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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Would Trollope have been a screenwriter?

Question in current New Yorker story (My Life Is a Joke): Is this making any sense? A: No. So ...

Back to Trollope, where the next few chapters of Can You Forgive Her? take us for a picnic on the beach, replete with some boat rides and some mackerel fishing - but the real action of the story is the rivalry between two gentlemen, Mr. Cheeseacre (?) and Capt. Bellweather (? - I'll check the names on next reading) for the affections of Mrs. Greeenlaw (?), the wealthy widowed aunt of Kate and George Vavaser whom we'd met in the earlier chapters. Kate spending part of the summer season w/ wealthy aunt in Yarmouth. Nobody particularly seems to like or respect the Mrs. G, but she has lots of money so nobody wants to disrespect her, either - and you don't get the impression that either Cheese or Bell care about her in any romantic way but they are rivals for her fortune. Cheese seems like the far more upstanding character, and he has some money himself and picks up most of the expenses for the elaborate picnic. Bell has no money, or at least doesn't spend any - a true sponger - and one would guess he's the more likely to wind up w/ Mrs. G. Once again, I'm struck by the ease and simplicity of Trollope's style, maybe to a fault: the novel reads at times almost like a screenplay, just the dialogue, quick character sketches, and on with the action - which is mostly British drawing-room style, so it's not truly like a contemporary screenplay - but you can certainly see why the BBC gobbled up this and its associated novels for the series The Pallisers - it's as if Trollope just laid it out for them, like a banquet table or, in fact, a picnic on the beach. Trollope was in it for the money, obviously, and had no pretensions to be seeking a place in literary history or even contemporary fame - which makes me think that he would in fact be writing for a popular medium - TV or film -- if he'd lived in this century. Whether or not he would have been a good screenwriter - that's another question. (Not unless he picked up the pace and wrote to a max of 120 pp.)

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