Career ending novel . . .
Posted by Casey on May 11, 2007
Some bloggers do cute little things like indicate their mood, what’s on their iPod at the moment, and what books they’re reading, etc.
Well let’s see . . .
Mood? All over the place, like always. I try to keep my moodiness within as thin of a bandwidth as possible to give the impression that I’m in no mood at all.
iPod — is on because every time HP wants to update my computer software it conflicts with the sound card and I have to put in a fix to fix the update. So I can’t listen to my collection on my computer. So what’s on my iPod at this very moment? “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely)” by Pink (see Mood)
What am I reading? The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
I wanted to see what the 1899 version of a career ending novel looked like, because this elegant piece of prose caused such a controversy that it ended Chopin’s career as a writer.
As I read it, I can picture a 21st century critique group suggesting that the author show more and tell less–replace summary paragraphs with entertaining dialogue to help develop the characters. And I can hear the endless discussions on how no editor would look at it because it’s written in third person omniscient.
But the impartial reporting of the main character’s “awakening” from an arms-length narrative distance is what caused the uproar of controversy. Storytelling without the overlay of social censorship.
The Awakening is a beautiful lyrical work that’s just a joy to read. Here’s the first of Edna Pontellier’s several awakenings:
She entered the hall with him during a lull in the dance. She made an awkward, imperious little bow as she went in. She was a homely woman, with a small weazened face and body and eyes that glowed. She had absolutely no taste in dress, and wore a batch of rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to the side of her hair.
“Ask Mrs. Pontellier what she would like to hear me play,” she requested of Robert. She sat perfectly still before the piano, not touching the keys, while Robert carried her message to Edna at the window. A general air of surprise and genuine satisfaction fell upon every one as they saw the pianist enter. There was a settling down, and a prevailing air of expectancy everywhere. Edna was a trifle embarrassed at being thus signaled out for the imperious little woman’s favor. She would not dare to choose, and begged that Mademoiselle Reisz would please herself in her selections.
Edna was what she herself called very fond of music. Musical strains, well rendered, had a way of evoking pictures in her mind. She sometimes liked to sit in the room of mornings when Madame Ratignolle played or practiced. One piece which that lady played Edna had entitled “Solitude.” It was a short, plaintive, minor strain. The name of the piece was something else, but she called it “Solitude.” When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him.
Another piece called to her mind a dainty young woman clad in an Empire gown, taking mincing dancing steps as she came down a long avenue between tall hedges. Again, another reminded her of children at play, and still another of nothing on earth but a demure lady stroking a cat.
The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs. Pontellier’s spinal column. It was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano. Perhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth.
She waited for the material pictures which she thought would gather and blaze before her imagination. She waited in vain. She saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her.
Mademoiselle had finished. She arose, and bowing her stiff, lofty bow, she went away, stopping for neither, thanks nor applause. As she passed along the gallery she patted Edna upon the shoulder.
“Well, how did you like my music?” she asked. The young woman was unable to answer; she pressed the hand of the pianist convulsively. Mademoiselle Reisz perceived her agitation and even her tears. She patted her again upon the shoulder as she said:
“You are the only one worth playing for. Those others? Bah!” and she went shuffling and sidling on down the gallery toward her room.
Good stuff. Now go away, I have to work . . .