Daily Archives: September 24, 2008

Reading The Mayor of Casterbridge

I had seen the A&E adaptation with the always magnificent CiarĂ¡n Hinds, although for some incomprehensible reason I didn’t especially notice Juliet Aubrey (whom I later loved in Middlemarch) and Jodhi May (same deal, Daniel Deronda). More recently we got Michael Winterbottom’s The Claim from NetFlix. Mostly I wanted to see it because it had both Shirley Henderson and Sarah Polley. But darned if it wasn’t also a Yukon Mayor of Casterbridge.

Finally, we’ve packed up all our books, stored them in a self-storage in Hyattsville, trying to clear out the house, make it more sellable. All we’ve got left in the way of books is Dawn’s bookcase of Penguin and Oxford classics in the bedroom. So when I finished The Nutmeg of Consolation, sadly The Truelove is packed and stored and just not available. So I went trolling through the classics.

Gave up on Hard Times after the first two insufferable pages. (After the not-insignficant chunk of my life that I devoted to Little Dorrit, I’ve not got a lot of patience for Dickens. And yet Great Expectations is wonderful. Go figure.) So next I grabbed the Thomas Hardy. Love his poems in my Norton. Might as well give his novel a shot, yeah?

Loved this immediately.

The sailor hesitated a moment, looked anew at the woman, came in, unfolded five crisp pieces of paper, and threw them down upon the tablecloth. They were Bank-of-England notes for five pounds. Upon the face of this he clinked down the shillings severally–one, two, three, four, five.

The sight of real money in full amount, in answer to a challenge for the same till then deemed slightly hypothetical had a great effect upon the spectators. Their eyes became riveted upon the faces of the chief actors, and then upon the notes as they lay, weighted by the shillings, on the table.

Up to this moment it could not positively have been asserted that the man, in spite of his tantalizing declaration, was really in earnest. The spectators had indeed taken the proceedings throughout as a piece of mirthful irony carried to extremes; and had assumed that, being out of work, he was, as a consequence, out of temper with the world, and society, and his nearest kin. But with the demand and response of real cash the jovial frivolity of the scene departed. A lurid colour seemed to fill the tent, and change the aspect of all therein. The mirth-wrinkles left the listeners’ faces, and they waited with parting lips.

I did read The Return of the Native in eleventh grade. Pretty much don’t remember anything about it. I also read The Catcher in the Rye the next year, just for fun, and I still distinctly remember that Holden liked that Eustacia Vye.