Monday, August 15, 2011

#15: The Lifted Veil, George Eliot

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The Lifted Veil
by George Eliot
-born in England, 1819
-128 Pages
-more about Eliot (via Goodreads)
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Authorial Tidbits: (via Melville House)
- George Eliot was born Mary Anne Evans on an estate managed by her father.
- She left school when her mother died, but continued her education alone.  She was multi-lingual and steeped in classical literature.
- She began her work (as an editor) anonymously, for fear a female editor would put off readers.
- When nearly 40, she was published under the pseudonym George Eliot, partly because she was living with a married man (publisher George Henry Lewes) and feared being shunned by the public.
- After 25 years together, Lewes died.  Still grieving, she married their banker, a man 20 years her junior.  She died shortly thereafter.

Synopsis: (via Melville House)
Published the same year as her first novel, Adam Bede, this overlooked work displays the gifts for which George Eliot would become famous—gritty realism, psychological insight, and idealistic moralizing. It is unique from all her other writing, however, in that it represents the only time she ever used a first-person narrator, and it is the only time she wrote about the supernatural.

The tale of a man who is incapacitated by visions of the future and the cacophony of overheard thoughts, and yet who can’t help trying to subvert his vividly glimpsed destiny, The Lifted Veil may easily be read as being autobiographically revealing—of Eliot’s sensitivity to public opinion and her awareness that her days concealed behind a pseudonym were doomed to a tragic unveiling (as indeed came to pass soon after this novella’s publication). But it is easier still to read the story as the exciting and genuine precursor of a moody new form, as well as an absorbing early masterpiece of suspense.

My Impressions:
Me reading George Eliot seems to be similar to me drinking a cup of Earl Grey Tea.  It's tolerable I suppose...has definite strengths and a depth I can appreciate...but I'd really just like some English Breakfast Tea instead.  There is something in [what I've experienced of] her writing that leaves me not caring overly much about any of it. (Perhaps that's why Daniel Deronda is left on my shelf only partially read?)  I'm interested in the story, I'm interested in the themes, I'm interested in the author, but not really interested in picking up the book and actually reading the thing.  Ah, well, I can live through a cup of Earl Grey now and again.

At one point Eliot talks about how the desire to predict the future, and yet the aversion to being truly all-knowing, is part of human nature.  What an idea: the element of the unknown--which we try so hard to uncover--is actually the thing that keeps us striving and trying in life.
So absolute is our soul's need of something hidden and uncertain for the maintenance of that doubt and hope and effort which are the breath of its life, that if the whole future were laid bare to us beyond to-day, the interest of all mankind would be bent on the hours that lie between; we should pant after the uncertainties of our one morning and our one afternoon; we should rush fiercely to the Exchange for our last possibility of speculation, of success, of disappointment; we should have a glut of political prophets foretelling a crisis or a no-crisis within the only twenty-four hours left open to prophecy.
I connected with this bit of exposition more than I did any of the characters or their story.  I think George Eliot would have been a fascinating person to know and talk to, I just wish that it was easier for me to connect with her fiction.  What is it that you've loved about her works?

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