The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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April 18, 2020

[Reading about] Jane Austen



... and as for the true lovers ... every quotation from Jane Austen is as good as the complete volume, because it instantly calls up the magic of the atmosphere, the scene, the characters, the details, the flow of life which led up to the incident or the remark, the whole world of Emma or the whole word of Persuasion; nor do they have to apply themselves, these lovers, to the task of meticulously reading every line of quotation; they will know it; the eye will pick up a word, seize half a paragraph, remember the rest, set it instantly in the place as it was meant ... smile swiftly, agree, perhaps; or make a note that they presently they are going to quarrel with me as I do not know in the least what I am talking about ... and then let the eye fly on again. For lovers of Jane, walking in their own garden,  will know that bean-row over there, half in slanted sunshine, half in shadow, without sitting down to count the beans.

Claire was right — I loved this book, on its own merits but at least in part because it has lifted me out of my recent reading slump.  Of course, I am now longing to re-read all six novels, but I might start with Sense and Sensibility, if only because this book mentioned two things that happen in it that I don't remember at all. :)

Talking of Jane Austen, by Sheila Kaye-Smith and G.B. Stern
First published in 1943

Borrowed from the college library


April 14, 2020

Escaping



      In Jane Austen's world I can feel at home and be as much alive as in my own. ... I meet there people who are no mere characters in fiction, but sensible companions, and their thoughts and feelings are in close alliance with what I personally think and feel.
      To enter that world is to visit a congenial set of friends, and I still find that in their company I lose my own cares, much as I lost them on my first visit, thirty years ago. Jane Austen is the perfect novelist of escape ... She does not transport one into fantasy but simply into another, less urgent set of facts. She tells no fairy-tale which  might send us back dazzled and reeling to our contacts with normal life, but diverts us from our preoccupation with another set of problems no less real than our own. ...
from Talking of Jane Austen, by Sheila Kaye-Smith
 and G.B. Stern (1943)

I remember that several of our blogging friends have read this, and its sequel, and liked it — were you one of them? — and I remembered this morning that it was in the stack of books from the college library that I don't have to return quite yet.  That's my day made. :)

{The painting is by Janet Hill.}

January 12, 2020

Sanditon




Happy new year!  Before I start watching Sanditon tonight, I wanted to be sure to read (or, actually, re-read) Sanditon, because I was curious about what the TV version would go forward with our Jane's unfinished story.   There's so heartbreakingly little of her book (I just read that she was writing it when she was already ill, in the six months before she died), but it was very moving because what she did write seems so joyous.  Maybe that's because it's set in a sunny seaside resort, or because so many of the characters (except, possibly, Charlotte Heyward, our heroine, and Clara Brereton, the poor relation who is companion to wealthy Lady Denham), are a little larger than life:  Mr. Parker, Sanditon's promoter; his invalid siblings, his flashy brother, Sydney {was he going to be Willoughby/Wickham, or Darcy?  hard to tell}, twice-married Lady Denham (who seems like a more humorous version of Austen's other rich, controlling old ladies).  All the fragment does is to introduce the characters and set the stage for whatever was going to happen to them, but there seem to be endless possibilities in what to do with it, and I like to think that Austen would have taken some possibly snarky delight in that. 

 At the library, I found a continuation 'by another {unidentified} lady' that was written in 1975. I've read this before too, but it was a long time ago, but it would be fun to compare the two versions.  Nothing can compare with the real thing, but we have more Jane, and there's nothing sad about that.



December 27, 2019

In December, I was reading...



2018
What she ate:  six remarkable women and
the food that tells their stories
,
by Laura Shapiro

2017
Queen Victoria's matchmaking:  the
royal marriages that shaped Europe,
by Deborah Cadbury

2016
When in French:  love in a second language,
by Lauren Collins

2015
The last chronicle of Barset,
by Anthony Trollope

2014
Christmas at High Rising,
by Angela Thirkell

2013
Longbourn,
by Jo Baker

2012
What really matters in Jane Austen? 
by John Mullan
High Rising,
by Angela Thirkell

2011
Started early, took my dog,
by Kate Atkinson

2010
Still life, 
by Louise Penny
(my first Armand Gamache!)

2009
Tea time for the traditionally built,
by Alexander McCall Smith

2008
The private patient,
by P.D. James

2007
Sense and sensibility,
by Jane Austen

2006
The right attitude to rain,
by Alexander McCall Smith

2005
To darkness and to death,
by Julia Spencer-Fleming

2004
Lady Windermere's fan,
by Oscar Wilde

2003
Now may you weep,
by Deborah Crombie

2002
Bookends,
by Jane Green

Thanks for indulging me in these memories...this was fun.  Happy new year!


November 30, 2019

In November, I was reading ...




2018
How the light gets in,
by Louise Penny

2017
Northanger Abbey,
by Jane Austen

2016
When in French:  love in a second language,
by Lauren Collins

2015
My history:  a memoir of growing up,
by Antonia Fraser

2014
Miss Buncle married,
by D.E. Stevenson

2013
The custom of the country,
by Edith Wharton

2012
Consider the fork:  a history of how we cook and eat,
by Bee Wilson

2011
George Eliot in love,
by Brenda Maddox

2010
As always, Julia: the letters of Julia Child
and Avis DeSoto
,
edited by Joan Reardon

2009
The vows of silence,
by Susan Hill

2008
When will there be good news?
by Kate Atkinson

2007
The blue last and The grave Maurice,
by Martha Grimes

2006
A tale of two sisters,
by Anna Maxted

2005
The Sunday Philosophy Club and
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate,
by Alexander McCall Smith

2004
The heiress,
by Ruth and Augustus Goetz

2003
The bad beginning,
by Lemony Snicket

2002
And justice there is none,
by Deborah Crombie

October 31, 2019

In October, I was reading ...



2018
The Library Book,
by Susan Orlean
and
Long Live Great Bardfield,
by Tirzah Garwood

2017
The Eustace Diamonds,
by Anthony Trollope

2016
The Secrets of Wishtide,
by Kate Saunders

2015
The Small House at Allington,
by Anthony Trollope

2014
The Ladies of Lyndon,
by Margaret Kennedy

2013
Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers,
by Alexander McCall Smith

2012
The Ivy Tree,
by Mary Stewart

2011
The House of the Seven Gables,
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

2010
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,
by Washington Irving

2009
Jane's Fame:  How Jane Austen Conquered the World,
by Claire Harman

2008
A Poisoned Mind.
by Natasha Cooper

2007
Museum:  Behind the scenes at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art
,
by Danny Danziger

2006
Still Life,
by Louise Penny
{my first Armand Gamache!)

2005
Sammy's Hill,
by Kristen Gore

2004
Death in Holy Orders,
by P.D.James

2003
L'Affaire and Le Divorce,
by Diane Johnson

2002
Back then:  Two lives in 1950s New York,
by Anne Bernays and Justin Kaplan


October 29, 2019

Gertrude Stein Has Arrived



I was right...this was fun.

I think I read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas when I was in college ... if I did, all that I really remember about it was that, of course, it wasn't.  
In the summer of 1935, after nearly three decades of writing and publishing everything from three-word poems to one-thousand-page novels, American author Gertrude Stein finally achieved overnight success. The surprising vehicle for her literary stardom was an uncharacteristically lucid and readable book, one that until the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last page she had pretended was written by someone else. ... 
I definitely don't remember ever hearing the story that I've spent the last few days immersed in... that the book was incredibly popular, and that Gertrude and Alice became instantly famous, especially in America.  At the urging of some of their American friends, they undertook a seven-month tour of the U.S., returning to their homeland for the first time in decades. They arrived in New York, criss-crossed the country, traveled by airplane for the first time (and loved it); they were recognized on the street, interviewed on the radio and for newspapers (including by Walter Cronkite, when he was a freshman writing for his college paper), and they met everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Charlie Chaplin.  It's all a little hard to imagine, and delightful.

It had been, all things considered, a long time coming. Prior to The Autobiograph of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein was known primarilyto American reader for her dense, often indecipherable prose and for being an amusing, frequently quoted avatar of the modernist movement in painting and literature. Her face was well known, her writing not so much. 'It always did bother me,' she complained, 'that the American public were more interested in me than in my work.'
Gulp. I'm guilty of that. I don't have any of her books on my shelves (I know I've read something that she wrote, but I'm not sure what.)  She's definitely an author who I've enjoyed reading about, more than reading. I even made a little pilgrimage, when I went to Paris, to see where Gertrude and Alice lived, at 27, rue de Fleurus...


A book like this one doesn't help. :)  Once again,, I greatly enjoyed reading about her --  and about Alice, who's always been a little of a shadowy figure in the background.  The author writes that the Autobiography is 'lively, fast-paced, and often quite funny,' and this new book is too.

Gertrude Stein Has Arrived: The Homecoming of a Literary Legend, by Roy Morris Jr
John Hopkins University Press (2019)
Borrowed from the library 






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