Saturday, July 24, 2010
Reading the Classics with Paul- Pride and Prejudice part 5
Just a thought at the beginning of this week, I was struck by how much of the novel is epistolary and reminded of how many other novels I've encountered from that century are likewise (some are entirely epistolary.) This week there has been a lot of talk in the literary community over Amazon's claim that, for the first time, this quarter ebook sales have surpassed hardcover book sales. This is largely due to the ebook industry's (I think Barnes and Noble's Nook was the first to do this) move toward affordable (normally about $150 a unit now) ebook readers. Of course, this leads to a huge outcry of nay-sayers who repeat the phrases over and over like mantras "Yeah, but there's just something about a real book.." or "I'll never switch from real books, not entirely."
These are sentiments I agree with, but we are only one generation and, apologies for the spoiler, we'll all be dead in 100 years. Laying aside for the remainder of this entry the question of "what is a real book" (a question I'm sure I'll return to in the future), I wanted to bring up handwritten letters. The US Postal Service has reported for years the decline of handwritten letters, pretty much since email became essentially universal. Of course, much like analog books, they will probably never completely disappear, but in a generation or so may become archaic novelties, throwbacks, kitsch. This may cause you to try to remember the last time you've written a handwritten letter and realize that if it was recently and regularly, you are swimming upstream in a place in space-time which will probably not produce another Dracula, The Screwtape Letters, or even Pride and Prejudice. In other words, what happened to "the letter" can happen to "the book." My unsolicited advice to anyone unnerved by this: hand write a letter, read a book, and don't hold so tightly to things.
Elizabeth received letters from Jane. Lydia has "runnoft" with Wickham. Knock-kneed and in a flurry over this news, Elizabeth runs to Darcy. Darcy and Elizabeth regret (or, at least, they show remorse) for not having revealed Wickham's character. Elizabeth and the Gardiners return to Longbourn where Mr. Bennet has gone off to hunt down the couple and Mrs. Bennet is, not surprisingly, having a fit because of this most unfortunate affair which will probably be much talked of. Elizabeth and Jane find Lydia's letter to Harriet Forster, which struck me as a bit cavalier over such a weighty matter.
Mr. Gardiner follows Mr. Bennet after they don't receive a letter from him (see what I mean? We should write more letters.) Mr. Collins sends a letter to remind us that he is still a churlish boor. Mr. Bennet throws in the towel and returns. Mr. Gardiner locates the couple and reports that Mr. Wickham will marry her for a small fee. Elizabeth reflects on the situation and decides that it could be worse and that she would do well to endeavor to be as happy as she possibly can for Lydia. Which is kind of depressing when you think about it. That's all the joy she could muster given the situation.
Mr. Bennet obsesses over his regret (or at least remorse) over not having set more money aside for his family, especially now in light of his assumed indebtedness to the Gardiners. Elizabeth obsesses over Mr. Darcy. She begins to realize how her feelings toward him have metamorphosed, although this present demi-scandal may have despoiled any likelihood for a repeat performance of his earlier proposal. Which makes Elizabeth feel like a bit of a heel one would imagine. Gardiner tells Mr. Bennet that Wickham's quitting the militia and moving north. Lydia wants to see her family before moving north and they finally agree to let the couple visit. The visit is tense. Then Lydia lets slip that Mr. Darcy was at the wedding (also that this was to be a secret.) Elizabeth is beside herself with conjecture and suspense. She writes to Mrs. Gardiner who responds with a long letter which reveals that Darcy, not the Gardiners, paid Wickham off to marry Lydia, because he loves Elizabeth. Elizabeth's reaction is, understandably, mixed. At the end, Elizabeth makes apparent peace with Wickham.
Events are snowballing and I was probably foolish to split this up into another week. But we did and so now we will read to the end of the book this coming week. Enjoy.