My Life in Middlemarch

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9780307984760: My Life in Middlemarch

A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth--Middlemarch--and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot's Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people," offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot's masterpiece--the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure--and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot's biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead's life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.

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Review:

Rebecca Mead on writing My Life in Middlemarch

I first read Middlemarch, which many critics consider the greatest novel in the English language, when I was seventeen. The novel tells the interweaving stories of several residents of a provincial town in the Midlands; but to describe it this way is a bit like describing Everest as a really tall, ice-covered mountain. In its psychological acuity and generosity of spirit, in the deftness of its humor and immensity of its intelligence, Middlemarch offers everything we go to books for. It’s awesome, in every sense of the word.

I’ve gone back to it every five years or so since, and every time I see something new. When I was an anxious, aspiring teenager, it seemed to be all about the anxieties and aspirations of youth. In my twenties, stumbling through misbegotten love affairs, it seemed to be about the meaning of love and marriage. In my thirties, establishing my career as a writer, the novel seemed to offer cautionary insight into how one might or might not achieve one’s ambitions. By the time I was forty, conscious of the doors of youth closing behind me, the book seemed to offer a melancholy insight into the resignations of middle age.

So revisiting Middlemarch by writing a book about it was also way of reckoning with the life I had lived so far: of looking at the choices I had made, the paths I had taken, and considering the alternative lives I had left unlived. For it, I read the diaries and letters of George Eliot, the book’s author, who was born Mary Ann Evans in 1819; I visited the places she had lived, and I read about the lives of people who had been close to her. Having started out as the humble daughter of a provincial land agent, Eliot transformed herself into one of the dominant intellectual forces of her era—first as an editor and critic for the most important London periodicals, and only later as a novelist. “One has to spend so many years in learning how to be happy,” she wrote to a friend when she was just twenty-four. She did find happiness: in love found late, and in a vocation discovered in maturity. “I feel very full of thankfulness for all the creatures I have got to love, all the beautiful and great things that are given to me to know, and I feel, too, much younger and more hopeful, as if a great deal of life and work were still before me,” Eliot wrote in 1861, when she was forty-one. Her greatest work was still before her: Middlemarch was ten years in the future.

I hope that I have written a book that can be read by people who haven’t read Middlemarch—though I also hope that my book will make those readers want to discover George Eliot’s masterpiece for themselves. I wanted to write a book that would speak to any passionate reader. Often, reading is thought of as escapism: we talk of “getting lost” in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and as I wrote My Life in Middlemarch I found that the novel spoke to me differently than it had during any of my earlier readings. Going back to Middlemarch gave me the chance to look at where I was in my life, and to ask myself how I had got there—and to think, with a renewed sense of hopefulness, about where I might go next.

About the Author:

REBECCA MEAD is a staff writer for The New Yorker. She is also the author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding and recently contributed a foreword to the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition of Middlemarch. She lives in Brooklyn.

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ISBN 10: 0307984761 ISBN 13: 9780307984760
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Descrizione libro Crown. 1 Cloth(s), 2014. hard. Condizione libro: New. (A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice and a Library Journal Best Book of 2014) New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read and fell in love with George Eliot's Middlemarch—"one of the few English novels written for grown-up people," as Virginia Woolf noted. Since then Mead has re-visited that fictional world many times, discovering new perspectives as she approached middle-age. In Mead's remarkable book ("part memoir, part biography, part literary appreciation, [and] . pure pleasure," proclaimed NPR) she traces Eliot's life, finds parallels to her own, and gives us a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories."Mead beautifully conveys the excitement of living in a novel, of knowing its characters as if they breathed, of revisiting them over time and seeing them differently. She conveys, too, not at all heavy-handedly, the particular relation one develops with an author whose work one loves. She notes the serendipitous overlaps: Mead, like Eliot, met her beloved husband in her thirties; like Eliot, she rejoices as a mother in her stepchildren; she finds that one inspiration for The Mill on the Floss was her childhood home of Radipole; and so on. She constructs Eliot as eminently lovable, tenderly excusing her youthful priggishness. There is a meticulous underlying order to the book, structured to honor Middlemarch itself, but as in a letter, the effect is of spontaneous movement, the particular thrill of following a mind untrammeled."—Bookforum 293. Codice libro della libreria 64374

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