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the construction of the book I - book II transition is sneaky, slipping a few chapters of the vincys and lydgate in at the end of a whole book that had been mostly about the brookes and casaubon.

but i guess that's just supposed to be an artifact of serialization? : /

it's funny how all it takes to make things seem realistic for a second instead of Realistic is a quick shot of snarky do-nothing uni dropout fred vincy.

j., Sunday, 8 June 2014 13:38 (seven years ago) link

I read it for the third time a few months ago, awestruck by the construction, more aware of how finely Lydgate's fall was drawn -- and how small the impact when it happened.

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 8 June 2014 13:39 (seven years ago) link

i'm still having trouble with the narrator's tone, which i didn't expect because i really liked 'adam bede'.

kind of like the narrator takes some unearned satisfaction in immediately undercutting almost everything about every character, not sure how, maybe as if it's an achievement of the narrator's to have known better, which doesn't make sense since the narrator is the narrator

j., Sunday, 8 June 2014 13:43 (seven years ago) link

do you think the narrator undercuts Dorothea? At worst it's gentle ribbing (much like James and Isabel Archer).

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 8 June 2014 13:44 (seven years ago) link

One of my goals this summer is to read Middlemarch

Time to go retrieve my \m/ Norton Critical Edition \m/ of Middlemarch

, Sunday, 8 June 2014 13:44 (seven years ago) link

well, undercutting may not be the right term for it. in her case the lead is more about her capacity, talents etc., so despite her expressly rongheaded marriage choice it will more end up being the world/life that undercuts her in the long term

but i'm thinking more of the construction—how part of the characterization is to include the narrator's inside knowledge as imparted to us, so that we have kind of a double view of the characters, in terms of what they say/do with each other, what they think to themselves, and (ok i guess a triple view) what the narrator observes is really the case about them (even unbeknownst to themselves, like with fred's wishes clouding his ability to see what featherstone is up to).

it seems kind of, i dunno, unfair? too much of a thumb on the scale? for the narrator to always be butting in w/ countervailing remarks -just after- some aspect of character has been put on the page. i don't know why that should be, since of course if the text had more of an I-perspective surface to it, it would be straightforward to take it as a single literary fabric knitted together of a totality of information about its characters and action.

j., Sunday, 8 June 2014 13:58 (seven years ago) link

i sometimes wonder if the narrative tone is partly a product of Eliot's genuine anger towards that world, and thru it towards a big slice of her audience, and she doesn't want her readers to get comfy

arid banter (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 8 June 2014 14:06 (seven years ago) link

re yr first point i think for a long time the structure is that the book only goes from town to country if some member of either group physically does so? I was sort of in awe at how well that shit is handled when I read it

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 8 June 2014 14:08 (seven years ago) link

o on some moretti shit huh

j., Sunday, 8 June 2014 14:10 (seven years ago) link

Favorite book ever! But boy do I struggle when talking about it. I start to ramble about how awe-inspiring the author's intelligence and insight into _everything_ is and then anyone who hasn't read the book thinks it's going to be a heavy read and a chore and then I desperately interject w how many touching, emotional moments there are, but I'm not sure I'm convincing anyone. I sometimes feel the book is too complete for me to do it any sort of justice big upping it.

Was thinking of picking up "My Life in Middlemarch" to see how someone else spends an entire book attempting that.

abcfsk, Sunday, 8 June 2014 15:30 (seven years ago) link

my wife, who loves middlemarch and eliot in general, read like 30 pages of it and put it down. when pressed for a reason she was like ehhhhh new yorkery.

adam, Sunday, 8 June 2014 15:34 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

Good job, Nietzsche. You'd think he'd have had some respect for Eliot's sensitivity to the complexity of ethical life. Eliot doesn't read to me like a fanatical moralizer. She's always emphasizing ethical difficulty as an epistemic problem: we harm each other by not properly seeing, comprehending, or acknowledging each other.

G. Eliot. — They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. That is an English consistency; we do not wish to hold it against little moralistic females à la Eliot. In England one must rehabilitate oneself after every little emancipation from theology by showing in a veritably awe-inspiring manner what a moral fanatic one is. That is the penance they pay there.

We others hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again, despite the English flatheads. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one's hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know, what is good for him, what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows it. Christian morality is a command; its origin is transcendent; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticism; it has truth only if God is the truth — it stands and falls with faith in God.

When the English actually believe that they know "intuitively" what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment and an expression of the strength and depth of this dominion: such that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, such that the very conditional character of its right to existence is no longer felt. For the English, morality is not yet a problem.

jmm, Friday, 1 August 2014 15:56 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...

The news still wouldn't please Casaubon.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 8 December 2015 11:45 (five years ago) link

i guess i should read some zadie smith, huh?


scott seward, Tuesday, 8 December 2015 12:55 (five years ago) link

oops sorry for linking that again. not awake yet...

scott seward, Tuesday, 8 December 2015 12:55 (five years ago) link

also, i should read middlemarch. so many on that list i haven't read.

scott seward, Tuesday, 8 December 2015 12:56 (five years ago) link

i guess i should read some zadie smith, huh?

Eh, I never get the love for her. her first book, White Teeth, was a very promising but baggy and flawed debut novel. her second one was awful. her third was a rewrite of a better E M Forster novel. Don't know much about her 4th. Her short fiction is slapdash. But everyone acts as though her every literary opinion was inscribed by God on a stone tablet.

as verbose and purple as a Peter Ustinov made of plums (James Morrison), Wednesday, 9 December 2015 01:02 (five years ago) link

I love that Villette is in the top 30 of a list of this kind now... I doubt that it'd happen five years ago.

abcfsk, Wednesday, 9 December 2015 06:03 (five years ago) link

eight months pass...

I had no idea this book was so much fun!

(caveats: kindle says I'm only abt 13% in; I didn't read thread yet for fear of spoilers)

anatol_merklich, Saturday, 27 August 2016 00:11 (five years ago) link

It stays fun!

I hear from this arsehole again, he's going in the river (James Morrison), Saturday, 27 August 2016 05:28 (five years ago) link

one of these days...

scott seward, Saturday, 27 August 2016 16:58 (five years ago) link

i'm still having trouble with the narrator's tone, which i didn't expect because i really liked 'adam bede'.

two years on this still seems weird to me

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 28 August 2016 10:08 (five years ago) link

i liked their hamburg stuff but i just can't get behind 'revolver'

the ghost of tom, choad (thomp), Sunday, 28 August 2016 10:08 (five years ago) link

adam bede is grebt

j., Tuesday, 30 August 2016 06:45 (five years ago) link

it's wild fun in a way adam bede isn't, so maybe someone who doesn't like fun would prefer that book

abcfsk, Tuesday, 30 August 2016 14:30 (five years ago) link

I read Middlemarch for the third time two years ago and am looking forward to another read.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 30 August 2016 14:33 (five years ago) link

I read 100 pages of this book and it is legit funny. I had to put it aside at the time as college started. I'll return to it again though.

Neptune Bingo (Michael B), Tuesday, 30 August 2016 18:52 (five years ago) link

xxp i just like dairy maids and spirited lady preachers

j., Wednesday, 31 August 2016 02:49 (five years ago) link


j., Wednesday, 31 August 2016 03:53 (five years ago) link

eight months pass...

it is kind of unusual how much the narrator opines before the reader has a chance to make their own judgments. j otm.

I like this about the book though -- it's the opposite of what you're told to do in creative writing classes. and it works because the narrator is such a sharp reader of the characters

Treeship, Saturday, 6 May 2017 00:53 (four years ago) link

Well, it's a 19th century convention

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 6 May 2017 02:22 (four years ago) link

Yeah but it seems more pronounced here than in other 19th century novels so far. The narrator goes deep, examining each characters' contradictions, almost as soon as they are introduced.

Treeship, Saturday, 6 May 2017 02:34 (four years ago) link

i think eliot examines psychology as a material quantity - i.e. capable of analysis and representation with the same lucidity as the world and also having as much objective consequence as, say, money, or a town scene.

Fizzles, Saturday, 6 May 2017 04:59 (four years ago) link

or at least that's what i recall thinking when i read daniel deronda a couple of years ago. even though it is conventional, it's also kind of noticeable beyond that as you say treesh.

Fizzles, Saturday, 6 May 2017 05:01 (four years ago) link

otm, and Treesh otm, she isn't just an omniscient narrator, she's like a scientist talking you thru the rules and results of the experiments she's laying out

The Remoans of the May (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 6 May 2017 09:46 (four years ago) link

That sounds about right -- a phenomenological approach.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 6 May 2017 10:52 (four years ago) link

Also kind of mean! I take it personally whenever the narrator is rude about my (current) faves

Chuck_Tatum, Saturday, 6 May 2017 19:03 (four years ago) link

The World and His Wife---bet Virginia Woolf got a kick out of that. Also Margaret Atwood (thinking of wifely enforcers in The Handmaid's Tale).

dow, Sunday, 7 May 2017 02:40 (four years ago) link

Also, can imagine Flaubert or young Beckett or somebody writing a whole novel about Casaubon. As with Bartleby, I find him v. relatable, without really wanting to.

dow, Sunday, 7 May 2017 02:48 (four years ago) link

four weeks pass...

So, how does one pronounce Casaubon? In my head, I'd been reading it as "Cazza-bon" but I'd just heard "Ca-say-bon" and am wondering if I'd been saying/reading it differently all along. "Casaw-bin" is what a google result suggests. I'm neurotically fixating on his name each time I read it (which, at this point, about a third through the novel is quite often) and I'm very curious what others think.

Federico Boswarlos, Monday, 5 June 2017 02:19 (four years ago) link

In the BBC mini-series the characters said "Cazza-bonn" but my grad school professor said CA-SAW-BIN.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 5 June 2017 02:32 (four years ago) link

Cass-uh-bawn with my New Jersey accent

Treeship, Monday, 5 June 2017 02:34 (four years ago) link

I like the Jersey version. I've been reading it with what are seemingly slight variations each time and it's slowly begun morphing into "Cause-a-bon" and even less recognizable forms.

Apart from that, the book is wonderful. I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read it, though I can probably safely say that I'm enjoying it now much more than I would have in my late teens or early/mid 20s.

Federico Boswarlos, Monday, 5 June 2017 16:55 (four years ago) link

one month passes...

Oh my god this Fred Vincy needs to quit while he's ahead. He's got Mary's promise, her dad's given him a job, and he's still haranguing Mary's mother to forgive him for gambling away the money they lent him.

Cringing rn.

Treeship, Thursday, 3 August 2017 00:20 (four years ago) link

this is not the Trump thread

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 3 August 2017 02:18 (four years ago) link

Caz aw bonn

El Tomboto, Thursday, 3 August 2017 02:54 (four years ago) link

I think it's Ca-SAW-bin tbh.

He was such a dick.

Treeship, Thursday, 3 August 2017 02:56 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

"Please remember me," said Dorothea, repressing a rising sob.
"Why should you say that?" said Will, wit irritation. "As if I were not in danger of forgetting everything else."

on its own this is sort of a boilerplate romance novel line but it does have an impact after 634 pages of strained, excrutiating communication between these two characters, underneath the watchful, judgmental eyes of the whole town.

Treeship, Saturday, 19 August 2017 21:16 (four years ago) link

I'm reading this so slow. I've put it down for weeks at a time, read other books in between. I do not find it gripping. But I like it and as it moves toward its conclusion I am starting to appreciate its intricate, patient construction.

Treeship, Saturday, 19 August 2017 21:21 (four years ago) link

five months pass...

The terror of being judged sharpens the memory: it sends an inevitable glare over that long-unvisited past which has been habitually recalled only in general phrases. Even without memory, the life is bound into one by a zone of dependence in growth and decay; but intense memory forces a man to own his blameworthy past. With memory set smarting like a reopened wound, a man’s past is not simply a dead history, an outworn preparation of the present: it is not a repented error shaken loose from the life: it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavors and the tinglings of a merited shame.

I know, right?

JoeStork, Thursday, 15 February 2018 20:38 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

Finished a second reading, I don't remember it having such a <h>feelgood!!!</h> ending. And she saves the best gag for last, after telling us that the town thinks that Fred's book was written by Mary, but Mary's written by Fred:

In this way it was made clear that Middlemarch had never been deceived, and that there was no need to praise anybody for writing a book, since it was always done by somebody else.

Also at the end I was impressed with this bit, which is the most explicit criticism of 19th century society in the whole book:

Among the many remarks passed on her mistakes, it was never said in the neighbourhood of Middlemarch that such mistakes could not have happened if the society into which she was born had not smiled on propositions of marriage from a sickly man to a girl less than half his own age—on modes of education which make a woman's knowledge another name for motley ignorance—on rules of conduct which are in flat contradiction with its own loudly-asserted beliefs.

... and yet it doesn't appear in the edition in Project Gutenberg, and has scarely a few dozen hits in Google. What gives? I found it in a 'complete works' ebook, no publisher indicated.

neith moon (ledge), Wednesday, 2 September 2020 11:04 (one year ago) link

oops wrong brackets!

neith moon (ledge), Wednesday, 2 September 2020 11:05 (one year ago) link

Ok it's present in the manuscript and first edition, absent in the second. I wonder why she decided to soften the blow.

neith moon (ledge), Wednesday, 2 September 2020 11:16 (one year ago) link

That's strong. If I didn't have so much else to read, I'd think of reading it again. I did watch, for the 2nd or 3rd time, the 1994 TV version again last year. Very worthwhile, but might be less impressive to someone who's just read the book.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 2 September 2020 16:27 (one year ago) link

This is what the Penguin edition says about the ending revision:

Most of her corrections were minor, but she did revise the last two paragraphs of the novel in response to criticism that she seemed to blame society for Dorothea's mistaken marriage to Casaubon, when she had shown society to be, in fact, against the match.

George Eliot dropped these sentences from the second edition after recognizing that those critics were right who pointed out that Middlemarch society did not smile on Mr Casaubon's proposal.

So on its face it seems like the criticism was more about the internal logic of the book.

I'd say the prelude also makes the feminist point pretty explicit.

jmm, Thursday, 3 September 2020 13:54 (one year ago) link

I guess that is right about the marriage, which is a shame as the other criticisms stand but have less rhetorical force by themselves. As for the prelude, maybe, though it's somewhat sardonic and circumlocutory, and doesn't linger in the mind as something at the end of the book does.

neith moon (ledge), Thursday, 3 September 2020 15:07 (one year ago) link

six months pass...

Good book

Canon in Deez (silby), Friday, 2 April 2021 16:18 (five months ago) link

Possibly my favorite moment in Middlemarch is when Rosamond and Fred are bickering over breakfast:

"What would you think of me if I came down two hours after every one else and ordered grilled bone?"

"I should think you were an uncommonly fast young lady," said Fred, eating his toast with the utmost composure.

Lily Dale, Friday, 2 April 2021 17:01 (five months ago) link

Just finished this last night.

Chris L, Friday, 2 April 2021 17:29 (five months ago) link

Wow me too! Nice.

Canon in Deez (silby), Friday, 2 April 2021 17:33 (five months ago) link

lol Fred

horseshoe, Friday, 2 April 2021 18:41 (five months ago) link

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