Everybody always thinks they alone know what’s best for everyone and how to run an entire nation. As if even the people whose job it is to do those things can actually do it! A lot of hot air in these cafes.
We begin with the characters – through art – seeing each other as they would like to be see, especially vain Mr. Casaubon. We end the chapter with talking about what we hope to be true, though with Will’s and Dorothea’s intentions not exactly lining up (he loves her; she’s naive). Casaubon must sense this since he’s not a total fool.
Casaubon is becoming a bit of an ogre; I hope he humanized more later.
“Political morality is like a cape with so many patches that one no longer knows which was the original fabric.” ha! Also, we’re repeating the image of fabrics here, like at the beginning, this weaving of stories and people.
So should we blame Fortunata? She can’t help that she love Juanito, but at what point does someone have to take responsibility? She didn’t have to marry Maximiliano, she just went along with it, though she did think she could make it work. But she can’t control herself. And should she?
Both of the men in her life are such big children: Maximiliano with his migraines and Juanito with his baby talk (yeth) and inability to get over her.
“She felt that she was a living doll controlled by an invisible, unknown power she could not name.”
Wow, what a chapter! Her hand on the lock trying to decide to open it and let him in, the maid like a devil on her shoulder telling her to give in, her sick husband in am opiate dream in the giant bed. Fever and desire and sickness and anger and temptation. What a novel!!!
Instead of consummation the marriage, he’s sick with a migraine and she has to care for him. And she’s being told what to do about everything – ordering food, and how much to spend, and what Maximiliano should eat. No freedom. She might have been more free in the convent.
Ok, Nicolas (the brother priest) saying he’s been curing his migraine with ham is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. That’s genius.
The entire ceremony happens between two sentences. Her ‘transformation’ to being a lady, the event which makes her respectable happens between punctuation. It means that this ceremony is not what does or doesn’t do the trick.
Everyone in the wedding party is at least a little shabby (dirty collars), old fashioned (out of style top hat or county shawl), ill fitting (Maximiliano’s suit), and even his friends, who look fine, seem to leer around Fortunata. It’s a shoddy attempt at respectability and all led by the Turkey Lady.
Everything is laid out for her, even her future, and all seems content. Yet it’s impossible not to feel that she is being stifled by all this middle class comfort.
This whole chapter Ladislaw is almost exclusively referred to as just Will. So there is a familiarity between her and him, but just subtle. And the difference with how he speaks to her as opposed to Mr. Casaubon (always Mr.) is striking – they speak more as two people close in age should speak (for the times). She’s also (through Will) seeing the world (and Casaubon) from a fresh point of view.
Not that it’ss any surprise to the reader that Dorothea is growing miserable, but what is remarkable is how beautifully written this chapter is. She describes Rome as being this beautiful wreck of a city, a city that has made the civilized world, but is also neglected and difficult to understand. These descriptions of Rome reflect how she feels and it feels so lonely. And we end where ch 19 begins.
So that’s why we were told the mouse story. We should have remembered Sor Marcela had that cognac and that’s why Maurica is seeing things because she’s drunk is all. One little mouse and then another.
That windmill seems to represent Fortunata’s passion for Maximiliano: listless and providing very little energy, but stable, too.
Fortunata does not believe her manic friend, who is sitting on the manure pile, has really seen the Virgin. Everyone else does, even the most naive nun (the former aristocrat lady who never sins), but I mean, come on, she is literally sitting on a pile of compost. Or is this symbol deeper than the obvious?
I like how there is a distinction between the monstrance and the eucharist inside – the jewel is the vessel but the truth the cargo. And the way the ‘white idea’ (eucharist; Christ) speaks in her is very plain and simple and veneracilar. And she’s smiling to herself as she prays. Be grateful for what you’re given.
Fortunata taking with Maurica about her upcoming marriage as she washes the clothes = getting clean. The clothes hiss faintly when held under water as if the sin is washing out of them.
The nuns sure are worried about the girls having sex with each other.
I guess I’ve been too easy on Guillermina. I didn’t think about how she was complicit in ‘buying’ Pituso, and now we learn how she had the police grab the girl Felisa and force her to the convent.
Naumann and Ladislaw are fun.
We see Dorothea through two sets of eyes, one sees her as a beauty to be painted, the other as just Mrs. Casaubon. They even argue about interpretation, Naumann wishes to paint his Christian Antigone, Ladislaw doesn’t want much to do with her.
So even though we know Dorothea we see her, as everyone, as being very different people – we are seen this way: as multitudes.
I feel like I should read this novel twice so that on second reading I’d have a stronger grasp of all that is going on. There is so much interconnected here, so many long-standing relationships that to just jump in is daunting.
Still, the gist of this chapter is the pettiness of small town politics and the will of Lydgate to go against the grain by voting for Tyke and not Farebrother as intended.
Disclaimer: I never look at the name of the author before reading a story in the New Yorker, I cover it up with my hand so as not to be influenced by gender, race, or if they’re famous already. I take each story as it is with no preconceived notions.
This story sucks.
Look, I get it, the author wants to tell a story about the isolation of a stay-at-home mother. And that’s a great subject to write about, but there is absolutely nothing of interest going on here. Nothing. This is the most boring and pointless story I’ve ever read. And it’s not just boring, it’s badly written. Very badly written.
Here’s an actual sentence in the story: “Karen didn’t trust the people of this city, the city in which she lived.” This was actually printed in the New Yorker. An adult typed that sentence, that sentence was mailed off to a posh New York office where other adults with fancy college degrees sat around a table and allowed it to be published for millions of people (well, maybe like a few dozen of us who actually read these short stories) to read.
Here’s the deal, and I’m going to give the author some benefit of the doubt: The narrator, Karen, is an unreliable narrator. She’s lost her sense of identity after having a child, “It’s easy to lose yourself in a kid, even easier if you love it.” and so everything we get here is the product of a lonely person who has lost touch of the world, of her career (writing), and exists in such an insular world of consumer products and loneliness, that she’s almost become like her infant daughter with no conception of how the world works or any ability to express herself in it. But the story is so poorly written that the writer absolutely fails to convince me that this was the intention.
I’m not asking for James Joyce here – that would be unfair to anyone – but is this really the best someone could come up with to explore how a stay-at-home mother might feel about her isolation? There is no character here for us to hang our hat on, even in flashback Karen is so dull, has no personality (sorting pictures in the library and wetting her feet in a stream over vacation is her favorite all-time memory) that I can’t give the author credit for giving us an unreliable narrator whose loneliness and disconnectedness is being explored and that we’re actually inside her mind.
But even worse the author is just plain lazy. At one point when Karen goes back to retrieve the stroller she drags it behind her. Has the author never pushed a stroller before? Even if the front wheel were to fall off, all you would do is tilt it back and push it on it’s two remaining rear wheels. Even a martian from Plan 9 would figure this out. But here the writer is having Karen drag it behind her.
Oh, but maybe that’s intentional?
No, sorry, don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because once Karen is freed of her baby (leaving it at the cafe) she sort of comes out of her shell, starts to feel a bit more like her old (though still boring) self. Freed of that anchor she can see the world right again, like her husband did after the baby was born and he started to come into focus more. Karen would not drag a two wheeled stroller behind her because nobody is that dumb, it’s just lazy, ill-thought out writing on the part of the author.
So I can’t give the author credit for immersing us into the lonely mind of Karen.
And what about her neighbor, what was that all about? Seemed like that was going somewhere, but nope, he’s just back to stealing her mail. The once place where there might be some conflict for the story just gets pushed aside.
There is no story here. I feel no sympathy with Karen because there is no Karen. And don’t tell me that was the point either. Yeah, the line about “her only living in a world of women where she is a new, incompetent employee.” is interesting and seemed to have a lot of potential to explore how a lonely mother navigates this strange new world of women always giving advice on how to raise other people’s children. That would have been a fantastic story. But Linda, our representative for this cult is just as dull as Linda. And then she’s just gone at the end of the story anyway. So who cares?
This whole story is a tepid mess. It’s lazily written (“She felt oddly good… “), has no point or conflict, contains no characters of any interest (except the neighbor who we never explore), and whose insightful contribution to arts and letters is the line “The past was just a place where uncontrolled freaks you had never consciously decided to include in your life entered it anyway and staggered around, breaking things.”
That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. No wonder Karen’s best friend took up heroin and stopped answering her calls. I’m considering picking up the habit myself after reading this nonsense.
I like the Latin lesson on how express (to express yourself) had once been used to say to extort.
“The past was just a place where uncontrolled freaks you had never consciously decided to include in your life entered it anyway and staggered around, breaking things.” Purple monkey dishwasher.
So Linda just left the baby there?
This was dumb. The world is dumber that this story exists.
How does one sculpt a glacier? You kinda have to sculpt the valley instead and then just fill it with ice?
Yes, of course she writes about actresses, what else would an idiot write about?
Bullshit, she’s said nothing to impress this guy.
Well that went totally nowhere. And of course the guy is a pervert who made some creepy sex tape exploiting some other college girl.
Karen, all your friends have become herion addicts: it’s more profitable than dealing with your boring nothingness.
So without the baby she’s feeling more human, more real. Do I have that right? Is that why Linda thought the shirt was borrowed and this boy man thinks he knows her? She’s more real now?
Like anyone, even a pretentious ex film student would say all that to her in a drug store.
Karen is going to leave her baby with a stranger? Ok….
“She felt oddly good…” Kill me now. Roll up the magazine into a dagger and ram it down my ‘throat tube’.
She’s dragging the stroller behind her? Uh, author person, even the biggest idiot would push it on its hind wheels. A trained otter would figure this out. The author is actually dumber than the character. Impressive to write above your weight class
“It’s easy to lose yourself in a kid, even easier if you lose it.” Is that what this is? Karen used to be a human but the kid is holding her identity hostage? I mean it’s not a terrible idea but the execution is droll.
“Karen didn’t trust the people of this city, the city in which she lived.” That’s an actual sentence in this story and it was actually published by adults who went to college and studied the arts.
Oh now they’re old friends all of a sudden. In one paragraph we get “She was full of stories”, as if they were long friends who knew each other well. I know what the author is trying to say, but the author sucks at saying things.
100% cotton business cards. What, is Linda like that stupid American Psycho movie that sucked just as bad as this story because it wasn’t as clever as it thought?
As if the young grandmother, salad lady could get so close as to tug her sleeve in broad daylight. Is Karen and the baby blind and deaf? This whole thing stretches plausibility. Even a science fiction story would be more believable with aliens shooting black holes with laser beams on them.
Karen has met her match! Linda is just as boring as she is! We’re on the event horizon of absolute boredom!
This is so badly written. She just wants to sip tepid tea and think of nothing. Oh, golly, how exciting! How fucking insightful to the human condition. Thank God we’re being told this important story!
Yes, Karen, you are a net, a giant net with no material, just an empty space where a net used to be where everything slips right through because there is nothing threre. Karen is a temperature and a shape, that’s it.
Maybe we have an unreliable narrator, but she’s so fucking dull and useless that any unreliability slipping into the narration of events is not interesting.
Who gives a fuck who made the stroller and what metal it’s made of and how Karen and her husband decided on it. What a bunch of consumer whores these assholes are!
Untamed water? What’s that?
Karen, you’ve never felt alive so sitting in whatever untamed water is will not make you feel more alive.
Yeah, no, if the front wheel fell off a stroller it would not tip so far as to cause the baby to hit the sidewalk. I’ve built literally hundreds of every stroller Target has ever sold and this just would not happen, it would only tip forward to rest on the forks.
I don’t buy that teenage girls will take time out of making out to make fun of a boring lady pushing her baby around. I mean maybe, but it seems like we’re getting a #surethathappened moment made up by someone wanting attention.
I like this observation of her only living in a world of women where she is a new, incompetent employee. That’s an interesting insight into a first time mother.
His throat tube? Really?!?! Somebody actually wrote that? And this has been published? Fuck me.
This is a train wreck. This is a million car pile up.
Karen is what we call dumb.
His coughing grew and solidified like a skyscraper seen from an approaching car? What the fuck? That’s the stupidest metaphor in the history of the written language. It makes almost no sense other than the coughing becomes clearer to hear? Maybe?
I feel like I’m getting stupider reading this. Is the New Yorker trying to kill me? Can I sue then for literary homicide?
Who gets catalogs anymore? Maybe a Target flyer would be a more correct observation, especially since you can look them up online to see what Puldron plucked out.
Yes, Karen, that picnic basket picture your neighbor plucked from your catalog is so your family won’t be complete without that specific consumer product. Idiot.
Her neighbor, Puldron, is at least interesting. I like that he’s going through her mail, though why he’d be interested in the world’s dullest human must only be because Karen is the world’s dullest human – which would then add a distinction making her not boring, so maybe she’s the world’s 111th most boring person.
Men walking past her window berating faceless entities on their phones. So nobody has a face, is that what we’re after, no identity? Please be about that.
“Without a steady stream of well-articulated adult speech, an infant might lag in its development.” I suppose this could be about our author?
Karen has about as much personality and mind as tepid bathwater.
Oh, yes please, let me read about a character who can’t remember what a loved ones face looks like when they’re away because that’s original, especially when the face in question is as vanilla as a soggy envelope full of warm air.
This is dreadful.
His normal face was enough information fur Karen to have” peered into every crevice of his personality “? So… he has no personality then? Other than building libraries in China that block the nice view of rivers?
We’re told there’s no conflict in the home. OK, great, so then do we have a story? No conflict means no story.
He had a “healthy, normal face”. Wow, I’m on the edge of my seat here!
It’s like I’m being dared to finish this story without falling asleep in the middle of it and then waking up with no memory of ever having read anything.
“She felt lovelier without him around,” what’s the opposite of a profound observation? “but while he was away she could have her own alone time with her daughter.” God this is a boring sentence, the sort of thing you’d see on Facebook. This is not important information, it’s dull.
Karen = Not Chinese.
Sort of a dull opening.
Is she Chinese?
The library will block the view of the best view of the river.
“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!” So true
“it was plain that a vicar might be adored by his womankind as the king of men and preachers, and yet be held by them to stand in much need of their direction.” and then Mr. Lydgate goes on about his insects because he likes them better perhaps than his flock.
“… you wear the harness and draw a good deal where your yoke-fellows pull you”
Rosamond, though I don’t like her, is a great character. She’s just as ambitious as Lydgate, and is just as clever as him. She might not be book smart, but she’s smart in people, and herself. So her cynicism about Middlemarch is somewhat founded since she is, in a way, a little better than the people around her. Yet we call her a snob and Lydgate is just ambitious. Why is she seen as less than him?
Middlemarch is not interested in anyone who is qualified, only in whom will fit in.
Lydgate believes what Rosamond says is all the more correct because of how she says something, not in what she says. It’s all image.