Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Silas Marner by George Eliot

George Eliot

Silas Marner
by George Eliot
published 1861

J.K. Rowling published Mugglemarch

  J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame has her first non-Potter novel out and it is called The Casual Vacancy.  Currently #1 among all books on  The book is already being called "Mugglemarch"(1) which is a reference to J.K. Rowlings authorship of the Harry Potter series and the resemblance of The Casual Vacancy to the work of George Eliot (Her biggest hit is Middlemarch.)

  I suppose the question is why an author as popular and wealthy as J.K. Rowling would write "in the style" of a George Eliot.  The answer is obviously that she wants to show that she is a serious novelist who appreciates the history of her art form. George Eliot is hugely popular among academics and critics, especially compared to her popularity among the Audience for, say, a Harry Potter book.

  But the simple fact is that an association between J.K. Rowling's first "serious" novel and George Eliot will increase Eliot's popularity with a larger Audience

  Silas Marner was Eliot's third novel.  Silas Marner is the name of the main character.  The subtitle of Silas Marner, "The Weaver of Raveloe" explains who Marner is.  Silas Marner is one of Eliot's three most popular works, having traded places with Middlemarch and Adam Bede for the distinction of "most popular George Eliot novel."  Silas Marner is the shortest of Eliot's books and also the most whimsical   Silas Marner takes place in the early 18th century and the plot revolves around stolen gold, an abandoned baby, and of course, an issue of legitimacy and inheritance. The biggest difference between Silas Marner and an actual 18th century novel is that Silas Marner(the character) is not a member of the aristocracy, but a working man. Eliot is better then her contemporaries like Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Trollope at depicting someone other then a wealthy, educated gentleman.

 There is so much to admire in Eliot's writing that it is easy to see why a Best Selling author would use her as an influence for a "serious" novel. Eliot was the first modern novelist, so who better?  If The Casual Vacancy gets people talking about George Eliot, good for everyone.


(1) New Yorker profile 10/1/12 called "MUGGLEMARCH" (NEW YORKER)
London Guardian article 9/26/12 called main page title for Rowling article, "IT'S MUGGLEMARCH" (LONDON GUARDIAN)
Financial Tiles book review 9/26/12, "Mugglemarch is Far From The Magic Crowd" (a dual reference to Eliot and Thomas Hardy, who wrote Far From The Maddening Crowd.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope

Book Review
Castle Richmond
by Anthony Trollope
published in 1860

  1860 was a big year for classic literature.  Seven novels published in 1860 made the cut for the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die (2006 ed.) list.   You've got Great Expectations by my man Charles Dickens,  Ivan Turgenev, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne,  Dutch author Multatuli and of course Anthony Trollope.  Anthony Trollope placed four works onto the 2006 edition list.

  Anthony Trollope was certainly a writer who possessed insight into the market for his works. His prolific career is a testament to the contemporary popular and critical Audience during a very busy period in the literary world.   An easy way to see how relevant Anthony Trollope was with his contemporary Audience is to look at an Ngram comparing the popularity of Trollope, Eliot and Hawthorne between 1850 through 1870.  There you can see that Trollope was right there with George Eliot and Nathaniel Hawthorne between 1850 and 1870.

 I think the natural comparison is to Hawthorne- with Trollope occupying the same slot with the domestic UK audience for fiction as Hawthorne did in the United States.   I would also imagine that if you went into a high school or university level literature course Trollope would pop up as frequently there as Hawthorne does here.

 To give you some idea of the size of the bibliography of Anthony Trollope, Castle Richmond was the third of five novels Trollope wrote set in Ireland, and his tenth published novel.

    Trollope was not Irish, but he worked for the British government as an administration during the Irish Potato Famine.  Castle Richmond is set during the beginning of the Irish Potato Famine, and the main plot regarding the inheritance of the local estate by one or the other heir is interspersed with vividly observed descriptions of Famine-related suffering that don't quite gibe with inheritance related main plot.

    There are some American Psycho level funny moments when the landed British gentry interact with the local, starving peasantry.  Castle Richmond seems like a strange pick for the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list given the sheer depth of the Trollope's catalog.  I think perhaps it was included because of the Irish/Potato Famine setting.

  One cautionary note is that it kind of sort of seems like Anthony Trollope was anti-semitic. Arguably anti-semitic. I wouldn't have even searched that phrase except for the odd descriptive touches that Trollope included in Castle Richmond.  I don't believe Castle Richmond is one of the examples of Trollope's anti-semitism in print, but he's got so many books...

Blog Archive