09 April 2009

Um, ew. And etc.

After I finished listening to Jane Eyre I started listening to Sense and Sensibility. Marianne comes down with a "putrid fever", which sounds gross, and almost dies. I've read Sense and Sensibility quite a few times, but I don't think I've read it since before Google. I always wondered what exactly a "putrid fever" was, but until now I didn't have the internet to help me find out.

Turns out putrid fevers are also known as typhus. Jane Austen and one of her sisters nearly died of it, which is how she was so familiar with the disease. 'Hey,' I thought, 'typhus is what the pupils at Jane Eyre's school get. What is typhus though? Is it like typhoid?'. Nope. It's an infection (treated nowadays with antibiotics) that's spread by body lice. EW EW EW EW EW. That totally clashes with my image of that era in history as being full of well-clothed, well spoken ladies and gents - basically as I listened to the book I was picturing the Ang Lee movie with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, so finding out that the characters and their author were all crawling with lice was kind of a shock. It makes sense, of course, given the lack of running water and central heating at the time, but still. EW.

Next I am going to listen to Dombey and Son. At least Dickens was upfront about the effects of poor sanitation (the graveyard description in Bleak House, for example.)

But back to Austen. Listening to Sense and Sensibility I realized that not only are admirable male characters rare in Austen (most of the good men are kind of waxwork models of piety and virtue, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightly being the exceptions), but that it's all about the inner lives and landscape of women. I guess I knew that already, but I was finally like, 'Oh! That's why lots of men don't enjoy reading her - she's not writing for them.' Well, duh, right? Except that as a woman, of course I grew up reading all kinds of books which focus on the male experience (David Copperfield, Treasure Island, Tom Jones, Boswell's Life of Johnson - the list is endless) - because those books are so much more common than the female-centered ones - so it never occurred to me to be bored by reading about the experiences of men. I'd have run out of books pretty quickly.

Moving on. I've been reading (really reading, I mean, not listening) Hilary Mantel. She is wonderful - very dark and very funny. I'm on my third of her books and I admire her writing tremendously.

In other news, all five cats are still around and I'm/we're still agonizing over Zoe. I posted a question about euthanasia to the blog of a vet that I really like. Here's his answer. Definitely not easy. I do think Zoe's in pain, though our vet didn't agree the last time we saw him, and will try the painkiller test on her.

Somehow it's 8:30 already and I still need to vacuum (we are drowning in a sea of litter), clean the catboxes, and do my taxes (argh). And get to bed early, 'cause I need to be in the office by 8 tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

you don't HAVE to brush your teeth every two weeks, but you just might WANT to.

Katharine Weber said...

Hilary Mantel's memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, is quite extraordinary.