SeƱor (Tales of Yankee Power)
52 Movies: Week 42 - Duel

The soul of man, left to its own natural level, is a potentially lucid crystal left in darkness. It is perfect in its own nature, but it lacks something that it can only receive from outside and above itself. But when the light shines in it, it becomes in a manner transformed into light and seems to lose its nature in the splendor of a higher nature, the nature of the light that is in it.

--Thomas Merton

I'm reading The Seven Storey Mountain for the first time, something I've been meaning to do for maybe thirty years. And it's really good. Sorry I didn't get to it sooner.


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Really good.


I own a copy I have also been meaning to read, maybe not 30 years but close to it!

I recommend putting it higher on your list.

I need the inspiration right now that Middlemarch is probably not providing.

Yes. You should read it. You should wait until the Ides of March to read Middlemarch. Far more appropriate.


I crack up every time I look at the sidebar--or get sad. It's kind of a toss up which one.


Janet, on the soul of man left?

I'm sure you have read Middlemarch, Janet, what am I missing here? I've read about 300 pages and it has yet to get exciting. Maybe I'm in George Eliot overload since I just read Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss too... I was expecting to be WOWED.

Sorry Mac, don't mean to take your Merton post hostage with Eliot. :)

That's ok, I don't really believe in the concept of "off topic" where blog comments are concerned. :-) At least on this blog.

Never read Middlemarch despite fervent recommendations from several people.


Yes, "The soul of man, left."

Anyway, the Ides of March is in the Middle of March.

I cannot remember if I have read Middlemarch or not. I'm pretty sure I have, but I know I've seen the miniseries. I didn't like it as well as either of the other two you mentioned.


It's funniest to me if I ignore the comma (the sidebar I mean).



I must admit as well to being underwhelmed by Middlemarch. I liked it, but not enough to think about reading it again, which is sort of my standard for these sorts of things. I can understand its status as the quintessential 19th English novel -- it does really breathe "Englishness" in a manner that other novels of the period don't, at least not to the same level -- but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as the best of Dickens and Hardy.

I've not read the other Eliot novels, although I do like Silas Marner a great deal, and I greatly enjoyed Scenes of Clerical Life (short stories) when I read it years ago.

sorry -- quintessential 19th century English novel. There obviously would be only one 19th English novel; thus, it would be quintessential by definition.

Though there would still be room for argument about which is the actual 19th. :-)

Ha! Very true.

I like Silas Marner best.


I love Adam Bede, which I have read twice. Rob, if you haven't read that one it is quite good and has very Christian themes.

Thanks for your take on Middlemarch. You are correct, I love Dickens and Hardy very much in comparison.

Thanks, Stu. I had already considered trying Adam Bede next (although I don't know exactly when) so I'll consider your comment a confirmation.

Speaking of quintessentially English books, I'm about to start a long overdue re-read of The Wind in The Willows.

Another vote against Middlemarch. In fact, I found it so dull that I've avoided Eliot ever since. But it sounds like that may have been overhasty. Adam Bede?

I've also never read Hardy. Where should I start with him?

I say Silas Marner.


Keep in mind that Hardy is almost primarily tragedy, so don't expect warm fuzzies! I think that his best is Tess, but perhaps the first time around I enjoyed The Mayor of Casterbridge the most. Jude the Obscure would NOT be a good place to start, it is extremely grim.

I put Tess up there with Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Portrait of a Lady ... one of the best 19th century novels about a woman. Unfortunately they are all written by men.

What I did, with one exception, was to read the "major" novels chronologically, so as to follow him in his development as a fiction writer. He grew more serious and "darker" as time went on, and this progression is interesting to trace if such things appeal to you.

The exception for me was Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which I read in college after seeing the excellent Polanski film Tess. That was the first Hardy I read, after which I went back and read them in order.

One of the nice things about Hardy is that he conveniently divided up his works into three categories, and, generally speaking, it's the "novels of character and environment" that are considered his best. So if you want to do the chronological thing, you'd start with Under the Greenwood Tree. If not, I'd probably jump in in the middle somewhere, with The Return of the Native or The Mayor of Casterbridge.

"Jude the Obscure would NOT be a good place to start, it is extremely grim."

No kidding. Back in the '70s there was a Masterpiece Theater production of Jude that was so shatteringly sad that it kept me from even wanting to read Hardy's novels, though I like a lot of his poetry.

I like Far from the Madding Crowd..

I'm not sure why it's unfortunate that those novels were written by men. If they are good novels, I don't care who wrote them. Would you say that it was too bad if a woman wrote a good novel about a man? There were certainly women writing in the 19th century. They wrote what they chose to write.


Just that I'm claiming them all as favorites of mine, about women, written by men, that's all. It is of course a testament to those authors and their ability. I can also recommend George Eliot, the Brontes, Jane Austen ... I like them all but they're not in the same category for me as the four that I mention. I'm just trying to be sensitive, Janet! :)

Well, stop it.


That should say, "Well, stop it. ;-)"


The first I ever read of Hardy was The Return of the Native, and I think it's his best. Maybe because it pulls you into a feeling of place right off the bat and never lets go. Here's the first paragraph:

A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.
The whole first chapter is devoted to describing that heath, and when a person first appears in the next chapter, he's set firmly in that heath:
Along the road walked an old man. He was white-headed as a mountain, bowed in the shoulders, and faded in general aspect. He wore a glazed hat, an ancient boat-cloak, and shoes; his brass buttons bearing an anchor upon their face. In his hand was a silver-headed walking stick, which he used as a veritable third leg, perseveringly dotting the ground with its point at every few inches' interval. One would have said that he had been, in his day, a naval officer of some sort or other.

Before him stretched the long, laborious road, dry, empty, and white. It was quite open to the heath on each side, and bisected that vast dark surface like the parting-line on a head of black hair, diminishing and bending away on the furthest horizon.

Terrific writing. Time for me to read the book again.

Wow, that is terrific writing. Thanks. I'm going to bump Hardy up in my queue.

Yes, it is, although my reading list is so crowded right now I'm not going to say I'll get to him anytime soon.

Huh. And there was me about to write "Just read Jude the Obscure for the full effect."

Watching the Jude dramatization was rather like watching Psycho: a miserable experience I never want to repeat.

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