A note to my fellow book club members and others who have books they have cleverly avoided reading:
We hearty readers of the Clayton Community Library Book Club in Clayton, California bravely picked George Eliot’s Middlemarch for our July read. We picked it among, and then in spite of, groans, moans and whimpering about its length, its language, etc. Almost every version out there today has an illuminating Forward or Introduction to prepare any reader to begin at the beginning. In other words, “this is serious stuff and you probably won’t get it without knowing a whole lot of things before you begin.” Now, doesn’t that just spur you on?
Well, I started Middlemarch without reading any of the intro material. I’m reading the Penguin Classic edition. Anyway, like most of you, this book has been on my “no, I’d rather not” list for a very long time. It is a serious book, it is an important book. First thing I decided was to forgo any “this is what the book means, this is what Eliot means.” (Thank you, I’ll decide that for myself!) I just opened it and read it as any other novel.
I’m only at the beginning and reading between other writing/reading tasks on my agenda, but Oh My! It is a riot! She is sarcastic, satirical and almost always funny. And based on the mores of society at that time, there is much to poke fun at. I began to wonder if I was reading it wrong. Nobody ever told me it was funny, and yes, I know it does have seriousness in there, but funny?
Yesterday my friend Ann Ronald came over to switch books with me. Before she even sat down I demanded to know if Middlemarch was funny, or at least was the writing intended to be funny. Now remember dear readers, this lady was an English Department head……………..she knows this stuff. YES! It is funny.”Shit,” I said, “I could have read this years ago!”
So, there you have it. Yep, the sentences are long and there are footnoted references, but ignore the footnotes and read on. Usually they reference things that were popular or known at the time and you can wait until you finish the book and look at them in the chapter notes. Eliot did not write this novel with footnotes. Remember this is a book club, and although, over the years, we’ve learned many things together as readers, this is not a classroom. There will be no test.
I hope you are having as much fun with this book as I am. Right now little sis, Celia, is a lot more sympathetic than big sis, Dorothea. But as Dorothea takes the plunge, we all know she is in for some very rude awakenings about herself and the world in which she lives. I feel certain that we will come to sympathize greatly with her and probably admire her just as greatly as she travels down the paths in this novel. And wasn’t she, George Eliot, an amazing writer to have had the balls to say it like it was, and sorry to say, often still is.