Friday, September 7, 2018

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope: A Note

Anthony Trollope's classic The Way We Live Now is his classic satire of late Victorian society, which bears more resemblance to our own than most of us can appreciate. It is something of a truism that railroads were the dot-coms of Trollope's time, but reading that novel, centered on a massive financial scandal centered on such a steampunk dot-com, shows in dramatic fashion just how much this was so. ("The object of Fisker, Montague, and Montague was not to make a railway to Vera Cruz, but to float a company.")

Trollope's take on it all has real bite, one reason why critics in his day were unappreciative of that book, and why they might be similarly unappreciative in ours (as a cursory look at a number of lists of nineteenth century classics has suggested to me), but it seems to have enjoyed a bit of an upsurge in popularity in recent years, because of its relevance--and I suppose, also by more recent writers' failings. Among their many disservices Modernism, postmodernism and the rest have rendered today's "serious" literature too toothless to properly write such an epic in our own time, and so for satire we can hardly do better than look to a tale of comparable doings in a time long past.

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