Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Loved the peacock joke - reminded me of Darcy's response when Elizabeth Bennett refuses his first proposal; he: "seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise".

As to Val's query about men being typecast... well, I think most people are both individuals and part of groups, and I find the interplay of that fascinating. I'm more relaxed about men being labelled because (apart from being female) men tend to be the more powerful gender, so to identify what exists is, I hope, less likely to harm them. They tend to have more choice and room for manoeuvre even if they do get typecast. Women, however, tend to be more vulnerable to oppression, so being labelled unfairly might be more damaging. (That's courtesy of John, who I go to for my feminist theory!) For instance, being labelled a Jack-the-lad never yet seemed to prevent a man, in real life or in literature from changing his ways and winning a lovely girl. (Happens all the time in Shakespeare.) In something like Tess of the d'Urbervilles, however, this is not exactly how it works out for a woman in a similar position, even when she does have choices. Kirsty - the book's certainly bleak enough for you, if nothing else!

To return to Pride and Prejudice, Darcy IS typecast as proud, and quite accurately, but as a man he can decide to go against type and approach a feisty, non-posh girl to loosen him up. Elizabeth does not have an equivalent choice: all she can do is choose between the offers she gets. My personal view is that Jane Austen cheats by giving Elizabeth such an unfeasibly eligible hero (like Helen S, I'm rather a Colin Firth fan, but Matthew McFaydden or however you spell it is well worth a look too). Elizabeth cannot choose - and indeed does not even seek to engineer - any of the offers she gets, and hey presto! One offer is utterly against her and his type, and yet is perfect. Charlotte Lucas has, I think, a far more plausible choice (for that era). But I'm glad Jane Austen did cheat and enable us to enjoy the novel. What do you lot think?

I quite agree with Kirsty about Counselling for toads - it IS scary to see how responsible we are for our children. But I suppose that, given that is the case, I'd rather understand as much as I can. Was I the only one to be emotionally moved (with application to my own life) by the issues raised, as well as gaining head-knowledge?

Following on from Val and Valerie, I quite agree that plots will modulate in response to new technology and scientific advances. Just thinking about the contemporary novels I've read most recently, just about all of them depend on miscommunication, and some are already using other factors to achieve this. How I live now had all the networks down, no landlines, and martial law (!). Curious Incident had a protagonist without a mobile phone. Even had Christopher been able to use one, I suspect he wouldn't have been able to get what he wanted from it, since his mental landscape is so very different from other people's. Miscommunication is thriving in that book, isn't it? And yet, brilliantly, the author makes things so very clear to us through the fog. The subject of Penelope Lively's The Photograph is dead (rather drastic!) so the whole point of the book is how those left behind understand what she can't now voice. The characters in Brick Lane are too poor and in Tracy Chevalier's The Virgin Blue they are too distracted to remember to call each other enough. Do you reckon that most works of fiction would come to an abrupt end if a character just announced, clearly and to everyone, what was not being communicated?