Posts Tagged ‘English literature’

Grad Eng II: Hardy Hardly Heeds His Heart

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“Let each man exercise the art he knows.”

— Aristophanes, Wasps

My second semester of graduate school has come and gone.  It was a good one.  Lively, even.  One class was “Writers and Their Milieu: Thomas Hardy”.  Here are the books we had to read in order from early Hardy to later Hardy.  (All editions are Penguin Classics.)


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Selected Poems Under The Greenwood Tree
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The Return of the Native The Woodlanders
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Penguin Classics) Product Details
Tess of The D’Urbervilles Jude The Obscure
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If you have to read Hardy for a class, make sure you get the teacher-recommended edition because Hardy made a lot of revisions to his novels between printings.
Far From The Madding Crowd  


My favorite thing out of the whole course was Hardy’s poetry.  He makes it look so easy, but you just know that means he was extra careful about every word.  It looks so, I want to say “comfortable”, in the sense that it seems to be what he preferred writing. The poems are witty, snide, sarcastic.  Their construction is so distinctive and even musical.  The themes were many of the same that you might find in the novels.  People with bad luck and and even worse relationships.  If you have to do Hardy, start with the poems.  They, at least, are genuinely enjoyable. 

Novels were not his favorite thing. He felt pressured personally and professionally to write them because they are easier to market, among other reasons.  Also, he wanted to prove to himself that he could master the art.  Even his weakest novel (according to many in the critic biz) Under The Greenwood Tree is quite palatable.  We didn’t do Mayor of Casterbridge.  That would have been too obvious.  Instead, we went with Woodlanders, which I liked a lot.  I liked it better than Tess and Jude.  I don’t need to be mowed down by the four horsemen of the literary apocalypse – death, depression, despair, and destitution to figure out what life is all about, that Divine Providence masquerades as bad luck, and self-determination only works if no one gets in your way.  I can figure that out by reading way, WAY more entertaining writers like Juvenal or Aristophanes or S. J. Perelman.  But, it was the done thing, and he did it well.   

I really loved the way Hardy described the scenery.  He didn’t just describe how things looked, but what the land meant to the people who have to live there.  How light and seasons affect the mood of the place.  If you’re ever looking for pictures painted with words, this is it!  His descriptions, more common in the early novels than in the later ones, are like looking at paintings of the English or German Romantic School – specifically, the Pre-Raphaelites or Caspar David Friedrich.  I’m sure there were critics out there who liked that sort of thing, but all you read about in the Forewords and Introductions is the bitching and moaning about scandals and how Hardy hated writing novels and how misogynistic he is towards women in his novels.  So typically academic.  There’s very little of praise about his considerable writing artistry. It’s usually an afterthought after the academicians get through tearing him a new one for victimizing women and being so depressing. 


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If you like English literature or writers who are not afraid to show the uncomfortable truths of their time, and have a healthy attention span, Hardy is really good. Don’t let the four horsemen of the literary apocalypse trample your appreciation of Hardy’s writing.

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THE FIX–a “Burn Notice” Novel

Product Details   THE FIX  §  Tod Goldberg

I’ve been a fan of book tie-ins for about twenty years and I don’t see that changing.  Book tie-ins to movies and tv shows is, I think, a recent development.  I started noticing them around the end of the 80s/early90s.  With the popularity of the film A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster, there was an upswing in film adaptations of 20th century novels.  Forster, Henry James, Jane Austen, John Galsworthy – broke out of the Masterpiece Theatre fishbowl (which was woefully stagnant at the end of the decade).  Kenneth Brannagh brought Shakespeare to the screen with fresh innovations and daring casting choices.  The literature you were obligated to read in school emerged from cliquish public television to populist big screen.  The BRIDESHEAD REVISITED lot of the early 80s lost their cult status.

Publishers were smart to cash in on tie-ins.  Book covers became billboards selling the movie – featuring the lead stars  and the movie’s logo.  The author’s name there as an afterthought on many of them, but I figure, what the hell.  Whatever brings you to great literature – get there however you can, just get there!  The best part about movie tie-ins: THE BOOK IS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE! Sucker!!!

Heh heh.  As far as BURN NOTICE is concerned, literature it ain’t.  What it is, quite simply, is a damn good print version of a television episode.  You hear Michael’s and Sam’s and Fiona’s voices coming through loud and clear from the pages of the story that flows like a swift creek, burbling over smooth rocks, purposefully and relentlessly.  There’s even the voice-over of Michael clueing us in on what’s going on the minds of characters and why people are doing that voodoo that they do so well.  Just like on the tv show.  That is a good tv show tie-in.  It helps that the author Tod Goldberg is a professional writer and assistant professor of creative writing.  He’s done a super job of translating the vivid action of a tv show to the dull newsprint of a mass market paperback – yet – YET – the paperback version is just as vivid (if you’re not a complete turnip) as watching the show.  AND NO COMMERCIALS.  (btw, I looked up Tod Goldberg at UC-Riverside and it does not list him.  The book is two years old, so maybe he’s moved on.There’s three books out so far. See below.  I wish they would have done this with JAG.  There was only two books out for that one.  And where are the NCIS tie-ins??? C’mon, people.  Someone in marketing is not doing their job. {There are some NCIS books by Mel Odom, but they are not related to the tv show.) The JAG books are “JAG #1” (informal title) and “JAG Clean Steel”  The links will take you to but there are sometimes copies available through sellers at  I’ve got two of each! Nice.

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DVD/Season 1

DVD/Season 2

DVD/Season 3

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JAG 2: Clean Steel

The Robert Tine page at Amazon


 The Tod Goldberg page at Amazon

JAG: The Novel Brideshead Revisited Product Details
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