Monday, April 8, 2013

Novel idea

My last post was a woeful long time ago, but since it announced my becoming a mummy*, you'll probably understand the long absence. 

Since then, I've been doing a lot of reading on my Kindle app on my phone, with the brightness turned down as low as it can go, held at a funny angle so as not to be apparent to the two-year old trying NOT to go to sleep in the toddler bed behind me.

File:Jane Austen 1870 cropped.jpgMy other reading time is courtesy of audio books on the cd player in the kitchen. Northanger Abbey has recently been making me laugh out loud, and I have always loved Jane Austen's defence of the novel in it.  This time, when I stood in the kitchen burning the toast, I ended up giving the section below an ovation.  How apt, how clever, how unashamed is this defence?  Given the criticism that women's fiction and romance still attracts (*yawn*  Really, critics?  Are you still playing that same tune?  Get over it already.) I love this quote even more....

"... and if a rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments, they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together. Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel–writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding — joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust.   Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body.   Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine–hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens — there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.    “I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language."   Well said, Jane!   *If you're wondering, there are no words in the English Language to describe how perfectly miraculous, breath-stealingly joyful, inventively mischievous and utterly tireless he is.  He has two speeds: 100 miles and hour and unconscious.  We are bewitched, dizzy in love, and enslaved!


  1. Bravo, Miss Austen, indeed! And thank you, Anna, for reminding us that this is not a new phenomenon - hopefully one day things will change.

    So glad you're enjoying motherhood :-)

  2. Northanger Abbey is my favourite Jane Austen - for many of the reasons you give! It makes me laugh every time (especially the laundry list..) Thank you for championing what I believe to be a sadly underrated book. And carry on enjoying motherhood!

  3. Thanks Christina! Sometimes I wonder if the only thing that needs to change is our responses... maybe we just need to laugh it off and keep pleasing readers... I don't know.

    Thank you Jane! I laugh out loud at the absurdities of the Thorpes and their constant contradictions of what they're saying and what they're doing. Completely cracks me up. I agree, it's a very clever book, so witty and well done!


    PS - I DID put paragraphs in that post, but Blogger hates me... ;-)