Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘romance

Thoughts on “How I Met Your Mother”

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Next on my list of diversions from construction noise (cf. [1], [2]) is “How I Met Your Mother”. (Unfortunately, very incompletely and often in the wrong season order, because I have trouble finding the various DVDs.)

I have only seen the last season once—and this will remain so (irrespective of what DVDs I do find). Why? It was one of the most ill-conceived in TV history, breaking with the original format, bringing little new value in return, failing to truly let the viewers get to know the “mother”,* and, ultimately, shitting on the eight preceding seasons. These, from a romantic point of view, dealt with three main constellations: the long-standing Marshall–Lily relationship, the long and twisted road of the Barney–Robin relationship, and Ted’s search for the “mother”. What happens in the last season, where we should see the completion and happily-ever-after** of the two*** latter? Barney and Robin fall apart and “mother” dies, in order to bring the horrible constellation of Ted and Robin together …

*Which might otherwise have been a saving grace. Note that she has no true presence in the previous seasons, as more or less mandated by the idea of the show.

**Something typically assumable of a work of fiction, no matter how much tougher real life is.

***The first constellation already being at that stage.

Here, I strongly suspect a radically different problem than with most other TV series (but I possess no insider knowledge): The show makers began with a certain idea for how the show should end and stubbornly stuck with that idea, even after better developments presented themselves and/or that end proved ill-advised.

Ted and Robin simply did not have any chemistry, did not work well together, and seemed to crash and burn every time that they were in a relationship. In many ways, Robin might have been a mere fix and bad idea of Ted’s (in universe; a fix and bad idea of the makers in the real world), and a realistic (!) continuation of the series past the last season would likely just have shown them crash and burn for the umpteenth time. Compare this with his long-standing search for “the one” or his obsession with the “slutty pumpkin”, who turned out to be an even worse fit than Robin, once he found her again—and, yes, this involved another (see below) extremely premature “I love you”.

As much as I dislike Rachel (of “Friends”), her long romance with Ross was a case of two persons with a genuine long-term love and attraction, where I had the impression that they naturally were drawn together, while the makers continually intervened to push them apart in order to keep the “will they/won’t they” going.* Ditto Robin and Barney, who seemed right for each other, even when they screwed up. With Robin and Ted, I always had the opposite impression, that the characters were naturally repelling each other, but that the makers kept pushing them back together, no matter how bad a match they were.

*Wisely: most series tend to lose when this type of tension between main characters is removed, e.g. because they marry half-way through the series.

Look at the first season alone: Robin is immediately introduced as a romantic interest for Ted (indeed, with a mislead that she was the “mother”), there is an elaborate story with e.g. the stealing of a blue horn and an extremely premature “I love you”, but no actual sparks. In contrast, Ted and Victoria showed more sparks within their first episode than Ted and Robin did over the entire series. Similarly, there is one episode, of a mostly unromantic nature, where Robin plays the wingman to Barney—and the two just click in such a manner that I wanted more of them together and saw them as a great romantic match. (Probably, several seasons before their romance actually began, but the writing, in a positive sense, was already on the wall.)

Indeed, if the road of mother-is-dead-and-Ted-goes-for-some-old-crush is taken, Robin would not make the top-3, maybe* not even top-5, of my candidates.

*This will depend a little on seasons that I have not yet re-watched.

From another perspective, I have some troubles seeing any of Ted’s romances as the truly true thing, because, looking at the series as a whole, he seems to be more in love with the idea of love and romance than with the respective other party. (In this, he parallels a younger me, but I grew out of it in my twenties—Ted appears never to have done so, not even in the future of 2030, when he must be above 50.)

The fact that Ted and his actor (Josh Radnor) come across as extremely fake and “douchy”, especially in the first season, does not help—a constant and obviously fake smile, and arms spread out as were he about to wrestle the person in front of him. Barney might have been a scumbag in some ways, even criminal ways, but he somehow managed to be sympathetic* (not to mention entertaining). Ted? Not so much. In this, he is one of the few cases where I look back at a series and am open to another casting choice leading to a better series.** With many other series, I do not just have trouble seeing a better choice, but am left with the feeling that any other choice would not have been, say, Ross, Rachel, Joey, …—or, indeed, Barney***.**** Ted? Again, not so much.

*At least, from the perspective of a TV viewer. I do not guarantee that I would have the same sympathy if I met him in real life. (Similarly, it is often possible to sympathize even with some Mafia members in a movie, even in light of behavior that would be intolerable in real life.)

**Other examples include “JD” on “Scrubs” and both the main characters on “Psych”. Indeed, that I stopped watching “Psych” is largely rooted in the main characters. Series like that are often carried by high-quality secondary characters, e.g. Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, and the (unnamed) janitor on “Scrubs”—those cast with actors too old or unattractive to play the hip youngsters or young hipsters, but who have greater acting skills.

***My feelings for the other three main characters is half-way between these positions. I would be against a time-travel-and-recast scenario, but I am not so set on these specific actors that I would see another (quality) casting choice as a major blow.

****This phenomenon likely largely results from a mixture of exposure (I am simply used to seeing X played by Y) and the natural influence of the actor on the character (others might have done an equally good job, but the character would have been someone different, just like, say, two brothers are not carbon copies). However, series that are highly successful (and, therefore, more likely to have been seen by me) are typically of highly over-average casting, with the implication that replacing an important actor with a semi-random choice would, on average, lead to an objective quality drop.

Excursion on mental health of characters:
It is often the case that sitcom characters (to a lesser degree, TV characters in general) are of dubious mental health, ranging from minor “issues” to actual visits to the loony bin.* Consider e.g. “Friends”, where Ross went through a period where I would consider him so severely disturbed that he needed professional help (manifesting in e.g. his “secret marriage” to Rachel), both Chandler and Monica carry scars from a troubled childhood, and Phoebe straddles the border between kooky and crazy. After “Friends”, “How I Met Your Mother” might be the second placer on the mental-health scale (of the sitcoms that I am familiar with), with four out of five characters clearly not being where they should be, headwise. (I am uncertain about Marshall, who might or might not be.) Pick a season of “Friends” where Ross is in better shape and “How I Met Your Mother” might even be the number one. Within the group, Ted competes with Barney for the first place among the five, through his unhealthy romantic obsessions.**

*I stress that this is not necessarily a point of criticism: characters who are off-kilter open up new roads for both humor and stories, and if mental-health issues can achieve this, I have no problems with it. (Similar effects can be achieved through e.g. great originality, as with the Addams and Munster families, or great stupidity, as with various characters from “My Name is Earl” or, of course, Joey.) Neither is it, when kept within limits, necessarily unrealistic, as some level of problems is quite common in (at least) the modern Western populations.

**Which contribute to my skepticism towards the Ted–Robin romance(s). And, no, obsessing with love or finding a partner, or with any given specific partner (especially not, when it happens with several partners), is neither healthy nor a sign of true love.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 25, 2021 at 11:29 am

Reading chick-lit

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During my recent trip to Bonn, I picked up a number of books in the larger-/better-than-in-Wuppertal bookstores. Among these, two examples of “chick-lit”: “A Discovery of Witches” (ADoW) by Deborah Harkness* and “Rebecca” (R) by Daphne du Maurier**.

*Mostly through ignorance of the contents, as I had assumed that this book would be more regular fantasy and less “Twilight” than it turned out to be.

**The classification as “chick-lit” might be a little unfair, e.g. with an eye on the high quality, but the book likely caters more to women than to men. (But having seen the Hitchcock movie at least thrice, I had a much better idea of what to expect than with ADoW.) This especially in my edition, which comes with a decidedly odd, strongly red cover, picturing red cloth and with the name “Rebecca” written in large, pseudo-calligraphy letters. Indeed, while I have no qualms about reading this work, even in public, I was a little embarrassed reading this specific edition in a restaurant—the cover (unfairly) screams “cheap romance”.

I read about half of ADoW while in Bonn, taking a number of notes, and about a hundred pages of R. I finished them in the next week or two back in Wuppertal, reading a chapter here-and-there without taking notes. Below follows first a discussion of the “Bonn portion” of ADoW based on the notes, then some minor further remarks on the two books and their similarities and differences. Throughout, I make reservations for memory deficits. To cut to the chase, ADoW is sufficiently crappy that I will not bother with the sequels (and do not recommend the first book to others), while R is considerably better and well worth a read (even for a man and even for someone who has already seen the movie).

Remark: I will refer to the respective main female protagonist as “heroine” throughout, in part because the heroine of R is (probably) never named other than by pronouns and the cumbersome and ambiguous “Mrs. de Winter”. (An interesting contrast to Rebecca, the “other” Mrs. de Winter, whose name appears again and again, including as the book’s title.) This allows for more generic expressions. For the sake of completeness, the named heroine of ADoW is Diana, and the respective romantic interests are Maxim in R and Matthew in ADoW.

Discussion of ADoW based on Bonn notes (some overlap and duplication might be present):

  1. The book is derivative, stereotypical, and childish, with no attempts at “higher values” of note. The plot is limited and filled with “feel good” descriptions, the adult woman’s equivalent of Enid Blyton’s food orgies.
  2. It borders on being “porn for women”, except in as far as there is little actual sex.

    This includes female fantasies about being special* and desired, a too-good-to-be-true** man, and other sugary feel-goodery.

    *Note how the heroine is simultaneously the most talented witch in centuries, an extremely rare abstainer from magic use (or so she thinks), has an odd adrenaline overload, and has a highly successful academic career—and she does yoga and rows, to boat, sorry, to boot. In this regard, both she and Matthew could be seen as “Mary Sues”, being good at everything, bad at nothing, etc.

    **Vampire super-powers, rich and landed, hyper-educated, successful, leader of a knightly order, very old and still young looking, preternaturally beautiful, personal friend of dozens of historical persons (including Shakespeare), etc. To some degree, the book could be seen as an exercise in dreaming up the perfect man, “a discovery of a man”. This is to a high degree compatible with my hypothesis that women are relatively more likely to dream of getting a man/partner with great capabilities, while men are more likely to dream of getting the capabilities themselves.

  3. Overlapping, there are a lot of modern vampire cliches, including the odd attraction for this one special woman by a vampire who has lived for ages.*

    *And how come that Angel and Buffy were considered romantic, while a (non-vampire) man a tenth of Angel’s age would otherwise be branded a pervert and a pedophile for showing interest in a girl of sixteen, and while Angel–Buffy, or even ADoW, scenarios are arguably closer to a “Lolita” setup. (Also see another footnote on “Lolita” below.)

  4. There is too much filler, too much (mostly irrelevant) detail, too little that happens. In particular, there is an extreme focus on sensory perceptions, especially taste. This to the point that I at one point* actually threw the book away in disgust, only picking it up again the next day, because I felt that there were some lessons on both writing and women to be drawn. (Notably, is is hard for a typical man to naturally/intuitively understand the type of woman used as the heroine, and/or those women who like to read such stories, as will likely be clear from some of the items in this list.)

    *I could not find the exact place again, on short notice, but it might have been somewhere around page 200 in my edition, with some scene relating to eating or drinking having the heroine quasi-orgasmic.

    ADoW might have been good if the large low value descriptive portions and other “filler” had been removed—and the book been half as thick. The story it self has some potential, but it is drowned in nonsense.

    I am, however, starting to suspect, based on literary preferences, that women tend to be more interested in experiences*, sensations, moods, whatnot than events, psychology, ethical dilemmas, … If so, it would explain a number of oddities in works by or for women. Similarly, it might be that men read/write for entertainment and value, while women read/write for mood and “feel good” escapism—emotions, not substance.

    *In Germany, I also note phrases like “Einkaufserlebnis” (“shopping experience”), which are entirely strange to me—if I go shopping, it is not to “experience” something, it is to find suitable products. Cut out the experience, and give me good prices and many choices, and I will be perfectly happy. If women see it the other way around, this phrase and this priority becomes less odd. (Note that women are more likely to spend money on shopping and are, therefore, of more interest to the advertising industry. I am, obviously, long aware that many women see shopping as entertainment or relaxation, along the pattern of Carrie Bradshaw.)

  5. There is an extreme naivete about evolution and genetics (both referenced repeatedly) and science in general. This includes interbreeding between different species* and “teleological” mutations causing “deliberate” adaptions**. Other issues include unrealistic effects of low metabolism*** and a perpetuation of the ignorant “races do not exist” myth****.

    *I am a little vague on exactly what I meant during note-taking, but it probably was the combination of the in-universe take that humans, vampires, witches, and/or demons belong to radically different species combined with the question whether they could interbreed. Barring some highly magical exception, this does not make sense, because interbreeding between creatures of this complexity is at odds with considering them as belonging to different species or, on the outside, “neighboring” species (e.g. horses and donkeys). Similarly, the great similarity in looks would be at odds with even e.g. parallel evolution. The whole thing is simply not thought through—or the author is astonishingly ignorant of the biological sciences. (This is not made better by the various creation paths involved, with witches descending from witches, vampires being turned from human to vampire by other vampires, and demons arising as mutations of humans, IIRC. Witches excepted, this fits the pattern of typical species very poorly and raises doubts as to whether speaking of species makes sense at all.)

    **As in changing circumstances causing genes to mutate to fit the circumstances, which is not at all what happens in real life, where mutations occur somewhat randomly and the circumstances affect a filtering of those mutations. Note Terry Pratchett’s “The Last Continent” for this incompatible-with-reality type of adaption taken to a humorous extreme.

    ***If e.g. a low metabolism is the explanation for the increased life span of vampires, how do we explain that they are far faster than humans? It just does not make sense, it is like eating one’s cake and ending up with more cake than one had originally … (To my vague recollection, there was some type of excuse offered of vampires saving their energy for the needed moment, but since the behavior displayed is very far from e.g. a crocodile laying in wait for its pray, this simply does not pan out—nor am I certain that this would be realistically possible even with a more crocodilian life-style, barring magical help.)

    ****The odder in light of viewing very similar creatures as members of different species.

    However, the idea of declining species is interesting, IF motivated by insight into the current dysgenic situation. Then again, I doubt that this is the case, and more likely it will turn out that the artificial ban on interspecies relationships is the cause of the problem.

  6. More generally, there is a lot that is poorly thought-through and lacks deliberation on potential consequences, including the claim that about 1-in-10 of the population would be supernatural while the existence of supernaturals is not public knowledge, and various covenant issues*. Similarly, Matthew is attributed with an enormous influence to keep others out of the library without reason/explanation, and in a manner that is hard to combine with later events and any causal mechanism. (His knightly order notwithstanding.)

    *My notes speak only of “covenant issues” and I do not recall the details. It will likely be understandable to those reading the book, however.

    (While I have not payed attention to this aspect in great detail, where male and female authors are concerned, it is noteworthy that J. K. Rowling is similar. The over-valuation of the “Golden Snitch” in Quidditch is an obvious example, but consider also e.g. how a group of students created the “Marauder’s Map” while none of the adult wizards, Voldemort included, has something similar, or how a “time turner” (?) is given to Hermione for such a trivial task as taking parallel classes, while they are not used for more important tasks, e.g. fighting Voldemort, nor by Voldemort against the heroes. (The later “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” goes some way to remedy this, but (a) is too little, too late, (b) who is to credit for what is unclear and it need not be Rowling’s idea.)

  7. An oddity is that there is little history content from the historian author. (But this might change in the second book, which, according to included blurb, appears to be dominated by the time-travel scenario begun at the end of ADoW. Also: Magic and time travel in the same book?!? A little too much for my taste.)
  8. The development of the romance is stereotypical with a very passive woman and a man who makes all decisions/takes all initiative.

    More generally, the heroine is surprisingly passive and dependent on others, especially Matthew. On the one hand she is (allegedly) academically successful, a powerful witch, strong willed, whatnot; on the other, she behaves like a child, manages little on her own, and has an almost daughter–father relationship with her “husband”.* If she is representative for “intelligent” women, no wonder that they trail men as high-achievers, unless they are given artificial assistance to overcome largely non-existent problems (e.g. the infamous “glass roof”).

    *As an aside, one of the other books that I picked up was Nabokov’s “Lolita”, which I am currently reading. While a very different type of book, it does take the daughter–father version of wife–husband to an extreme. Still, the eponymous Lolita appears to have a stronger will and more to say in the relationship, while barely straddling the border between childhood and womanhood, than the thirty-something heroine of ADoW. I might also consider Lolita and Rebecca something of kindred spirits.

  9. (I repeatedly found myself suspecting inconsistencies in who-is-who and continuity, but I did not go back to check and might have been wrong.)

As to my post-Bonn readings, I had the impression that the story fell apart after the heroine was kidnapped.

Looking at R and, especially, R vs. ADoW, R is of much higher quality, especially when it comes to prose, some parts reading almost like poetry.* It also has some psychology, a more engaging romance, a few plot twists** that actually work; is more believable (even supernatural aspects of ADoW aside); and left me wanting to read on in another manner. A particular strength is the suspense, which even in book form is already almost Hitchcockian (but a comparison here is unfair, as ADoW belongs to a different genre).

*Notwithstanding some odd spelling errors and at least one instance of what seemed like one or more lines missing. There is a fair chance that these errors were introduced by the publisher/printer/whatnot; and if not, they are the type of errors that everyone makes and that a good editor should catch, if they slip by the author during proof-reading.

**With reservations for these already being known to me from the movie, which forces some mental approximation. A difference compared to the movie is that Rebecca is outright murdered (largely an accident in movie), but this too I already knew from a Wikipedia reading.

However, there are quite a few commonalities, including that comparatively little happens, that there are (too) many descriptions, that both heroines are virtual children (with greater justification in R, due to situation and age), that both men are extremely good catches, that both heroines land in unusual environments (including “his” estate) with mysteries and perceptions of danger, etc. A particularly interesting aspect is the (perceived or feared) romantic competition from the past, which is a major theme of R and has repeated occurrences in ADoW—and in both cases the competition turns out to be far less of a romantic threat than the heroine feared (but sometimes quite dangerous in non-romantic areas).

Looking at R alone, I was repeatedly struck by a theme of (almost) self-defeat, where lack of confidence, wasted opportunities, whatnot, unnecessarily held the heroine back. This even post-wedding, when it came to taking on the role as wife and lady of the house. Through large parts of the book, I even suspected that Danvers could have been turned to her side, had she had the guts to step into the shoes of Rebecca (but the later parts of the book cast doubt on that idea).

Excursion on coincidence and awareness (and the “nectarine phenomenon”):
I have often noticed what I think of as the “nectarine phenomenon”*. It struck again with the Ashmolean, which plays an important part in ADoW. I originally thought that it was fictional, made up for the book, until I looked up Nell Gwynne, a name occurring in R (!), on Wikipedia. Almost the first thing that I read is “Ashmolean”. (Small world …) I have seen the name at least twice in other contexts in the few weeks since.

*The word “nectarine” (resp. the Swedish “nektarin”) once lost me critical points in a quiz. I was certain that I had never heard the word before, and thought it unfairly obscure to children of ten, but I stumbled upon it again and again in the months following, which lead me to doubt that I had been right. (Admittedly, after going through a period of thinking that the world, instead of the quiz, was unfair, because “if I had only encountered the word for the first time a week before the quiz instead of a week after the quiz, then …”, but the evidence eventually mounted too high.) Similar experiences have occurred fairly often since then, in that there comes a point of awareness of e.g. a word, sound, image, actor, self-insight, whatnot and that I notice when I encounter said word (etc.) afterwards, but not before. Indeed, my awareness of the nectarine phenomenon is it self an example of the nectarine phenomenon. (But note that some amount of coincidence usually does play in, e.g. in that “Ashmolean” likely has occurred unusually often in the last few weeks.)

Excursion on “Pride and Prejudice”:
While my memory of “Pride and Prejudice”, another of my rare readings of more for-women literature, has faded too much to make this a three-way comparison, there are definitely some similarities. Notably, one of my main complaints in my unfavorable review was the lack of tempo and how little actually happened.

Excursion on boys and reading:
To the degree that differences in reading preferences hold, it could go a long way to explain the lesser interest for reading among boys: shove “Pride and Prejudice” down their throats as mandatory reading and they are likely to be put off, as it is simultaneously boring and lacking in “food for thought”. Indeed, I have read super-hero comics, so often looked down upon by women, with more “higher values”. Hornblower is certainly far more likely to keep boys reading.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 18, 2020 at 4:00 am

Pride and Prejudice

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I have just finished reading “Pride and Prejudice”—and find myself both puzzled and disappointed: While I was well aware that Jane Austen was a “chick-lit” writer, I had expected a work of depth and quality commensurate to its and her reputation. Not so.

The book is not only chick-lit and extremely “high concept”*, but is also void of anything that would raise it above mere entertainment literature.** There are minimal or no attempts to explore questions of ethics, philosophy, personal development (except as below), social criticism, …, and no sign of a “higher” purpose. There is some space given to psychology (in a wide sense), but not much and most is trite, not going much beyond the typical in even entertainment literature. Above all, there was nothing that made me stop to think, showed me something important that I did not already understand, left me an even marginally better person after the reading, …*** For intellectual purposes, I might just as well read a Bond novel—and if I did, I would at least be entertained.

*Specifically, focusing on twists and turns during the process of finding a husband in the then upper-class Britain.

**Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with reading (I often do) or writing entertainment literature. The point is the difference between reputation and reality. (Also see an excursion at the end.)

***A potential lesson is that trying to figure people out without communication is extremely error-prone, including the apparent female habit of trying to deduce a man’s feelings and intentions towards her based on small actions and endless speculation. Ditto understanding a situation after hearing only one side. However, I have understood both since I was a teenager.

The characters are without exception one-dimensional, and most are truly silly and/or unsympathetic people, be it out of stupidity, narrow-mindedness, shallowness, immaturity, or, indeed, “Pride and Prejudice”.* Some lee-way might be given to the teenage or border-line teenage characters acting like teenagers; however, the situation is not that much better when we move up in age, as exemplified by e.g. Mrs. Bennet and Lady de Bourgh. Consider the main character, Elizabeth (“Prejudice”), who builds her entire impression of Darcy (“Pride”) based on hearsay, without any attempt to find out his side of the story—how many twists and turns could have been avoided which just a little bit of common sense and fairness. (While it is true that this failing is very common, it also made it very hard for me to sympathize with her—and even harder to understand that Darcy would be interested in the long-term.)

*Writing this, I contemplate whether the intention might have been some type of deliberate satire of or comedy based on human absurdity, stupidity, silliness, or similar—possibly, something along the lines of “The Pickwick Papers” or “Three Men in a Boot”. However, if so, it is not very skillfully done, and Austen leaves the impression of taking these people seriously. (On the character level: That some were deliberately written as stupid is clear.)

Now, based on the juxtaposition of “Pride” and “Prejudice”, and looking at the initial developments, we might expect personal growth to be a theme. However, even that is not truly the case. Elizabeth did not come around through learning to disregard prejudice, get both sides of the story, whatnot—she was forced to re-evaluate specific prejudice in light of ever more evidence that she had been wrong. To boot, she took far longer than reasonable to complete her change of mind. Whether she truly learned her lesson is far from clear. Darcy might, depending on interpretation, have developed farther; however, most of his later behavior, e.g. his explanatory letter or his help to Lydia, could also be seen as rooted in continued pride*.

*At least the latter illustrating the question (posed in the book) of whether pride is necessarily something negative. (An deeper exploration of this topic could have made the book more valuable.)

In terms of plot, events, whatnot, there is not much to be found—for most of the book nothing actually happens. Who gets whom is not enough to fill a book this long… The main intrigues could have been contained in one volume (as opposed to the actual two), with considerable margin to spare, with no loss of value, and a considerable improvement in readability. The only point of the book that brings something resembling excitement, roughly three-quarters through, is when Lydia, one of Elizabeth’s sisters, unexpectedly elopes, throwing the family into panic. This caused a few chapters worth of more dynamic story, but the situation was soon resolved, and things went back to “nothing actually happens”. Indeed, I suspect that even this episode was not added for excitement, but more to give Darcy an opportunity to validate himself. (Else it would likely have taken place much earlier.) Many of the events and developments that did take place are too predictable, even hackneyed*, including the Elizabeth–Darcy situation: That a woman has strong negative feelings for a man at the beginning of a story, is a very strong hint that they will be romantically involved by its end…

*At least from today’s point of view: Some of it, in all fairness, might have been more novel at the time.

The length is not undue merely because nothing happens, however: The long-winded (even to me!) prose also extends the length of the text considerably, without adding anything over a more compact formulation. (Admittedly, this is a fairly common problem with works from that time.) I often even found myself drifting off, unable to concentrate on the text, because the amount of information gained from reading a certain passage was too small to keep my brain alert.

Even the romance parts are, at least by modern standards, not that romantic. There is little difference made between love and infatuation. Much of the marriage seeking is merely convenience; and this (even with marriage as truly life-long commitment at the time), is often reduced to “is he/she socially suitable, attractive, and willing”*, without spending sufficient time on examining actual long-term compatibility**—where someone with sense and sensibility might, today, consider asking for a date, marriage is already on the table. And, no, this is not the take of the parents—it is the take of the presumptive spouses. This is the odder with an eye on the example of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth’s parents, who are stated outright to have married too optimistically and been less than satisfied because of it. I might go as far as comparing parts to pubescent school romance, in terms of both shallowness of criteria and the roundabout approach to determining whether an interest is returned.

*Echoing the famous first line of “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”.

**Two previous texts of mine ([1], [2]) are highly open to marriages based on reason, and would allow a fairly short period of prior acquaintance. However, this went hand-in-hand with an exploratory process and a great focus on ensuring that both parties would know in detail what to expect.

A partial saving grace is humor: I found myself laughing on several occasions, but the overall amount of humor is simply too small to make up for the weaknesses. A dash of humor in an already enjoyable or valuable work can be the icing on the wedding cake—here, we have the icing on a plain layer of sponge.

Excursion on “popular” and “classic”:
I have long suspected that many of the “classic” works have earned their status more through popularity than quality—that the popular of today is the classic of tomorrow. “Pride and Prejudice” is a likely candidate. (At least some of Dickens’ works, while often having considerably more depth, could also be examples. Similarly, would anyone read “Le Morte d’Arthur” today, had it not contained knights, magic, and whatnots?) This is not necessarily a bad thing; however, when being a classic is automatically seen as a sign of quality, instead of enduring popularity, then caution is needed. The popularity issue is worsened by the lower competition in earlier days, with e.g. far more books being published today than in the 19th century or far more TV shows being broadcast than in the 1950s.

As a counter-point, I have repeatedly encountered books and authors with more depth than their reputation/my expectation. For instance, I recently read a few books by H.G. Wells: I had expected something decidedly pulpy, but found them to be surprisingly intelligent and containing more food for thought than “Pride and Prejudice” did. I have earlier written about “Black Beauty” as a very positive surprise.

Written by michaeleriksson

October 15, 2018 at 3:12 am

Romantic fools

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Were love is concerned, we have likely all been both naive idealists and great fools. What I have encountered on a recent poste, however, borders on the scary.

The post it self is a youthful pep-talk by a 22 y.o. single woman (Isa), making statements like

You, my friend, are worthy of great, authentic love.

Please never settle.

The person I want you to date might be making morning coffee right now or sleeping through a thunderstorm or getting a degree in Physics. Wait. I mean it. Every other person will be a cheap imitation of the real thing.

And when it comes to their love for you, YOU WILL KNOW. Their love will be the most painfully obvious thing in the world that though you will come to question many, many things in life, you will never — not even once — question them.

Nothing other 22 y.o. single women have not said before and certainly something many of them want to hear. Naive and self-deceptive—yes. Hard to understand and sympathize with—no.

The scary part is the forty something responses (81 at the time of writing, but roughly half are “thank you”s from Isa). Off these, only one (mine) is dissenting or trying to show another perspective; the others mostly go along the lines of

I love you. You are amazing, quite frankly. Thank you for writing this.

I love this. I think I’m going to print it out and mail it to my 15 year old niece…

As a single girl who’s never had a boyfriend, this blog entry gave me hope.

(a minority are somewhat more neutral or inquisitive).

Are people really that keen on believing what they want to believe and hearing what they want to hear? Scary…

At the bottom-line, those who do not compromise will have to wait long (sometimes forever), those who set their sights too high will be disappointed by any real-life partner, and those who search for “perfect” will often pass up the “good” that would have made them happy. The point is not whether someone is “the one”, but whether our lives are better off with or without her/him. If nothing else, the partner at 22 is unlikely to be the partner at 32, let alone 62—we have plenty of strikes before we are out. The question is whether we use them or not…

Written by michaeleriksson

June 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm