Saturday, April 08, 2006

Reader in the Book

Okay, maybe it's just me, but David Copperfield and I have just visited Steerforth's family home, and between Steerforth calling the lad "Daisy," and the Queer Eye-view of the decor and inhabitants of the house, I feel like the book is just about to burst into little flamy flames. I'm reminded of K.T. Horning's reading of Harriet the Spy, published in the Horn Book last year.

Some of our readers got seriously steamed with K.T. for finding a proto-lesbian role model in Harriet M. Welsch, but don't kids always find their own paths into books? A friend was recently telling me how she disliked Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising (a personal favorite here, with its spectacular weather effects) because the book emphasized that the young hero was the only one (One, I guess) to whom the sacred mission could fall. My friend said "I felt like it couldn't happen to me, then."


Lucy Pearson said...

Oh my gods, yes. I have always been overwhelmed by the extreme gay subtext of David Copperfield. Even when I first encountered him as a child (about 10) I felt there was something distinctly romantic about his attraction to Steerforth. Since then, I've started reading fanfiction and discovered how subtext can be seen anywhere. When I heard DC on the radio, it absolutely screamed gay.

I love DiR, but there is something peculiarly unsatisfying about the way the world of the Old Ones is corralled off from normal people. In contrast to a lot of children's fantasy, where half the appeal is that the magic happens to someone perfectly normal, Cooper keeps even Jane, Simon and Barnaby back from the magical world. Bran too, for that matter, despite his otherworldly lineage. I do think it's a loss in an otherwise brilliant series. Obviously many people feel the same, since I've noticed that fanfiction frequently draws one of the 'civilians' back into the world of the Old Ones.

Elizabeth said...

I'm no Copperfield scholar, but Steerforth reminds me of that classic tradition of British Boarding school rake, a la Flashman in Tom Brown's School Days. And British Boarding schools...hmm, how do I put this? The buggery that routinely happened there isn't even an open secret. In the first volume of Skidelsky's definitive biography of Keynes, he sort of matter-of-factly discusses the homosexuality in British boarding schools as something that was simply understood. SPOILER ALERT ABOUT PARTS OF COPPERFIELD ROGER HASN'T GOTTEN TO YET: Is Steerforth one of those typesn oft talked about in gay novels and Will and Grace: "straight men who likes to do it with men/boys?" There's conclusive evidence later, after all, of at least one woman he ruins. And only a straight man (Copperfield) could be stupid enough, or attracted enough, to marry Dora.
Which brings me to Uriah Heep--surely he's the most gay-seeming character in the novel?

Daring to post this, though I may be in way over my head,


P.S. I didn't have a problem with Will being the chosen one. But I thought it was part of Harry Potter's appeal that you felt maybe you could be lucky enough to be like Hermione, the child of muggle parents and yet still lucky enough to end up at Hogwarts.