Friday, September 23, 2005

I Buy More Jane Austen Books

Just because Jane Austen has not put out a new novel in almost 200 years, doesn't mean that I do not have to keep spending money on her work. I just got a Barnes & Noble gift card from my parents for my birthday -- Hallelujah! Hallelujah! -- and I immediately went to and purchased the Norton Critical Editions of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion (I already had the Norton of Emma). Now, I at last have a complete set of Jane Austen, by one publisher, in one format. The Norton Critical Editions are very good, as a rule, since they have some notations and often illuminating essay addendums.

I have actually worn out paperback copies of my Jane Austen books. Mansfield Park is on its last legs. It would not survive another read-through. Pride and Prejudice has already had one copy recycled, and copy the second isn't looking too healthy anymore. Emma (not the NCE one), Northanger Abbey, Persuasion -- all could use retirement. The only one I haven't worn out is Sense and Sensibility, but, as I've already posted, that's the one I re-read the least.

I have also worn out many L.M. Montgomery books and have had to replace them. I just love books to their death - taking them everywhere: eating while reading, reading in the bath, marking my place by leaving them open -- belly-side down, spine up. Do not ever lend me a book, if you expect to get it back pristine. Jason, on the other hand, treats books with reverence and respect (but, I suspect, far less actual love) and handles them with kid gloves. He doesn't let me touch his books. I cannot really blame him.

So, new Jane Austen books for me -- a happy birthday indeed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When I Fell for Fitzwilliam Darcy

While Lizzy may jokingly have begun to fall in love with Mr. Darcy upon "first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley," he had captured my heart many pages before when he asked Elizabeth during their dance at the Netherfield Ball, "What think you of books?" Especially with that little smile of his that Jane Austen is particular to note for our benefit. To a bibliophile like myself, that question is the most beguiling of conversation starters. Silly Lizzy in her little fit of Wickham-loving pique fails to be charmed, but the less prejudiced reader knows better.

Or, maybe I fell earlier still when Mr. Darcy said that a truly accomplished woman in his eyes must add to all feminine talents, civilities, and gentilities "something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading." Mr. Darcy: the ultimate embodiment of the thinking woman's hero!

What if Jane Austen had married her own Mr. Darcy? Happy for her to be the wife of such a man! Sad for us, since she would most likely have abandoned literary pursuits in her state of domestic felicity.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Annotated Pride & Prejudice (2004)

Hardcore Austen fans: Buy this edition!

I just got from The Annotated Pride & Prejudice, and it has exceeded my (admittedly high) expectations. The annotator/editor is David M. Shapard who, despite having graduated from UC Berkeley, takes a level-headed, even-handed approach to this most beloved of Jane Austen novels. While I have disagreed with a few of his "clarifications" of Austen's intended meaning, I have been very impressed by his scholarly approach to contextualizing this book in terms of time and place. Especially appreciated by this reader were the chronology appendix, the citations and cross-references from Austen's other works as well as her juvenilia and personal letters, and the handiness of having historical explanations and definitions immediately accessible to the text. I also really liked the fact that the annotations were all included on the right-hand side of the book, with the text on the left-hand side. Although it was a little difficult to get used to, it certainly beats having all the annotations at the end of the book, as was done by Dierdre La Faye in The Letters of Jane Austen collection. Most preferrable for me would have been the notes at the bottom of the pages of text, as is my MacArthur Study Bible, but I am determined to be pleased with what I can get. The only addition I can think of that would have improved this edition would have been some geneology charts for the characters, including their full names and relationships as far as Jane Austen provided. That would have been desirable indeed.

An endearing part of this edition lies in the acknowledgments that the editor provides prefacing the text. He thanks the "citizens of the Republic of Pemberley, who formed one of the inspirations for my decision to embark on the project in the first place, and whose questions and discussions concerning Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice have stimulated my thinking and helped direct me to issues and points in the novel that deserve explanation or commentary." This tickled me pink, since I am such a fan of that wonderful community.

I cannot think of one library that would not be benefitted by this excellent edition. It is at least a venial sin for any Austentatious-type of collection to be without this well-done volume.