Friday, April 22, 2005

You Yourself are in Vanity Fair

I recently finished Thackeray's Vanity Fair. It's quite excellent; I highly recommend it. It's a lot to absorb, so I don't have much to say about it. One of the things that struck me in this reading (my first) was how the author goes out of his way to keep reminding the reader that they are reading a novel. And it is not difficult to see why, I think. Vanity Fair is not the world of the novel. You, I, the author -- we all are in Vanity Fair. Everyone passes through it in this world. The novel is just a sideshow in the Fair, a Performance; it has the Fair itself as a subject, but it is a Puppet Play, a distraction from the Vanity Fair that engulfs us all. Eventually we have to put the puppets up and go home, sitting down in a "not uncharitable frame of mind" to apply ourselves to our books or our business. Vanity Fair is not a novel; it is the world. The novel just gestures at it.

This looks like an interesting approach to the work.

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