Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Club. Brill.

Book club last night. Northanger Abbey was the book up for discussion, and the evening consisted of relaxed sitting about in the lounge room with winter food (baking and chocolate-types) discussing the book itself – and literature in general.
The setting only wanted for an open fire and rain battering the windows.

One particular point of interest came up during the discussion – that of how Mr Tilney appears fairly camp. I was surprised by this suggestion and disagreed – the passage in question struck me, rather, as satirical- and mocking on the part of My Tilney towards women in general.

“They were interrupted by Mrs. Allen: ‘My dear Catherine,’ said she, ‘do take this pin out of my sleeve; I am afraid it has torn a hole already; I shall be quite sorry if it has, for this is a favourite gown, though it cost but nine shillings a yard.’

‘That is exactly what I should have guessed it, madam,’ said Mr. Tilney, looking at the muslin.

‘Do you understand muslins, sir?’

‘Particularly well; I always buy my own cravats, and am allowed to be an excellent judge; and my sister has often trusted me in the choice of a gown. I bought one for her the other day, and it was pronounced to be a prodigious bargain by every lady who saw it. I gave but five shillings a yard for it, and a true Indian muslin.’”

-and on it continues.

This disagreement of character makes me wonder how much of our perception of a character is provided by the book – and how much is fleshed out by our own desires in a hero. I obviously consider a satirical nature and the ability to intelligently mock: an (occasionally) desirous trait in a man. So how much of my perception of the character of Mr Tilney is based on the evidence provided in the novel – and how much from my assumptions and extrapolations to make him a hero of my own liking – and directly result in my liking the book itself more due to the fact? Would I perceive the character of My Tilney rather affected, if it would have increased the books satirical value for me? How much of our perception of a ‘good book’ is the book itself – or the skilled ‘lack of book’ as it were, where you are able to fill the gaps subconsciously? For example, the detailed expression of a shopping trip, compared with the generic situation of having ‘gone to the store for milk and eggs’.

I am inclined to think that a good writer is able to give just enough generic hints towards a universal good character and leaves enough gaps for the reader to flesh out the character themselves into the ‘perfect hero’. How else could so many vastly different people, wanting so many vastly different things out of their lives, agree on the most beloved character, or ‘best book ever’?

This leads me in the direction of questions such as ‘is a certain book beloved by a certain personality type’? Does a particular type of upbringing bias an individual towards loving a certain genre of fiction? Is what you eat/do/see/experience in childhood shaping your brain towards finding different subsets of literature/actions/people/foods/music pleasurable in adulthood?! And the qualifier, that while people have so many different goals for their lives – the basics are always the same; security and companionship for the rest of days. So perhaps making the vanilla hero is not as difficult as one would think.

The Butter Cake Recipe for vanilla Hero

One part stereotypical good looks – tall and broad; wiry, dark, brooding and deep etc. (I would think the proof of evolution and mate selection would be enough to back this up for a vast majority of the population).

One part evidence towards good will and sound values – surface apparent or buried deep

One part distinguishing trait – superpower, remarkable proficiency with a particular weapon/school of thought/skill-set.

One part evidence for ability to love a ‘normal’ woman – whose vacuous female shell can be filled out with/or related to; the characteristics of the reader

One part slight disadvantage – to get the maternal feelings/nurturing instinct piqued

One part financial security – you might deny it, but you still want it

And mix - with enough empty spaces you might subconsciously fill with the specific traits you want in a partner without even knowing you want them.

Bake with an overactive imagination, day dreams and the eventual conclusion that the character could never be surpassed by any man you know living.

Further, I love this wee aside from Myretta Robens, regarding the discussion of muslin:

“Is this any way to dazzle a young lady at a ball? Granted, Catherine's chaperone, Mrs. Allen is suitably impressed, but wouldn't it be better to talk knowledgeably of horseflesh and dueling, or perhaps gambling and spitting or other manly pursuits? I mean, what kind of a hero begins a courtship with talk of muslin? Well, he's probably a Beta Hero. The Alpha Hero (think Mr. Darcy) is standing in a corner of the ballroom, looking disgruntled about the necessity of being there and not at all interested in dancing, let alone what the ladies' gowns are made of. Our lovely Beta is engaging in conversation that will endear him to the young lady for the rest of her life. And, if he is, indeed, the hero and not the charming sidekick, he will not have to experience a painful change of character in order to fall deeply in love with the heroine and live happily ever after.”

Beta Hero, love it.  (However, personally: Alpha's all the way.  Sorry Mr Tilney, Darcy stole my heart, brooding in the corner).

1 comment:

  1. Yay, you found/made a book club? Have to agree with you on the Alpha thing as well :)