Sunday, June 29, 2014

Middlemarch Tweets

Yes, we were tweeting some of your comments during the discussions. Here's a round-up of our tweets, plus a few from Rebecca Mead and friends about our youngest participants!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Work versus leisure in Middlemarch

Mary and the Vincys are the only ones who truly work.
Fred sees no connection between money and work, to his detriment.

Characters versus caricatures. Much agreement that Dickens characters were more caricature and Eliot's more well-fleshed out and complex.

Discussions on Thursday (at 3pm) and Friday, at noon, this month.
There will be a Wednesday night meeting on July 23 at 7pm. And a Friday group on July 25 at noon.July 9,

There will be a 19th Century Crafts discussion / workshop on Spinning on July 9.

Some points from the Gallery group

Lots of interesting conversation at the Gallery table. Several people really like Fred, to the dismay of at least one participant. Can he (Fred, not the participant) be redeemed?
Answer from one participant--We all have the potential to be redeemed.
Another participant--Fred and Dorothea see their mistakes, but only for a flash.
On to the "Who would you like to have as a college roommate from among the Middlemarch cast?"
Celia would be okay for a roommate.
Lydgate would be out all the time, so wouldn't be bad. Fred would be okay, if you didn't lend him money.

Does anyone find Casaubon a likable character? larger group again

Short answer is, of course, no.
Is Fred really at all likable? We're assured that he grows.

Do Rosamund or Casubon have the capacity for compassion?

Is Sir James expressing true compassion for Dorothea when he insists that someone do something to stop her marriage to Casaubon?

What does Lydgate really feel for Rosamund? Lydgate doesn't think much of Dorothea at first.

Nice comment--"Kind of in love with the narrator . . . All the characters are flawed, but we are all flawed"

First Discussion-Gallery group

A lively discussion among 11 or so people talking about political theory and disappointment as a theme in Middlemarch.
Did people in the time of Middlemarch speak as the characters speak?
Wide range of speech among the characters, the Garths (especially Mary) much more direct.
Slightly idealized version of what people say, that what people actually say is much more boring than how it would be expressed in literature.

First Discussion-big group

Live blogging from Wednesday night's discussion. We broke up into two groups, about thirty people in the auditorium and twelve out in the Gallery.
I'll be going back and forth between the two groups, with stops at the snack table.
A lot of discussion concerning Dorothea. She is the favorite character for several readers here. Others don't find her quite as admirable.
Is Celia flighty and too much in love with finery, or is that only in contrast to Dorothea.
Both sisters seem much younger than many of imagined.

Side note -- discussion of the number of people attending. We have 95 or so print copies in circulation, three books on CD, three large print, four downloadable audio, and countless ebooks (you can get a free copy on Gutenberg or through Overdrive).

One attendee, claiming to be a Middlemarch fanatic, "is not a reader, but reads Middlemarch over and over . . . "-Fascinating! This reader and one other enjoy listening to the audiobooks.

Does sex exist in the marriage of Casaubon and Dorothea?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Deep reading

Rebecca Mead inspired me during her visit to really focus on Middlemarch and to read deeply.  I will admit to rushing through books and am certainly guilty over our last 3 summers of not keeping up with the reading and then finding myself under the gun to read many pages.  NOT THIS TIME! I promised myself.  I will take my time and look things up that I don't understand.  I want to really get to know this book, not just read it but really consume it in the best way possible.  To that end, I was intrigued early on by this passage:

"However," said Mrs. Cadwallader, first to herself and afterwards to her husband, "I throw her over: there was a chance, if she had married Sir James, of her becoming a sane, sensible woman.  He would never have contradicted her, and when a woman is not contradicted, she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities.  But now I wish her job of her hair shirt."

Seriously...what is a hair shirt? Google provides a truly frightening array of images including this:
and this: 

But I think I'll go with the idiomatic definition: if someone wears a hair shirt, they choose to make their life unpleasant by not having or experiencing anything that gives them pleasure.

All of this deep reading had me feeling really good until I realized our first discussion is Wednesday and I'm 200 pages behind.  For now I'm back to trying to catch up and be able to appreciate all of your great comments and observations this week.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sir Robert Peel, et al.

This may be of limited interest, but as I read I wondered about the many references to Dorothea's Uncle Mr Brooke's politics, and what those might mean for Brooke's character and the type of family Dorothea hails from.  There is this, for example, from Book I Chapter 1:

"...if Dorothea married and had a son, that son would inherit Mr. Brooke's estate, presumably worth about three thousand a-year - a rental which seemed wealth to provincial families, still discussing Mr. Peel's late conduct on the Catholic Question, innocent of future gold-fields, and of that gorgeous plutocracy which has so nobly exalted the necessities of genteel life." 

Or this, in Book I Chapter 6 from Mrs. Cadwallader to Mr Brooke, discussing Casaubon and Mr. Brooke's politics:

"I suspect you and he are brewing some bad politics, else you would not be seeing so much of the lively man.  I shall inform against you: remember you are both suspicious characters since you took Peel's side about the Catholic Bill.  I shall tell everybody that you are going to put up for Middlemarch on the Whig side when old Pinkerton resigns, and that Casaubon is going to help you in an underhand manner: going to bribe the voters with pamphlets, and throw open the public-houses to distribute them."

I found an article in Ebsco Host, the Library's periodical article database, which I thought might help us with background information about the period of English Parliamentary Reform which is Middlemarch's setting:

Farrell, Stephen. "A First Step Towards Democracy." History Today 60.7 (2010): 10. MAS Ultra - School Edition. Web. 19 June 2014.

To access the article, click on the link above; you will then be prompted to enter your library card number.  Then click 'PDF full text' on the left of the screen.  

Does any of this matter?  Do we need to understand the political backdrop to appreciate Middlemarch?  Comments, please!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Favorite Middlemarch quotes, anyone?

From Book I, Chapter 10, in which many of the novel's characters are gathered for the dinner-party at the Grange to celebrate Dorothea and Casaubon's impending nuptials, and Mrs Cadwallader and Lady Chettam compare Dorothea and her sister Celia:

(of Celia) "Certainly; she is fonder of geraniums, and seems more docile..."

I thought this was a gem.  Has anything struck your fancy so far?  Tell us!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our Lives in Books

Inspired by Rebecca Mead's talk last week, what book (or books) do you find yourself constantly returning to? How have they shaped your life? For me, the Harry Potter series is one that I will never let go of. It was the first book series that I can remember obsessing over, especially because it felt like I grew up with him, Hermione, and Ron with each subsequent release. When my grandmother died in 2005, the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the next day was a huge relief, 652 pages of normalcy amid funeral planning and extended family. So what are the books that shaped your life? Please share with us in the comments below!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Our Lives in Middlemarch

Rebecca Mead was a wonderful speaker at last night's My Life in Middlemarch event.  I think it's fair to say that all those who attended are even more inspired than before to plunge into our Big Book.  For me, I loved hearing Rebecca talk about visiting former Eliot haunts, and, in one case, getting to hold Eliot's pen.  Rebecca Mead is a well-traveled and sophisticated woman, but this was clearly a powerful moment for her. How lovely to see that level of passion for an author!

Our readers asked terrific questions.  A (very) informal poll picked the favorite: "If you were going to have a passage from Eliot tattooed on your body, what would it be?"  Clearly Rebecca is not a fan of tattoos but she had a great answer anyway.  She met a teacher on the A train who used the following:

If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.  (Middlemarch, Book 2)

The tattoo reads simply "that roar."  
The author herself, with Subterranean's Tori standing behind.  Thanks Tori!