Lit. Crit. (was: Re: More than you ever wanted to know (was Re: answers from Diana))

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Tue Jun 5 12:26:50 EDT 2001





I think I'd better get my Jane Austen reply in before the debate on feminism
really takes off.

Dorian, quoting me:

>> Like Ven, I don't like Jane Austen.  Her books may be wonderful, as my
>> mother - and Hallie, who persuaded me to try one - insist.  But they don't
>> work - or haven't so far worked - for me.  This may be strange, as I am an
>> avid fan of Georgette Heyer, but that's just the way it seems to work.
>
> That is interesting.  But of course, Heyer's writing is perhaps more
> accessible to a late 20th/early 21st century reader than Austen's.  Writing

Yes.  That is certainly a factor.

> styles have changed a lot since Austen was writing, and writers today would
> not use a lot of the things that Austen uses (long sentences, "big words",
> expository dumps, asides to the reader...).  With the result that readers

Except that I have no objection to any of the devices in your list.  Georgette
Heyer uses all of them, and the longest sentence I've encountered is in "Winnie
the Pooh" by A A Milne (it's at the end of the chapter about the flood, and
lasts a page and a half)

> today are not used to such things, and can find them very off-putting.  I
> find I do have to engage a slightly different mind-set (reading-set?) when
> reading Austen (or any other pre-20th century writer) than normal.  I had to

Now we're getting closer.  I think this is the case, but it's not (just) a style
thing.  It's about the assumptions we all make about the world.  I've grown up
with DWJ, and as a result my outlook on life has been to some extent moulded by
her writing.  This means I can pick up _any_ book by DWJ and know that I'm going
to feel at home in it, whether or not I like it.  With unfamiliar writers it is
more difficult, and the separation in time makes it more difficult still.   In
the case of Austen, I just failed to find enough in common.  This means that if
I persevere, I would probably come to love the books.

> learn to do this (huge thanks to my mother and my school English teacher for
> showing me how!), but not everyone either realises that it's necessary, or
> is willing to, or maybe even is able to.

I'm not sure it's a case of realising or being willing.  I'm sure it's something
I do unconsciously with many authors I do read.

I would also say at this point that we shouldn't assume a hard cut-off at the
the turn of the 19th/20th centuries.  Quite apart from the plenty of writers who
span both, such things are almost always a continuous, gradual change.  ATM I am
reading The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris.  Definitely 19th century!
I find it heavier going than a modern novel, and a trifle slow in pace, but not
as off-putting as I found JA.

>> (FWIW the JA I tried was Pride and Prejudice.  I found it very strange,
>> since Fitzwilliam Darcy seemed to be two completely different people, and
>> this ruined the book for me, despite much of it being excellent.
>
> Hm.  I must admit, I didn't find that.  Can you explain this a little more?
> Give examples?  Darcy, it must be said, is one of my all-time favourite
> romantic heroes!

Oh dear.  We seem to be arguing from totally opposite premises.  I mean,
unromantic anti-hero was more the impression I got ;-)

To be more specific, we start the book with FD a stuck-up boor, who can't be
bothered to make himself agreeable at a party, and doesn't want to admit that he
fancies Elizabeth (or whatever her name is) simply because she's from the wrong
sort of ancestry.

Later on, he has turned into a charming host, taking a lot of trouble with his
guests.

These two sides to his personality come up throughout the book, but there's
nothing that I could see to tell the readers why there are two aspects; nor
could I really see how he transforms from one to the other, even though (iirc)
we do get to observe the process at least once.

And I ended up with a feeling of "Yes, so even a stuck-up boor can put himself
out to help people, but it hasn't made him less of a boor..."

Again, this is purely my reaction to it.  I wouldn't presume to make any
statements about What The Author Meant.  She no doubt had many of the cutting
things for which she is famous to say, but I didn't detect them...

Philip.







__________________________ Disclaimer Notice __________________________
This message and any attachments are confidential and should only be read
by those to whom they are addressed. If you are not the intended recipient,
please contact us, delete the message from your computer and destroy any 
copies. Any distribution or copying without our prior permission is 
prohibited.

Internet communications are not always secure and therefore the Powergen 
Group does not accept legal responsibility for this message. The recipient 
is responsible for verifying its authenticity before acting on the
contents. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author 
and do not necessarily represent those of the Powergen Group.

Powergen plc. 53 New Broad Street, London EC2M 1SL

Telephone     +44 (0) 2476 42 4000
Fax                +44 (0) 2476 42 5432
--
To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/



More information about the Dwj mailing list