rushthatspeaks: (Default)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
So, as you may recall, a little while ago I stumbled across the extremely peculiar nature diaries of Opal Whiteley, who may or may not have written at seven an extraordinarily detailed and completely bizarre account of her life and the country around her house. In the comments, [personal profile] sovay asked if maybe Whiteley had been influenced by Emily of New Moon, and then said, wait, Whiteley's book came out and was a huge bestseller in 1920 and Emily of New Moon came out in 1923...

Having read Emily of New Moon this evening, I will personally swear an affidavit before anyone you like that this book is, in fact, what happened when Montgomery read Whiteley. I haven't read Montgomery's diaries, which might prove or disprove the hypothesis-- anyone who has read those, feel free to step in-- but damn, it's amazing, if you put Anne of Green Gables in a blender with Whiteley this is absolutely what you get coming out the other side.

Emily is a smart and sensitive child sent to live with relatives after the death of her father. She is determined to be a writer, in the face of non-comprehension and/or active hostility from her family, and the book is very funny about her juvenile poetry, best describable as sub-Tennyson. It's obvious, though, that she does have the talent and perseverance to go somewhere with it. The portions of the book not concerned with writing are about farm, friends, possible romantic interests (of whom one seriously skeeves me out; it is not reasonable at thirty-five to decide to wait for a twelve-year-old and I have this horrible suspicion she's actually going to marry him *headdesk*), and a rather incoherent and vaguely supernatural plot about a local scandal.

The portions of the book concerned with her writing involve the aforementioned poetry, but also large stretches of letters to her dead father, quoted in full, and all I have to say about the spelling, subject matter, number of fairies mentioned, and protagonist's attitude towards animals, sunsets, and moderately large rocks is: Whiteley, Whiteley, Whiteley. Oh, it's somewhat more conventional in grammar (how could it not be), but seriously, she names trees in the same style. Given Whiteley's fantasies about perfect dead parents who wanted her to be intelligent and learned as opposed to her real family who wanted her to be obedient, this could almost qualify as fanfiction were it not that that story is also so very much the framework Montgomery was already working in.

I have mixed feelings about a lot of Montgomery-- the pacing of Anne of Green Gables is nonexistent, and she knew what she wanted to write and stuck to it (over and over), but The Blue Castle is a perfect little book, one of the greatest romance novels and female escapes-from-domestic-Hades I have read. This one is better-paced than Anne but has, as I mentioned, a plot element I find skeevy, and has a thin overlay of twee that wanders in and out (too much about those cutesy-Victorian-type flower fairies). I do always have a soft spot for portraits of girls who are going to grow up to be writers, to do the work of that, and who are not judged for it by their narratives. This is a readable book, pleasant enough, but I'm not sure I'd have finished it if it weren't for the Whiteley aspect, which led to a whole meta-level of sheer pleasure at watching Montgomery work. I really need to find out whether there is evidence of this as an actual textual connection. Then I need not to accidentally write a comparative literature dissertation.

Date: 2011-06-14 12:28 pm (UTC)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu
I'm trying to decide if these as Whiteley fanfic explains things about the third book and can't. Also I seem to be mixing them up with the Pat duology. But subject to the caveats that people have already given on the crosspost, well, I shall be interested in your thoughts.

Date: 2011-06-14 01:32 pm (UTC)
coffeeandink: (Default)
From: [personal profile] coffeeandink
These were my favorites as a kid, because Emily stuck to her determination to be a writer.

Date: 2011-06-14 01:38 pm (UTC)
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
From: [personal profile] starlady
*nods* Yup, unlike Anne.

Date: 2011-06-14 01:37 pm (UTC)
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
From: [personal profile] starlady
Oh, fascinating. Now I want to reread the Emily books, and Whitely even more.

I'd be really interested to hear what you think of the other two Emily books, I enjoyed the trilogy a lot when I was 12 (and still have the final book).

Date: 2011-06-17 01:28 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
At least go for the second (teenage hijinks!). As a bonus, although the twee-ness is still there, as I recall it tends to come more in chunks, making it a little more skimmable, for those who prefer. ;)


Date: 2011-06-14 03:26 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha
Damn, you got me really curious, and this one isn't archived at Gutenberg (whoever did Montgomery's Gutenberg was apparently an Anne fan).

(I did not expect to find Whitely there, and did not.)

Date: 2011-06-14 07:18 pm (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
That is because the Emily books are not yet in the public domain in the US, where the main Project Gutenberg servers are located. I note, however, that some national Project Gutenberg projects are located in countries where they are PD, and that a quick search can readily identify them and whether it's legal for someone in your area to dl from those servers.


Date: 2011-06-15 05:40 pm (UTC)
akycha: (Default)
From: [personal profile] akycha
Oh, thank you!

Date: 2011-06-14 06:37 pm (UTC)
jinian: (tomoyo)
From: [personal profile] jinian
I totally agree that your work of scholarship on the matter should not be accidental.

Date: 2011-06-14 09:43 pm (UTC)
movingfinger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] movingfinger
Para 3: Be afraid. Sorry.

I never liked the Emily books because Emily is a bit too far gone with the twee wiftiness. Admittedly twee wiftiness was in the air in some areas; this is the age of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and Winnie-the-Pooh.

A bit of research connecting Opal Whiteley to Emily of New Moon would be a public service, I think.

Date: 2011-06-15 03:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The second book, Emily Climbs, is the best, I think, though that may be because it was the only one of the series I read for many years. The third one gets seriously weird (alternating pathos and trying to be funny, and not succeeding much at either). Montgomery thought the first (just after she had finished it) was the best book she had ever written ("dear little 'Emily' whom I love far better than I ever loved 'Anne'), and was afraid the sequels would be hackwork (in the end, she said Emily's Quest was "no good").

"New Moon is in some respects but not all my own old home and 'Emily's' inner life was my own, though outwardly most of the events and incidents were fictitious." Can't find any evidence in her journals that she read Opal Whiteley. I think perhaps it's likely that whoever did write Opal Whiteley's stuff had read a lot of L.M.M. and similar.

One of the things L.M. Montgomery complained about was not being able to be realistic about teenagers. "Love must barely be hinted at--yet girls in their early teens often have some very vivid love affairs. A girl of Emily's type certainly would. But 'the public'--one of the Vanderbilts once said 'Damn the public.' "

I do adore Mr. Carpenter.

Date: 2011-06-15 05:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I, too, adored Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs (less so the third book), and used to read them over and over. I remember finding Dean a little unnerving at the age of ten or twelve, as well -- in fact, I think my first reaction was "Wait, that couldn't really be what he means, right?" In my head, he's a bit like the Phantom of the Opera -- intriguing, somewhat disfigured -- but a sanitized version you could take home to Mama... provided your mama isn't a Murray. Don't worry too much about Dean, though.


Date: 2011-06-15 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wonder what I would have thought about Dean if I'd read the first book as a kid, and how he fits in with L.M.M. wanting Emily to have "vivid love affairs." (I know she didn't mean a whole lot of making out, but she does seem to have meant being more aware of one's developing sexuality than people liked to admit in those days.) Perhaps the original idea was that talking about an adult's feelings (which could be tacitly assumed to be partly sexual in a way that a young girl's might not have been assumed to be) would get more of the "vivid love affairs" feeling into the book without having Emily do anything "the public" wouldn't have gone for.

Date: 2011-06-14 10:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The third book contains one of the most distressing scenes in fiction. Nevertheless, I feel that they are best looked at as one novel in three volumes.

Date: 2011-06-14 04:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I feel that they are best looked at as one novel in three volumes.

Completely agreed!

Date: 2011-06-15 08:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
... could you mention the general direction of distressing? There is some distressing I can cope with and some that I cannot, and given the way my last few months have been, I am trying to figure out in advance whether I will be able to cope with various books before I wind up Doing Things To My Brain.

Date: 2011-06-15 08:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Destruction of work and lack of recognition of autonomy.

It's not the end of Pawn in Frankinscence, but.

Date: 2011-06-14 12:25 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
From: [personal profile] sovay
but damn, it's amazing, if you put Anne of Green Gables in a blender with Whiteley this is absolutely what you get coming out the other side.

I can't decide whether to feel smug for calling it Whiteley-sight unseen or just to back away very slowly and hope it won't notice me.

(of whom one seriously skeeves me out; it is not reasonable at thirty-five to decide to wait for a twelve-year-old and I have this horrible suspicion she's actually going to marry him *headdesk*)

And that would be the character I imprinted on when I read the book for the first time in fourth grade, although to my credit it wasn't for his romantic potential; he traveled and knew Latin and Greek. I find him a believably damaged and damaging character and the most interesting thing about the trilogy, but from an adult viewpoint I agree about the skeeve.

Date: 2011-06-15 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A sophisticated man waiting for a girl to grow up was a trope some decades ago. _Daddy Long-Legs_ and I forget where else.

Date: 2011-06-14 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In case I do no mention this to you in person, I am uncommonly fond of the way you talk about Whiteley's relationship with "moderately large rocks." It is a turn of phrase that makes me grin every time you use it.

Date: 2011-06-14 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've got the journals. That is, I own them, but my daughter keeps stealing them to reread. I just checked #2, which ends with 1920, and no mention of Whitely, but that doesn't mean she didn't read it. She was hyperaware of future audiences when she rewrote the journals, and might not necessarily have mentioned influences, though she does intermittently talk about her reading.

Date: 2011-06-20 04:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I haven't checked yet, but I think the first volume mentions a lot of the tree names and such as being Maud's own invention as a child.

Date: 2011-06-14 03:10 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer
And coincidentally, I'm about a third of the way into this, and finding the fey child stuff great fun but squinting at her relationships with the adults around her.


Date: 2011-06-14 06:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am haplessly fond of these books and reread them endlessly even though I know I will simply tear my hair out at certain points. If the narrative were angrier at certain points I would be a lot happier with it.


Date: 2011-06-14 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I think you should read the sequels. Parts will probably make you tear your hair out, but they're worth a read, and the plot goes in some unexpected directions. When you're done, you can read my fic that does an AU on the ending. (I didn't hate the ending as a whole. I just raised my eyebrows at an aspect of it.)

Dean is creepy but in a believable way, I think.

Date: 2011-06-15 12:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If Dean's creepiness wasn't believable, that scene in the third book wouldn't be anywhere NEAR so distressing. I suspect he's the kind of character that makes some readers roll their eyes and think no real person would ever act that way, and other readers nod and think, "Oh, yeah. Just like John..."


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