Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
It was only during this book, the fourth Jane Austen I’ve read this year, that steakums happened to mention that she liked Austen as well. Honestly, couples never talk anymore.
Mansfield Park is odd in that the reservedness of the time period grates a bit. I mean, going on and on of the evils of putting on a play in one’s house, with our protagonists, Edward and Fanny (of all names), as the main detractors of amateur theatricals? Really, how am I to relate to that?
It’s not like the idle rich have anything else to do.
Really, you side with the protagonists merely because everyone else is so much less worthwhile.
Emma and Clueless are next up on our Netflix cue. If time allowed, we’d do a double feature night.
Emma by Jane Austen
“That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”
~ Emma Woodhouse
“You are very fond of bending little minds; but where little minds belong to rich people in authority, I think they have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite as unmanageable as great ones.”
~ Emma Woodhouse.
I think the strongest effect of having read this novel is a strong desire to watch Clueless again. I had forgotten that Emma was the source material for the movie, and I found it very entertaining to consider the particulars of the adaptations made from one to the other. All in all, I believe I’m fairly impressed with the translation.
The second strongest effect is that I really want to incorporate the phrase to own the truth into my conversation.
The third strongest effect is that the concept of overt and formal class distinctions is jarring.
The fourth is that this is a amusing read of a very foreign culture.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (courtesy of Project Gutenberg)
I had started Sense a long, long time ago, and misplaced it about halfway through. Since some 20 years had passed, enough attrition of memory had occurred to allow a read from the beginning with only the vaguest sense of deja vu.
The toughest part of suspending one’s disbelief in a Jane Austen novel is to allow oneself to believe that it really is tragic that a Person of Quality should lose their Means, or not gain as much Means as is thought to be “deserved”. I can do it easily in a Wooster story, because the primary purpose is comedy, and usually at the expense of the idle rich.
It is much more difficult for a “serious” novel (albeit with humor), meant to evoke sincere sympathy for our heroines, all of whom possess good looks, intelligence, education, and enough money to live more than comfortably (with servants, no less). Sure, loss of love is a tragedy for anyone, but really I have trouble mustering up sympathy in the same way I don’t feel too bad for Jennifer Anniston.
Really, though, suspension of disbelief or concern for the characters is none too necessary because the appeal of Jane Austen is the language. They can go on and on about the same topic and I’m just fine with it. Unlike, say, Tolkien.
The Little Warrior by P.G. Wodehouse
Another fine Wodehousian tale of a riches to rags to the stage to riches.
Apparently, in the early 1900’s, it was nothing to just walk into a Broadway show and get a part. At least, Wodehouse would have you think so. I suspended my disbelief, as is often necessary in a typical Wodehouse tale where in all of New York and London there are only 8-10 people who keep running into each other in preposterous situations.
Quote I liked:
“Fibs, my dear,—or shall we say, artistic mouldings of the unshapely clay of truth—are the … how shall I put it? … Well, anyway,they come in dashed handy.”
There were a couple others I bookmarked, but they just don’t translate out of context.
Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse
I believe the first Psmith novel, where Mike and Psmith meet at a small private high school that they’ve both been “sentenced” to for separate reasons.
From the introduction by Wodehouse:
This was the first appearance of Psmith. He came into two other books,Psmith in the City and Psmith, Journalist, before becoming happily married in Leave It to Psmith, but I have always thought that he was most at home in this story of English school life. To give full play to his bland clashings with Authority he needs to have authority to clash with, and there is none more absolute than that of the masters at an English school.
I think you had to have gone to an English school, because I liked the Psmith, Journalist and Psmith in the City better. Not to disparage this one, as it was a fine read as well. The main reason I clipped that is to remind myself that Leave It to Psmith exists out there somewhere, though not on Project Gutenberg.
Psmith, on being introduced to Mike:
“Do I look as if I belonged here? I’m the latest import. Sit down on yonder settee, and I will tell you the painful story of my life. By the way, before I start, there’s just one thing. If you ever have occasion to write to me, would you mind sticking a P at the beginning of my name? P-s-m-i-t-h. See? There are too many Smiths, and I don’t care for Smythe. My father’s content to worry along in the old-fashioned way, but I’ve decided to strike out a fresh line. I shall found a new dynasty. The resolve came to me unexpectedly this morning. I jotted it down on the back of an envelope. In conversation you may address me as Rupert (though I hope you won’t), or simply Smith, the P not being sounded. Compare the name Zbysco, in which the Z is given a similar miss-in-balk. See?”
Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse
The character of Psmith grows on me, but I fear that I’ve run out of Psmith books.
Rupert Psmith of the Shropshire Psmiths (he added the silent P himself to the family name to start his own dynasty) is a wealthy force of nature, overwhelming adverse circumstances through sheer force of personality. In this novel,Psmith and his Watson-equivalent Mike Jackson take on early 1900s commerce in the form of a Bank in order to exact revenge on one of upper management for interrupting their game of Cricket some months prior.
Excerpt from Psmith’s first encounter with his boss:
‘Work,’ said Psmith, with simple dignity. ‘I am now a member of the staff of this bank. Its interests are my interests. Psmith, the individual, ceases to exist, and there springs into being Psmith, the cog in the wheel of the New Asiatic Bank; Psmith, the link in the bank’s chain; Psmith, the Worker. I shall not spare myself,’ he proceeded earnestly. ‘I shall toil with all the accumulated energy of one who, up till now, has only known what work is like from hearsay. Whose is that form sitting on the steps of the bank in the morning,waiting eagerly for the place to open? It is the form of Psmith, the Worker. Whose is that haggard, drawn face which bends over a ledger long after the other toilers have sped blithely westwards to dine at Lyons’ Popular Cafe? It is the face of Psmith, the Worker.’
‘I–‘ began Mr Rossiter.
‘I tell you,’ continued Psmith, waving aside the interruption and tapping the head of the department rhythmically in the region of the second waistcoat-button with a long finger, ‘I tell _you_, Comrade Rossiter, that you have got hold of a good man. You and I together, not forgetting Comrade Jackson, the pet of the Smart Set, will toil early and late till we boost up this Postage Department into a shining model of what a Postage Department should be. What that is, at present, I do not exactly know. However. Excursion trains will be run from distant shires to see this Postage Department. American visitors to London will do it before going on to the Tower. And now,’ he broke off, with a crisp, businesslike intonation, ‘I must ask you to excuse me. Much as I have enjoyed this little chat, I fear it must now cease. The time has come to work. Our trade rivals are getting ahead of us. The whisper goes round, “Rossiter and Psmith are talking, not working,” and other firms prepare to pinch our business. Let me Work.’
I just like the way he talks.
Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse
I downloaded this novelette for free from Project Gutenburg and read it on my Palm Z22. It’s actually the most recent of many Wodehouse novels I’ve read this year, all of which I have failed to document for one reason or another.
I particularly wanted to record this one because I feel that the main character, Psmith, is virtually identical to Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently, if you remove the supernatural elements from the Gently stories and make the character thin. It’s a bit like discovering a few unpublished Gently novels, after assuming there would be no more owing to Adams’ untimely passing.
In one of the other novels I read recently, I saw the prototype for the relationship storyline in So Long and Thanks for All The Fish where boy meets girl in a car ride but not learning anything about her, a chance meeting later on, an overbearing brother, etc, so I knew there were some loosely borrowed plot lines between Wodehouse and Adams.
All very interesting. It’s like getting a backstage tour into the workings of Adams’ mind.