I will admit it- hell, I have admitted it. A rather large (too large?) part of my identity is wrapped up in not just being a reader, but in being well-read. Sure, I've lied about reading books that I really only started and couldn't finish because they are high-faultin' classics that make me sound smart...haven't we all? (please, don't judge). But just this once I am going to come clean-I was defeated by George Eliot and her classic Middlemarch.
There is nothing about Middlemarch that I shouldn't love as a reader and a feminist. Female author fools the world by writing as a man to get her novel about a young woman bucking the system taken seriously. With themes of a women's role in society, religious hypocrisy, and political reform-if this book was tea I would want to drink it. But apparently the book itself is better for me in the abstract than in the reality. I simply could not get through it.
I first tried to read it in college, during a summer when I was determined to read the classics-with-a-capital-C. I re-read Jane Eyre that summer, as well as Wuthering Heights, The Old Man and The Sea, and A Tale of Two Cities. But when I tried to read Middlemarch, I found myself putting it down in favor of doing things like, oh, scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush or hand-waxing my 10 year old Renault. I was relieved when it came time to go back to school and have an excuse to put it aside "for the semester"-you know, if a semester lasted 20 years.
OK, enter the advent of digital audiobooks. Surely, if I could listen to a really good narrator read the words aloud, I would be able to get invested in the emotional life of the characters and not be distracted by the old-fashioned language. Surely, the voice of the narrator would bring to life the long passages where Dorothea is rhapsodizing about Mr. Casaubon in her head, all he's-so-righteous-so-what-if-he-is-pedantic-and-old-and-not-that-attractive. "And the audio version is 30 hours long, so I will certainly get my money's worth!", thought I. Well, there's $14.95 wasted...I couldn't even get through the first two hours. I listen as I drive, and I found my thoughts drifting to such an extent that I would realize I was home and could not list one event from the preceding 25 minutes. So, I hereby admit defeat. Go ahead and feel smug, all you Smarty McSmartypants who actually read this book. Hmmmm, or did you?