Friday, August 12, 2016

Five great literary monomaniacs

At the Guardian, Charlotte Seager tagged five well-known literary obsessives who take things too far, including:
Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Another character glued to her past: Miss Havisham is consumed by despair at being jilted as a young woman, and harbours a lifelong fixation with a traumatic wedding day that never was. Her ghostly appearance is so odd that it terrifies Pip when he first meets her:
She was dressed in rich materials – satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table … I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.
Miss Havisham’s obsession manifests in her adopted daughter Estella, who she teaches to break hearts. But the irony of her predicament is that seeing Estella hurt Pip and others only causes her more pain, as she relives her own heartache. Miss Havisham suffers an operatic ending but at least this ensures that the desolate, dusty scene of her humiliation will not outlive her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Great Expectations appears on TheReadDown's list of seventeen books to read during wedding season, Phoebe Walker's list of eight of the best feasts quotes in literature, Rachel Cooke's top ten list of single women, Robert Williams's top ten list of loners in fiction, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Melissa Albert's list of five interesting fictional characters who would make undesirable roommates, Janice Clark's list of seven top novels about the horrors of adolescence, Amy Wilkinson's list of five books Kate Middleton should have read while waiting to give birth, Kate Clanchy's top ten list of novels that reflect the real qualities of adolescence, Joseph Olshan's list of six favorite books, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature, ten of the best appropriate deaths in literature, ten of the best castles in literature, ten of the best Hamlets, ten of the best card games in literature, and ten best list of fights in fiction. It also made Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books. The novel is #1 on Melissa Katsoulis' list of "twenty-five films that made it from the book shelf to the box office with credibility intact."

Read an 1861 review of Great Expectations.

--Marshal Zeringue