Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Rereading Pride & Prejudice

I have been rereading Pride & Prejudice with my British lit students; we already made it through Beowulf, Grendel, Le Morte d'Arthur, and Hamlet (I was pleasantly surprised by how good Ethan Hawke and Mel Gibson were as Hamlet, diametrically opposed Hamlets that they are). I enjoy P&P more each time I read it, though I admit I have trouble keeping the A&E visuals away now. Jane Austen is just so pleasant to read -- her language is impeccable, and her use of details to depict that particularly British, eighteenth-century, aristocratic way of life seems more inspired with each rereading.

And of course, P&P has arguably the very best first sentence ever: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." But how to convey the sublime pleasure of this line to students? Especially when they look at me like I'm nuts for being so enthused about these books we're reading...

Anyway, it all reminds me of how Katherine, the narrator of Barbara Trapido's Brother of the More Famous Jack, dives into Emma whenever in need of a little literary pick-me-up. As a dutiful wife she tries to get into her husband's first novel: "Jonathan's novel was actually more than I could cope with during pregnancy, being a spirited if macabre four hundred page satirical hallucination... I had promised myself to read it properly while I breast fed, if it didn't have the effect of curdling the milk" (p216). As I said, she tries, but: "I tried reading Jonathan's novel as I fed her, but gave it up in favour of Emma, which is still my favourite" (p219). Hey, who can blame her? Austen trumps hubby every time!

For me, that comfort read is undoubtedly Pride & Prejudice. What's yours?

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