Sunday, October 23, 2011

good reads

I actually started this whole post as a list of random autumn stuff we're doing...but it was boring even me, and it's about my own pedantic life! The usual school's going great we visited an orchard and fed the sheep and can't wait for halloween there's a chill in the air is thanksgiving really just a month away? sort of stuff. I really don't need to elaborate further do I? Well, maybe with a cute picture of Anya feeding the sheep...



But anyway, on to other topics. Right now there is a thunderstorm raging outside. We've had such a dry autumn so far, and few storms (despite several windy days) that the flashes and crashes of lightening and thunder feel unfamiliar, even a little unsettling. It's the perfect sort of evening to curl up with a cup of hot something-or-other (cider, tea, spiked cocoa, take your pick) and read a good book, preferably of the escapist variety.

A few weeks ago I checked out Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer (and several guest essayists) from the library. It's tremendously interesting, and boy have I learned a lot about NGOs and the nature of humanitarian aid organizations. I've gained a lot of respect for Bill Clinton as well; he's been very involved there. It's also unexpectedly inspiring. You'd think that a book about such a horrific disaster in a country so ill-equipped to deal with it would be despondent, but it's not. Throughout the book rings the theme of resilience and determination of the Haitian people to take charge of their own country and build it back better.

Still, Haiti After the Earthquake is a fairly heavy book, and one night last week I decided I needed to read something less grounded in reality. It was too late to go to the library, so I browsed our shelves here. We don't own many books, actually, so my choices were limited. I found a paperback copy of Wuthering Heights. I've never actually read Wuthering Heights, though it must be my copy (can you imagine Stuart owning it for any reason?). The receipt was still in there, with a purchase date from my senior year of high school, so maybe I bought it then and just never got around to reading it.

Well, I'm reading it now and I'm not sure what to think. Except for the main narrator - Nelly the maid - the characters are all broody and selfish. For most of them, their lives are defined by a childhood of abuse, neglect and alcoholism, with a hefty dose of mental illness. And because this is a mid-nineteenth century English romantic novel, let's throw isolation and incestuous overtones into the mix. The lot of them need therapy, or at least a decent social worker. I know, I know. It's not fair to criticize a novel like Wuthering Heights from a modern perspective. (Or is it? Some of you Lit majors out there, feel free to chime in!) At the end of the day, I think I prefer Jane Eyre.

Still, I'm glad I'm reading Wuthering Heights. It is a classic after all, and there is something deliciously indulgent and escapist, if slightly adolescent, about a story with such unrestrained passion and misery. I know I would have loved it when I was 16. I should have read it then!

4 comments:

Strangeite said...

Most libraries now have digital loaning, which is perfect for those last minute, need something else, three in the morning, not quite sure what, moments.

I love books but have come around to the idea of using an e-reader for my day to day reading.

Jessi said...

I love Wuthering Heights. Okay, since you asked for lit majors to get all geeky, let me give you something to think about while you read it - Wuthering Heights bridges a gap between romanticism and neoclassicism. The moor vs. Catherine's home, Heathcliffe vs. the old families, wildness vs. order. There is a tone of ambiguity to which is better or truer that resonates throughout. Also, Heathcliffe is sexy. Just sayin'.

As to criticizing from a modern perspective, I think it's completely fair, as long as you can recognize it as such. This was written just after (?I think, maybe during?) the American Revolution and speaks to the changing of perspectives on what is just or fair, too.

I hope you enjoy it. It's a perfect rainy day book, as that's how I always imagine Nelly telling it - next to the fire with her knitting while a storm rages outside.

Suze said...

Jessi, I was SO aiming that dig for lit comments at you!! Thanks for the input. I'm a little over halfway through the book now and it's getting more interesting.

Anonymous said...

If you read a biography of the Brontë family you will understand why it is such a dark book. It was not a happy life.

Mom