Vivien Leigh *swoon*

Well, I think that the title of this post should pretty much say it all! I mean, look at that woman. I rarely say that the book is better than the movie, and while I’m not EXACTLY saying that this time, I will say that the movie is pretty damn good in it’s own right. And part of that has to do largely with the fact that I think Vivien Leigh makes an absolutely wonderful Scarlett! And, to be honest, Clark Gable is no shrug as Rhett Butler, who is quickly becoming one of my top favorite literary males of, you know, all time (in case that isn’t redundant enough).

I’ll admit off the bat that this post won’t be quite as…put together as some of the last posts have been! I just got done with a Zumba class and a walk home and my book is all the way upstairs and I just can’t right now. Just can’t. So this post will be sadly quote-less. But I’m loving the book and have quite a bit of raving to do, even without my textual support.

OH ME SWEET EGADS, THE WAY MARGARET MAKES A SCENE! Yes, Margaret Mitchell and I are basically on a first name basis now, seeing as how we’ve been spending so much of our time together lately. And let me tell you – this girl knows how to write a book. I’ve never been to Civil War-era Atlanta, but I feel like I have. And isn’t the true mark of a powerful author? From the moment Scarlett steps off the train to Atlanta, the city jumps off the page at you – everything from the train tracks to the soldiers doing drill, to the woman-as-butterflies who proudly display their blockade-ran dresses. And it’s all so…innocent, almost. I think that’s one of the things that’s so touching to me about my reading so far – the people in this book are so honestly invested in the Cause, in their Southern Pride, and to know that’s just not how history turns out is almost too sad. This truly is a book of the Old South, and while I understand and recognize the horrors that existed under this veneer of chivalry and pride, and I know that many, many people have problems with this book because it does seem to make Uncle Tom’s out of almost all of it’s major African American characters. But to know that these women are cheering and these fathers are singing unto a flag of an army that will loose – whose soldiers, sons, fathers, and brothers will die – is incredibly sad to me, whatever other scruples may exist.

I also feel like this post wouldn’t be nearly complete without talking at least a little bit about Scarlett. I mean, she is, like, the hearts blood of the book (along with the actual town of Atlanta, which is becoming more and more of a mirror-foil for Scarlett). She’s stubborn and conceited and self-involved and mean and caddy – and UTTERLY ADDICTIVE. There is power in her, because she is the one girl who doesn’t want to do what society tells her. She wants to run and frolic and wear her bright dresses and love the one man that she wants more than anything. I actually just had a pretty big debate with Beardman last night on whether or not Scarlett was strong woman or just a cold bitch, in the long run. As you can imagine, I was on the strong woman side: don’t get me wrong, while I think that Scarlett has the power to and does hurt people without regard, I think there is a strength in a woman at that time wanting to march to the beat of her own drum, of making it for herself. If I had my book, I would type out the dozens of passages I’ve underlined where there seems to be so much conflict in Scarlett – conflict between her mother’s blood and her father’s, between all that she is expected to be (and tries to be) and who she actually is. And, speaking for this reader, it’s that conflict in her that keep the pages flying, despite how despicable she’s recently been.

This week has been crazy busy, so I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you all, but hopefully I’ll be back even more next week with some Shakespeare, a Tolkien or two, and maybe even some snippets of the new gardening project I’ve started! And, because it’s on theme and I can, I leave you to your weekend with the many faces of Scarlett and Rhett!

   

Finished: The Magician’s Nephew

While I was hammering my way through Middlemarch this past week, I knew I needed a break, and when I really need a break from big heavy reading, nothing quite does it as well as children’s literature! And, looking at my original list of 250 titles, there aren’t very many children’s literature selections. With those perameters in mind, I’m excited to be reading my with through the Narnia books in the background of all the other reading I’ve got going on!

According to the ever-trusty Wikipedia, The Magician’s Nephew was originally published as the sixth book out of the seven that make up the series, although it’s essentially a prequel, as it tells the story of how Narnia came to be. One wet summer in London, Polly Plummer meets her next door neighbor Diggory Kirke and, through a series of adventures, the two end up using magic rings invented by Diggory’s uncle to make their way to the Wood Between the Worlds. From here, they venture through a pool of water in to the destroyed land of Charn, where an evil witch queen named Jadis once destroyed everything while preserving herself in a kind of coma-like state. And, you guessed it, Diggory and Polly wake her from this state and inadvertently bring her back with them to London. All kinds of hijinks ensue, until, in their efforts to return her to her own world, Polly, Diggory, Jadis, Diggory’s uncle Andrew, and an unfortunate horse and cab driver make their way in to a world that is at that moment being created and turned in Narnia by Aslan. As you can probably guess, Jadis goes on to become the White Witch of Narnia in the next book, and we see Aslan again in almost all the books. So this is, truly, the beginning of the story.

So…I don’t really like this book. There. I’ll say it. I mean, yeah, it’s cute. And it’s the first book in a series that, other than this first volume, I absolutely love! But this book is just, well, boring. Most of it is, anyway. Even as a child I can remember not exactly enjoying this book, but I always made myself read it when I was reading the series because, well, I’m Type-A and we’re rules followers, and not reading the first book was basically cheating and meant I couldn’t really say that I’d “re-read the series”. Yep. I was one of those kids.

Anyway, as you probably already know, C.S. Lewis was also a theologian who emphasized work in Christianity. And those of you who have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (or had to read it as a part of a church youth program like this blogger did) can see that there is quite a bit of Biblical allusion going on here. And let me tell you – boy do you see it in this book too! I mean, come one, the “world” of Narnia has just been born, and already there is an evil “born” in to it by Diggory leading the witch in to the land, where she then escapes her captors. And yes, Aslan goes on to give a speech pretty much exactly like this. As a child, I didn’t necessarily notice, but this time it basically smacked me in the face. And while I’m a Christian and don’t mind allusive or theological-bent literature, BUT DEAR SWEET JESUS (no offense or pun intended). This is ridiculous! It’s basically Genesis told in London, with God played by a giant friendly Lion.

It wasn’t a bad reading experience, I’ll say that at least. I sped through it, and I knew through the reading that I was reading about the creation of one of my favorite fictional/mythical locations. It was fun to see the tie-ins with other works (not just like how the White Queen came to be, but in smaller details that show Lewis’ true skill: for example, when Diggory takes a piece of magic, healing fruit back with him, he plants the seeds and it grows in to a tree, a tree which is then cut down and turned in to a certain well-known wardrobe) as well as to think about why Lewis decided to write this book before finishing the seventh volume, especially when it serves to start the plot rather than further it along. Definitely not my favorite work, but now that it’s out of the way, I’m enjoying it a lot more!

A Classics Challenge: March

Howdy, folks! For those of you playing along at home, you’ll know that I finished Middlemarch this week and started in on Gone with the Wind, which left me in a bit of a tizzy as far as which book to feature for March for the 2012 Classics Challenge over at November’s Autumn. The prompt for March focuses on the setting of the book and its importance to the rest of the story. And while location certainly features prominently in both books (after all, Middlemarch takes place in, you guessed it, the town of Middlemarch), I just think it would be more fun to spend this time talking about Gone with the Wind. I should go ahead and be fair and say that I’m only about three chapters in to the book, and may be basing more of these answers than I should on the movie, but it’s in the second chapter that Gerald O’Hara and Scarlett have their famous conversation about “land being the most important thing”, and with words like that straight out of the horse’s mouth, it seems like the decision was made for me! As per usual, Katherine has provided three different “levels” of questions, so without further ado, here’s my contribution to March’s Classic Challenge topic: a discussion of the Tara Plantation in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.

Level 1: How has the author introduced the setting? What does it tell you about the character? about the time period? What is the mood of the setting?

Oh, goodness! Be still my beating heart, Margaret Mitchell, you’ve created a place that from the first minute I’ve been longing to step in to! I mean, I may be being slightly unfair in this because, although I’ve spent my entire life in a Midwestern state, I’ve always felt like a displaced southern girl at heart, so there is something appealing to me on almost, like, a genetic level; there’s this admittedly weird but still very strong desire to pick up my budding family and put us smack in the middle of southern breezes, Georgia’s red dirt, the briny smell of southern Louisiana – any and all trappings of the south. But I’m talking to much. You need to hear it from the woman of the hour herself:

“The plantation clearings and miles of cotton fields smiled up to a warm sun, placid, complacent. At their edges rose the virgin forests, dark and cool even in the hottest noons, mysterious, a little sinister, the soughing pines seeming to wait with an age-old patience, to threaten with soft sighs: ‘Be careful! Be careful! We had you once. We can take you back again.'” (p.7)

“The sun was now below the horizon and the red glow at the rim of the world faded into pink. The sky above turned slowly from azure to the delicate blue-green of a robin’s egg, and the unearthly stillness of rural twilight came stealthily down about her. Shadowy dimness crept over the countryside. The red furrows and the gashed red road lost their magical blood color and became plain brown earth.” (p.22)

“The warm damp balminess of spring encompassed her sweetly with the moist smells of new-plowed earth and all the fresh green things pushing up to the air.” (p.23)

So, needless to say, the mood there is evident. In terms of the character and time period, the land of Tara is very much so a representation of the wealth of the O’Hara family, a wealth which firmly entrenches them in the landed gentry of the Old South – a position that, history tells us, will put them firmly on the losing side of the Civil War. Also, knowing the kind of tenacity and strength and survival of the character of Scarlett, it’s too easy to see this in the same plantation that ends up surviving Sherman’s burning, destructive march to the sea.

Level 2: How do you envision it? Find a few images or describe it. Do you feel the setting is right? or was it a weak point of the author?

Oh my goodness yes the author got it right! My half brother lives in South Carolina, my grandparents live in Arkansas, my cousins live in Georgia, and the best vacation I’ve ever taken was to New Orleans, and I’m not a native, but I do know what it feels like to be in the south, and I think Mitchell hits it right on the head. As far as how I picture Tara – I don’t really have to! The movie actually does a rather fabulous job, I think, of capturing the feel of those Old South plantations. See for yourself:

        
Level 3: If this particular setting was changed how would it affect the course of the story?

How wouldn’t it?! I mean, yeah, a lot of Gone with the Wind takes place far away from Tara (namely Atlanta), but Tara is basically a character in and of itself, the way it motivates the actions of the other characters. It’s the place that Scarlett longs to return to once she leaves it. It’s the place that provides her the money and strength she needs to survive. At the end of the day, its the place she returns to when she’s lost everything else. If this setting were different, I feel it’s safe to say that Scarlett wouldn’t be the woman that she is, and if that were the case – well, Gone with the Wind without Scarlett isn’t a story I’d like to imagine!

EGADS! A Challenge!

I can’t believe it’s here already! IT’S HERE!!! And this year’s button is even more beautiful than last years (OHEMGEE THE BUTTON). I don’t know how Carl V does it, but somehow he always pull it out when it comes to the Once Upon a Time Challenge. This, along with Carl’s fall-themed Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) challenge, is by far my favorite blog-o-sphere challenge/event. In Carl’s words, the Once Upon a Time challenge

a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through Tuesday, June 19th and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

Basically, it’s about using that spring air to get in the mood to read all kinds of, well, stories that may indeed begin “once upon a time”! This is the first year I’ve ever tried to coordinate this challenge with other, larger goals behind what I’m blogging, but I’m looking forward to finding a way for them to fit together!

As per usual, Carl has created a variety of levels for participation, everything from reading one work to reading works in each of the four categories AND short stories AND film watching. Because of the other factors I’m trying to stick to, this year I’m thinking I’m going to have to go with:

which just entails reading four or more books in any of the categories over the course of the challenge, which runs from March 21st (yesterday) through June 19th. Looking at my master list, I’ve put together the following list of hopefuls (and yes, I know that the Lord of the Rings is technically three books, but in my mind it all counts as one epic story, so it works)

  1. The Odyssey by Homer
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
  3. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  4. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne AND
  5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (because no springtime or Once Upon a Time challenge would be complete without it!)

All in all, I couldn’t be more excited for the reading, and because this makes it OFFICIALLY spring time! And you? You should participate, too! Hop on over to Carl’s blog, then make sure to come back here and tell me what you’re reading!

<— This totally doesn’t need to be here, but I always love Carl’s buttons, especially those that use Melissa Nucera‘s artwork. Plus…fox!

Finished: Middlemarch

To be completely honest, guys, I came like *thisclose* to DNF-ingMiddlemarch. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that this is only the second book off my list and by the time I got to the part where I really didn’t want to keep going, I was only about 100 pages from the end (and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up on a 800 page investment!) And the fact of the matter is that I don’t really know what it was that wasn’t getting me in to this book.

On paper, or on e-paper, as this current case may be, this book is full of stories that would be fantastic to read. I mean, a man falls in love with a brat and spends his life regretting his decision and bending to her will? Sure (even if that does mean I want to PUNCH ROSAMOND SQUARE IN THE EYE FOR THE LAST 700 PAGES OF THIS BOOK! GAH!). A love story about two people who society wants to keep apart? Sign me up? A sweet country tale of a man who makes himself better to earn a decent living and the admiration of his lady love? I’d read that one more than any of the others. But, to be honest, when all three of these stories showed up inMiddlemarch, I got nothing. Well, I shouldn’t say “nothing”. Because I really did like parts of this book! And there were reading days that seemed to just fly by with the pages. But then I would put the book down and not pick it up because every time I thought about reading it, suddenly doing the dishes would become the most important task ever. And I. Hate. Dishes.

So lets try and figure out what’s up with that, shall we? A little post-book game tape playback, if you will. I think my biggest issue that I had withMiddlemarchwas how withdrawn I felt from the characters. Maybe this is a facet of it’s being a Victorian novel? (someone with more experience/knowledge of the genre, help me out here!) But I felt like I wasn’t actually being allowed in to the character. I mean, we were told how they felt, but it was just a telling. There was something missing to make me feelwhat the characters feel. I’m not sure what that missing thing is, but that’s what part of this project is about – learning what that ‘thing’ is and how to identify it/find it! I found this was the biggest case in the scenes between Dorothea and Will, and wonder if maybe the lack of dialogue and the omniscient perspective of the narrator kind of held things back a length or two. It didn’t seem to bother me much with some of the “shallower” characters (Mary, Fred, the Farebrothers’, the Brookes, even Celia and Chettam), but when it came to the Rosamond/Lydgate or the Dorothea/Will scenes, I felt like I didn’t get quite as much out of them as I could have if I felt closer to, well, everything.

That said, I did deeply enjoy the crazy events that seemed so perfectly in place in a Victorian novel – issues of mistaken parentage, town gossip, misunderstood exchanges of money, all of that jazz. It reminded me, in places, of some of the twists we see in Dickensian works. I was as much one the edge of my seat as I could be when Raffles was sick in bed at Bulstrode’s, and knowing how much was riding on his death, and knowing how things would look to the public once Lydgate was involved, it was truly a social-comedy delight to see the town gossips take the matter and run with it. Maybe that’s a bit cruel, considering this gossip was responsible for driving two good men (alright, one good man and one middling-to-fair man) out of the realm of decent public opinion, but to be honest – it was more fun to see how they’d deal with it than it would be to offer them sympathy! And ah, the joys of literature – the ability to have those feelings without worrying about hurting the feelings of real-life people!

At the end of the day, I am glad that I was able to get through Middlemarch. Not only because it’s another book off the list, but because it’s teaching me how to look for the things that are missing, how to name the things I’m looking for in a great reading experience – and while I’ve been blogging and talking about books for a while, I’ve never actually slowed down and really looked at those two skills.

Now, I’m thrilled to say, I’m moving on rather nicely through Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind which, to be honest, I had a hard time not reading while I was trying to finish Middlemarch. I’m only a few chapters in but, to be honest, the sweeping nature and the lazy Southern tone of the book are really what I need right now, as spring has set in and spring break has started! And you, darling fellow reader? What book is putting that spring in your step? Any big reading plans, as spring breaks hit nation-wide?

TSS: The Spring and a Scarlett

Hello, bloggers and blogettes! Things here at Chez P:R are rather quiet for a Sunday, which is nice after what’s been a rather crazy ten days or so. Beardman has been laden with midterms and papers, and I had a project for one of my master’s classes due, so we’ve barely seen each other between studying and work. Because of that, he and I went home this weekend to see our parents, which is always a good time to see some of our high school friends as well as enjoying delicious cooking, free cable, and towels that seem to fold themselves (just kidding, mom! I know that’s all you!) It made for some great time to get some reading done, which is what both Beardman and I got the chance to do! He’s re-reading his way through our set of The Hunger Games now that I’ve finished my re-read, since we’re planning on going with a big group of my family to see the movie next weekend. The first time he read them, I actually read them to them, and he seems to be getting even more in to them the second time around. I, on the other hand, was able to knock out both the last 300 pages of Middlemarch (thoughts to follow, as that post would be more than you could handle on the gentle, freakishly spring-like day!) as well as The Magician’s Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. It felt great to finish both books, and for some reason the reading experience between the two was really complimentary!

**as a side note, is anyone else remarkable freaked out about how nice the weather has been this time of year? I don’t know what it’s like in your hometown, but here we’ve been having the weather we usually have in late April, early May – and it’s only March. And while I’m all for warmer weather and the ability to read outside, it does keep reminding me a whole lot of that pesky global warming issue, as well as the fact that this summer may be just shitty, shitty hot out**

Other than that, I was able to get the wedding invitations printed out at Kinkos this weekend, and now that spring break is here, I’m looking forward to plenty of time in front of the TV, watching the NCAA tourney and putting together 200 mounted and ribboned wedding invites! I’m also really looking forward to starting another book on my list, and am even more excited because that book is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!!! This has been one of my favorite movies for ages and I can’t wait to read the book, because I’m sure it’s going to be just as wonderful and beautiful and conflicting as the book is! So tell me, dear readers, how is your Sunday? And great plans for the week ahead?

     

On Marriage, Money, and Mortification

*I had this entire post written up, ready to go, I hit ‘published’, and apparently WordPress decided that I didn’t need to actually publish the post, and it was all erased. needless to say – irritated.*

So by now my reading of Middlemarch has brought me through page 700, a bit past the start of Book Eight, “Two Temptations”. And damn – people in Middlemarch need to quit marrying out of duty/family/baby’s from the cradle. It seems like the only people in the book who are actually in any kind of healthy relationship are Mary and Fred, and that’s probably just because they aren’t actually in any kind of relationship, but rather are merely in the phase of promising and dreaming of a relationship. Seeing how that phase worked out for everyone else in the novel, I don’t necessarily think that’s a promising sign for these two.

I want to start by addressing the parts of the book that I have no intention of addressing: namely, anything having to do with the Reform, Mr. Brooke’s running for Parliament, and anything having to do with general politics or agriculture of any kind. While I can appreciate why Eliot included these bits in her novel – not only do they serve to create a fuller picture of the Provencal life she paints, but I imagine this was an issue on the minds of many writers at the time – let’s get it straight. These parts be BORING. So boring. Like, eyes glazing and skipping over the pages boring. Which I’m trying REALLY hard to prevent, because I want to give this book the attention it deserves on it’s first read through, but it’s hard when these huge paragraphs (or God forbid whole chapters) pop up. So lets get on to talking about what I think is the heart of the novel: the relationships between the primary sextet (which means, to me, Fred, Mary, Dorothea, Will, Rosamond, and Lydgate).

Oh, Fred and Mary. I think I like these two best of all. They seem to be the most…rational, at least. I love the way that Fred seems to really grow up throughout the course of the novel, and that everything he does really does seem to be for Mary and their possible future together. I think that Mary is an admirable character, namely in the fact that she’s so much less of a sycophant than so many of the other girls in the novel! I’m sure that it helps that she has her own source of income and the fact that her family isn’t bat-shit crazy, but I think it’s refreshing to see regardless. I have a good feeling that these two will eventually end up together, but I hope it’s not until after Mary gives in to Fred a little bit and Fred has learned even more to take responsibility for himself and his future.

Speaking of futures, this brings us rather nicely to a discussion of Dorothea and Will, definitely the saddest and most tragically wonderful couple in the story. I feel like if you were going to point at one relationship and say ‘See, totes Victorian’, it would be Dodo and Will (does anyone automatically think Dodo bird whenever Celia uses this particular endearment? If you didn’t, sorry – bet you will now!) I mean, there couldn’t be more things standing in the way of these two being together – Casaubon’s stupidpants will, Dorothea’s skewed sense of loyalty, Will’s pride, the opinions of the townsfolk towards Will, which is totally of the

Condescending Wonka

variety. It makes me sad for the two of them, honestly, but it also makes me even more sure that they’ll totally end up together and happy and somehow Dorothea won’t lose all her new money in the bargain. Also, did anyone else pick up on a bit of the Anne/Mr. Wentworth vibe when Will does all his talking about making himself better and securing a better position all for Dodo’s sake? I can only hope that their ending is that romantic!

And, lastly, I want to talk about Rosamond and Lydgate. OH MY DEAR SWEET SWEATPANTS, ROSAMOND. I thought we were cool – I was kind of digging on the sweet and innocent dreamer routine you had going. And then you started talking more and you quickly went from this:

to this:

First World Problems

I mean, seriously. This girl might just be the whiniest character I’ve ever run across in literature. And there’s poor Lydgate, in a marriage he wasn’t planning on, trying his hardest to get by even after the people of Middlemarch are just, like *eyerollatthenewdoctor*, and Rosamond just keeps running him in to debt and taking silly pregnant horseback rides and carrying secret desires to galavant with Will and then, when Lydgate has the nerve to ask her to tone down the spending, she goes behind his back to his family like a total Smarmerton! WAY NOT COOL. But then. Oh, but then. There is this:

“‘I have only wanted to prevent you from hurrying us into wretchedness without any necessity,’ said Rosamond, the tears coming again from a softened feeling now that her husband had softened. ‘It is so very hard to be disgraced here among all the people we know, and to live in such a miserable way. I wish I had died with the baby.” (p.718)

I MEAN COME ON?!?!?!?! Who above the age of six responds like that?!

Anyway. Needless to say, I’ve about had with Rosamond, that silly twit of a girl, and I’m not sure I can take much more of her in the 300-some pages I’ve got left! In personal news, things with the wedding are rolling right along, although I just got bummer news today that the local farmstead in my town (where we were hoping to have the reception) is booked for our date, so now I’m just trying to scramble a bit and find another place! I’m feeling way under the weather today, and what with a late night last night (including some rather silly, unexplainable issues with WordPress) I think just about the only thing I can handle today are the last few chapters of The Magician’s Nephew, the first chronicle in the Narnia series, which is the small book that’s been keeping me company all week. What about you? What book’s been holding your hand and getting you by this week?