Friday, April 20, 2012

Random Musings on Reading

Some of you might know that I was in Texas over the Easter holiday, visiting my many relatives stationed there. My baby is lucky enough to have four living great-grandparents, and as two are in Austin, it has become imperative to get down there as much as possible. Not since I was a teenager have I managed to regularly visit more than once a year, and it has been particularly lovely getting to know my cousins a bit better. This is especially true for the two youngest, for, having been born when I was already in college, we do not have the same history of shared experiences that bonds me to those cousins closer to my age. I have always taken a special interest in the elder of the duo, as she is the only one in the family to share my passion for reading. She is now in high school, and of course I cannot help but drill her on what she's studying in school each time I see her.

When I posed my questions to her on this most recent visit, I was ecstatic to learn she would soon be studying Frankenstein, a novel I adore. Ever since our conversation, I keep dwelling on the notion of how fabulous it would be to once again be reading such a phenomenon of a book for the first time. I feel this way about so many great novels. To be able to pick up Anna Karenina for the first time again - or Madame Bovary, Les Miserables, or Villette - would be my one of my wildest fantasies come true. Of course, this doubly applies to everything by Jane Austen, whose books have been so familiar for so long that I cannot even remember my first impressions of them. It makes me feel so sad not to be able to remember my initial response to Northanger Abbey, the first Austen novel I ever read. I am even more depressed that the response was that of a child, unable to comprehend Austen's full genius. Perhaps this impossible longing to revisit these works for the first time again has been exacerbated by the fact I am currently reading David M. Shapards fabulously annotated edition of Emma. Those who have read my reviews of his other editions (here and here, if you're interested) know how much I adore his notes, though there is little in them, at this point, that I find terribly enlightening. I enjoy his take on the novels, and reading the annotations is like being in a book club, delving into the intricacies of the plot with another devotee, but I am no longer learning much from the experience. I begin to worry that I know Austen too well: that I have completely left behind me any hope of real surprise in her work. Ah, sweet Novelty! How I do regret your loss!

And this, my friends, is how one finds oneself addicted to Austenesque.,

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