Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jam, and Idleness

The other day I finished reading Middlemarch.
What an amazing book. Truly, I loved it.
Then I was driving home and it started raining.
I literally had to drive off of busy Bank Street, onto some side street that was less trafficked, but, to my vehicular-committed horror, I found even this tributary to be already fender-deep in rushing water.
So I pulled into the nearest parking lot.
Hey… it’s a used bookstore.
Seriously. How do you spell serendipity?
So I ran in there, with the rain continuing to pelt the few windows of the place.
An old grey-haired man sat behind the desk. I had the immediate impression that he does not even leave that chair to sleep at night, but simply slumps forward onto the desktop in front of him as night falls. He never even greeted me, as though my arrival in this place [as Noah’s Ark floats by], was entirely expected.
I browsed the shelves.
Hmmm…. TONS of lovely stuff. Like, I mean TONS!

I gravitated towards the literature section…. you probably can envision what I mean? Where a good 80% of the books are Penguin Classics? I love it.
Almost immediately, I reached forward, and retrieved an ancient-looking Mill On The Floss.
Still thoroughly impressed with my experience in Middlemarch, I tucked this paperback under my arm and continued to browse the place.

I have been now reading Floss for a couple of days.
And I really like it.
Thing is… to appreciate these kind of old books, you have to be able to appreciate the masterful elucidation of simple things.
Like… like, for instance… the eating of a jam-puff.

I’m not kidding.
It’s what George Eliot [this guy is incredible] is so good at!

In The Mill On The Floss, we meet, right from the get-go, with Tom and Maggie Tulliver.
They are brother and sister. Maggie is nine, Tom, just a bit older.
Maggie WORSHIPS her brother. She loves him, and he, her.
Maggie is like an Anne Shirley, injected with an extra few CC’s of piss and vinegar! A feisty kid. [Her recent self-inflicted hair-shearing reminded me of the early Jane Eyre.]
The kind of kid you want to just adore, but who would vehemently reject your devotion. A wild-child.

OK, so in this one scene [Chapter 6 of Book One], Maggie and Tom have the opportunity of sharing a jam-filled “puff”. A piece of pastry.
It is the highlight of their day…. they run off with the thing, for a moment of rapturous indulgence.
Nowadays, a kid of the same age would not experience such joy even if you presented them with a new iPhone©, with a year of free use!
So, if this thing about the jam-puff eludes your interest, do not read George Eliot…. as for me, I love this sort of innocence, that [allegedly] once existed on the antediluvian Earth!

Anyhoo…. so, here they are now, with this... this treasure in their possession, and Tom gets his jacknife out, to divvy the jam-puff in two equal portions. But it is so irregularly shaped that he finds the deed impossible. He makes Maggie close her eyes and choose left or right….. she ends up with the larger portion.
Thing is…. each of these kids originally would have deferred the bigger portion to the other…. but… but… BUT…. as Tom watches his beloved sister wolf down her prize….. he… well…. [I’ll let brother George tell it]…

Maggie, thinking it was no use to contend further, began too, and ate up her half puff with considerable relish as well as rapidity. But Tom had finished first and had to look on while Maggie ate her last morsel or two, feeling in himself a capacity for more. Maggie didn’t know Tom was looking at her; she was seesawing on the elder bough, lost to everything but a vague sense of jam and idleness.

Oh, I loved that!
It’s the part where she has no idea Tom is looking over at her…. indignation mounting. He gets royally pissed-off at her! He expected her to give him some of that prize!
But [and this I love] she DIDN’T.

If this kind of literature-genius does not turn you on [no hidden meaning intended]…. stay away from George Eliot.
As for me, I shall read more of him, after this.



joemmama said...

Him is a her....and her books are just lovely!

Anonymous said...

Are you SURE, Joemamma? Look at that picture.

Just kidding.
I am sure that cip knows Ms. Eliot's gender.

But just in case...I wonder. He may believe that H. H. Munro [Saki] actually was a cup-bearer who was a native of Japan. Perhaps even a sumo wrestler.

And maybe he thinks that Dr. Seuss should have a first name like all reputable MD's.

And surely he wonders how archy (no caps, that's right) ever typed such smart poetry!

En't it fun? Having a pen name, Mr. Cipriano?

You write such clever satire, cip. Thank you for your ever nuanced posts.

cipriano said...

Joemmama... I think I am going to quit it with my George Eliot gender jokes, once and for all... they are just not getting across.

Ahhh... anonymous. Thank you.

Melanie said...

You make George Eliot sound so tempting, even if he is a woman after all. Maybe you could read George Sand instead; I hear he's good.

cipriano said...

That's the spirit!

Merisi said...

Why not toss in a little Hemingway?
Head that she's really good. And drank like a man. Apparently. ;-)