Saturday, December 26, 2009

Random pleasures from The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope

I marveled at "The Way We Live Now" for its furious, calculating description of the rise and fall of a mysterious tycoon much like Bernie Madoff: a bold Ponzi schemer, a market manipulator, a makher who lives ever bigger until the fake money-pile turns back into a pumpkin, ruining him and many others during the railway craze of the mid-1850s.

It's hard to stomach Trollope's visceral anti-semitism but he kept me entertained for hours on my US Airways flight last night. Before I delete the book from my Palm Pilot, here are two moments I appreciated.

  1. Dolly Langstaffe, a stupid, wealthy young man who's lost an awful lot of money at cards and the other idle pursuits of his set, has at last found himself a plain-spoken lawyer who, while he rakes in a hefty cut, does it openly, and has taken this young idiot's affairs in hand in a plain-spoken way. Langstaffe defends him to his friends:
    "If you knew the comfort of having a fellow who could keep you straight without preaching sermons at you you wouldn't despise Squercom. I've tried to go alone and I find that does not answer. Squercom's my coach and I mean to stick pretty close to him."
    I know some people who need a Squercom very badly...

  2. Lady Carbury, who began as a silly, vain woman, has been brought low by her own stupid choices and those of her son. Beaten down gradually into a person with a little more sense, she is lucky enough to be loved in the end by a steady, intelligent man of her own age who, understanding her faults, loves her anyway.
    "He drew her towards him and in a moment she was kneeling at his feet, with her face buried in his knees. Considering their ages perhaps we must say that their attitude was awkward. They would certainly have thought so themselves had they imagined that anyone could have seen them... It is not that Age is ashamed of feeling passion and acknowledging it, but that the display of it is without the graces of which Youth is proud, and which Age regrets."


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