Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Room With A View and A Trip to Florence

There's nothing as perfect as reading a novel set in an "exotic" setting while one is traveling there. Thus thought the geniuses at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, who set a slim volume of Forster's tasty Florentine morsel, A Room With A View next to register where I was about to tally up the Botticelli and Titian postcards I had snatched.

Of course, having thought about the book and movie constantly during my ten days in Italy, I eagerly grabbed it and added it to my bag to re-read on the train or share with my brother, who had also read it before but attacked it again eagerly.

But even as I clutched my purchase, I didn't realize how much pleasure the book would bring me. It's not often that you find a Victorian, a high modernist, or in this case a Victorian/modernist bridge novel that classifies as "light reading." But that's exactly what Room is. It's funny, it's sweet, it's clever and it's short and breezy. And it's oddly relevant today--except Lucy Honeychurch, in thrall to the provinical values of her upbringing, would probably be a midwestern American with rebellious tendencies and George Emerson would be some sort of eccentric expat artiste.

Anyway, for those who haven't read it, ARWAV is about what happens when Lucy, a sensible young English lady, who lives very primly but plays Beethoven with a frightening passion, goes off to Florence with her overbearing cousin, Ms. Bartlett. Against the background of Italian sensuality, both beautiful and frightening, she discovers an unasked-for connection with a pair of oddballs, father and son, who manage to break every fastidious social rule in the book and alienate the other guests at their Pensione.

But poor Lucy is so awakened and turned by all of this that she grows frightened of her transformation and she flees away to Rome and into the arms of the effete, well-mannered liberally-principled Cecil Vyse.

The scene moves back to England and its genteel, localized charms, and the now affianced Lucy must eventually confront the feelings she repressed. To what end her reconsiderations take her, I shall omit as it's a spoiler.

But I will say that unlike A Passage to India, this is a bright, optimistic book, and if Lucy represents the future of England on some level, it's clear Forster loves his country but hopes for a better, more open-minded future for it. As for his Italy, it's something of a caricature with murders and makeout sessions and general high color everywhere, but it has its moments of truth. Certainly Lucy is not the first English-speaker to set foot on "the continent" and realize that across the pond, or channel, passions and desires are all dealt with on the surface in a way that puritan-influence still curtails in our country today.

As for my trip to Italy, and whether it awakened any latent socialist bohemian tendencies, those were already there, so no! But it did have the power of making me appreciate again just how therapeutic it is to be somewhere that's so goddamn gorgeous all the time. And with the food, the wine, the sun and scenery, my NYC self was (almost) overstimulated to the point of exhaustion. But not quite.

As an aside, I hear there's going to be an Andrew Davies remake of A Room With a View, which is very exciting--though the original film will be tough to beat.

picture of the Ponte Vecchio, Firenze by yours, truly.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post! I have always adored that movie, but never picked up the book. I will fix that very soon.