Liv Tyler

Wednesday reading — happy endings

What I've been reading

I read Ancient Lives: The Story of the Pharaoh's Tombmakers. I read several other excellent books about the Deir el-Bahri workers when I was researching my NaNoWriMo project but somehow missed this one, and wish I hadn't, because it's really vivid. In addition to painting pictures of daily life, it also works its way chronologically through the succession of chief workmen at the tombs the way you would expect to read about the succession of kings.

I read The Professor, which was published posthumously after Charlotte Brontë had already cannibalized it for Villette, so unsurprisingly it reads like a first draft of Villette in many ways. Now, I found Villette intensely frustrating in that I really enjoy Charlotte's writing but hated nearly everything about the actual story, so another book that is basically Villette but with a male protagonist and also less assured as a piece of writing did not seem like a great prospect, but it's not like there are so many books by Charlotte Brontë to choose from.

Anyway, I perservered through what seemed like a million pages about how stupid people, primarily girls, of Flemish extraction are, and how you can tell by their faces, the shapes of their heads, and even their figures. (It's actually not a particularly long book, but it felt like it.) The romance between William Crimsworth, the male version of Lucy Snowe, and his colleague is creepier than the one in Villette, because Frances is his pupil, trying to improve her English so she can get a better job. You might think that the student-teacher thing might be sexy, but mostly William is just incredibly cold and withholding for whatever reason. But then, surprise! Things got interesting at the very end!

Hunsden Yorke Hunsden is sort of the Ginevra Fanshawe of this book, in that he is weirdly obsessed with the narrator and spends an inordinate amount of telling him how boring and lame he is. Unlike Ginevra, though, instead of solidly occupying the middle of the book he appears briefly towards the beginning and then pops up suddenly again at the end. He taunts William with the prospect of his dead mother's portrait having been sold off with the rest of his failed mill-owner and total dick of an older brother's estate, except that he has already purchased and posted it such that it is waiting for William when he returns home. He mocks William's choice of fiancée when he meets her, but never marries himself and eventually ends up living next to William and Frances when they move to England together and co-parenting their child.

Seriously! In the last few pages there's all this adorable slice-of-life stuff about their lives together and it's amazing. Also after they're married Frances stops being so cringing and in fact teases William all the time, so that Hunsden doesn't have to do it all himself. William really needs at least two people teasing him full-time to be a tolerable human being.

I love their dynamic so much, briefly as it is sketched here, that I'm seriously tempted to ask for The Professor fic for Yuletide, except it feels dickish to request a canon when you don't actually like most of it.

I reread, or just read, Persuasion. I can't remember if I actually put it down or just read the last two-thirds without properly connecting with them back when I was fourteen or possibly fifteen, but I more or less effectively saved it until now, when I am much closer to Anne Elliot's age, and in fact older than her. It really is some wonderful wish-fulfillment for the nigh-pathologically conflict-avoidant! Jane Austen wrote about Anne being almost too good, but I think she is sufficiently leavened by the fact that sometimes her acts of charitable self-sacrifice double as an elaborate strategy to avoid potential social awkwardness. I know that feel. And then, after so much protecting herself and refusing to expose herself, she gets rewarded with complete exposure in the form of the hottest, most-soulbaring love letter in literature!

I have a copy of the Norton Critical Edition which includes the original ending. It doesn't have the letter and is far more conventional: Anne and Frederick get trapped together in a room where they have to have an awkward conversation about whether Anne is marrying William Elliot and how this will affect Admiral Croft's lease on Kellynch Hall. I much prefer the published version. Anne has suffered enough and deserves some ridiculous wish fulfillment instead of being trapped in a room having an awkward conversation.

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