Sunday, March 1, 2009

Comfort me with books! Anne of Green Gables

I figured here at COAGUBL, it was time to introduce a new list category - Comfort Me With...! Yes, I realize I'm aping the title of Ruth Reichl's memoir Comfort Me With Apples. But I doubt the phrase "comfort me with" if copyrighted. Heck, I'm not even sure if that phrase could be copyrighted. It's at times like this that I wish that I took Copyright Law in law school, but the 8:15 start time was a bit of a deterrent. Like with my other entries, this entry will likely devolve into many anecdotes and overuse of parentheses (I'm the next William Goldman!). I decided I shall start with books. There may be some overlap with my guilty pleasures list, but my comfort entertainment is usually at least middle-brow.

Like with guilty pleasures, I tend to seek out comfort things more than I probably should. Furthermore, many people I know, have more high brow comfort books. My college friend Hacquecita (yes, I realize the blog I linked to is over three years old, but her insights are interesting!) once listed in her Facebook profile that she rereads Henry James (I think??) once a year. When things got too stressful for my college roommate Shy Violet, she would whip out her hardcover edition of Pride and Prejudice and get utterly absorbed in the lives of the Bennett sisters (SV was APPALLLED when I told her that I had never finished the book and that I thought it was "wordy and boring." I'm sure she'll continue to be disappointed that I still haven't read it past page 50.) And then there's the books I read...

Today, I will be discussing Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

The Basic Plotline: A plucky redheaded orphan, Anne Shirley, is mistakenly sent to live with spinster brother and sister pair, Marilla and Matthew Cuthburt, at Green Gables in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, even though they asked the orphanage to send them a boy. Anne quickly charms Matthew who wants keep her even though she's not a boy, and she even convinces crusty Marilla to let her stay. Anne then spends her time being brilliant in school, letting her imagination run away with her, and getting into trouble. In this book she also becomes "bosom friends" with Diana Berry, and gets into a three year long spat with Gilbert Blythe, who she may also have a crush on.

My Thoughts: I first tried to read this book over the summer between second and third grade. I received the box set of the eight Anne of Avonlea books from my Aunt Squeezer when I was in the second grade, and throughout the year I would try to read the book. But then I kept getting side tracked by the wonders of Judy Blume (Poor Peter Hatcher! But why does he have to be so mean to Sheila?), Beverly Clearly (Why didn't she write more books about Beezus? Why is it always the younger sisters that get all the attention?), The Baby-Sitters Club, and Sweet Valley Twins. However on the family roadtrip to Denver, Colorado to visit my Uncle ArmyMan, Aunt DogLover, and cousins Deborah (who is going to graduate from college this year!) and BabySarah (now she's a senior in high school -- crazy!), I actually made quite a bit of progress in the book. Then came the scene that so offended me that when we were taking a day trip in Thermopolis, Wyoming, I slammed the book down on the dashboard of my Aunt Squeezer's Toyota truck in disgust. I was outraged that Diana's mother would not let Anne and Diana hang out anymore because Anne inadvertantly got Diana drunk at the tea party when Anne mistakenly gave Diana currant wine instead of raspberry cordial. I was so angry by the injustice of it all that I declared to my entire family that I was not going to read the rest of the book because of such unfairness. My ever patient mother said okay dear, now stop ranting and eat your lunch.

I wound up later watching both mini-series and enjoying them quite a bit. (This will be later discussed in Comfort me with movies!). Shy Violet was also slightly disconcerted that I had never read the books, though she was slightly appeased when I told her that I loved the movies. In college I did plan on reading Anne of Green Gables because I felt it was time to let my outrage go. But then the Claremont Library did not have the book. (I think my family finally gave away my unread boxed set.) They had all the Betsy-Tacy books because the author was from the city, but not one copy of Anne of Green Gables. Ridiculous! Does Claremont have something against Canadian authors? Anyway, it was weird, and so I never read it then either.

Then finally when I was in my first year of law school in BU, I finally found a copy of AofGG at a thrift store in Allston, and then I FINALLY read the book, and I loved it. Now when life gets frustrating I reread certain parts of it, such as The Story Club chapter when Anne and her friends form a creative writing club and write melodramatic stories much to the consternation of Marilla and the amusement of the local minister and his wife, and Diana's Great Aunt Josephine (the fact that Kevin Sullivan left this out of the first movie should have been a sign that he was going to do his best to destroy the series in his later movies! To me the third and fourth movies don't exist!) or the first day of school when Anne breaks the slate over Gilbert's head because he called her "carrots" (oh young love!).

However, I am still hesitant about reading the later books because by the end of this book Anne was getting to be a bit practically perfect. First in her class! Foresakes college to teach in Avonlea and run Green Gables! Grows into her looks and is now beautiful! Has become so mature and calm! So I think the later books may be a bit tedious since Anne is still the brightest creature in all the land, but now she has matured so much that she doesn't get into much trouble to balance it out. However, I can reread Anne's story about the tragic friendship of Cornelia and Geraldine and always feel better. However, whenever I reread I always skip the part when Marilla falsely accused Anne of losing her amythest broach. It's just too painful, and I cannot deal. At least I have been able to deal with Diana and Anne being forced to be apart for about twenty pages.

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