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23 March 2009

Textual Temptation

Sitting on the train. I'm really not going to start reading the copy of David Peace's 1977 which I picked up at Fopp on the way into work this morning. No, definitely not. You see, I just started The Age of Innocence this morning and a) I'm enjoying it a lot more than I expected and b) it's been on my "to read" list since August 2000.

Edith Wharton's book was listed in the "summer before A-level reading list" for those planning to take A-level English and that summer, my big existential debate was "shall I take English, which will go well with the humanities subjects I'm taking or is variety the spice of life (so I should take Biology)?" I picked Bio because I thought it would be nice not having to do four essay subjects.
Even though until about six months earlier, when I had an epiphany in English lessons thanks to a great new teacher whom Papa charged at parents' evening with the challenge of turning me on to the subject, I distrusted everything the English department said, I was quite taken by their summary of The Age of Innocence - gossip, scandal and beautiful things growing up in Manhattan; what's not to like, given that it sounds like an episode of Gossip Girl? Ah, yes, it's set in the 19th century; that would be it (cf the fact I enjoyed Clueless, loathed the bits of P&P that I read).

Even despite the period drama fail, I've almost bought a copy on numerous occasions over the past nine-ish years but was never quite tempted enough. Of course, it took an episode of Gossip Girl to persuade me!

A very meta episode at that, one called "The Age of Dissonance" in which the main characters are all acting in the school production of...guess what? Yep, The Age of Innocence.

Of course, I see now that the opening of GG is very AoI-like, Blair being May Welland, the young, beautiful deb, who has it all from the perfect, loving fiance to the well-respected family. Enter her disgraced cousin Ellen (Blair's BFF Serena in GG), who returns to Manhattan after some scandalous troubles (divorce in AoI, assorted slutty shenanigans in GG), only for May/Blair's other half to fall for the bad seed and cause no end of woe for all and sundry.

I'm only a third of the way through AoI but it's already proving to be a page-turner. I'd like to say that this is because it's so well written and sharp but knowing me it's probably just because I like extended analogies, especially those which can be applied to my own life, as I am vain, but movies and TV shoes work just as well as frames of reference.

Maybe I will avoid the temptation of 1977 for the rest of this train ride-not least because I just spent 15 minutes tapping this post, two-fingered on my CrackBerry...

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