Friday, November 07, 2008

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë

This book has been following me around for a while. I kept looking at it on the library shelf and wondering if I wanted to read it. Then I saw a copy at the book sale, passed it by, went back for it -- alas, it had already been covered by the shifting sands. So I finally had to check it out.

It is noticeably different from the work of other Brontës. It might even be a better novel. I found it much more realistic in the depiction of relationships.

The hero and heroine are still authentically Brontëan -- passionate, unconventional, and short-tempered. But we get a certain amount of explanation as to why they behave that way -- Jane Eyre, for example, or everybody in Wuthering Heights, just seems to have been born cranky.

While reading Wildfell Hall it occurred to me that other Brontë protagonists don't seem to believe that anybody else is real. There's very little objectivity in those novels. I found Wildfell Hall to be better at describing other people's points of view, and although it's also narrated in the first person, like all Brontë novels, the approach is quite different.

The first and last sections of the book are narrated by the hero. He spends most of his time describing that mystery woman, the heroine -- and because she is a mystery, and they don't like each other very much at first, we get a certain amount of distance.

The middle section of the book is the heroine's journal, depicting the destruction of her marriage. She has no objectivity; she keeps believing everything will work out for the best . . . but because we know she ended up separated from her husband, it's heartbreaking to see how much she idolized him in the beginning. I don't believe that Charlotte or Emily would ever have allowed one of their heroines to be so completely mistaken. In fact, their novels arguably subscribe to the notion that erring souls can be saved by love alone. Anne seems to have known that it ain't so.

Anne was the youngest of the Brontë siblings. She died in 1849, at the age of 29. Both of her novels were published under the name of "Acton Bell."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President Barack Obama

This is the most pleasant historical moment I've ever been a part of.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

When I Put on My Woolen Underwear . . .

I say, "Dear universe, thank you for inventing sheep."