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Wednesday Weekly Roundup

What I've Just Finished Reading

I had no intention of reading Persuasion this week, but it happened anyway; I picked it up at the coffeeshop's lending library and couldn't put it down for anything. I know it's not a ground-breaking discovery to announce that Jane Austen is a genius, but jeez. I'd forgotten (or maybe never realized in the first place) just how good she is. This is an uncomfortably huge close-up of microscopic social slights and submerged emotions that is laugh-out-loud funny and painful and suspenseful all at the same time.

Anne Elliot, a single woman in her late twenties who is constantly ignored and taken for granted by her family because she is more accommodating and thoughtful than they are, is a great character. Her position in the Elliot family makes her instantly sympathetic, but it's also tremendously satisfying to see her finally meet some new people she can talk to, and to see deep, thin streaks of opinion and even harsh judgments appear through her amiable invisibility (It occurs to me now that she's what Bella Swan from Twilight was probably intended to be like, though the only direct Austen references in Twilight are to Pride and Prejudice), and to see her move slowly through the painful situation she finds herself in and past it. The other characters are also great -- I especially liked Mary, Anne's demanding sister, and her easy-going husband (who inadvertently saves the day at the very end). A flawlessly enjoyable book, where nearly every sentence packs a punch or a needle or sometimes a piece of chocolate-covered marzipan.

What I'm Reading Now

My experience of After Many A Summer Dies the Swan has been weirdly detatchable. If I'm reading it, I always want to be reading more of it, but when I close it, I forget that I like it and it sits neglected for days. I feel like it's at its best when it's just wall-to-wall Making Fun of America, and when it turns to lengthy satirical discussions of human nature, it gets a little less defined. But this is a reaction, not a review. I'm mildly curious to see where it goes with the hapless American millionaire's immortality quest (right now I'm about 2/3 of the way through) but also kind of content for it to just keep doing what it's been doing for another 150 pages. It's not bad at all, but it hasn't put any hooks into my heart; it's a clever book by a sharp observer whose satirical depiction of the present (in this case, Southern California in 1939) sometimes reads like a picture of the future, simply because the future failed to get its act together in several respects.

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Finnegans Wake is in my house and next on my 99 Novels reading list. It's going to take a while to get through, I predict.

I am going on a Library Quest this afternoon to finally get myself the Josephine Tey Bad Detection Angstventures I crave, plus I promised my youngest brother that I would read The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton. My youngest brother and I have very few things in common, but I recently found out that we are both Sayers fans (though we don't actually seem to have any specific opinions in common about any of her books?) so I've proposed a Detective Exchange: I will read his fave Father Brown, and he is going to read Ngaio Marsh, and theoretically we will bond over English Snobbery Deathsnark and become better acquainted.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton sounds like a character in an L. M. Montgomery fan-sequel, like the son of one of Diana Barry's daughters or something. I have never liked Chesterton in any encounter I've had with him, but today I will open my heart and start anew.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
saiditallbefore
Mar. 25th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love Persuasion. I haven't read it in ages (and I don't have time to re-read it right now, sadly), but it's probably my favorite of Austen's works. Maybe. It's so difficult to choose. It's definitely the one I've read the most times. I really love that it's a more mature love story than P&P or S&S, and that two characters tragically forced apart come together in the end. <3 Austen is a master.
evelyn_b
Mar. 25th, 2015 07:55 pm (UTC)
She is breathtakingly good. I feel like I definitely need to pry open my to-read list to make room for some more Austen now -- it makes me wish I hadn't fallen so far behind at work so that I could just carve out a few days and just read a bunch of things. Oh, well!
lost_spook
Mar. 25th, 2015 08:13 pm (UTC)
Aw, Persuasion is great! And, yes, so is Jane Austen generally. ♥

I am going on a Library Quest this afternoon to finally get myself the Josephine Tey Bad Detection Angstventures I crave, plus I promised my youngest brother that I would read The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton.

Sounds like a plan!!
evelyn_b
Mar. 25th, 2015 10:44 pm (UTC)
I was very unsuccessfully trying to explain the greatness of Persuasion to someone in RL this morning. I just kept describing characters and plot points and adding "it's really, really good." I need to brush up on my lit-crit skills, or acquire some and then brush up on them.

The Singing Sands is already so good! Making up stories about a dead man's face saves Inspector Grant from panicking while he's trapped in an enclosed car! I hope the whole book is just Inspector Grant making up romantic stories about dead people and turning out to be right for no good reason.
lost_spook
Mar. 26th, 2015 09:34 am (UTC)
Well, sometimes enthusiasm works far better than all the most beautiful arguments in the world! :-)

The Singing Sands is already so good! Making up stories about a dead man's face saves Inspector Grant from panicking while he's trapped in an enclosed car! I hope the whole book is just Inspector Grant making up romantic stories about dead people and turning out to be right for no good reason.

I think you're enjoying Grant's foibles too much! You're not already wearing brown contacts, are you??

Oh, and I meant to say, I hope you do get something out of Father Brown. I know Chesterton is out of favour, and not without reason - he was an Edwardian Catholic and he has a sort of Merrie England as an ideal in his mind - but his poetry and humour and celebration of the small and mundane as beautiful and fantastical always wins me over regardless.

(It's things like this really: "Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling." and "I believe in getting into hot water. I think it keeps you clean." and "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." and "Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be fought." and "Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pocket. But I found it would be too long, and the age of epics is past.") The Father Brown stories from my now-vague memories, can be very poetic, very weird and dark, or very light and humane, or all three, but I think definitely worth trying. I like some of his poems, too. (The Devil is a Gentleman, and The Great Minimum, and A Ballade of Suicide). But I have far too much tolerance for old things!!
evelyn_b
Mar. 26th, 2015 02:40 pm (UTC)
Old doesn't worry me, and neither does "politics and religion that are probably the opposite of mine in every way." I'm moderately optimistic about liking Chesterton in story form -- for one thing, there is detection! Amateur detection, my favorite kind! You really have to get up early in the day if you're going to spoil that good beginning (not that it hasn't been done) and for another, the main form I have encountered him is in the form of glibly "iconoclastic" conservo-quipping about how misguided women are for trying to go into politics, and things like that, so I'm assuming I've seen most of the worst of him and very little of the best. No one is well served by being the poster boy for the traditionalist Catholic branch of the American libertarian movement. I'm sure there will be plenty for me to like!
lost_spook
Mar. 26th, 2015 02:44 pm (UTC)
the main form I have encountered him is in the form of glibly "iconoclastic" conservo-quipping about how misguided women are for trying to go into politics, and things like that

Ack, well, I would probably dislike him if I'd met him that way, but fortunately I've only ever found him via things I was reading that I liked!
evelyn_b
Mar. 26th, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)
(p.s. my right to brown contacts is the next big fight in the conflict between security and civil liberties! It won't be an easy fight, but I believe it is an important one!)
lost_spook
Mar. 27th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
♥ ♥ ♥
hafl
Mar. 26th, 2015 02:59 pm (UTC)
"Traditionalist Catholic" "American libertarian movement"

Those two things aren't mutually compatible! What are they thinking?
evelyn_b
Mar. 26th, 2015 03:27 pm (UTC)
Never underestimate the ability of American libertarians to reconcile their libertarianism with whatever patently non-liberty-promoting thing they like best. I have seen it all. Though it mostly isn't "reconciling" so much as "cramming inelegantly into the same mental space, then writing a really long and handwavy blog post about how the things are actually totally the same!!"

ramasi
Mar. 27th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)
Mary with her non-malevolent selfishness is one of my favourite Austen characters.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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