The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK IV., ix.-xiv.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverA couple of bonus chapters to catch up…

We start off with Molly’s mother and sisters attacking her for being with child—an illegitimate child. Molly points to the hypocrisy of her mother—Molly’s oldest sister is 1 week younger than her parent’s marriage. Mom is having none of it. Her parents are trying to push her into Service at the Western’s, but she refuses and in the end, her mother will take the position. Molly’s refusal is because she’s convinced that her “Gentleman” will provide for her and the child much better.

The next night, Tom dines with Sophie, Squire Western and the local Parson. The Parson goes on about Molly and her condition, going on about the Bastard she’s carrying. Tom leaves the meal in a haste, prompting Squire Western to opine that Tom’s the father. This shows Sophie her true feelings about Tom while the Parson regrets the way this will lower Tom in Allworthy’s view.

Molly is about to be taken to a house of correction over her pregnancy when Tom claims the child as his own and begs for mercy from Mr. Allworthy. Allworthy relents and sends her home to her parents, lectures Tom and then goes off by himself for an evening of “melancholy Contemplation.” He’s a man of high morals and is horribly disappointed in Tom’s actions—but

whatever Detestation Mr. Allworthy had to this or to any other Vice, he was not so blinded by it but that he could discern any Virtue in the guilty Person, as clearly indeed as if there had been no Mixture of Vice in the same Character. While he was angry therefore with the Incontinence of Jones, he was no less pleased with the Honour and Honesty of his Self-accusation. He began now to form in his Mind the same Opinion of this young Fellow, which, we hope, our Reader may have conceived. And in balancing his Faults with his Perfections, the latter seemed rather to preponderate.

Nevertheless, Square takes this opportunity to twist and spin these events to convince Allworthy that Tom has only been Black George’s friend in order to corrupt Molly, and succeded to stamp “in the Mind of Allworthy the first bad Impression concerning Jones.”

Sophie is now battling with herself, resolved not to have anything to do with Tom any more and to stop loving him—she falls for him again and again every time she sees him. So she tries to avoid him, even coming up with a plan to visit her Aunt.

But Fortune, who had other Designs in her Head, put an immediate Stop to any Proceeding, by introducing an Accident, which will be related in the next Chapter.

What brings her to this accident? Well…

Mr. Western grew every Day fonder and fonder of Sophia, insomuch that his beloved Dogs themselves almost gave Place to her in his Affections; but as he could not prevail on himself to abandon these, he contrived very cunningly to enjoy their Company, together with that of his Daughter, by insisting on her riding a hunting with him.

While hunting, her horse got a little whiled and she was almost thrown from it. Tom arrives in the nick of time and catches her before she falls (and is likely trampled). He breaks his arm doing so, but shrugs off the injury.

Sophie stops fighting her feelings for Tom and Tom realizes that he has some for her.

There’s a whole lot of words involved in progressing things just a hair—but the best parts of this book isn’t so much about the story, but about the way that Fielding is telling it. As such, there’s a whole lot to enjoy in this part of the journey. Nothing as enjoyable as in some weeks, nothing as dull as in others—just a lot of pleasantness. Works for me.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK IV., v.-viii.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverI love the title to Chapter V so much, “Containing matter accommodated to every taste.” Chapter titles are such a lost art (and one I too often ignore even in good books).

To say the Truth, Sophia, when very young, discerned that Tom, though an idle, thoughtless, rattling Rascal, was nobody’s Enemy but his own; and that Master Blifil, though a prudent, discreet, sober young Gentleman, was at the same Time strongly attached to the Interest only of one single Person; and who that single Person was the Reader will be able to divine without any Assistance of ours.

Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? Alas,

as to Design upon her Person he had none; for which we shall at present suffer the Reader to condemn him of Stupidity

He treats her well, and seems to regard her with more respect than any others, but he doesn’t think of her “that” way. Still, he’s able to use her regard for him to get Sophia to persuade her father to hire Black George as a game keeper.

Then we get some explanations for why Tom is guilty of Stupidity regarding Sophia—while admiring him for treating her well and not trying to take advantage of her for her father’s money. Part of the reason for it is Black George’s second child, Molly. Molly is described as a good person, good looking, but less than ideally feminine—demonstrated in part by the way she pursues Tom. To Tom’s credit, for modesty’s sake, he avoids her.

There’s some more back and forth with Thwackum and Square about Tom and his morality, I’m not going to get into the details, it’s pretty much the same song, different verse. Technically, Tom’s wrong and they’re right, but his motives and inclinations are admirable and that’s what Allworthy focuses on. I’m not saying it’s not good reading, but it’s getting a bit repetitive.

Fun stuff, I like the way the narrator is so besotted by Sophie that he’s condemning Tom while conceding he’s right about the way he treats her.

Top 5 Saturday: Trilogies


The Top 5 Saturday weekly meme was created by Amanda at Devouring Books.

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic—these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people (I probably won’t do this bit, play along if you want)

This week’s topic is: Trilogies. I immediately wrote down three of these, and then thought a bit and came up with 8 more. I whittled those down to five—the ones that had the biggest impact on me/my development as a reader. I left a lot of good candidates out, but at the end of the day, these are the biggies for me. I’ve read them all multiple times (except #4, honestly—only read that twice), and would gladly do so again tomorrow (well, okay, in three weeks, am too busy in the meantime).


The Foundation Trilogy
by
Isaac Asimov

Hari Seldon, uber-mathematician, creates a new science combining mathematics and social sciences to predict (and shape) how humanity will react to the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire. He uses this science to come up with a way to shape the future, helping humanity survive the challenges on their way. I read this sooo many times in high school—for years it served as the ruler by which I judged all SF. Also, other than his Black Widowers mysteries, my favorite works by Asimov.

Yeah, there were a couple of sequels (not nearly as good) and other related works, but these were a trilogy for so many years, I have no problem ignoring the others.


The Deed of Paksenarrion
by
Elizabeth Moon

Wow. This is just…wow. Rather than submit to the arranged marriage her father has planned, Paksenarrion, takes off and joins the army. Eventually is trained and recognized as a Paladin. A fantastic hero’s journey that I wish I remembered more of. I remember being blown away by it and hating that the trilogy ended.


The Barrytown Trilogy
by
Roddy Doyle

Can I talk about these in less than 1500 words? These books focus on the Rabbitte family in Dublin. The first chronicles the oldest son’s attempts to launch his career as the manager of The Commitments, the second is about the very unplanned pregnancy of the eldest daughter (and her father’s struggle to accept it—followed by his outrageous pride for the kid), and the last focuses on the father’s attempt to provide for his family after he becomes unemployed by opening a chip van (a precursor to today’s food truck obsession). They’re all as funny as you could hope, full of hope, sadness, and love. I’m getting excited just by writing this snipped about them.


The Dragonlance Chronicles
by
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, and Dragons of Spring Dawning were my obsession in eighth grade—one I shared with as many people as I could. I’m pretty sure the fantasy I respond to today is the fruit of these books. And I’m totally okay with that. Say what you will about the quality of these, they hold a special place in my heart (right above the cockles, near the blockage on the right)


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy
by
Douglas Adams

Was there any doubt? I can’t stop talking about Adams/This Trilogy (see my Annual Towel Day posts, for example). From the moment I read the first chapter (three or four times before I moved on to Chapter 2) to the point when I heard the radio series to getting the planet icon tattooed on my arm to today and all points between. This Trilogy has been at or near the top of my list, and will stay there for a long time to come.

I maybe should’ve added Colfer’s 6th volume, but…I decided to go old school.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK IV., i.-iv.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverWe left off last week with the promise to meet

the intended Heroine of this Work, a Lady with whom we ourselves are greatly in Love, and with whom many of our Readers will probably be in Love too before we part

Before we meet her, we open Book IV with a little commentary on the Arts, how Heroes and Heroines are depicted and the like as a way to show us the excellency of this Heroine—Miss Sophia Western. Fielding goes on and on for pages about her—an introduction to her character, a description of her and all the wonderful things about her.

Then he recounts a story about young Tom, Sophia and Master Blifil. Blifil acts like a conniving bully, Tom does the right thing and Sophia suffers from the former’s antics and is comforted by the latter. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the beginning of a trend.

I enjoyed the introduction to Sophia and am looking forward to getting to know her better. I really don’t have much else to say about this week’s installment.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK III., vii.-x.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverAs I noted last week, Mrs. Blifil’s affection toward Tom was increasing (perhaps too much), and as that happened, her regard for her own son decreased. This keeps happening throughout this book—I’m not sure why everyone’s affections operate like seesaws here, but that’s the way it seems to be.

Case in point, when Mr. Allworthy saw Master Blifil being disliked by his own mother, “began, on that Account only, to look with an Eye of Compassion upon him.” Seeing “every Appearance of Virtue in the You thro’ the magnifying End, and viewed all his Faults with the Glass inverted, so that they became scarce perceptible.” And as that happened, guess what changes with Tom?

that poor Youth, (however innocent) began to sink in his Affections as he rose in hers. This, it is true would of itself alone never have been able to eradicate Jones form his Bosom; but it was greatly injurious to him, and prepared Mr. Allworthy’s Mind for those Impressions which afterwards produced the mighty Events, that will be contained hereafter in this History; and to which it must be confest, the unfortunate Lad, by his own Wantonness, Wildness, and Want of Caution, too much contributed.

In other words, this is going to prove to be important later—though ol’ Tommy Boy doesn’t do himself any favors.

This leads our Author to make an appearance in the text “by way of Chorus on the Stage,” to inject an important Life Lesson or two. It was nice of him to admit that’s what he was doing—even nicer that he did it with style.

Following this we see Tom get in trouble again, and Blifil helps make that situation worse. It doesn’t do the latter much good and, again, Tom’s good-heartedness is seen in the midst of this, giving Allworthy reason to respect him (we know from the quotation above that it’s not enough…). But in the end, Tom’s Game-keeper friend and his family are hurt by the results of all this, and Tom can’t get Allworthy on his side.

However, Mr. Western is the injured party (because the Game-keeper poached from him), and

Tom applied to Mr. Western’s Daughter, a young Lady of about seventeen Years of Age, whom her Father, next after those necessary Implements of Sport just before mentioned, loved and esteemed above all the World. Now, as she had some Influence on the Squire, so Tom had some little Influence on her. But this being the intended Heroine of this Work, a Lady with whom we ourselves are greatly in Love, and with whom many of our Readers will probably be in Love too before we part, it is by no Means proper she should make her Appearance at the End of a Book.

Maybe it’s just me, but that last sentence cracked me up. We’ll have to wait a week to meet her.

A slight improvement on last week, mostly because I enjoyed the Narrator’s voice in these chapters. But hopefully in Volume II, things’ll pick up.

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK III., ii.-vi.

Tom Jones Original CoverAfter enjoying things so much last week, I hate to see things slip downward again this week–but I do understand why Fielding’s doing what he’s doing (at least I think I do). But yawn. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just the kind of thing that you need to read to establish one or more things so that future chapters/events will be interesting and make sense. It wouldn’t have occurred to me at all to evaluate these chapters if it weren’t for my reading schedule making them the only things I had to read.

We start with a long disclaimer/apology from Fielding for some of his content about religion/religious people–he’s not trying to focus on the failings of the religious or the virtuous, he says. On the contrary, those who come off poorly in his writing have a lack of real religion or virtue (despite their claims) and that’s what he’s highlighting. Whether or not this is sincere on his part I don’t know (I could probably read a lot about that if I cared to), but I like the approach, and it seems to apply to those we have seen/will see in these pages.

Basically, there’s an altercation between Master Blifil and Tom, resulting in Blifil getting his nose bloodied. To draw attention away from the fact that he provoked Tom, Blifil rats him out on some of the details of Tom’s earlier hijinks (recounted as evidence that he’s the sort “born to be hanged”). Tom had refused to name his accomplices at the time, but Blifil spilled the beans. Thwackum takes this as a sign of virtue in Blifil and proof of Tom’s hooligan status. Mr. Allworthy, on the other hand, sees honor in Tom’s refusal and commends it–but even better for Tom (I imagine), this act earns him a lot of fans within the servants.

The widowed Mrs. Blifil picks up a couple of other suitors, who misreading the situation, go out of their way to prefer her son to Tom and target him for condemnation. But all the while, her affections toward Tom grow and grow.

That’s the chapters in a nutshell, not a lot actually happens. I get the impression that Master Blifil is going to be a pain in Tom’s side in the way rich, preppy kids are to plucky middle/lower-class protagonists in 80’s movies. Not a lot happens, but I’m willing to bet all this comes up later. If not in the next chapter, soon enough.

Not Dressed by Matthew Hanover: If this book doesn’t bring a smile to your face, something’s broken

Not Dressed

Not Dressed

by Matthew Hanover

eARC
2020

Read: January 3-6, 2019

“Hey there, Jake. This should be fun, right?”…

“I guess,” I say.

“You don’t sound too excited,” she says as she takes a hair tie off her wrist and pulls her disheveled hair back into a ponytail.

“Yeah, well. I’m not good at dancing.”

“Obviously! That’s why you’re here. Same as me. I’m probably just as bad as you. But we’ll learn together, okay?”

“Okay.”

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” she says.

“I…have no idea what that means.”

“It’s from Star Trek…Actually, Star Trek: The Next Generation. It means we’ll work together to solve a common problem. In this case, the problem is learning how to dance.”

“I gotcha. So, you’re like…a Trekkie?”

“Was my sweatshirt not a big enough clue?”

“No, I just—”

“You’re not a Star Wars fan, are you? If you are, you’ll have to find a different partner.”

Jake Evans is our protagonist—he’s a decent enough guy, who could probably use some maturing (which means he’s like 90% of guys in their twenties). He’s got a great girlfriend (although the relationship seems a bit rocky when we meet him) and is second-guessing his chosen career (partially because he has a horrid employer, and partially because architecture isn’t the career he thought it would be). There are signs that he’d be a pretty fun guy to hang out with, but when the book opens he’s got a pretty good-sized cloud over his head between the girl and the gig.

Lindsay’s his long-time girlfriend. She works in radio and is very passionate about her job. She’s enjoying a little bit of success, and has a hard time relating to Jake’s struggles. She’s the producer and in-all-but-name on-air sidekick to a Boston-area conservative talk show host, who calls her “Lefty Lindsay.” (don’t worry, politics are absent from the book!) At least when the book opens, I really didn’t see why the two of them were a couple. There’s a good chance that neither of them rembered at that point, either, it had been so long.

Two things about their relationship provide most of the initial conflict for the plot. First, due to some financial hits they’ve taken recently, Lindsay has taken some modeling gigs to make some extra money. She did it back in college, which was recent enough that she still had connections. Why didn’t Jake do something to make extra money? He’s having a hard enough time finding a replacement full-time job that it didn’t seem like a good idea to try to add another job search to his plate. Besides, Lindsay’s moonlighting is profitable enough. What she neglects to mention to Jake is that this modeling is for art classes at a local college. And, well, none of these artists-in-training are working on fashion degrees—clothing gets in the way of what they’re learning to draw/paint/sculpt. Jake’s an open-minded kind of guy, except when it comes to this, it’s not pretty when he finds out (although it’s a pretty amusing scene for readers when he does).

Meanwhile, Jake’s sister’s wedding is coming up and Lindsay has decided the two of them need to learn to dance before it. Besides, it’s a fun activity for the two of them—they never go out mid-week anymore, and their relationship could use a boost. So she signs them up for a dance class, and then tells Jake about it after she paid for it, so he pretty much has to agree to it, but isn’t really that interested. So she basically promises him sex if he goes. Which pretty much seals the deal. But then Lindsay’s show gets moved to a new (and better) time slot. So, in addition to not being able to make the class, the couple will hardly see each other during the week. Her plan is that Jake will go, and then on the weekend, teach her the moves (he insists on getting his payment in advance for this).

Jake hates this new plan, and is convinced that he’s going to be stuck dancing with the instructor (after he and the reader meets this instructor, no one thinks this is going to be fun for him). Thankfully, just before class starts, Kaylee walks in. You read her opening dialogue up above. She’s a few years younger than Jake, taking some time out from college to figure out what she wants to do with her life, and is a major geek. She’s almost a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but doesn’t fit the category in a few ways (I’m only using that term because I’m afraid this post is getting too long and I want to pick up the pace). She’s also my favorite character of 2020 so far (granted, that would mean more if it wasn’t January 13th).

Kaylee and Jake strike up a nice little friendship during the class, and pretty soon, he’s going so he has an excuse to hang out with her. The two of them are fun together—she’s socially awkward and embarrassed to be herself, Jake tries to shake her out of that, and even encourages her to let her Geek-Flag fly (even if he doesn’t get any of it). Meanwhile, she’s encouraging about his job hunt (as opposed to Lindsay, who mostly nags or wants him to find a way to succeed where he is), and gets him to be a little less angst-y about his life. I like Jake more when he’s in friend with Kaylee-mode over guy with Lindsay-mode. But what do I know? I have a tendency to pick people the protagonists don’t in these situations (I won’t provide examples because I’d expose myself to too much ridicule).

The one last bit of Jake’s life we need to talk about is his job. It’s horrible. He has a nice group of work-friends who band together for mutual support (and complaints), but the atmosphere at work is toxic, and their superiors would be enough to turn anyone against their chosen field. For example, in the first chapter, Jake’s two-year anniversary with the company happens and he asks his boss about scheduling his annual review (which will hopefully involve a raise, which he could really use). His boss stammers and suggests an alternate date, nine months away. Yeah, Jake’s bad attitude toward work makes a little sense, doesn’t it?

I worked as a draftsman at an architecture firm some years ago, and while the atmosphere there wasn’t at all what Jake experienced, Hanover did do a great job of capturing the kind of work and personalities that I saw—which doesn’t really match the typical depiction of architects in fiction. I liked that bit of realism. (I asked Hanover about that in an upcoming Q&A, but I haven’t read his responses yet, looking forward to seeing where that authenticity came from).

Getting back to Jake’s life—what we have here is a stagnant (at best) relationship that’s got a couple of pretty big things to work through; a job situation that needs addressing; and a new friend that is really the only positive thing in his life. Jake’s life is basically begging to be shaken up, is Kaylee going to help instigate that?

There’s something about Hanover’s style that I can’t express, but I wish I could. This book (like last year’s Not Famous) is effortless to read. When I started this book, it was late in the day and I thought I’d just stick a toe in the water, maybe read about 10% of it. Before I knew it, I was about a third into the book (and were it not for the time of day, I’d have probably finished it in one sitting!). It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s infectious, it’s engaging as anything I can remember. I cared about these characters and got invested in their lives faster than I typically do.

Jonathan Tropper tends to have certain character types that show up in every novel—particularly the wise sister/friend-who-might-as-well-be-sister* (many authors do this kind of thing, I know, but Tropper is who I thought of when I was reading this book). Hanover shows signs of the same thing—sisters play a big role in both of his novels to date. He doesn’t use them the same way that Tropper does, don’t get me wrong, but his male protagonists are more honest and open about their emotional lives because of sisters. This is neither good or bad, it’s just a trait that he may have—it’s something I’ll be looking for next time. (again, see the Q&A for more on this topic). I like that there’s someone who can draw this out of a character without the need for alcohol, drugs or trauma—also, that he bares his soul first to someone who isn’t a love interest.

* There are other types that Tropper utilizes constantly, too, if I ever get around to my big re-read of his corpus, I’ll end up compiling a chart.

There’s a bit of conventional wisdom discussed here that I didn’t know before reading this book.

“You realize that dancing is basically foreplay, right?”

“So I’ve heard.” [Jake replies]

Four chapters later:

“Because dancing is, like, totally foreplay, you know.”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” [Jake asks]

I counted someone telling that to Jake four times (with at least one more allusion). Is this really a thing that everyone thinks/says? I may need to cancel some of my daughter’s plans for the next 20 years…

I’d forgotten that Hanover had said there’d be a link between Not Famous and this book. It’s small, and if you haven’t read his other novel, you won’t miss anything. But if you have, you’ll enjoy the brief catch-up you get about the lives of the protagonists of that novel. It brought a big grin to my face.

There was a slight flavor of Nick Hornby wanna-be-ness to Not Famous that’s not present here. Instead, what Hanover has done is take that same voice and put it to use telling a story that’s all him (while being the kind of thing that Hornby readers will appreciate). I do think that Hanover could go a bit deeper in his characterizations (I have very little sense about Jake apart from work/Lindsay) and his plots could add a little more complexity. I’m looking for a few degrees of depth/complexity, not much. But that doesn’t stop me from loving this world and characters, and it doesn’t keep me from encouraging you all to grab this book when it releases next month.

This heart-warming tale about being who you are and finding acceptance for it is a real winner. Adorkable, irresistible, and just fun—Not Dressed is sure to please (if you are so led, book is available for pre-order). I don’t know what Not Description is next for Hanover, but I’m already eager to read it.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion and this post. I appreciate the book, but it didn’t sway what I had to say.


4 Stars