June 28, 2010

Three surprises in old books

Endymion is more plain fun to read than I expected, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea a lot less fun. It's extra surprising how much they reminded me of each other in their settings.

John Keats' poem was a thumping failure when published, and isn't thought much better of now; it's about the shepherd Endymion who loves the moon, and how many travails he has to go through for them to live together. It's poetry, yo, it rhymes, there are classical allusions, and yet, stuff happens; there's even character development and conversation. It's a fair criticism that the imagery and plot has at least as much to do with 19th c. England as with antique Greece, but that's poetic now too; has much of the same charm that the beautiful set dressing derived from 20,000 Leagues under the Sea has. There's a whole section in a curse-maintained undersea cavern, which was strangely like the whole interesting part of Jules Verne's bafflingly uninteresting adventure novel.

Why is the Verne so famous? Is all the good stuff in the the sequels? It's written from the perspective of the single least interesting character, who is too single-minded to find out anything about his smarter, braver, more interesting host Captain Nemo, let alone his smarter, braver, funnier, more interesting servant Conseil. Nice imaginings of the undersea world, but hey, we have undersea webcams now.

John Keats, Endymion

Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

So wrote clew in Fiction (19th c.). , Poetry.
And thus wrote others:
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