Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jane Austin's Sense (and Sensibility)

Ahhh me, the classics.


Cutter of new paths.


Frankly, some of them give me a stiff pain. I mean, have you read Milton lately? I did once and vowed, "Never again!"

I'm re-reading Sense and Sensibility. Uh, yeah, as a matter of fact I have seen Becoming Jane, and The Jane Austin Book club on DVD recently, why do you ask?

Okay, I'm acting like a media sheep. I admit it. I'm comforting myself with this thought: "Hey! At least I'm reading the book and not just watching the movies!"


An interesting contrast between Jane's style of writing and what editors/publishers say they are looking for today: We are told, as writers, to have a great "hook" as the first sentence of the book (actually, at the first sentence of each new chapter, and the end of each chapter would be best, but that's another blog). This "hook" should grab readers attention, and then the first page should draw the reader into time and place, setting and introduce characters, etc.

Good advice. Makes sense.

Then, there's Jane.

Page one she gobsmacks the reader by offering a condensed version of the prologue (The ancestral home of our heros - who we don't actually meet for a few pages yet, we first have to meet their father, stepbrother, sister-in-law, and mother - whew! The life and death of dear Papa, and learn the details of the poor man's will and the mental state of the son whose job it is to ensure the well being of his step-mother and her daughters. . . and on, and on). A no-no say today's publishers. But, somehow, reading this story within the story (within the story) flows like a river into the body of the novel. When we finally meet our two sisters, we feel fortified, ready to lead the parade for them, able to understand them because we know things about them that they, themselves have yet to discover.

And, oh, the extra words! Jammed full of adjectives, adverbs, asides, and shifting POV, it can be distracting to read until you get used to it. Jane jumps effortlessly from one POV to another (sometimes within the same sentence), but it isn't always so easy for the reader. But still, there is a kind of music that, once learned, can be danced to.

Maybe it's time to revisit a classic on your reading list?

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