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Showing posts from July, 2009
38. Persuasion by Jane Austen Persuasion is my favorite of Austen's novels, and such a relief after Emma. The heroine, Anne Elliot, is more subdued than other heroines, she has a strong sense of correct behavior, but also a deep sympathy for romance. At twenty-seven, she is the oldest and most mature of Austen's heroines. The novel begins eight years after Anne has been persuaded to give up an imprudent engagement to a man named Wentworth. He is nobody, with no fortune, and she is the daughter of a vain baronet. One of my favorite lines describes the situation, "She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older-the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning (21)." I catch more and more of Austen's subtle wordings, and the slightly different narrative tone of each book. In Persuasion, I think I caught a reference to the only Shakespeare sonnet I know completely by heart; "Anne could not immediately fall into a quotation aga

Nineteenth Century Russia Never Fails Me

37. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Pushkin makes me wish I could read Russian. I read the Penguin classic translation, translated into English by Charles Johnston, and the narrator uses such amusing language and asides as makes me sure I am missing much from the original. Johnston used rhyming verses, as the Russian rhymes, though apparently there is a non-rhyming Nabokov translation. The non-rhyming version may be more technically accurate, but Johnston contends that rhyming better captures the spirit and intent of the original. I'm inclined to agree with him, if only because I think Nabokov was a pretentious (though gifted) asshole. Eugene Onegin is ostensibly the story of a jaded Russian aristocrat, who trades his dissipated flirtations in Moscow for a solitary life in the countryside. Our hero, Onegin, is befriended by Vladimir Lensky, who is enamoured of his youthful love Olga Larin. Lensky introduces Onegin to the Larins, where Olga's brooding older sister Tatyana

A Character Only Austen Could Love

36. Emma by Jane Austen This is only my second reading of Emma , with good reason. Though I did not despise the book or the character quite as much this time, I am very glad to be done with it (Sort of, I still have a paper to write...). Perhaps it is too long for a Jane Austen novel, or perhaps it's the fact that it's the only Austen novel where the characters remain in the same setting for the entire novel. I think it also has the smallest cast of characters. But the greatest problem is that none, or few, of these characters are likable. And if there is a villain, it is Emma herself. My favorite characters were the ridiculous characters, the "valetudinarian" Mr. Woodhouse , and the infuriatingly talkative Miss Bates. I amused myself with their antics, particularly in the latter half, when Miss Bates' chatter gives hints to important plot development. Mr. Knightley, though I resented his Darcy-like condescension and superiority, especially in the beginning, I a

Vonnegut Rises Again

35. Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. This is unlike any Vonnegut novel I've read before, and has restored my former appreciation for him. It was one of his earliest, which probably accounts for the more conventional organization. No disjointed timelines or too abrupt transitions here. Narration only skips between two small casts of characters. It's hard not to like the discontented Dr. Paul Proteus, an engineer and manager, who watches machines he invented replace men as workers. Of all Vonnegut's dystopias, perhaps this one is most plausible. The world is inevitably quirky, but the characters have the absolute ring of truth about their behavior. I was interested in the economic system of this world, an automated socialism. The images of cities of people with nothing to do, provided for as the machines think best, is haunting. Even more gloriously realistic is the subsequent revolution. The novel works toward it obviously, so I don't think I'm spoiling anything

Short Reviews

Short reviews for these, they don't deserve (or in P&P's case) need any more. 32. The Shoemaker and the Tea Party by Alfred P. Young This was for my History of Boston class. It's about a shoemaker named George Robert Twelves Hewes (I believe he was a twelfth child) who witnesses the Boston Massacre, is a significant participant in the Boston Tea Party, and fights in the continental army. He was poor all his life and gained recognition in his nineties for his actions in the destruction of the tea. Two biographies were written about him near the end of his life, and he finally gained fame and his veteran's pension. Young argues that the phrase "Tea Party" wasn't in official (that is, written) use until Hewes' biographies came out. He talks about politics during and after the Revolution, and how more prominent citizens of Boston wished to forget how they used working class rabble to destroy the tea. It's all about class struggles and selective
31. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Over the summer, I'm taking a Major Figure course on Jane Austen. The original plan was to read all six novels, but we decided to drop Mansfield Park . I've read all of the novels before, and with the exception of Emma , which I have read once or possibly twice, I've read them all too many times to count. I finished S&S again yesterday. I actually had a very different reaction to the novel than I've had before. Elinor, the representative of Sense, was always my favorite, but now I really appreciate the Sensibility of her sister Marianne. Austen used 'sensibility' in a very particular sense. To her, it meant an emotional and intuitive intelligence, including taste, culture, and feeling. This use of the word was evident to me from the first without having it outwardly explained, but some people seem to need the explanation. It is, however, not the meaning most people would currently associate with the word. In fact,
30. Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don't Play Baseball by Jennifer Ring As Ring prefaces her book with the story of her daughter's struggle to play baseball in an equal setting, I'm going to preface my review by talking about my sister. She is the one who introduced me to this book and generously loaned it to me. My sister is a star baseball player. She plays in a women's baseball league as well as a local rec team, where she is the only girl. She also plays softball for her high school and now on a traveling team. The softball was not her choice. It was foisted upon her because there are no girls' baseball teams in high school or college. There are no baseball scholarships for girls. There are no professional baseball leagues for women either. I have always wondered why people are so silent on this subject. I have never considered softball as equal to baseball. Its very name soft ball implies inferiority. It implies that women are not 'hard' enough for