With exquisite timing, I have caught the virus that my son and his girlfriend brought back from the Reading music festival. It began with 36 hours of the worst neuralgia I’ve ever had, and then mutated into your more average fluey-virus-thing. So, the writing course begins its first week without much input from me so far, my son cheerfully plays computer games and catches up with his friends but packs no bags before his departure to university this weekend, and I have still to catch up with comments on your blogs and emails and all the other things I really need to be doing. Please bear with me – I hope very much to at least post something here before the end of the week as there are already things I’d like to tell you about the writing course.
All I’ve managed to do so far is listen to the first third or so of Jane Austen’s Emma. I’ve reached the part where Frank Churchill comes to stay and is already leading Emma astray by tempting her into being rude about local people, and especially into taking her envy of Jane Fairfax out in conversation about her. It is so well observed by Austen that the scene is almost painful. But it only makes me more convinced that the marriage between Emma and Knightley is doomed to be an unhappy one. It’s a marriage to satisfy the superego – Emma takes it as punishment for having been so silly and egotistical, and Knightley, who has always enjoyed reprimanding her, wins a lifetime to do more of the same. But given that people don’t change, or not as intrinsically as that, they cannot make one another happy. Emma is too fond of her own flaws and far too much in need of validation to be satisfied by stern, critical George Knightley. And Knightley is going to find himself married to a woman who can’t help but meddle and gossip and behave in ways he will ultimately find very trying, not least because she will have failed to heed his firmly stated advice. He’s a man who will require perfect obedience, and Emma is far too stubbornly self-willed and used to having her own way. It’s intriguing how Austen makes it work out so optimistically on paper, though I feel it’s the good girl part of her getting somewhat out of control. It comes from thinking the best of her characters, I feel sure.
And in the absence of anything more sensible from me, I’m hoping to be able to send you the link to a short video that came from my nephew via his mother, Mr Litlove’s sister, and which I found most entertaining. If you like French films, cats or existential despair, you’ll love this.