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The Sound & the Fury

By William Faulkner, 1929, Nightmare of Depravity

Grade:F-Sensuality:Highly Perverted

Usually I enjoy older romances, classics like the novels of Heyer and Austen, Ferber and Hurst. But I have to say that I do not care for Mr. Faulkner’s work at all. He seems to have no idea of how to write a romance novel. Indeed, I very nearly suspect that The Sound & the Fury isn’t a romance at all, though as my reading is strictly confined to the genre, I couldn’t imagine what else it could be.

From what I understood, the entire story is about a little girl with muddy drawers, in a pear tree, peering through a window at her grandmother’s funeral and reporting on it to her brothers on the ground. And it’s downhill from there.

The heroine appears to be the little girl, Caddy Compson. I can’t be certain of that, however, because the book is told entirely from the first person point of view of her brothers, Benjy, Quentin and Jason, and the third person view of the African American (in the book called “Negro”) servant Dilsey. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be a hero at all.

The first section makes no sense whatsoever. I suppose the author was trying to make a bow to political correctness by having a mentally disabled person narrate his book, but the result is simply incoherent. The second section is little better in lucidity, and is absolutely disgusting. Quentin openly tries to engage Caddy in incest, and attempts to drive away her suitors. As I am sure no one will want to read this book, I won’t be spoiling anything by telling you that Quentin commits suicide after his sister’s wedding.

The third section, thankfully, makes some sense. Jason is apparently the only sane person in this family, and his efforts to care for his mother are heartwarming.

In the final section, Jason’s ungrateful niece, Caddy’s illegitimate daughter, runs off with a bigamist and all of Jason’s savings. After that is some meaningless description of Dilsey in church and Benjy’s buggy ride.

All in all, I find it inconceivable that Mr. Faulkner could have described Caddy as his “heart’s darling.” She clearly has sexual impulses, is promiscuous, and ends up being the mistress of a Nazi general! This is an awful, awful book, and the author is obviously sexist, racist, homophobic (while secretly gay himself), and a drunk.

— Mrs. Robinson (who hopes, if you wish to read a Nobel Prize winner, that you will read The Sun Also Rises, which has a happy ending)

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë, 1847, European Historical Romance


People have called Jane Eyre a classic of English literature. But these people could not have been contemporary romance readers, because we are much too discerning and critical to praise a book full of inconsistencies, unrealistic coincidences and whining protagonists, right?

I won’t give you any details about the beginning, because it is so conventional, full of cardboard villains and fire-and-brimstone clergymen. About 200 pages into the book, we are still wondering when the romance will finally begin. Well, things get going when Jane becomes a governess (surprise!) in the mansion of Mr. Rochester, a tortured hero par excellence. He hardly does anything but frown, growl, shout or sulk, and he is not even redeemed by a particular handsomeness. Did I mention that he is also about twenty years older than the heroine? The only good feature I could find about him is his “considerable breadth of chest,” but of course we don’t get a good look at the rest of his body because he constantly wears those stiff-necked cravats and shirts. He should really have followed the example of our romance heroes who frequently strut around half-naked, with tight to bursting breeches.

The romance between Jane and Rochester is marred by some trite plot devices like the cross-dressing motif: Rochester disguises as a gipsy woman, and everyone takes his masquerade at face value – sure, we all assume that gipsy women are broad-shouldered, brawny and have a deep voice and imposing figure… Jane is disgustingly gullible and does not become the slightest bit suspicious, even after the house almost burns down and a mysterious stranger is stabbed in the middle of the night. Wouldn’t you smell a rat by then? But Jane is so smitten with Rochester that she lets herself be appeased by threadbare excuses.

I still don’t know why she falls for such a moody man, who is utterly boring as a romance hero: no groping, no passionate kisses, no premarital sex… Jane, Ms. Prim and Proper (add Prudish if you wish), is not too exciting, either. We never know whether her legs go all wobbly after their first kiss, whether her heartbeat goes into overdrive, or whether instantaneous combustion is threatening – but we may doubt it. I cannot imagine Jane otherwise than lying in bed, closing her eyes and thinking of England while Rochester delicately lifts her nightgown. How these two people came by their children is beyond me, but then maybe the stork still delivered them in Victorian England.

Add to all this a lengthy separation, unbelievable supernatural elements, a big secret, adultery (and even attempted bigamy – yuck), an over-the-top tragedy, a cop-out ending, and you have all silly plot devices and major pet peeves rolled into one book. How then could it stand a chance of gaining a place on our keeper shelf? At best it would collect dust in the remotest corner of our bookcase, at worst it would end up in some box filled with books we always wanted to trade in.

Vivien Fritsche

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë, 1847, European Historical Romance

Grade:DSensuality:Close to non-existent

I usually make great concessions to inexperienced writers, since I’m aware mastering the craft takes a long time. This time, however, I’m showing no mercy to a first work. Miss Brönte is helpless.

First, the heroine: Jane Eyre. I didn’t care for her. She is an ingrateful, perverse girl who is completely impervious to the love of her aunt and cousins. She’s so dense she doesn’t understand the playful attentions the children bestow on her mean that they care. John, Eliza and Georgina Reed are healthy, gracious and happy kids. They are lovely characters, full of life and energy. It’s a shame they were so little developed.

You see how weak a writer Miss Brönte is when her heroine is sent to an all-girl’s orphanage. Why not co-ed? She obviously considered that interaction between the opposite sexes was above her level of skill. The reader is then faced with sappy, superficial descriptions of Jane’s few friendships and long pages of the boring routine she is faces. This part could be totally cut out without any problem to the story.

And what a sorry excuse for a hero Mr. Rochester is! He’s not tall neither handsome. Miss Brönte makes a great effort to make him seem attractive, but she fails. Worse: she says nothing of his masculine assets. The reader is left to wonder how well-endowed the man is. I was sorely disappointed.

The last chance of salvation is lost when the delightful Miss Blanche Ingram is introduced. For some exciting pages, I thought the real heroine had at least showed her face. I was wrong, and angry, but I have to admit that Miss Brönte showed some sense making her refuse the man. I strongly urge the author to make Miss Ingram the main character of her next novel. It may save Miss Brönte from the pit of despair she certainly faces at this point.

The plot goes on in the most unbelievable fashion. Ingredients include one crazy woman, one fortune fallen from heaven, and one fire. Miss Brönte seems to be an fervent disciple of Sidney Sheldon. Her literary gifts, however, are much inferior to his, so she never accomplishes the same effect.

Also, the sensuality levels were incredibly low. You never see Rochester daydreaming about ripping Jane’s clothes out, or yearning to taste her lips. I think that if he had showed her how well he could handle his manroot, she wouldn’t had fled when she discovered he was a lying bigamyst. In a few words, Miss Brönte: don’t leave you day job yet.

— Ludmila Siqueira Amaral

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