Where has Elizabeth Gaskell been all my life!

51efO90M6qLSometimes I get in this mood where I’m like, “I’ve ready so many 19th century British novels (something like 65 in the last 7 years), and I really think I’ve mined out that vein.” And that is when, inevitably, I run across another book that shows me something totally new! I mean I suppose it shouldn’t be very surprising: this is an entire century of literature, after all. Okay so maybe I’m just really callous when it comes to history. If somebody told me that 65 great novels were published in America last year, I’d be like…duh. But my standards for books that’re 100+ years old are much higher.

Anyways, in the last week I’ve been devouring Elizabeth Gaskell. And in a miracle of pacing, each book has been better than the last. North and South was great. I loved how it featured political issues and the working class and plotting that is notably more subtle than the average political novel. However it still felt like a standard marriage plot. The next book, Cranford, was better still. This was a series of vignettes about a village populated mainly by old maids and widows. Nary a marriage plot in sight! I loved their little disputes and household dramas.

But the latest book, Mary Barton, is the best yet! This one is entirely about working class people, which for me is a huge novelty. The only other 19th century British novels I’ve read that’re about working class people are a few of Dickens novels, and in his books they’re always, like, displaced gentry (a la David Copperfield) or exceptional in some other way. Here it’s like, nope, they’re a bunch of mill workers. And they laugh and love and scheme just like gentlepeople! But they also go hungry sometimes =[

Most striking is Gaskell’s portrayal of their health problems. In Victorian literature, people are always taking to bed, wasting away, and dying. But in Mary Barton, the people don’t take to bed until they’re really freaking sick. Thus you have characters like Margaret, a dressmaker’s apprentice who knows the tiny stitching she’s doing is making her go blind, but who takes in more work anyway because she needs to save up money to support her grandfather. You’ve got Alice Wilson, the unmarried aunt of one of the characters, who starts the book as a spry old woman, a factory worker who goes out into the fields on her own time to collect herbal cures, and then deteriorates over the course of the book, first losing her hearing, and then her sight, until she’s left nodding in the corner, confused and alone.

The  book does suffer, though, from the stupid detective plot in the third act. One of the characters gets accused of murder and the other characters need to rally and find evidence that exculpates him. Yawn! Give me some more stuff about who’s gonna marry whom, please.

Phew! Overwhelmed by all the events. Also, by my paperback

Well, two weeks after concluding my agent search, I got married. That happened. I’ve got a ring and everything. Today the paperback version of Enter Title Here came out. I have no idea what I need to do to promote that. I’m not even sure that promotion is possible; I think the point of the paperback is that it’s cheap and more suitable for browsing and impulse buying.

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gaskell, one of the lesser-known Victorians. She is pretty good! I’m not saying she’s another George Eliot or anything, but she, almost alone out of the Victorian novelists I’ve read, actually writes about the middle- and working classes! I just finished North and South, which takes place in a manufacturing town in Northern England and concerns, at least in major subplot, a strike in a textile mill! Pretty good stuff! The book got slightly tedious at times, but it was worth it.

In other news, my closest friends banded together to buy me an XBOX ONE for my birthday, and I’ve been playing Fallout New Vegas. This is the game that I hungered to play during the five long dark years when I was totally video game less (the last game I beat was Fallout 3). It’s pretty good! Took me awhile to realize though that they’d rejiggered the VATS system to make it less powerful, so the game is more of a first-person shooter than Fallout 3 was. It’s an atmospheric game, but after awhile you do get tired of the same old dusty, post-nuclear apocalyptic wastelands. I mean sheesh after two hundred years are there really no forests left in North America? I’m making extremely slow progress with it, but that’s okay.

Oh, you know the weird thing about me and gaming? Back when I was a kid I used to play games for dozens of hours, just faffing around, and never end up beating them. Now I actually beat them! I sit down and play and then the game gets over and I see the ending! It’s so bizarre. In my life, the number of games I’ve actually beaten is not that high, when compared to the number I’ve bought. It’s certainly under 25. But lately I’ve been beating all kinds of games. For instance, I picked up Diablo 2, which I never beat in YEARS of owning and playing it as a kid, and I beat the game in a day.

Being an adult is so great.