I’m supposed to be writing my first update for the Middlemarch Read-Along hosted by Too Fond, but I keep thinking about this video:
Girls Who Read made the rounds a couple weeks ago. I didn’t watch it at first, because I’m pretty burnt out on “aren’t readers super special” memes. Most of them make us sound like smug assholes. Eventually I clicked, and I thought it was cute, well read, and funny. Who wouldn’t sigh at “passion, wit, and dreams?” I’m also a sucker for any kind of accent, so that helped.
A few days later, I noticed a minor backlash, including this article which contained the following from Portrait of a Lady:
He didn’t wish her to be stupid. On the contrary, it was because she was clever that she had pleased him. But he expected her intelligence to operate altogether in his favour, and so far from desiring her mind to be a blank, he had flattered himself that it would be richly receptive.
And I got to thinking: there’s nothing wrong with wanting a Girl Who Reads but in 2013 is this something that needs to be pointed out and celebrated? This guy seems to think he’s quite something because he can go one baby step further than tits and ass in his dream girl checklist. Not to mention that the video’s Girl Who Reads is also young, thin, white, and conventionally attractive, so it’s not reading over T&A, it’s reading AND T&A.
The Portrait of a Lady quote is pretty apt, and there’s even more to draw on from Middlemarch. She’s more of a Girl Who Drafts Ambitious Plans Relating to Cottages and Farming but same difference. I don’t have a great pull quote, though I found a few – damn Kobo annotations letting me down, as usual – but I think Dorothea and Casaubon are both guilty of using each other for their intellects. Dorothea wants to be educated and lifted up out of ignorance She says: “There would be nothing trivial about our lives… It would be like marrying Pascal. I should learn to see the truth by the same light as great men have seen it by.” Casaubon, well, I haven’t quite figured him out yet. I think he may have wanted a competent secretary as much as he wanted a wife, but finding Dorothea too smart and too able to see the shortcomings in his work, becomes jealous and shuts her out.
Despite ranting about it here, I’m not that bothered by this video. But it is making me think carefully about Dorothea and her passion, wit, and dreams. I’m paraphrasing someone on Twitter but I think it’s pretty telling that it’s Girls Who Read rather than Girls Who Write who are being celebrated. Reading, by itself, is pretty innocuous. Passive, even. Writing is a lot messier. Similarly, if Dorothea were passive, if she wasn’t compelled to speak her mind and didn’t have ambitions outside of marriage, she’d probably be a lot closer to Casaubon’s vision of an ideal wife.
As for the read-along, I’m just managing to keep pace. At 45% through the book, I’m finding it such a light read, not in the sense that it’s easy or quick or not thought provoking, but in that it doesn’t feel like a burden, even though at 800 pages, it surely is! There’s a perfect balance between all the plot points and characters and themes. Next week I’ll try to write a regular update but suffice to say that Ms. Eliot does not disappoint.
Is there a statute of limitations on monthly roundups? Let’s hope not! Already 20% into December (and #Middlemarch13,) so let’s do this.
40 Below Official Launch #1: I’m really impressed by the continued buzz around this local, indie book. I only attended one of the two official launches, but it seems everywhere I turn I’m hearing about a TV appearance, or seeing the book on the bestseller list – really well done, 40 Below crew!
I got my book signed straightaway by mastermind Jason Lee Norman and contributors Michael Hingston and Dani Paradis. Dani read her poem about her hippy parents, which may or may not be based on a true story. There were a few awkward moments when people asked me to sign their books because they thought I was her – I guess I can see how brown hair + glasses + purple sweater + sitting as same table was confusing. I’ll take it as a compliment as Dani is much younger and more fashionable than I!
Vernon R. Wishart was my favourite reader. His story about his wife’s speedy Christmas Day labour and delivery was even funnier read aloud. I learned that it was a true story, as that Christmas baby, now in her 50s, was in the audience.
Don Perkins didn’t read, but he did write my favourite sentence in the whole book, and signed right next to it with a real fountain pen! Check out his take on the event here.
Before heading home, I bonded with fellow 40 Below reject Matthew Stepaniac and had a good chat about book blogging. Watch for a post very soon about his Bookstravaganza project.
(I also attended a little event with Margaret Atwood this month, which you can read about here.)
For once I actually posted about most of the books I read this month, thanks to Novellas in November and #ReadWilkie. Here are the two exceptions:
- Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann: I was let down by this book, which was billed as The Great Gatsby meets The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s a character study that moves through five people’s perspectives, and unfortunately, each narrator is weaker than the last.
- Why Here? by Michelle Ferguson: Similar thematically to her debut From Away, Why Here? is a better written sophomore novel but has a terrible title. Full review to come.
Books I Want to Read:
I suddenly have a slew of non-fiction books to read. I’ll probably wait till January to get to them, given my Middlemarch ambitions. Non-Fiction New Year? More about those later, but let’s give a quick shout-out to Eat It, a collection of women’s writing on sex and food, for having a great title. I also added On Beauty by Zadie Smith, my Classic Club Spin pick (was to lazy to do a post) and discovered it’s the only Smith book that doesn’t appear to even exist at the library.
Coming up on the blog:
- Middlemarch Read-Along hosted by Too Fond: Intro post coming soon (hopefully no statute of limitations on those, either) but so far, so good. I feel like I’m learning a life lesson on every page.
- Storytellers Book Club: Finally getting into this! I’m reading Alice Munro’s The Progress of Love. I’m five stories in and each one is better than the last.
- 2013 Wrap Up: Might do another vlog. Hope I can do it in fewer than five takes, unlike last time.
In the interests of time, I’m skipping the list of blog posts that usually appears here. Tell me all of your December reading plans! Are they ambitious like mine, or are you taking it easy for the holidays?