The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live NowVirginia Woolf called Middlemarch one of the few English novels written for grown up people, one of my favorite things anyone s ever said about a book They re sortof surprisingly rare, right Top Five Novels For Grown Up People5 Remains of the Day4 War Peace3 Mrs Dalloway2 The Way We Live Now1 MiddlemarchHere s another book for grown up people It has that vertiginous insight into human nature It has a vast, complicated, working plot And it s about grown ups, by which I guess I mean that the plot doesn t revolve entirely around people courting each other or mucking about with swords Dickens does not write novels for grown up people I know, you re about to make an argument for Bleak House, and you might have something there but Trollope shares with him a bottomless sympathy for humans Melmotte is completely amoral, and he knows it, but Trollope does such a terrific job getting us into his head that I ended up almost rooting for him Respecting him for what he is, anyway ETA for the 2016 election season it s hard not to see a little proto Trump in that guy Of the many other characters spinning around in this mammoth panorama, Roger Carbury may be the hero of the book I feel like if anyone represents Trollope himself, it s Roger but he s also the least interesting character I found him not unlikable, not awful, but boring Although I liked his ending view spoiler sad and ambivalent in which he offers to be a father figure Put your tiny hand in mine, he says creepily hide spoiler Given up for now, probably for ever Too many Victorian novelists thought the only subject they could possibly make a novel out of was the broad satire of the upper classes, these awful families with their country houses in Berkshire and their town houses in Westland Square and the huge comedy of their attempts to make Good Marriages and the endless parade of bad sons who gamble away the family porcelain so their brilliant sisters must marry fat old Lords and they all go to balls that all get a 50 page description and they all play cards and they all eat and eat and eat and their repulsive lifestyle is propped up by a grey army of nameless servants one of whom occasionally dies and inconveniences everyone because the peacock s brains will now have to be the eighth course not the fifth course, so you have Clarissa, Evelina, all the novels of Jane Austen, Vanity Fair the best of the bunch , The Tenant of Wildfell Hall the Leonard Cohen version , The Portrait of a Lady, The Forsyte Saga and so forth, many books, many authors, same subject.If I had come across The Way we Live Now before Vanity Fair probably it would have been Vanity Fair that I gave up, because these are the same thing, or less, and that would have been a great pity, because Vanity Fair is GREAT so for me Anthony Trollope was the comedian who came on stage and cracked all the jokes the previous guy had just cracked. A great novel, perhaps Trollope s best But it s not the one I usually recommend to those who have never read Trollope and want to try him For one thing, it s very long For another, it s pretty dark There are a lot of characters in this novel, and almost every one of them views money as the summum bonum That, after all, is the way we live now.At the center of the novel is Augustus Melmotte, an ill mannered foreigner of undetermined background, with whom in better times, Trollope believes, no honorable person would have had anything to do But Melmotte is very, very rich or at least he appears to be very, very rich so people who should know better, people who a generation earlier would have been true gentlemen an ideal that was very important to Trollope , are falling over themselves to associate themselves with this mysterious foreigner As Trollope says in many of his novels, paraphrasing Shakespeare, they think they can touch pitch and not be defiled although it may be accurate to say that many of the characters in The Way We Live Now think that if they touch pitch, they won t care very much that they are defiled It s the way we live now.There are lots of other disreputable characters, too One of my favorites is the seductive Winifred Hurtle, who, they say and I love this detail shot a man in Oregon.If you saw the PBS dramatization of this novel a few years ago, please don t use that to judge this novel I love Masterpiece Theatre, but it did not begin to do justice to the richness of this novel. The that I read Victorian literature the I am convinced that back in those days it was all about authors showing off The educated public who could actually read and write were in much smaller proportion to the whole society than today These people wanted to spend their hard earned shillings on something that was truly worth their time and money The thought of watching television or films to fill people s downtime would not appear until another half century or so So what did people do to entertain them and fill their time when they weren t working They read BIG ASS books Books such as Bleak House, Middlemarch, Vanity Fair, and this monstrosity, The Way We Live Now, were all and still are enormously popular All hailed as masterpieces, all over 800 pages long, all demanding time and attention than your overly possessive girlfriend Yet these books still are read today from cover to cover and are placed prominently on all bookstore shelves My next question for you is this Is reading a BIG ASS book such as The Way We Live Now, really worth my time and attention Or am I better off turning on the television and watching reality TV which is obviously less difficult, no less time consuming, and requires significantly less brain power My answer is simple I believe that a book such as TWWLN is worth the time and effort We read these old BIG ASS books because they take us to a long bygone time free from reality television, iPhones, and emails They keep our minds sharp and words plentiful They explore human imagination and they simultaneously entertain us And they do so for what seems to be an eternity.But what about TWWLN How does this book, Trollope s most famous novel, stand out as an absorbing read in its own right Well, the first thing that I have to say about this is that Trollope s writing here is about as good as it gets in the English language Trollope, like his peers Collins and Dickens, is a master wordsmith He can take an ordinary sentence and turn it into something clever and delicious The second thing, which concerns plotting, is that this book is very average The central plot concerning a Ponzi scheme initiated by a notorious French swindler among the aristocrat class of Victorian London was in itself groundbreaking and original However, the various subplots which incorporate love triangles galore and the tedious drama and woes of marrying for money seem a little tired Obviously, this book, written as a social commentary, dwelled upon these themes because they were the concerns of the time My only issue with this is that these themes, like much of Victorian literature, follows too much in the footsteps of Jane Austin and doesn t really add anything too imaginative to the genre Also, I believe the love triangles were a little too numerous and various characters could have been removed to enhance the pacing of the novel Regardless of some of the flaws of this novel, I believe that TWWLN was a thoroughly enjoyable read and contained some of the most interesting and lifelike characters in all of literature Trollope was known for his consistency so I will continue to explore his work With over 40 novels written by his pen, there is a lot of ground to cover Yet, TWWLN, has satisfied my current desire to read Trollope At least for now. Not just the way they lived in Britain in 1873, but the way we live now in 2017 America Trollop wrote with sharp satiric intent about a certain class of dishonesty, dishonesty magnificent in its proportions, and climbing into high places, that has become at the same time so rampant and so splendid that there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace with pictures on all its walls, and gems in all its cupboards, with marble and ivory in all its corners, and can give Apician dinners, and get into Parliament, and deal in millions, then dishonesty is not disgraceful, and the man dishonest after such a fashion is not a low scoundrel.Speculators grown great with rampant fraud at the highest levels of finance writers and newspaper editors peddling influence for favorable stories politicians buying businessmen and businessmen buying power women buying position through marriage wealthy young people who refuse all responsibility and waste both time and substance on frivolity Read this and wonder at how painfully familiar, how very timely it all seems. Who does not know that sudden thoughtfulness at waking, that first matutinal retrospection, and prospection, into things as they have been and are to be and the lowness of the heart, the blankness of hope which follows the first remembrance of some folly lately done, some word ill spoken, some money misspent or perhaps a cigar too much, or a glass of brandy and soda water which he should have left untasted And when things have gone well, how the waker comforts himself among the bedclothes as he claims for himself to be whole all over, teres atque rotundus so to have managed his little affairs that he has to fear no harm, and to blush inwardly at no errorIt took me a long time to write about this amazing book that I read about five months ago, but I am finally made the effort and rescued a rare inspiration to write a few lines with my thoughts Better later than never.With a satirical wit, Anthony Trollope creates in The Way We Live Now a fantastic melodrama with a large and rich cast of characters that together depict a scene of greed as corruption abounds while plots of marital intrigue thrive, as pretty much everyone is trying to get married Trollope s characters are each and every one of them different, as it is in real life As we read we discover that many are despicable, some are greedy while many others are naive and sweet, or simply vulnerable and weak It is a fact that his views on people led to a creation where just a few are noble.Reading The Way We Live Now, I realized that what makes this book great are its amazing characters, its dozen subplots, and a biting satirical wit Players, large and small, all wind up being interconnected in some way, as Trollope applied what he saw as greed, the pursuit of social connections and lack of class evident in London of his time.There is no doubt that Trollope s melodrama gifts us here with an amazing insight into human nature, that has not changed much with the passing of time Highly recommended. I can see why people speak of The Way We Live Now 1875 as Trollope s masterpiece It s quite superb It s a vast novel a hundred chapters , but it never dragged in the least for me Trollope is fairly light on description and leans hard on dialogue, with which he has a wonderfully deft touch I was always rather suspicious about this book when I read about its subject matter I knew it was about a parvenu financier of suspiciously foreign origins, who was supposed to embody the corruption of the modern world and I imagined it would be rather conservative and xenophobic in its values In fact, it s nothing of the kind It s the aristocratic Londoners who allow themselves to be bewitched by Augustus Melmotte s dubiously acquired lucre who come in for the keenest of Trollope s satirical barbs Melmotte himself, though certainly a monster, is allowed to acquire a certain tragic grandeur in his painfully protracted fall from grace His illegitimate daughter Marie, meanwhile, who spends most of the novel being dangled as prey for impecunious titled fortune hunters, finishes up as a splendid, scene stealing, table turning heroine for me the standout character of the book The chief moral theme of TWWLN, as identified by Trollope in his autobiography, is the disturbingly contemporary one of the corrosive social effects of dishonesty when gilded by wealth and power London in the 1870s is portrayed here as feverishly enthralled to money and disinclined to earn it by any form of solid labor Melmotte s dangerous games with the stock market are mirrored in the hapless, addictive gambling of the rabble of young London toffs who meet nightly in a louche club, the Beargarden a brilliantly rendered comic location In one tellingly symbolic scene, the handsome but rankly feckless anti hero Sir Felix Carbury trades a fistful of worthless Beargarden IOUs for an equally nebulous handful of Melmotte s mysteriously managed Mexican railway shares I broadly agree with Trollope s own judgment that the interest of the book lies with its wicked and foolish characters, but I think he is a little hard on himself when he dismisses as tedious the serious characters, who are the vehicles for the novel s main, entangled love story Hetta Carbury, Felix s sister Roger Carbury, their cousin and Hetta s rejected lover and Paul Montague, the young man Hetta loves I thought Roger, in particular, was subtly handled As a ruggedly honest country squire, the self declared representative of old fashioned values, his role initially seems to be that of moral antidote to the way we live now Trollope is too clever for that, however Although Roger is a mainly admirable character, he has his own flaws and snobberies and rigidities of judgment The answer to the glittering corruption of the modern world is not a retreat into the old I could go on for pages here this great, generous sprawl of a novel encompasses so many riches I haven t even mentioned the fabulous Winifred Hurtle, Paul s complicating, spirited former love interest, nor the scheming, amoral, but not entirely unendearing would be author Lady Carbury, Felix and Hetta s mother It is a sign of Trollope s quality that he can even carry off fairly well a sub plot involving a couple of Suffolk rustics, Ruby Ruggles and John Crumb, whose comic names and dialect tinged speech made me initially fear some cringeably patronizing let s laugh at the peasantry comic business One detail that struck me domestic violence against women features in the stories of Ruby, of Lady Carbury, and of Marie Melmotte, in all cases sympathetically treated That is a theme I don t remember coming up explicitly in many other Victorian novels, with the exception of Wilkie Collins s Man and Wife A word of advice, to end with, for anyone tempted to try this novel I was lured into reading it by watching an excellent 2001 BBC dramatization, which achieves the impressive feat of compressing its four hundred thousand odd words into a mere four episodes It didn t spoil the novel for me that I knew the plot before I started it s not the kind of work that depends crucially on suspense , and it was a pleasure to read it with Andrew Suchet s and Shirley s Henderson s unforgettable incarnations of Augustus and Marie Melmotte stamped on my mind. THE WAY WE LIVE NOW By Anthony Trollope Is Possibly His Most Influential Novel, A Satire, And A Biting Expose Of The Financially Interconnected British Victorian Society The Arrival In London Of The Mysterious Augustus Melmotte Who Offers Brilliant Opportunities For Financial Investments Affects A Varied Cast Of Personages, And Upturns Their Lives, Loves, And Relationships I first read this book back in hmm 1998 1999 Loved it, and was inspired to pull it off the shelf for a re read in light of the unfolding financial collapse bail out Everything I read about Wall Street firms reminds me of the 4 guys gambling in their private club, the Beargarden crazy web of credits and worthless IOUs, all the players betting money they don t have, each one making his bets based on what the others owe him, and no prospect of them ever being sufficiently sober and in funds to settle up And if a sober outsider should join their game with cash in hand, the 4 of them quickly fleece him of his ready money The game can t go on without periodic rescues by the useful Herr Vossner, who when called on will buy out the unbacked IOUs at high interest.And of course the players never, never pay their tailors or bootmakers that almost goes without saying all their resources go into the game, and the workers and vendors have to take endlessly deferred credit or nothing.The amazing thing is that Trollope was SATIRIZING the outrageous personal familial irresponsibility of upper class youth perhaps even Trollope would be surprised to see how our venerable and allegedly regulated banks and financial institutions have turned into a global Beargarden, gambling with the wealth of the entire country.THE WAY WE LIVE NOW, indeed. As good the third time as the first A brilliant, engaging read, a fascinating exploration of money, power and class in the Victorian period.

Anthony Trollope became one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era Some of Trollope s best loved works, known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire he also wrote penetrating novels on political, social, and gender issues and conflicts of his day.Trollope has always been a popular novelist Noted fans ha

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  • Paperback
  • 740 pages
  • The Way We Live Now
  • Anthony Trollope
  • English
  • 07 March 2019
  • 9781607620396

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