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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Started 3/17, finished 4/4

Yep, they're starting to stretch out a little bit - I'm glad I did 5 in January... with what I've got coming up this may get tight.

Whenever I read a book with strong characters I begin to think of myself as being like them somehow. I want to be the hero/in, I want to be the one people think of when they hear the title and they've read it before.

I am nothing like Mr. Darcy, so I just just fucking get over it. This realization makes me sad. I watch Lawrence of Arabia and I feel like my inner conflicts belong to that man. I read Captain Alatriste and I feel like with proper training and some prison time, I could parlay my awesome hand-eye coordination into some practical skills (for XVIII Spain). I read the Da Vinci Code and I could give a shit about Robert Langdon, because I said strong characters.

I'm also nothing like Elizabeth. I think I could pick out a couple of traits and say, ah yeah, there's a similarity there. Maybe the self-awareness, maybe the fact that on occasion I flatter myself as somewhat clever. Maybe I can think on my feet. Maybe. But the thing these two have that I'll never have is this: the ability to shut the hell up and let idiots dig their own graves.

At the end of P&P I want to see these two as super heroes, going all over Europe, purging the gentry of idiocy and ignorance through their use of silence and death-blow one-liners that render their opponents impotent. They could be secret agents. But they come by it honestly - it's something they're born with, not something they develop intentionally. I get the feeling that Elizabeth understands Her Power, but only teaches Mr. Darcy to be aware of it in the end.

If you're ever trying to disabuse a man of the notion that this is a chick book, just tell him it becomes a suspense thrill-ride at the end, where you just can't put it down until you figure out how the hell Mr. Darcy could ever be persuaded to accept this family - how he could ever stomach Wickham as a brother-in-law, how he could ever spend 30 seconds with Mrs. Bennett, and what must be constant worry that the Collinses will one day be invited to stay. Tell him he doesn't have to admit later that his heart went a-flutter when she finally accepts him. Tell him, "don't worry you won't cry. You won't even be tempted to," and that he doesn't have to tell you when he realizes that he most certainly will if he ever reads it again. Tell him you won't tell any of his friends if he wants to watch the movie when he's done - wait, not just the movie, but the 6-hour BBC version with Colin Firth, followed by the Laurence Olivier, the Keira Knightly, and then even the Bollywood version, just to do a comparative study.

If all that fails, tell him he reminds you of Mr. Darcy, and all women love Mr. Darcy.

I mean, the guy's a badass. He says fewer words than any of the major characters, but if you're in a crowded restaurant while you're reading, and you come across one of his dialogs with Lizzy, everything is silenced. If you were having trouble concentrating before, that ends immediately. These conversations crackle, they live. I'm convinced they're the reason Jane Austen wrote novels - to hit moments like that. I'm sure she took a lot of pride in them. In keeping with a long tradition of "spot the author", I wonder who her Mr. Darcy was. Again, something I'm sure nobody's ever thought of before.

They're not the only two well-drawn characters, but they're the only two anyone would want to hang out with. Except maybe Mr. Bennett.

Speaking of dear old dad, my friend Shy points out to me that Mr. Bennett is a much more interesting character than I originally thought he was, that the Keira Knightly movie hits a note with him that the other films fail to, and which is very subtly done in the book: he's a lousy father, he realizes he's a lousy father, and he's drawn up as a study in the evolution of a wit. His wit is the only universe he has. He can't interact with the silly people in the world... he has his books and his one-liners, which, if Lizzy wasn't around, would be like a tree falling in a forest. He'd use them just to amuse himself. He should probably be a novelist.

As a new parent myself, I often wonder if I'll only be a good father to a good child. I'm sure Lizzy would say he's the perfect father, just because she's low-maintenance and he's exactly right for her.

"I'd be a better father if you kids would just shut up!!"

It's a cautionary tale... until Shy pointed this out I just thought of him as a good father who happened to have a horrible wife and 3 (the youngest) sub-optimal children of increasing wildness - which he is completely unwilling to fix. He realizes this during the Lydia episode, he says one or two sentences which color all his other behavior. He doesn't want to care, but he wants to want to care. As I'm sure nobody has ever analyzed his character at all, maybe I should spin off a separate essay about him one day. Maybe.

There's plenty more here to recommend - Austen's feminism, her social commentary, her overall and understated brilliance, and again I'm sure that's never been touched upon, but as usual I just wanted to get down my initial emotional reactions, then move on.

One last comment is about how I have this weird and annoying habit of adapting my writing style to that of an author's if their writing is powerful enough. That should explain the comma grenade that went of in this entry, in case you were curious.

Book #11 will be Eleven Minutes, by Paulo Coelho



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"comma grenade" - that's good.


Wed Apr 05, 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger incandragon said...

It's a book about warriors in a world of straw men and candyfloss girls. They don't fall in love at first sight ... they fall in love the first time they cross verbal swords and hear the *ting* of steel on steel for the first times in their lives.

Wed Apr 05, 10:47:00 AM  

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