Sunday, June 14, 2009
reading Mrs. Gaskell
The Kindle has changed my reading habits. I cannot resist the brand new $9.99 "hardcovers". But all the great Victorians are available for free or a few dollars. So I've downloaded all of the Brontes and Mrs. Gaskell, big hunks of Dickens and Trollope, and good old Wilkie Collins. I read some of this treasure trove every day.
Right now I'm thinking Mrs. Gaskel is the best of the lot. None of her characters are carictatures. She is so respectful of the people, servants and masters and tradesmen alike, while plying her wicked humor everywhere. She does food even better than Dickens and has pelnty to say about clothes and furniture.
Carol Shields was writing about Jane Austen when she said, "the true subject of serious fictin is not 'current events', on-going wars or polictical issues, but the search of an individual for his or her own true home". I'm fond of Jane, but I prefer Elizabeth.
And Cranford is everyone's own true home. I think of Brendan Behan reading this "very comfortable class of a book" in his borstal cell at the age of sixteen. Lingering over the description of the cherry brandy.