I arrived home to a monumental stack of magazines, which I started making my way through yesterday. I began with the “20 Under 40” New Yorker from early June. It’s much cooler to say that you hate the short stories in the New Yorker, but I always read them, and many times, I even enjoy them. So take that, you goddamn hipster.
My favorite piece in the issue was “The Pilot” by Joshua Ferris, because it’s basically an ode to obsessive compulsive thinking, which I am a champion of. It also frequently references Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, who is my ideal man and the love of my life. Anyway, you should read it.
I’m telling you all of this because reading so many mediocre and occasionally brilliant short stories has prevented me from finishing The Woman in White. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about Marian Halcombe.
Marian has a little bit of that Middlemarch, I-suffer-for-my-sister-at-the-expense-of-myself, let-me-stay-an-old-maid-and-die-in-happiness-in-my-overstuffed-sitting-room kind of thing going on. And Wilkie Collins is an unabashed misogynist. But there are also moments when Collins allows Marian to take a stab at the ridiculous conventions imposed about the Victorian woman, and stab she does:
“Are you to break your heart to set his mind at ease? No man under heaven deserves these sacrifices from us women. Men! They are the enemies of our innocence and our peace—they drag us away from our parents’ love and our sisters’ friendship—they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel. And what does the best of them give us in return? Let me go, Laura—I’m mad when I think of it!”
Marian says all of this of Sir Percival Glyde, the villain who has conspired to marry her sister, Laura, and take away her fortune so that he can renovate the Elizabethean bedrooms in his decaying manor estate. Or at least that’s what I imagine him doing with the money.
For you, Marian. For the strength of your voice and your conviction that marriage isn’t a woman’s path to happiness. For the modernity of your advice. For the clarity of your diary entries, which compose a large part of the story. For your hatred of Count Fosco, the Italian fatso who keeps mice as pets, but also for your admiration for him, for his ability to manipulate and scheme. For you, Marian Halcombe, you’re my icon of the week.
Today it struck me how stupidly brave it is to eat alone in a cafe, when you can only order by pointing at the menu. Where do you avert your eyes? What do you do with your hands while you’re waiting for your food? What will the waiter think when you order a second glass of wine?
I ate today at Rodi Bar, near Recoleta. I didn’t have my book, so I spent the entire time flipping through my moleskin, going through old notes about movies that I wanted to see, books that I wanted to read, and clippings that I had torn out of the New Yorker. As I idled, I came upon this poem by Barbara Ras, which I think is lovely: