So it’s pretty much the middle of the month, and I’m almost exactly half way through The Mysteries of Udolpho. Lesson learned this month? No four book reading events within a single month for moi (especially when one of them is over 600 pages)! It looks like I will only be able to get through Udolpho for the Gothic Fiction in October event, and finish Wuthering Heights for the Unputdownables read-a-long which stretched over two months. This is just fine with me — I have no reason to rush through books — but I do have to take this into consideration when I sign up for things in the future.
Udolpho? I’m having some problems with Udolpho! Oooooh the crying. Oooooh the fainting. Oooooooh the melancholy (but an enjoyable melancholy). Oooooooh THE COMMAS. I thought that the first 200 pages were very tedious to get through. The only thing keeping me going was the history of the novel — that it is considered the archetypal Gothic novel. I need it under my belt for that reason, and pushed onward.
Things are getting creepier and more exciting now that they are in the castle. I had a complete lightbulb moment when I realized that the scene when they came to the castle resembled so greatly the castle where the fairies had their balls in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell! That’s why I’m reading this novel. I want to be able to make those kinds of connections first hand.
Speaking of connections — Barbara G. Walker (yes, the very same Barbara Walker of the Treasury of Knitting Patterns!) wrote a book called the Skeptical Feminist. She is cracking me up with her writing on Udolpho —
She describes Emily as suffering “softening of the brain every few days or so”, Valancourt as “a squeaky-clean Boy Scout type whose mind is almost as untroubled by any gleam of real intelligence as Emily’s own”, and Montoni as “the villain, and a sinister moustachio-twirler he is, too.” She says of Castle Udolpho itself, “Compared to Montoni’s mountain hideaway, Castle Dracula is a country day school. There are ghosts, night noises, bloodthirsty banditti guarding the ramparts. In the room next to her own, Emily looks behind a black curtain, and is nearly prostrated by the sight of a horror so horrible that the author declines to describe it.”
(from the Wikipedia entry for the novel)
I need to get my hands on The Skeptical Feminist again so I can reread the essay (I got it in the 1990s through interlibrary loan and photocopied the whole thing which then turned yellow and unreadable and ripped and I had to recycle it. Don’t try this at home!)!
I’m curious to see if my opinion of Udolpho changes in the second half, or if I’m still driven crazy over this melancholy, fainting, crying, comma-riddled piece of work!
So, that is the State of the Bookworm Address for October. Back to the books!
(cartoon, of course, from the New Yorker)