Adventures in Reading


Adventurous Search Engine Terms
May 23, 2008, 7:18 pm
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , ,

Though not my first it has been quite some time since I have responded to the search engine terms leading innocent readers to my page.

Peacock Tattoos
This has to be one of the most frequent search engine terms bringing people to my blog. I am assuming this is a blending of my love for Flannery O’Connor and this fabulous link to LiveJournal’s Literary Tattoos or Bookworms with Ink. While I have never considered getting my own peacock tattoo, I have toyed with a self-designed coffee mug sporting a tribute to O’Connor with a peacock feather. However, considering my last self-created mug busted and left me with three stitches and a tetanus shot it may be some time before I build up the courage to make a new one.

Jane Austen
Nine of my top ten all time search engine terms tuning viewers into my adventures are all about Austen. When I first really started taking my reading blogging seriously it was a result of perusing Ms. Austen. Thank you Ms. Austen for helping with the popularity of my blog. These searches include: “pride and prejudice,” “sense and sensibility,” “syon house,” “robert adam,” “jane austen,” and “neoclassical art.” I highly recommend Austen fans visit Jane Austen’s World and Austen Blog. Admittedly the search for “jane austen playboy” left me a bit confused.

Little Women
A few months back I read Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women (here and here) and was fortunate enough (kind of) to see the musical. I loved the book even if it took me nearly a decade to get around to reading it. However, I am no expert. The only solution I have to why so many people stumble across my Alcott experience in particular is because of the lack of online material available. Alright, that’s a lie – I just googled Louisa May Alcott and then Little Women. Who knows, but it’s a great book that is only surpassed by Alcott’s own biography.

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Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Pt. 2
January 16, 2008, 10:05 am
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , ,
Lady Russell had only to listen composedly, and wish them happy; but internally her heart revelled in angry pleasure, in pleased contempt, that the man who at twenty-three had seemed to understand somewhat of the value of an Anne Elliot, should, eight years afterwards, be charmed by a Louisa Musgrove.

The romance in Persuasion occurs between Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. It is a bit more dramatically romantic than Austen’s other romaces as the two characters are separated for nearly a decade as the result of advice or duty or persuasion. A family friend and particular confidant of Anne’s, Lady Russell, talked her out of accepting the engagement. Much of Persuasion consists of overheard remarks and charged conversations that indirectly describe Anne and Wentworth’s failed relationship. Anne was talked out of it and Wentworth reflects unhappily and withour respect on being persuaded out of a commitment.

Volume one of Persuasion ends with Anne thinking “it could scarcely escape him [Wentworth] to feel, that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness, as a very resolute character” (1156). This reflection is given after the silly Louisa Musgrove does not heed Wentworth’s advice and takes a tumble that could have caused her bodily harm if not killed her. Volume two consists of the Elliot family’s removal to Bath and various intruiges and gossips (including Anne’s cousin’s Mr. Elliot’s romantic attentions directed at her) and ends with one of my all time literary conversations: whether it is man or woman who feels love more deeply (1220 – 22).

Now the Elliot’s have left for bath as a result of financial difficulty and the eldest daughter and father’s excessive spending – a result of their vanity. I found it interesting that in Persuasion Austen has a strong emphasis on female economics and money wits. Anne’s mother Lady Elizabeth had kept them financially afloat until she died, Lady Russell seems to manage her own affairs, estate, and was asked for advice regarding the Elliot’s money problems, Mrs. Croft is described as a more serious home economic advisor compared to her husband, and Anne certainly has strong sensibilities in finances as well. Of course, Austen does not over gild the female mind for money as Miss Elliot, Anne’s older sisters, is just as poor with money and peacockish about herself as her father.

One sentence in particular of Persuasion caught my attention. In volume two, chapter eleven in the opening paragraph Austen uses a simile that seems rather out of place in her usual narrative style. Upon describing that Anne must wait to inform Lady Russell of Mr. Elliot’s true character, the narrator describes that, “Her faith was plighted, and Mr. Elliot’s character, like the Sultaness Scheherazade’s head, must live another day” (1218). Austen certainly has literary allusions in her other novels and also specifically mentions certain texts and their authors. However, I cannot recall Austen ever writing something similar. From a historical standpoint, it is also one of Austen’s growing examples of the Eastern World’s growing influence on the West.

Another character I have yet to mention but that plays an enormous part is Mrs. Smith. Anne knew Mrs. Smith from her school days and only knew that shortly after Anne left the school that this woman became Mrs. Smith and seemed to have married quite well. When Anne rediscovers her, Mrs. Smith is an invalid, dependent on the “kindness of strangers”, selling hand made crafts through a friend, and living most of her life in two small and shabby rooms. Mrs. Smith plays a key role in revealing Mr. Elliot’s (the cousin and heir) true character to Anne, but I will say I found her more of a remarkable character after reading about Austen’s own invalid brother. Perhaps there is no connection, but at the very least Mrs. Smith is a very interesting comparison to Lady de Bourgh’s daughter in Pride & Prejudice.

All ends well with Anne and Wentworth after a bit of communication. I did find it intruiging though that Anne does not regret her past behavior. While she was persuaded out of the match by her family and Lady Russell, Anne reflects that it was her duty towards them. Now that they have waited she can enter the match with neither qualms nor regrets. The perspective though is interesting. Perhaps Lady Russell was wrong in her advice for attempting to groom Anne to replace Lady Elizabeth (the mother). Then again, how easy would it have been for the Elliot sisters to replicate the stories of of the three sisters in Mansfield Park? How easily could have Anne become just another Mrs. Price?

Other opinions: The Books of My Numberless Dreams, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, Bookfoolery and Babble, Educating Petunia, A Striped Armchair, Rebekah’s Book Reviews, Deliciously Clean Reads, Historical Tapestry, Between the Covers, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops.



Reading Jane Austen’s Emma
November 28, 2007, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

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.