Friday, November 12, 2010

Some Notes on a Certain Book; Excitement for a Year at Oxford

My mother isn’t exactly a keen reader. She isn’t the kind of person who’d start a book club anyway. So it was with great surprise that I received the information of her decision to host one. My mom being an elementary school teacher, all club members are elementary school teachers as well. Except myself that is! Yes, I decided to join! In such cases it is only right to give support!

At the moment the club is rather disorganized (meeting days have yet to be established) so it is on my own accord that I have begun the club’s first reading selection, The Painted Veil. Yes, The Painted Veil. What a curious title! I’ve only just started it, but it’s already managed to make its own quaint, shocking impression. Indeed: an affair! No, no, no. But what really grabs me is his prose, W. Somerset Maugham’s, that is. (By the way, he was one of Brittan’s most highly regarded, highly paid authors of the 1930s. He was fabulously prolific, writing scores and scores of novels, short stories, plays, travel writings, and literary criticism!!)

Here is a picture of Mr. Somerset himself, taken in 1934:

How could anyone resist running to the bookstore and purchasing one of his books, after having seen this photo? Behold. Something about his prim attire; somewhat grim, bemused countenance; and slicked hair—all white and grey and silvery!—screams literary merit—indeed, screams literary genius!

However, it is not the genius of Shakespeare or Woolf or Nabokov that he possesses. It is an entirely new genius. (I am only a couple of dozen pages in, but let me make some observations!) His prose is remarkably concise for all of the insight/information it carries. What’s more, it is beautifully expressed—unlike someone—cough, cough: Hemingway—cough, cough. Let us not compare this Brit to that American, however…even though they were writing in the same time period! 

Here is a trio of noteworthy excerpts:

“His daughters had never looked upon him as anything but a source of income; it had always seemed perfectly natural that he should lead a dog’s life in order to provide them with board and lodging, clothes, holidays and money for odds and ends; and now, understanding that through his fault money was less plentiful, the indifference they had felt for him was tinged with an exasperated contempt.”

“She had a hard and facile fund of chit-chat which in the society she moved in passed for conversation.”

Lastly, the “shrewd” mother Mrs. Grastin’s take on her daughter’s beauty:

“Her beauty depended much on her youth, and Mrs. Garstin realized that she must marry in the first flush of maidenhood.”
[she is trying to make a brilliant marriage for her daughter.]

Anyway, enough about the book! I will write more as I read.


On a more scholarly note, I am growing wonderfully impatient for my junior year abroad at Oxford. O, Nicky! I haven’t told you yet, but my school has a one-year study abroad program at Oxford, and I’m planning to do it my junior year. It’s our most competitive study abroad program, but I’m absolutely determined! What an exciting prospect! But everything in its own time, I suppose. I’ll tell you more, Nicole, later, but I have some work to do, so I better conclude for today.

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