woman in white

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

woman in whiteFinally! I have completed my first book in the 30 Day Winter Break Reading Marathon. I’ve wanted to read the Woman in White for so long and now, I’ve done it. The book was written by Wilkie Collins who first had it serialized and then published in full in 1850.

The novel is separated into sections with various characters’ narratives featured throughout. At first, I was unsure why these “documents” were being compiled (structure of novel). The answer is slowly revealed and the compilation is collected to help reveal the many secrets within the novel. Seriously, there is a new mystery around every corner but they are all connected.

The novel was long, yet incredibly enjoyable and is perfect for this time of year. No better reason than a chilly day to give one an excuse for sitting by the fire and catching up on a 19th Century sensation novel.

I was naive to this terminology prior to reading the novel but it seems that there are distinctions made to this sub-genre. According to an article by Patrick Brantlinger, he describes qualities that define a sensation novel.

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If you would like to see the whole article, it can be purchased at jstor.org for $12.00 OR if you are affiliated with one of the participating organizations, the article can be accessed for FREE.

What I found really engaging about The Woman in White is the fact that Collins did not disappoint in answering the many mysteries that he plotted. When he was on the brink of revealing important information, I thought the easy and expected answer would be given (and the characters often thought this as well), but he always went several steps further.

Of course, because the book was written in England during the mid-19th C, it did suffer from the notion that women could take ill from merely standing outside in the middle of the night or needed to convalesce because they were probably suffering from the vapors or whatnot. But, I am an able to forgive this aspect and give a favorable review!

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Have I Gone Over to the Bookish Dark Side?

In between eating an obscene amount of homemade Christmas cookies, I’ve been reading–a lot. I would have read regardless of my most recent bookish event, but I admit it, probably not as much. Yes, you might remember an earlier post titled, “Fahrenheit 451: What’s the Temperature at Which E-Books Burn?” In that post, I was undecided about which side of the divide I landed on. Because I had no experience with e-readers and am a lover of books and bookstores, I concluded that my interaction with this new book technology would be relegated to my future and not my present.

However, this has all changed. A recent gift from my mother in the form of a  Kindle Touch has led me to expand and reinterpret my opinion. I made an evaluation considering both sides and I happen to agree with my original opinion: I love paper books and will always love them. If I want a copy of a book that I am very passionate about (for example, a work by Kafka), I will always purchase the book copy, flip back-and-forth through it, underline great passages and make margin notes. For books that I do not require copies of and have no real attachment to, I have decided to put them on the Kindle.

I first started thinking about it when I read the post, On Papers and Electrons, over at Multo (Ghost). Besides the secret trashy book element to an e-reader, adding classics from the public domain was a real winning aspect. So far, I have added 7 books to the Kindle and my grand total: $0. Instead of lugging around my 600+ page copy of The Woman in White with me, I downloaded it and according to the Kindle, am 80% through the entire book. Another feature which I definitely approve of is providing two dictionaries. You tap on a word and can read the definition, which is particularly handy when you are reading a classic work and the term might be archaic.

So, whether or not I have crossed to the dark side might not actually be a quandary worth contemplating over. The important points to take away are that I think with both my collection of paper books and e-books, I will be reading so much more (finally, my life long dream of reading the collected works of Leo Tolstoy on the subway can now be complete!) and saving money. Those public domain books that booksellers usually charge between $3-$10 have become free to me and I can also access the e-book collection of the New York Public Library.

Regardless of what venue you enjoy your books in, I hope you always have happy readings.

Allusions in Literature

As most of you know, I am reading The Woman in White (a real page turner, by the way). The book was originally published in its entirety in 1860. My copy is the Barnes & Noble Classics edition so it includes a lot of extra scholarly information: essays, timeline, footnotes, etc.

As I was reading the book last night, I would glance to the bottom of the page every now and then to see what little tidbit was being explained to me. Of course, any one of us could read this book without additional informational aids and enjoy it, but it is nice to know  that jog-trot acquaintances are habitual, routine acquaintances, not close friends [77].

However, there was a footnote to a reference about the Siren song. I thought this an easy one, especially, if you were educated in a Western school (I’ve read the Odyssey countless times when I was in school/college) and wondered why the editor would feel it necessary to include it.

It got me thinking about my academic past. I remembered that my fantastic senior year English teacher in high school emphasized how important mythical and biblical allusions are in literature and that everyone should know the basics. When I went off to college, I studied creative writing and classics. My focus in the classics department was Greek mythology and gender in society of ancient Greece (for three semesters, I even translated sections of the Old Testament in to English). I am the opposite of a religious person, but I think it very important to know stories from the Bible. I really enjoy academics and continued to take additional classes about southeast Asian religions and Islam while an undergrad.

I tried not to be a snob about the whole Siren song footnote and thought that I was just incredibly lucky in my high school schooling and in my own choices when I was a college student. I must admit that it’s been a number of years since I read up on any myths, but I really need to to keep my mind sharp. We can’t always know everything, but wouldn’t it be nice to really understand what’s happening in Faulkner’s  novels.

  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton Originally published in 1942, many people consider her book to be a good intro to classical myth. I hold the same opinion and think it’s a must have. This book has been around for decades and  you can probably find an incredibly cheap copy.
  • Theoi Greek Mythology I’ve only perused this sight for a few minutes but it seems to be jam-packed with tons of info and pictures. It also looks like the webmaster has taken great care in organizing all of the information.
  • Allusion in Prose and Poetry Some brief, yet, important examples of Biblical illusions in literature. At the top, there is also a great image of Jonah being swallowed by a whale.