Beauty - with SPOILERS for Perilous Gard and F & H

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Wed Jan 19 16:02:27 EST 2000

Melissa wrote:
>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.

Well, actually, I wasn't worried or confused by having a differing opinion,
even from you Melissa :-)  (I'm not *that* 'umble.  Oh.  You'd noticed?).
Anyway, as we'd worked out, in essense we have a different response to the
behaviour of the characters in the book.  You find it romantic, I find it

I'm reminded of the lovely scene in _Persuasion_ at the Musgroves':
        "Now I have done," cried Captain Wentworth.  "When once married people
        begin to attack me with- "Oh! you will think very differently when you
        are married," I can only say, "No, I shall not", and then they say
        again: "Yes, you will", and there is an end of it."
        He got up and moved away.

So here we are.  Melissa may say to herself something along the lines of:
nice woman and all, that Hallie, but sheesh, has she got a bee in her
bonnet about people being manipulative.  Can't she understand romance at

I won't quote my parallel thoughts, although my anguished pleas to consider
"what ifs" in our shared loved books would follow, and be something along
the lines of: what if Kate HAD accepted the Lady's "charm" to make
Christopher love her.  Although it wouldn't have changed anything in
reality, it would have changed everything for Kate.  Why? Partly because in
that new reality, she wouldn't have given Christopher the freedom to choose
to love her.  As the Beast didn't give Beauty that freedom.  Or in F & H,
if Polly had tried to argue that she hadn't done wrong in the "prying" on
Tom, (merely made a mistake, which had turned out wrongly), because she
felt she *needed* to know what the story with Tom was.  Again, as the Beast
felt he was justified in taking a hostage and holding her there until she
fell in love with him, because he needed to.  (Tom in F&H, I would argue,
did things very differently, and, well, I will argue it if necessary.  I
think this has come up before.)

But if you don't buy any of this, there is an end of it, which is fine.
[Although wait until the first manipulative creep comes and tells one of
your daughters he'll die if she leaves him!  And I'll make you a pot of
tea, like Granny, and never once say "NOW you understand, don't you?"
(Aaargh.  Not the pistols at dawn, Melissa.  I'm sorry.  I'm really, really

>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.

Yes, and that's where I got confused.  Because I didn't follow how the two
different parts of the discussion fit together, nor did I follow the
difference Deborah was pointing out between Robin McKinley and DWJ.  Not
having much memory of other McKinley books didn't help, of course.

>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.

To show where you've lost me, I think I'd have to tie it back to F&H -
another book infused with love of books and reading.  Yes, that's a big
element of what I love in it, but also everything else about the book works
for me.  One of the most important of those things being the sheer wisdom
about people, and human behaviour.  Everything those characters learn is
something I would say an emphatic "yes" to.  Everything DWJ tells us about
what kind of people we should try to be, I accept as true.  So when I share
the love of books with McKinley/Beauty, and do relate to all she says, but
slap up against what I believe to be false, I have real problems with the
book.  (And I can fit that in with what you said yesterday, about all the
experience you bring to a book, but not with the above at the same time.)

It feels like a mark of respect for the author that it's that serious.  I
can find all kinds of books fun and enjoyable and silly, and not be
bothered by things like this (such as Heyer's Devil's Cub - what did Elise
say, the "hero" is a psychopath?).  But this I can't quite dismiss.

"She got up and moved away."

You should be so lucky!  Um, but if you want to hire a test reader for the
"Lit Crit for Dummies" book you seem to have written, Melissa, I'll
volunteer.  Maybe you can apply it against my fees?

hallieod at

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