Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Muse-ings

Ha! I'm caught up! I was just about to post that I seem to characteristically finish each "book" exactly one week behind schedule but then I double-checked and found, to my surprise and delight, that having finished Book V just this moment, I am right where I'm supposed to be! Woohoo!

I am absolutely shocked to see how many of you have actually finished the entire book already. This has been an interesting and eye-opening experience for me; I can see that my attention span has dwindled from years of reading breezy, modern, fast-moving literature. In the words of Dorothea, "I am very slow. When I want to be busy with books, I am often playing truant among my thoughts." I often have to go back and reread an entire page when I come to the end of it and realize that I have no idea what I just read.

But I'm liking it very much. As so many of you have said, there is much deep thinking represented here. I am contantly scribbling profound passages into a notebook, and still I get the feeling that in trying desperately to keep hold of the story, I'm passing over more of these passages than I'm catching. This copy I'm reading is from the library, but I broke down and ordered a copy from amazon this morning. I can tell that this is a book that will benefit from rereading.

Most of my "profound passages" seem to have to do with the disillusionment of Dorothea. And yes, I would definitely say that this book is "modern" in that Dorothea's mistaken belief that she could find fulfillment in living through a man is one that is all too familiar today, too. In fact, I just yesterday came across a book review of a new novel called Memoirs of a Muse that shares this same premise:

Tanya is a girl who escapes her unpopularity by dreaming that she will become the muse of a great writer. Her favorite is Dostoyevski, and she chooses as her own inspiration his mistress, Polina, who was immortalized as a character in The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot. Dostoyevski's wife, Anna, to whom he dictated The Gambler, seems a mere stenographer to Tanya; a muse "influences the great man's work," she believes, in some glorious, "magical way."Throughout the book, as she moves from her youth in the U.S.S.R. to her first years as a young woman in New York City, Tanya interweaves her own story with that of the affair between Dostoyevski and the actual Polina (Apollinaria Suslova), a story that is a mix of fact and Tanya's romantic fantasies. Only after she joins her émigré aunt and uncle in New York, almost halfway through the book, do we learn that the novel's catchy title is ironic. "Memoirs of a Muse" is the name Tanya gives to her diary about her days as an inspiration—others might say kept woman—of an American writer, Mark Schneider. The section about their affair becomes more satiric, with its sly portrait of a pretentious, not-quite successful writer in middle age and his navel-gazing Manhattan literary world.
Maybe I'm just seeing Middlemarch everywhere, but can't you just see Dorothea and Mr. Casaubon in there? And really, couldn't young women today benefit from reading:
It was this which made Dorothea so child-like, and, according to some judges, so stupid, with all her reputed cleverness; as, for example, in the present case of throwing herself, metaphorically speaking, at Mr. Casaubon's feet, and kissing his unfashionable shoe-ties as if he were a Protestant Pope. She was not in the least teaching Mr. Casaubon to ask if he were good enough for her, but merely asking herself anxiously how she could be good enough for Mr. Casaubon.

Um, show of hands? Anyone here not thrown aside her reputed cleverness in order to partake of this stupidity?

Well, I just wanted to check in and say that I'm here, I'm humming along in my reading, and I'm liking the book a lot in spite of its plodding pace and obsession with local politics. And as soon as Memoirs of a Muse is in paperback, I'm so there.

2 Comments:

Blogger Raehan said...

Thanks! Great to read your thoughts.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Danielle said...

Good for you! I am not as far behind as I thought, either. I thought book VI was being discussed this week, as well. I am working on book IV, and I hope to finish it and get book V read over the weekend. I may not be completely caught up, but at least I will be on the right book next week. The passages on politics are also slow going for me--I am not sure why Eliot chose to put so much of that in her novel. I am sure there must be a reason?

10:34 AM  

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