Wednesday, January 14, 2009

But he left all the books to her

Current book: Main Street
Pages read: 208-259

You guys! My irreverent Swedish handyman got married and sold out, and now he makes nice with all the conservative town assholes, even though they won't give him the time of day! I'm so sad. I can't blame Lewis for making the choice, but I'm still sad. Also, I totally called the fact that Carol was going to have extra motherhood-induced angst. There was actually a point where the narration read, "She felt trapped." So, yes. Surprisingly, we don't actually get to hear much about her son - I was kind of expecting that she'd get completely obsessed with him, for lack of anything else interesting in her life, but apparently not. Lewis glosses over the first couple of years of motherhood without giving us a lot of detail, probably because he knows that it'd be mind-numbingly boring. (Look, I'm not really the maternal type. You may come to realize this. Especially with infants. If I can't have an intelligible conversation with it and it's also not furry and cute, I'm just not that interested.)

At some point in these chapters, Carol's good friend Vida the semi-enlightened "old maid" schoolteacher gets married and turns on Carol like a vicious dog. She transforms from an avid reader and an occasional supporter of Carol's ideas into a rabidly conservative housewife who reads nothing but the newspaper. Lewis makes a lot of implications about compensation and making a false show of happiness with Vida's story. He stops short of saying that she's pretending to find her new life fulfilling, and instead implies that she has forced herself to actually find it fulfilling. Her attendant criticism of Carol belies her security in her position, though. Again, a masterful portrait of another kind of small-town desperation, one forced by a lack of choice, and one that makes Vida an excellent foil for Carol. (Yes, sometimes I use literary terms. Deal.) Vida shows us how Carol's choice to complain about the town, even though she never takes a really strong stand, to continue to maintain her dissatisfaction, is, in some ways, an act of defiance in its own right.

Finally, at the end of this section, the local-boy-made-good comes back to Gopher Prairie for a visit. He's a millionaire automobile magnate and has the inflated ego to match his cash. The townies practically worship him, and Carol finds herself unable to refrain from joining in, as much as she finds him obnoxious and unworthy of admiration. Then there's an interesting scene where he hits on her while simultaneously calling her stuck-up and difficult. Nothing happens, but again she finds herself drawn to him against her will. I don't think he'll be back, but rather serve as another lost possibility for her, a far-off escape that she'll dream of from time to time and never be able to act on.

It seems like the real problem with Gopher Prairie is that it's full of conservatives. Lewis hasn't said it straight out, but the problem is that no one will change anything, or improve anything with civic money, and I have to say that that seems to fulfill the definition pretty handily. There's definitely some love for socialism going on, too. Workers of Gopher Prairie unite!

On a light note, there was an excellent quote that summed up many an outsider's impression of my relationship with books, and which I feel compelled to share:

"Carol drove through an astonishing number of books from the library and city shops. Kennicott was at first uncomfortable over her disconcerting habit of buying them. A book was a book, and if you had several thousand of them right here in the library, free, why the dickens should you spend your good money? After worrying about it for two or three years, he decided that this was one of the Funny Ideas which she had caught as a librarian and from which she would never entirely recover."


  1. Townies. God, how I hate the Townies. They're a proud bunch here, too. They have "Townie" stickers on their cars. You can always pick them out in the bars and restaurants by their camouflage and trucker hats. *shudder*

  2. Hey, you know Carnegie?

  3. I stand squarely with Ryan on this issue, as you know.



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