Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wishlist Wednesday: Esther Waters by George Moore

I became interested in this 1894 novel awhile back when Harvey Pekar did a comic strip about it in one of the issues of American Splendor. Esther Waters is a maid that becomes pregnant. The father, (a footman in the same household) abandons her, so she becomes a single mother. Pekar writes that George Moore, an Irish novelist, short story writer, playwright and critic (1852-1933) was influenced the naturalism of Zola and Hardy. Unlike Hardy with Tess and Zola with Nana, Moore doesn't deal out a tragic end for his heroine. Esther and her baby simply get on with their lives.

Although realistic novels were gaining in popularity at this time, this "woman-goes-unpunished" treatment would've been quite controversial, but apparently, George Moore wasn't shy about tackling subjects like this and others including prostitution and lesbianism. Even later in his career, he was still in the thick of it with his 1916 novel The Brook Kerith, which dealt with, according to Wikipedia, "a non-divine Jesus that didn't die on the cross and was instead nursed back to health and went on to India in search of wisdom."

Allegedly, (again, according to Pekar) Moore had some influence on James Joyce, but he's not well-remembered or widely studied because he had a gift for pissing off friends and influential people alike, especially when he published his memoirs in 1914. Also, he had a habit of going around incessantly saying that he was the greatest, which seems to have backfired as a PR tactic.

Like Harvey Pekar, I really like Naturalism/realism. Also, I want to learn more about Irish literature. Even if he was a bit of an asshole, George Moore was a colorful character in his own right, definitely worthy of attention. (He already gets high marks from me for bucking literary tradition and not killing off his heroine because she had sex on the "wrong" side of the marriage ceremony!) As a result, Esther Waters seems tailor-made for a solid spot on my wishlist.


Lisa said...

This sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the info, but I didn't really need more books to add to my wishlist. sigh :)

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating book that seems to be! I can easily see how it made your wishlist.

The description of Moore's personality reminds me of another Irish George, who thought as much of himself as Moore seems to have done.

Susan said...

At least I'm not the only one adding books left and right to my wishlist! You've got to write about books I already own!!! I despair of reading how many books you've already read (ie catching up to you this year) - I would have to live in a nunnery I think to be able to read that much in 3 months! Or wait til my kids are grown up....meanwhile i will keep adding to my books, so thanks for another author/book to look for....Esther Waters does sound interesting and even more so because it doesn't end tragically!
By the way - love the new picture of you. Do you think the name Susan (and variations) and wearing glasses go together? I've worn glasses since I was 10..... :-)