November 24th, 2009


# 78 The Debut

The Debut

Anita Brookner

Ruth Weiss, a Balzac scholar, has always relied on literature to guide her moral compass. The heroes and heroines of Charles Dickens were worthy of emulation, while others such as Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary served as dire warnings. Hard work and virtuous living would reward one in the end, even if only with one's own righteous satisfaction.

However, after years of putting the needs of others, (namely her parents), first, Ruth decides that she was wrong, that literature has ruined her life.

She begins to branch out on her own, to live a life separate from her demanding parents.

Whether or not she achieves an independent, happy life is revealed in the novel. Telling here would spoil it for someone else, so I'll remain mum. ;-)

I loved The Debut! This is the second of Brookner's works that I've read, and I now consider her a favorite author. In both of the books I've read, the writing was near flawless. I immediately became drawn to the characters, immersed in their stories. They are not larger-than-life characters living grand adventures. They're just ordinary people coping with every-day problems. Somehow, Brookner exalts the ordinary, frames it in such a way that it becomes important.

  • cat63

Book 56 for 2009

Catseye by Andre Norton

Norton was one of the first SF authors I read a lot of in my book-laden youth and she remains a firm favourite. Her language is perhaps a little stilted by today's standards, some of her books, this one included, have a distinct lack of strong female characters (although that's probably more the fault of the market she was writing for at the time) and there are definite repeated devices in her work (sapient nonhuman mammals and mysterious abandoned alien cities tend to feature strongly) but she knows how to tell a good story, which is the really important thing.

And who else could weave a dramatic space yarn with an unemployed character getting a temporary job in a pet shop? :-) That's how the hero of this one, Troy Horan, starts the book and it's not long before cleaning out pet cages gets him dragged into an interstellar conspiracy. Splendid stuff.


66. Lady Windermere's Fan - Oscar Wilde - 80 pages (9/10)

"Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes."

I didn't read the copy with this amazing cover--it's from a 1966 edition--but I thought it was too pretty not to use as my image thumbnail.

I love Oscar Wilde. He's so pretty, witty, and gay. He's hands-down one of my favourite playwrights and poets, though I've yet to get around to reading all of his poetry or plays. I listened to this as a full-cast audio recording while I photocopied 3,000 pages at work, and I don't think I would have been able to get through that task without this play.

This play is a satire of marriage and how in the time period where it was written, a happy marriage was not the most prevalent. Lady Windermere hears hints that her husband, whom she loves devoutly and believes that he feels the same, has been giving money to an attractive and mysterious woman, a Mrs. Erlynne. She begins to doubt their love, and is incensed when her husband insists that she must invite Mrs. Erlynne to a ball Lady Windermere is holding that night. She is so furious that she proclaims if the woman comes into her home she will smack her across the face with the fan her husband gave her that morning. The fan becomes a symbol of her mistrust for her husband, and later on, her precarious honour.

It's a tightly-written play, where each character comments on a type of personality and each has a purpose. No character is flat or stale, and everything comes together like a dance at the end. There's a twist that I found rather easy to guess, but it's still an excellent play and worth reading/watching/listening to if you enjoy clever dialogue and witty banter. It has one of my favourite quotes in it, which is perhaps overquoted now, but I love it still:

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

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