Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Muddy Stream

Well, Ivanhoe is not going so well. There are two introductions before the main body of the text begins, not to mention the long essay at the beginning telling me all that I was afraid to ask about the text as literature. There is a sentence in the second prefatory section that remarks that the writer hopes the 'modern reader' will not be '...much trammelled by the repulsive dryness of mere antiquity,' and yet, I find myself so trammelled before the first page of the first chapter is over.

There are places were the text seems to cast itself away from the scene (when describing the forest at the beginning, for instance) and many other places in which it muffles scenes like a winter blanket. I find myself stopping at the same places to admire the view and skimming the same areas that bogged me down previously.

At this point, I wonder if there is any sense in trying to force myself through something that I don't care for--there is only so much time available and there are other books that could be read, ones that would move much quicker because they are more in sync with my (sloppy? brisk?) reading habits.

What I want from this, however, is a sense of what a novel can be. Ivanhoe is a popular book that has been called into service (if you believe the introduction) by people over and over again for the way Scott pictures the knights and the society and the love story. Even if this was never his intention, he built a part of the theatrical structure upon which modern fantasy is based, not to mention the Renaissance Festival circuit that is my post-school celebration of the coming of Fall. There has to be something in here.

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