August 14, 2010
When I was 15 and entering 10th grade, the assigned summer reading consisted of some supermarket detective novels and Pride and Prejudice. For those of you unfamiliar with the great canonical works of Western literature, Pride and Prejudice is definitive of every young girl's fantasy romance. Forget Twilight! Pride and Prejudice is about a headstrong young girl who falls in love with a handsome rich man. Only at first, she detests him. He's gruff and a big brute but underneath that top coat you can just tell that there's a really sensitive man who loves her more than his characteristic laconic demeanor could ever express. So he writes her letters and her resistance melts away. In a world of sexting, provocative pop musicians and peer pressure, you could imagine how this could get a sexually immature young girl all hot and bothered. You can tell they want to do it the whole 300 pages, but it's never explicitly stated, and somehow this makes it hotter.
Of course, there is no payoff. They don't even kiss! I was pissed off as an impatient 15-year-old, but as I grew older and read more I realized that most works of nineteenth-century English literature can be characterized by the excessive restraint of the characters. The first 95% of the novels are devoted to letting you know how the male lead and female lead are completely smitten with each other while they strenuously deny it to themselves (hello dramatic irony!), while the last five pages portray the grand climactic dramatic confession, usually accompanied by a lot of trembling and perhaps a thunderstorm. Then they decide to marry.
I drew up this comic in February when I was reading Middlemarch, long before I started Little Ghouls. This comic has been sitting on my hard drive for a few months and some of you have even seen it before, but I'm in San Francisco and decided to limit the time I spend reclusively sitting on the computer. But it still applies, because now I'm reading Jude the Obscure, and Thomas Hardy is about as racy as this stuff gets. You only spend 150 pages watching the characters pretend to not love each other instead of 500.