Friday, August 30, 2013

George and Silas

I often urged older people to recall books they have read, to think of one that they felt strongly about when finishing it.  Then, find a copy of the book and take a look now.  It can be fun to compare your memories of the book itself and your feelings about it with how it seems to you today.  About a month ago, I was writing about such a second look, right while we were looking for a book to read aloud.

I recall enjoying "Ivanhoe" in grade 8 or 9 and thinking that Silas Marner was a good story well-written in about grade 10.  I also remember that "A Simple Twist of Fate", a 1994 movie retelling of the story in Virginia instead of rural England, was fun to watch.  The original 1861 story was very sensitively put together, conveyed in psychologically astute language that was restrained and civil, yet insightful about the nature of people and their motives.  The book was written by Mary Ann Evans, who wrote using the pen name "George Eliot".  This was a time when women authors were not to be taken seriously so she concealed her sex. By the way, an excellent book by the Australian professor Dale Spender, "The Writing or the Sex", does an unforgettable job at reviewing the way male critics have embarrassed themselves when reviewing writing they thought was male and then changed their opinion when finding the writer was female.

Two or three weeks ago, we decided to give "Silas Marner" a try for reading aloud.  We finished the story last night and again, appreciated the excellent phrasing and insight into human humility, pride, fear, shame as well as patience, joy, appreciation of opportunities life gives us if we are open to them and are brave enough to accept them, even when they are far from what we expected.

"George Eliot" wrote 7 novels in all and sometime, I may give "Middlemarch" a try.  Martin Amis and Julian Barnes, two accomplished novelists themselves, have pronounced the book "the greatest novel in English".  

On a separate note, Mary Ann Evans is reported in Wikipedia to have lived with a married man for 20 years, causing some comment and scandal.  Upon his death, she married a man 20 years younger than she was.  What's not to like about such a woman in such a time?

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