Monday, October 24, 2011

A Jane Austen Education

I loved this book. It is charming, funny and touching. It begins with the author William Dersiewicz taking a graduate course called 'Studies in the Novel' and he was introduced to Jane Austen for the first time. Deresiewicz is feeling honest about himself. He shows himself to the reader to be a high-minded modernist, with no interest in 19th century British literature and nothing to think about good for Austen or what she wrote. But Emma changed his mind. Over the course of the novel he begins to see himself in not too flattering light. Emma's faults he sees in himself and he begins to change. I am not a big non-fiction person. I like fiction, I like a clear narrative and I like an ending. Deresiwicz gives me this. He starts at one place in his life at the beginning of the book and in the end he is in a very different place. The book is broken up in chapters that are based on Austen's six books. He talks about where he was, what he was doing and what he thought about each of the books as he read and reread them. I found this to be very powerful and moving personally. He helped me to put into words what I liked about my favorite of her novels Persuasion. That it is about being honest with yourself and others around you, that loving someone means that you are willing to help them by pointing out mistakes, in a loving manner, but not about hiding who they really are. The book it 255 pages long, only in hardback at the moment, was published by Penguin Press this year.