Adventures in Reading


Reading Jane Austen’s Emma
November 28, 2007, 2:08 pm
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While reading Emma last evening it struck me that no matter how close of a reading I do, it seems with Austen (in particular) that a first reading of any of her novels really is only an appetizer. Over the past few months I have read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and now I am half way through Emma. I have gained a new appreciation and great respect for Austen as an author, but I still very much feel a babe in the woods when it comes to everything Austen.

I certainly did not expect to become an Austen expert over a few short months, but I did not realize how complex, dense, and delicious Austen is. Emma has certainly started to grow on me, and I recently expressed to my friend that I now have a great desire to rewatch the movie Clueless. In many ways, Emma thus far is the lightest of the Austen novels that I have read. Emma Woodhouse, unlike Austen’s other heroines, faces no serious trouble (at least not yet!) in comparison to the possible bleak futures that confronted Austen’s other leading ladies.

For the most part, Emma is a wealthy socialite in a small town setting. Perhaps it is Emma’s rustic settings that establish her as an exotic bloom, but she prevails as a talented person in the womanly arts. Emma self-identifies as an early 19th Century Yenta where she spends a good deal of her time matchmaking. This struck an interesting chord with me as I recall one of the Austen etiquette guides stating that matchmaking was certainly not the thing to do!

Emma also stands out as Austen seems to be developing a different perspective on her oft used love theme, but she still remains distant from the female bond present in Pride and Prejudice an Sense and Sensibility. This past Monday I gave my presentation on Pride & Prejudice, which was quite the success and I am still plowing through Austen criticism to help with my paper.

I can not seem to get enough of Jane Austen paper dolls. This post’s image is from Paperdolls.com and is a lovely illustration of Emma Woodhouse.



More Books Please!

Saturday evening resulted in an impromptu trip to a used bookstore. Between my desire to trade in a dust-collecting stack of unwanted books and my struggle to stay awake (a result of the time change and an erratic work schedule), I traversed dark country roads to visit one of the few used bookstores in my area. I am now the proud owner of: Eudora Welty’s The Collected Stories, Jack London’s Short Stories, Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein, Brendan O’Carroll’s The Chisellers, and Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. Not too shabby, and in addition I have been considering splurging for some hard to find but must haves (in my opinion) on Amazon.

Lately I have been wondering how people select books to read. (How do you select yours?) I know I regularly refer to my “stack” but it is more metaphysical than actual. In the lower right corned of my blog I have listed titles that I would love to read, but I admittedly seldom get around to selecting one of them. There are far too many books staring me in the face and brushing against my fingers for me to remember a list I have made. However, I was considering doing a monthly dice roll, which will ideally help me work through these faceless books I have listed.

On a reading note, I have been struggling through Emma. I was scanning a literary criticism of Austen and one of the chapters was entitled “Emma – A Character Only Jane Austen Could Love,” or something similar but I am beginning to see the point of this statement. Emma certainly has endearing moments, but I am either not interestered at the moment or the book is uninteresting, and considering it is Austen I doubt the latter is true.



Black Friday

Working at a bookstore on Black Friday actually is not too bad. Believe it or not, no one pitches tents outside the night before opening and the police are seldom called in (we saved those shenanigans for the Harry Potter release nights). More than anything today was like a busy Friday or Saturday night but with one exception: it is the time of year where non-book people come out shopping for book people. The result tends to be a lot of confusion and frustration for both the bookseller and customer. The season, however, is only starting and my fingers are crossed that the remainder of the year will go just as smoothly.

Reading wise I have quite a bit going on right now. I am speedily working my way through rereading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and am somewhat more slowly pacing my way through Emma by Jane Austen. Emma has been the first book for me by Austen where I struggled to get through the introductory chapters. In addition, I have two more books sitting on the backburner: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? by Horace McCoy and The City of Dreaming Books by Moer. Happy reading every one!