Saturday, February 8, 2014

fifth (or is it sixth?) impressions of Vol I

- I am ashamed to say I did not click with this book until WELL into my thirties. //hangs head

- Vol I really just flies by -- glides, sails, leaps, swoops, whatever. I don't so much read it as just consent to be carried along on waves of delight, which sounds, Jesus, so soppy -- but life has been in the shitter lately and yet I stayed up until about three AM rereading this story I've reread half-a-dozen times, utterly absorbed, because it is just that good. 

- How does she do Jane and Bingley so well? In anyone else's hands they'd be soppy and unconvincing. Austen just makes you want to snuggle them, they are so adorable. Susannah Harker and Crispin Bonham-Carter were perfect (I need to rewatch that!).

- Everyone goes on about bright light witty sparkling &c. (including the author herself), and that is certainly spotlit, but there's also a nearly grim quality at times -- the shadows are much darker. It's somewhere between the pastoral of S&S and the mind-numbing sociability of Bath in NA -- all those sisters are stuck in the country, but there's no real place to retreat to (altho Elizabeth reminded me of Catherine and Marianne on her epic walk, and when she runs off from Darcy and the Bingley sisters to explore on her own). Mrs Dashwood and Mrs Bennet are perhaps not completely dissimilar characters, but their treatment makes you like one and, at best, pity the other. Catherine, Marianne and Elinor are all secure in their homes, in love and affection; without Jane, Elizabeth has nothing in common with the other half-dozen women of the house, and she can't shut herself up in her father's library snarking forever. Home is a place of discomfort, even emotional danger. Elizabeth is closer to Jane than Marianne and Elinor ever were, but she can't really count on anyone else.

- I had forgotten how totally besotted Darcy is with her. He's like a puppy dog. "I would be in danger were it not for her inferior connections!" -- yeah, right, pal. Is he so anxious to quash Jane and Bingley's romance because he's projecting his own bewilderment about being so attracted to a woman he considers so unsuitable? Jackass.

- Boy, I like Mr Bennet less and less with every single rereading. Drabble is rather wry in her preface about young bookish girls who defend him as a father figure and dislike Mrs Bennet (she is equally wry a few paragraphs later about modern feminists who want to rescue Mrs Bennet, possibly out of the protective urge to make Elizabeth have one parent that isn't worthless).

- Auntie Jane is calmly up-front that Elizabeth's best friend has just prostituted herself in marrying a repellent man who can provide financial security and moreover that this is what society expects her to do and Elizabeth is going against the grain by objecting to it. Mr Collins is a figure of high comedy, but he's also the "best" these young women can probably do, and he knows it and they know it and it just exponentially increases his comic awfulness. "Amorous effects of brass" indeed.

- Mr Collins: never never anything but hilarious. Oh God -- the toadying! the emphasis on sucking up to Lady Catherine! the endless speechifying! SO TERRIBLE. And yet so funny I actually woke my partner up at 2:30 in the morning (he was quite sweet about it) helplessly laughing over the Second Worst Proposal Scene Ever (second only because Darcy's Worst Proposal Scene Ever is in the same book, which alone ought to qualify it for immortality).

- The end of Vol I isn't as bad as the end of S&S's Vol II but it's still pretty grim. Bingley has dumped Jane, Elizabeth has lost Charlotte to Mr Collins, and with Bingley gone the girls are stuck walking to Meryton for entertainment. Yikes. Vol II continues very smoothly on from there: Bingley has decamped for good, Caroline is really snotty to Jane by mail, Wickham dumps Lizzy for Miss King's ten thousand pounds and there is the awful, wonderful, horrible set piece where we see Mr and Mrs Collins, At Home. We get the fabulous aunt Mrs Gardiner (with her foreshadowing a visit to the lakes!), but we also get first sight of the awful, non-comic Lady Catherine, that formidable enemy. And with the idea of her being "a most active magistrate in her own parish" I suddenly was not laughing anymore, and found I was tired, and went to bed.