Monday, July 18, 2011

Bibliobits: Anthony Trollope, Typos, & Literary Centenaries

For two weeks I've been reading Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right.  I carry it everywhere in my purse and in my bike pannier in case I need a Trollope break. Although I have also been reading some excellent contemporary novels, I love Victorian novels and this is possibly the best book of the year.  Of course I say that every year about whatever Victorian novel I'm reading, and last year it was Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? 

Not everyone is at home in 19th-century England. My husband, who grew up reading Celine and Dostoevsky, loathed English novels until he discovered Dickens.  But if, like him, you have a prejudice against Austen's dry wit, Dickens's rhetorical flourishes, and Thackeray's chatty asides, Trollope, with his energetic prose, extraordinary plots, and arresting characters, may be your man.

He Knew It was Right centers on marriage.  Emily Rowley, the vivacious and strong-minded daughter of the governor of the Mandarin Islands, and Lewis Trevelyan, a Cambridge graduate, gentleman, and poet, separate after two years of marriage. Louis asks her to stop seeing Colonel Osborne, a man in his fifties who likes to flirt; Emily refuses to obey Louis because she's innocent and Colonel Osborne is her father's oldest friend.  Colonel Osborne complicates the situation by enjoying the mischief and continuing to visit her even when she is banished by Louis with her baby and sister to live in a rural village.

Louis hires a detective, loses his health, and goes slowly mad.  Although we pity him, it is impossible to feel empathy after he kidnaps their child.

I must admit, I prefer Emily's sister, Nora, who lives with the  Trevelyans.  It is clear that she is there partly so she'll have opportunites to marry well.  Mr. Glascock, the future Lord Peterborough, falls in love with her, but though Nora wants to marry money, she is in love with Hugh Stanhope, a failed barrister who is a successful political writer for a "penny newspaper."  Nora's parents oppose the marriage because of his financial situation.  Many other characters face the same difficulties:  financial problems and family opposition. 
It is ironic that the couple with no financial difficulties, the Trevelyans, are the ones who have emotional difficulties.  

Typos.  In the July 17 edition of The New York Times, Virginia Heffernan explores "The Price of Typos" in publishing.

As Geoff Shandler, the editor in chief of Little, Brown and Company, told me, “Use of the word processor has resulted in a substantial decline in author discipline and attention. Manuscripts are much longer than they were 25 years ago, much more casually assembled, and beyond spell check (and not even then; and of course it will miss typos if the word is a word) it is amazing how little review seems to have occurred before the text is sent to the editor. Seriously, you have no idea how sloppy some of these things are.”

Literary Centenaries.   2012 is the centenary of poet Elizabeth Bishop's birth;  Tennessee Williams's birth; Nobel winner Czeslaw Milosz's birth; Irish writer Flann O'Brien's birth; and the publication of The Secret Garden


Ellen said...

I read HKHWR this past Xmas when I wrote my paper on Trollope and TV. I compared it to the film adaptation. This time through I found I liked Dorothy's ruminations as well as Hugh Stanbury's. Priscilla is still my favorite character. It's not much of a comfort book, is it? Ellen

Frisbee said...

Not comforting at all! I love Priscilla, but oddly I've almost forgotten about her with all the emphasis on marriage.

I haven't seen the TV show. I just don't see the Masterpiece Theater shows as much as I used to but there's no reason I can't check them out of the library.