". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, March 2, 2015

Authors & Review(er)s + Text Excised from Trollope's Duke's Children Discovered

From the Guardian: "Why All Writers Are Vain" as their vanity appears to a writer who is also a reviewer:

. . . . The vast majority of writers, if they have a modicum of self-awareness, must know that they probably belong among the literary also-rans rather than the exceptional elites. In my own case, I know I am not the cleverest or most original thinker and my prose is not the most beautiful. But if I am honest, somewhere inside me, probably not too far beneath the apparently modest surface, is the hubristic belief that if I can apply my skills of clear exposition and synthesis to the right subject, I might just write a book of exceptional worth.
I doubt that I am unusual. I’ve met, interviewed and shared stages with many writers over the years, and the majority have come across as modest, grounded people. Only one has turned up in a hotel lobby wearing sunglasses, and that was a performer turned author. Of all the speakers at one literary festival which requires participants to wear head-set microphones, only two have so far refused to do so because it messed up their hair – both male. And yet although the writing profession is generally free of the ostentatious egotism of rock’n’roll, the ways in which it is infused with vanity have become increasingly evident to me. The excessive admiration or pride in their own work that I detected in those two writers would reappear time and again, and eventually I would come to recognise it in myself.

For those who are happy readers of Anthony Trollope's novels, particularly his Palliser novels, or as they are also known, The Parliamentary Novels, there is this:

A limited, deluxe edition is being published that restores the cut text, amounting to about 40,000 words.

“It’s quite extraordinary the different cumulative effect it has, on the richness of the text and the subtlety of the characters,” said Joe Whitlock Blundell at the Folio Society. “When I first read The Duke’s Children 30 years ago, it all seemed to be focused on the Duke’s reactions. But in the restored version, the characters of the children come through far more sympathetically.”
Amarnick writes in a commentary to the new edition that the “thousands of cuts did tremendous damage” to the work. Although Trollope did not delete any of his 80 chapters, he removed consecutive paragraphs in some places; in others, he cut sentences, phrases and words, even replacing a word with one which was slightly shorter on some occasions.
. . . . “There is no concrete evidence for who exactly forced him to make the cuts, though it seems probable that it was Charles Dickens Jr who requested a shorter book for serial publication,” said Whitlock Blundell. “As for his reluctance, there can be no doubt about it. He was very sensitive to any requests to cut his work, and wrote in his autobiography, ‘I am at a loss to know how such a task could be performed. I could burn the MS, no doubt, and write another book on the same story; but how two words out of every six are to be withdrawn from a written novel, I cannot conceive’.”
This may bring tears of justification to the eyes of many an author instructed to cut their own works to improve the narrative flow, structure and rhythm, or for the "economy of cost".

As a friend commented elsewhere, ". . . it's kind of hard to believe Trollope would be improved by the restoration of verbiage."

Like her, I'm not an admirer of Trollope as a prose stylist. As an observer of his times,, most certainly he's a novelist to be mined. But most of his books are nearly unreadable, as far as I'm concerned. Exceptions would be The Way We Live Now, some of the Palliser chronicles and some of the Barsetshire books. But the Pallisers and Barsetshire sequences only after I learned a great deal more about the Victorian era politicians, issues and the Church of England than in previous readings. If one doesn't know the political and Church of England historical miliieu these books are near impenetrable morasses -- or at least they were for me.

Partly this was because, as same amiga remarks in the discussion, "What bugs me are the inevitable purity/virgin subplots. I'd like every one of them cut entirely." 

Yet, there are ladies in his novels who, despite the author, end up successful without being virgin.  But all that Trollope verbiage tends to conceal that they avoided humiliation, disgrace, despair and death. 

Then there's his habit of naming characters with silly names -- such as Killancodlem, Quiverful, Filgrave --  thinking he was following in Dickens footsteps, while viewed as witty by some readers, for others are annoying at best. At worst one cannot take such names seriously, as the age of Dickens had long since been superceded. OTOH, there are a plenitude of astonishingly preposterous names among the English aristos, at least to the ears and eyes of Merikans. 

Even Trollope's novel about wife abuse, stalking, etc., He Knew He Was Right (2004), is a slog to read, and, for that matter, so is the BBC production of it a nearly unendurable slog, except that it does have Bill Nighy in his delightfully slimy persona.

The major exception to the slogs is The Way We Live Now, all about money and publishing and marriage. These matters read just fine to contemporary literature-minded Merkians, even without knowing anything about the Age, so to speak.

Like The Way We Live Now (2001) did, anchored by David Suchet playing the financial ponzi schemer, August Melmont, fortunately some of these other books too have made terrific television, as they excise enormous wadges of Trollope's plodding text. I still love BBC's The Pallisers (1974 - 1975) -- which also gives the Duchess of Omnium the focus she should have -- and 

Susan Hampshire as the Duchess of Omnium during her unhappy European marriage tour.

played by the delightful Susan Hampshire, -- and the Chronicles of Barset (1982 in which Alan Rickman inhabits Obediah Slope -- and it even includes Susan Hampshire, again, as delightful in the role of  La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroniwooed, alas, by Slope, as she was in The Pallisers and as Lady Churchill, in The First Churchills. 

All of these series are happy ways to spend this endless winter.

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