Vanity Fair

(William Makepeace Thackeray) (1848)

Well. Rebecca Sharp. She’s a real dilly.

Nabokov, apropos Humbert Humbert, pointed out there were not many memorable literary characters we’d like our children to meet: “Would we like our sons to marry Emma Rouault, Becky Sharp or la belle dame sans merci?”*

This vivid and wordy book has caused charges of carelessness to be leveled at WMT: the chronology is at times out of whack, different characters seem to age in different time dimensions, for instance.  But so what?  This is a masterpiece of playful improvisation, and after all, plenty of dull, dud novels have been executed, in several senses, with diligence, fretfulness, and close attention to detail.

In Becky Sharp, Thackeray has created a great character, a true anti-hero without so much as a dollop of sugar-coat.

[*Letter to Katherine A. White, 4/4/1957.]

 

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