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View Diary: Books Go Boom!   Who is the Greatest Woman Novelist since 1950? (294 comments)

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  •  I'm not so in love with her prose, but (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pico, Brecht, RiveroftheWest, Youffraita

    I love her plots! Nothing like a good romance.

    "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

    by GussieFN on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 06:36:13 PM PDT

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    •  Blasphemy! (4+ / 0-)

      Her prose is like [insert clever simile from more talented prose-writer than me]!

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 06:58:52 PM PDT

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      •  Her prose is (3+ / 0-)

        like her heart--an algorithm of sex and real estate.

        •  Nice bon mot. But "sex" is the wrong word, for (5+ / 0-)

          Austen.

          I'd say her ideal is a warm heart, a dry wit, and a snug estate. And her prose has a lot more ingredients, which she doesn't show off, and may take awhile for the discerning palate to discover.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 07:58:22 PM PDT

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          •  No Esther Summersons at Jane's (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest, Brecht

            If Mr. Darcy got disfigured by smallpox he'd die in a riding accident in about two chapters.  One, if he lost his money.  You know it's so.  :-)

            •  Do I explain more, or just accept your flippancy? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, Youffraita

              You give no indication that you're considering other people's views, for any longer than it takes to parry them.

              There is some thought to what you say. I see your points. But you sell Jane short. She recognized the horizons of her work:

              What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?
              She also, within that frame, achieved an entirely new species of perfection.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 06:26:00 PM PDT

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              •  Oh, I admit I'm being annoying (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Brecht, RiveroftheWest

                I really have tried for many years to manage her, without success. My children adore her. My friends say I'm missingout. But that really is the impression she gives me--the one about Mr. Darcy and the smallpox.  It's why I love Dickens and dislike Austen. He has a heart and she doesn't. It's jut a subjective sense of it I have; I don't claim it as some factual insight.  

                •  Thanks for dropping the flippancy for a moment. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RiveroftheWest, Youffraita

                  It took me decades to appreciate Austen's keen wit, social awareness and moral sensitivity: She has an exceptionally sound mind and heart. But she does stick to her drawing rooms and picnics, so her world is less robust than Dickens', Eliot's or Tolstoy's.

                  Dickens is a man of many gifts. But I find his cloying passages far more annoying than anything in Austen. As Wilde put it, you'd have to be heartless to read the death-scene of Little Nell without laughing.

                  "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                  by Brecht on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 09:44:55 PM PDT

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        •  Nah, not really. (5+ / 0-)

          Her heart, maybe(?), but definitely not her prose.  Her prose is too absorbed in irony (which isn't a quality of real estate and, one typically hopes, of sex), mostly because she has a lot of fun with the distance between the things people want to say and the restrictions of etiquette in the society they inhabit.  That could be the stuff of insufferable soap opera, but Austen has the good sense (and taste) to play it for comedy.  Readers usually point to that tension in her dialogue, where it's easy to see, but it's just as evident in her narrative prose.  Look at the famous opening of Pride and Prejudice:

          It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
          That'd be laugh-out-loud funny if one were allowed to laugh at loud in that repressed society.  Austen's prose captures that tension perfectly: the text may be sex and real estate, but the style is carefully-controlled irony.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 11:26:09 PM PDT

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          •  pico, that's just it: (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pico, Brecht, RiveroftheWest, darkmatter

            Austen was a razor-sharp commenter on the hypocrisies of the society in which she lived.

            That's one reason why she is still being read, her books are still being made into movies, and she is still adored by readers: two centuries later.

            Who else comes to mind? Well, Shakespeare has a few centuries on her...and he didn't write novels...but he seems the closest comparison in terms of wit and genius.

            Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

            by Youffraita on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 11:46:03 PM PDT

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            •  We were talking about creators of the modern novel (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest

              I think, in that respect, Shakespeare is the one writer who ran rings around Austen. He invented a fifth of the modern novel: She invented a tenth.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 01:38:24 AM PDT

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          •  Austen's prose style (4+ / 0-)

            Austen's prose just trembles with life.  Her novel Emma is a virtual clinic in indirect free style, which she mastered long before Proust discovered it in Flaubert.  

            •  Have you read James Wood? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest

              He's a very sharp and extremely readable critic. He makes the same point: there's a chapter in his The Broken Estate called 'Jane Austen's Heroic Consciousness'.

              "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

              by Brecht on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 12:48:46 PM PDT

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              •  Yes (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Brecht, RiveroftheWest

                I've not read the particular essay you mention, but I have read many of his essays in The Atlantic. I'll have to take a look at this one.  Perhaps if I ever restore Austen to my sophomore lit courses I will use it . . . I removed Austen a while back, when I became too depressed that too many students (sometimes entire classrooms) did not pick up on her wry humor -- even after I held their hands through multiple examples.  Sigh.

                •  Austen's pretty popular around these parts, (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RiveroftheWest

                  with almost half the votes in the poll. But the Daily Kos Readers & Book Lovers group have mostly had time to read more books than your students. I've certainly found Austen's charms grew on me, as I saw more of life and read more books.

                  "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

                  by Brecht on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 02:34:02 PM PDT

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