The Way We Live Now: Chapters I to XX
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I'm enjoying it so far. I like the large cast of characters, if not the characters themselves - the greed of these people! The nebulous dealings of the "Great Railway" look very similar to the finanial fiasco of recent times...the way we live now indeed.
The book is also quite funny. The language and antics of the gentlemen in the Beargarden remind me of PG Wodehouse. I would have LOVED to be a gentlemen (without the prejudices of course)
Wouldn't you say that this novel begins with a case of sexual harrassment? And it would seem that nothing good can come out of The Beargarden---we'll see.
Those reading this novel may be interested that Newsweek Magazine last year listed 50 (I think it was) books that are timely now. TWWLN topped the list! Melmott=Madoff?
Rant over...I have to say I love how yearly income/salary/worth was openly exposed in the classic novels. That and a title seems to be the only thing people were concerned about - not character. Unless of course you were 'romantic'.
One motif Trollope seems to be using to build his theme of unprincipled greed is "par value". The character, Hamiliton Fisker (an American) wants to raise capital to build the South Central Pacific and Mexican Railway and he wants to use the names of prominent English gentry and capitalists (Melmott) to do it. When asked where the money is to come from he replies, "We take them (stock shares) at par, of course--and as we sell we shall pay for them. But of course we shall only sell at a premium." I looked up "par" and "premium". Par is the nominal dollar amount assigned to a security by its issuer. (Not true value, merely assigned value.) Premium is the amount by which the security sells above its par value. (Real capital from buyers who think the stock shares will increase in real value---which may or may not happen).
As I thought about "par and premium", it occurred to me that many things in this novel are valued in a nominal way--not real value e.g. the IOU's at the Beargarden, Melmott's fortune, Felix Carbury's affection for Marie, the literary criticism of the leading papers of the day, and last but not least, the titles of the aristocracy. All these things have a value that is not real. The problem (and the crises of the novel) will probably come in when a "premium" is demanded.
A day of reckoning will come!
I am moving rather fast into this novel because, I think, Trollope is such a good story teller and depicter of character. My least favorite story line is the Roger Carbury/Paul Montegue/Henrietta Carbury triangle but then I see how Trollope is using Roger as a "voice of reason" in a world of unprincipled greed as well as Paul as a linchpin between Roger's and Melmott's very different worlds.
I am fascinated with the depiction of Americans in this novel. They are "not like us" (the English upper class), wear the wrong waistcoats, talk with a fine, sharp, nasal twang and are flashy dressers. (Hamilton Fisker). There is another American mentioned, Mrs. Hurtle, who I can't wait to meet!
Do you find yourself muttering as you read the following: "There was not one of them then present (Board of Directors of the Southern Pacific/Mexican Railway) who after some fashion been given to understand that his fortune was to be made, not by the construction of the railway, but by the floating of the railway shares".
"Oh no, This isn't going to work!"
And: Who is going to be left holding the bag?
Looking forward to reading/posting more of this fascinating novel.
Another thing you might add to your "par value" list is work; not real work, but the "work" the Directors do, which Paul is sucked into even though he can see the falsity of it all.
I'll be interested to hear what you make of Mrs Hurtle - and how Trollope handles her.
Hadn't thought about the issue of actual work. No one is really doing any in this novel yet, except maybe Roger Carbury who is Trollope's example of a reasonable man. There are the women, however! Especially Marie who I suspect will work very hard to get Felix.
I'm just coming to the Mrs. Hurtle character---don't know much about her yet except that she is an American.
I'm glad you're reading Trollope. Trollope eventually becomes addictive He's interesting, funny, often modern in outlook, adapt at spinning several tales at once, and can be depended on to provide (to me, at least) satisfactory endings. Please let me know what you think about The Way We Live Now as you move through the novel. I find this novel, written in the 1880's, uncannily prophetic of the events we just went through (Wall Street plunge, mortgage scandal and Bernie Madoff=Augustus Melmott).
I'm the guy who set the posts up and I am just about to the last post. I'll try to warn you if there are "spoliers". Not sure if I have always noted that there are spoliers in previous posts. Read with caution.
I'm so glad you enjoy Trollope!