Day 30

I leave it to you, dear reader, to evaluate whether a month without internet is a good or bad thing.

  • Unable to ease my boredom by trolling the iTunes Music Store, I am left to search through CDs I haven’t listened to in years, including those I stole from my mom. Like Aerosmith.
  • I can not Google whatever’s wrong with my iPod Shuffle from home, and I never remember to do so at work. You know. Because I’m working.
  • I am not able to visit my bank account online everyday. My fear of identity theft at once grows and diminishes.
  • Without cable, either, I can’t check the weather before getting dressed. And anyone who lives in Edmonton knows that looking out the window is not the same thing. Although I guess the explorers would have done it. Or something.
  • I have little time to update my blog -- but more time to read.

So. On reading. Since I’m doing so much of it, without hurting my eyes by staring at a computer screen.

Our book club read another man’s selection -- The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

By this point, having a man select the book club book of the month is no longer a novelty. We have lots of men in the club now, and it will be a man who chooses the next book, too. Besides, since I forced them all to read Judy Blume, we never have to talk about the male perspective again.

Now, The Known World won a Pulitzer Prize, don’t’cha know. And it’s a national best seller. And, if it were ever an Oprah Book Club Selection/Movie, it would surely star Denzel Washington. Except they would have to rewrite a character to make him likeable. (I think Elias. Because Elias, a slave who tried desperately to run away, was very close to likeable. And perhaps in this Denzel-ized version of the book, it would somehow be explained why I should care that every 97th person in modern-day Virginia would be a descendent of Elias and his wife Celeste.)

I think Morgan Freeman might also be in it. He would be an excellent Augustus -- The Only Character I Liked In This Book.

And perhaps Henry, the former slave-turned-slave owner, could be played by Jamie Foxx. Because I really like Jamie Foxx, and while he certainly is very talented, sometimes his acting is very shallow (see Dreamgirls) and frankly Henry Townsend, while billed as the centre of all things in The Known World, is an incredibly shallow, barely-there character.

In my opinion.

(Not unlike how Anna Karenina is the most barely-there character in Anna Karenina.)

Why did this book win a prize?

I am sure it was winning, at least in part, because we love to turn our perception of history on its head. We love when things aren’t what they seem. When heroes aren’t really heroes, when villains aren’t really villains.

Perhaps this tale of the Deep South, and a black man who owned black slaves, and the society he coolly took part in, flips around known history. Or the known world. Or whatever. Even though we already knew there were Africans in Africa who profited from turning their neighbours or enemies over to Europeans as slaves to begin with -- which frankly makes this tale significantly less shocking.

I wonder if Will Smith could get a part in this film?

And who would want to play the Conflicted White Sheriff Who’s Actually From the North, So Does Not Believe in Slavery But Still Has a Thing for the Slave Girl/Daughter Figure Who Lives Under His Roof?


Sucks/Doesn't Suck

Things that, frankly, suck:

  • Moving
  • Switching cable service from one floor to another (necessitating three weeks without Internet at home, leading to me sitting in a downtown cafĂ© that has a high creep-factor, as a boy-child wearing a pink dress leans over my shoulder to look at my computer, while I review two-week-old Facebook messages that no longer make any sense and marvel at how Facebook had taken my life hostage and I think I might quit it altogether -- erm, Facebook, not life, to be clear)
  • Mailboxes missing mailbox keys
  • A broken iPod -- not related to anything else on this list, but sucky nonetheless.

Anyway, due to circumstances beyond my control -- some of them, at least -- I haven’t blogged in awhile. Which, I think, has been very disappointing for my (sole) readers.

Mom, Dad, Granny.

But I still have thoughts! And some of them are even new!

First, though, to go back to old thoughts that I’m still kind of proud of for their nouveau wannabe feminism -- when I was 18, I thought Elizabeth Bennet and Sophia Western were victims of happy endings, left to sacrifice any sort of individuality or independent thought or word to the men they would marry.

I may have been bluffing.

However, having just seen Becoming Jane, I’m contemplating the idea of victims or victors within happy endings.

The film -- starring the luminous Anne Hathaway and the blistering James McAvoy -- makes its heroine something of a victim of circumstance and love and destiny.

Which makes me think, really, that sometimes a woman is damned regardless.

Does Austen’s work really tell us she was unhappy with her lot in life? (Perhaps Persuasion does.)

For that matter, should we assume Emily Bronte or Lucy Maud Montgomery or Emily Dickinson or any other literary woman who died alone was unhappy?

(Or that they died alone? Most had nieces or nephews or brothers who later guarded their reputations rather well.)

Were the happy endings they put on the page representative of their dreams? Their wishes? Or an illustration of their own high standards? If these women could not have the perfection or passion of a Mr. Darcy, then did they simply not see the point of bothering at all?

I hate to put a 21st century spin on women I didn’t know, whose morals and needs likely couldn’t be less similar to my own.

But I wonder. Why think of any of these women -- authors or characters -- as victims when, perhaps, they simply made the best choices they could for themselves.

To make a film about Austen’s love life is to assume she wrote about herself in her books, developing her own sense of character through her heroines. It is also to assume she had a love life at all, and that the only way to write a love or a believable romance is to have tasted it herself. And to have somehow fallen short, left wanting forever.

On this, I can’t help but turn to an Austen biography written by Carol Shields.

“She was snatched from the good novel she had imagined herself into and placed into an alternate narrative of class bitterness…. The hero, it turned out, was part of a pragmatic design. For Jane Austen’s Tom Lefroy was gone, swiftly removed by the Lefroy family, who had greater plans for this young man than marriage to an unmoneyed clergyman’s daughter….
She never saw him again, although it is clear she thought of him. It is also apparent that the episode multiplied itself again and again in her novels, embedded in the theme of thwarted love and loss of nerve. In the novels, happily, there is often a second or third chance, a triumphant overriding of class difference but between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy there is only silence. He returned to Ireland after his studies, married an heiress, produced a large family, became something of a pious bore, and eventually rose to become chief justice of Ireland.”
(p. 50-51)


He also, apparently, named his oldest daughter Jane. Which, if they ever did do more than hold hands at a country ball, is icky. I do not believe I would smile courageously, lifting my chin and staring off into the near-distance for a moment, if I found out my ex had named his eldest child after me.

I think I’d more likely throw up a little in my mouth.

Speaking of throw-up, I have a single entry on the not-suck list.

  • Two of my best friends, high school sweethearts since high school, welcomed their baby daughter to the world last week. A baby girl who will never ever lack for love from all the people around her and who, I am sure, will never be a victim of a happy ending but rather a victor.