Posted by: Lizzie Ross | February 25, 2011

Some ‘splainin’ to do!

All right, I confess. The plot-less-ness of Proust has presented too much of a challenge during this longest/shortest month of the year. I need action, dialog, exterior conflict — all the stuff that Proust seems to be so far above.

I’ll get back to him at some point, but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been reading.

1. Jane Austen, Northanger AbbeySense & Sensibility, Persuasion, Lady Susan & other unfinished works, Mansfield Park: part of my biannual re-read through. Persuasion is my favorite, but I’m actually enjoying Mansfield Park more on a third read-through. I hated Fanny Price when I first read this book — she was so passive and happy to be allowed just to observe, although never reluctant to think unfavorably of others. But now I see larger connections, to place (Mansfield Park is a manor house) and to a kind of loyalty for the “old ways”. Fanny’s respect for her severe uncle, her hatred of improvements, her loyalty to her first love — all say much against the new-fangled ways of those lively but fickle Crawfords. Yet, Mary Crawford is clever and entertaining, and Henry Crawford dashing and almost irresistible. I like to imagine Fanny marrying Henry instead of Edmund and trying to reform her rakish husband. But, no, that would never do. She and Edmund need each other — two sticks from which no fire could blaze.

But don’t let people tell you Mansfield Park is Austen’s only novel named after a place. Have they forgotten Northanger Abbey? Austen’s spoof of gothic novels (which, btw, she greatly enjoyed reading) is wonderful.

Cover by Carson Ellis

2. Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society (3 vols): a series about 4 unusual children recruited to work for Mr. Benedict, in his battle against the evil Mr. Curtain and his terrifying machine with which he hopes to control the world. Fun stories, good mysteries, and if they ever got truly popular, they could revive interest in Morse Code!

Not a bad list of readings for this month. What’s ahead? Obscure novels by e. e. cummings and Ludwig Bemelmans, and my take on The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

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Responses

  1. Seeking refuge in Jane Austen from the plotlessness of Proust?? Execrable! Whatever ever happens in Jane A that may be worth turning the page?? But Proust… proust… oh, mon amie, i never fail to fall asleep somewhere during the first chapter. And what a pleasure that is!

  2. Yes, I’ve frequently dozed off while reading Proust, and how apt to do so unfailingly in his first chapter, with his ramblings about bedtime and trying to sleep in unfamiliar hotel rooms. Yet, I can’t deny my need to find out how it all ends. 2000 pages of plotless musings will be a challenge, but I intend (stubbornly) to meet it head on, regardless of how often it puts me to sleep.


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