Sunday, June 9, 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged

I have a confession to make. Up until about a week ago, I never liked Jane Austen.

The gasps of horror are echoing in my ears. I know! And it's not like I didn't try. I read Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility (twice), Pride and Prejudice. They just left me cold, you know? Northanger Abbey was clever and all, and I identified a bit with Eleanor in S&S, but I just couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I mean, people worship this woman! There's a whole Austen culture! It is a truth universally acknowledge that her books are pure undiluted awesomesauce and anyone who disagrees is a godless heathen!

Somehow I trundled along for years, bereft of the understanding of the Austen, a little puzzled, but complacent.

And then I happened to stumble across a link to Jane Austen's letters. I'm terminally nosy - not so much with people alive right now, but absolutely with people long since dead - so I thought, well, what the heck? Might as well check them out.

It took me about five minutes to read, "I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal," and I was lost.

Something just clicked in my head, and I just got it. This woman was hilarious and sassy and smart and I wanted to have her over for tea to cackle about Mr. Next Door's antics. She had things to say, dammit, and now I wanted to hear all of them.

It was away to Gutenberg, and I plowed through all those novels I'd neglected. And this time I got it - Jane Austen's novels are so timeless not because they necessarily draw staggering conclusions or even are fantastic romances, but because of their unerringly poignant observations on human nature. All these people in her novels are people we know, doing things that we've seen. She takes a scene, dials it up to 11, and then draws arrows pointing to everyone's inconsistencies.
“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
Well said, Ms. Austen. I'm glad that I'm finally able to appreciate you as you deserve at last.

What about you guys? Have you ever grown into a book?


    (*sigh* I guess I can forgive you)

    Also--I've had a book of Jane Austen's letters for a while but haven't gotten around to reading it. I think I must change that now.

  2. Horrified gasping indeed. Lol! So glad you gave her a second (and third, etc) chance. ^_^

    I guess I can almost understand. I always liked Shakespeare adaptions but I never understood a word of what he was saying in the actual plays until I watched A Midsummer Night's Dream. Then I could see how horribly brilliant he was. Before I thought he was just all flowery.

  3. I am glad you did not reveal this horrifying fact until *after* you'd learned to love her. ;)

    Dickens. Dickens was my "why on earth was this guy so popular?" writer. I read Great Expectations in high school & hated it. Hard Times in college. Loathed it (to be fair, I haven't reread that one and think it would still not rock my world). But then I picked up A Christmas Carol in a store one day, knowing I loved the movie (ok, so I loved The Muppets version of A Christmas Carol...sue me) and read the first page. And it was hilarious. I mean, I laughed out loud. And now I am a Dickens fanatic. Nicholas Nickleby was, maybe, the funniest book I've read in my life. I called people up while reading it, just to make them listen to passages I read aloud.

    So, you're forgiven the Austen faux pas. Just don't remind me I used to think Dickens was dull. ;)