Thursday, June 12, 2014

Well Said: Of course, in a novel people's hearts break ...

Of course, in a novel, people's hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living, yet to be gone through; and this yet remained to Augustine. Had his wife been a whole woman, she might yet have done something—as woman can—to mend the broken threads of life, and weave again into a tissue of brightness. But Marie St. Clare could not even see that they had been broken. As before stated, she consisted of a fine figure, a pair of splendid eyes, and a hundred thousand dollars; and none of these items were precisely the ones to minister to a mind diseased.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
I am reading this for the third time, which allows me to pursue it at a very leisurely pace and simply enjoy it. Stowe was such a great writer in the Dickensian style I love. I like even more that she and Charles Dickens were great admirers of each others' writing. This book does contain a great deal of heartbreak, suffering, and hypocrisy. However, it is interwoven with a great deal of humor and insight that leavens the whole, makes it timeless, and a real pleasure to read.

Marie St. Clare was spoiled in the true sense of the word through complete indulgence. Stowe's comments and examples find vivid echoes in the behavior of heedless parents and spoiled children today. Entitlement is no new thing and it is shown in all possible ways here, including those which make the reader laugh. I mean to say, the mind that conceived of putting Marie St. Clare up against Miss Ophelia, a no-nonsense Vermonter, is a mind that understands humor.

Also, I think of the conversation about books to take on a long trip (yes, for a Holy Land Pilgrimage ... it's on my mind!) and I look at this little, light version and smile. It is a Collector's Library edition. I love little books and this series fills the bill. They are generally inexpensive, between $5-$10, hardback with a ribbon marker and gilt edges, and 4" x 6". This 644 page book weights only around 11 ounces, making it a perfect bedtime book and easy to slip into my bag during the day in case I am stuck in line somewhere.

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