Archive for September, 2008

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Sitcoms, Clarifications, and a Dodo

September 25, 2008

I don’t know whether to be impressed by your analytical skills in your deft drawing out of the echoes of Middlemarch in the mid-90’s laff-fest Caroline in the City. (So funny it deserves an irreverent spelling of laugh?) Or to be afraid of your near encyclopedic knowledge of the show now more than a decade since it was on the air. (I remember it was about a cartoonist, and maybe she had a cat (or was it a dog? A ferret?) that’s about it.)

I choose to be afraid. I think it’s time to let Caroline in the City go. As much as you may hope, Caroline, her drafting board, and the crazy shenanigans that ensued aren’t coming back.

I was considering tracing the parallels between young Fred Vincy’s ill-behavior to Men Behaving Badly, but then I couldn’t decide whether he was more like the Rob Schnieder character or the Ron Eldard character, then I realized this was probably because I never watched the show, so I gave up on that one, but in future posts, I will see what I can do.

Also, to clarify, I thought we had both implicitly decided to stop reading Middlemarch. I thought we were having one of those psychic twin moments that you hear so much about, but never actually happen. (Well, except for that one time when I felt your pain.)

I was mistaken.

Okay now for your Dodo game. i think I can trump you and your entire list because I can give a living example of a once thought extinct species:

You (read “dodo as idiot”–sorry to give the eponymous bird a bad rap.)

That, in my book, equals 10 points.

I win. 

Game over.

Happy reading,

Justin

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Dorothea in the Manor Village

September 23, 2008

Were you really going to write about similarities between Pulp Fiction and Middlemarch (like when they have mainline adrenaline into Mrs. Cadwallader’s heart after her accidental drug overdose)?  I thought you’d hit a rich vein in your Middlemarch is a mid-90s NBC sitcom trope.  I was hoping you’d expound on how the love and travails of one Dodo Casaubon nee Brooke was similar to the love and travails of erstwhile cartoonist Caroline Duffy from Caroline in the City.

In my head it went a little like this…

  1. Dodo is in love with a man who does not fully appreciate her, just as Caroline is stuck in that dead end relationship with Del.
  2. Dodo and Caroline should both really be with the slightly rancorous artist that challenges them and pines silently for them from afar (Ladislaw and Richard, respectively)
  3. And something about how Caroline’s neighbor who is in Cats is kind of like some other character in Middlemarch (Take your pick–there’s a million of them!  I’m not doing all the heavy lifting for you).

It looks like the creators of Caroline in the City owe a bit of thanks to one George Eliot (and, you know, the comic strip Cathy).

But I guess that trope has ended.

I did notice your failure to engage me in DodoQuest…just for the record the score is currently Jon: 3, Justin: Goose egg (or should I say Dodo Egg?)  You’d think with all the non-Middlemarch things you’ve been reading lately, you’d have run into a random Dodo or two (Thanks for nothing Thomas L. Friedman!)

Happy Reading,

Jon

P.S.  You think you get to bail out Middlemarch because you’re lazy…don’t make me bring up The Wind in the Willows–you owe me.

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What I’ve Been Reading When I Should Have Been Reading Middlemarch

September 23, 2008

1. I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal
2. Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman
3. Indignation by Philip Roth 
4. Back issues of The New Yorker
5. Back issues of Entertainment Weekly
6. Labels on detergent bottles (Who knew there was so much to know about All?)

I have to come clean (I am toying with an extended All/ laundry metaphor) there was a brief multi-week period where I thought neither of us was actually reading Middlemarch. In fact, I was just about to suggest that we abandon ship (dang, now I am mixing my metaphors) and start something new, and then I blink and you’ve finished Book 1 and now what’s this I hear about page 200.

Page 200??? Wha…? 

Anyway, I am back on the ball. And reading like a Whirlpool on the heavy wash cycle. (That’s right, baby, I am back!)

Okay, now for the scary twin moment of the day. Before I read your post, I too was contemplating writing a post about the similarities between Middlemarch and Pulp Fiction. After shaking off the cold shivers that run down my spine whenever you and I think too much alike, though, I decided to take things in a different direction.

I also had a very touching quotation that I was going to post here. Let me tell you, that George Eliot was such a softy. Just take in this heartfelt nugget:

“Plain women he regarded as he did other severe facts of life, to be faced with philosophy and investigated by science.”

I think someone was running on the delicate setting that day.

Back to reading,

Justin

 

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Another One Bites the Dust

September 20, 2008

And that titular “Another One” is I.  Well me and Naumann (but I don’t want to ruin plot points).  And when I say “Bites the Dust” I mean, I too have fallen under the spell of Dodo Causabon nee Brooke.

I’d kept my stony heart at a safe distance watching Dodo’s (mis)steps in love with a cold ironic detachment, but no more!  She makes a return around page 200 and dear twin we’ve got a new book on our hands.  Be forewarned.

And now that I’ve parsed this posting’s title I’d like to share a little revelation with you:  The coming of the apocalypse will be foretold by four hoursemen.  Wait, wait, wrong revelation.  Here’s the one I wanted to share: While reading today I realized that I needed to put aside my narrative expectations for this book…I keep expecting your standard linear narrative and Eliot keeps hopping from character to character without warning abandoning old characters while introducing new ones with frightful abandon.

I think what’s going on here is similar to those jigsawed movies like Babel, Nashville, and Pulp Fiction–who knew Eliot was so edgy.  I have to put my narrative expectations aside and just allow the book to tell its story.  I think its odd that I tend to like movies that tell stories in this fashion (except Babel–blegh), but in books it always throws me for a complete loop (I have the same issues with this book that I had when I started reading Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke–and I ended up with only the highest regard for that book).  I guess I bring different baggage to books then I bring to movies (To books a hobo-like handkerchief tied to stick, to movies a small messenger bag filled with bootleg candy–$3.50 for Reese’s…not on my watch!)

Well that’s my only thought…a paradigm shift in my tackling of this tome.

Also I thought it might be fun to play a little literary game…Famous Dodos in Literature (Or DodoQuest).  Here’s the beginning of the list

  1. Dodo Causabon nee Brooke (duh)
  2. Dodo Macintosh (friend to She Who Must Be Obeyed, Comic Foil to Rumpole)
  3. Pickwick (An actual Dodo bird…pet to futuristic Literary Sleuth Thursday Next)

Bring on the Dodos!

Jon

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Middlemarch Madness

September 14, 2008

And by “madness” I mean ire…as in my ire which is stoked by your lack of respect for the time and energy I put into my posts.  Blah, Blah, Blah, indeed!

But I do appreciate your attempt to give our discussion a theme.  So Re: Cadwalladers–I wasn’t that impressed.  Sure she was kind of funny, but (not to give anything away…did I mention how far along I am) but that appearance is but a blip on the Middlemarch radar.

My new favorite character is Mary Garth.  She’s a bit of a Debbie Downer, but I believe that that slightly depressive exterior is hiding a vulnerability that is quite charming.  Here’s a favorite quotation:

[Rosamund asks] What have you been doing lately?

[Mary Responds] “I?  Oh, minding the house–pouring out syrup–pretending to be amiable and contented–learning to have a bad opinion of everybody.”

No simple “Oh, this and that” for our Mary.  It’s all truth delivered pointblank, like an Uncrustable thrown at your face (my new favorite metaphor, btw.)

And what is she doing with that syrup??? (I’ve gotta get back to reading!)

So keep reading!  Although the absence of Dodo is strongly felt, the Mary Garths of book two more than make up for it.

Adieu,

Jon

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Subtle Insinuations

September 12, 2008

First and foremost, Twinner, Wings is, was, and always will be “Must See TV” in my book. Oh, who knew so many crazy shenanigans could take place in a small commuter airport on Nantucket. But just when you think they’ve exhausted the comic possibilities, Tony Shalhoub, walks and drops an Italian-accented (well, sort of) bon mot, and hilarity once again ensues.

Apologies, I have a tendency to digress when I start talking about Wings. If you remember, my original idea for a blog was “Watching Wings with my Twin” but nooooo. You were all for expanding our cultural horizons.

Now onto matter more Middlemarch-ian. I liked how in the midst of nostalgic flashback to our childhood days watching sub-par 70’s sitcoms (I can hardly wait for your bittersweet evocation of our viewing of The Partridge Family.) you ever so subtly mention how far along in Middlemarch you are.

And you don’t stop there, oh no, I could read the subtext of your vivid description of The Kelly Kids. As a case in point take this portion:

For example you write:
“Blah, blah, blah, Kelly Kids, blah blah Brady Bunch.” (Sorry, I had to paraphrase, I couldn’t remember your exact words.)

I read
“Ha! Look how far I am. Why do you read so slow? You are the albatross around the neck of this blog. Idiot.”

Well, don’t worry twin brother, the message came across loud and clear.

I am actually nearing the end of Book I myself. I can’t get enough of the Cadwallader’s. What are your thoughts on that crazy couple?

Well, I will be back when I finish Book One. So, talk soon.

Justin

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Wings, The Kelly Kids, And Sundry Musings

September 10, 2008

Dear Twin,

I like to think I’m quick on the uptake with most of your cultural references, but I’ll admit your Joe Hackett-Helen Chapel reference left me scratching my brow with the confused look of chimpanzee given a set of Chinese Checkers.  But then it came to me…Wings!  Of course!  Brilliant reference to NBCs pre-Must See Thursday Night Line Up.

I think the reason that it really confused me was because when I think of love and Wings (and I often do ponder those two topics in conjunction) I can only think of the May-September romance that heartbreakingly never came to fruition between Lowell and Fay.  Well that and Roy’s love of pie.

So I finished Book One last night and I warn you that it’s a little disconcerting.  In a previous entry I referred to it as being slapped in the face by sandwich treat, but really I think the experience harkens back to the days when we would watch The Brady Bunch re-runs everyday after school.  We rush in, throw our bags to ground and turn on TBS only to find that today’s episode was the episode with The Kelly Kids.  Sure, usually I’m a huge fan of anything that Ken Berry does (who’s not?), but when my fingers are crossed that I’ll get another viewing of the measles episode or the Desi Arnez Jr. sighting and instead I have to settle for an episode with nary a Brady in attendance…well, I’m a little disappointed.

That was the disappointment (and fear and confusion) I felt at the end of Book One.  But Middlemarch (the town and book) are more than just Brookes and Causabons and I guess its time we got to know everyone else too.  I’ve read the first two chapters of Book Two (please note how far I am!) and these “new” characters are growing on me (just as I’m sure the Kelly Kids would have grown on me had ABC allowed that show to flourish).

Just a heads up.  Remember what the Brady’s sang

There’s a time for change
Time to rearrange
Who you are and what you’re gonna be.
Sha-na-na Na Na Na Na Na, Sha-na-na Na.

Embracing the change,

Jon