Sunday, May 28, 2006

Reminded of other works?

Have you thought of other books while reading Vanity Fair? It is very rich in allusions and references, but the period of time and subjects it covers reminds me of several other works.

Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma: While I was a little underwhelmed with the overall book, the Waterloo scene was fairly funny as the main character (Fabrizio de Dongo) sleepwalks through the day. I’m sure his experience as painted in the book, not understanding what was going on or where it was happening, was a pretty common occurrence during battles of the time. Thackeray's characters receiving misleading information on the battles highlighted the confusion.

Last year I read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Very well done but I didn’t enjoy it that much. I’m not into the fantasy/fantastical genre, but was willing to try it based on friends’ recommendations. One part I did enjoy was Jonathan Strange employed by the British to use his magic in thwarting Napoleon. Waterloo plays one of several key points where Strange helps defeat Napoleon.

I know there are plenty more books out there that touch on or revolve around that famous battle—Patrick O’Brian’s The Hundred Days and Hugo’s Les Misérables for example, neither of which I’ve read. Tolstoy included a lot of material on Napoleon’s march into and retreat from Russia.

Several times in Vanity Fair, Thackeray references the characters seeing the English actor Edmund Kean. It reminded me of the Jean-Paul Sartre play Kean that I saw several years ago and enjoyed, despite its flaws. Based on a play by Dumas, Sartre throws in quite a bit of existential philosophy (surprise), but the play holds up despite it. A meaty role for any actor, I was fortunate to see perfect casting for the title character. Focusing on illusion, reality, and the role of art in the world, it is an extremely entertaining play.

So is there anything you’ve read or seen that you thought of while reading Vanity Fair?


Madame X said...

I read Jonathan Strange too-- I did think it was one of the best imitations of a period style that I'd ever read. I'm not into fantasy either but I found some of the book so wonderfully imaginative and beautifully described, right from the beginning where all the carvings in the cathedral start coming alive.

Dwight said...

I can't emphasize how well I thought the book was done. I really admired the talent. But it just left me unmoved... again, i think a genre that does little for me.

Dwight said...

Just got to the vist to the gambling house, and it reminded me very much of Dostoevsky's The Gambler that I read earlier this year. Quite a different set-up from the Ballys and Harrahs of today.