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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PsuedoReview: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

There are some books that I find it difficult to admit to having not read. One such book (recently remedied) is Pride and Prejudice. My first encounter with Jane Austen came in a Gothic lit class in college when I was assigned Northanger Abbey, Austen's riff on the genre. I was surprised by how funny Austen is but really that was all, and then her seminal work just kept getting pushed further down my TBR list. Then all of the talk of the 200th anniversary of its publication got me really interested and I sat down to find my way to Pemberly.

Pride and Prejudice is very funny and Mr. Bennet is now one of my favorite fathers in literature (second only to Atticus Finch), but those are really the best things I have to say about the novel. Pride and Prejudice is good, of course it is, one doesn't make it to a 200th anniversary without being so, but it does not speak to me. I never cared about Pemberly in the way I care for Manderlay and, quite frankly, Mr. Darcy doesn't have anything on Mr. Rochester. I get that it takes all kinds to get the literary world spinning and I understand Pride and Prejudice's place in the canon. Like Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice is a novel that I respect for what it is while admitting that it is not exactly for me.

What I think I like more than Pride and Prejudice is the culture surrounding the novel. The things that take the pith and wit of Austen and turn them into small consumables thrill me to no end. Kings among them are Pride and Prejudice themed board books for children and even a Mr. Darcy pillow.
Jane Austen's humor is what has given her work entree into the canon. As Anna Quindlen writes in her introduction to the novel, “Pride and Prejudice is also about that thing that all great novels consider, the search for self. And it is the first great novel to teach us that that search is as surely undertaken in the drawing room making small talk as in the pursuit of a great white whale or the public punishment of adultery.” I believe it is by the basis of her wit that Austen is able to get readers into the drawing room, a place that was before not worthy of literary immortality.

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