Monday, 17 June 2013

Intolerably Stupid

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” Jane Austen

I love reading Austen, I can pick up any of the books, any time, and be happy. I know the stories, I know what happens, I don't care, the joy is in the observations, the way that she has you observing the foibles and weaknesses of others, alongside her without feeling unkind. I can believe in the portraits. Emma is flawed, but we understand her, we can feel for her. We feel her mortification when she makes mistakes, and is recognised for them. I still like Emma, I am rooting for her, even when she is crass and unfeeling, because I know that she will learn from it, that she will become a better person. I sympathise with her, and perhaps she helps me to become a better, kinder person too.

We can work out the plot of any Austen novel. Genteel young woman, possibly fallen on hard times, and with irritating or unthinking relatives meets/knows respectable and honourable man (possibly, but not necessarily, young) but who is not available. He is engaged to another, out of her class, etc. etc. She meets up with another young man, who seems quite appealing with assured manners, but who eventually turns out to be rotten to the core, without the understanding of how a gentleman should behave to a young woman, and even putting the young woman in harm's way. In the meantime there may well be a proposal from a boorish clergyman. Finally the first man is released from whatever was stopping him from declaring his undying love - marriage ensues. There will be little vignettes with the relatives, maybe poor behaviour by the young woman - but only because she was unthinking, young women learn how to behave in Regency society.

It doesn't matter that I know what is going to happen, that is not what is important, it's the social observation, and the lessons. How Austen teaches us to behave in polite society. How we reflect on our own weaknesses. But also, let's be honest, her sharp observation. 

I do read a lot, but little fiction, because so little fiction measures up to my "Austen Standard". I feel patronised, or I feel that my suspension of disbelief is being stretched far beyond what is reasonable.

I do read non-fiction. This blog will look at what I read, and what I have gained from it. It is for my personal edification, to help me to remember, reflect on and remind myself what the key points of a book were. I will attempt a proper write up of a book soon after it is completed, but I may also drop in the occasional short post about books I have read in the past - "I read this book, I liked/didn't like it, this is why".

This blog is my opinion, if you happen upon it, you are welcome to read, you are welcome to disagree. I would be happy for you to point out anywhere I have misunderstood an issue. But, please, "be excellent" and "don't be a dick". Beyond that, at the moment at least, I will not post any further requirements of commenters. If you don't play nicely, then I will disable comments.

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