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Old 01-20-2020, 03:14 PM   #61
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The Natural is definitely a baseball book; there's no other sport or competition that could have been substituted. But The Bookshop's relationship to books is marginal; any sort of shop might have served just as well. The location of the shop is what matters to Violet, not what was sold there.

It would have been a more interesting book if Florence's decision to stock Lolita had turned the town against her, but that's not the story we got.
I really can’t agree with this. It was crucial that it was a bookshop rather than, say, a haberdashery. A bookshop challenged Violet as the self-appointed patroness of the arts.
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Old 01-20-2020, 04:45 PM   #62
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I really can’t agree with this. It was crucial that it was a bookshop rather than, say, a haberdashery. A bookshop challenged Violet as the self-appointed patroness of the arts.
I missed that--I honestly don't remember it at all.

Is a bookshop really related to the arts? Such a store doesn't seem particularly literary; maybe the artists wanting to exhibit there made it more art-related. Florence doesn't seem to be positioning herself and her store as any kind of cultural arbiters (except perhaps by selling Lolita, but nothing develops from that). If Florence had tried to use her store to host speakers and discussions and such, I could see her as a threat to Violet, but she seemed to want only to sell books, and not much else.
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Old 01-20-2020, 05:23 PM   #63
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Quite early in the book, at the party, there is the statement that "Mrs Violet Gamart, the natural patroness of all public activities in Hardborough, came towards them". Clearly, this included the arts because she was wanting Old House to be turned into an Arts Centre.

I would certainly see that a bookshop was related to the arts, given that literature is one of the arts. A definition from Wikipedia, which seems as good as any:

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The arts refers to the theory and physical expression of creativity found in human cultures and societies. Major constituents of the arts include visual arts, literature, and performing arts. Some art forms combine a visual element with performance, or artwork with the written word
Florence's stock is a mixture of different sorts of books, as indeed any bookshop needs to be in order to attract a variety of customers. But it certainly included literature.

This brings me to something else. Several people have stated that Florence doesn't love books, and I'm not sure why, except that the text doesn't specifically state that she loved books. She arranged her stock with discrimination, and while she didn't really care for the paperbacks, they were arranged in "well-disciplined ranks".

At the beginning of chapter 4, on the day of opening the bookshop, Raven called in and was critical of the job the scouts had made of the shelves they put up. Florence "would have no fault found. Besides, now that the books were in place, well to the front (she couldn't bear them to slide back as though defeated), any irregularities could scarcely be noticed."

That sounds to me like someone who loves books, to care about how they look on the shelves.

At the end, she kept two of the Everyman editions after selling the rest of her stock, one by Ruskin and one by Bunyan, each with its old bookmarker. She rescued those books because they wouldn't have sold and would probably only been thrown out. Isn't that love?
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Old 01-20-2020, 06:32 PM   #64
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Quite early in the book, at the party, there is the statement that "Mrs Violet Gamart, the natural patroness of all public activities in Hardborough, came towards them". Clearly, this included the arts because she was wanting Old House to be turned into an Arts Centre.

I would certainly see that a bookshop was related to the arts, given that literature is one of the arts. A definition from Wikipedia, which seems as good as any:
What I was wondering, though, was whether I missed something specific in the text to indicate Violet was threatened or upset by a bookstore in particular. Or is it your interpretation of the situation? If the latter, I would still argue that Violet simply didn't like to be thwarted and would have waged a campaign to get Florence out no matter what she was doing with the property.

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This brings me to something else. Several people have stated that Florence doesn't love books, and I'm not sure why, except that the text doesn't specifically state that she loved books. She arranged her stock with discrimination, and while she didn't really care for the paperbacks, they were arranged in "well-disciplined ranks".

At the beginning of chapter 4, on the day of opening the bookshop, Raven called in and was critical of the job the scouts had made of the shelves they put up. Florence "would have no fault found. Besides, now that the books were in place, well to the front (she couldn't bear them to slide back as though defeated), any irregularities could scarcely be noticed."

That sounds to me like someone who loves books, to care about how they look on the shelves.
It reads to me like someone who loves organization and order--similar to Christine, who also doesn't seem to be overly interested in books but is a stickler about organization.

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At the end, she kept two of the Everyman editions after selling the rest of her stock, one by Ruskin and one by Bunyan, each with its old bookmarker. She rescued those books because they wouldn't have sold and would probably only been thrown out. Isn't that love?
Maybe. I guess I don't see her loving books because she doesn't seem to read. I can't remember now--did she read Lolita herself, or only delegate the reading to someone else?
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Old 01-20-2020, 06:59 PM   #65
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I logged in to post a response that would have looked almost identical to yours, above, Catlady.

But also...
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Quite early in the book, at the party, there is the statement that "Mrs Violet Gamart, the natural patroness of all public activities in Hardborough, came towards them". Clearly, this included the arts because she was wanting Old House to be turned into an Arts Centre. [...]
At the end, she kept two of the Everyman editions after selling the rest of her stock, one by Ruskin and one by Bunyan, each with its old bookmarker. She rescued those books because they wouldn't have sold and would probably only been thrown out. Isn't that love?
Highlights our differing interpretation. I see Violet's interest in an arts centre as being first about her as the "natural patroness" of all things; she isn't interested in the arts for themselves, but as they might highlight her place (as she sees it) in the community. This whim might have fallen aside if not for Florence inadvertently standing in her way and becoming a target.

And the saved Everyman editions seemed much like keeping some antique thimbles from that hypothetical haberdashery: mementos. It might be possible to make something of the authors of these two books, but I never had the impression that Florence had done much more than look at the front and back matter. She appears to like books as objects, things on shelves, but she never speaks of what is in them - which is where I get the impression that she is not a lover of books, but perhaps I should say, not a lover of stories.
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Old 01-20-2020, 07:15 PM   #66
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Somehow I don't think we are going to persuade each other to a different viewpoint!

I do agree that Violet Gamart didn't actually give a toss about The Arts, but only about being in charge of everything and acknowledged as such. To stand up to her once she had had an idea (in this case an Arts Centre) was asking for trouble. As it says near the beginning of the book, about the people at the party: "They were all kind to their hostess, because it made life easier."

She had of course tried to win over Mr Brundish and had failed utterly. He had no interest in her aspirations, but he understood her far better than Florence did.
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Old 01-20-2020, 07:31 PM   #67
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One consequence of a book like this, that leaves so much unexplained, is that the reader is, of course, going to impose their own interpretations. Although, we do seem to manage that even when books are more explicit , so I have to wonder what the advantage is of being deliberately vague .
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Old 01-20-2020, 10:36 PM   #68
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One consequence of a book like this, that leaves so much unexplained, is that the reader is, of course, going to impose their own interpretations. Although, we do seem to manage that even when books are more explicit , so I have to wonder what the advantage is of being deliberately vague .
Vagueness isn't the problem, I think, but dullness. I didn't much care that Violet squashed Florence--neither the villain nor the victim aroused any passion.

I'm reminded of Passing, the end of which was open to interpretation. The characters there were so much more alive and passionate and real, even in the confines of an equally short book. Fitzgerald may be a better writer than Larsen in terms of style, but Larsen did a much better job of connecting with the reader.
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Old 01-21-2020, 01:07 AM   #69
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Didn’t they try to convince her to open up the bookshop in the fish & chips shop instead? I don’t remember all the reasons why or who. Was it only the bank manager?

Did anyone research the titles that she chose to keep and were they symbolic? I haven’t had a chance to yet.
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Old 01-21-2020, 02:12 AM   #70
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"Deben's wet fish shop" (no chips ). Deben tried to talk to Florence about it, but she deflected him back to Mrs Gamart. I think it was mentioned in a few other places too. I must admit that I am uncertain of the author's intentions here. Florence was given an out that might have let her stay onside with Mrs Gamart but deliberately didn't take it. This seems quite reasonable in context, but with more background knowledge (like we might assume Florence has after eight years in the town) may offer a different perspective.


The first book is presumably: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, or a Brief Relation of the Exceeding Mercy of God in Christ to his Poor Servant John Bunyan written by John Bunyan. The Ruskin book might be the smaller set published as just Unto this Last (1860) or perhaps the larger collection Unto This Last And Other Essays On Political Economy by John Ruskin (1912) - or there might be other editions too.

I don't know the Bunyan book, but I read the Ruskin book (the larger collection of essays) only a few years ago. I was inspired to tackle it on learning that Gandhi was influenced by it. It offers a very different view of economics and how it might work. Ruskin was searching for a "just" economy: one that takes into account that the usefulness of an item is not just in the item itself, but also in the capability of the holder to use it, and whether that use is good ("life giving") or bad ("life taking"). He emphasised education to lift people from less capable to more capable.

Having studied economics (briefly) I did find Ruskin's ideas intriguing, but some of his ideas don't translate so well into modern times. He seemed to be a believer in hierarchical social structures, and to think voting rights should be tied how much you earned. On the other hand, he also describes the power of the rich over the poor as slavery - they can either submit or starve. There are some subtleties in his ideas that take some getting your head around - they may seem contradictory, but it's not that simple. We could read this in the club, but we might have to discuss it in the P&R forum. Here is a quote I posted from the collection that gives some feel for his opinions and his style of writing.

(ETA: Gender doesn't really come into Ruskin's essays, but given the time - 1860 - we might presume he would have thought neither Florence nor Mrs Gamart had any business getting involved in any of this business. Ruskin appeared to support education for women, but whether he was so far ahead of his time as to think beyond that is less clear.)

How the author wanted that to relate to Florence is not obvious to me. Florence could certain have done with some education in economics, but then Ruskin would seem to support Mrs Gamart as hierarchically and economically entitled to exert her influence.

ETA2: Having thought a bit more, the larger collection of Ruskin essays (that the linked quote comes from) does spend considerable time discussing the importance of art as part of the "true wealth" of the economy. So if the book that Florence keeps is the larger collection of essays then it would seem to suggest support for Mrs Gamart's arts centre over Florence's private little endeavour. Maybe.

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Old 01-21-2020, 05:09 AM   #71
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I'm not sure the two books were symbolic, but they would certainly have been unlikely to sell in a place like Hardborough. A university town maybe, if they were set texts.

I think that for Florence they were, like her, rejected, and so she rescued them from the wreckage of her enterprise. I don't see that she kept them as mementoes. That seems too lighthearted for the situation in which she found herself.
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Old 01-21-2020, 05:27 PM   #72
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I’m revisiting Florence’s feelings about books, even though we’ve established that we won’t convince one another. When I was rereading these passages, I was struck by how Fitzgerald seems to keeps things uncertain. Just as we’re zigging she zags. So it’s easy to have different interpretations of the same content. Not a criticism, just an observation about her preferences.

In addition to Bookpossum’s excellent list, we know that Florence’s primary concern was to offer the community ‘good’ books. Also, she went ahead with the library, twice, even though it was more trouble for her than it was worth, for the sake of people who wanted more to read. Finally she mentions that Christine is not a reader, which implies that it stood out as being unusual to her.

On the other hand, when she and Milo discuss Lolita, she says “I am a retailer, and I haven’t been trained to understand the arts and I don’t know whether a book is a masterpiece or not.”

That said, in the Lolita discussions with both Milo and Mr. Brundish they ask Florence directly about her thoughts. She has explored the book on her own, and knew what she thought.

I felt she cared very deeply about books and the importance of reading, but just lacked confidence in her own judgement about their artistic merit. That’s not uncommon; my parents, who were voracious readers, would likely have felt the same way simply because they’d never been to university. But I can see why someone would conclude Florence wasn’t passionate about books. I did a search and couldn’t find an example of a book she was reading.

Another zigzag for me was about the extent of Mr. Brundish’s loneliness. He is initially portrayed as alone and a recluse. In describing the visit Fitzgerald says “He wanted to welcome her but was more used to threatening, and the change of attitude was difficult for him.” But later we learn that he has children, grandchildren and family all over the globe who visit him. He also has a stream of important visitors from London and the universities, etc, that Violet feels jealous about. So he regularly entertains.

The shifting perspective seems intentional to me. Perhaps Fitzgerald’s wants to caution readers that people aren’t always as they appear. That would explain the General; he doesn’t seem to understand what Violet is really like, and he believes her when she lies to him, but you still get the feeling he’s uncomfortable.

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Old 01-21-2020, 06:18 PM   #73
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One risk with "people aren't always as they appear" is reevaluating Mrs Gamart. Perhaps she cares deeply about the arts and just has poor people skills? For most of the book we only have a fairly remote view of her. By the time we get to meet her more personally - with Mr Brundish - enough has happened that she may feel justified in her dislike of Florence. And consider the very strange behaviour of Mr Brundish during that meeting, we might easily excuse Mrs Gamart for responding poorly to a man that swears at her under his breath.

And all this may well be true, but once you allow a complete turn around in any of the characters the story blurs even more.
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Old 01-22-2020, 06:16 AM   #74
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Poor people skills - I love it! Without being an expert, it seems to me she could be described as a narcissist, as these traits don't sound too far out for her:

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Grandiose sense of self-importance.
Lives in a fantasy world that supports their delusions of grandeur.
Needs constant praise and admiration.
Sense of entitlement.
Exploits others without guilt or shame.
Frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies, or belittles others.
(It's okay - I know you were joking!)
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Old 01-22-2020, 07:38 AM   #75
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I had to laugh at “poor people skills”.
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