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What I’m reading

June 3rd, 2007

Vanity Fair by Thackeray. Becky Sharp is a wonderful creation, even better than I remembered her. Thackeray’s only problem is to keep her plans from succeeding so well as to establish her in the boringly safe wealthy position she aspires to. Rather than stress out over verisimilitude in this respect, he just keeps reminding us that if Becky’s plans (to snare a rich husband, or to placate her poor husband’s wealthy relatives) had come off, we wouldn’t have anything more to read.

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  1. June 3rd, 2007 at 17:14 | #1

    I’ve never tackled Vanity Fair, but I must. I think 19th century readers had a lot more leisure than many of us do. But I’m a huge Trollope fan and I always love the fact that the authorial voice draws attention to the fact that the reader is a reader and that the novel is a novel, and teases the reader about where plot conventions would suggest the book go next, comments on what he thinks of the characters, and makes a range of other wry observations. They’re actually very clever methods of constructing the narrative – as well as very postmodern. There’s an irony there somewhere since works which were generally regarded as being popular mass entertainment at the time of their publication are now regarded as canonical.

  2. June 3rd, 2007 at 17:15 | #2

    I meant to add that I suspect that both Trollope and Thackeray are writing in a transitional mode between the rollicking eighteenth century novel (ie Richardson) and classic twentieth century modernism.

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