Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

Twain on Austen!

June 21, 2008

From this piece of Emily Auerbach (via Maud):

Mark Twain expressed unparalleled hatred of Jane Austen, defining an ideal library as one with none of her books on its shelves. “Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it,” Twain insisted in Following the Equator.

In his extensive correspondence with fellow author and critic William Dean Howells, Mark Twain seemed to enjoy venting his literary spleen on Jane Austen precisely because he knew her to be Howells’ favorite author, In 1909 Twain wrote that “Jane Austin” [sic] was “entirely impossible” and that he could not read her prose even if paid a salary to do so. Howells notes in My Mark Twain (1910) that in fiction Twain “had certain distinct loathings; there were certain authors whose names he seemed not so much to pronounce as to spew out of his mouth.”

His prime abhorrence was my dear and honored prime favorite, Jane Austen. He once said to me, I suppose after he had been reading some of my unsparing praise of her—I am always praising her, “You seem to think that woman could write,” and he forbore withering me with his scorn, apparently because we had been friends so long and he more pitied than hated me for my bad taste.

Rather than pitying Twain when he was sick, Howells threatened to come and read Pride and Prejudice to him.Twain marveled that Austen had been allowed to die a natural death rather than face execution for her literary crimes. “Her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy,” Twain observed, apparently viewing an Austen novel as a book which “once you put it down you simply can’t pick it up.” Yet one becomes suspicious of Twain’s supposedly frenzied loathing when he confesses that he likes to reread Jane Austen’s novels just so he can hate them all over again. In a letter to Joseph Twichell in 1898, Twain fumed, “I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read “Pride and Prejudice” I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Take a look!

If Jane Austen were a political pundit …

April 23, 2008

As Jane Austen might say if she were a political pundit instead of a 19th century novelist, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a Democratic presidential candidate in possession of a minority of pledged delegates must be in want of a huge landslide victory in Pennsylvania.

From here (Hat tip to Bharathi for the email alert).

Paul Graham’s heroes

April 5, 2008

I liked the list because, among other things, P G Wodehouse and Jane Austen appear on it:

P. G. Wodehouse

People are finally starting to admit that Wodehouse was a great writer. If you want to be thought a great novelist in your own time, you have to sound intellectual. If what you write is popular, or entertaining, or funny, you’re ipso facto suspect. That makes Wodehouse doubly impressive, because it meant that to write as he wanted to, he had to commit to being despised in his own lifetime. Evelyn Waugh called him a great writer, but to most people at the time that would have read as a chivalrous or deliberately perverse gesture. At the time any random autobiographical novel by a recent college grad could count on more respectful treatment from the literary establishment. Wodehouse may have begun with simple atoms, but the way he composed them into molecules was near faultless. His rhythm in particular. It makes me self-conscious to write about it. I can think of only two other writers who came near him for style: Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford. Those three used the English language like they owned it. But Wodehouse has something neither of them did. He’s at ease. Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford cared what other people thought of them: he wanted to seem aristocratic; she was afraid she wasn’t smart enough. But Wodehouse didn’t give a damn what anyone thought of him. He wrote exactly what he wanted.


Jane Austen

Everyone admires Jane Austen. Add my name to the list. To me she seems the best novelist of all time. I’m interested in how things work. When I read most novels, I pay as much attention to the author’s choices as to the story. But in her novels I can’t see the gears at work. Though I’d really like to know how she does what she does, I can’t figure it out, because she’s so good that her stories don’t seem made up. I feel like I’m reading a description of something that actually happened. I used to read a lot of novels when I was younger. I can’t read most anymore, because they don’t have enough information in them. Novels seem so impoverished compared to history and biography. But reading Austen is like reading nonfiction. She writes so well you don’t even notice her.

Graham’s analysis of the patterns in his list is interesting too:

After I made the list, I looked to see if there was a pattern, and there was, a very clear one. Everyone on the list had two qualities: they cared almost excessively about their work, and they were absolutely honest. By honest I don’t mean trustworthy so much as that they never pander: they never say or do something because that’s what the audience wants. They are all fundamentally subversive for this reason, though they conceal it to varying degrees.

And, then there are gems of this sort:

One of the things I’ve learned about making things that I didn’t realize when I was a kid is that much of the best stuff isn’t made for audiences, but for oneself. You see paintings and drawings in museums and imagine they were made for you to look at. Actually a lot of the best ones were made as a way of exploring the world, not as a way to please other people. The best of these explorations are sometimes more pleasing than stuff made explicitly to please.

Take a look!

Jane Austen: an online resource site

December 17, 2007

LII points to a Jane Austen resource site:

Collection of links to material related to early 19th-century novelist Jane Austen and her life and times. Includes links to full text of her novels, material about film adaptations, culture and fashion of the Regency Era, and academic articles. Also includes links to blogs. From an enthusiast.

The site, called Jane Austen’s World does look like fun; take a look!