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

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The sorrows of the young George Apley

The template for the narrative structure of John P. Marquand's The Late George Apley goes something like this: the narrator, Willing (commissioned to write GA's life story), will introduce a section, say, the first years of married life, and will have some kind anodyne phrasing, such as, George experienced a few of the uncertainties of early married life, as all of us do from time to time, but everything worked out and his marriage was perfect (I'm exaggerating a little), and then he'll go on to recount the first years of GA's married life w/ similarly palliative expressions, but his account is always built upon documents and written records - letters, diary entries, for the most part - that completely belie the narrator's account - in this instance, a series of letter from father and father-in-law attesting to the mutual hatred and the bitter dispute about what to name the first-born son and after whose family. Other examples abound, some more innocuous - such as Willing's account of what he considers (or is paid to consider?) GA's brilliant writing, as he recounts GA develop a paper on the man transactions involving a small plot of Boston property, originally part of a farm, and he reads the account to his club and it takes an hour and 10 minutes - can you imagine the boredom? - but Willing describes it as a smashing success. several sorrowful and telling comments work their way to the surface, notably Apley's observation during young fatherhood that he's extremely busy with his office, clubs, charities, family - but feels he is racing to nowhere: he's a man who to all appearances is a great success but who finds his life hollow and empty, and that's because he's never lived his own life, it's been lived for him, predetermined by family and class.

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