Emily Climbs

One of my favorite lines in all of literature happens in Emily Climbs:

“Of course,” said Mrs. Ann Cyrilla, “I think a great many of Emily’s faults come from her intimacy with Ilse Burnley. She shouldn’t be allowed to run about with Ilse as she does. Why, they say Ilse is as much an infidel as her father….She swears like a trooper, I’m told. Mrs. Mark Burns was in [her father’s] office one day and heard Ilse in the parlor say distinctly ‘out, damned Spot!’ probably to the dog.”

Oh God. That’s as good as anything Valancy says in that dinner with her family in The Blue Castle. I never read Macbeth without thinking of Ilse Burnley.

You wouldn’t say that Emily Climbs was long on plot. She does things that shock people even though she is perfectly innocent and reasonable in the matter, and she tries to get things published, and her family is frustrating and supportive by turns, and she has a lovable cast of friends plus boring Teddy, and she likes pretty things. I can’t say what it is about this book that appeals to me so much. It’s just charming and friendly and amusing. It’s episodic but the episodes are interesting.

And, ugh, I don’t like it when Dean teases her about her writing. What a jerk! How mean he is! How could anyone do such a mean thing? That enormous prat! He may be more interesting than Teddy, but what a humongous selfish jerk telling her bad things about her stories when they are indeed very good! Whatever. I want to like Dean because he gives Emily new books to read, and I try to shut down those parts of my mind that are screaming “Humbert Humbert” and “that surely untrue but still creepy story about Alfred Douglas going to visit Oscar Wilde with Andre Gide and telling Gide that Oscar Wilde’s kid Cyril ‘will be for me’ (ew! ew! I know it’s apocryphal but ew, ew, ew, ew!)”; anyway I try to shut down those parts of my mind and focus on Tom Lynn and Polly or Jane and Mr. Rochester, who undoubtedly lived happily ever afterwards to the end of their days, but it’s impossible to be friends with Dean given his unconscionable behavior as regards Emily’s writing. And I shouldn’t even be getting all het up yet because he hasn’t done the really super duper unconscionable thing that he does in Emily’s Quest.

That bastard. I never forgave him for that.

I wish I had that old copy like I have of Emily of New Moon. The one with the cover where she is smelling a flower and it’s all greeny. That’s a better cover than the one I’ve got. On the one I’ve got Emily just looks really blah. But still, if you are ever near Emily Climbs, in any edition, read it. It’s friendly.