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twilightWith some extreme exceptions (Harry Potter for one), I’m generally opposed to book “phenomenons.”  If I see everyone reading it on the subway I like to flatter myself that I’m above it all.  I tell myself that I read “real” books (which as any reader of this blog can see, is not entirely true).  I hate when non readers tell me I *HAVE* to read such and such book.  It irritates me.   Worse yet are the books that are made into movies, causing an explosion of books into the population, mostly non readers.

The Twilight series is one of those phenomenons, tween girls are crazed about these books (and the subsequent movie).  But it’s not just kids, plenty of young adult women have been trying to push the series on me.  I successfully resisted, until one of my best reading friends literally put the stack in my hand and said, “Read them, they’re fun.”

I think it was the fact that she didn’t fly into rhapsodies about how amazing and impressive they were that made me take them from her.  Still, they sat on my bookshelf. I had no intention of reading them, I figured I would just hold them for an appropriate amount of time and then return them with a disclaimer that I was “too busy” to get to them.

But what I didn’t count on was that my foray into British history was coming to an abrupt halt with Roy Jenkins’ Churchill.  That book was painful; somehow he made Winston Churchill seem boring.  I had to give up, only halfway through.   It was disheartening, and  I just didn’t have it in me to start anything even remotely challenging. 

“They’re fun,” she had said, and so I reached for Twilight.

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Jane Austen presaged the current obnoxious teenage girl, equipped with walks down country lanes rather than cell phones, and letters instead of text messages, in most of her stories.  Clearly part of her popularity today is due to the fact that movies (like Clueless) can be made from her work that appeal to the modern teenage audience.  She’s certainly the least painful of high school reading assignments.

Though Emma  is her most finely drawn version, Northanger Abbey gives us Catherine, who is probably the worst uber-teen there is.  She would have done well with Bratz dolls and Juicy sweatpants.  Without a wit of commonsense and a lack of wit to boot, she’s the epitome of flighty, willfully silly girl.  She’s got a brain she just won’t use,even when her future husband points the obvious out to her.  One wonders how quickly the appeal of this student/teacher relationship will last.  Poor Henry (and poor Catherine) in the age of no divorce, once her girlish charms become churlish wifeliness.

Jane Austen is famously attributed to have said that girls are no use to anyone until they grow up.  And though she illustrates this opinion broadly in Emma and specifically in Pride and Prejudice (especially with Lydia) there is no other book that tops the sneering, snarkiness of Northanger Abbey.  It is called her most lighthearted book.  But I think it her darkest, in the sense that she lets her real opinions on girls out.  It is humor, but humor at someone’s expense.

This is the book in which I wholeheartedly embrace what I see as the real Jane Austen.  The girl who saw other women’s mistakes and grew up to be the woman who did not repeat them.  She chose not to get married to save her self and she chose not to tolerate the foolishness of others, regardless of gender. 

Though she makes Catherine likable enough to keep the reader interested (she uses her heavy artillery on Isabella) she is almost certainly laughing at loud at her own creation’s naivete.  

And that makes me like Jane all the more.

Cover ImageI’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately.  With everyone I know getting married, it’s inevitable that I’d ponder what marriage means, particularly when everyone is trying to push me into it (and I’m digging in my heels as hard as I can).  I can’t help but feel that they are all pushing me into marriage without any consideration or respect for the relationship that I already have.  Because to me that is what is important – what exists between two people, not how they go about it. 

There are as many treatises singing the praises of marriage as the salvation of society as there are polemics about why it is the road straight to destruction.  Marriage as a social construct has been studied to death (or divorce).   But very rarely does a reader uncover a fine-focused discussion about what is the relationship between two people.  Or what such a relationship could be, freed from the trappings of social obligation.

I read this book when I was a teenager, with no personal conception of love or committment or monogamy. I was “in love” with a new boy every five minutes (more if class just got out and everyone was milling around the hallway).  I was not exactly the target audience and to be honest I don’t even remember where or why I picked it up.  Still something about this book clearly resonated it’s dog eared like crazy.

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SDThe pressures of Ms. Prose notwithstanding (yes, she has a point; she’s just sending me in the wrong direction), my goal with this blog was to slow down my reading. To allow myself to digest what I am reading. To pause and enjoy each story for itself, as a journey instead of a notch on my bookshelf. Though it may not seem like it, I have actually slowed down considerably.

I still read a lot because reading is what I love to do. It’s what relaxes me; it keeps me sane. It makes all that time spent inside my own head not only normal but productive. I used to think I was weird, but I’m beginning to realize I’m not abnormal. Just perhaps in the wrong profession. I’m sure I would love to hang out with popular fiction writers (except Robert B. Parker who is a notorious – and arrogant – non reader. Could be why his books stink). Earlier this week I read an article about J.K. Rowling and her words only solidified my love for her:

“I never need to find time to read. When people say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, I love reading. I would love to read, but I just don’t have time,’ I’m thinking, ‘How can you not have time?’ I read when I’m drying my hair. I read in the bath. I read when I’m sitting in the bathroom. Pretty much anywhere I can do the job one-handed, I read.”



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Cover ImageI’ve already mentioned that I’m a huge Jane Austen fan so it’s no surprise that I would pick up a book with the subtitle Pride and Prejudice Continues (there are dozens of them, but, dismissing the old adage, I picked this one because of its cover art).  Not all characters are interesting enough to follow after their story has ended but Elizabeth and Darcy are certainly two that are.  One can imagine a future relationship of adventure, love and shared wit.  Something interesting was happening there, which surely would continue.  But what exactly did their happily ever after include?

According to the author – lots and lots of sex. 

One of the characters in this book, (and I’m getting the feeling  she will add to the intrigue later in the story) is Juliette Clisson, daughter of a French Viscountess.  She is the unofficial mistress and well paid escort of Mr. Darcy for many years before he weds.  She is rich, beautiful and decidedly high class despite her profession.

Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife (and yes, I can only imagine the title is meant to be ironic, because it seems like all he does is take her – in the bath, in the carriage, on the grounds of Pemberly) is similar to Ms. Clisson in many ways, but mostly because they are both high brow smut.   Don’t get me wrong, this book does not aim to hide the nature of its story, in fact it’s likely the book’s main selling point.  Alas, however, I expected a story in there somewhere.

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading