About the Guest Blogger: Precie...is.
Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded in her hand.
--Middlemarch, George Eliot
Selecting a book for this was MUCH more difficult than I expected. Reading what other guests have written made it even more difficult...Should I write about THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, which made me weep for days and which tacitly granted me permission to write freely? Should I choose THE LOLITA EFFECT, which I think should be required reading for everyone?
Ultimately, I chose what might seem to be a no-brainer if you know me: MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot (Marian Evans).
I hear the groans and sighs. But wait. Don't go. My personal history with MIDDLEMARCH isn't like other guests' experiences with their books. I didn't like MIDDLEMARCH the first time I read it either. It was a class assignment, and it was dull. I didn't finish it. Truth be told, I probably didn't even read 1/3rd of it...but I managed to fake my way through the class well. I didn't like it the second time I read it either. Again, boring and far too long. I'm pretty sure I did slog through the whole thing that second time.
And here is why I chose to write about MIDDLEMARCH. Because by the time I finished graduate school, it was, by far, my favorite novel. Like a couple who moves slowly from casual acquaintance to abiding devotion, my reading of MIDDLEMARCH has been an evolving, ever-deepening relationship. At first, I simply didn't connect with the words or the characters. NOW the ascetic, self-effacing, idealistic Dorothea, who comes to realize in the end that she is, after all, human with her own needs and desires, is perhaps my most favorite literary heroine. NOW I sympathize with Dr. Lydgate, whose own professional idealism gets dragged down by his personal affections, his pretty wife's materialism, his own weaknesses. But my mention of these characters is a little misleading...one of the most magnificent aspects of MIDDLEMARCH is its intricate and expert depiction not just of individuals but o! f a social community as a living organism. The characters are interrelated in ways that aren't always clear, and yet that subtle interconnection is part of the point.
Moreover, MIDDLEMARCH grapples with many issues close to my heart: the intertwining of the personal and political, the role of women in society, social responsibility, some of the pitfalls of capitalism, the struggle between love and duty. (I saw that yawn! I'll stop. I'm almost done anyway.}
So, no, MIDDLEMARCH isn't exciting. There's no adventure, only a little intrigue, and, if I remember correctly, just one death. But there is brilliantly fine attention to the web of character within society. And delicate beauty. And love.
And an end that I kind of hope might someday be a fitting epigram on my tombstone (it's already on my Facebook profile):
Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.