Saturday, December 23, 2006

Why read literary fiction?

This is a discussion I have had with friends many times over.

I am now reading "The French lieutenant's woman" by John Fowles. So some thoughts based on the first 40 pages. (This is also a nice use of this idiom to gather together bits of the work into a statement on what I liked in a work of literary fiction).

-----------------------(page 21-22)
[Period 1850s-1860s]
Laziness was, I am afraid, Charles's distinguishing trait. Like many of his contemporaries he sensed that the earlier self-responsibility of the century was turning into self-importance: that what drove the new Britain was increasingly a desire to seem respectable, in place of teh desire to do good for good's sake. He knew he was over-fastidious. But how could one write history with Macaulay so closely behind? Fiction or poetry in the midst of the greatest galaxy of talent in the history of English literature? How could one be a creative scientist, with Lyell and Darwin still alive? Be a statesman, with Disraeli adn Gladstone polarizing all the available space?
You will see that Charles set his sights high. Intelligent idlers always have, in order to justify their idleness to their intelligence.
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----------(Page 26)
["her" in the following is Mrs Poulteney, who was "like some plump vulture, endlessly circling in her enless leisure and endowed in the first field with a miraculous sizth sense as regards dust,infigermarks [and immorality]"]

In her [Mrs Poulteney] fashion, she was an epitome of all the most crassly arrogant traits of the ascendant British Empire. Her only notion of justice was that she must be right; and het only notion of governament was an angry bombardment of the impertinent populance
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------------------- (page 37)
(Vicar is trying extract a favour from Mrs Poulteney)

Vicar: "...the french barque was driven ashore ... . His leg had been crushed at the first impact, but he clung o a spar and was washed ashore. You must surely have read of this?"

Mrs Poulteney: "Very probably. I do not like the french"

(The dots in the following are form the original - not my omissions :-) )

Vicar: "Captain Talbot, as a naval officer himself, most kindly charged upon his household the care of the ...[sic] foreign officer"

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