Miserable Thomas Hardy and helpful Murakami

As a lifelong loather of the work of Thomas Hardy, Gert was amused to find this analysis of the misery factor in Thomas Hardy in The Guardian:


You need to click on the  image to bring up the detail, but essentially it’s a tally of the various calamities and catastrophes that befall the characters in  Hardy’s books.  Jude the Obscure wins hands down, with a positive score for unhappy relationships (x2) death (x2) grinding poverty, suicide, murder (x 2) miscarriage, alcoholism and animal-genital-related injury.

The piece also surveys the characteristic cast of a Hardy novel and matches him for misery-factor against some contemporaries : Crime and Punishment runs a close second, but the prize still goes to Jude The Obscure.

And if you’re up for a bit more fun from The Guardian, head to  Murakami the Agony Uncle, which we mentioned in a previous post.  He covers cats, burping wives and adultery, among other pressing problems, and says if he could be anything he wanted, he’d like to be the wind! How very Murakami.


28 thoughts on “Miserable Thomas Hardy and helpful Murakami

      1. Actually, I do, because the English is so well written. (Compared to a lot of writting today) His stories are rather depressing. I’ve read a lot of his stories already, but wouldn’t read them again.

  1. He was probably required reading in an English Lit course in the days when Internet Cliff notes weren’t available and the college library didn’t carry them, so you had to actually read the books before the exams. I remember a book full of sadness and misfortune, at a time when my own life seemed rife with it and I didn’t want any more. ‘Nuf said.

  2. Thanks God we have Murakami to cheer us up! My dislike of Hardy was increased when I learned of the way he treated his first wife- treated her like dirt and then proceeded to write heart-rending poetry about her after her death, including the famous (undeservedly) “Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me”. It confirmed everything I thought about the deep deep falsity in his writing.

  3. You don’t need to read Hardy anyway if you’ve read Dorothea’s mother’s writing in “Writing is Easy”, which you have. So you got off lightly. No pain, all gain!

  4. We too are (or were ) of the RC tribe, now fallen into sinful ways, alas. I don’t know that you’d want to take moral lessons from Hardy – the general message is “as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods”.

  5. It’s many years since I last read Hardy but I’ll probably try Far for the Madding Crowd this year as there’s a new film adaptation on the way. It seems to tick a reasonable number of boxes on the misery chart!

    1. Wasn’t there a film years ago with Terence Stamp horribly miscast as the dashing villain? And perhaps Alan Bates as Gabriel Oak? (n one of our books, yet to be published, we have a character called Gabriel Gumm who is an homage to Gabriel Oak).

      1. That’s right – there was a film in the late sixties with Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdine and Bates as Gabriel Oak. It’s been a while since I watched it, but I do recall Terence Stamp playing a part in it. Gabriel Glumm, that’s very fitting as a nod to Hardy!

    1. Yes, I can see that, and as swo8 says he can write. It’s the falsity of the man I loathe, orchestrating all that grand emotion and watching himself do it so approvingly. The Andre Rieu of the literary world.

    1. Interesting comparison, and I can see why you make it. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read War & Peace, only Anna Karenina and The Kreutzer Sonata, but I would say there is authentic psychological complexity in his characters that drives the drama, whereas in Hardy there is a landscape peopled by characters who play out his themes. And Tolstoy is present in his books, in all his personal passion and inadequacy, as in Levin, whereas Hardy is a deus ex machina. Will that do? (She says, turning to page 1 of War and Peace).

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