Friday, October 9, 2015

The Monkalong Week 2: DON'T BE DEAD, AGNES

When someone is about to tell a story and they pause not even a little bit in to say, "Forgive me if I seem tedious in my narration" . . .

Get ready for at least 300 whales' worth of tedious narration

Boy, does Raymond have a story to tell Lorenzo, only about a quarter of which has anything to do with the subject of Lorenzo's interest—his sister, Agnes—and the rest of which is mostly just a long lead-up to Raymond's saying, "ThenIknockedupyoursister but anyway, going back to that ghost nun."

But I'm almost willing to say the digressions were worth it because of Marguerite. That's a fascinating lady, Marguerite. She's been living as a prisoner among murderous bandits for however long and finally spots her sliver of a chance to save at least one of their potential victims and finally get out of there alive with her two young children, and she'll be damned if she'll let Raymond's complete lack of common sense stand in her way.

He sees all the hallmarks of an abusive marriage and thinks, "Heavens, this gaunt woman is disagreeable. Why can't she be more cheerful, like her well-nourished husband?"

Then she has to spell everything out for him. Look at the sheets! They're veeeeery bloody. You see, blood belongs inside of your body, and when it gets out—no? Okay, well, now you're supposed to be drugged, so don't just sit there smiling at everybody. At least fake a yawn or something.

The only reason any of them survived was because Raymond overheard that detailed bandit conference that convened directly under his bedroom window, which turned on his light bulb just enough that he could cooperate with Marguerite's detailed, moment-by-moment instructions, up to and including telling him when to strangle a bad guy.
"You may remember, that I was remarkable at Salamanca for the power of my arm."
Yes yes, we're all very proud of you.

My favorite thing about Marguerite, though, is that when she tells her own backstory, she resists that common hallmark of "the fallen woman" in literature: taking responsibility for every bad thing that has ever happened to her. She's like, listen, "my nature was licentious and warm, but not cruel." I loved my first husband and he loved me, but he wasn't fully honest with me and it landed me in this predicament, through no fault of my own. So here we are and there it is.

And I can probably forgive Matthew Lewis for any weird thing he does next, because he has Marguerite's father forgive her and welcome her and her children home with open arms, without hesitation. He doesn't make a purity lesson out of her.

I just hope he isn't saving up to unleash it all on Agnes, who is too good for Raymond and possibly also this world. (And what's up with all the conscripted nunnery in this book? It's like the convent is the Night's Watch or something.)

Every single nun in this book.

My two favorite things about Agnes, in no particular order:

1. She drew a picture of a bloody nun interrupting a dinner party, and when Raymond found it, she said, "Oh yeah, that. That's the Bleeding Nun." *goes back to drawing*

2. She's not overdramatic, as a general rule. Her attitude toward Raymond from the get-go has no tinge of mania in it, unlike somebody else.
"I threw myself at her feet, and declared my gratitude in the warmest and most affectionate terms. She listened to me with complaisance, and assured me that she shared my sentiments."
She's not so desperate to escape life as a nun that she'll forsake her family to do it. She does panic a bit when her jealous Disney-villain aunt gets involved (as a direct result of Raymond being clueless again), but even then she's realistic about the possibility of Raymond being a cad and makes a fairly foolproof plan of escape that only Raymond could bungle by eloping with an actual ghost.

There are a lot more things to like about Agnes, but look how I've gone on already. And I didn't even talk about the Bleeding Nun or the Wandering Jew or any other gerund-plus-nouns. Or about how hilarious it is that Raymond read Agnes's letter (summary: "I never wanted to see you again, but it turns out I'm pregnant and you're literally my only option of staying alive. O! How I wish I'd never met you!") and have this response:
"Excessive was my joy at reading this intelligence."
No sense to found anywhere.

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