Things Jane Austen Wouldn't Do and other stories

A more significant part of this week than expected has been spent over at The Hog's Head, posting about the release of J.K. Rowling's new, non-Harry-Potter novel. I haven't read it, though; worse yet, I'm undecided about whether or not to read it. It sounds shockingly like the sort of book I'd never even bother picking up if anyone else had written it. Well, except for Jane Austen. But Jane Austen would never have written that sort of book.

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Somehow the equinox passed without my notice, and it's officially autumn.

While the snowball bush has turned red, the sweet peas have begun going to seed.

They continue to be unbelievably beautiful, of course. I've been so attached to them that two nights ago I dreamed we had a hard freeze that killed them all off. That's coming, but for today, I gave them their water and was glad to see the life and color.

The pumpkin vine is dying back, leaving the pumpkins ready for harvest.

The lettuce has gone entirely to seed.

And after a long, cheerful morning cutting seed tomatoes with a generous neighbor, I made and canned six quarts of tomato sauce this week.

They're standing on their heads because, according to my great-grandmother,
that just about guarantees a good seal.
It did work—every last one of them sealed beautifully.
Oddly enough, we're still getting sunshine, though it often starts with a thick fog in the morning and ends in a cold night. I can see my breath in the mornings; I've also switched the smooth cotton summer sheets for warmer, jersey-knit spring-and-fall ones. No flannel yet—that's for winter.

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Speaking of Jane Austen, Dorothy Cummings has an excellent post on how we are not, nowadays, anything like Elizabeth Bennet. I learned a few things about Regency life and the perspective from which Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would have seen each other.

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Writers' link of the week: From Brooklyn Magazine, Nine Brooklyn Writers and How They Work. I appreciated the fact that nearly all of these writers need silence, not music, in order to write, and that all of them are tempted by the internet. Maybe I'll make it, after all. :)

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Music of the week: "Sicilienne" by Maria Theresia von Paradis. Lynn Harrell's dynamics on the cello here are beautiful. Sometimes I thoroughly miss being good at music.

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Random amusement of the week: AbeBooks.com's Weird Book Room. One of the books is titled "How to Understand Women through Their Cats." The thought of Maia speaking for me... I have no idea what she'd say, but it probably wouldn't be flattering.

Oh, I nearly forgot: gratuitous cat picture!

Photo credit: Lou St. Hilaire.
He's so much better at taking good snapshots than I am.
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Happy weekend!


  1. Jane Austen wouldn't have written that sort of book? Well, how prudish & puritanical of you to think so! ;)

    Actually, I don't think Austen would've written that sort of book because she was a better author. There's a qualitative difference perhaps between throwing in a swear word or sex scene every now & then to make a point and to serve as a clarifying or jolting moment and having non-stop profanity, sex, drugs, & rock and roll, etc, etc. Along with heavy handed moralism as opposed to subtle and comic social criticism.

    And I think art, of any sort, has lost some of its power now that people are pretty much free to let everything hang out there. There's not much room left for mystery and subtlety.

  2. Oh, and the cat photo is acceptable. It would've been better if there'd been more like last week but we'll take what we can get. :)

    1. HAHAHA. Got to leave people wanting more, I suppose, though perhaps it's also true that there can never be too many cat pictures. Maia would certainly say so.

      And yeah, you're right about the qualitative difference. Travis' comment that "there is also a jarring feeling that she's trying TOO hard to say, 'This isn't Harry Potter. Look at how many times I've referenced genitalia'" rang true with what I'd been reading in reviews and interviews.

      And even the Harry Potter books work best when they're not treated as allegories for political issues. I've no use for overbearing, unredemptive treatment of middle class conservatives as full of dark secrets and dismissiveness; while it's certainly true that you can find people who fit the caricature, the generalization is a wanton, unjustified attack on nearly all of my family and friends--those dearest to me, the best people I've ever known. And I don't have to sit through that.

      Admittedly, I'm drawing that suspicion from interviews, which may have been Skeetered up. :)

    2. They may have been skeetered up, but maybe not. I would hope she would be a better writer than to simply skewer one side.

    3. Re: the middle class, I definitely felt like the Dursleys were the occasion for some of Rowling's worst writing. If The Casual Vacancy is going to be a Dursleyfest, I am going to have all my skeptical antennae up when I read it. I am going to look a little like an overgrown porcupine.

      That said, that one Daily Mail review is so self-evidently skeetered that my ears are still buzzing. The jury's still out for me.

  3. These two reviews tell me all I need to know about The Casual Vacancy:



    And I'm disappointed. I feared she'd write this kind of story but I had hoped she would do better. Sigh.

  4. J. K. Rowling wrote a non-Potter book?? OH MY GOODNESS WHAT IS HAPPENING *checks*

    hmmmmmm. . . .

    It's actually hard for me to tell from the reviews above whether I'd like it or not. The plot sounds like it has comic potential, and maybe I like the idea of Rowling's comic gifts applied to a biting grown-up semi-satire too much to let go of just yet. 503 pages probably is too long, though.

    I like that she's going for something completely different, and I don't think she should feel constrained by the fact that she made her name as a children's author. It's tricky, but I think not as tricky as some people think. Roald Dahl wrote a bunch of extremely cynical adult-market books; kids mostly didn't know about them or (if they were annoying would-be precocious readers like me) got about five pages in before boredom clouded their eyes.

    In my heart, I'm already giving her props for writing a book that is basically the opposite of the books that made her wealthy and famous. Even if it turns out to be terrible, it's a risk. It's nowhere near the risk it would be if she were a regular-paygrade published fantasy author and not a squillionare eight-hundred-pound gorilla, but I still appreciate that she's choosing to use her 800lb gorilla points to try something completely new for her, when she could easily coast on Potter fandom for the next 30 years and be permanently beloved. I think that's interesting and probably admirable that she isn't taking that path, regardless of whether the book turns out to be any good.

    I'll probably wait a while and get it from the library, though. I don't begrudge Rowling her millions, but my money is finite and there are a whooooole lot of writers out there I'd rather pay first.

    1. I don't really mind her trying something new; it's probably a better idea than trying to recapture the magic, as it were. :) But it definitely sounds like a get-it-from-the-library book. Her comic talents are great; her prose is not. And prose is far more important to me in an adult work than a children's series.

      The idea of the book being a Dursleyfest is pretty unbearable to me, too. Rowling's comic talents are at her best with her more complex characters like Ron or Dumbledore. :)

  5. I was so sad for you when I heard about this book on NPR!!! I really wanted her NOT to have written this. NPR reviewed it as the book for people who 'felt Harry potter had too much magic..and childlike wonder' or something like that, and I knew it would be bad. Even they sound disappointed with her! Of course, I'm going to read it, because I love books I know I'm going to hate (unless it's as long as the last couple Potter books, I don't think I could take that). But from the reviews, it sounds like everyone can tell she's striving to be all 'edgy' and 'relevent', which makes the new story anything but..

    Jane Austen definitely would never have done this, but she had no reason to, she wasn't trying to be something she's not, and, if the reviews are right, Rowling is trying hard to be the kind of writer who CAN'T write Harry Potter anymore. But that's just my unformed opinion. I haven't read it yet.

    1. What's up Masha; we posted at almost exactly the same time! Great miiiiiiiiinnnnnndddds!

      this is my brain on procrastination :(

    2. Thanks, Masha!

      Well, I meant the Austen comment as a little bit tongue in cheek, and considered it only because while Austen was irreverent at times, she was never immoral.

      "The book for people who 'felt Harry Potter had too much magic... and childlike wonder'" OH SHEESH. That does make it sound awful.

      I get so tired of people striving to be edgy and relevant... I really do. ;)

    3. The NY Times article you posted on the Hog's Head was fascinating..I thought, actually, it made Rowling sound really sad and lonely, and it made me a bit more sympathetic to her attempt to do something so very unmagical with her new book, but it also made me frustrated with her because she does seem to be trying to hard.

    4. ...but at the same time, I think it'd be awful if she just wrote Harry Potter fan fictiony stuff forever.

      But 500+ pages! Learn to edit,Rowling. Please!

  6. Being both a nature lover and a cat lover, I greatly appreciate your posting photos of nature's beauty, Jenna. The flowers and trees make my heart sing with delight, and the picture-perfect pumpkin has me totally ready for the Halloweenish month of October! :o)

    I won't get a chance to read TCV very soon, but I'm hoping that it's more of the biting social commentary send-up sort that some claim it to be. It sounds kind of like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio in that regard. I never like over-use of profanity or sexual content (well, any use of them really--I'm such an Anne of Green Gables type at heart), but if an integral part of the lives of a few of the characters involves that, then I may grit my teeth through those bits in order to experience the larger narrative purpose. I wasn't at all planning to read TCV until I read Phoenixsong58's pitch for it (after reading the entire book) over at The Hog's Head.

    1. I love October, too, Carrie-Ann. :D

      You know, I read Cracked, so I can grit through sex and profanity. It does get on my nerves, though; I have a strong visceral reaction to clinical treatment of the body in the narrative art, whether it be sexual or violent. This was part of my discomfort with The Hunger Games, and from quotes in reviews, I expect it from TCV. But I pushed through that to read a John Green book, and I'd do it for Rowling. I'm totally with you on being the Anne of Green Gables type, though. :)


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