5.31.2011

Jane Austen is Still Awesome

The title is an obvious statement, as several popular movies can attest, so what I should have entitled this entry is: "Jane Austen's books are still awesome." For all the admiration of Austen's stories, one wonders how many people actually still read the books. A number of us do, I'm sure, but there are undoubtedly leagues of people who have only acquainted themselves with Austen through the movie screen, and that, as William Deresiewicz contends in his memoir about his experiences reading Austen, is a shame.

Deresiewicz reads the six novels and is changed by them in a number of profound ways. He learns to listen to others and he understands the ways in which he needs to change to find love. He grows up as a result of reading Austen's canon. These days, growing up is profound enough, but what struck me as more profound than that was the fact that he let himself be changed by these novels. People read all the time - for enjoyment, for school - but how often do people read - and I'm specifically talking about the classics here - books to be CHANGED? In this quickly moving world, how many of us are reading books and reflecting on what those books say about how we are living our lives?

I found this book to be pretty wonderful, and I couldn't read it fast enough. Deresiewicz re-invigorates Austen for us by, simply, reading her, thinking about what she says, and allowing himself to evolve as a result of her messages. He does not experience this through the movies, nor does he passively read the books for the plot and characters. He absorbs these novels and, as a result, he thoroughly understands not only how Austen has persisted, but WHY she should persist.

For anyone who thinks that Austen's novels are old and hard to read, dust off your copies, grab a dictionary, and allow yourself to be transformed. Of course, before you get started, take a look at A Jane Austen Education. You'll be happy you did.
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1 comment:

CMW said...

I couldn't agree more! After reading this book on your recommendation, I went up in the attic, grabbed my Complete Jane Austen, and settled in to reinforce my own Jane Austen education.

I've always been an advocate of the her books, but I found them even more rewarding after becoming attuned to Deresiewicz's wonderful interpretations of the novels.

As always, great job, Red Room Librarian!