August 25, 2010
New Books, Old Dilemma
Novel Conversations, the Indiana Humanities Council’s lending library for book groups, was recently the lucky recipient of a large shipment of donated books from our good friends at the Ladoga Clark Township Public Library in Montgomery County. We were thus able to add 23 new titles to the collection, and I was pleased to see two classics at the head of the list: Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights.

Emily Bronte’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, bases its plot on a true workhorse of literary art, namely, the love triangle. Properly handled, this device leads inevitably from love to war, as seen in one of the earliest examples of the type, The Iliad. As you may recall, Homer’s epic is kicked off when Paris, Prince of Troy, steals the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, that woman being none other than Helen of Troy, the “face that launched a thousand ships.” Every one of those ships was full of armed combatants.

Similarly, Wuthering Heights sets up a triangle between the rough-hewn, dark-haired Heathcliff, an orphan boy who starts at the bottom of the social ladder, and Edgar Linton, son of a wealthy landowner. The two compete to win the hand of the heroine, Catherine Earnshaw, with a number of deaths resulting. The real star of this nineteenth-century Gothic novel, however, is not any of these characters. Rather, it’s the haunting landscape and passionate aura that infuses the book. The reader comes away thinking, “Wow, what an amazing book. Of course, there’s something wrong with these people.”
Plenty of other classics take advantage of the love-triangle-leading-to-angst-and-disaster plot. We might mention Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (Rhett Butler-Ashley Wilkes-Scarlett O’Hara) or even the Bible (King David-Uriah the Hittite-Bathsheba). But I’m afraid I’m not reading any of these classics at the moment. (Well, I’ve already read them all, anyway.) No, I’m reading Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer.

I decided it was my duty to keep up with popular culture as best I could, without encouraging it too much, so I checked the first two Twilight movies out of the library and then went to see the third. Since the fourth movie is not out yet, I had to resort to the book to find out what happened next. Opinion? Same as usual, quite a remarkable feat in terms of the world created by the author, but the characters in the novel are a little on the wacky side, even for teenagers. (Sorry!! I meant even for vampires & werewolves.)

By the way, Stephanie Meyer referenced Pride and Prejudice in Twilight (Book 1 of the series) and Wuthering Heights in Eclipse (Book 3), leading to increased sales of the Bronte novel. Just to be clear, the Novel Conversations collection does not include any books by¬†Stephanie Meyer, but we do have the above-mentioned classics, as well as Gone with the Wind. Thanks again to the Ladoga Clark Township Public Library, which was established back in 1919 through the actions of the Ladoga Woman’s Literary Circle.

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