Archive for June, 2011


An Explication and an Exclamation

June 30, 2011

Or an exclamation and then an explication.

First for the exclamation–“HOLY MOLY!!!”  You write to complain about the lackluster beginning to chapter seventeen (which I’ll address shortly).  But you make no mention (no mention!) of the fact that chapter fifteen deals with the crazy and unbelievable plot twist that Dr. John and Graham Bretton (Lucy’s god-brother from the early chapters of the book) are one and the same!

And not only that, but John Graham (as he’s called now) doesn’t recognize Lucy Snowe at all.  AND Lucy Snowe has known for chapters (chapters!) and not let the reader know this important piece of the story.


I’ll admit that when they made that revelation I was sitting in public, in a Starbucks in Vancouver and an unsavory expletive was uttered in disbelief.

Vancouver Starbucks

I'll have a tall latte...and a reliable narrator.

So wow.  I did not see that coming.

Now on to just what the hell is going on at the beginning of “La Terrasse”.  I believe that Bronte is using metaphoric language to show the anguish in Lucy’s heart with her unrequited love for Dr. John Graham.  She uses this admittedly high-falutin’ language to make the particulars of Lucy Snowe’s situation, more universal.

Let’s look at the first sentence:

These struggles with the natural character, the strong native bent of the heart, may seem futile and fruitless, but in the end they do good.

Here Lucy is convincing herself that her sorrow (remember she fell asleep in tears in the previous chapter…maybe because the man she loves doesn’t remember that they used to live together….for years) will be good for her in the long run.  These pillow tears will eventually pay dividends baby!

And then there’s stuff about Reason and Feeling and blah, blah, blah.  And then we jump to the last sentence:

To how many maimed and mourning millions is the first and sole angel visitant, him easterns call Azrael.

Here Lucy is showing off her pop culture knowledge by making an obscure reference to The Smurfs

Gargamel and Azrael from The Smurfs

Because Gargamel's cat was named Azrael...coming soon to a theater near you!*

So there you are!  You can read on now, with no more confusion.

See you in the funny papers!


*Image from Wikipedia entry on Gargamel




June 24, 2011

Dear Twin,

I’m tired of your negative attitude towards this book…every post is “I hate this book this” or “I hate this book that”.   Come on Justin let’s focus on what’s good in this book for a change.  Let’s engage in some positivity!

Here are some things I like in my recent reading:

  1. The trope of characters finding their better selves through acting as other characters in plays.  Finally Lucy shines, but only when she takes on the guise of a man in her school’s pantomime.  I saw this episode of the book as the precursor to the episode of Growing Pains where Mike Seaver stars in Our Town (my favorite episode of Growing Pains) or the Just the Ten of Us episode when Coach Lubbock directs Death of a Salesman (my third favorite episode of Just The Ten of Us).  Or indeed as a precursor to my very own teen years when I discovered the true Jon Jeffryes, only when talking into my shoe “phone” playing Maxwell Smart in our high school production of Get Smart.
  2. Lucy shows her balls!  Metaphoric not hermaphroditic.  At the end of the fete when Dr. “Isidore” John tries to get Lucy to extol the virtues of her direct competition for his heart, she throws it right back at him with his competition for Ginevra.   “‘But excuse me, Dr. John, may I change the theme for one instant? What a god-like person is that De Hamal!  What a nose on his face–perfect!  Model one in putty or clay, you could not make a better or straighter, or neater; and then, such classic lips and chin — and his bearing — sublime.'”  Lucy’s got some stones!
  3. The first 50 pages were not a waste.  It looks like in “Auld Lang Syne” that those characters…that family she lived with at the beginning of the book…what were there names…the Brettons!…might be returning to the story.  What a coincidence that this girl happens to end up in the same city as her estranged godmother (or god-brother).

So look I’ve got the ball rolling, that wasn’t so hard…now your assignment is to identify some things that you like about this book (it’s not all bad!) and report back to this blog.

My homework is to actually read this book.  Last week I read three chapters and felt on top of the world…but now another week has gone by and I haven’t cracked the book since last Friday.

But I’m taking this assignment to heart! (As I, indeed, hope you take yours).  We’ve been meandering through this book at a mite too leisurely of a pace.  I’m making getting through this book my new priority.

So you should be hearing from me again soon…with updates from further in the book! (And maybe an explication of the first paragraph of “La Terrasse”–I’m not quite there).

Until then,



Comprehension Quiz

June 19, 2011

Actually, I hate to correct your correction, but the game was called “Dashwood, Bennett, or Eliott”. Some might say deceptively called “Dashwood, Bennett, or Eliott” considering the liberal peppering of Bertram-based quotes. Not that I hold a grudge, or anything, but let’s just say there’s a reason I now make you exhaustively describe the parameters of any game before I agree to play. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.)

Now, I can’t help but feel that my posts lately have been, shall we say, a bit one note. But, (and pardon my use of all captials here) WHAT IN BLAZES IS GOING ON IN THIS BOOK?!?!?

I thought I had a good grasp on it with the developments in the Dr. John/Lily relationship. All pretty standard **gasp**-inducing Romantic melodrama. I unsuspectingly turn the page to Chapter XVII: Le Terrasse that opens with perhaps the least comprehensible* paragraph I have recently read.

*A note here: When I say “least comprehensible paragraph” I should clarify that I could comprehend each individual word, clause, sentence, I just couldnt’ comprehend what it had to do with anything else in the book. Hence my lack of comphrension.

So, if you’ve one-upped me here, and can explicate the narrative meaning of the opening of the chapter, I am all ears.




June 10, 2011

Before I get into the meat (or juicy, juicy calico bean, if you are so inclined) of my post about attics I feel I must make a quick note of correction to your last post…a  nota bene in fact.  The Austen-themed game was in fact “Dashwood, Bennett, Woodhouse OR BERTRAM.” (You know I’m a Mansfield Park man!).

Now on to my ruminations about attics–What the hell was going on in Haworth Parsonage (specifically in , but not limited solely to, the attics).  I think Charlotte’s fictional treatment of attics needs little contextualization (ahem, Jane Eyre) and now in Villette we have Lucy Snowe’s attic imprisonment.  What bad formative attic-related experiences did poor Charlotte Bronte have?

Maybe I’m funny (maybe?!–that is funny!) but if I do a co-worker a solid, then the last thing I expect is for them to lock me in a dirty attic filled with bugs, dirt, rats, and ghost nuns in return for that kindness (take note co-workers!).  Yet that’s exactly what happens when Lucy volunteers to save the day and star in M. Paul’s show.

Now I know we’re in agreement on the fact that I’m funny, but if for some reason my co-workers did respond to my kindness by imprisoning me, I think my last reaction (very last) would be to work really hard in my newfound dusty prison-home to make sure that I gave said co-workers my best….but once again, that is just what our Lucy does.  (That’ll show him!  Duh Lucy, you’ve just ensured that every time someone asks a favor of you from now on, they will lock you up subsequently to get your 110% best–awesome precedent.)

But, slightly unrelated, I did enjoy the Victorian gender-bending.

My next question: What do you find more annoying Lucy Snowe’s repeated self-effacement (or abasement: “I’m not pretty”  “I’m not interesting”) or Ginevra Fanshawe’s overwhelming self-love?  Now there’s a “ponder topic!”

And with that I leave you to stew (or slow cook, if you prefer) on that.



Another Post Ruined!!!

June 2, 2011

Your incessant need to contribute to this blog has once again ruined a potentially hilarious blog post!

I was all set to wittily skewer your last post and your amazing capacity to write an entire post (paragraphs!) without actually mentioning the book itself. Instead it’s your zany conjecture about my joining some sort of Amnesiac Lost Book Cult–that is what you were conjecturing, right? (Honestly, I read the post about a week ago, and then put my humor in the ol’ mental slow cooker.)

But now, that calico-beaned to perfection post (this is me continuing my slow cooker metaphor) has been made irrelevant. Which only leaves me with one question:

Why don’t you like my calico beans? (Sorry, when I start thinking slow cookers old wounds rear their ugly head.)

Actually, I am glad to hear you’re making headway in the book. Although, I am sorry to hear it had to come at the cost of your travel companions sanity. I’ve been in the car with you when you’ve spontaneously created a literature-based game. (Who can forget “Dashwood, Bennett, or Woodhouse” in which you read brief snippets of Jane Austen and the victim…I mean particpant…has to identify which Janeite family the crazy shenanigan originated.)

While you have many talents (I don’t hear anyone thoughtlessly rejecting your calico beans.), game invention is not one of them.

Well, I don’t want you to think I’ve completely forgotten the book. Can I just say it’s pretty damn convenient that the one moment where a slightly intriguing plot point (Who is writing these mysterious love letters?) is the exact same moment that Bronte decides to have Madame Beck have a slip up in her otherwise stealth snooping.

I am also at “The Fete.” I wonder what Madame Beck will do the next time something potentially interesting might happen? Perhaps, it will be unexpected indelicate fart? (Maybe she too likes a nice calico bean.)

I guess reading on is the only way we’ll find out.



Translate That!

June 1, 2011

Well I’ve returned from my journeys…and with the hours and hours (and hours and hours) that I spent in the passenger seat tooling around the upper Midwest I made some headway in our shared reading adventure.   Not only did I progress through two more chapters (which granted doesn’t sound all that impressive out of context–here’s the context: I also got through three (three!) New Yorkers and a New York Review of Books–cover to cover baby!), but I also incorporated Villette into a fun car game that I’m calling “Translate That!”

Here’s how the car game works…one passenger reads the French quotations from Villette out loud (and if you’re me, and I am!, you speak in a tres horrible French accent).  Then you ask your travel companion to “Translate That!”

This game is only fun if neither of you actually speaks French AND your copy of Villette has all the French translated in the back of the book as an appendix (which I discovered mine does, which also makes huge swaths of the book much more understandable, i.e. that mash note that Lucy Snowe finds).  You can either choose to use whole phrases or single words.

My favorite example:  “donc”  Translate That!

Also in the car the book’s plot finally started to form–all this consternation over the casket and romance notes.  I will say that when I saw the chapter entitled “The Casket” and knowing what I know about the Brontes’ love of the macabre I thought it was going to be a very different casket, and mayhaps the start of scary shenanigans (especially when Charlotte throws that red herring of the nun’s ghost).  But no…the casket appears to be a means of transport for love letters (which I guess is something–something not particularly interesting, but something).

Well next time you’re on a car ride, and you’ve tired of “Cows On My Side”…Translate That!

I’m off to “The Fete” (which my Appendix–not be confused with my appendix–translates as “the Birthday”–I don’t think every fete has to surrounded by birthday celebrations, but perhaps I’m wrong (I doubt it)…shoot now I’ll be up all night questioning my newfound, Appendix-given, understanding of the nuances of donc).