In the past month, I’ve reread three novels [not counting Moby Dick here].  Generally,  even with the “I read this a long time ago and many other books and life have come in between,” defense  it’s bothersome how little I remember. Otherwise, my reactions fell into a neat trinity: one I liked less, one I liked the same, and one I liked more.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray is the book I liked the same.

[Exam Question: Discuss the meaning and role of vanity in Vanity Fair.]

Maybe I/we always like books that have a character with our name in them. So, the reason for my interest is Becky Sharp, who on both readings, runs rings around the wimpy, simpy heroine Amelia.  And she doesn’t come to a really bad end.  I probably thought the book  had two much padding the first time; the second time with my Google ADD in full bloom, I ignored chunks of text.  Vanity Fair would give a Kindle indigestion. Thackeray calls Vanity Fair “a novel without a hero;” I wonder why Major Dobbin doesn’t qualify.  a soldier’s heart has a Virginia Woolf quote about how some male novelists get women and some don’t;  Thackeray understands what being a female caretaker feels like.

The World of Wonders/Deptford  trilogy by Robertson Davies. I liked less.

I reread the first two books: Fifth Business and The Manticore. Deptford refers to a village in Canada where the main characters come from : Dunstan Ramsay [schoolteacher], Percy Boy Staunton [successful businessman] and Paul Dempster [magician].  What Davies does well is weave magic[magic magic and the magic of coincidences] into a novel that has a realistic setting.  Is Dunstan Ramsey’s interest in myth linked to Northrup Frye [or are they both linked to Jung.] What I didn’t like in reading two is that both first narrators, different people, sound exactly the same.  This seems to be a sign that I didn’t like the narrator-too detached?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand I liked more.

But is that OK?

The Fountainhead is the story of Howard Roark, an architect with talent and integrity, the ultimate individualist, who refuses to bend to the forces of conformity and suffers but in the end succeeds artistically and romantically. The Fountainhead can be mocked for the I love you so much I hate you relationship of Roark and Dominique Francon. The forced sex between the two doesn’t play well. And Rand loves long speeches that lay out her philosophy like a State of the Union Address. But the message is so undiluted that it is powerful to anyone who has felt crushed by small minds and mediocrity[Reader-I confess I have].

Why did I ask if it was OK for me to like this book.  Because of the company I’m in which according to a New York Observer article I read includes Jerry Lewis [I hate Jerry Lewis]. Because The Fountainhead is such a cultural cliche that it was a pick up line in To Rome With Love. And finally because Rand’s philosophy is popular with conservative politicians who don’t believe in safety nets.  It makes me feel queasy being part of this collective? [Note-new book in Valley Cottage Library-Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle For America’s Soul by Gary Weiss].

PS Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter [with Age of Miracles and 50 Shades-book of the summer]