BookStories: Reader, I married him.

A literary wedding gets Ben Wiley's book memories revving.


click to enlarge Mixed marriages in Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations and Anna Karenina. - Ben Wiley
Ben Wiley
Mixed marriages in Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations and Anna Karenina.

A middle-aged couple came into the bookstore, looked around, then commented, sheepishly, “Our daughter is getting married and she wants a literary theme to the reception.” I immediately thought of those great novels with grooms in morning coats and brides in empire waists, mumbling vicars and stumbling groomsmen, all living happily ever after. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen observes, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Books often extol marital bliss for sure, so they must be a good omen for a prospective husband and wife.  

But then I began to remember those books with disastrous weddings and marriages. There is that unfortunate business in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when Jane discovers Rochester’s secret lurking in the attic. Well, “I declare the existence of an impediment,” indeed!  Don’t forget delusional Emma in Madame Bovary who aches for a romantic torchlit midnight wedding, but instead Flaubert has her endure a three-day wedding party that’s more gustatory orgy than moonlight and roses. Once married, Emma poisons herself.

Then there are the confused chumps in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd where Fanny the bride waits at All Souls’ Church while Frank the groom waits at All Saints’ Church. Tragedy ensues. Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations did not get what she expected but is left at the altar and wears the same old tattered wedding gown the rest of her life. And Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina features a miserable bride pining after the unattainable Vronsky. After she gets him, she throws herself in front of a train. 

So maybe a literary theme is not the best way to go for a wedding and reception after all, do you think?

Just as I started to suggest that to the parents, the Father of the Bride explained, “We want something really classy, something that looks like real books, so we could scatter them around the church and reception hall for the literary effect. You have any of those Reader’s Digest Condensed Books?”

Ben Wiley, one of our Creative Loafing film reviewers, is also an advocate for paper and print. Dead trees, if you will. He volunteers at a local library bookstore and enjoys engaging with readers and their books. Our series BookStories will highlight some of these Ben, Book & Beyond encounters.

About The Author

Ben Wiley

%{[ data-embed-type="image" data-embed-id="59a99bae38ab46e8230492c5" data-embed-element="span" data-embed-size="640w" contenteditable="false" ]}%Ben Wiley is a retired professor of FILM and LITERATURE at St. Petersburg College. He also was on staff in the Study Abroad Office at University of South Florida as statewide...
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