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Thursday, December 29, 2011

John P. Marquand - The Late George Apley

Sitting here in Starbucks on a Thursday morning, I read the last 90 pages here in the sweet smells of coffee and a variety of incongruos music. I can't find the particular reading mental energy from my apartment. I haven't read very much in my apartment since my wife and I moved to Lombard, IL. I find in my own recollection of this project that many things in mine and Drew's life has changed considerably. Though this project remains the same, same goals, same challenges, but the entire tone of that which we do now has changed. The motivations seem the same, but viewed in a different light given our different courses in our recent past.

When Drew and I began this project, we were so full of hope for what the future held for either one of us in the scope of this journey and our friendship. Several sharp turns later, especially for Drew, and we arrive at this current moment different people, changed for better or worse. I find this to be a central issue raised during the course of this project and especially raised in the novel I just finished.

John P. Marquand's The Late George Apley is a novel about a landed Bostonian arsitocrat during a time difficult, challenging, and potentially causing the existinction of everything he ever loved. Marquand picks his setting, timing, and contexts very well to execute his agenda against this character, but I found the novel not too one thing nor another which was very frustrating. Drew read this work a little while ago, and we talked about it before I began reading it. I have chosen the last few novels I have read by the website which generates a random number for me. I just plug in that the my minumum in 1918 the year the project began, and my maximum of 2010 which is the last year we had before we began this project. Nevertheless, Drew and i talk about this novel before I began it and he had a very ambivalent view of this work. As you can track over the course of this conversation between Drew and I we often have simliar reactions to books, where neither one of us have loved while the other has hated a particular work. Often if we have differing reactions they are shades of gray of one another where I believe I quite liked Martin Dressler where Drew was luke-warm to it, and the like. This novel proves no different for our track record. I remain ambivalent toward this novel with a strange conflicted like and dislike for it.

There are several aspects of this novel that I like very much such as the character development and the format that Marquand chose to pioneer it seems in this novel. His use of personal and professional tones through personal and professional letters written by Apyley was incredible. Marquand is a master of voice. Marquand can change tones and directions on a dime, and you never have to look back to the beginning of the paragraph to figure out who is talking because the voices of the different characters are stark and alarmingly distinct.

The aspects of this work that I couldn't stand were some of the things that Drew and I talked about before I begain reading such as: the idea that this work is a satire of the Boston elite. I have nothing but glowing approval of well-done satire even if it limits the work due to the nature of satire to the context of its own time and concerns. There are several conflicts that are so universal that can stand the test of time but often this is not the case. Apley I think can stand the test of time if it is made obvious to the reader that this is in fact a satire but not one that is terribly funny. Given these parameters the jury is out as to whether this novel works as a true satire at all. Certain aspects can only be seen as purely satire, but much of the novel is completely genuine and emotionally quite evocative. I am very uncertain about this book, but is was a pleasant read, and I am glad it is over.


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