Sunday, June 10, 2012

The "Magnificent" Ambersons

Warning: spoilers ahead. (Not that I'm recommending that you should ever waste your time reading this book, but if you somehow really had your heart set on it, skip this blog because it will ruin the ending for you. Inasmuch as a crappy book can be ruined, that is.)

Over the course of The Magnificent Ambersons, young George Amberson Minafer, or Georgie, has the following bad things happen to him:
  • His father dies.
  • Things don't work out with a girl he sort-of loves.
  • His mother dies.
  • His grandfather dies.
  • He loses absolutely all of his money (which wasn't really his anyway) and his personal belongings.
  • And he gets unceremoniously run over by a car, crushing both of his legs and maybe also some internal organs. At the close of the novel it is unclear whether or not he will ever recover from this accident, but the prognosis is not great.
What does it say about young G. A. Minafer, who has so many tragic things happen to him, that when that car hit him I was like, "WHOO YEAH! Get that little jerk!" I admit I was disappointed that he survived, and that the accident wasn't even more horrible. I wanted gore! Fantastic, elaborate, magnificent gore! There was, after all, a LOT of potential with a nitro-glycerin factory that proved to be all misdirection. Oh, well.

Louise's post sufficiently covers the neverending display of assholery that these characters, most especially Georgie, exhibit throughout the course of this book. I won't bore you by repeating it all over again, but seriously, these people are terrible, terrible assholes! Every mother of a son should read this as a cautionary tale about how NOT to raise a boy.

In spite of hating his main character with the fire of a thousand suns, I like Booth Tarkington's writing. He is wonderfully snarky and has a talent for description. Also, I believe he may have invented the use of air quotes, but you know, in writing. The first example of these quotation marks appears in the opening sentence, "Major Amberson had "made a fortune" in 1873, when other people were losing fortunes, and the magnificence of the Ambersons began then," and they're used abundantly thereafter. We'll read another of Tarkington's novels soon, since he is one of only three authors ever to win the prize twice, but I'm glad to have a novel in between. And the novel in between is Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, which I'm looking forward to both because I have a weak spot for Victorian novels, and also because if Martin Scorsese found it compelling enough to make into a movie it's got to be pretty good, right?

Here's hoping.

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