Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I Know, I Promised To Stop Writing About Jane Austen

However, this is just about the funniest thing I've read all year. This beats all film adaptations of the book by a long shot. It's the definitive version of Pride and Prejudice. I daresay it would be impossible to improve upon it.

Hat Tip: Marginal Revolution.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas In America

I overheard this little cultural artifact in the grocery store's PA system over the weekend:
All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names
They wouldn't let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games
'Till one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say:

*crrt... SHAWNA, LINE TWO! SHAWNA, LINE TWO! ...crrt*

Then how the reindeer loved him as they shouted out with glee
'Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, you'll go down in history!'
The timing was absolutely flawless.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ok, So I Finished Reading Pride and Prejudice.

Happy December to all, and welcome to my second consecutive blog post about the magnum opus of all Chick Lit, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. While the future is as unforeseen by me as by any other, I trust it shall also be the last. I got some insightful comments on my last post on the topic, and (intentionally, I might add) engaged multiple people in discussion about this book over the holiday weekend, and I shall attempt to bring all of the wisdom I've gleaned from such endeavors to bear in my final pronouncements on the novel, though I don't know why I should bother. As with most things I write, if you like you may happily discard my thoughts if they disagree with your own, secure in the knowledge that I am not as smart as you are. Now then, on with it!

My first conclusion upon the completion of the book, and I have yet to controvert it, was that it's not a very "serious" book, nor is it trying to be one. This counteracted, for the most part, my disappointment. You may disagree with me here, but at least some of the persons with whom I discussed the book generally agreed with me on this point: it's just a fun yarn. It's just a love story. If that's all you're looking for (and there's nothing wrong with reading just a love story), you're in for a good read. The prose style is very enjoyable, and you may experience that warm internal glow at the conclusion of the novel that comes with knowing that the good characters all received their just rewards (in this case, marriage to one another), and that the bad characters were likewise paid their due (also marriage to one another). That's it. The book sets out to introduce to you its setting, endear you to one group of characters and acquaint you with less fondness with another group of characters, tell you the reason they all can't be blissfully happy together, and then have their innate goodness (and money) overcome whatever that reason may be. Fin. It's a warm, fuzzy kind of a book. It doesn't challenge anything, or make you think too hard, even for a moment, about anything.

It has been suggested to me that the story depicts some form of feminine liberation, though perhaps diluted to be more acceptable to the general public at the time it was written. If what I've already said above has not convinced you of my own beliefs in the matter, let me say explicitly that I do not believe this to be the case. Elizabeth Bennet is not a standard bearer. She does not change, nor does she attempt to change the male-centered dynamic which dominates the social structures present in the book. She just learns to play ball, and wins. The novel ends when she realizes how stupid she was to refuse the advances of the incredibly rich guy, because at first he wasn't especially charming. The point at which she begins to see him in a different light is when she takes a tour of his gigantic mansion. After that, she wants nothing more than to be the instrument of the issuance of his progeny. If you're looking for symbols of liberated femininity in Pride and Prejudice, you'll have to content yourself with the contrasting figures of Charlotte Lucas and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (really), and they don't get much dialog. Overall, as I said before, I don't believe Austen to think very highly of her sex. The whole of the novel contains only two likable females, the two eldest Bennet sisters. They are exceptions to an otherwise steadfast rule.

In the end, while I suppose that I'm glad that I tried, I didn't really like the book. In my first post I suggested that nothing happens in the book, a comment for which I was rebuked most heartily by my wife, among others. Allow me now the luxury of editing my own words, by affixing them with qualifiers: Nothing happens in this book that I find particularly interesting. It is an adventure story, where the sorts of exciting events that take place are new neighbors coming to town (and leaving it again), dinner parties, dances, and the occasional, can't-put-the-book-down moment where the protagonist's best friend marries an absolute fool. If this is the sort of excitement you're looking for, then dive in. You'll like it, and why shouldn't you? It's The Three Musketeers for women. For myself, I couldn't stand it. I began to enjoy the book when Lydia unexpectedly elopes with the villainous Wickham (though he barely deserves the term), and then felt cheated (and really quite bitter) when everything ends up so neatly sewn up in the end. All of the main characters were a fool about something in their turn, and in the end, with no harm caused by any of their follies, they go on their merry ways. Wealth and goodwill easily surmount all obstacles to happiness. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not the sort of thing I enjoy. I also, in a rare instance of sticking up for myself, assert that there's nothing wrong with me for not liking it.

I've tried not to let my own biases cloud my judgment too much in my reading of the book, though I'm afraid that their continued influence is considerable. Given what I've said about what I suppose the novel's aim to be, I can't gripe too much about it, save to say that I still think Austen spends far too much type on her more obnoxious characters. While the book would suffer from the absence of such characters, the amount of attention they're given by the author hurts it almost as much, if not more. If you're the last human being who has not read this book (I was among the last), go watch one of the shorter film versions (trust me), and if you think you could stand a few hundred pages of that, this might be the book for you. If you're stuck with the six-hour version, well, then you don't need to bother with the book at all. Ciao!