So I recently read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. What prompted me was curiosity for 1) why this classic prompted curiosity, 2) why this classic is a classic, 3) how it found it’s way to my attention, 4) how it came to remain highly esteemed two hundred years after initial publication (or 220 years since the 21-year old Jane Austen penned the initial draft), and 5) why, probabilistically reasoned, it will likely remain there for at least another 200.
And an answer I still have not. It left me neutral.
I don’t normally write commentaries on books that leave me thus unaffected. Even books that offer moderate entertainment (this one including), yet leave no lasting imprint to warrant a reread, I wouldn’t regard with extensive commentary.
And why I’ll continue on for several paragraphs more leaves me equally confounded. I’d intended to mention but a couple of words and continue with my existence. Then I indulged. And seeing that I didn’t indulge enough, I felt the itch to offer this Post Scriptum ‘in medias res’. And then this one. I have no redemption.
Alas, the majority of the lifetime reading I’d done, likewise, offered little worth redemption, excepting a dosage of ephemeral pleasure. Yet consumed and digested, they imparted too little of a trace worth remembrance.
As far as Pride and Prejudice, one might suggest I chose the most romance of the author’s novels, or one less fitting for my taste.
But that’s not it. Tons of my all-time favorite works feature enough romance to be thus classified; from the more classical writings of Tolstoy, of the type of romance Count Tolstoy often considered perversion (‘разврат’); to Dickens; to the more contemporary narratives of Murakami, of the type of romance I consider ‘разврат’ (yet expect).
And I hardly care for the narrative. Or so I believe. Narrative, shmarrative … It’s the rhetoric that allures me: the language, the metaphors, the symbolism, the surreal, the poetry, the swing.
I felt those elements lacking in Jane Austen’s novel. It felt hardly beyond nutrient deficient sugar.
Granted, she exhibited grand ideas behind her writing. The credit goes where it’s due.
There is wit. There’s satire. She showcases the ofttimes ludicrous nature behind the high society interrelations; the falsetto behind the impressions; the superficiality; the conceit; the pressure of a lady to marry and marry in a way deemed appropriate of her class and worth.
Austen employs elements of unreliable and shifting narration by way of cloudy judgement. The prose reads well. Were I a secondary language speaker of English, I’d likely value the piece more.
As it stands, all those elements didn’t compensate for the depth I’ve come to expect across prose. It felt hollow, in comparison to Dickens, Conrad, Dostoevsky, Poe, Nabokov.
Perhaps that was by design; part of the masquerade; orchestrated to flow in a way befitting the social element it reflects.
But I didn’t care. And maybe that’s for the best. A bit of sour reading perchance, insures the rewarding cases remain appreciable.
Normally I’d say something to the effect … To rationalize my time expenditure. Yet under the circumstances, that’s the sort of philosophy I least regard.
Questions, comments? Connect.