[DWJ] Book recommendations

Dorian E. Gray israfel at eircom.net
Thu Nov 16 17:31:06 EST 2006

Elizabeth asked...
> I'd love some idea of why P&P is so good, as my 17 year  old daughter has
> just read it and remains rather underwhelmed. She agrees that it is a good
> book, but is hard put to understand why it is "great".  Part of that is 
> that
> the current advice to 'show and not tell' was not the way of doing things 
> in
> Austen's time. I suggested that perhaps it was that JA is so mush more
> intelligent than those who surrounded her that she tends to survey her
> characters from a great height rather than engaging with them, and 
> therefore
> we are less engaged than we are used to being.

I think one needs to learn how to read some kinds of books.  I read very 
widely, and I've developed a habit of approaching many books, especially 
ones written before I was born, like an explorer in new territory.  (I read 
sci-fi and fantasy this way too, incidentally.)  I read with a little part 
of my brain going "this is a different world - how does it work?" and 
looking for clues and pointers and firmly pushing my modern sensibilities 
into the background.  Of course, I enjoy doing this; not everyone does.

Then, too, I was introduced to P&P by my mother, when I was 13 - it was on 
my school English course and my mother, who is also a big JA fan, wanted to 
make sure I enjoyed it *before* school English classes got at it.  So we 
read it together that summer, and she explained things I didn't understand, 
and also pointed out things like how like modern teenagers Kitty and Lydia 
are, squealing and giggling and going all fangirly about the militia.  That 
last, in fact, can be expanded - the *world* the Bennets et al live in is 
somewhat alien to us, but they themselves behave in familiar ways; they are 
real.  Elizabeth throws Darcy's proposal back in his face because she's 
insulted; Mr. Collins sucks up to his employer; Wickham is a playboy...we 
all know people who do things like these.

P&P is also enormously funny (IMO, at least).  Mr. Collins' frightfulness, 
Elizabeth's snarkiness, Mr. Bennet's even more snarkiness, Lady Catherine's 
snootiness...it's all funny, and funny because it's true to life.

And it's hugely quotable (a big plus for me; I am an inveterate quoter).  I 
knew half a dozen lines from the book before ever I read it, because I heard 
them at home ("You have no consideration for my nerves!" and "But there were 
several much worse in the shop" are both family catchphrases in my family, 

And finally, any book that is still readable and enjoyable 200 years after 
it was written has got to have something going for it!  (And when I do a 
book-quotations quiz on my LiveJournal and the *most* identified book is 
P&P...that's saying something, too, though maybe only something about the 
kinds of people who read my LiveJournal.)

Until the sky falls on our heads...

Dorian E. Gray
israfel at eircom.net

"I will not trust you, I,
Nor longer stay in your curst company.
Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray;
My legs are longer though to run away."
-Wm. Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 

More information about the Dwj mailing list