I finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles the other day. Good stuff (obviously). I liked the way Hardy used plant life instead of eroticism, and essentially turned Tess into a metaphor for the despoiling of the English countryside in the early days of industrial farming (nice one, with the engine-powered hay baler while she's being tormented by Alec), but still managed to maintain her as an actual character. That was well done.
However, while I realize Hardy was writing in a very different time, I kept getting distracted by a certain thought, which was, "My God, she can really pick 'em!" I mean, the nice guy was a self-centered [male-specific expletive of choice] with absolutely no concept of any understanding outside of his own navel. Not only in terms of sexual mores -- which is understandable, I suppose, when viewed under the "different time" flag -- but in terms of... everything. Everything everyone else thought was wrong/stupid/misguided/easily explicable in the terminology of his self-centered Hellenistic mock-paganism. Although he did get over himself, and kind of dropped the "mock" part of the previously bestowed epithet (right around the time he and Tess slept in Stonehenge -- Hardy was not a subtle symbolist, it seems), it was kind of infuriating.
Funny, isn't it, how deep thoughts can be on trivial topics, but when it comes to serious works of Literature, all that surfaces is vapidity and flippancy? Vanity, vanity &c.
Regardless, I have since commenced Epictetus' Discourses. Very lovely. I read stoic philosophy the way I read books on the history of boogers -- for a quick larf. Example:
Pray, if you were sick yourself, should you be willing to have your relatives, and children themselves and your wife, so very affectionate as to leave you alone and desolate?
Don't complain to Epictetus.
Anyway, I've been feeling emotionally volatile and soul-nauseous lately, so I should not blog much longer. You do not want to see that pus, man.
Hopefully, I'll have more interesting things to say about Tess at a later date. Give me some thinking time, and we'll see how she goes.
By the way, have all y'all checked out Enchanted Conversation? They have interesting things to say about fairy tales. Have a look; I may be submitting there eventually.