Monday, July 26, 2010

Dear Reader

Finished Villette many weeks (months?) ago, but just now getting around to writing this post. After finishing all 600 pgs (glorious in its single spaced, 8pt type), I decided to revisit Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic, remembering that they had written a chapter on the novel. Their work was CRUCIAL when writing my undergraduate thesis. If you're interested in reading some eye-opening criticism of Eliot, Austen, Milton, Dickinson, and Mary Shelley, I couldn't recommend this book more.

Here is what Gilbert and Gubar have to say about Villette:
Villette is in many ways Charlotte Bronte's most overtly and despairingly feminist novel. ... Jane Eyre, though rebelliously feminist in its implications, used a sort of fairy tale structure to enable the novelist to conceal even from herself her deepening pessimism about woman's place in man's society. But Lucy Snow, Villete's protagonist narrator, older and wiser than any of Bronte's other heroines, is from first to last a woman without--outside society, without parents or friends, without physical or mental attractions, without money or confidence or health--and her story is perhaps the most moving and terrifying account of female deprivation ever written.

But what reminded me that I needed to write this post was reading this entry over at Powell's blog:

Even Virginia Woolf considered Villette to be greater than Jane Eyre and it is easy to see why. ... Here Bronte was able to hone and perfect her technique within the framework of an adult fairy tale with a cast of highly complex characters. Villette is Bronte's darkest, most complex novel and its heroine, Lucy Snow, is the anti-Jane.

Funny that they would cast both novels as fairy tales. The non-Disneyfied fairy tales of once upon a time were, of course, very tragic and disturbing (Der Struwwelpeter, anyone? Bluebeard!?) So this classification kind of fits the bill. Fairy tales and gothic lit intertwine in really interesting ways. They both use the fantastical, surreal, and sublime as metaphors for real life situations. (Then again, I guess they've been doing that since the dawn of writing. The first poets and storytellers were totally sci-fi and fantasy writers, amirite?)

So here are some more lovely quotes from Villette that, despite all my talk of doom and gloom, aren't so depressing. I promise.

How seem in the eyes of the God who made all firmaments, from whose nostrils issued whatever of life is here, or in the stars shining yonder--how seem the differences of man? But as Time is not for God, nor Space, so neither is Measure, nor Comparison. We abase ourselves in our littleness, and we do right; yet it may be that the constancy of one heart, the truth and faith of one mind according to the light He has appointed, import as much to Him as the just motion of satellites about their planets, of planets about their suns, of suns around that mighty unseen centre incomprehensible, irrealizeable, with strange mental effort only divided.

How could you read that and not instantly fall in love with Charlotte Bronte? I've had a crush on this dead woman since sixth grade.

Whatever my powers--feminine or to the contrary--God had given them, and I felt resolute to be ashamed of no faculty of his bestowal.

It is right to look our life accounts bravely in the face now and then, and settle them honestly. And he is a poor self-swindler who lies to himself while he reckons the items, and sets down under the head--happiness that which is misery. Call anguish--anguish, and despair--despair; write both down in strong characters with a resolute pen: you will the better pay your debt to Doom. Falsify: insert "privilege:" where you should have written "pain:" and see if your mighty creditor will allow the fraud to pass, or accept the coin with which you would cheat him. Offer to the strongest--if the darkest angel of God's host--water, when he was aked for blood--will he take it? Not a whole pale sea for one red drop.

Okay, well that's a little depressing.

I always, through my whole life; liked to penetrate to the real truth; I like seeking the goddess in her temple, and handling the veil, and daring the dread glance. O' Titaness among deities! the covered outline of thine aspect sickens often through its uncertainty, but define to us one trait, show us one lineament, clear in awful sincerity; we may gasp in untold terror, but with that gasp we drink in a breath of thy divinity; our heart shakes, and its currents sway like river lifted by earthquake, but we have swallowed strength. To see and know the worst is to take from Fear her main advantage.

Which is what I keep trying to tell my 4-year-old niece, in regards to spiders. Face your fear...and you'll find out they're just small, fuzzy trapeze artists.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Internet Lovelies

IT'S FRIDAY! And all that jazz. I copied these a long time ago. Completely forgot about them. But that's why I'm doing this blog! So I won't forget the nifty things I've read. Yes, even on the internet.

Traditional librarians are like cats, which explains the affinity. They sit quietly in a corner dreaming about chocolate and yarn. The twopointopians are more like puppy dogs. They run around enthusiastically and bark a lot, and are easily distracted when shiny gadgets and squirrels pass by them.

Annoyed Librarian, Link

Real life villains don’t always fit the visual bill as if sent over from the casting department. The real villains aren’t necessarily swarthy, shifty eyed guys wearing turbans or sombreros, swinging from monkey bars with AK’s in their teeth, draped with bandoleers of bullets. Most of the really, really bad guys look like Tony Hayward, like shitweasels with silk neckties, Gucci shoes and MBAs.

Bob Higgins, Link

Most of the people I really, really like went through a slightly freakish Mystery Science Theater 3000 phase at some point...MST3K is a near-perfect cinematic/television experience for people who are not humorless assholes.

Lindy West, Link

I grew up watching MST3K. <3
Every morning, as the sun pours through my bedroom windows and spills across my bed, I awake, the promise of a new day stretching before me like a stupid thing that leads to some goddamn whatever. Ugh, I think.

Shalom Auslander, Link

...fame is the worst drug of them all. At least crackheads only urinate on themselves; fame addicts piss on everyone.

Shalom Auslander, Link

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Anthropology 101

I've come to the sad realization that I spend more time reading book reviews than I do reading actual books. Then I end up buying 3 books for every 1 I read. My Amazon wishlist looks like the inventory of a Barnes and Noble.

Regardless, glowing book reviews lead to finding wonderful books, and the blogs have been set all aglow over Hilary Hamann's Anthropology of an American Girl. Previously self-published in 2003, it's recently been re-published and finally gaining some recognition. I'm only a measly 150 pages into it, but by page 35 I had already bookmarked several passages.

The sea is an international sea, and the sky a universal sky. Often we forget that. Often we think that what is verging upon us is ours alone. We forget that there are other sides entirely.

If she could no longer be called beautiful, she possessed something better--a knowledge of beauty, its inflated value, its inevitable loss.

I preferred the apocalyptic terrain of cities--the melting asphalt, the artificial illumination. Unlike Jack, I looked forward to the future. At least when things are as bad as they can get, they can't get worse. the future would be untouchable, hypervisual, and intuitive, a place where logic and progress have been played out to such absurd extremes that survival no longer requires the application of either.
"Notice how all it takes is the Force to blow up the entire Death Star?" I would tell Jack. "The future won't be jet packs and space stations; it'll be aboriginal. The language of the physical will atrophy. Our minds will coil inward, and our eyes will grow large to see beyond the seeable. No one dies in the future. We'll all preserve ourselves to be reconstituted."
"That's the whole fucking problem," Jack would say. "I don't want to live forever. I'm having trouble with the idea of Tuesday."

"You're old when you learn that needs are to be eclipsed by civility. You're old when you join the sticky, stenchy morass of concealed neediness that is society." You're old when you give up trying to change people because then they might want to change you too. When you're young needs are explicit, possibilities endless, formalities undiscovered, and proofs of allegiance direct. If only there were a way to keep the world new, where every day remains a wonder.
"Jack," I said. "Remember how easy it used to be? Remember when friends used to cut themselves and share blood?"

In school eyes are everywhere, there are twice as many eyes as bodies, and in our school there were about a thousand bodies. Highschools offer nothing compelling for all those eyes to regard, nothing other than the vista of teenaged bodies, which is sort of the entire fucking problem.

Boys will be boys, that's what people say. No one ever mentions how girls have to be something other than themselves altogether. We are expected to stifle the same feelings that boys are encouraged to express. We are to use gossip as a means of policing ourselves, This way those who do succumb to the lure of sex but are not damaged by it are damaged instead by peer malice. We are to remain united in cruelty, ignorance, and aversion. We are to starve the flesh from our bones, penalizing the body for its nature, castigating ourselves for advances from men that we are powerless to prevent. We are to make false promises, then resist the attentions solicited. Basically we were to become expert liars.