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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Minor notes

Thanks to my daughter's recommendations I've been immersed in the 19th century again (no, not Thoreau this time). This English major never read some of the minor works of Austen (Sanditon), Eliot (Felix Holt), and James (The Princess Casamassima), and not enough of Trollope. So I'm fixing it. And let me say that they are striking a stronger, deeper, more mellifluous note - even these so-called lesser novels - than almost any author has since. They have it all: interesting plots, fascinating and often funny characters, trenchant social and political observation, subtle and beautiful language (although sometimes a little involved for even this aficianado), and just enough irony and authorial presence to please the modern ear. This latter is the key, to me, to the problems of modern composition, ie, there's so much irony and author intrusion that all the other elements of good writing are subservient to self-consciousness and thereby suffer. The modern author is often just too damn loud.

I fully intend to pursue such "incidental" music for a long time to come. Trollope was particularly prolific, but Thackeray, Hawthorne, Melville, Gaskell, the Brontes (but probably not Dickens - see "loud") also have much that I haven't yet explored. Once finished, I can always re-read the major works, at my peril, for I then may never come back to noisy modernity again.

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