Tuesday, January 13, 2009

At least I got my MRS

Current book: Main Street
Pages read: 1-88 (yesterday's)

In theory, you'll be getting another post after I do my reading for today, as well, since I read yesterday before the attack of the horrible death migraine. I know what you're thinking: migraines are an excuse people use to not do anything when they've just got a bad headache. I used to think that, and then I started having them. (Actually, I kind of think that more now, because I often hear people say, "Man, I have a migraine," and I look at them and they're not, in fact, sobbing with pain, trying not to throw up, or lying very still because they can't see.) As you may have surmised, it was less than fun. Actually, it was one of the worst ones I've had, partially because it was accompanied by the inability to speak properly. I hate that. It's like I just can't find the words for things, or get those words out when I do find them. I have to think for a solid minute about one sentence, and it still might come out wrong. Do you know how long it took me to write that post yesterday - you know, the one with eight words? I'm guessing five minutes. And I got it wrong twice. To someone as word-oriented as I obviously am, it's the scariest thing ever. The blurred vision, tingling in the mouth and extremities, and intense pain aren't any fun, either. Ahem. Anyway.

So, Main Street is pretty engaging, I have to say. It's centered on a young woman in the 19-teens (Man, there is just no good way to say that decade, is there?) named Carol (often called Carrie, so I'll probably switch back and forth in much the same maddening fashion as Sinclair Lewis does) who, in the first few chapters, goes to college, graduates, works for a short time, and then marries and moves to a very small town in Minnesota. The chapters that discuss her experiments and vacillations with majors and careers in college hit sickeningly close to home, I have to say. She can't figure out what she wants to do, and ends up settling on teaching and library science because it sort of seems like a good idea.

(Personally, I went with the teaching, but I thought about library science, too. Yikes. I was almost having flashbacks during some of the passages, like:

"Throughout Senior year she anxiously related all her experiments and partial successes to a career...But how she was to earn it, how she was to conquer the world - almost entirely for the world's own good - she did not see." (3)


"In a month Carol's ambition had clouded. Her hesitancy about becoming a teacher had returned. She was not, she worried, strong enough to endure the routine, and she could not picture herself standing before grinning children and pretending to be wise and decisive." (7)

Ugh. That sounds ridiculously familiar to me. I went and got my Master's in teaching, and now I don't even know if I want to do it. Later, Carol turns out to make lots of other decisions that don't really apply to me, but I'm impressed by how perfectly Lewis manages to capture that loose-ends feeling of making career choices because you don't know what else to do. That was an extremely long parenthetical. With quotes. Taking it to new parenthetical levels, here. I hope you appreciate my dedication.)

So, right, Carol moves out to Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, with her 15-year-older doctor husband with whom she is not in love, and proceeds to meet all the townspeople and realize how prosaic and uninspired they are. There are perhaps two other "interesting" (read: at least slightly intellectual) people in town, and she quickly embarks on a quest to better the townspeople by introducing them to newfangled ideas like reading and having parties with themes. (No, really. Theme parties are the path to intellectual salvation. In this case, Chinese costumes and food brought all the way from the exotic Twin Cities!) We're sort of at the point where she's made all her social inroads, joining the Bridge Club and Ladies' Aid Society and the like, and is just now beginning to realize the facts that these people are not going to change and that they will hate her for trying to force that change on them. I imagine it's going to be pretty bleak and even vicious, but Lewis is a good storyteller, and I'm intrigued. I'm really impressed by his ability to write from a female point-of-view, as well. He manages to make Carol sound idealistic, bored, naive, downtrodden, and desperate by turns, and all while maintaining a balance of sympathy for and disgust with her. It's a virtuoso performance.

Finally, hearing Lewis talk about the Twin Cities in 1920 was really interesting, since I live in them. We've managed to shed the shanty towns along the river, I'll note, but Fort Snelling and the high bridge are still here. The descriptions of bone-chilling cold have not ceased to be apt, either, since the current temperature today is -19 with a wind chill of -34. I'll be staying in today.

1 comment:

  1. The second quote you cited...yeah, I can relate to that. I got a call to sub yesterday and couldn't take it due to technical difficulties (AESOP nonsense). I realized, though, that I was glad I couldn't take it. I think I just my own class. I hope that's all it is. We'll see.



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