Archive for April, 2011

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Tough Love

April 30, 2011

Let me just make it abundantly clear that I intended to write a “Mrs. Beck is creepy” post well before. Admittedly, I don’t know when you hatched your plan, but if your past history of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants blog posting is any indication, it was well, (WELL) before you hatched your plan for your latest post.

Damn you and your posting impetuousness or damn me for my deliberate posting ponderousness?

You make the call!

No, I take that back. I’ll make the call. I have a distinct feeling that I leave the call making up to you it will reflect poorly on me.

Damn you and your posting impetuousness.

Now, I don’t understand your concern about Mrs. Beck lack of checking references. Perhaps you don’t recall that on Lucy’s first night at Vilette, Mrs. Beck rifles through her belongings looking for any incriminating or illuminating materials to the character of Lucy Snowe. I don’t know about you, but that seemed like a pretty thorough “reference check” to me.

I also like Mrs. Beck’s “Tough Love” style of school administration. When the English teacher doesn’t show up to teach her most unruly students, Mrs. Beck decides this is the perfect way for Lucy to test her mettle as a teacher. But don’t worry, Mrs. Beck leaves her with these comforting words:

“‘You will not expect aid from me, or from any one,’ said Madame. ‘That would at once set you down as incompetent for your office.”

As Lucy made her way to the classroom, a montage of classic teacher-against the odds movies streamed through my head: Glenn Ford in The Blackboard Jungle, Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love, Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver, and Michele Pfieffer in Dangerous Minds. A young teacher only with the hopes of making a difference being sent to swim with the sharks.

I don’t know whether it was when she tore apart young Blanche’s homework assignment to pieces in front of her eyes to demonstrate her power, or if it was when she locked unruly Delores into a closet for being a distraction in class, but after that I could not get Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” out of my head.

Apparently, Mrs. Beck’s “Tough Love” system has something of a trickle down effect.

Also, did they ever let Delores out of the closet!?!

Justin

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General Villette Style Creepiness

April 29, 2011

Last time I posted I was discussing the hiring practices of Lucy Snowe’s new boss, Madame Beck.  I posited that aforementioned practices were somewhat “relaxed”.  Well it seems that this lackadaisical attitude permeates all aspects of her life.  Here’s a description of the woman that Lucy will replace:

Beside a table, on which flared the remnant of a candle guttering to waste in the socket, a coarse woman, heterogeneously clad in a broad striped showy silk dress and a stiff apron, sat in a chair fast asleep.  To complete the picture, and leave no doubt as to the state of matters, a bottle and an empty glass stood at the sleeping beauty’s elbow.

Psst.  Madame Beck…I think maybe you should start checking references.  When you hire any wayfarer and wanderer that shows up to your door you end up hiring help that passes out in a drunken stupor when they are caring for your children.  AND she fell asleep with a candle burning–fire hazard!

And recall this previous conversation regarding Lucy’s predecessor went like this…

He gazed steadily.  “Do you need her services?”

“I could do with them.  You know I am disgusted with Madame Svini.”

Not, note, “Yes I could use a replacement for Madame Svini because she is a fall asleep tippler who doesn’t extinguish her candles and any minute she may endanger my children with her negligence and/or set my curtains on fire with her refusal to follow basic fire safety precautions.”

This beginning of Lucy’s new job did remind me of the first episode of Newsradio where Dave Foley’s Dave Nelson has to fire his predecessor on his first day at the studio.  I wonder how many subtle Villette references there were in that show?

But I’m not done discussing the oddity of Madame Beck.  Here’s the first night of Lucy’s stay in the maison de Beck

I was a light sleeper; in the dead of night I suddenly awoke.  All was hushed, but a white figure stood in the room — Madame in her night-dress.

Scary….or sexy?

Moving without perceptible sound, she visited the three children in the three beds;

Awww.  Sweet.

she approached me: I feigned sleep, and she studied me long.  A small pantomime ensued, curious enough.  I dare say she sat a quarter of an hour on the edge of the bed, gazing at my face.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!   AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!! (Least fun pantomime ever)

She then drew nearer, bent closer over me; slightly raised my cap, and turned back the border so as to expose my hair; she looked at my hand lying on the bedclothes.

Get. Out. NOW!!!

Creepy right?  And just when you think it can’t get creepier Madame Beck discovers the locks of Miss Marchmont’s hair that Lucy carries around with her.

Ew.

What’s Bronte going to throw at us next?  Madame Beck forcing Lucy to polish her many jars of urine?  Lucy’s construction of fingernail effigies of the entire Beck family?

I’ll keep you posted,

Jon

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Getting The Job Done

April 21, 2011

I’m sure at the tip of your typing finger you’ve got all sorts of sassy taunts just ready to add to the Internet.  Things like “Jon have you forgotten about this blog?”  or “Lose your copy of Villette?”  (Okay those don’t sound very sassy…you’d probably make them more interesting.)

And my response to your, as yet unwritten, witty rejoinders is…a blanket admission of negligence.  I’ve got no excuse.  Sure this book starts off really boring-ly and has yet to provide me with any meaty topics to expound upon, sure I’ve recently discovered The Good Wife which is compulsively watchable and sucks away gigantic portions of my night, and yes, I’m lazy (I like doing nothing, is that so wrong?).  All true.  Mea Culpa.

But I plan to atone, and the atonement starts now.  I will force myself to march on in this book and excavate the compelling factors well, well hidden behind the seemingly (oh so seemingly) uninteresting action of the book.

First….feminism.  I realize (and appreciate–I’m such an enlightened male!) that this book may well have been unique (and empowering) for its time, telling the story of brave, intrepid (and unfortunately, painfully boring) Lucy Snowe as she went out on her own, traveled to France, and found gainful employment.  I dig that she’s choosing her own adventures…I just wish we could pick up the pace a little bit on getting this particular scene set.

On a completely unrelated note…I always want to spell traveled as “travelled” — is that just me?  I feel like some time (perhaps long, long ago) I learned that the correct spelling was double-l.  But the red squiggle of spell checker tells me I’m wrong.  Just thought I’d share (Bronte doesn’t have a corner on the market of boring!).

Second–employment.  If nothing else we are getting an interesting snapshot on the hiring practices of the Victorian era (is it still the Victorian era if the story takes place in France?).  First you rightly point out Miss Marchmont has an odd approach when it comes to reeling in prospective “talent”.  Then we get Madame Beck’s negligence in checking references–she just calls M. Paul has him give Lucy a once-over and when he likes what he sees (lascivious eye brow wiggle) engages her on the spot.  Employment sure was wacky back then.  Mon Dieu!

There I’ve tried.  So let’s move this conversation along.  What do you see in this trope of employment…what is Bronte commenting on?

Oh God…if we have to talk about that for the next 400 pages I will cry real tears.

The tears are forming as I type…

Jon

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Miss Marchmont’s School of Advertising

April 9, 2011

Well, Twinner, you really Kurt Wallandered that mystery. Sorry, I like my sleuths how I like my gods of Thunder: Norse. (Hi, Thor.) But, anyway its good to know what (not who) definitively Vilette is. Although my theory that it was some misunderstood hell hound a la Mr. Rochester’s Pilot was just gaining. Oh sure, he would seem mean, scary, and well hell houndish at the beginning, but then we would discover under all that fur was only the rapid heartbeat of a puppy. And, sure, no dogs had been introduced in the book yet, but it was in the subtext. (Lucy Snowe is dog tired after her trek through the London streets. Coincidence? Please, don’t be naive.)

But, you know, a place is good too.

My real disappointment with the book so far is that Miss Marchmont isn’t going to be in it any longer. You’ve got a love someone who when offering Lucy a job as her companion and general dogsbody tells her the following:

“It will not be an easy life,” said she candidly, “for I require a good deal of attention, and you will be much confined; yet, perhaps contrasted with the existence you have lately led, it may appear tolerable.”

While not exactly a Don Draper-esque prose poem, I have to admit her “This job is a horrific nightmare of never-ending work and isolation, but it’s gotta be better than your currently dire situation.” was surprisingly effective.

The only thing I think she shouldn’t have left out there is, “And if you preform your duties well all year on Christmas Eve I will tell you the saddest and most crushing Christmas story ever.”

Really, then how could Lucy possibly say no. Luckily for us, the readers, Lucy did not need the additional cajoling.

Justin

 

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The Mystery of Villette

April 7, 2011

Well twin brother I’ve Hercule Poiroted myself into solving the mystery of Villette a la Miss Marple, leaving me feeling as if Lord Peter Wimsey coupled with Kinsey Millhone producing a child with Philip Marlowe’s tenacity and Sam Spade’s cool…and that child was me, the Koko of people detectives.

That’s right…I know who Villette is…and who Villette is…is a what.  Villette is a town.  We are fools.

All I can think is how ignorant our early posts must have seemed to those diehard Villette fans who accidentally stumbled upon this blog in their neverending quest for free, online Villette-themed fan fic.  Oh how their eyes probably rolled as they silently composed plotlines involving Lucy Snowe finally finding love with Hareton Earnshaw.

Well my face is red.

Other than my sleuthing (read: reading) I happened to catch the new movie version of that other Charlotte Bronte novel and all I have to say is this…where is the gypsy woman drag show?  That’s like the best part of the book.

Here’s to hoping that there will be some gender-bending waiting for us as the novel moves to France!

Jon