Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Non-Fiction Tuesday - A Jane Austen Education


If you haven't gotten your Jane Austen fix yet, you might want to find out what insightful William Deresiewicz has to say on the subject of Jane and all her novels.

Deresiewicz was an associate professor of English at Yale University until 2008 and is a widely published book critic. His reviews and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Bookforum, and The American Scholar. He was nominated for National Magazine awards in 2008 and 2009 and the National Book Critics Circle's Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing in 2010. So yeah, this guy has clout  and honestly, he makes the book rather interesting to dive into by sketching and comparing his own college days to Jane Austen. You can seriously learn a lot from a gal of simpler times.

DESCRIPTION: In A Jane Austen Education, Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself.

A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters-that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!  When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.“  Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Weaving his own story-and Austen's-around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feelings, staying young and being good, and, of course, love. As they grow up, they learn lessons that are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their sides.

A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.

"Like a lot of men, I thought Austen was chick lit: soap-opera romance, fluffy and boring.  When a friend of mine heard I was writing this book, he said “I expect a lot of sex and dating advice.” It was an understandable assumption, and my friend’s, no doubt, was based on all those movies—the ones with the beautiful gowns, and the beautiful homes, and the beautiful actresses. The ones with all the swoony music and the lush, romantic lighting, the ones that leave out everything that Austen had to say to us except the love—and then, don’t even get the love part right." Deresiewicz says about Jane and her writing.

This nonfiction piece gives some new insights you might enjoy other than having to write a paper on Jane's works.

I doubt it’s being very clever myself,” said Mr. Weston. “It is too much a matter of fact, but here it is. - What two letters of the alphabet are there, that express perfection?”
“What two letters! - express perfection! I am sure I do not know.”
“Ah! you will never guess. You, (to Emma), I am certain you will never guess. - I will tell you. - M. and A. - Em -ma. - Do you understand?
”(EMMA-Jane Austen)



little t said...

I really need to start reading the classics!

ellie said...

You can find this book at the library. Its really insightful.

Cafe Fashionista said...

Ooh, I need to read this book immediately - j'adore Jane Austen! :)

Natalie said...

That sounds quite interesting! We read Pride & Prejudice in English two years ago and I didn't really enjoy it, but perhaps this book would change that opinion.

-E- said...

not sure what's rebellious about becoming a jane austen scholar, but great review!

molly said...

You make Jane Austen look so good!

meg said...

I'd love to get this book.

FWB said...

I wish I'd read more.