Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We'll call it artistic license.

Current book: The Bostonians
Pages read: 95-183

I've returned from the land of not reading boring literature, so...I'm reading boring literature again? My previous statement that the book isn't as bad as I remember was pretty accurate, though, again, it's largely based on the fact that I'm not being forced to listen to annoying freshmen discuss it pedantically for three hours a week. Ahem.

Anyway, Olive and Verena only grow closer as the months pass. At one point, Olive actually pays off Verena's father to leave them alone for a year, and he happily agrees. While it's not entirely surprising, it certainly doesn't reflect well on Verena's family. (But they're already low class and therefore suspect anyway. It's a bit disappointing that James enforces such an obvious stereotype, actually.) Afterward, Olive makes Verena promise that she won't get married, which Verena so swears, and with very few qualms. Olive makes other demands, too, and generally controls Verena's actions and whereabouts at all times. It's a sharp little bit of irony from James that Verena's far more controlled by a woman, Olive, than she ever was by her father or even male society in general. It's not clear where James actually stands on women's rights, but he's certainly offering barbed commentary about both sides of the issue.

Eventually, Olive and Verena go gallivanting off to Europe together, where Olive whirls Verena around the continent, introducing her to Society and fending off her various suitors. While they're away, we get a little picture of Basil Ransom's life, in which he is generally unhappy in New York and unable to find a proper job. He's seeing Luna, Olive's sister, on a regular basis, and she obviously wants to marry him, but he's pretty uninterested. Finally, he heads back to Boston to find Verena, and drops in on her, newly returned from Europe, at her parents' house in Cambridge. At the end of the last chapter I read, she had just proposed that they take a stroll together. And we all know what it means when a woman proposes a stroll. That harlot.

Occasionally, James waxes eloquent and shocks the hell out of me, and I ought to give him the credit he deserves for it. I actually remembered, when I read it again, this particularly beautiful bit of prose:
The air, in its windless chill, seemed to tinkle like a crystal, the faintest gradations of tone were perceptible in the sky, the west became deep and delicate, everything grew doubly distinct before taking on the dimness of evening. There were pink flushes on snow, 'tender' reflections in patches of stiffened marsh, sounds of car-bells, no longer vulgar, but almost silvery, on the long bridge, lonely outlines of distant dusky undulations against the fading glow. (136)
Although, now that I look at that, it is one ridiculous, heinous run-on sentence. Pretty, though.

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