Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jane Austen again

Non interludus

I said the other day that I was finding David Lodge's Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses "replete with eminently quotable passages." True enough, but the passages I'd like to share with you tend to be little bits here, little bits there that, together, provide exhilarating twists and turns of plot. It's hard to share those without quoting more than is tolerable or providing, perhaps equally intolerably, summaries of intervening material.

So I'll content myself (and I hope you) by quoting the novel's concluding lines:
PHILIP: You remember that passage in Northanger Abbey where Jane Austen says she's afraid that her readers will have guessed that a happy ending is coming up at any moment.

MORRIS: (nods) Quote, "Seeing in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity." Unquote.

PHILIP: That's it. Well, that's something the novelist can't help giving away, isn't it, that his book is shortly coming to an end? It may not be a happy ending, nowadays, but he can't disguise the tell-tale compression of the pages.
(HILARY and DÉSIRÉE begin to listen to what PHILIP is saying, and he becomes the focal point of attention.)
I mean, mentally you brace yourself for the ending of a novel. As you're reading, you're aware of the fact that there's only a page or two left in the book, and you get ready to close it. But with a film there's no way of telling, especially nowadays, when films are much more loosely structured, much more ambivalent, than they used to be. There's no way of telling which frame is going to be the last. The film is going along, just as life goes along, people are behaving, doing things, drinking, talking, and we're watching them, and at any point the director chooses, without warning, without anything being resolved, or explained, or wound up, it can just...end.
(PHILIP SHRUGS. The camera stops, freezing him in midgesture.)
That's from page 251, so you can see that it wouldn't be a big investment of your time to pick up this delightful comic novel to enjoy yourself in its entirety. For me, it's on now to its sequel, Small World: An Academic Romance.

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