charm and banishing forever the traces of moodiness."
- "I have a hyperbolical tongue: it catches fire as it goes."

Mrs. Farebrother (town vicar's mother)
"She presently informed Mr. Lydgate that they were not often in want of medical aid in the house. She had brought up her children to wear flannel and not to over-eat themselves, which last habit she considered the chief reason why people needed doctors." hagh. hear that, everyone? get on your flannel and stop over-eating! ;)

The Casaubons (now a couple), on married life
- "The fact is unalterable that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship may, when seen in the continuity of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same."
- "And this cruel outward accuser was there in the shape of a wife - nay, of a young bride, who, instead of observing his abundant pen-schratches and amplitude of paper with the uncritical awe of an elegant-minded canary-bird, seemed to present herself as a spy watching everything with a malign power of inference."

Passages I Particularly Liked:
- "When a conversation has taken a wrong turn for us, we only get farther and farther into the swamp of awkwardness."

- on famous people having been banal creatures once: "But that Herschel, for example, who 'broke the barriers of the heavens' - did he not once play a provincial church organ and give music lessons to stumbling pianists? Each of those Shining Ones had to walk on the earth among neighbours who perhaps thought much more of his gait and his garments than of anything which was to give him a title to everlasting fame; each of them had his little local personal history sprinkled with small temptations and sordid cares, which made the retarding friction of his course towards final companionship with the immortals."

- "When you get me a good man made out of arguments, I will get you a good dinner with reading you the cookery-book."

- "There are characters which are continually creating collisions and nodes for themselves in dramas which nobody is prepared to act with them. Their susceptibilities will clash against objects that remain innocently quiet."

- "But this stupendous fragmentariness heightened the dreamlike strangeness of her bridal life."

- "She had ended by oftenest choosing to drive out to the Campagna where she could feel alone with the earth and the sky, away from the oppressive masquerade of ages, in which her own life too seemed to become a masque with enigmatical costumes."

- "If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence."

Onwards to Book III, and more of this Endparade!