Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Monkalong Week 1: "Vice is ever most dangerous when lurking behind the mask of virtue"

We're properly Monking along now! Led by the stalwart and true Alice of Reading Rambo.

I have no firm opinions about this book, except that I'm enjoying how much I do not know where it's going next.

I think . . . I am not the biggest fan of Matthew Lewis as a person. The introduction says he was rich and only wrote because he wanted to be famous. So it seems like he made The Monk as scandalous as he could manage and waited calmly for the outraged reviewers to drive readers straight toward him.

And he "borrowed" a fair amount from other works, by his own admission.

So he was the E.L. James of his time.

No, I take it back. He was a way better writer and none of his characters has referenced his or her inner goddess (keeping my eye on you though, Antonia). He also might have some pretty interesting insights about unrealistic religious ideals and moral compromise and human frailty. MAYBE.

Ambrosio is the protagonist? We dislike him initially, what with his exhibiting zero grace for his fellow creatures and being a giant hypocrite ("exempted himself from human failings," my ass). I've encountered (much less extreme) versions of him, and they are so earnest and naive and really can't understand how it's so hard for everyone else when it's so easy for them and there is obviously just one right way to live and it is the way they are doing it one day you'll understand.

What is confusing about this?

But sometimes they take a big ol' fall and learn humility and compassion and join the rest of flawed humanity, and you can almost stand to be around them again. And I was thinking maybe that was where Ambrosio was headed in the long run. Except apparently he ends up torturing and murdering later. So never mind about all that, what I just said.

I'm confused about Matilda, too. What is her deal?

Her "sister" metaphor that was supposed to grease the wheels and invite Ambrosio's sympathy for her was completely nuts. Do not confess your undying love to a married man and then insist that he allow you to live in his house with him and his wife. No one will feel sorry for you when he won't be your friend anymore.

His wife would not agree.

The only reason she could ever have for confessing her love was that she harbored the hope he would renounce his vows and choose her instead; so it was really disingenuous every time she insisted she didn't want anything from him. (Maybe she truly believed it at the time, but now we all know she must "enjoy him or die.")

Also she told him, suuuuuper casually, "when we expire, our bodies shall rest in the same grave," like a crazy person. Then she threatened to kill herself if he made her leave, incidentally by ripping open the front of her whatever-she-was-wearing and undoing all his resolve single-boobedly, like a genius.

But what leads me to the conclusion that she's a mastermind of super-villain proportions is that she commissioned that painting of herself as the Virgin Mary and then made sure Ambrosio would end up with it on his bedroom wall. She laid the lusty groundwork subliminally. You have to respect that level of planning.

I guess she still could have been motivated by love, as she says, but I suspect it was. . . a less noble sort of urge.

And can you really trust someone who has
a thousand Cupids lurking in her chin dimples?

I thought for sure Antonia was gonna be the one who dressed up as a boy to get close to Ambrosio, but now I'm all confused about where she comes back into this. Between the Swarthy Gipsy's Amazing Telegraphing Rhymes and Agnes the Fallen Nun's Curse, there shouldn't be any mystery as to where each of these characters is headed, but somehow there still is.

And the Internet won't tell me what the common punishment was for a pregnant nun. WHAT WILL BECOME OF AGNES?

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