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Her life in Middlemarch

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2014

Rebecca Mead’s new book comes out today, My Life in Middlemarch. The New Yorker has an excerpt adapted from the book about George Eliot’s biggest fan, Alexander Main.

My copy of “Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings,” which I bought a few years ago from a secondhand bookseller, is the tenth edition, from 1896, which gives Main an enviably long time on the back-list. When I thumb through its pages of quotations, some of them extending for more than a page, printed in a font size that has me reaching for reading glasses, I am overcome by a dreadful sense of depletion. I can think of no surer way to be put off the work of George Eliot than by trying to read the “Wise, Witty, and Tender Sayings.” On any given page is an out-of-context pronouncement — “iteration, like friction, is likely to generate heat instead of progress” — or a phrase so recondite that it requires several readings before it can be parsed. Main’s book is the nineteenth-century equivalent of the refrigerator magnet.

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