corollary

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Persuasion

Listening to:

Suzanne Vega, My favourite plum.

Just read:

Jane Austen, Persuasion.

This is Austen’s last novel, and was published posthumously. It’s not as long a novel as Pride and prejudice, and comparatively little happens in terms of plot. On the other hand, the story is quite heartfelt. In essence it is: Anne Elliot is approaching middle age, and is resigned to never marrying, having earlier been persuaded to reject the suit of her young love, Captain Wentworth. But then, after some years (seven or eight, I think) Wentworth re-appears. Anne is very composed about it all, and even accepts that he might be about to court another member of her social circle.

A further romantic complication appears in the form of a cousin who stands to inherit from Anne’s father. Eventually however, the right thing happens, almost against the odds it feels. So, on the one hand, Austen seems to be saying “Never give up”. But simultaneously, what with so much resignation and uncertainty (about what will happen, and about how Anne feels and what she thinks she should do) in the novel, the happy ending is a little subdued. It’s very beautiful.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

The rescue

Listening to:

Billy Eckstine, No one but you. Awfully schlocky.

Just read:

Joseph Conrad, The rescue.

Lingard repeated it all to Mrs Travers. Her courage, her intelligence, the quickness of her apprehension, the colour of her eyes, and the intrepidity of her glance evoked in him an admiring enthusiasm. She stood by his side! Every moment that fatal illusion clung closer to his side—like a garment of light—like an armour of fire.

This is another of Conrad’s novels set in an obscure corner of the islands of south-east Asia, featuring a European getting messed up in native affairs, and coming to a bad end. This time, the hero is a man called Lingard, who has achieved a strong position in this obscure corner (called “The King of the Sea”, even), and is attempting to restore a Malay prince to power.

But things are suddenly complicated when a yacht carrying some urbane but unworldy Europeans is stranded smack in the middle of the coast where Lingard is hatching his plot. All sorts of complications ensue. Not least among them is Lingard and the wife of the yacht’s owner falling for each other. Conradian romance is almost always rhetorically overblown to my ears, and this is not much of an exception. Nonetheless, the plot steams along, and I was keen to see how it was all going to finish.