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August 31, 2010

Winner... and Winter's Bone

It's been fun reading all the comments today from fans and non-fans of Jane Austen. Hopefully we can all say we know ourselves better after having given P&P a try. --Anna

I could not agree more. Thanks to everyone who commented yesterday, I think our little book club was a success! I sat down last night with a glass of merlot the size of my head and re-read all the comments, it was like listening in on the best conversation at the party. What struck me most was how careful everyone was to say their opinion but not be a jerk (there was no, "You're wrong and stupid! This book is a masterpiece/suckfest!") In this age of sex tapes and "Sorry, officer, that's not my cocaine, I was holding it for a friend..." I think our book club was a rarity and a gem. Jane would be proud.

The comments helped me see the book in new ways (more on that in a bit) and I wish you could all come to my house and chat about books every weekend. It would keep me reading more and we could drink while gabbing.

The randomly chosen winner of book-club-comment-day is Linda who commented:

However, rereading Pride and Prejudice in the new annotated edition was really a revelation to me. Taking time to read the annotations forced me to slow down and really look at the world Austen was describing--and it was almost like visiting another universe. Previously, I had glossed over all of the humor, especially with Mr. Collins, and was clueless about the implications of one's choice of carriage.

She will be receiving an equally random assortment of goodies from my unemployed stash, including some 100% pure Norwegian wool in a golden orange hue, a few skeins of my favorite wool Noro, a few knitting books, some knitting markers and a mixed CD I made myself. I am also including a copy of a book I bought just for this winner:

Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell.

I thought we could all read it in September for another book club chitchat. It's a fast read, you'll zip through it in a day or two, and it's a contemporary novel. It was recently made into an amazing indie film which I hope gets nominated for an Oscar this year. I've already read it, which is why I'm recommending it. I am selfish, you see, I want to re-read this book and talk to people about it. And I want to share it with everyone. Are you in?

So, make a date. Winter's Bone Book Chat on Monday, September 27th!!!

And I still want to re-read Gatsby. Any takers on that one? Can we fit it in September, too, or should we wait until October?

- - -

The comments yesterday had my brain bubbling, so I wanted to jot down a few things:

1) It's Colin Firth, yo

Thank you so much to everyone who subtly pointed out the difference between enjoying the BBC mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice versus enjoying the book itself. I feel the same way about the movie Emma! I love the film but can't get past twenty pages in the book.

I have never seen the Colin Firth mini-series or any of the P&P movies but it's now in my Netflix queue. After I finished the book on Sunday I tried watching the one version of Pride and Prejudice offered streaming on Netflix and I couldn't get through it. That 1980s Mr. Darcy was too creepy for me, he looked like he'd just escaped from a mental institution and would at any moment break into song OR murder Elizabeth OR become a gay porn star. Weird.

My favorite comment about the movie/book gap was from reader Donna:

I didn't mind watching the movies while knitting as I am assuming the producers are displaying the correct period housing, clothing etc....but reading her book, Jane does not get into any detail of her environment, just the gossip! It would of been nice to hear about the decor of the rooms, the gardens, the food, what they were doing to keep themselves busy (beside gossiping).

There were several points in the book where I wanted someone to describe the food or the wallpaper or even the weather. Please, Lord, send us a stormy day and deliver us from the drawing room, amen. But after reading the comments I can see where the lack of in-depth description is almost part of the draw for some readers. If you love the conversation and observation, you want more. If you're able to sink into the conversation, then descriptive leaps into dinner or weather might be a distraction. Inneresting!

2) Happily Ever After

The discussions I thought were most intriguing in the comments were all about the ideas of marriage and the "happy ending" to the story. Is being married a happy ending? I certainly grew up thinking that it was, a notion which probably added to My Bigass Mental Breakdown of 2005.

Some comments pointed out that there are women in 2010 still quite focused on getting a husband and marrying well just like Jane Austen's characters. There was a time in my life when all I wanted was to get married. I was so sure that marriage would open the door to happiness. (There was also a time when I really wanted an Epilady. Times change.)

I thought reader Jennifer said it best:

I think the happy ending part is not that they get married, but that they both cause each other to change in ways that make them better people (and bonus that those people they change into are so well suited to one another).

I wonder if I would have had a completely different feeling for this book had I read it when I was 19, instead of now at 39? I know the way I feel about marriage has completely changed in the past few years. There was a point while reading P&P when I realized my feelings about marriage probably colored how I related to the book.

The author's life, on the other hand, is better than the best page-turner on the shelves. I read something online about her sister and other siblings burning all (or most) of Jane's letters after her death. I loved that they had such a fierce protection for her privacy even after she was gone. Fascinating stuff, no?

3) Happily Ever After addendum
For those of you who do like happy endings but also like a little thievery and piracy and some good old fashioned revenge fantasies, read or re-read The Count of Monte Cristo. I picked it up several months ago when my job was taking a Sylvia Plath-like turn for the worst and it got me through several weeks in the cubicle farm. I LOVE the Count. For one thing, it is not the depressing downer most folks think -- the ending is so happy that people are literally sailing off into a sunset. And even though it was also written in the 1800s, the writing is fairly accessible and the plot just grabs you. It has some overly complicated scheming toward the end but it's a great story. I think someone should do a movie re-make with a modern update setting it in the present. Javier Bardem as Dantes... what do you think? Green light all the way?

4) Cracked me right up

You know, I'd take a long day in a drawing room over the courtship rituals of Jersey Shore any day.-- RB

- - -

Reading is a uniquely personal experience. I love sinking into a book, getting lost in it, I don't care if it's smutty V.C. Andrews or highbrow Henry James, if you get sucked into a book it's a decadent, pleasurable thing. I feel obligated to read classic lit because it's the foundation for all reading and writing (and reading and writing are my two favorite things to do in life!) Pride and Prejudice reminded me that it's OK not to like a book, even a beloved classic. Not everything will speak to every person. But it's good to try it out to see if it will fit. Every palate is different.

Don't forget! Monday, September 27, 2010--
Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. I cannot wait to hear your take on this book. Oh, and if you saw the movie I want to hear your review of that, too.

Posted by laurie at August 31, 2010 2:04 PM