Monday


First, I must apologize for an inability to edit photos at the moment. I have now been sick for a nearly a month straight, and my workload is overwhelming at the moment. I can't even see a chink of light between the stacks yet.

Just to give you an idea what a month of illness combined with a teetering, towering, toppling workload looks like:
This is it. What I've been watching for the past three days on my computer screen...over, and over, and over, as I paint and draw and sketch and paint.
Now, this may be an unpopular thing to admit, but I've never been a fan of this particular genre of literature. I read Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights at an appropriately pre-pubescent age, and felt the dangerous draw of brooding and slightly-unbalanced men that tends to afflict girls at that vulnerable age. I tried an failed to read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, another novel featuring a tortured male and (perhaps equally as seductive a character) his brooding and tortured estate. But Austen, the Brontes, du Maurier were always, to me, glorified formula romance novelists. I know I'm going to sound snobbish. But I read a great deal in my tweens and teens, and was abnormally bookish. I was more interesting at that age in books like The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Le Blé en Herb by Collette, The Lover by Marguerite Duras, the powerfully-seductive poems of Federico Garcia Lorca. I know that Austen in particular was considered a masterful social satirist, but maybe I was looking for something a little more edgy.
So after Wuthering Heights, I never returned to 19th century romantic fiction. I missed Pride and Prejudice entirely. I'm sure that, as an English major, other Austen books were likely assigned to me at some point or another but, to my discredit, I took it upon myself to pick and choose which "assigned" books to actually read. I chose to read Henry James quite thoroughly, for some reason (even though I sometimes found him long-winded and precious), and ignore Jane Austen. I took great pains to read all of Shakespeare's works, but flat-out refused to even dip a toe into The Wasteland. The Awakening was so startlingly seminal to me (as it was to the women of its generation - those who dared) that it actually affected my first marriage in deep and disturbing ways. I quite enjoyed the Beat-era poems of Ferlinghetti, but when it came to the hysterical realism and new journalism of the late '60s, I swore off it for good after reading Tom Wolf's The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, which I viscerally loathed.
All this to say that I'm stubborn and pig-headed when it comes to literature, and Jane Austen never made my list.
But here's a curious fact: when I get sick, the chemistry in my brain changes. I'd be hard-pressed to tell you how this happens, but it has been a lifelong affliction. At first signs of a fever, I develop the urge to watch Harlequin Romances (OK, maybe not literally) or run out to Walgreens for a stack of the worst sort of bodice rippers.
So it was that when, after three or four weeks of chills, aches and fever, I opened my Amazon video library and idly clicked on Pride and Prejudice....
...let's just say the floodgates opened.
A similar thing happened to me in the 1980s when, during a particularly difficult and adolescent period of my life, I stepped into the Paris Theater in midtown Manhattan and saw A Room With a View for the first time. Catch me when I'm vulnerable, and a period piece will knock me completely off my feet.
In my rational mind, I know that all I really need right now is some sunshine and a sinus drill.
But failing that....Derbyshire, take me away. I'm off to the vintage bookstore. Tonight, I will give Austen the second chance she no doubt so richly deserves.

A sure sign of grave and possibly incurable illness.

9 comments:

Claire said...

Jane Austen didn't write Wuthering Heights--Emily Bronte did!

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Thank you Claire - correcting that. Brontes and Austen, and even Du Maurier. All fans of the brooding and tortured male.

la ninja said...

ha ha, and you love being a snob, don't you just?
may the evil sinus affliction not mess with your neuronal activity on a permanent basis. god forbid ;P

virg said...

It's the film. I understand where you're coming from. This particular film (excellent!) finally got me to embrace it all.

Juniper said...

We lived just down the street from the house Jane Austen last lived in, and there was this constant reminder that yes, I really ought to read her work. Have not seen this version of Pride and Prejudice but I have been known to get sucked into a classic British period piece, just have to get over my dislike of the actress Keira Knightly! Ah the lover by Marguerite Duras, its been a long time since i thought of that book!
Hope you feel better soon, a whole months is a very long time to feel under the weather!!!

kenza said...

I hope you feel better soon. I could comment long on your post as I agree with most of it but I will just make a brief note. I only read Austen in my late 30's... even though I was raised by an English Nanny so had most of the British classics on the shelf from a young age... But frankly the moaning, I could not take it then. Shakespeare now that is something entirely different... And I also saw "A room with a view" at the Paris Theatre in Manhattan in the 1980's--maybe we were there at the same time! I wish you a speedy recovery. Please take care.

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

La Ninja, yes, I do embrace that sort of snobbery a bit...but only because I was the nerd of nerds for all of my school years, and snobbery is often the anodyne of the unpopular. Also, literary snobbery has not, quite clearly, made me into any sort of literary scholar.

virg, yes, I'm afraid it IS the film. It's an exquisitely-made film. Though I have still not read the book, so can't give an objective opinion.

Juniper, you might like the film. It really is good (though I well understand the aversion to a certain actor and how it can ruin a film).

Kenza, moaning and "nervous complaints" in general are hard to take in ones 30s and 40s. If we're lucky, most of us leave the histrionics behind in our adolescent years. And, I'm thrilled by the idea that we might have been at the Paris watching that film on the same night without ever knowing it.

Di said...

I love the film too! I think that if you have to read romance, then Jane Austen is a great substitute for some trashy Mills n Boon like novel!

la ninja said...

hey there, it's all very tongue-in-cheek (you know that, right?)

and even though I know exactly what you mean, I still believe austen has to be taken for what it is. no more no less. or not take it at all :)

I'm curious to whether you're going to enjoy the novel at all now :)