We’ve arrived, once more, at another Thursday, the day when the seemingly endless dark chasm of the Work Week opens to a tunnel ending in Light, offering a glimpse to a near future when time is again our own. Walk toward the Light! Walk toward the Light!
Today, we celebrate Thursday with an excerpt from a book review by Eric Ormsby over at the New York Sun. Now, we can’t vouch for Ormsby’s critiquing talents, but this particular book had LK’s whiskers standing at attention. It’s called: Edward Mendelson’s “The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About the Stages of Life.”
According to the review, this book links seven stages of human life with seven classic 19th- and 20th-century novels, all by women: one each by Mary Shelley, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and three by Virginia Woolf. If that wasn’t enough, the book delves into topics many litbloggers have been discussing recently: how novels enlarge our lives and how our experience influences our reading of them.
Intrigued? Read more from the Ormsby review:
…It’s a truism that great novels have something to tell us not only about life but about our own lives. But for decades literary criticism has neglected or scorned this useful truth in favor of “theory” and its barbarous jargon. How refreshing then to read a study which dwells without apology, and with genuine insight, on the ways in which novels impinge upon our own experience.
Mr. Mendelson…shows not solely how these novels enlarge and illumine our own lives, but how our experience nuances and influences our reading of them. And though Mr. Mendelson is unflappably polite and even decorous in his discussions, his book is rather radical.
…The reason that women writers in the 19th and 20th centuries were more likely than men to write about the emotional depths of personal life is that they were more likely to be treated impersonally, to be stereotyped as predictable members of a category, rather than recognized as unique human beings—and a woman writer therefore had a greater motivation to defend the values of personal life against the generalizing effect of stereotypes, and defend those values by paying close attention to them in her writing, by insisting that those values matter to everyone and that everyone experiences them uniquely.
…I don’t think I’ll read “Frankenstein” or “Wuthering Heights” or “Middlemarch” or “Mrs. Dalloway” in quite the same way again, thanks to his astute discussions….Of “Frankenstein,” which he links to “birth,” he writes that it “is the story of childbirth as it would be if it had been invented by someone who wanted power more than love.” Or of “Wuthering Heights,” he notes aptly that “Childhood, in this novel, is a state of titanic intensity, adulthood a state of trivial weakness.”
…He notes…that in “Middlemarch” marriage is “a condition in which one partner lives in ignorance of the other partner’s most intense thoughts and crucial acts, and knowledge always comes too late to be of use.” All married couples will have experienced this dislocating insight at one moment or another….
We don’t know about you, but we’ve already reserved our copy!