Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vanity Fair

I'm feeling rebellious today--sitting at my computer writing a blog post when it's so nice and sunny outside is starting to feel like homework! So I'll get right to the point with: V is for Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray, a book with one of the most rebellious heroines in memory: the ruthless, amoral, and quite wonderful Becky Sharp.

Thackeray was born in 1811, and he published Vanity Fair in 1847. It's a book as relevant today as it was back then, giving credence to the theory that "the more things change, the more they stay the same." I bought my copy as a teenager when I was determined to read every British and Russian classic I could. It was a good plan, and it also taught me what makes a classic a keeper: the characters are timeless and universal, enduring the highs and lows of "modern life" regardless of era. When I first read Vanity Fair with all its absurdity coupled with Becky Sharp's machinations to get ahead in life, I thought it was just like high school! I could identify with her social woes, and I still can.

Becky Sharp is a fascinating character for writers to study. She's a dreadful person--bad, wicked, self-centered and narcissistic, and yet you can't help but feel sorry for her. You want her to win, and it's sad when she doesn't. She's also very, very funny. Becky never asks for permission--she just goes ahead and grabs life by the fistful, consequences be damned. 

She's an interesting role model--bad girl, smart girl, determined girl, product-of-her-times girl. I think there's a little bit of Becky in all of us (that goes for the guys, too!). The trouble is,  it's difficult to 'fess up and say, "Hey, I want to be just like her! I want my own way, and I want it right now! Move over." 

Giving in to your inner-Becky Sharp might be a risky path, and probably isn't the best way to gain friends and influence people. On the other hand, it just might be the key to creative success: being bold enough to send a manuscript to an editor who claims not to want submissions, but you know she's reading them anyway. Or having the confidence to take your artwork to a gallery for the very first time, even when you don't think you're "good enough." Becky never let the "rules"stop her, usually she just made them up as she went along.

So on that note, I'm going to follow Miss Sharp into the sunshine and play for awhile. Enough of this blogging madness! See you tomorrow when I promise to be much better behaved.


A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

Vanity Fair is one of those classics I haven't read yet. It's on my TBR list, which is rather long. But it sounds like I may have to move it up to the top of my list. Thanks for catching my interest in an old book that will be new to me.

Michelle Stanley said...

I haven't read Vanity Fair, but will include it on my ever growing list. Thansk for sharing.

Valerie Storey said...

Yes, everyone should read Vanity Fair at least once in their lives! I'm pretty sure there are some TV and movie versions too. Best wishes for some fun reading time.