Book Crush of the Week: Author Venn Diagram

Another week, another Book Crush of the Week. We dig this Author Venn Diagram from HTML Giant, which categorizes authors into three main writing types (head, heart, mouth) and plots their intersections. We're fans of the concept, although we have a few minor quibbles with some of the author placements.  

And, of course, one of us is just thrilled to see William Faulkner so close to perfection the center of the diagram... while the other would place him on the moon instead of this diagram, if she could. Gold star if you can figure out who's who, although it's probably not too hard. : )

What category (or categories) do your favorite authors tend to fall in to? Do you like a certain mix in your books or do you lean heavily to one specific category? 

Image via HTML Giant.

Ready for A Victorian Celebration

June is just one day away and that means A Victorian Celebration, the event hosted by Allie from A Literary Odyssey is about to begin. We're very excited to take part because we love the dear old Victorians in all shapes and forms, and a tribute to them is always a good idea in our book.

Our love for the Victorians declared, here's what we'll be reading throughout June and July:

Fiction written in the Victorian period
  • George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
  • Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
  • Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband
  • Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
  • Henry James, What Maisie Knew

Fiction set in the Victorian period
  • Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers 
  • A.S. Byatt, Possession

  • Giles Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians
  • Gail MacColl, To Marry an English Lord
  • Charles Darwin, On the Origins of Species

We're really looking forward to reading: The Buccaneers and On the Origins of Species.

We have mixed feelings about reading: Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations. Alexis is reading Wuthering Heights for the first time and she's not sure whether she'll enjoy it. Claudia is mildly allergic to Dickens.

This list is just to give you a taste of the main focus on our blog in the next two months or so. Of course, reading magpies that we are, we might get distracted by other shiny Victorian titles and add them to the list/read them instead. Oh yes, and we'll also be covering some Victorian poetry and Victorian essays in two new series we're planning.

If you haven't signed up yet, you can click on the picture below for the sign-up post on Allie's blog. And now we're off to see what everyone else is reading.

Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

I'm quite thrilled today to not only pen my first proper book review here on the blog, but to also cross off my very first book completed for The Classics Club: Persuasion by Jane Austen. 

Persuasion is the third Austen novel I've read, the other two being Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Quite unlike my other previous encounters with Jane Austen novels, Persuasion represented a totally new experience for me because I knew absolutely nothing about the book before reading it.

With Austen's more famous works, it's so easy to be aware of their basic plot lines through cultural osmosis (chances are if you haven't read Pride and Prejudice, for instance, you already have a pretty good sense of what it's about... and maybe a healthy admiration for Mr. Darcy). But, for me at least, that wasn't the case with Persuasion. It was a completely blank slate. I knew nothing of the characters or the plot--in fact, all I knew about the book was the title.

That intrigued me and, since I like Austen quite a bit, I picked up the book with great interest. Here's what I discovered along the way.

The Central Theme

(Warning, gentle readers: a few mild spoilers lay ahead. Not into that? Why, just jump on down to The Bottom Line for my overview review.)

Austen's final finished work, Persuasion is the story of twenty-seven Anne Elliot, a baronet's daughter, who eight years before the novel opens is briefly engaged to dashing naval officer Frederick Wentworth. Under the influence of her pompous father Sir Walter (rendered in satirical perfection by Austen) and her well-meaning mentor Lady Russell, Anne was persuaded to end her engagement to Wentworth, deemed an inferior match for a woman of Anne's position.

We meet Anne close to a decade after this fateful event, living a quiet, if by turns unhappy, life with her father and elder sister Elizabeth, who is Sir Walter's protege in manners and temperament. Rounding out the family is the youngest (married) sister Mary Musgrove, another brilliant Austen caricature of self-absorption.

Review: Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster

I've been procrastinating on this review for two weeks now. This is the third Forster novel I've read and I have mixed feelings about it. I'm not quite sure how to go about as not to present it too harshly. So I'll try to lay down what I thought this novel was about and then, separately, my own reaction to it and whether I think it achieved its goal.

The Central Theme

[only minor spoilerage in this section, but skim to the next if you want] 

Where Angels Fear to Tread opens with Lilia, a young unsophisticated widow, being driven to the train station by her in-laws, the despotic Mrs. Herriton and her children, Philip and Harriet. They are sending her on a trip to Italy in the company of the young but trustworthy Caroline Abbott, to prevent her from making a bad match in England. Lilia's trip and its results introduce a clash between two worlds in the novel, and a clash between beauty and morality.

On one side, we have the stifling world of Sawston, England, your typical small town full of dust, virtue and narrow-minded matrons. Life in Sawston is not beautiful. Life in Sawston is not particularly moral either. Life in Sawston is conventional. Mrs. Herriton, the velvet-gloved tyrant, is its prototype; Harriet, the humorless zealot, its most exaggerated form. They tried to mold Lilia and failed, and are now trying to mold her young daughter in the same style. You can't blame the other characters - Philip, Miss Abbott, even Lilia - for striking out against this life and trying to escape.
All that winter I seemed to be waking up to beauty and splendour and I don’t know what; and when the spring came, I wanted to fight against the things I hated—mediocrity and dulness and spitefulness and society. I actually hated society for a day or two at Monteriano. I didn’t see that all these things are invincible, and that if we go against them they will break us to pieces. --Miss Abbott to Philip

Book Crush of the Week: Green Grass Bookmarks

Hi everyone! It's time for our second installment of Book Crush of the Week, where we showcase some of our favorite bookish things from around the web. This week we're crushing on these adorable bookmarks--how awesome are they? 

Image from

They are totally perfect for summer, which is now just officially around the corner (provided you live in the Northern hemisphere, bien sur). But what we really love is just how perfect they are for reading; each little shoot of grass reminds us of all those great 'ah-ha!' and 'wow, I love this sentence' moments that arise organically when you're immersed in a wonderful book. 

How many grass shoots would your favorite book have in it?

Top Ten Non-Bookish Sites We Follow

This week, the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish want to know what blogs/sites we follow that are NOT about books. So here's a selection of the sites that we visit/admire the most and a bunch of reasons why you might like them too:

Aunt Peaches
Who reads this: Alexis
Why she reads it: Because Aunt Peaches is Martha Stewart's zany, colorful, ultra-hilarious cousin. I'm not a super crafty person myself, but I love how offbeat her projects are (ex: she's turned coffee filter flowers into a genre and has about 1,5476,204 uses for glitter). 
You should read it if: You need a source of inspiration for a quirky DIY project...or just a place on the internet to look at cool, pretty things. 

Who reads this: We both do.  
Why we read it: Because it's consistently interesting. The tidbits they manage to dig up from all fields (science, art, history, psychology, pop culture, you name it, they have it) are always fascinating and often very entertaining as well.
You should read it if: You know what's good for you. In all seriousness, though, you will probably find something to like from the varied selection on that site.

Who reads this: We both do. 
Why we read it: Because it's awesome. This site does cover books, but since it doesn't cover only books, but also music, TV shows and pop culture in general, we're going to consider it fair game. When we first discovered Flavorwire, we spent days just trading links over IM and... well, squeeing, that's the only way to describe it, so this site more than deserves its place in this list. 
You should read it if: You like to stay updated on the latest in pop culture and discover new and often unexpected things about old favorites.

Who reads this: We both do
Why we read it: Because Amber, the owner of this blog, is a seriously funny person. She could talk about the weather (which, come to think of it, she often does) and we'd be entertained. It's basically the only blog we read solely for the writing.
You should read it: You're in search of a lighthearted and highly-entertaining personal blog.

Who reads this: Alexis
Why she reads it: Because it's essential reading for any woman--a great mix of cool articles about women's issues, interspersed with sharp-eyed (and sharper-tongued) analysis about current news, celebrity culture, and fashion
You should read it if: You want your pop culture news coupled with thoughtful, often peppery, social commentary.

Letters of Note 
Who reads this: We both do.
Why we read it: Because we like snooping into other people's correspondence, obviously.
You should read it if: You like any or all of the following stuff: history, cool letters, getting to know your favorite personalities better, snooping into other people's mail.

Who reads this: Claudia 
Why she reads it:  It's a lot to credit a blog with, but this place has been one of the most important parts of my education. I love it and its community to pieces. All cheesiness assumed, this is my home away from home.
You should read it if: You're into science, skepticism, atheism, social justice, and tone is not your priority in a debate. A love of cephalopods is optional, but highly recommended.

Who reads this: We both do.
Why we read it: It's like visiting the coolest history museum in the world, with a ton of amazing photo essays on cultural artifacts, photos, ads, and much more from the 19th-20th century.
You should read it if: You love anything vintage, consider yourself a history fan, or just simply feel nostalgic for the past. 

The Dish 
Who reads this: We both do
Why we read it: We don't agree with this guy on some issues, but he's a very good internet curator. His blog is often a very good summary of the 200+ feeds in our Google Readers.
You should read it if: You need someone who can select the relevant stories of the day from around the internet and be trusted to present all the sides to a debate.

Tiger Beatdown
Who reads this: Claudia 
Why she reads it: I'm constantly impressed with this blog. I've seen research here on par with the best journalistic research there is (and on some topics much exceeding the journalistic standard) and their posts are always thoughtful and eloquent.
You should read it if: You like your social justice discussions served with amazingly good research and coherent arguments.

So, these are just a few of our favorite sites. What are yours?

Bout of Books Wrap-Up

So the Bout of Books read-a-thon is done and I suck. I did read more than I usually do in a week, and more than I would have otherwise read this week, which turned out to be unexpectedly busy despite my optimistic predictions. I completely failed at keeping track of my progress beyond the first days, though. That's mostly because I only found time to squeeze in some reading at night. Every time I found myself turning off my ereader at 4 am, I'd decide that tomorrow I would do better and would update then. Yeah, I never did do better. (Except for that one night when I went to bed at 5, but the less said about that, the better.)

In any case, this has been a very fun event and many thanks to the people who organized it. Even with little time to dive into it, it's been great fun seeing people's updates in the boutofbooks hashtag. And to wrap this up, here's my progress on the books I was supposed to read this week: 
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread - done, review to follow soon
  • Daniel Deronda - done, review to follow at some point 
  • Death in Venice - done, review to follow at some point 
  • Wolf Hall - almost done, review to follow (soon or at some point, depending on how this book ends)
  • Death of Ivan Ilyich - yeah, didn't touch this one

And now I'll go back to my reading, because after all...


Book Crush of the Week: Books are the Future

Today we're excited to unveil a new lighthearted series here at Lit. Hitchhiker: Book Crush of the Week. What's this that you ask? Pretty much what the name suggests. Each week we'll be highlighting one of our favorite bookish things from around the web, whether it's a vintage book poster, a cool book cover, a whimsical author photo, a unique piece of book art--you get the idea. If it's offbeat, fun, and literary, it'll find a natural home here.  

For our inaugural post we're kicking things off with this charming book poster. Not only do we love its swinging retro vibe, but we couldn't possibly dream up a better message for our nascent blog. We agree wholeheartedly: there's a future in books... and hopefully lots and lots of books in our future!

Image from Late Late Antiquity.

Editors' Recommendation: If you love old books + cool photography, you've simply got to check out the amazing tumblr Late Late Antiquity (source for this great poster), for its gorgeous photographic look into forgotten books. We could spend hours browsing through it! 

On Shakespeare and Growing Up

I reread The Tempest the other day. It has always been my favorite among Shakespeare's plays, and revisiting it now was like returning to an old and trusted friend... An old and trusted friend that had changed quite a lot in my absence. What I remembered most about it was how, when I first read the play, the ending struck me as rather somber and melancholy. As the elaborate and joyful masque he conjured for Miranda's wedding comes to an end, Prospero gives up his magic, reminding us that all life, too, shall in time fade away, like a distant and blurry dream. Or so my memory went. For what first jumped out to me this time around was how Prospero actually precedes his speech with an invitation to be cheerful:
You do look, my son, in a moved sort, 
As if you were dismay'd. Be cheerful, sir. 
Our revels are now ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-clapped tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Act IV, i, ln. 148-157                                                   
The elegiac note is still there, of course. Coming amid the celebration of the upcoming marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda - rich with symbols of fertility and abundance - Prospero's eloquent speech, connecting the now vanished play to life's impermanence, provides a sobering contrast. Just like the play that has ended, ripe with images of the harvest and filled with bright hope for the future, so too our life must one day end, its promise, “the cloud-clapped tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces…” and its very existence, “the great globe itself,” gone forever. Comparing our own lives to dreams serves not only to impart the fleeting, insubstantial quality of existence, but also to hint of death ("sleep") as life's final destination.

A 19th century illustration of the wedding masque

But while, when I first read the play, this was all I got from it, now I can also see the reason to be cheerful. It may seem bleak at first glance, but Prospero is actually renewed spiritually through this understanding of life’s impermanence. His speech can almost be seen as a kind of funeral address for his tenure on the island. It comes, quite appropriately, at the celebration of his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Miranda has been Prospero’s only cherished loved one. (He tenderly describes her as his preservation at one point, as “one third of my life”.) Through releasing Miranda, he allows her to pursue romantic love and embark in adult life, free from his tutelage and control. In another dramatic gesture signaling the end of his domination, Prospero also renounces his magic—the most visible symbol of his power and of his life on the island. 

And once he releases Ariel, Prospero has completely distanced himself from his former rule and authority over the island. Instead of domination, he is now ready to embrace mercy and forgiveness. He forgives the treacherous Antonio and Sebastian, and returns Caliban to his care even after his attempted betrayal. More importantly, he sets out for a life off of the island, returning to civilization and reclaiming his dukedom. I first read this as a fall from grace. I now see it as an evolution from domination to compassion. Prospero is reborn and renewed, ready to enter a fresh period of existence. He too, like Miranda, has the right to rejoice and exclaim, “O brave new world, that has such people in’t!”

I suppose that I am the one that has changed. When I was a teen, Prospero renouncing magic and declaring life short and fleeting seemed so sad. Now it mainly looks wise and admirable, even if a little bittersweet. The Tempest, however, is still one of my favorite plays and one of these days I will follow Prospero's example, take a break from my day job, graduate school, wedding planning and magic to write a more detailed review for it.

Two Neurotics Try to Join the Classics Club and What They Found There

It's time to know something about us: we're more than a little neurotic. We obsess endlessly over the tiniest details. The latest manifestation of this? A couple of days ago, we thought it would be a cool idea to join the Classics Club, hosted by the awesome Jillian of A Room of One's Own. Easier said than done, because once we discovered the Classics Club, we wanted to see what everyone was reading. And once we started visiting all of the blogs, we sort of started to count the books we were seeing. And then came a spreadsheet... you see where this is going, don't you? 

Long story short, we made an infographic of the most popular authors and books from Classics Club's lists. These were the authors and books that came up again and again on every blog we visited. It was very interesting to actually weigh them against each other and see the results. So if you're curious about what other people are reading, check out the picture after the jump. (Feel free to grab it if you find it useful/entertaining.)

Coming Down with a Bout of Books

You can read more about it here.
Having a relatively free week before all the craziness that is the end of the school year comes down on me, I've decided to join the Bout of Books read-a-thon. This means that starting tomorrow, May 14th, and through Sunday, May 20th, I will try to read more than I usually do. And since lately my usual has been pretty unimpressive, it won't take me much to go past it. At least that's what I hope.

So, this week I plan to read, reread or finish:
  • Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster (already started)
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (already started)
  • Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
  • Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  • The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy 
I'm not very good at writing meaningful updates while I read, so I will probably just keep track of my progress & thoughts on Twitter and review books here when I'm done with them. Wish me luck :-)

George Eliot - The Lifted Veil : Footnote #2

What's a footnote?
When I reviewed this, I talked a little about Latimer being an unreliable narrator and how this fact could influence the way we read the novella. I didn't insist on that, because my thoughts on the matter were not entirely clear (my thoughts rarely are, as this parenthesis amply proves). I'm coming back to it now, because I stumbled across a Shakespeare quote the other day that I think perfectly describes our options when it comes to Latimer and the meaning of this story:
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
--from A Midsummer Night's Dream                                                              

So how does this concern The Lifted Veil? If we don't take the book at face value, if we don't assume that everything Latimer says is true, then we need an explanation for why he'd invent such a story. I think that there are three main interpretations that let us circumvent the paranormal elements (there might be more, but these are the ones I could think of and they work with Shakespeare, so there. :-) They are the options emphasized in the quote above: Latimer could be a lunatic, a lover or a poet, depending on the way you read the text.

1. Latimer as the lunatic - this is a story about madness 

This is probably the easiest choice. Here we have a character that claims he's able to read minds and see the future. He has visions of things that haven't happened yet (hallucinations) and listens to other people's inner monologues (hears voices). Sure, he brings a bunch of reasons that made him conclude his perceptions were not wrong. But why should we give him the benefit of the doubt? If Latimer is insane, then we can't be sure which parts of his discourse (if any) are to be trusted.

Also notice how no moment is left entirely unambiguous in this story. If we assume Latimer is sincerely reporting what he perceives to be real, then at least the reactions of the other characters, as reported by him, might give us a hint. But there is no instance in which Latimer's special powers are recognized by others (although there are two moments when it almost happens). Moreover, these powers disappear in a crucial moment for the plot, when they could and should have proven their usefulness. So this story can be read as a chronicle of delusion. This might be something that affects all paranormal fiction written in first person to a degree; I don't know. I do think it's especially clear in this case because of these very convenient ambiguities.

2. Latimer as a lover - this is a story about love and frustrated expectations 

This is perhaps a less plausible explanation, but it is my favorite. To me, it is fascinating how easily this story could have turned into a realistic portrayal of a failed marriage. I'm not of course arguing that it is actually the case, only that it could be read as a metaphor for that, as the discourse of a somewhat overly-dramatic man trying to make sense of his bad marriage by simultaneously romanticizing it and placing all of the blame on his wife.

To Latimer, in the end, love seems to be built on mutual ignorance and delusion. He was initially attracted to Bertha because she was the one person whose mind he couldn't read. (And in case you were wondering, yes, the force of my will is the only thing standing between you and Twilight jokes at this point.) So he fell in love not with her precisely, but more with his own image of her:
Before marriage she had completely mastered my imagination, for she was a secret to me; and I created the unknown thought before which I trembled as if it were hers.
The moment the honeymoon is over and they get to really know each other, Latimer and Bertha are deeply disappointed. Their marriage is poisoned by the conflict between reality and their own expectations. Seen through this lens, the story has a quite interesting, if pessimistic, message about the basis of romantic love and its evolution. In the end, one might be better off not lifting that veil.

How many things can I illustrate with Magritte? ALL the things.

3. Latimer as a poet - this is a story about the writer's condition

This is the interpretation Latimer himself suggests in the beginning. He had always had a poet's disposition but lacked a creative outlet for it. He takes his first visions as overdue manifestations of his poetic talent. It would be very interesting if this were actually the case - if Latimer invented everything or at least large parts of the story - mainly because it raises some questions about the relationship between a writer and their work. Remember just how much Latimer hates knowing every person's inner thoughts. If this is the world he created, then he is far from sympathetic towards it. As a writer, he sees himself in constant contact with the worst side of humanity.

So, if you've read this book, what do you think? Do you side with any of these readings (including the one that takes the piece at face-value)? Do you think it's a mix of these themes?

Or perhaps this should just be read as "repressed artistic inclinations lead to madness," in which case, excuse me, I should go write My Novel now. I'm not taking any chances. 

Alexis' Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

Hey there! This is Alexis and this is Top Ten Tuesday 2.0. This week, we're supposed to share our ten favorite book quotes. Since my co-blogger Claudia already shared her list, here's mine:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. 
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton 
In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.

3. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,I cried to dream again.

4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams 
What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains.

5. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 
Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.

8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel 
Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud...

9.  Angels in America by Tony Kushner 
Don't be afraid; people are so afraid; don't be afraid to live in the raw wind, naked, alone...Learn at least this: What you are capable of. Let nothing stand in your way.

10. The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination. 

Claudia's Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

We thought it would be fun to participate in this Top Ten Tuesday event, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic: ten favorite book quotes. This is a hard one for me to do because a. I rarely write down quotes or highlight passages and b. I tend to remember fragments with pretty writing over fragments that state big ideas, and pretty writing can't always be taken out of context. But I did my best, so here's a selection of quotes I remember liking for their writing, their eloquence or just the mood they put me in at the time. In no particular order:
  1. "Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen." --Lady Chatterley's Lover
  2. "Me. And me now." --Ulysses
  3. "His needled memory grows quiet, and until the next full moon no one will trouble the professor — neither the noseless killer of Gestas, nor the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the equestrian Pontius Pilate." --The Master and Margarita
  4.  "I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And what do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited." --The Bell Jar 
  5.  "No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;/ Am an attendant lord, one that will do / To swell a progress, start a scene or two / Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,/ Deferential, glad to be of use,/ Politic, cautious, and meticulous;/ Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;/ At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—/Almost, at times, the Fool.'  --The Love Song of  J. Alfred Prufrock
  6. "Quentin had grown up with that; the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad. His childhood was full of them; his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names; he was not a being, an entity, he was a commonwealth. He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts still recovering, even forty-three years afterward, from the fever which had cured the disease, waking from the fever without even knowing that it had been the fever itself which they had fought against and not the sickness, looking with stubborn recalcitrance backward beyond the fever and into the disease with actual regret, weak from the fever yet free of the disease and not even aware that the freedom was that of impotence” --Absalom, Absalom
  7.  "Somebody might have come along that way who would have asked him his trouble, and might have cheered him by saying that his notions were further advanced than those of his grammarian. But nobody did come, because nobody does; and under the crushing recognition of his gigantic error Jude continued to wish himself out of the world." --Jude the Obscure
  8.  "Something new, they had said. They had a perfect day for it. A day with the blue and gold good weather of anyone's primitive childhood expectations, when the new, brief memory tells itself that this is what is, and therefore was, and therefore will be. A good day to see a new place." --Possession 
  9.  "Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined."  --Beloved
  10. "Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance? Was the good or the evil genius dominant in those beams? Probably the evil; else why was the effect that of unrest rather than of undisturbed charm? Why was the wish to look again felt as coercion and not as a longing in which the whole being consents?" --Daniel Deronda

George Eliot - The Lifted Veil: Footnote

What's a footnote?
What's this: Alexis and I are both very wordy people that love to dissect the books they read. Since the review format - already burdened by our usual wordiness - can't really accommodate all of our musings and splittings of hairs, and we do consider these two activities essential to our reading happiness, we thought it would be best to have a cluster of posts for each book. One of the posts will be the main review, the others will be discussions of other aspects that caught our fancy and couldn't fit into the review. We'll call them footnotes. 

My first promised footnote for George Eliot's The Lifted Veil concerns one passage that struck me as beautiful. It's a description of Prague in summer: Latimer's first ever vision of the future. It's useless for me to further sing its praises; just read it. It's longish, but well worth your time, I promise:
My father was called away before he had finished his sentence, and he left my mind resting on the word PRAGUE, with a strange sense that a new and wondrous scene was breaking upon me: a city under the broad sunshine, that seemed to me as if it were the summer sunshine of a long-past century arrested in its course—unrefreshed for ages by dews of night, or the rushing rain-cloud; scorching the dusty, weary, time-eaten grandeur of a people doomed to live on in the stale repetition of memories, like deposed and superannuated kings in their regal gold-inwoven tatters. The city looked so thirsty that the broad river seemed to me a sheet of metal; and the blackened statues, as I passed under their blank gaze, along the unending bridge, with their ancient garments and their saintly crowns, seemed to me the real inhabitants and owners of this place, while the busy, trivial men and women, hurrying to and fro, were a swarm of ephemeral visitants infesting it for a day. It is such grim, stony beings as these, I thought, who are the fathers of ancient faded children, in those tanned time-fretted dwellings that crowd the steep before me; who pay their court in the worn and crumbling pomp of the palace which stretches its monotonous length on the height; who worship wearily in the stifling air of the churches, urged by no fear or hope, but compelled by their doom to be ever old and undying, to live on in the rigidity of habit, as they live on in perpetual midday, without the repose of night or the new birth of morning.
The weird thing about this sequence is that, as I read it, I was convinced that I had read something very similar before. The bad news is that I was wrong. The good news is that I was only partially so, and that I now want to read the story this reminded me of - Death in Venice. Mann's Venice is a little different from Eliot's Prague and the way he depicts it is different too. He makes Venice almost into a character with a life of its own running parallel to the life of his main character, Aschenbach. Consequently, he doesn't exactly describe the city; he lets it interact with the hero. You get the image of Venice not through the comparatively bland descriptive passages, but through the hero's reaction to it, through his increasingly altered state of mind. 

From here.

So perhaps Mann's Venice and Eliot's Prague are not so similar after all. But still, there is at least this one fragment, where Aschenbach is walking through streets of oppressive heat and time that stood still, that I felt he could have been walking through Eliot's Prague instead. What do you think?
His head was burning, his body sticky with sweat, his neck quivering, and, plagued by an intolerable thirst, he looked round for immediate refreshment of any kind. He bought some fruit at a little greengrocer’s shop—strawberries, soft, overripe goods—and ate as he walked. A small deserted square that seemed under a curse opened up before him, and he recognized it: it was there he had formulated his abortive escape plan a few weeks before. He sank down on the steps of the well in the middle of the square, resting his head against its iron rim. All was quiet. There was grass coming up between the cobblestones and litter lying about. Among the weathered buildings of unequal height ringing the square he noticed one resembling a palazzo and having Gothic arch windows with empty space behind them and balconies adorned by lions. There was an apothecary on the ground floor of another, and the smell of carbolic acid wafted over to him on an occasional gust of warm wind.
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (translation by Michael Heim)         

Review: George Eliot - The Lifted Veil

I was always able to pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with a book. It's the moment my mind strains to move faster than my eyes while, at the same time, longing to stop and marvel at the view. That feeling, the push and pull of loving a book? I never got it with George Eliot. Don't get me wrong - I like her books quite a lot. So far I've read Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss and Daniel Deronda, and admired their construction, their characters, the style - was in awe of them at times, to be honest. I would call her one of my favorite writers. But my appreciation of her skills is still only intellectual. She has never left me breathless. (The only possible exception? The first chapter of Middlemarch. I walked around convinced that I was Dorothea Brooke minus "that kind of beauty" for a full day after reading it.)

I wondered why that was and came to the conclusion that it was probably the way the moral and intellectual themes are sometimes spelled out in her books. It stood to reason. The preachier a narrator gets, the less I enjoy a book, which is precisely why The Mill on the Floss is my least favorite of Eliot's novels. So, I said to myself, what better way to test this theory than by reading a novella that was described to be a. very different from the rest of Eliot's work and b. free of her omniscient (read: know-it-all) narrator? You can see the results below, and they're not at all what I expected.

The Lifted Veil - Summary & Quotes

[land of shameless spoilers. do scroll down if you're not into that.]

The Lifted Veil is written as a deathbed confession, except that its narrator, Latimer, is not on his deathbed yet. He can, however, see the future so he knows that his end is near and inevitable. One month from now he'll die in his office from a heart attack, while his servants are too busy bickering to attend to him. In the meantime, he plans to write the strange story of his life in the hopes of garnering "some pity, some tenderness, some charity" that he feels have eluded him during his lifetime.