A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Part of Hatchet Week – Video battle
Why I Hate Jude the Obscure
ROSY: Apparently panned when first published – and for once the stuffy old critics were right.
Argh! The clunking imagery, the clod-hopping simplistic division between Bad Woman Arabella (you know – uneducated, a peasant, practical, willing to get her hands dirty and kill the blooming pig that they’ve spent months raising when they don’t have anything to eat, has BREASTS (as is continually pointed out with some disgust just in case you miss the whole unsubtle-as-a-large-phallic-shaped-brick dichotomy between body/mind whacking you over the head like the pig’s bladder thrown at Jude’s head by the overly-bodily Arabella) and Pure Higher-things Sue, who is sold to us as a picture of emancipation but is just as dependent on men and spends her time being just as manipulative, driving them mad with desire and being fetishised for being all small and bird-like and bringing out Jude’s protective manly instincts…blah blah (I mean what kind of Feminist icon is that?) whilst purely spurning the sexual act.
Poor Arabella! Arabella is the cool independent one. Doing her best in a tough world – looking out for herself and in touch with her body. Ok, granted, she’s a bit manipulative….but Hardy does not paint her with any understanding, but just looks down on her with repulsion. The book’s supposed to be about society and the way it stitches people up. But basically it all gets blamed on the woman. As usual. Bit of an easy target, eh?
You need a strong stomach for when the children arrive, headed up by the farcically-named Little Father Time – Little Father Time I ask you! Is that not indication enough of the book’s particular brand of sentimental mawkishness? This book has NO HUMOUR AT ALL. From the very beginning it indulges in the most ridiculous Doom-laden plot, pointing inexorably to the grave…culminating in the inevitable doomy climax which must be the most mawkish, sentimental, unbelievable and RIDICULOUS denouement I’ve ever read. It made me hoot with laughter. I suspect this is not the reaction Hardy intended. They say comedy is just tragedy speeded up: I think they should do Jude in the style of Benny Hill, preferably on helium, cheer it up a bit. Talking of which I sound like I’m on helium in this vid.
Lisa’s done something clever and arty: I just did some shouting. Ooo and can I just point out that the appalling face I’m making at the end…well, you try going for that long without running out of steam or taking a breath. Hmmm? Yeah? You think so, do you? Go on – feel the rage!
Lisa’s response to Rosy’s bashing of Jude the Obscure.
LISA: I happen to love Jude the Obscure. All of that melodrama and tragedy. All of that mad stuff about earthy sensual women and airy feminist sprites. And I’m fond of the idea that ‘a marriage should be dissolvable as soon as it becomes a cruelty to either party’ as Hardy puts it in his 1912 Preface to Jude. Of course Jude the Obscure was hugely controversial when it came out. Those depictions of sex, the portrait of a working-class man teaching himself Latin and trying to better himself, hoping to attend (Hardy’s fictional version of) Oxford University. The cheek of it. Dynamite. The middle classes must have hated it.
However, I am most awed by the pig-killing scene, which surely spawned ten thousand vegetarians. Hardy was sensible to the suffering of animals, and he confronts it head on in that horrible moment when Jude is forced to take a knife to the throat of an animal he has grown to regard almost as a pet.
P.S. If Rosy had to live with Arabella for one day, Rosy would tear out Arabella’s throat by teatime*.
Arabella is a manipulative liar and a royal pain in the arse. Cool independent women do not pretend to be knocked up just to get a bloke to marry them.
I wish the pig had got the knife and stuck Arabella. If only the pig had opposable thumbs instead of trotters.
Anyway, this writing business is all well and good but since video killed the radio star, here’s my video response…
*Rosy: No we would be best friends, rolling up our sleeves slaughtering swine together before a quick pint and a moan about how rubbish it is living with a fecking vegan 😉
Contains strobe lighting and ad hominem attacks
For more great Hardy rants see Lizzie taking apart Tess on Lizzie’s Literary Life.