Book 339: Emma – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - EmmaFor book two of our Jane Austen Book Club, my friends and I decided to conquer Emma (Amazon link). It has always been my least favorite of the six and reading Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education both confirmed that and helped me get around this problem. His talking about Emma and it’s belief in the importance of every day trivialities, as well as Margaret Drabble’s excellent introduction led me to think about the book differently.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still boring as anything in most points, but Austen wrote it this way. According tot Drabble, Austen wrote this novel in such excruciating detail in direct response to the detractors of her previously published novel Mansfield Park, which I love. Drabble says, “This is domestic realism almost with a vengeance.” (xix) AND it is! The hyper focus on every detail, the incredibly limited scope of setting, characters and even conversation topics is overwhelmingly mundane. It is an assault on the senses, and as a fellow JABC member said “i’m diagnosing myself with ‘emma-induced narcolepsy.'” (Thanks Dalton!)

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Book 337: Crome Yellow – Aldous Huxley

Huxley, Aldous - Crome YellowMy friend Nick gave this to me to read ages ago and I’ve finally gotten around to it. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but the further I read the more I enjoyed the story (Amazon link). Coming in at under 200 pages, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Huxley fit into the novel without overwhelming the sense of lackadaisical whimsy of the people.

I am incredibly glad I read the foreword though, because I don’t think I would’ve understood this was a satirical novel of the British upper-class. I probably would’ve happily read it and thought, “wow these people are petty and ridiculous,” and then thought nothing more of it. It reminded me a lot of the various upper-class dioramas I’ve read from Jane Austen to Cécil David-Weill’s The Suitors, which is what Huxley was going for in his social criticism.

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Book 334: Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project #2) – Val McDermid

McDermid, Val - Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen Project #2)The great part about The Austen Project, is I can read them in any order I want! Just like Austen’s original books :-D I decided to read this one as we just read the original Northanger Abbey for Jane Austen Book Club and I loved it. The not so great part is reading this one made me wonder if I would have enjoyed Austen when she was originally published. I say this not as a commentary on the writer, whose skills were amazing and the ending had me in hysterics on the T, but as a commentary on holding up a mirror to young adult society today. The summary of the novel (Amazon link), might not have made me read this if I wasn’t aware of the original, but McDermid drew me in pretty quickly.

The whole premise of the project is around the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novels contemporary authors are retelling her stories in the modern age. We’ve all seen modern adaptations of classics like “Clueless” (Emma) and “10 Things I Hate About You” (Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew), but this is more along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Boooo!) or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (YAY!!!!) in that the story is verbatim with minor changes. In this case it’s brought into the 21st century and takes place in Edinburgh instead of Bath.

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Book 333: The Bitterweed Path – Thomas Hal Phillips

Phillips, Thomas Hal - The Bitterweed PathThis response is a bit scattered. It’s as close to stream-of-consciousness as I will ever get so enjoy it.

I jumped this book up my list because someone was getting antsy. For some reason, he didn’t think I wanted to read anything he suggested, or that I didn’t like his last recommendation, Last Summer, so I’ve made a deal with him that I’ll read a book at least every other month from him (talk about dictating!). Thankfully I’ve really enjoyed both books he’s recommended so far. His next recommendation is Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour and these recommendations don’t even include the ones of his that I WANT to read!

I was a little torn on John Howard’s introduction as it felt a bit misleading, but it did provide an excellent history of Phillips life and the setting of the novel. Howard wrote about his own experience as an LGBT academic and activist, and the self-serving nature of getting this book re-published for its early LGBT themes. He mentioned Phillips lack of acknowledgement about his own sexuality, which was interesting, and noted that none of his other books did as well as The Bitterweed Path and didn’t contain LGBT themes.

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Book 331: Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - Northanger AbbeyContinuing my “Jane-uary” theme, I’ve just finished Northanger Abbey in time for our Jane Austen Book Club (JABC) discussion, which was unfortunately postponed due to a blizzard here in Boston. In addition, this acts as my revitalization of my Classics Club attempt. I apparently only read two books last year. How embarrassing! I’ll read at least six this year with the JABC so that’s a bonus.

Let’s start with I’m ashamed to admit I forgot how absolutely lovable and amazing Henry Tilney is! This is one of the two Austen books I’ve only read once and that is will most definitely change in the future. On the scale of Austen heroes he’s always been lost in the non-Mr. Darcy fray for me. I think he is still behind Darcy, but his bookishness and (what I see as his) disdain for social norms made me laugh on numerous occasions!

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