Thursday, 23 January 2014

Guardian Books Blog: TV and literature - the great crossover






sex on TV, sex among the viewers?






Today’s entry appeared on the Guardian books blog, and takes the line that although we all know that television is lowbrow and probably bad for us and the world, it is possible that the lives of some people in books might have been improved if only they had had some extra entertainment.

These are the opening paragraphs:

Sometimes, when reading the great classics, the books that teach us about relationships and the world and love, the lives lived and the situations dealt with – well, I can’t help feeling that some of them could have benefited hugely from TV. And those wonderful characters – mightn’t they have improved their lot as participants in those shows we dislike so much? Or at least had more fun…

In Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley there’s a scene where three of the main characters are spending the evening together, and Robert generously decides to read Shakespeare aloud to the ladies. Hortense says:

“When the gentleman of a family reads, the ladies should always sew. Caroline, dear child, take your embroidery. You may get three sprigs done tonight.” Caroline looked dismayed.

YES, of course she did. In what world is that preferable to their all settling in to bond over Educating Yorkshire? They would have loved it, given that they live in Yorkshire and Robert is keen on educating Caroline, so it would count as serious telly rather than entertainment. 

Dorothea, the good wife, dusts the TV

Then, take George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and the miserable marriage of Dorothea and Casaubon. Suppose they had been able to watch Mastermind together, and she’d let him congratulate himself on how well he did, listened perhaps to his pedantic criticism of wording of questions: ‘I think you’ll find that actually…’ Might they have been happier together?

READ ON AT THE GUARDIAN BOOKS BLOG HERE


Junior Jockey - the audition

It can be noted from the comments under the piece that some Guardian readers found this concept rather shocking and did NOT approve. Unsurprisingly, I disagree, and think it was an entertaining and possibly even illuminating idea…. Please comment below to tell me what you think.

The Girls of Slender Means and The Group have both featured on the blog, along with Brideshead Revisited, Dickens, Noel Streatfeild auditions and National Velvet.

12 comments:

  1. A few commentators perhaps in need of an enema?

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  2. Guardian readers still think TV is lowbrow and bad for you? Haven't they moved on to Facebook now? (Thinking it's vulgar, I mean.)

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    1. I think they can take in that both are low-rent, and prob Twitter too... my dear - the noise, the people.

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  3. Moira - Oh, I loved your post!! So witty and I love your description of Madame Bovary! Let's face it; television definitely has a role to play. Hmmm........I'm already thinking of a few Agatha Christie and other crime novels where what and when characters tune in plays a role in the story. Hmmmm....... Thanks :-)

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Margot, much appreciated. And I'm hoping you might just be inspired to do a blogpost, this would make a great topic for you too....

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  4. Hercule Poirot would like the way a television looks when it's off, too, because it square (ish).
    Jane Austen's characters - Lucy Steele determined to get on to a reality TV show and catch a man to enhance her celebrity. Lydia Bennett/ Wickham does! Lady Catherine as the presenter of a show tell people that their clothes and their lives and their houses are All Quite Wrong. Mrs Bennett causing her family far less stress with the "baby-sitter in the corner" to put her down in front of... And once she sees Pemberley on the Antiques Roadshow...

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  5. Oh yes, all brilliant. Thank you! And surely meddling Emma could find a show where she could mentor some young person....

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  6. This is too funny! And to be totally up front (in reference to one of the snide comments after the piece on the Guardian site), I actually *don't* have TV, and I don't miss it a bit (for real - no TV since 1988) - but I got all the references and have caught snippets enough of the mentioned TV shows while out and about to snicker happily at the thought of literary lives improved by the box. The Dickens reference was particularly marvelous. And I enjoyed all of the suggestions which commenters with senses-of-humour-fully-functional made, both there and here.

    Sure, it's a fluff piece, but it is clever and it is funny, and unless one is literary one wouldn't "get" it, so it definitely works.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, they are much appreciated. Can't let comments worry me, and they are entitled to their opinion, but I was surprised that they seemed to think I had just made a list of books and randomly assigned TV shows, whereas (as you so kindly noted) it was long thought out...

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  7. I am really surprised so many people were offended by the piece. And so vocal. When my son was young we did not have a TV, and for years we had a bad opinion of TV, but for in recent years we have found many fun and entertaining shows on TV. Maybe it is the change in us... but I think the acting is getting better and the writing is improving. Of course that isn't the point of the piece. And I thought it was great.

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    1. Thank you Tracy - we watched very little TV when my children were growing up: they really did prefer to do other things. Now they have gone, we watch a bit more, and the children make great fun of that! I really appreciate your comments - the opinions of people I respect are important.

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