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I've read the novel (and it seems like it's two thousand pages long) twice, and all I can ever remember afterward is Becky Sharpe's name.

And she is surely the sharpest character in the book.

Please follow me below the orange beignet:

Now, with Dickens, I can remember even the ones I didn't like enough to reread, like David Copperfield. I mean, forget about A Tale of Two Cities: I once did a thirty-second goof on its plot, including Carton's "It's a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done, it's a far, far better place I go than I have ever gone" which has to take up at least five of those seconds. And I'd read A Tale of Two Cities again in a heartbeat (Note to self: get another pb copy: you haven't read it in ten years at least and it's time).

But Vanity Fair? Eminently forgettable. And I like that kind of stuff.

So tonight, I watched the movie w/Reese Witherspoon on Netflix.

It was really, really good.

Was it faithful to the book?

Well, her name was Becky Sharpe -- the only part of the book I remember, except for the win some riches, lose some riches aspect -- so: maybe, maybe not.

A terrific movie no matter what. Great costumes, cinematography, acting: what's not to love?

Highly rec'd.

But the POINT of all this is, have you read it? Seen the movie to which I refer? Is it just my lousy memory, or is Thackeray one of the least memorable authors in the English language, except, of course, for his skill with titles (and maybe that came from his editor).

I would call Thackeray boring, except...he really isn't. He's good. I just can't remember a damn thing about his most important work except Becky Sharpe's name.

For boring you go to The Mayor of Casterbridge. Got stuck with that one in high school and it turned me off of Thomas Hardy for life. (But I still remember the plot.)

And there's Emma by Jane Austen -- totally a classic, and arguably the first modern novel in the English language.  I mean, let's face it, Pamela by what's-his-name is barely readable, while Austen continues to amuse and fascinate.

So that's what I'm thinking tonight.

Worked a ten-hour shift and will be away from this site for a while: apologies.

Hope the early morning people will be around to comment & sorry for posting a drive-by diary. Will be back in about six hours.



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Comment Preferences

  •  Again, apologies for (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shahryar, Alma, Polly Syllabic, cfk, Brecht

    needing to crash & posting this anyway.

    I thought maybe some early birds would have fun with it.

    FSM knows, these are "classics" and yet...if Vanity Fair is that forgettable while pretty much all of Austen is extremely memorable (not to mention Dickens' work), how great can Thackeray be?

    It's the literary equivalent of cotton candy. At least, for me it is.

    Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

    by Youffraita on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:26:38 AM PDT

  •  funny enough... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, Polly Syllabic, cfk, Brecht

    I can hardly remember the book, either, other than I recall the character of Becky was a nasty piece of I say, I can hardly remember so maybe even that's not right.

    Yet I thought the movie was worse. So there you go.

    •  In the movie (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic, Shahryar, Brecht

      she's not so much a nasty piece of work as someone who's been at the bottom and is determined to not go there again.

      I think that part, at least, is faithful to the novel.

      Of course, I've read the novel twice and it's still a cipher, so what do I know?

      The movie is a lot of fun, just ignore the book and enjoy it.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon May 13, 2013 at 01:51:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The only thing I remember about the book... (4+ / 0-)

      ... is a description from Wikipedia that there are no heroes or heroines in the tale.

      And the reason I went to Wikipedia in the first place? Because I couldn't remember the  book 8-)

      •  Thank You! (0+ / 0-)


        There are no heroes nor heroines in the movie, either, although Becky is far more sympathetic, I think. But then the cinema is best when it follows a book least, in general.

        Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

        by Youffraita on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:32:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thomas Hardy = Boring (4+ / 0-)

    We got to pick a number of books from what the canon was in the 1960s in 11th grade English to read during the course of the year. For the most part, I picked well, but Jude the Obscure -- forget it.  I was hoping for the last 150 pages that some catastrophe would wipe out all the characters and the remainder of the book would be about other less boring people, but no.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce)

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon May 13, 2013 at 04:38:13 AM PDT

    •  Does anyone still teach him, Dave? (0+ / 0-)

      By now I should hope he would be Hardy the Obscure.

      Look up "boring" in the dictionary and it's his photo.

      Didactic as all hell, beats you over the head to make his point, and can put you to sleep after a pot of coffee: that's good ol' Tom.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:34:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Case of the Forgotten Murder (4+ / 0-)

    The best version of Vanity Fair is the 1998 miniseries.  However, I have seen every version of this novel that has ever been made (that is available on DVD), and none of them is faithful to this book in one crucial regard.  Whereas in the book, Becky murders Jos Sedley for the insurance money, in the movie versions, Jos is always still alive at the end.  And except for the 1932 version, in which Jos leaves Becky, there is always the suggestion that Becky and Jos live happily ever after.  This is especially irksome, in light of the fact that the penultimate sentence of the novel dismisses happiness as nowhere to be found in Vanity Fair.

    The fault lies not just with Hollywood and their natural preference for happy endings.  All those I know who have read this book do the same thing in their imagination.  Well, they cannot keep Jos alive, but they completely disregard the murder.  They do this because they like Becky.  She is pretty, charming, clever, and a bit of an underdog, and so we naturally root for her.  When she does something that is mean, like mimicking someone who has been nice to her, or beating her child, we make excuses for her, we forgive her, or we just plain pretend it really was not that bad.  And then, after almost 700 pages, we find that she has seduced us just as surely as she has seduced her victims in the novel. And considering the way most people pretend to themselves that the murder never happened, the seduction turns out to have been even more successful than Thackeray may have imagined it would.

    It might be hoped that someday a movie version will be made that ends with the murder of Jos Sedley.  But the film industry is unlikely to remember what the average reader is so anxious to forget.

    •  Well, ds, you win the award for (0+ / 0-)

      the only commenter in this thread who actually can remember the book.


      And thanks for a very well-thought-out and appropriate comment. You're right about Jos being alive at the end of the movie I saw...and right again that I didn't remember any murder in the book. Of course, I really don't remember the book at all, and I've read it much more recently than the last time I read Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities.

      Yet I remember both of those vividly.

      Maybe Thackeray was too subtle...I don't know. I just know I find his great novel to be eminently...forgettable.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:41:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I couldn't get through it, either (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have a list of ones I just couldn't do.  Robinson Crusoe is another one.  

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Mon May 13, 2013 at 03:19:41 PM PDT

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