middlemarch

Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it’s a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself.

“There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.

—  Rebecca Mead, MY LIFE IN MIDDLEMARCH (2014)

The world of book tumblr is so often looseleaf tea and coffeeshops, but I have to admit that my favorite place to read by far (at least in the winter) is the cozy Pub in the basement of a stone building of my alma mater, the University of Chicago, with one of my favorite beers (this one is called Punk Rock for Rich Kids). Almost halfway through Middlemarch! (350 pages in!)

“It is a misfortune, in some senses: I feed too much on the inward sources; I live too much with the dead. My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes. But I find it necessary to use the utmost caution about my eyesight.”

George Eliot, from Middlemarch (Penguin Classics, 2003)

What elegant historian would neglect a striking opportunity for pointing out that his heroes did not foresee the history of the world, or even their own actions? – For example, that Henry of Navarre, when a Protestant baby, little thought of being a Catholic monarch; or that Alfred the Great, when he measured his laborious nights with burning candles, had no idea of future gentlemen measuring their idle days with watches.  Here is a mine of truth, which, however vigorously it may be worked, is likely to outlast our coal.
—  Middlemarch by George Eliot
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A(nother) Collection of Literary Maps

Click here for our first post of literary maps.

  • Arkham, MA, from the works of H.P. Lovecraft
  • Innsmouth, MA, from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, H.P. Lovecraft
  • Derry, ME, from IT, Stephen King
  • Gotham City, from Batman, DC Comics
  • Hogsmeade, from the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
  • Middlemarch, from the novel of the same name, George Eliot
  • Wessex, from the works of Thomas Hardy
  • Mitford, NC, from the Mitford novels, Jan Karon
  • Winesburg, Ohio, from the novel of the same name, Sherwood Anderson
  • Yoknapatawpha County, MS, from the works of William Faulkner
youtube

The first 5 episodes of Middlemarch: The Series are LIVE.

Watch them now at YouTube.com/c/MiddlemarchTheSeries!

In which I rant at length (and at times angrily) about the 1994 BBC adaptation of Middlemarch. With literally all of the spoilers. Friends, I am not kidding, this post literally has quotes from the last pages of the book, do not read this if you don’t want to know how Middlemarch ends. Seriously.


Okay. This miniseries pissed. me. off.

I mean. Okay, part of it was hype. I hyped this thing up so much because Middlemarch is legit one of my favorite books (and probably the best book I’ve ever read), and I was so hungry for an adaptation to do it justice. And I knew it’d be hard, I knew it forever ago, because Middlemarch is one of those Big novels with all sorts of threads that interlock according to a very particular mechanism. I had a gut feeling that it would just be hard to adapt.

I was right.

As I was watching “Middlemarch”, a thought kept coming back to me. Middlemarch works as a single novel, because novels enable you to see into the character’s heart and mind in a unique way. Any straight adaptation would instantly lose a lot by attempting to recreate the multiple threads, because they would thin out the story. They’d interfere with the natural progression of each plot point, by instantly forcing the filmed version to cut to an unrelated story. I started thinking that there’s simply no way to properly adapt Middlemarch to the screen with all three stories told alongside each other, and instead began to imagine a series of three films that have overlaps in very specific points (but always from different angles).

Part of this, of course, is a personal preference within the narrative. Middlemarch focuses more-or-less on three main stories: Dorothea Brooke, Tertius Lydgate, and Fred Vincy/the Garths (with Fred’s story moderately less centered). The overall plot is one of a changing culture, a changing Middlemarch, a changing England, but this is reflected also in the internal affairs of each character. And so I’m going to set aside the wonderful politics for a moment, and focus on the personal relationships. Mostly the shipping, to be honest.

Because seriously does the BBC’s “Middlemarch” get it wrong

And now I rant extensively with lots of long and amazing quotes from Middlemarch under the cut. You have been warned.

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