Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Strike Two, I'm Out

Last year, I read Emma by Jane Austen, and recommended the movie, "Clueless" instead.  My sister insisted that Jane Austen was a great author, and that I shouldn't give up on her.  Obviously, the majority of readers in the world agree.  So, I decided to try Pride and Prejudice.  According to my sister, my problem is that I didn't realize that Jane Austen is funny.  She is convinced that if I had read Emma as a comedy, I would have liked it.  OK, fine. 

I did everything different with Pride and Prejudice.  I listened to the audio version instead of reading.  I tried to remember that it was funny (really - should I have to "remember" that it's funny??).  But still, I felt nothing of the love of Austen that most everyone else seems to feel.

When I picked the audio version, I had two choices.  One that was 9 discs, and about 11 hours long, and the other which was 11 discs, and about 13.5 hours long.  Yes, the readers were reading the same book.  It's just that some audio book readers read the book faster than others, and some try to read in a leisurely, dramatic way.  I picked the 9 disc version because I expected a faster reader to have better comedic timing, and of course, I would be done with it sooner if I hated it. 

After I had listened to about half of the discs, my sister came into town, and asked me how I was liking Pride.  I asked her what the funny part was.  Ba-dum-dum.  That's my rimshot, in case you missed it.  She said that it is a "comedy of manners", meaning that it satirizes social classes and includes stereotypical characters.  So, I thought that maybe I like Austen just fine, but that I don't like those types of comedies.  But, when I looked at the Wiki page for "comedy of manners", the examples that they gave included some Oscar Wilde stories that I liked.  I'm not familiar with the 20th century examples of comedies of manners that  Wiki listed, but I would suggest that A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which I liked, and the TV show, "The Office," which I loved, were both more modern comedies of manners.

Coincidentally, in this week's NYT book review, Jess Walters reviewed The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman, and described it as a modern day comedy of manners, involving the Brooklyn literary set.  Given that I love both Jess Walters and the Brooklyn literary scene, this one is going on my TBR list for sure.  So here's the test.  If I love Nathaniel P., then that means that it's not comedies of manners that I dislike, but just Jane Austen.

Sorry Mr. Darcy, you just didn't do it for me.  But you seemed like a nice enough guy.

That's number 13 for the Off the Shelf Challenge

Next up on CD:  Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Still Reading:  The Last Life by Claire Messud

1 comment:

  1. I am an avid reader who, like you, doesn't appreciate Jane Austen, and I believe part of the reason is that her work is dated. If I don't know that sending the cariole instead of the phaeton (or whatever) to pick someone up is a subtle insult, it takes away the humor. I've read an annotated "Pride" so I learned the distinction, but didn't find it amusing (or enjoyable) at all.


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