Monday, May 16, 2011

A Fortuitous Return and Some Thoughts on Blithedale

I have to say, it's been some time since I have picked up a book, and more since I have picked up a pen, literal or, in this case, metaphorical. But there comes a time when a lady, having begun to catch up on her reading, beginning with the years of her absence, cannot be silent.

Upon my return to the United States, and to the world at large, I had many adjustments to make and so had very little time for catching up on the works published in the century or so since my departure. I recently inquired at the bookstore after my friend Mister Hawthorne and was directed to some anthologies collecting some of his Gift Book pieces, as well as a volume of his collected novels, which I happily devoured--until I arrived at The Blithedale Romance.

Blithedale begins as a fairly innocent novel, a charming story about the perils of seeking Utopia, a sentiment which I wholeheartedly endorse. The protagonist, Coverdale, reminded me of several of my young Transcendentalist friends, whom I am too polite to name or identify more clearly than that. I was enjoying it quite a bit, even through the introduction of Zenobia, the principal female in the novel. However, as the novel progressed, I found myself increasingly offended, and it dawned on me with sudden clarity that it was because I was being libeled.

It is shocking, I think, to learn what people say about one behind one's back, or in this case, over one's grave. Mister Hawthorne's thorough slandering of a character who is little more than a paper scrim of myself appalls me to a degree that I cannot begin to articulate. This "Zenobia", of her petty jealousies, her arrogance, and her secret longing to lean on men, showing out from under a character much like my own (my love of literature, my passion for equality, my Amazonian good looks) is simply deplorable.

As for Hawthorne's little disclaimer in his introduction to this penny-dreadful novella about an incompetent young pervert--I do not believe for one iota of a second his claims that any resemblance to actual individuals is incidental. And that is all I have to say about that.

I was hoping to begin my "web log" with the aim of reading forward from the year of my departure to the present. However, I am finding that it is too depressing to see one's contemporaries in the harsh light of retrospect. I think that I will leap forward into more modern literature, and avoid, at least for the moment, the works of my contemporaries. I will lick my wounds and read from the younger generations, and report on what merits I find with more clarity than I have here.

And if Mister Hawthorne truly believes that I am "bruising herself against the narrow limitations of her sex", as he says in his introduction, I would like to counter with the argument that I have exceeded in demolishing those narrow limitations, both in life and beyond. I don't see Mister Hawthorne returning from the dead.

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