Obstinate, Headstrong Girl

Queen Anne's Lace
I mentioned in my 2017 book round up that I haven’t re-read a Jane Austen book in 2 years, which is unusual for me. They are among the books that I re-read constantly and love more every time. I plan to rectify that situation in 2018 with Mansfield Park, because it’s been longest since I’ve re-read that one. I am feeling very Austen-ish this weekend, so I thought I would hit you up with a whole bunch of Jane links this weekend.
What do you think of re-imaginings of classic books, or retellings from the point of view of other characters? I love them, and even if they are poor examples, they don’t diminish my love of the original work at all. Some people balk at the notion of making an unremarkable character into a remarkable one, but that’s the whole point. Here’s the best writing advice I ever got: every single character thinks they are the star of the show. (And, major life advice: every single person you meet thinks THEY are the star of the show.) A character who is minor in one narrative is not at all unremarkable in their own. I plan to read the upcoming Pride and Prejudice sequel, and I’ll also read the Mary Bennet story.
Check out this this modern review of Pride and Prejudice from the great Helen Gardner, whom I always thought was waayyyy too smart for me. It turns out she is witty and accessible in her assessment of the Bennet family: “I sprang off my sopha at last, strode to the freezer for a slug of Absolut, and raised my glass in silent respect. A toast to the Empress, Jane Austen.”
I love this article, about the many ways we are wrong about Jane Austen. It’s so strange to think that we know someone so well, but in actuality we only know the modern consumer image. Her inner world, her thoughts and the real events of her life, remain tantalizingly opaque. There is something wonderful about that; as much as I want to know everything about her, we live in a world where no one has any secrets at all, and a mystery is quite refreshing.
Is Pride and Prejudice’s first line the most famous first line in all of literature? Check out this fun article about how it is used to sell everything from soap to contraceptives, and yet most people take it literally, instead of in the ironic tone it was intended. One thing to remember about Jane: she is much more subversive than many give her credit for. That’s why I get so annoyed when people dismiss her books as ‘simple love stories.’ They are really missing the whole genius of her work.
Speaking of genius: what do you think of Mrs. Bennet? She’s always my favorite in Pride and Prejudice; I never thought she was silly or stupid at all. I loved this article about how she is the most subversive of all of Austen’s characters, precisely because she is so easy to mock.
So, now it’s your turn: what are you reading this weekend? Have you read any Jane Austen lately? Do you like her, or have you never seen the appeal?
Happy weekend reading, my friend,
PS – for fun:
Mr. Bennet

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