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Critical reception was mixed at the time - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
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sesquipedality
sesquipedality
Critical reception was mixed at the time
Supposedly because it challenged the sexual mores of Hardy's day, but in my opinion more likely because it was a bit shite.

I escaped Hardy at school by virtue of being in the second stream for English and thus not bright enough. (I went on to answer questions on "To Kill a Mockingbird" without ever having been taught it because I hated "Romeo and Juliet" so much - my grade is left as an exercise to the reader.) Never have I felt so relieved to be intellectually underestimated. I thought however that possibly it might be palatable in televisual form. Having already seen Jude the Obscure some years back, I feel that I ought to have known better.

What a pisspoor, unloveable excuse for a story that was. In any other drama, the evil overbearing foreman would've been away with the blue ribbon for Biggest Dick, but here there was such strong competition from the two leading men that he really wasn't even in the running. Mary Sue d'Urberville herself ("You may have won the heart of the man we all long for with your astonishing good looks, and also being smart, and good, and also the best milkmaid on the farm, but we're just so happy that you got him anyway") can at least be said to be on average slightly spunky, but the problem with averages is that taken in isolation, they tell you nothing. Three hours 59 minutes of being a total drip are not compensated for by one moment of passionate excess.

There is not a single likeable character in this piece of soul-grinding televisual torture. The whole thing is an exercise in grim futility. On paper, it may have even been a well written exercise in grim futility, although somehow I doubt that would make up for it. On screen, it just left me wanting that 4 hours of my life back, thank you so much.
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Comments
markbanang From: markbanang Date: October 5th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry for subjecting you to this, I think the only consolation I can draw from it is that I will never be tempted to read any Hardy or watch anything else based too closely on a book by him.

It is rather an irony that I wanted to watch this to help shed my aversion to 'costume drama', hoping that a 'classic' would actually be good. Alas I feel that my aversion has been strengthened and all the good Sharpe did me might have been undone...
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: October 5th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suppose that means we're just going to have to watch Sharpe all over again then.

Oh woe is me. :)
undyingking From: undyingking Date: October 6th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)
Mm, there are good and bad costume dramas, but being based on Hardy is never a plus point. There's a new Dickens one coming up on the Beeb which should be a lot more fun: their Bleak House was excellent.
tigerfort From: tigerfort Date: October 5th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would observe that really bad TV adaptions can turn out to be based on extremely good books. But I'll also grant that this isn't the case with Hardy.
triskellian From: triskellian Date: October 6th, 2008 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I did have to study Tess, at A level, and I hated it. And I have held fast to this hatred through people talking about the TV adaptation and in some cases even trying to encourage me to watch it. I enjoyed those four hours of my life, thankyouverymuch ;-)
zandev From: zandev Date: October 6th, 2008 07:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I had to study The Mayor of Casterbridge.

I suspect that reading Hardy is a form of hazing ritual for English students.
lanfykins From: lanfykins Date: October 6th, 2008 07:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Nobody ever made me read Hardy.

I'm so happy :)
(Deleted comment)
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: October 6th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
But Plath has redeeming features!
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: October 6th, 2008 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I will fly in the face of fashion and admit to liking Tess... when I studied it at school. But then, I was a fairly miserable teenager who liked doom and gloom and grim futility. (See also: war poetry, Sylvia Plath, the Angry Young Men school, etc.) The interesting thing about reading Hardy as a teen and then again in one's 20s or 30s is the way that sympathy and focus suddenly shifts to a completely different set of characters! I'm sure at 40 or 50 I will feel differently again about Angel Clare or Jude or Michael Henchard.

I actually did Hardy's poetry for A level, rather than any of his novels. The difference in outlook and voice is striking. He got more and more Eeyoreish between 32 (Under the Greenwood Tree, which is quite light) and 55 (the last novel) and then obviously lightened up a bit to write the bulk of the poetry, which is "lightly regretful" but not even half as gloomy as the books. Blame his unhappy marriage. :)
sesquipedality From: sesquipedality Date: October 6th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well the unhappy marriage explains a lot, but why did he have to inflict it on the rest of us?
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: October 6th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
He was basically trying to stick up two fingers at the Victorian Establishment, where prevailing wisdom was that Tess, as a Fallen Woman, had no sympathy or empathy due to her and could not possibly be a heroine or be in charge of her own destiny at any time or in any way. He made her a heroine, gave her some power and choices, and the fact that it all went a bit pear-shaped in the end was not directly due to the fact she had once enjoyed sex [shock horror]. So he was trying to achieve something quite worthwhile. The fact that he was pretty bitter (but also see Dickens, Waugh, many other writers) just comes out a bit strongly, that's all.

And his heart may (or may not) have been eaten by a cat.
glittertigger From: glittertigger Date: October 6th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I also read and liked Tess in my angsty teenage years, but I can't imagine it making good TV. I still quite like Hardy's poetry and "lightly regretful" is a good description.
imc From: imc Date: October 6th, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you win a blue ribbon for Biggest Dick, do you have to tie it around or just hang it?
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