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.
Posted by Maia at 1:00 PM