Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's raining so it's perfect for Middlemarch, which lately is starting to feel like a joyless Northanger Abbey. The first few sentences in of this book are always confusing for me as I have to pose questions to myself like "who is Mrs. Bulstrode's niece?" and "have I met any of these relations of Mr. Farebrother's before?" After a re-read sentence or two, I either answer a few of them them or push on with my slightly tempered bafflement intact.

I'm reading this one slowly, but one part I keep remembering from the Ashbery article I read a few days ago is how he read poetry quickly and prose slowly, with more consideration, and I think I do that too, so that is one way I am like a famous poet.

Today, there was some action, though, as Dr. Lydgate's cruel and thoughtless courtship of Rosamond suddenly exceeds his control, and, in a moment of surprise intimacy, he ends up engaged. A lovely line in there describes how "flirtation was shaken into love" or something like that. This book might seem, to the outward eye, as slow-moving at times but what I love is the way Eliot documents the private movements--the dramatic shifts of public regard in general and also the individual expectations and disappointments--all these things happening out of sight but revealed with Eliot's careful voice.

That word, "expectation," too--that's one of my favorite expressions right now. Men here have to be careful not to hold eye contact too long with a woman or risk there arising "an expectation" between them that they will have to answer for. Every step here is so fraught with social dangers.

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