Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

A tale of two endings

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

First of all, I had a “Wuthering Heights” problem just because I had never read it. No, really, never read it, I have to confess, though I had read and reread its cousin, "Jane Eyre," many times. My friend Susan and I had coincidentally just finished rereading “Middlemarch” and were thinking about reading something else together.

“’Wuthering Heights’,” I said. “I hate “’Wuthering Heights’,” she said. But, being the person she is, she agreed to go along with me. Now I know what she meant.

I had not gone far into the fresh hell that is Emily Bronte’s great work when I noticed that I hated, if not the book itself, then every character. Ok, not Lockwood. Lockwood’s not really a hate-able character.

So for the past week my bookmark has remained at a page just short of the end. I’m not sure why I am so reluctant to be done with it. That’s more like the way I sometimes am with books I love. Like the one I galloped through while avoiding Heathcliff, et. al.--“Persuasion,” Jane Austen’s final and posthumously-published novel.

It is a particular triumph, don’t you think, to have written a novel that is still a page-turner 193 years later. I recently saw an exhibit of Jane’s letters at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York and was charmed by how closely her snarky comments to her correspondents echoed the ever-so-gently snarky observations of her heroines. Reminded me of Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s comment, “If you have nothing nice to say, then come sit by me!”

I couldn’t put it down. Until I got close enough to the end so that I knew Anne would be reunited with her love (it’s not a spoiler if the book is almost 200 years old, is it?) and her silly sisters would grow a little wiser and all manner of things would be well. Though not so much for Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay, whom we despise, right?

But at that point I stopped for a while, trying to stave off the wrenching moment of parting from the wonderful world of Jane. I even considered going back to Heathcliff. But it felt impossible to veer from “Persuasion’s” privately guarded emotional turmoils to the heavy lifting of sturm und drang on the moors. So I finished it and loved every delicious sentence.

In the intro to the edition I read, Margaret Drabble calls “Persuasion” a “novel of second chances” and what’s not to love about that? Especially at this time of year, when we look forward to January’s illusion of a clean slate.

Now I know what’s waiting for me. A hot and cold dose of human flaws and passions. I’ll read it and I’ll be glad I did. I know, I know. I’ll finish “Wuthering Heights” tomorrow.

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