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From the surreal back to... the, erm... surreal!
While I was doing some fortunate research on Mark Twain for a you-don't-need-to-know-the-cause professional issue, I bumped into an eye-catching Google result that led me to A Course of Steady Reading's article Masterclass With Miss Austen.
|Illustration of Alexander Pope's|
The Rape of the Lock
by Thomas Stothard.
So my conclusion, before I actually go to the point of this article, is (considering I've been reading Homer and Virgil lately, as well) that we can never master a classic, and that's what's most fascinating about them, hearing what other people have to say about the book after the book, the story behind the story, the allusions, the whole range of symbols, everything! And Barthes said so, he said so: everything, even the smallest "detail", has been put there for a reason; even, I dare add, if the author was so spontaneous as to leave it there unconsciously.
Although this may (not) come in the way of a surprise, completing the reading of a classic is barely the first step to ever begin any sort of approach to it— trust me, critics have made sure to write five or six times more than those few pages you've read when you were doing The Divine Comedy. Classics have filled a whole industry, it's amazing, isn't it? The fact that the book you were flicking through the other day, that very little specimen of literature (or whatever you may choose to call it), should have been spoonfeeding a whole other community of writers. But that's art. That's how art works. It's a circle, a cycle, that never truly comes to an end. And whoever may attempt to acknowledge it, on whatsoever their grounds, must be certain that they truly wish to embark on such a journey—because once you begin, as I'm telling you, it takes a truly bloated stomach—or should I say, eye?— not to go on reading, and on, and on, and on, and on...
|He cut off a long lock of her hair,|
Illustration of Jane Austen's
Sense and Sensibility, by
Now, Jane Austen is certainly my top favourite author— it was so before I ever even knew Keira Knightley, or Collin Firth, or Jennifer Ehle's twinkly eyes and Bennet-like hairdo; it was so even after I came to know Henry James (whom I do adore, but not as much as I adore Jane), after I knew Edith Wharton, and Thackeray, and Virginia Woolf, and Twain, and my dearest, dearest Oscar Wilde... And yet, yet, every time I take a fancy for researching any further on her, I come to learn something new. It's amazing. It's smashing, it's shocking, its... frustrating. But it's amazing!
It's a little bit daunting, too, to bump into more and more and more... I guess man's not made to see he knows less than what he thought he knew; I guess the feeling is more or less like hearing you've won the lottery broadcast live. But no, they made a mistake, it just wasn't you. Or, rather, it just never happened, it was only part of your escapist fantasy: the charm is inevitably broken.
At this point I can't help sympathising with this feather-braind female character from A bundle of letters (by Henry James) when, in one of those letters she writes, she claims, "Well, I do want to know so much that it seems sometimes as if I wanted to know everything; and yet there are so many things that I think I don't want to know." [sic], I know this phrase by heart!
So when I came across the article quoted at the beginning of this one, the very title spurred me on to print it—I prefer to read the printed version of things, if possible. So I printed it and read it on the following day (that was, last Friday evening) and by the time I was finishing it, I just started writing a reply to this woman. This woman who, very much like me, had found something and chose to make it public knowledge in her website, http://acourseofsteadyreading.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/masterclass-with-miss-austen/#comment-784.
The following is a transcription of my own very brief, very succinct (?) reply to "Lyz"'s essay (the latter waswritten on Feb.2011) on a couple of literary findings... The typing mistakes I have corrected them, the rest, I have left it as in the original posts, in spite of myself. And one more detail: there's a mistake with the time that Lyz' page says I've written those posts. It all happened yesterday afternoon, so where it reads "am", that should be "pm"... Well, you may go on reading now... Eat and enjoy!
Aha, not so fast! It doesn't end just there... What might have remained a mere suspicion on my part, was, in fact, eventually confirmed. As I tell immediately after this first post, I found some further evidence that might be worth your while: Jane literally mentions Pope, and, not without reason, I'm afraid, she mentions him in connection with our dear Mr. Willoughby:
I read both my comments but a day afterwards (that is, within a time difference of a mere 24 hs) and I can hardly believe my tone... No wonder the first reply I got was so short, and totally unbecoming. The second reply I got was from Lyz herself... But of what use would it be for me to transcribe it? Take a peek by yourself at:
If you love Jane Austen, or thought that you didn't, you might enjoy Lyz' find in connection with Rosabella, and perhaps even mine! We Austen readers seem to love feeding ourselves and one another with more and more to discuss about her, while she... Well, she will probably be resting in peace without caring that much to read us! Cheers to Jane, and Lyz. ┌┌┌┌
Further Food For Thought:
- http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/apope/bl-apope-rape.htm (Alexander Pope's quoted poem, The Rape of the Lock
- http://acourseofsteadyreading.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/rosabella-or-a-mothers-marriage/ (Article on Rosabella, by Catherine Cuthbertson within A Course of Steady Reading, website)