Thursday, November 23, 2006

I’m writing something today mainly to practice for the next few weeks… I’ll explain tomorrow… and as I was just writing to Katie the other day about how I actually miss studying literature – I miss dissecting books – people who say that they think books should just be enjoyed as they are, without picking them to pieces, really get on my nerves!!! – and one of the things I do love about being out in the middle of nowhere is how much time there is to read, but it’s not as fun when there’s no-one to break the spine and underline sentences with you!! (Books are there to be defaced ((but only in pencil!!)) So I thought I’d put what I’m reading out there and see what happens…

So I just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – one of those books I’ve always meant to read – always thought I should read – one of those authors you feel as a literature student that you probably shouldn’t have both started and completed your degree without reading (especially since, while we were both in Bath, Rachael took the popular ‘Wilde’ course while I took the comparitively tepid children’s literature course) – and I have to say that, in the end, I was a bit disappointed! The characters were just characters – I didn’t believe in any of them – especially not the women, although perhaps that was intentional, since Wilde clearly doesn’t think too highly of us generally (and it was disappointing to discover that a gay writer could be just as much a misogynist as his straight contemporaries). And although I read one critic who suggested that the anti-Semitism expressed is Wilde either trying to appeal to his audience, or an addition to the ugliness of the protagonist who is the one voicing these opinions, I don’t really buy it – since Sibyl Vane shares his dislike for the particular character, and she’s supposed to be one of the good ones. And I did understand that Wilde wasn’t necessarily falling on one side of the ‘aesthetic pleasures vs. moral fortitude’ debate, that is the central concern of the novel, as decisively as it initially seems (he did once say in an interview that he wanted to be Dorian Gray), but I still found the monotonous repetition of the pretty self-righteous – and almost lecturing – debate fairly tedious.

Before this I read Zadie Smith’s On Beauty – a birthday present from Katie that took me 8 months to get round to reading (that was my dissertation’s fault entirely!!) which was ten times more enjoyable – with its living, breathing characters, and its raining, snowing locations. I don’t normally like that kind of slightly self-conscious informality – the kind of I-can-write-like-I’m-not-trying style – but the strength of the characters, the humour, and story won me over. As far as I’m concerned, pitched against the racist, sexist Oscar Wilde, it was game, set and match Zadie Smith!

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