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Three Weeks: The Elinor Glynalong | Elinor Glyn's Trashy Classic

Here we are at the start of a new year, reading some 1907 trash. Feels right.



I never thought you could actually read Elinor Glyn's books; she seemed like some distant untouchable literary figure, referenced in The Music Man, but whose works were not to be seen by contemporary eyes. Well that is nonsense. They're right there on the internet for free.

Glyn's first novel was published in 1900 (The Visits of Elizabeth) and her last in 1940 (The Third Eye). This readalong focuses on one of her more scandalous works, Three Weeks. It is termed an "erotic romance novel" and concerns a young English twit who falls in love with an older (i.e. in her 30s) Eastern European woman of MYSTERIOUS ORIGINS.

It was the subject of an anti-vice campaign in Boston (what wasn't, amirite?) and mainly made its cultural mark through the means of a tiger skin, seen in the book cover above.

This week is chapters 1 through 6. To convince you to read this amazing work, here is a recap:

INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN READERS

Glyn argues that her work has been basely misinterpreted by critics and her novel is about Love and passion and the human spirit, and sure, people do it in her book, but those who focus on that "are as moles, grubbing in the earth for worms."

CHAPTER 1, Paul Is Scared of Lipstick

The hero (?) is Paul Verdayne, who is "young and fresh and foolish." I like to picture Glyn narrating this story to her secretary while smoking from a cigarette holder and lounging on a leopard print chaise. Paul is in love with Isabella Waring, who likes sports and has big red hands and when his mother, who wants him to marry anyone other than Big-Hand Isabella, sends him off to the continent for a bit, he and Isabella have this parting:

"Good-bye, old chap," she said. "We have been real pals, and I'll not forget you!"
[...]
"Good-bye, darling," he whispered with a suspicion of tremble in his charming voice. "I shall never love any woman but you--never, never in my life."
Cuckoo! screamed the bird in the tree.

Paul goes and sulks in Switzerland, which Glyn introduces like your most pretentious yet endearing friend would, with "Do you know Switzerland?--you who read. Do you know it at the beginning of May? A feast of blue lakes, and snow-peaks, and the divinest green of young beeches, and the sombre shadow of dark firs, and the exhilaration of the air."

She's gesturing widely with her cigarette holder while she dictates this.

Paul calls everything beastly, goes down to dinner, and furiously watches a woman all in black sit near him, wearing LIPSTICK.

"[H]e knew paint when he saw it, and this red was real, and vivid, and disconcerted him."

Disconcert All the Men With Red Lipstick 2019.

This woman is totally silent, totally ignores him, and he immediately goes from furious to in love with her.

CHAPTER 2, Paul Is Still Grumpy

Paul goes boating, has déjeuner (you will read sprinklings of French and you will LIKE IT), and decides to go on the funicular railway, which I have googled and it's one of those little trains you take up steep slopes. So there's Paul in his funicular railway car, he wanders around some Swiss mountains, and while he's resting, the Lady in Black pops out at him from some tree branches, stares, then leaves again. HOW MYSTERIOUS.

He proceeds to essentially stalk the lady at the hotel, they keep looking at each other but not talking, because that is how romance is born. He finally plants himself outside her room in the garden for too long, she appears in some black gauzy thing, and:

Was he dreaming or did she whisper something? The sound was so soft he was not quite sure. He stretched out his arms to her in the darkness, pulling himself by the ivy nearer still. And this time there was no mistake. 
"Come, Paul," she said. "I have some words to say to you."

This is my favorite because she definitely said that one time before and he just couldn't hear her. Can you imagine trying to do your sultry seductive voice, but the other person is just like "um, wait, did you say something?" Because that's what happened here.

Paul goes inside. Presumably they're going to bang.

CHAPTER 3, The Arrival of the Tiger Skin

Glyn describes this hotel suite as being "transformed by her subtle taste and presence" and by subtle she means there is a couch DRAPED in a tiger skin and piled with purple velvet pillows. I imagine the room looks like Biff's Vegas condo in Back to the Future II.

She sinks into Tiger Sofa and tells him to "sit beside me and tell me what you think." Which it's like. About what, lady. This tiger sofa with its purple pillows? I think it's a bit much. But TBH if a mysterious woman with skin "like a magnolia bloom" was like, come into my subtle purple pillowed room while I drape myself on this sofa, I'd probably just go with it to see what happened next.

What DOES happen next is she basically is like "look, I know you're into me and I'm into you, so let's do this," only instead she says "It was fate, Paul. I knew it when I entered the room. I felt it again among the green trees, and so I ran from you--but it is plus fort que moi--so I called you to come in."

Ok here's the thing. Paul's an idiot. This lady, whose name Wikipedia informs me we NEVER LEARN, just wants to get some. And that is fine, but omg lady, this is all a bit much.

She knows what she's doing though, so she's like "No! I cannot hurt you! Flee from here at once!" and Paul is like "Never!" OBVIOUSLY because what else would you say in that situation. Then she shoves some flowers at him and says she'll see him tomorrow, which is how you keep them interested.

CHAPTER 4, Simple Repasts for All

Paul wanders the lobby and finds out her last name, at least, which is Madame Zalenska. She sends him a note on "un-English" paper (sure) saying she will call for him in her launch and they will go see "the blue lake and the green trees." I think we all deserve to be called for in someone's launch by someone reclining under an awning. They look at trees from the boat and then go into a small village's little hotel where "a simple repast was waiting for them" and TBH this is the actual part of the book I want to live out. Just give me small Swiss towns that have simple repasts waiting for me.

They frolic in the forest for a bit and she makes some Dark Allusions to her past and then tells the story of Undine, which I think is basically The Little Mermaid, and Paul wants to kiss her but they still haven't because TENSION is being BUILT.

CHAPTER 5, Finally.

Paul is all of us and very "are you mad at me, why aren't you TALKING" and she does something I am charmed by against my very will and talks about how she was looking at the scenery and asked if he sees "the wild anger the giants were in when they hurled these huge rocks about."

That's nice.

They go back to the hotel and he quite normally asks if he can take her to dinner, but something is up, because she blanches and says no, she has to write letters and go to sleep. But she'll see him on her balcony again at 10. I know that this would feel really cool to be this type of person, but who honestly has the self control.

Paul goes and waits and fiiiinally they kiss one time, but she immediately flees, as you should in this scenario to keep things going, leaving Paul "intoxicated with emotion under the night sky studded with stars."

CHAPTER 6, Here We Go

Isabella Big-Hands is forgotten and Paul is all about Whatshername now. He mails her a letter saying we're done, "with some of the emotions Alexander may have experienced when he burnt his ships."

He goes into town and chances upon ANOTHER tiger skin. In Switzerland. What was going on in the 1900s that they were just throwing tiger skins around willy-nilly. Anyway, he's like "well, this is an infinitely better tiger skin than the one she has, so I will buy it as a present." To be honest, if I weren't sad about dead tigers, I would be all over this gift.

She sends him a note saying to come to her terrace and he sends one back saying "I will be there, sweet lady" because he's starting to understand the rules of this game, but also because he still doesn't know her first name.

Then. in the Memorable Image of the Book, Paul comes into her hotel room and the tiger skin is draped in front of the fireplace, the lady whose name we don't know is draped ON it, lying with those purple velvet pillows WITH A ROSE BETWEEN HER TEETH.

She wriggles about a lot on the rug and Paul keeps half-getting up to be like "so....." and she keeps stopping him. "She tossed the scarlet rose over to him; it hit his mouth."

There are so many moments in this scene where I would be laughing too hard to continue and just ruin the moment, which is why mysterious ladies never invite me anywhere.

It gets a bit worrisome when she says she wants to talk and "his incoherent thoughts were that he did not want to talk—only to kiss her—to devour her—to strangle her with love if necessary."

"I want to strangle you with love" is not number ONE on my list of things I'd want to hear.

But in the midst of this strangle-thought, she's like, and now we will read fairytales, which is 100% confusing and weird. Paul is still pretty nice though, so he says okay, and she begins reading them in Latin, like we all know.

Suddenly she's next to him and bending down, and I would shriek, but Paul doesn't. She says she must SING, and honestly, I think this lady might be bipolar or have SOME sort of mood disorder. So she honest-to-God grabs a guitar and starts singing, and then Paul becomes the tortured hero of a melodrama, grabs her, does a bunch of "I must have yous" and we fade out on a crackling fire.

END OF WEEK ONE.

Comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I COULD READ ELINOR GLYN! This is a revelation. I'M IN.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I checked my blog feed for the first time in like FOREVER... and what is this readalong I almost missed?! I'M IN.

    ReplyDelete

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