Theophilus North A Novel ePUB ✓ Theophilus North


Theophilus North A Novel I feel like an old lady at a health resort reading about a really nice young man who is so sharp witted and gentle that one can almost imagine how handsome he isThe above is going to be expanded on and spoilers are going to be addedOn the whole it seems like a book about a self righteous piece of shit smart assing around town This guy is a teacher and went to college but he seems to have been alert to human condition and has learned how to be smooth to the point of actually helping mentally and socially challenged people He knows a gazillion European languages as well as some ancient ones and makes use of his knowledge as he gets his jobs in Newport reading aloud in tongues to rich people and instructing kids in lawn tennis The book is broken into chapters each of which presents a social psychological medical or other problem connected to a certain member of society the protagonist being summoned or feeling compelled to rescue the person in uestion from their predicament He constructs a plan involving subtle favours from characters who are thus introduced into the narrative or have been rescued by Mr North in other chapters The plan invariably succeeds leaving the chapter's pet and its milieu in tears of happiness and undying gratitude The idea behind this structure is to create a fragmentary image of the post WWI Newport as seen by a post WWII person as will be read by an old lady in the seventies The author makes a special fuss about his separating of the city into nine layers the way Schliemann is supposed to have discovered Troy and introduces references to the layers into the story probably to make us feel better what kind of behaviour is to be expected from the actors I could never keep up with these numerics Another point of special importance for the author is fulfilling his ambitions he presents in the first chapter; he lives up to them in that he is something like a detective in one chapter something like an archaeologist in the other and so onI will not dwell on the actual achievements of the guy The are impressive and largely incredible People connected to the person in distress may be compassionate or malevolent but they are always either severely impeded or very dull at least compared to the protagonistHe reminded me of Remarue's heroes men who are intellectually superior to everyone around them having even some nearly transcendental knowledge say expertise in Han dynasty ceramics and a long history of liberating suffering These heros are fun to learn from Mr North however is somewhat different He does not shrink from metaphysics At a certain point he indulges in healing through channeling of secret energies once he even makes it easy for an old woman to die something she says the Lord does not want to allow her for some reason and though he keeps saying he is an atheist and a fake and a fraud as a healer still his séance leaves him exhausted he an barely walk and falls asleep on the stairs or falls from his bike twice It is possibly his gentle humanism he uses to sort out every problem that he channels Maybe it is a metaphor I couldn't tell In general the book is full of contradictions North says he hates generalizations but you can find a generalization on almost every page Well conditioned women like to forgive when they are asked to is a good example of the level of generalizations he allows himselfHe is in love with a 14 year old girl who can blame him for that and without thinking twice he condescends to impregnating a shore widow whose husband is supposed to be infertile His paramours are actually the best part of the narrative He is very unscrupulous and what he cannot fuck he is supposed to have fucked before But obscenities should be kept out of the bookNobody talks as a living human being in the book A conversation is always an exchange of informationSorry I am sick of this book and my own review It was ok This is one of my favorite books of all time I think it is unfortunately titled because the title doesn't really give a clue to the nature of the bookThis is a somewhat autobiographical novel with the emphasis on 'somewhat' of Thornton Wilder Theophilus has left a tiresome position as a teacher and at the age of 29 has the opportunity to spend some time to explore his freedom and his ambitions in the city of Newport in the year 1926In the end Theophilus decides to make an income giving lessons and acting as a 'reader' for Newport residents As he meets the residents he encounters and helps to solve their problems which are wide rangingAlong the way Theophilus explores his vision of the Nine Cities of Newport The First City the earliest settlers The Second City Newport in the 18th Century The Third City Newport as a prosperous and active seaport The Fourth City the Army and Navy in Newport The Fifth City the intellectual community The Sixth City the realm of the very rich The Seventh City the servants of Newport The Eight City camp followersparasites journalists etc The Ninth City the American middle class townas well as Theophilus's own Nine Ambitions in his life The First to be a saint The Second to be an anthropologist amongst primitive peoples The Third to be an archeologist The Fourth the detective The Fifth the actor an amazing actor The Sixth the magician The Seventh the lover not of Stately Swans but of pert magpies The Eighth the rascal a pícaro living by his wits The Ninth to be a free manIt is a wonderful book if you haven't read don't hesitate I will say it probably won't be appreciated by the young If however you've matured into at least middle age you'll find it enormously enjoyable and thought provokingI enjoy this book so much I read it at least once a yearNote they did make the book into a movie Mr North which I found to be a poor and pale imitation of the book Probably my most favorite book It has a touch of magic and something we can all relate to the endless uest to figure out who we are and how we fit into the world around us I made it about 160 pages before breaking into a brisk skimWilder wrote some artful tightly structured works and this is not one of them The novel has absolutely no rising action or character development other than the most unimaginative tacked on attempt at whaddayacallit kunstleroman And when I say unimaginative and tacked on I mean it on the very last page someone says to the main character have you ever thought about being a writer Apart from that the form and content of the novel rattle along for almost 400 pages blithely indifferent to a 1970s audience who had seen Fitzgerald Hemingway Faulkner etc write generation defining novels about the same era Theophilus North seems unaware of any of this It makes fun of rich people sure but it does so in a simplistic harmless childish way The power brokers and tycoons of the gilded age are rendered as harmless idiotic showpieces their problems effortlessly overcome by the supernaturally clever Mr North I should add as other reviewers have that his solutions aren't that inventiveI write all this as someone who works in Newport RI where the story is set and who takes great interest in the town's history and characterization The whole 9 cities of Newport riff early on in the novel is really well done; yet Wilder seems unwilling to tell us or show us anything of substance about any of those 9 worlds Stock characters including particularly unimaginative and unrealistic portrayals of the lower social classes parade around this novel like so many cardboard cutouts Folks will tell you this book is well written but I find Wilder stuck in his narrator's voice the book is basically written by a pretentious assNo doubt there are lots of characters and stories here that echo those of the real Newport I looked in vain for Timmy the Woodhooker But they aren't presented in a way that will make you care Maybe the ideal readers for this novel were the 70 year old ladies of 1973 They didn't care much for that Fitzgerald and they don't want to think about the second world war or the 60s upheaval just please tell them clever stories about helpless old rich people in NewportOne of the weirdest things about living in Rhode Island is that you often feel and almost never in a good way that you are living in the 1950s This novel is similarly set back it's an artifact of the 1970s yet it doesn't seem to belong to its time at all And its stylized fixation on the past doesn't create much than bogus antiuarianism anyway You can't go back to Brigadoon and it's just a bunch of shiny happy technicolor people dancing around anyway; most likely nothing like reality In college two of my favorite professors offered a special course on Thornton Wilder which introduced me to his now mostly forgotten novels Theophilus North was a favorite and I'm enjoying re reading it now It recounts the adventures of a Yale graduate Theophilus North a semi autobiographical protagonist in Newport Rhode Island 1926 Erudite witty and wise I was surprised how much I enjoyed this novel It was Thornton Wilder's last novel and it was a good place to start It is a little hard to believe that this book was written in 1973 as it is set during and after the First World War and it avoids the problem of anachronisms very well One of the reasons that I like the book is because it is set in NewportRhode Island and I live in the area It is obvious that the author knows the area and his geography is flawless However the book is really about Theophilus North and his adventures in Newport as much as about the different worlds in Newport itself over a short period time as a Tutor and fixer of many problems; social psychiatric and situational when they come into his orbit and he sees that he can do something about them It might not occur to you that Theophilus means knower of God but it certainly seems that Teddy is motivated by uncommon good sense and not always of the rigidly religious or socially constrained type Fortunately the stories and dialogue are not like 19th century writing and is not particularly tedious I am motivated enough to seek out the 1988 movie Mr North that is based upon this book and also to keep Mr Wilder on my reading list One of my favorite books of all time It's actually really hard to find an original copy of it I found mine on eBay and I think I still have my mom's copy of it Marking the thirtieth anniversary of Theophilus North this beautiful new edition features Wilder's unpublished notes for the novel and other illuminating documentary material all of which is included in a new Afterword by Tappan Wilder The last of Wilder's works published during his lifetime this novel is part autobiographical and part the imagined adventure of his twin brother who died at birth Setting out to see the world in the summer of 1926 Theophilus North gets as far as Newport Rhode Island before his car breaks down To support himself Theophilus takes jobs in the elegant mansions along Ocean Drive just as Wilder himself did in the same decade Soon the young man finds himself playing the roles of tutor spy confidant lover friend and enemy as he becomes entangled in the intrigues of both upstairs and downstairs in a glittering society dominated by leisure Narrated by the elderly North from a distance of fifty years Theophilus North is a fascinating commentary on youth and education from the vantage point of age and deftly displays Wilder's trademark wit juxtaposed with his lively and timeless ruminations on what really matters about life love and work at the end of the day even after a visit to Newport At first I wanted to say that it has a slow start and it gets interesting as the book progressesNow I want to say that it is one of the most amazing books I've read I have to say that I was a little skeptical at first when I saw the book is about American life To my disgrace I've always associated a certain vanity with something American as opposed to something European I'm glad that I was wrong The chapters are a bit long for my taste Having the daily habit of reading a chapter or two before sleep and trying to avoid stopping in the middle of a chapter it takes me time a day than other books I think the book is an interesting analysis of human nature Both in the stories it tells and also in the characters who at times take a active part in the story and times a less active partMr North leaves a constant distancing gap between himself and his clients and with each he breaks that gap in a different manner to help them Helping in some way outside of his initial job description He stays aloof at all times a sort of condescension towards the elite of New Port who treat him with the same condescension while still noting a certain uniue uality in himOne of the chapters I've read was about a pregnant woman with too much time on her hands and a learnedacuired dislike of classicsThere was a lot I could relate to in that story and a lot of things I notice around me The ruining of classic masterpieces by formal education at least in Russia and Israel The sort of void being filed after getting truly to know one of those classic tales The certain discomfort of speaking about something you don't understand and a silence ensued after a remark made out of ignorance The silence was a behavior which Mr North exhibited towards that lady As an educational tool I presume I wouldn't want to experience such a silence Wow this is a tough one to review It's a story of a twentysomething named Theophilus North He spends his summer in Newport and finds himself getting involved in the life of its inhabitants In a way it feels like a series of vignettes than a traditional novel Each chapter deals with Theophilus and a new cast of characters I really enjoyed most chapters; some were dull; some were confusing from start to finish It was definitely an interesting book It has made me curious to read Thornton Wilder that's for sure It dragged here and there and did feel a bit long but overall I enjoyed it I'm glad I read it

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