Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Enemy Books: Clarissa

WHILE the much more challenging effort of achieving the next 'Master Drawings' blog post grinds onward very slowly, I thought it would be nice to begin featuring books which I cannot stand for whichever reason.

Having the feeling that I can only embarrass myself by hurling serious invective at books which are classics and whose virtues are clearly too lofty for me to understand; having the feeling that perhaps when I am older my opinions will change diametrically; and having the feeling that these books at least enjoy originality or a certain distinction at the crest of a burst of literary fervour and Zeitgeist; I have decided to avoid proper 'posts' and only introduce them briefly and as inaccurately as mood suggests.

But the main point of an Enemy Books series is to invite readers to leave a comment to describe the beauties which they find in the work. (Even if the Enemy Book blog post in question is months old.)

Agreement with my invective is also welcome, however, and so are suggestions for a next enemy book.


Context and Rating

FOR the dubious honour of the first Enemy Book, I hereby name Clarissa by Samuel Richardson.

Completeness of Ordeal: Did not finish.
Birthdate of Enmity: ca. 2005.
(It was part of a largely unwise attempt to search amongst Jane Austen's contemporaries and favourite books
for something like Jane Austen, and finding a lot of unnatural collections of rubbish which derived a lot of 'inspiration' from each other and practically no development of character worth mentioning.)
Likelihood That Enmity Is Justified: 78%


An Unflattering Resumé of the Enemy Book
based on dim recollections

TEDIOUS, lachrymose, and very, very serious, this is the tale of a young woman who must strive with a coarse-souled family who holds her prisoner (literally!!) and practically forces her into a clandestine correspondence and thoughts of elopement with The Villain, Lovelace. We must read ALL the letters between heroine, family, faithless betrayer of the forlorn heart, comrade in iniquity, etc., which repeat themselves a good deal. There is a terrible hemming and hawing which doesn't so much advance the plot as bury all hope of any successful ascent to the climax which every book is supposed to have (according to a graph which was on a worksheet which I received in a middle school English class). It is a Sisyphean plot. Also, everybody is boring, not least the villain.

The finest measure of the true latitude of a literary catastrophe — or of the pleasurable and therefore estimable divergence of its author from its initial promise — is its ending — specifically its plot endings. So I skipped ahead to the end, as is my wont, especially since I tend not to mind plot 'spoilers.' Unlike my wont, I found myself not finding the ending — on the last page, or even in the last chapter — which is needed to perform this evaluation. I flipped back through chapters and chapters which soon attained the length of an ordinary book in themselves, and at last gave up on finding the exact spot where [I've blanked out the spoiler] the heroine dies. The rest of the book is just everyone lamenting and saying what an angel she was as the villain rampages through Byronic convulsions of heartrended gloom. I think there were also drugs involved but that is pretty much the only lurid bright spot. Also a handkerchief.

Richardson praised himself, apparently, for taking care to be naturalistic in describing the course of events in quotidian bite-sized pieces with a humble domesticated theme; besides I think that his contemporaries loved to plunge and engulf themselves in his Marianas Trench of bathos. But I consider it an Enemy to common sense and a kidnapper of valuable time, and thus as

An Enemy Book.

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