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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sense and Sensibility and Passing a Kidney Stone

I suffer from a deficiency. It might be a genetic mutation, although I know the source of it. I cannot digest anything written by Jane Austen. About a decade and a half ago, I read an essay by Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes on something called "The Literature of Discontent," or something the like. Somewhere towards the end of the essay, I recall Fuentes saying something regarding Jane Austen's novels and the fact that no one died, the struggles were superficial, etc. At that point, I hadn't ventured into Austen's books and the statement sort of mutated something inside of me that made me unable to enjoy these quite accomplished and artistic novels.

The subject matter seem to me too trivial--I am not proud of this, rather the contrary. It is, after all, the core of human experience and relations that amount for most (if not all) literature. "Sense and Sensibility" is filled with characters that appear vulnerable and acutely human. Marianne, for example, and her relationship with Willoughby is the model of the "hit and run" relationship; that is to say, it's almost like an exchange, a chess match, a "you-take-your-turn-and-I'll-take-mine" sort of game play that can get a bit tiresome after a while. But I shouldn't be touching upon this since I am not done with the novel yet. I seem to like Elinor better, more collected, cool and calm in front of the woman who hooked the man she is interested in. The Jennings and other characters just add to the soup.

What I do enjoy, quite frankly, is the exquisite use of the English language; the decorum follows the sentence structure for me. There isn't a moment when the sentence turn, the dialogue fails to convey exactly what is meant, but adding a magnificent lyrical flavor to it. Here's an example,

"Elinor found, when the evening was over, that disposition is not materially altered by a change of abode; for, although scarcely settled in town, Sir John had contrived to collect around him nearly twenty young people, and to amuse them with a ball. This was an affair, however, of which Lady Middleton did not approve. In the country, an unpremeditated dance was very allowable; but in London, where the reputation of elegance was more important, and less easily obtained, it was risking too much for the gratification of the girls, to have it known, that Lady Middleton had given a small dance, or eight or nine couple, with two violins, and a mere sideboard collation."

It's not clear to me why this passage reached me as a good example of what I mean by elegance of language, but truth be told, probably any passage at all would do in this case. So, I think I love the usage, the word choice and the excellence of the language. The plot, not so much.

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At 10:10 AM, Blogger jodru said...

Loved this post!


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