Sunday 19 January 2014

Sleep is good, he said, And books are better - George R R Martin

Since starting my new job, I've had little time to sit and relax online. Or to do anything much else either, if I'm honest. Still, reviews by my fellow bloggers of their exploits during 2013 have not escaped my notice. Much to my chagrin.

My proud boast of having read 30 or so books last year now leaves me somewhat red-faced. I think I must be a laughing stock in the book blogging world where everyone seems to manage at least 80 or so books in 12 months. At least. And that, it would seem, is not always a good year. I can only be left wondering how they do it. Any hints, advice or explanations would be welcome.

In the meantime, I press on with Jane Austen. My latest re-read has been Northanger Abbey. Never one of my favourites. An opinion which remains unchanged.

It's a sweet enough tale. But not a page-turner for me. Possibly because I have little sympathy with the heroine, Catherine Morland. She's a tad wet for my liking. Her mind is weak, her judgment obtuse. JA usually can be relied on for much better.

Still, I find the author's voice as entertaining as ever. Note her remarks on dressing to impress. "Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction", she warns, because men remain insensible to the new clothes women take so much time over in order to impress them. She continues: "It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire... woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her more, no woman will like her the better for it. Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the latter".

With regard to the mortification Catherine feels in her inability to understand a conversation with the Tilneys, the author chides: "(It was) a misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well she can".

Is that a tad harsh, I wonder? I'm not altogether sure. But they may be arguments I adopt in the future. To explain away anything. And everything. I have the misfortune of knowing something...

Friday 3 January 2014

That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment - Mary Ann Shaffer

Despite my recent reservations, I continue to indulgence myself. And have just finished Pride & Prejudice. Accompanied by a whole lot of Galaxy chocolate. Although the less said about that, the better.

P&P was totally delightful. As was to be expected. And all the more so as it comforted me through a dreadful 1 January 2014 of gales and torrential rain. Charming, romantic, funny. And featuring Mr Darcy. All in one. Who could ask for anything more?

Austen's musings on love and lovers cannot be anything less than delightful. With Charlotte's apparent cynicism, Mary's stoic pronunciations and Lizzie's carefree - and at times careless - commentaries. It has everything to please.

Silly characters abound, for sure, in both female and male form. And in all levels of society. But this gives all the more grace and elegance to the main characters and their stories.

I admit that I do tend to find Jane and Mr Bingley's tales a tad insipid. Still the fiery misunderstandings and prideful foot-stamping of Lizzie and Mr Darcy more than compensate. Two characters ultimately so alike. Both big fish in their own spheres. Both outspoken and admired. Both despising inferior minds and inferior behaviour.

The collision of these two worlds, and the resulting indiscretions, provide great entertainment and admirable romance. 

Re-reading it after so many years, I realised how faithful was/is the BBC's rendering of the novel. Apart from the licence taken to have Mr Darcy dive into a lake after his long ride home from London. But who am I to quibble on such minor additions. Inspired as they are.

The BBC can usually be relied on to make both faithful and truly entertaining interpretations of most writings. However, I must inscribe here my great disliking of its recent production of Emma. I hasten to add that my love for the novel renders me a tad unyielding in such matters. And that having seen most of the productions in her name, I am not best enamoured by any of them. There would seem to be a wilful desire to misrepresent her (as I read her). Instead of a self-important, cheeky but loving daughter, she is portrayed as a selfish, almost spiteful and emotionally-stunted, manipulative girl, mocking and belittling her father amongst others.

No, no, no. Only the 1996 version starring Kate Beckinsale comes close to holding a balance of the contradictions that are Emma. Her silliness and sincerity. Self-importance and attention to duty. Propriety and indiscretions. The scenes of her reveries help us to laugh both at and with her. And thus we have enough sympathy to like her in the end, and rejoice with her in her happiness.

I don't say it's a perfect version, by any means. But it is the only one I can tolerate. Intolerant as I am.  :0(

Amidst the novels and screen versions of them, I'm beginning to feel trapped in JA. Not unpleasant in itself. But I do wonder if I should not move on to another author. It's not like there aren't others (and lists of them) waiting to be read by me. Still why change a winning formula. I'm finishing books again. What to do, what to do...