criticism gone awry

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Tue Aug 24 18:12:07 EDT 1999


Back from the UK to find fascinating letters about your experiences with
English classes!  I think you gave far too much credit to the Awful
Boyfriend by thinking he might only have been put off Austen by bad
teaching (come on, think Seb!), but I'm glad you all did because it made
for such interesting reading.  The real Awful Boyfriend was just of the
belief that only Joyce and the like merited attention.  I dutifully plodded
through Portrait of the Artist, but didn't even bother to attempt Ulysses,
as I knew I wouldn't get on with it at all.  Reading Portrait, however, did
enable me to recognize the quote from it in the AB's good-bye letter,
something along the lines of going to forge the consciousness of his race
in the smithy of his soul (we're talking very, very pretentious!).  I did
hear that said person had gone off to teach in the States, so maybe one of
your Awful Teachers who made you read Joyce...?

Back to DWJ.  I didn't get to do much thinking about Mordion on the trip,
but I did pick up A Sudden Wild Magic, and The Tough Guide.  I fear it may
be a sign of Getting Older (though perhaps it's only motherdom), that long
bus/train trips no longer allow for deep and absorbing reading.  Now it's
more a stream of worries and distractions (due to overcrowding and delays,
scary loos and scarier food, and total responsibility for what to do if it
All Goes Wrong).  Tough Guide was just about perfect for this (when I could
get it away from my daughter), but anything else was a bit more than I
could handle!  I have fond memories of a bus trip from Amherst to Toronto,
happily reading (I think) Patricia McKillip, back in Grad. School.  Ah
well, glory days.

A fun thing happened when we went out on the train to see my brother.  We
got off at  Moreton-in-Marsh, and the next town on the line was
Stow-on-the-Wold, (and then Bourton-on-the-Water).  Becca (the
above-mentioned daughter) had asked me many times if there really was a
Stow-on-the-Water, so we found it very satisfying to discover such a close
relative, especially when Becca remembered that S-on-the-W was in the
Cotswolds, where this village is.  It was a beautiful little market town,
but we'd no time to look out for hardware stores.

Speaking of F & H (as I do so love to do!), I saw a plea for help with the
ending in an Amazon reader review, and wrote asking if the person had
received many replies, before adding my attempt.  She said she'd only had
two - by any chance would either or both be from this list?  Anyway, in
re-reading the ending before writing my reply, I came across the one line
I've never understood at all, at all.  It's on the last page (I'll put in
the sentence before, in case people don't have the book handy).  "She
thought of all the things Tom might have said - which Seb would have said -
just now to change her mind.  It was the things not said that showed they
might have a great deal in common."   I just don't get that.  I know Polly
said that she and Tom had nothing in common, but I'd figured that was just
to "lose" in the contest, to save Tom, and not something she really meant,
any more than she meant the other things she said then.  If it's Seb and
Tom, I see what they have in common, but here she's contrasting them.
Help!

Hallie (with apologies to any ardent Joyce fans on this list - if there are
any?)
hallieod at indigo.ie



The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley
--'To a Mouse,' Robert Burns


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