Monday, August 11, 2008

The House of the Seven Gables: the Jacqui's Room Notes

In which I offend Hawthorne fans everywhere.

The House of the Seven Gables, a ten word synopsis:

All the coffee in Brazil would still not be enough.

The jacket flap for my Penguin/Putnam edition of this book says:

"This is a tale of an evil house, cursed through the centuries by a man who was hanged for witchcraft, haunted by the ghosts of its sinful dead, racked by the fear of its frightened living."

Yeah, boyee! Sounds awesome, right? Also, according to the jacket flap, the bad guy, Jaffrey Pyncheon, is:

"a devil incarnate whose greedy quest for secret wealth is marked by murder and terrible vengeance from a restless grave."

Whoa! How can this not be the most exciting thing I've read yet?!

Yeah. Well. I am 100% positive the author of this jacket flap has never read this book. Most likely, she fell asleep despite having drunk a six-pack of Red Bull. Then she had haunting, fantastic dreams which she mistook for this book and described on the jacket flap.

In fact, the most interesting thing about this book is that the sort of main character's name is Hepzibah, which, in addition to being a cool name, is also the name of a character in another book I read for the 15 Classics in 15 Weeks challenge. Literary Trivia Champion points to the person who can name that other book in the comments.*

I grant you, I did not give Hawthorne the attention he deserves due to being unable to read more than two pages at a time before falling asleep distracted by the move. Please, someone prove me wrong in the comments. Why am I supposed to love this book?! Any Hawthorne fans out there? Anyone? Bueller?

I will try harder on my ten word synopsis. How about this?

Fascinating back story.
100 pages: nothing happens.
Insipid happy ending.

On to Faulkner's Light in August. What are you reading this week?

* No fair participating, Lizard, since you were the literary queen who originally pointed this out to me.


Kristi Valiant said...

A haiku (in 10 words too!):

raging storm tosses
the Robinsons alone to
explore the unknown

I loved The Swiss Family Robinson. It was a fun book. I've never read The House of the Seven Gables, but it doesn't sound enjoyable to me. Thanks for the warning!

I'm reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea this week. So far it's fabulous - much like The Swiss Family Robinson in that it's an exploring book.

Diane T said...

Strange. I really enjoyed House of the Seven Gables. I thought the writing was poetic if a bit purply, but the plot was simple enough, I thought Hepzibah was a cool name (and an interesting character to be featured in a romance), and I thought the themes regarding family inheritance and land ownership said a lot about the American era in which Hawthorne was writing.

Of course, I could have been just so relieved not to be reading about whale heads that I overlooked the innate dullness of the plot. :-)

Jacqui said...

Mmm, Kristi. I like your haiku much. You are having such good book adventures this summer!

Diane, you are right, of course. Everyone, you can read a more intelligent, less whiny description of the Hawthorne here.

Mary Witzl said...

I've always wanted to read 'House of the Seven Gables', but I can't say you make it sound riveting here!

Three years ago, I finally read Henry James' 'Daisy Miller' -- another book I'd always wanted to read. Dear God, was I bored. The story could have been interesting, but I found the dialogue endlessly repetitive (I get to use hyperbole when describing it, right?) and I swear you could have cut 65% of the text out and ended up with a better book. In fact, reading this was a useful experience for me: it made me realize just how wordy my own writing is and how potentially yawn-inducing that is. I went away from 'Daisy Miller' with a resolve to write more like Hemingway, less like James.

I've got to try 'House of the Seven Gables' -- though I suspect like Diane, the very fact that it doesn't involve a lot of whale heads may predispose me to liking it.

Jacqui said...

Mary, you are also right: the whole idea is to learn for our own writing. I think what I learned from the Hawthorne is the importance of choosing the time frame for your book. What part of the story are you going to tell? The back story in this was much more exciting to me (and, I think, to Hawthorne) than the present tense.

Elise Murphy said...

Well, yes, I liked the Scarlet Letter but in my defense I hadn't read more than two or so works of literary fiction at that point.

I just finished Breaking Dawn - another book of staggering literary merit.

Um, and now, I'm on to . . . finishing the last season of Torchwood (she says with some shame and great anticipation).

Plus, my bookclub is reading SOMETHING this month that I'll have to cram for at the last minute.

ephelba said...

When I was growing up I was given a set of classics bound in leather. By the time I was ten I had read every one but that one. And every year I would drag it out. And every year I wouldn't be able to get past the first page. I eventually I decided either it was a bad book or I was a stupid reader, but either way I was done trying.

Write2ignite said...

It has been many moons since I read this particular book, but I remember really enjoying it. Hawthorne does have a way with words that may not be 100% in jive with today's literary works. However, I'm a big fan of C.S. Lewis who, though a pure genius (in my opinion), was quite long-winded and extremely descriptive, too.

If a story is set in anything other than "NOW", I like more backstory and description. I get a feeling of where I am and what's been going on in my absence. Yes, I like to feel as if I've just dropped in on a real situation and am part of the story. I have to know all the gossip, author's notes and backstory in order to really feel part of the adventure.

Did that sound too far out there? Probably. Do I care much? Um, no. :) :)

Donna (who is still adamant about NOT reading Moby Dick)