Beauty

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue Jan 18 14:13:18 EST 2000


On Tue, 18 Jan 2000 11:27:45 +0100, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

>>On Mon, 17 Jan 2000 17:54:16 -0500 (EST), deborah wrote:
>>
>>> This was entirely a gut reaction, that lasted.
>>> But I think McKinley (unlike DWJ) specifically writes what she
>>> loves, so if you love it too, you love her books.  Which  worked
>>> for me with most of her books, but not with _Rose Daughter_,
>>> because I don't love what she loves in that book.  She doesn't
>>> make you love it, you already have to in order to share her
>>> love.
>
>And Melissa replied:
>
>>I think this is extremely insightful.  I didn't care for _Rose Daughter_
>>much; not actively disliking it, but not feeling very attached to it either.
>>And yet I could tell the subject was something McKinley cared very much
>>about.  I love books; I don't love gardening.  I wonder if it really could
>>be that simple.
>>
>NO!  No no no no no!  Sorry.  Of course, I meant to say that I am
>experiencing some degree of difficulty believing that this is the
>explanation.  Phew.

It isn't really, I was sort of musing aloud and skipped a lot of intervening
thought there.  Sorry for being confusing.  Again.

>As I like the fact that the sisters aren't nasty, and I love the books and
>the library and the desk (I *really* love the desk too, as I'm embarking on
>an Open University course with NO desk, no study, no guest room I can set
>aside a corner of for study, no formal dining room, den, nothing!).  Drat,
>better start again after that aside.  Anyway, I love these elements of the
>book, and I really like Beauty for loving books and her family and being
>honourable too, but that actually makes it worse. 

I stand by what I said before:  Something in this book horrified you enough
that no matter what other aspects of it you like, you can't get past the
initial feeling of betrayal and creepiness.  That's what you just said--that
because you love those things, it makes the book WORSE instead of better.
Deborah and I don't have that initial reaction:  We just don't read it the
same way you do!  So this has actually moved past whether or not _Beauty_ is
good or creepy, and on to why one should prefer _Beauty_ over _Rose
Daughter_ or vice versa.

In case you're really starting to get confused, Hallie, or worried by having
a different opinion or something, I have to point out that how you read
_Beauty_ is actually a good example of a "strong" or "slant" reading...where
you take a particular text (sorry, the literary criticism terms just keep
piling out) and read it in a way that's contrary to the expected reading,
but is still supportable by the words of the text.  This is one of the first
things taught in postmodern crit--What is the author saying by omission?
What assumptions does the author have that are never stated but are implied?
Your reading is motivated by a gut reaction, but it's not
unrealistic...again, as long as you don't assume that Robin McKinley is a
closet sadist or something (i.e. that the reaction you had was the one the
author "intended").  :)

>Unfortunately, I'm only about a quarter of the way through Rose Daughter,
>so I can't add a reaction to that as any contribution to the discussion.
>But I have a hard time believing that people on the list who prefer Rose
>Daughter to Beauty are all avid gardeners?  Maybe I'm totally wrong on
>that, but a lot more feels different so far between the two books than the
>gardening.

I think this takes into the realm of TOO simple.  :)  But then, I started
it....

_Rose Daughter_ isn't a treatise about gardening any more than _Beauty_ is a
treatise about books and learning.  But the underlying metaphor for each
book is different.  _Rose Daughter_ (and forgive me for generalizing; I've
only read the book once) is about cultivation, about things growing back
from near destruction--about growth and change being able to save that which
is stagnating.  That's a common metaphor, I know, but McKinley makes a nice
twist on it with the ending of the book (which I also won't discuss because
you haven't finished it.  _Beauty_ is something different; this is a
romantic young woman applying what she knows from all her education to
uncover a mystery, only to discover that the truth is found by reaching
beyond fact and text into the realm of magic.  So the roots of magic in each
book are based in something different.

All I'm saying is that there's something about _Beauty_ that I relate to in
a way that I didn't with _Rose Daughter_, and I think it's tied up in the
underlying metaphor, as well as the overt expression of it (which is the
story itself).  

>I also wish you'd explain/elaborate on your "McKinley unlike DWJ..."
>statement, Deborah.  Maybe this is the post-graduate level of lit crit - it
>seemed to make sense to Melissa, but remains frustratingly out of reach to
>me!  But intriguing.

Well, Deborah can take a turn explaining herself now.... :)

Somewhere in the fly leaf of _Rose Daughter_, or it might be the
introduction or something, McKinley talks about why she wrote this book when
she'd already retold this story once.  She mentions this place she lived in,
somewhere in New England (I *told* you all I don't remember this well) and
how hard it was for her to leave it.  The book is on one level a tribute to
this cottage, her own private love.  I think in some sense she's always
writing her own story for herself, and if you can relate in some way, you
feel it too--but not if there's not some shared experience.  I think I
shared that love of books with her, but not this love of place--or at least
not this particular place.  At least, this is what I thought of when I read
Deborah's post.

Melissa Proffitt
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