Links We Loved This Week — 11/4/16

Watch Pixar’s adorable short about a baby sandpiper learning to find food: Piper.

The Beauty and the Beast pictures out on EW this week are ridiculously exciting for us.

At LA Review of Books‘ blog Avidly, there is a great piece on why Madame Merle is appealing to contemporary feminism. (To be clear, we are still Team Archer, all the way.)

The cast of Girls performed Emily Doe’s powerful essay about sexual assault in honor of her Woman of the Year award:

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Links We Loved This Week — 10/28/16

It’s here!! A full trailer for Netflix’s Gilmore Girls Revival! At least two Adversion writers have shed actual tears watching it. The third isn’t disclosing.

Christopher Marlowe has officially been credited as a co-author on three of Shakespeare’s plays: all three parts of Henry VI. AKA the Shakespeare plays you never quite made it through.

The Walking Dead came back this week, and the resolution to the cliffhanger was almost as terrible as the cliffhanger itself. There are lots of scathing reviews circulating, but Vox calling it “terminally stupid television” sounds about right.

The Awl has a hilarious piece on creepy milk drinkers from popular culture, including good old Walter from Westworld.

Happy Halloween! Read Flavorwire’s collection of classic literature’s six uncanniest moments.

The Simple World

Pierre is one of Herman Melville’s least-known novels and, in my opinion, the best; it’s more like an early Henry James novel, ambiguous and elliptical, than it is like Moby-Dick or Billy Budd.

In the operative opinion of this world, he who is already fully provided with what is necessary for him, that man shall have more; while he who is deplorably destitute of the same, he shall have taken away from him even that which he hath. Yet the world vows it is a very plain, downright matter-of-fact, plodding, humane sort of world. It is governed only by the simplest principles, and scorns all ambiguities, all transcendentals, and all manner of juggling.

–Herman Melville, Pierre: Or, the Ambiguities

 

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Tess is just a humble milkmaid when the local landowner has his wicked way. Her new beau, the smarmy Angel Clare, is none too pleased when he finds out she’s already been deflowered. What is a girl to do? Bloody revenge of course, and an ending to touch the hardest of hearts.

Pulp! The Classics is an inspired idea. Who wouldn’t want to read irreverent re-tellings of classic literature that highlight their universal–and therefore, potentially lowbrow–themes? After all, with slightly different execution, Hamlet is just a revenge story, The Great Gatsby is just a crime thriller, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a forebear to Pineapple Express.

And maybe one could argue that this Tess of the D’Urbervilles cover proves a similar theorem: without Hardy’s sensitive and socially conscious artistry, Tess is nothing more than exploitative erotica. But this cover isn’t just oversimplifying the book’s themes, as the other covers in the series do; it’s actively (and offensively) reversing them. “She’s no angel”?? Tess is about a compassionate, highly moral young woman who is raped, loses her child, and is unfairly ostracized (and then executed) as a result of hypocritical Victorian sexual mores. The subtitle of the novel is “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” It takes its name from “the D’Urbervilles”–the noble name Tess’ father vainly tries to appropriate for their family–rather than her actual name, Tess Durbeyfield, because she possesses nobility in spite of her social standing. The entire point of the book is that she is a goddamn angel, in all the ways that count.

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

…every spring cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.

“Gay and innocent and heartless” is the perfect last line for J.M. Barrie’s classic novel about never growing up, because children can’t understand it. When I read this line as a child, it nagged at me for years, because I couldn’t reconcile the apparent contradiction. Innocence is the epitome of goodness, or so I thought.

But once I, like Wendy, betrayed Peter Pan by growing older, and reread the novel as an adult, the conclusion made perfect sense. Peter is the embodiment of guilelessness and joyfulness, and so is relentlessly charming, but is also terminally selfish. Innocence is unsustainable unless it is accompanied by a pure self-centeredness, which is why we never blink an eye when Peter forgets Wendy for decades, or is tempted to stab Wendy’s little daughter, Jane, shortly before the end. He wants to eliminate this child out of resentment, because she symbolizes the passage of time that has taken Wendy away from him, and reminds him of the reality that he would prefer to reject. But he doesn’t mean anything by it.

So what better day to celebrate this author than the ultimate symbol of the passage of time: his birthday. Happy 156th birthday, J.M. Barrie!

A family-piece

A great moment from Jane Austen’s Persuasion:

Immediately surrounding Mrs Musgrove were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. Charles and Mary also came in, of course, during their visit, and Mr Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.

In noticing what a lovely scene the family makes, the narrator steps back to a frame of observation that parallels ours as readers—admiring the artistry with which the scene was assembled—such that the statement can’t quite be distinguished from Austen reflecting approvingly on herself. It’d be insufferable, of course, if the scene weren’t perfect, but it is, and the flourish sits gently on top: “a fine family-piece.”

Proust, Picasso, and Prose Poetry: Swann’s Way as an Emptying of Impressions

“The thing that I want to insist upon is that Picasso’s gift is completely the gift of a painter and a draughtsman, he is a man who always has the need of emptying himself, of completely emptying himself, it is necessary that he should be greatly stimulated so that he could be active enough to empty himself completely.”

So says Gertrude Stein in her intimate, lyrical biography of Picasso, which is not so much a chronology of his life as it is a love letter to his artistry. Among many other things, she submits that Picasso’s creative impetus derived from a need to empty himself of certain reverberating impressions; he would become captivated, even tormented by an idea or image, and by painting, he would purge that image from his mind and be done with it.

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