Emma is 201

Jane Austen’s novel Emma was published on this day in 1815, although this article says that the title page of the first edition gives a publication date of 1816.

The recent BBC ranking of British novels by non-English critics puts Emma at at #19, 8 ranks lower than Pride and Prejudice.  The Guardian puts it at #9 among all English-language novels.  No other Austen novels are on the list.  Huh?  (This is a pretty idiosyncratic list, actually.)

Here’s a very entertaining discussion of Emma from the BBC’s In Our Time podcast.

Time to add it to the to-be-reread list.

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Post 500

Hey, this is my 500th post on this stupid blog!  At first I was trying to do a post a day, but I’ve slowed down to two or three times a week since I began a new novel.  

Thanks to WordPress’s comprehensive statistics, I can tell you that my most popular post ever (by a wide margin) was, oddly enough, this one about my visit to the real Mystic Pizza.  In second place was my post on organic plots.  And the bronze medal goes to this silly post on the Higgs Boson and smoking ducks.  Do you see a trend here?  No, neither do I.  Wordpress doesn’t track “likes”, but I’m pretty sure I got my most likes for this little post passing along a letter to the editor about the Middle East.  I put a lot of effort into that one!

Given the reaction to my last couple of posts, I probably should be doing a lot more Jane Austen blogging.  Maybe I should be writing Jane Austen novels.  If only I could.

“Pride and Prejudice” two hundred years later

A previous post reminded me that I had never read Pride and Prejudice.  So I decided to give it a try.  Here’s my experience of reading Pride and Prejudice in the modern world.

I downloaded the text for free from Amazon.  It took less than a minute to get it onto my iPad–but I got annoyed, as usual, because Apple won’t let you download Kindle books from inside the Kindle app.  The two-step process cost me an extra 20 seconds or so to get the novel to appear out of thin air.

I started reading the book on my iPad while flying 38,000 feet in the air across America.  I took advantage of the Kindle app’s built-in dictionary to tap on unfamiliar words and learn what they mean.  The words I didn’t know mainly had to do with modes of transportation in Jane Austen’s day; I now understand the difference between a curricle and a phaeton, although I’m not sure the definitions will stick in my brain.  Not much need to know those words today unless you’re reading a Jane Austen novel.

As I mentioned, I continued reading the novel while watching the final game of the 2013 World Series. Most of the players had incomes in excess of Mr. Darcy’s ten thousand pounds a year (even adjusted for inflation); however, watching them pour champagne over each other in the locker room convinced me that not even Mrs. Bennet would have found them respectable suitors for her daughters.  Also, I’m not sure any of the girls would have found those beards attractive.

I picked up the novel again while waiting to drive down to Commercial Street in Provincetown and see the somewhat unusual sights it has to offer.  This time I read the book on my iPhone; the Kindle app helpfully synced my place in the book with the furthest place I had reached on my iPad.  How does it do that?  Many of the folks I saw on Commercial Street were heading to a ball, but I don’t think the ball was anything like the one that Mr. Bingley hosted at Netherfield.  The men I encountered were, if anything, even less suitable than the baseball players.

I finished the novel while watching the Patriots destroy the Steelers on Sunday afternoon, followed by the Bears edging the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.  Clearly neither Mr. Gronkowski nor Mr. Polomalu were suitable matches.  Nor Mr. Rogers, whose collarbone fractures so easily.  Mr. Brady would possibly have made a good husband to one of the girls, had he not scandalously sired a child out of wedlock some years ago.

At any rate, it is now 200 years since Pride and Prejudice was first published, and the world has changed.  And it is still exactly the same.  We now have a lovely new word humblebrag, and here is Mr. Darcy talking about the same thing in 1813:

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”

What a great novel.