Saturday, January 23, 2010

George Eliot

Rain on ice.

It was an ideal day to stay home. Snuggled in my nightgown and "fleece" jacket, I read The Mill of the Floss all morning and part of the afternoon. I got off the couch to receive my latest package from Amazon, George Eliot’s Scenes from a Clerical Life and Selected Essays, Poems and Other Writings. Browsing through the latter, I already know that I'll read the essay, “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,” first, and perhaps get some hints about popular 19th-century women novelists. Okay, silly, but sillier than now? The chick lit of the 19th century?

Eliot is my latest passion. The Mill on the Floss is a luminous tragicomedy, a page-turner, and a masterpiece. Really, I can hardly put it down. Book Second, “School Time,” is Eliot’s fascinating account of Tom’s classical education with the smug Rev. Walter Stelling, an unimaginative materialist and social-climber to whom Mr. Tulliver sends Tom because he wants him to become a professional, perhaps an engineer. Alas, this system of education does not suit outdoorsy Tom, who scarcely understands that Latin is a language or why he is to learn Euclid’s geometry. It is Maggie who perks up over the language during a visit, and Philip Wakem, a crippled pupil who arrives after Tom’s first term, who helps Tom to learn enough to justify the education. Absolutely absorbing, and very, very sad when Mr. Tulliver loses all his money to Philip’s father.

On another note, I’m two-thirds of the way through Somewhere off the Coast of Maine, Ann Hood’s first novel, one of the Bantam New Fiction paperbacks I picked up at a sale a couple of weeks ago. Part is set in the ‘60s, the story of three women who become friends at college, two of whom continue to be “hippies” after graduating and one of whom becomes an MBA. Part is set in 1985, the story of their rebellious children. This first novel is enjoyable, fast-paced, and short. The problem? After George Eliot, Hood’s prose is so plain it’s shocking; she is, however, an accomplished storyteller and this is enjoyable. I do recommend her later books.


Vintage Reading said...

Can't wait to start this. I've ordered the Vintage Eliot edition because I can't find my old copy. Your accounts of reading amidst the snow and ice reminded me of opening of Jane Eyre where the young Jane sits reading in the window seat looking out over the frosty landscape. Oh, to have a window seat!

Frisbee said...

I'm really looking forward to your blog on Eliot. It's odd how little I hear about Eliot online. I must be reading the wrong blogs.

I'm not familiar with the Vintage edition but I'm sure it's good.

BTW, I saw the Wuthering Heights with the strange big-eyed Catherine and Heathcliff at a bookstore: the one you pictured. And I found a Penguin with a beautiful cover--an omnibus with three Bronte novels, which I'm not buying beause I have them all. Still, it was tempting!