Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Four out of five cannibals agree.

Current book: The Bostonians
Pages read: 5-55

Oh, Henry James, why do you spend five pages describing each character every time we meet a new one? Is that really necessary? (It's like J. R. R. Tolkien, only without the 3,000 years of backstory that accompanies said description. I am aware, John Ronald Reuel, that elves live forever. It's probably why they avoid mixed company.)

So far we've met our protagonist, a lovely Southern gentleman who goes by the name of Basil Ransom (And whom I keep wanting to call Basil Rathbone. Also, that makes me picture him as Basil Rathbone, which is actually fairly entertaining for me.), and his cousin, an old maid named Olive Chancellor. Basil's visiting his cousin in Boston for an extended period to see what he can see of the culture of the North. It's not too far past the Civil War, and there's a lot of discussion of the contrasts between Northern and Southern culture, mostly focusing on the fact that Northerners are cultured and Southerners aren't. (It's great how books illustrate for us the wonderful changes that have occurred since that dark era, isn't it? I mean, just look at the South now. Vast bastion of culture, really, not at all mired in the past and hidebound by outdated ideas. Ahem.)

Anyway, Olive's into the new movement for women and interested in sharing her ideas with her wayward cousin, so she drags him along to a meeting of Progressive Individuals to hear a Distinguished Lecturer on The Woman Question. (And other things with capital letters!) There they meet Verena Tarrant, a young Titian-haired beauty (Look at that. He's infecting me with his diction. Help!) who speaks on the topic of women's rights. (Also a bunch of other people who aren't important, although Basil does, at one point, mentally characterize them as "mediums, Communists, [and] vegetarians," which is totally awesome. I kind of want to start a band.) She's accompanied by her parents, who are spiritualists and quite proprietary of her, but also eager to help her achieve the fame they feel is her due. Anyway, Basil is immediately taken with her, though he dismisses her speech as nonsense that her parents have brainwashed her into spouting. (He's not what you'd call a sensitive modern man. I'm sure this will end well.)

I'd pretend that I'm predicting he's going to fall in love with her, but I've already read this book, so I'm actually sure of the fact. But I could predict it even if I hadn't read it. Because these things always seem to happen. At first I thought I didn't remember the novel that well, but I've got pretty good recall as I'm going along. I'm remembering pretty handily how boring the whole thing is. Later, however, there will be implications of lesbian activity, so everyone hold out for that.

I actually borrowed my copy of this book from a friend who was in the class that I had to read it for and wisely retained her copy instead of selling it for ready money. It's quite convenient for me, espeically since the library didn't have it. However, it was a used copy when she bought it, and whoever had it first underlined in it. I hate underlining. If you underline, you are automatically a terrible person, just so you know. Why would you do that?

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