Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On Our Mutual Friend and Not Paying Attention

Desmond, maybe you should pick a different book to read before you die.

This book has been my cross to bear in our quest, as the Fountainhead has been Aurora's. I'll say straight off that I'm not much of a Dickens type, or at least that I haven't given him a chance at any point yet in my young life. So I'm probably not the person to have read this book. And I gave up on reading the words pretty early--Our Mutual Friend is in the public domain, so it's been recorded for Librivox as a Book on Tape, v 2.0 . Pretty good quality stuff to listen to. Of course it made it a lot easier to tune it out while I was at work trying to get actual work done.

So here's what you need to know. Our Mutual Friend is the book Desmond wants to be the last book he reads before he dies. It's where he keeps the fail-safe key. It's what he gets back when he gets out of Prison. It's wrapped up in rubberbands. It has something to do with how much he loves Penny, etc. etc.

Darlton have cited John Irving as their inspiration, since he wants it to be the last book he reads before he dies. What do I know about John Irving? Even less than I know about Charles Dickens. Does that deflate some of the mystery of Desmond's fascination with it? Perhaps.

Our Mutual Friend is wordy to the point of absurdity. Characters have funny, extra-long names, there are subplots about pubs and parents and the Thames and the doll's dressmaker. I think (I might be wrong) there's a lot of stuff that seems like filler but is actually serious A-Plot-enhancing B-plot. The book was originally published as a newspaper serial so eh, eh it's just like a serial television show! Um...so now I'm going to do some bullet points, in the interest of not betraying just how little sunk in.

  • Social class (read MONEY) issues: There are poor people who got rich, rich people who are jerks, poor people trying to get rich in bad ways....basically a lot of stuff about what bad things bad people will do for money and how good people are good regardless of money or lack thereof. Money (3.2 million dollars?) is becoming an increasingly important factor on LOST. Come to think of it, it always has been (Hurley and the lottery, Sawyer's cons, Sun selling Jin out to her dad to pay his mom, Michael losing Walt to Walt's rich jerk mom, Kate's Australian farmer's mortgage...we could probably dredge up something for everybody)..Maybe it's that money is just omnipresent in life anyway, but I think it's a bigger deal than that. Come to think of it, there's a lot about how money doesn't matter on the Island (see Expose). And it's probably going to be a challenge for the Oceanic Six back in the real world. I think the money things important--but I think it's intrinsically evil in Lost, in Our Mutual Friend, it's really only a problem for the low-lifes who are clawing for it. Unless you think Widmore and Ben are more scheming low-lifes than Big Bads.
  • Love stories that transcend these issues: Desmond and Penelope are in good company with John Harmon and Bella Wilfer. Except it's sort of reversed. In Our Mutual Friend, John Harmon is secretly rich and Bella is of a bit lower station than him, and their love is set up from the beginning. And even after The Constant, I still doubt Penny's original intentions a little. I feel like she just knows too much about the freighter--she's going to have some splainin to do...I think there's a possibility that she's part of Widmore's plot but either doesn't understand the seriousness of it or is going to use it to her (and Desmond's) advantage. Ok..complicated class-crossing love stories.
  • Resurrection stories: John Harmon is presumed dead, because a body with his papers on it is found in the Thames. He takes on a new identity so he can approach the girl he is supposed to marry. In the end, he is finally able to reveal his true self (back from the dead, in a sense!). There's also another sequence that I actually managed to pay some attention to, in which another character nearly drowns, is brought back from near-death, and goes on at some length about his resurrection. Hmm...In exciting drowning and near drowning news (tiny spoiler alert), a body's going to wash up on the beach and Jack's going to try to identify it! There are sort of a disturbing number of people it could be. A little chains we forged in life eh?
  • Daddy issues: John Harmon can only get his dad's money if he successfully marries Bella (and I think at some point previous to this deal, his dad disowned him). Bella loves her dad more than anybody in the world but lets the Boffin's adopt her for a while. Lizzie Hexam loves her dad too and is pretty bummed out when he dies.....Fathers and daughters are important in this book. Mostly fathers and sons in Lost, but either way, mothers are absent or vaguely unpleasant. I don't know what to do with this but I know it's important...Ben and Alex? Meh.
  • That Serialization stuff. Yeah. Thank goodness for newspaper serials for giving some pre-existing pattern for television to follow. Thank goodness for television serials for improving upon the concept. Not that they are better than Dickens, just that serial form one chunk at a time is better on TV I am guessing.
So there we go.
Our Mutual Friend. The end.
Next up, the Invention of Morel, which was so short I had to pay attention to it.

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