Wednesday, February 3, 2010

eleven

Pride and Prejudice

I can't really do much to add to anything that's already been said about Pride and Prejudice. I'd heard it was a favorite of many friends, so I gave it a shot on audiobook. I was expecting awful convoluted prose, halting stiff drama, obsession with etiquette, and lots of sighing. Essentially I was fearing either a romance novel or the antecedent of every awful romantic comedy you've ever seen.

I wasn't counting on Jane Austen being so smart. She can write very, very well. I've had to stop myself from imitating her style after I finished - I'm amazed at how complicated her phrasing could be without sounding too contrived. She manages to make complex sentences flow easily. Consider me impressed.

As for the subject matter, I'd heard people sighing about Mr. Darcy for years, so I imagined that he was either the one that got away or the one meant for Elizabeth in the end. Perhaps that's what colored my view of Wickham's account of Darcy and Elizabeth's credulousness. I mean, you meet one guy, he seems okay if a little awkward, and then another guy who you know even less tells you the first guy's a jackass, and you believe the second guy? I suppose she called the book Pride and Prejudice for a reason (and Wikipedia tells me it was first called First Impressions).

I would have been even more misanthropic than Darcy if I had to deal with these lunatics and their slavish attention to social contrivances all the time. I suppose it would have been useful for me to read this in high school to see what my dislike of high school social contrivances seemed like to some people from the outside. But really, wouldn't you have been like Darcy?

Elizabeth is a great character - managing to be logical and intelligent but human and messy as well. I liked her relationship with her father, and it took me a while to see her mother's being more ridiculous than harmless.

Anyhow, I went into the book with low expectations, and came out impressed. It seems as if the bad romantic comedies rip off Austen rather than all of them being cut from the same silly cloth.

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