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A Birthday Party for Miss Austen

If you aren’t already aware that Jane Austen was born two-hundred-and-thirty-seven years ago today, you’re obviously not as devout an Austen Addict as I am. Ordinarily I’d suggest that if this is the case you can just leave my blog, right now, but today I’m feeling generous — it is a day of celebration after all — and I realize that few people can possibly be as obsessed as I am.

I don’t know about THE world, but Jane certainly changed MY world. And clearly other people’s worlds as well. When I met new people at school this year, Jane often found her way into our conversation at some one point or another. My new acquaintance would then either nod in slight recognition of the somewhat ubiquitous name, or begin gushing about how absolutely delightful Pride and Prejudice is. The latter is what happened with one of my teachers and her daughters when we met a few months ago.

And so, in honour of this auspicious day, these lovely ladies baked a cake and we all got dressed up and had a tea party this afternoon. And let me say, I have never attended such a lovely tea party in all my life. Actually, compared with our afternoon tea, I don’t think anything I’ve ever attended or hosted could even be considered a tea party.

They took out their fancy china for the occasion and we drank from the dainty floral tea cups with our pinky fingers in the air. We put on classical music. We lit candles. We placed flowers on the table.

Tea Time!

We all dressed up — though none of us really got the period quite right. There were shawls and big, floppy hats that were more to the stylings of Anne Shirley than Elizabeth Bennet and we had a southern belle join us in a long, poufy gown. I attempted an empire waist look, placing a thin belt high on my waistline over a purple dress. Nonetheless, we all looked charming in our outfits of choice.

And then there was the food. Chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar. Lemon pie. Cucumber sandwiches. And you can’t forget the tea. And the china sugar bowl. My family, for some reason or another, doesn’t have good china or sugar bowls or fancy tea sets, so that their family has such things, and that we used them, was very exciting for me.

The Food

The Food

And then we looked at my pictures from my pilgrimages to England where I visited Miss Austen’s house in Chawton and the filming locations for Pemberley used in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. We had a marvellous afternoon. And then, to finish off our day we went to Anthropologie, were I got myself a present in honour of Jane’s birthday. The belt I bought was, after all, called the Pierced Floral Corset Belt so I think it was quite fitting.

Thank you Jane, for writing some of the greatest novels ever. You’ve played a huge role in shaping who I am over the past few years since we met when I was fifteen. You’re the reason I started reading Literature. You’re partly responsible for my decision to major in English when I get to university next year. You inspired me to begin writing.You inspired two incredible, bonding-filled trips to England with my daddy. Your novels have taught me so much about life, myself and those around me. And you gave me a great opportunity to have a really fun tea party today in your honour. Happy birthday, Jane. And thanks for everything.

Did you do anything special to celebrate Jane’s birthday? Have you ever? Do share!

Some other posts wherein I gush about Jane and her novels:

My Favourite Books

P&P&ME

Fictitious Crushes

Happy Birth(and Death)day to The Bard (wherein I discuss my visit to Miss Austen’s former home in England)

My Life in Books

The Jane Austen Book Club

For the Love of Jane 

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The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club… What do I think? Well, I read the book at some point in the past two years, last summer maybe? The fact that I don’t know specifically when says something right away, because I tend to track my life based on what I read when. When a book doesn’t make it onto that timeline that tends to mean it either sucked or it just wasn’t worth remembering — oftentimes it’s both. So that’s how I felt about the book: for what it was — chick lit that’s sole purpose in life is entertainment — it was just alright, nothing all that special.

Then I saw the movie. It was one of those rare instances where the movie actually surpasses the book — at least from where I sit lazily on the couch. So that’s where I’m going with this. I’m going to share my thoughts on the movie. But, for once in my life, I’m kind of having trouble forming thoughts. It was kind of really bad, but kind of really good. And I’m afraid to profess either of these opinions, because I don’t really feel strongly either way, but would hate for you to have a strong opinion (or even any opinion) that’s the opposite of whichever I choose and then you’ll think I’m stupid for either liking it or disliking it. That’s probably absurd of me. You probably don’t care one way or the other. You’ve probably never even seen this movie.

Credit: romancegirlsguide.blogspot.com

To summarize, there are these five women who all have issues in their lives, especially their love lives, and they start this book club, to ease the distress of their various circumstances. Oh, and they only read Jane Austen books in this book club — if nothing else, the book/movie is aptly named. They do this thing where they read one of Jane’s novel’s each month and each of them is responsible for hosting one meeting, so they each lead the discussion on one of Jane’s novels. But, (oh no, whatever shall they do?) they need six club members (because Jane wrote six novels) and they only have five. So then this Grigg guy comes in. And adds in some Emma-style drama, because he likes this Jocelyn character, but she tries to set him up with her friend and misunderstandings ensue — can you guess how that plot-line ends?

It’s a cute movie, really it is. I love how it starts with this montage of all the noise and technological annoyances that come with modern life — in contrast, I imagine, to the quiet, “simplicity” of life in Jane’s novels. I say “I imagine” because this wasn’t a theme which was really pursued. I’m not sure that there were any themes that got actually, truly pursued. And that’s okay. I guess. It isn’t a very literary work or anything and I’m probably missing the point. But I’m going to over-analyze the heck out of it anyways, because (according to my mother) I have to over-analyze everything. The book, from what I remember, seemed to be completely just for entertainment, the movie, on the other hand, seemed as though it was trying (so hard) to aspire to something more. It could also be that it really was a deep, serious, literary masterpiece and I just didn’t really get it — but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s the former.

I think the problem is that, for me, it just doesn’t really stand on its own. By which I mean, that it’s nothing without Jane Austen. Yes, yes, I do get that that’s the point, but what I mean is the storyline of the movie itself is just nothing so special. I just couldn’t really care for the characters. And it isn’t really about anything. My favourite parts are when they’re talking about Jane and her books. This isn’t really a problem, per se, but it almost feels as though all the author/screenwriter wanted was to have characters discuss Jane Austen. And she wanted those characters to be similar to Jane’s heroines. And it’s a great idea. With loads of potential. I just don’t think it worked so well. There were too many characters, with too many problems and with some of them it was glaringly clear which characters they were like (especially because it’s spelled out for you) but with others you are (or at least I am) just so lost. Because a lot of the characters in this movie were similar to more than one of Jane’s characters. Which, again, in itself isn’t such a problem, it just felt as though it was trying to be deep and complex but was more just shallow and slightly confusing. Maybe if I watch it again it will be clearer, but I just don’t care to. Because it doesn’t seem like it’s confusing because it was done well and all the characters are just that complex, it seems like it’s confusing because it was just done sloppily.

You’ve Got Mail comes to mind for comparative purposes — although there’s really more of a contrast. It’s all about books and there are a whole bunch of really incredible Pride and Prejudice references. It’s done perfectly, because there aren’t so many references that Jane Austen is being shoved down your throat. Rather, P&P is a delightedly apt, not too overt (but not too subtle either) inter-text for that movie. Forgetting for just a second that P&P is my favourite book and these references are what make You’ve Got Mail my favourite movie, these references are completely vital. They develop Kathleen’s character and they develop her relationship with Joe. You see how she feels about Jane, you see how he feels about Jane, you see them discussing Jane. And, of course, they have this adorable hate-at-first-sight, Darcy-Lizzie relationship going on, that can’t help but end well.

Cover of "You've Got Mail"

Credit: Amazon

What works so well about the Austen references in You’ve Got Mail is that they come second. Yes, Kathleen is kind of like Elizabeth and Joe is kind of like Darcy, but that isn’t the entire point of the movie. It isn’t even most of the point of the movie. P&P got added in because it was relevant and it works to enhance (and add some depth and awesomeness) to the movie. Whereas in The Jane Austen Book Club, the Austen references are the movie, while the actual movie’s storyline and original characters come second. All the similarities between the characters in the movie and the characters in Jane’s novels seem contrived, and the entire point seems to be fitting this movie to Jane Austen, instead of fitting Jane to the movie.

Also, going back to over-analysis of themes, I know it isn’t a literary work, so applying what I know about the major literary movements is probably kind of moot, but I’m going to do it anyways. It kind of seems to be a clash between today’s postmodernism and Jane Austen’s “Jane-Austen-y-happily-ever-after-ism” (I can’t figure out which movement Jane belongs to — I refuse to believe it would be romanticism… would it?). It’s all about love and marriage and human connection in today’s society, where almost half of all marriages end in divorce. It’s about being alone versus being in a relationship. It seems to try so hard to be postmodern in its view of such things. But then it contrives the ending so that everyone ends up happily together with just the right person. It ties it all up just so neatly, which, — aside from being anything but postmodern, it is a rom-com after all — is ironic in light of a conversation earlier in the movie, where they contemplate the messiness of love.

Final thoughts? I don’t even know. It wasn’t really good. But, they talk about Jane Austen… How can I complain about a movie where the central focus is characters gathering around to talk about Jane, her life and her works? That’s probably why this subpar movie didn’t completely die upon arrival — we Janeites just can’t seem to help ourselves.

Have you ever seen it? What did you think? Are you an ardent lover of all things Jane? Do you think that has any impact on how you felt about this movie? (I’d love to hear what someone who isn’t in love with Austen thinks of this movie — but would any such people even bother watching it?)

For the Love of Jane

I first got acquainted with Jane Austen when I was in grade ten. It changed my life. Obviously. It was also the start of a delightful little obsession. An addiction you might even say. And then I kind of got over that. I really thought I was cured. Turns out I was just in remission, ’cause the sickness is back. Will it ever be gone for good? I sure hope not.

A modern imagination of Jane. Probably more accurate (and pretty) than the other “fake” pics floating around. If you’re as ardent (crazy) a fan as me, you know what I mean. If not, google it. There is more out in Jane’s corner of the web than you would ever care to know. Photo credit: pemberley.com

With the start of the summer (during which I planned on reading lots of new books) I find myself going back to Jane. Maybe it’s because with high school ending and The Rest of My Life starting (as if), it’s nice to have something consistent and familiar to go back to. To borrow a metaphor (actually a simile, but whatever) used a lot with regards to rereading, going back to Jane is like being re-acquainted with a dear old friend. Except, while the old familiarity, shared memories and old jokes are still around, when you meet up with someone from your past, you can’t expect that they’ll be exactly the same as they were when you were close. Which is okay, because you’ve also changed. While Jane’s words have remained the same since the last time I read them (and for the past two hundred years) I’ve certainly changed, so my reading and understanding of those words has too. We (the book and I — just in case I lost anyone there) have a different relationship now. It can’t be the same as it was before, but you know what? That’s okay.

Photo credit: goodreads.com

My very first impression of Jane Austen was (appropriately) based on Pride and Prejudice. For the first several pages, that impression was not a wholly positive one. A teacher (The English Teacher) recommended I read it and I was really excited to do so. Then I did and I thought that teacher was insane for suggesting it. It was just so prim and proper and old-fashioned-y. Although, I do have to admit that I didn’t really understand it at first. That’s probably an understatement. I thought Lady Catherine De Bourgh was Mr. Collins’ wife. That was not fabricated for your amusement, I could not make such ignorance up. And in my defence, how was I supposed to know WTF a “patroness” was? Why else he would need some woman’s permission to come visit his relatives, unless they were married? It’s a good thing I switched to The Annotated Pride and Prejudice before he started courting and proposing to half the girls in Hertfordshire, all because Lady C wants him ‘settled’. Then it would have gotten really confusing. And weird. And Mr. Collins is weird enough without my misunderstanding his relationship status with Lady C.

Once I actually understood P&P (or at the very least understood what was going on in it) I fell ardently in love with it for the same reasons I had initially disliked and misunderstood it. The primness. The propriety. The old-fashioned-y-ness. It also may have had something to do with Colin Firth in a wet shirt, but you know, whatever. Anyway, as the cliche goes, high school kind of sucks, and Jane was my escape. I could float away into the world she created with her well-chosen, beautiful worlds and forget about everything else. I’d live in ravishing country estates with my new best friends Lizzy, Emma, Catherine and Marianne; I would swoon over Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley and Henry Tilney, doodling their names all over my Science notebook, in my best, most Jane Austen-y cursive. I was more “well-adjusted” by the time I got to grade eleven and twelve, finally finding my place with a steady group of friends, but until then, I had Jane. She helped me so much during that awkward year and to her and her heroines (and we can’t forget those heros) I will always be grateful.

There is NO screenshot that can possibly do justice to this moment. Also, posting pictures such as this one is half the reason I started this blog. I’m being serious.

I read P&P literally about three or four consecutive times upon first meeting it (in addition to at least as many viewings of the five and half hour movie), so since then I’ve tried (at times in vain) to stay away from it. That’s because Jane’s words have become so engrained in my mind that they’ve begun to (dare I say) lose their power to excite and instil new ideas. I thought it would be best to wait for a little to reread it, so I can take new and more profound meaning from those beautiful words and see them with fresh eyes rather than just looking at them on a page and doing little more than skimming due to my over-familiarity. Actually, keeping with the friend metaphor, it’s much like the way we can’t (and often just don’t) always judge and assess our close friends  objectively (or always notice all their merits) because we’re so used to them and all their idiosyncrasies. I’ve also been keeping carefully away from Emma because I really adore that one and wouldn’t want this to happen with that.

Now I’m re-assessing Jane with my reread of Northanger Abbey and it’s a very interesting experience. For some reason, I thought that despite my love for Catherine and Henry Tilney, I never really read this book that much, so it was immune to this phenomenon. It became my go-to for when I needed a jolt of Jane’s humour. Or was just between books and needed something to fall back on. But it now occurs to me that I’ve read the book at least three, (but potentially closer to five) times, in addition to watching the movie just as much, in the past two years since I first read it. So it’s more familiar than I thought. Kind of like a friend you like, but only hang out with a lot because you have a bunch of mutual friends, and then you’re suddenly struck by how close the two of you have gotten. It’s sort of like that. Let’s say. (It’s really not like that. I love Northanger Abbey and always have. It would have been a more appropriate simile if I had been talking about Mansfield Park — we’re only friends because it happens to be written by Jane — but that would never happen. Neither Fanny or Edmund are people who I can relate to, be entertained by, aspire to be like or swoon over.)

But despite my newfound familiarity with Northanger Abbey, and every single exchange between Catherine and Henry, I’ve changed and learned and grown since last reading it (or any novel by Jane). So there’s this weird disparity. On the one side, I feel overly familiar with the plot and dialogues and phrasing but at the same time I am continually shocked by how much I seem to have missed or misinterpreted the first few times I read it. Despite all my ardent love and admiration (as well as how many times I have read and reread each of Jane’s novels) I’m beginning to realize that I didn’t understand her works as thoroughly as I thought I originally did. Yes, Jane’s novels are set in fancy country estates, where her characters’ interactions are ruled by a very official laws of etiquette, but it turns out that this by no means implies that her novels are prim, proper or flowery. It turns out (and I say this as the biggest complement I can think to bestow) that Jane Austen was an ironic, sarcastic, satirical bitch. There are lines in Northanger that I cannot believe are written before my eyes and I wonder how they could possibly escaped me the first several times I read the book.

A lot of the new insight I’m seeing comes from my deeper understanding of and appreciation for satire and irony. I’ve (almost) always understood that you can’t take everything Jane says or all of her character’s words and actions at face value. I seem to be one of the few people who truly understands that when Jane coined the phrase “a truth universally acknowledged”, she intended for the phrase to imply that the clause following it isn’t really a cold, hard fact, people just think it’s the truth. For example, it is a truth universally acknowledged that universally acknowledged truths are true — i.e., a lot of people think that universally acknowledged truths are true, but they’re not. But, I don’t think I really understood the extent to which you really can’t trust a single word that flowed from Jane’s pen. I have made some pretty major life decisions based on lines in Northanger Abbey only to realize later that the line I was basing my life around was meant ironically. (I can’t share what those “major life decisions” are or what lines they are based on, because these decisions will seem fairly minor to you. Also, my misinterpretations and consequent decisions make me feel — and would make me look — like quite a silly, ignorant, little teenager.)

But the really interesting thing that I’ve been wondering lately is about the nature of this growth and deeper understanding. I can obviously understand Jane’s works differently now that I’ve grown and internalized the idea of irony a little more. The question is, was that learning and growth independent of Jane and her works, or was it Jane who taught me about irony and satire, and now I’m finally able to (consciously) apply it back to the works that taught it to me in the first place? It’s kind of a circular argument and it’s probably a bit of both.

Have you been rereading much lately? Are you gaining new insight or is it more of just a trip down memory lane? What’s on your summer reading list?

Happy Birth(and death)day to The Bard!

Today marks the day that William Shakespeare died and is generally accepted as the day on which he was born. If he were somehow alive, The Bard would be 448 years old.

Photo credit: BookFiend on Etsy

When I say it’s “generally accepted”, I mean that it’s sort of like a truth universally acknowledged that a William Shakespeare who died on the 23rd of April must certainly have also been born that day too. No one really knows when he was actually born, but the record says that he was baptized on the 26th of April, so “they” just decided it would be cool for his birthday and death day to coincide (that only happens to the really awesome people, I guess). (Information from http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespearebirth.html)

It’s rather convenient for the literary history romanticizers that his real birthday is unknown. This way they can get all excited that he was born and died on same day, regardless of the fact that they mostly just made that up. That however, is not to say that this historical information is that much less accurate (in my opinion) than other “certain” or “proved” historical facts. I think that almost all history is in some way romanticized or biased or expanded upon to make a good story. After all, each individual’s memory of his/her own experiences isn’t even objective and completely accurate, so how can minor details that have been passed down over hundreds of years be?

It reminds me of when I was in England last summer and went to visit the last house Jane Austen lived in before she died, now called Jane Austen’s House Museum. Even her famous writing desk, the very one on which she’s universally acknowledged to have written her manuscripts on, is perhaps just a romanticism. The guides informed us that it’s probably likely that it just may have been the desk on which she wrote, because it had gone to a neighbour when she died and then the neighbour gave it back for posterity, years and years later, because Jane had gotten famous. So they somehow take this information and turn it into a “fact”, well it certainly must have been her writing desk — where else would she have written her manuscripts?

The desk on which Jane (supposedly) wrote her six brilliant novels.
Photo credit: http://district5060gse.blogspot.ca

Everything, in fact, had a similar story, all though, other than the desk, I can’t even recall very much else in the house that was actually there when Jane was (aside, of course, from her donkey cart). Even still, they managed to create a thoroughly romanticized effect. “And this bed,” the sign read, “is kind of, sort of, maybe similar to bed Jane might have, probably slept on.” It was placed in the room that she surely shared with her sister, Cassandra, although interestingly, the museum didn’t place a bed in there for her big sis to supposedly have slept on.

That being said, I not so completely cyinical as I may, at this moment sound (in fact, I try never to be cynical) and these thoughts certainly never even occurred to me while I was actually at Jane’s house. When it was all right in front of me, I was actually quite overwhelmed with the scene they had created. I quite literally burst into happy/excitable-tears the moment we arrived at my favourite author’s house, where once upon a time ago, she actually lived and I couldn’t stop tearing-up nearly the entire time we were. All I’m really trying to get across, is that not everything is as it seems (what a useful cliché that is) and that sometimes it’s important to give things some thought, before wholly accepting them as truth.

And now, in honour of Will’s kinda, sorta, maybe birthday, a quotation from Much Ado About Nothing, which I saw at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the same trip to England. (It’s interesting to note, that the theatre itself is also romanticized: it’s an “exact” reproduction of what the theatre standing in Shakespeare’s time *may* have looked like.) This passage is right at the end, once Benedick and Beatrice have finally admitted to being in love with each other, but are still keeping up their silly/witty banter. I love this scene, especially because it’s very similar to a scene that I love at the end of Pride and Prejudice. (These two works are why I’m convinced that Will and Jane invented the rom-com.)

Benedick: I pray thee now tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?

Beatrice: For them all together, which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them: but for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?

Benedick: Suffer love. a good epithet, I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.

Beatrice: In spite of your heart, I think. Alas poor heart, if you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours, for I will never love that which my friend hates

Benedick: Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.

What do you think about the romanticism of history? Do you ponder about the legitimacy of things as much as I find myself doing?

 

My Life in Books

Today’s post comes to you from Florida, where my family and I have come for some much needed relaxation before exam craziness begins. Every year around this time, we get time off from school and for the past several years we’ve been spending this time off in the sunshine state. We’ve been coming here since I was in grade 8 and now that I’ll be graduating from high school in a few months, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately.

Real Books > E Books

Today I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve changed since we started coming to Florida on this annual basis. I don’t have to say that I’ve changed a ton since I was 14, but I think what’s interesting is how I chart and measure that change. I think change is a really interesting topic, because, unlike in novels where you often see the characters changing blatantly before your eyes, in real life it’s so gradual and seemingly natural that you can only really see it retrospectively.Then, when you do introspect you’re often taken aback. “Was I really like that before?” or “How did I possibly manage to get where I am now?” are often the questions on my mind.

Even more often, I can hardly imagine life before the change which has taken place. I can hardly imagine, for example, spending this time-off at home. I can’t even recall what that was like. Another major change in my life, which I could have never imagined at the time, was reading Jane Austen’s works, starting with Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I sometimes think of my life in the context of “Before Jane” and “After Jane”. Okay, I don’t really think about my life that way, at least not in so many words, but that is essentially the big, defining change and revolutionary landmark in my life so far.

In fact, I completely track my progress as a person through the books I read. When I think back through the years since we started coming to Florida, and how much I’ve grown over the course of those years, the one thing I think about is what I was reading each year.

In grades 8 and 9, it was still Before Jane. I have very little recollection of what I read, and I certainly can’t distinguish between the two years. I know I had a pile of books from the YA section of the library selected almost solely on a “judging by the cover” basis. I definitely recall reading some of  the books in the The Clique series by the pool, but I couldn’t even tell you which books in the series they were. There was also one really good book, one of the few from my YA days which I still remember, called Pretty Face. It’s about a girl with weight and self-esteem issues, who overcomes these problems when she goes to Italy in the summer. (Please note that my brief synopsis makes it sound way more lame than it truly is.) However, after a quick google search (which informed me of this book’s title), it occurs to me that I’ve been melding about 5 books of similar theme into this one memory, which I guess goes to show the great quantity of low quality books I breezed through during this phase.

Then grade 10 hit and Jane Austen and I became very close friends. By the time April rolled around, I had just finished reading P&P for the first time. On our flight to Florida, I watched the brilliant, five-hour, twenty-three minute movie (or, you know, the first three hours of it) and it completely sealed the deal. I instantly became an ardent lover of all things Austen (except for, you know, Mansfield Park and Persuasion…) I have such lovely memories of lying on the beach re-reading and re-re-reading the best novel of all time (which is obviously P&P, you’re welcome to disagree on this point, but if you do, you’re also welcome to go find a different blog to read).

Photo credit: http://www.rainbowresource.com
/prodlist.php?subject=18&category=5899

Then last year in April I was going through my Anne of Green Gables phase. Yes, I’m aware that it was quite late, and in the natural order of things L. M. Montgomery should really come before Jane Austen, but the human experience is quite a complex thing (or so my Writer’s Craft teacher keeps saying). I was reading the last of the 8 books in the series, in which the focus switches from Anne to her youngest daughter Rilla, who is by this time around 15.  It takes place during WWI and the first time I read it I thought it was the most tragic book I’d ever read. When I read the part where Rilla’s brother dies in the trenches, I was sitting at the beach, wearing a big floppy hat and sunglasses, surrounded by happy, laughing children and I had tears positively pouring down my sun-screened cheeks. After I finished reading this book, I was so distraught that I was up half the night crying. I felt as though my own brother had died (which was perhaps a little melodramatic of me) and not even the fact that Rilla’s sweetheart came back safely in the end could comfort me.

This was before I had taken my Studies in Literature class, so I hadn’t learned anything about the literary movements. I was under the deluded impression that this was such a gruesome, realistic account of that era. I now realize how highly romanticized this was and that it’s very much like fluff (oh my God, how dare I? Sorry LMM) next to the postmodern nonsense (oh my God, how dare I? Sorry Pat Barker and Barbara Kingsolver) I read now for my Literature class. The boys in the Anne books were so noble and brave and strong for going to fight in the big, manly war. And Walter got to die fighting for his country, instead of coming back from war knowing about all that “ugliness”, while Rilla’s sweetheart, Kenneth, come home completely unharmed and completely not shell-shocked. As opposed to Regeneration, in which you see how horrible and almost futile fighting in the trenches really was. To be honest, I rather liked my ignorance and innocence (sorry English teachers, who think they’ve helped me grow, but whom I believe have broken me).

Last year also marked the first year I brought a journal with me. I had just began writing, and Miami beach was where I wrote the first poem I’ve had published. That was growth I had never imagined. Publication. When I wrote that poem, the idea that it could possibly be published, and read by anyone outside my family was just unfathomable.

That’s a lot of growth for a single post. Next time I’ll post about this year’s reading material, as I’ve already written an entire essay’s worth of words. I wish I could just hand this in, instead of writing the million and a half essays I have due in just over a month.

Have you read any books that changed everything? How do you track your personal growth?

Literary-esque stuff I want for my birthday

(I’m trying to go for subtle hinting here, is it working? Click the pictures to go to the sites on which each item is sold)

Mr. Knightley is pretty much my favourite Austen hero

“Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.”

“…and it is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything.” Oh, that Henry!

I'll have a Darcy... MugI'll have a Darcy... Mug

Jane Austen Retro iPhone 4 Clear Case

This is the reason I’m switching to an iPhone

my other ride is a Barouche sticker

Insert witty Jane quote here

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Sure Mr. Darcy… The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks?

Story. Of. My. Life. My need-to-calm-down-and-stop-hyperventilating-over-nothing novels are NA and MP (I hated MP btw, and have been re-reading my way through it intermittently for the past year and a half)

I’m legit going to visit Pemberley (i.e. Lyme Park) this summer! Jealous much?

writers block oval sticker

I hate when that happens

will power William Shakespeare t-shirt

‘Cause, like, WILLiam Shakespeare…

road less traveled bumper sticker

So, pretty much anything from this shop on Etsy would be AWESOME.

Dear me, let us be elegant or die.

Little Women was almost ruined for me before I even read it. Which is such a shame, because now that I have read it it’s one of my favourite books.

Let Us Be Elegant or Die

How pretty! From chickylovit on Etsy

It all started when I was younger (I don’t recall how young,  but sometime between grade three and four perhaps? ). There is this woman who’s friends with my family, but we only see her on occasion. Every time we did see her, she’d bring us presents of some sort. While I was a late reader my love of reading began years ago when I was in grade three, and I guess this woman knew that because she would always give me books. Now, books are never a good option as a gift. Unless you know someone very well, it’s difficult to know what they’d like to read. You’d want to get them a book they’ve yet to read, but how would you know if they’ll even like it? Their are a few “universals” that of course everyone must love, but likely the recipient has either read this book already or they will of course be the one person who doesn’t care for that book. Moral of the rant: don’t buy books for a random friend’s child if you have no idea what they may or may not care to read.

This woman would always bring me books that she obviously bought for less than five dollars at a second-hand bookshop. Look, it was a very sweet gesture, and I’m sure she had the best intentions. Presumably she saw some books that she thought I’d love and picked them up for me, hoping to introduce me to some great, classic-y books. But, of course, she knew little about me and my taste in books so she always managed to miss the mark. Not to mention the fact that even if she had given me Jane freaking Austen at that time in my life I wouldn’t have read it, as I was still partially in the Junie B. Jones  stage of my life.

I can only remember a few of the books she brought me over the years, as I mostly just skimmed through them. There was a lot of Nancy Drew, with which she thoroughly missed the mark. I vaguely remember reading through a few of them, but I remember not liking them at all and in the first place I have no use for Mysteries. I’m not even sure if these were the original Nancy Drew books, (although after a quick google search, which led me to this wikipedia article, I’m even more confused about the series as a whole… and it’s authorship… I’m also even more sure that I don’t care to try these books again). I believe there was also a copy of Jane Eyre at some point, but I have reason to believe it was an “abridged” (read “massacred”) edition. There was  a picture with a girl on a horse on the cover. I don’t think I so much as opened it. (For the reference, since that time I have read the real Jane Eyre and loved it.)

“Great” (not) Illustrated Classics. Photo credit: http://www.greatillustratedclassics.com

And speaking of books that have been murdered because people thought it might be fun to re-write them in their own words for the sake of little children’s reading pleasure, she also bought me Little Women, butchered with care by Great Illustrated Classics. I really wanted to read this book and I really wanted to like it. The problem is that even in this new and improved (yes that is biting sarcasm) edition, I was still too stupid to understand what was going on. I didn’t really get the social conventions, historical context or pseudo-old fashioned  language. I even revisited it a few times once I was older, but I never really got into it.

The problem with this and other such books is that they’re kind of like spark notes (which I do not endorse… like, what’s the opposite of endorsement?), but, if possible, they’re worse. Yes, I would go as far as to say worse. It’s almost exclusively summary (the absolute epitome of cringe-worthy “telling not showing”), but unlike spark notes, whose sole purpose is so you don’t have to read the book, these you actually have to sit through the entire thing! Furthermore, the entire point isn’t what happened, but how it happened! Every single part that I adored in the real book was absent in the “abridged” version! Who cares that they went to a party, that doesn’t matter, what matters is that “Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.”I say, if  child is too young to read a real classic, they should wait until they are old enough to appreciate it. There is no need for such mass murder of brilliant prose.

Thankfully, I ended up reading the real book this past summer. Click here to read my thoughts on the real thing.

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