Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Title:  Northanger Abbey

Author:  Jane Austen

published: 1817 (originally)

ISBN:  9781551114795

Challenges:  Everything Austen Challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word

“You think me foolish to call instruction a torment, but if you had been as much used as myself to hear poor little children first learning their letters and then learning to spell, if you had ever seen how stupid they can be for a whole morning together, and how tired my poor mother is at the end of it, as I am in the habit of seeing almost every day of my life at home, you would allow that to torment and to instruct might sometimes be used as synonimous words.”

“Very probably.  But historians are not accountable for the difficulty of learning to read; and even you yourself, who do not altogether seem particularly friendly to very severe, very intense application, may perhaps be brought to acknowledge that it is very well worth while to be tormented for two or three years of one’s life, for the sake of being able to read all the rest of it.  Consider – if reading had not been taught, Mrs Radcliffe would have written in vain – or perhaps might not have written at all.”

-Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, pages 123-124

Northanger Abbey was actually Jane Austen’s first novel, though it wasn’t published until after her death.  It was sold for ten pounds to a publisher who decided against publishing it and returned it to Jane’s brother, Henry, who did finally publish towards the end of 1817 (1818 on the original title page).  The wonderful thing about this book being the first, and almost lost forever, book Austen wrote is that it just oozes with her raw wit and satirical voice.  It displays her sharp tongue and passion about reading, women’s rights and plight in society, and the true value of novels.

The purpose of Northanger Abbey, besides using the text and characters as a mouthpiece to express Austen’s own thoughts, is to parody the gothic romance novels of her day, with particularly appreciation and affection for Mrs. Radcliffe’s.  Young Catherine Morland is an ingenue taking her first trip to Bath, the place for polite society to see and be seen by each other.  Miss Morland meets Henry Tilney and falls for him by the end of the evening.  However, his quick departure leaves her open to the influences of other new acquaintances, the Thorpes, who are rather vulgar and self-serving.  John Thorpe lies to make himself look better, lies to General Tilney (Henry’s father) about Catherine’s financial outlook, and lies to Catherine about Tilney in order to get her to go with him on a day trip.  Catherine is forced to develop her own judgment and to excercise it.

When she goes to Northanger Abbey, the family manse of the Tilneys, she begins to stretch these muscles to excess and begins to see a villain in every wardrobe, and a tale of cruelty behind every locked door.  She goes from blindly accepting that everyone is good and does good to deciding General Tilney is a cruel husband who has either murdered his wife or keeps her locked in a dungeon, feeding her gruel every night after the household has gone to bed.

Originally, I had issue with this sudden flip in personality.  I thought it a weak ploy to be able to parody Radcliffe, et al’s work.  However, after thinking it over, it occurred to me that Catherine was in love with Henry, and because of that wanted to be like him.  In his presence, she defers to his judgment on all things.  But when he’s gone from the Abbey, she tries to reason like him, but ends up over thinking everything to the point of ridiculousness.

“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to – Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained.  What have you been judging from?  Remember the country and the age in which we live.  Remember that we are English, that we are Christians… Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” -Henry Tilney, pages 195-196

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Northanger Abbey, and found it delightful to read a “new” (to me) Jane Austen.  You know, everyone always reads Pride and Prejudice, and it’s a great book, I won’t argue that.  But I think even those who are less-than-enthused by Austen’s writing can appreciate this book.  It’s not quite as multi-layered as her other novels where people say one thing and everyone knows they mean a completely different thing (“Oh, Mrs Nesbit!  What a lovely frock” really means, “Die, bitch! DIE!!!!”)

Northanger Abbey is my new favorite Austen book, toppling the long-standing, afore-mentioned Pride and Prejudice (still very much-loved, just second place, now)  AND it has given me a new book crush.  Oh, Mr. Tilney!  *sigh… flutter… swoon* :-D  Also, reading this book was like taking a look back at the teenage version of me.  I was definitely Cathy Morland:  Dense in the way things really work, romantic-minded, and wanted what I read in books to be a reality.  Ah, then I grew up into Elizabeth Bennet/Elinor Dashwood.

Obviously, I give Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 5 out of 5 stars :-D

The Sunday Salon ~ Jane Austen and Henry III in a throw down… who’d win?

The Sunday Salon.com

Read.  Read read read read read.  and then Read some more.  Having been distracted by life and video games, it would seem that the end of the year has snuck up on me.. again.  This is very familiar.  It seems that I was racing to the end of the year last December, as well, only Second Life was my distractor then… World of Warcraft has done it this year (the facebook games don’t help, either).  But I think I’ll make the 75-book goal this year.  I’ve already read more this year than last.  I ended with 63 last year, but I’ve read 71 already, and with only eleven more days to go, I’m confident I’ll hit 75.

This week I finished three books ~

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is the fifth of the sixth Jane Austen novels.  Though it was written first, it was published, posthumously, next to last.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and have to admit that it’s my new Austen favorite.  I crushed harder on Henry Tilney than I did on Mr. Darcy, and that’s saying something.  Tilney has a bit of an edge over Darcy… Henry is actually a nice person, as well as being funny and smart.  Darcy, while sweet in his private way, was a bit of an ass.  I guess that went along well with Elizabeth, since she liked to jump to conclusions and was a bit proud herself, but it did a little to put one off.  Of course, the ingenue.. the innocent, country flower.. who is a blank slate and, therefore, non-threatening to Tilney’s intellectual authority, ready and willing to be molded by him, which suits his fancy, I think. 

All in all, I enjoyed Austen’s wit and sarcasm, as well as her parody of Gothic novels of her day.

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is a humorous walk through many schools of philosophy.  The authors, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, use jokes to illustrate what each school of thought is about.  Like with Teleology, the philosophy that all things exist for a purpose, one joke used to illustrate this is:

Mrs. Goldstein was walking down the street with her two grandchildren.  A friend stopped to ask her how old they were.  She replied, “The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven.”

I also finished my appointment read, Three to Get Deadly, the third book in the Stephanie Plum numbers series by Janet Evanovich.  I’d been missing Stephanie lately, so I picked this, the next in the series for me, up to read when I was away from home.  I learned an important lesson with it.  Just because a book can fit in your coat pocket doesn’t mean it’s a good appointment book.  By the time I’d gotten to the end of the book, I’d forgotten some of the beginning.  Also, it lost a bit of it’s momentum this way.  In the future, I think I’ll stick to short stories for appointment books.

I’ll write up real reviews for these books later this week… I hope.  I’ve already jumped into my next book, and I’m about 40 pages in it already.  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert is the second of the Dune series.  I read the first book earlier this year, and I was in the mood for a good sci-fi book, so I picked this up.  I had forgotten how fascinating and fantastic the first book had been, and the second book is, so far, every bit as good.  It is also, however, as much a thinking book as the first.  My brain hurts after a while.   Trying to picture Edric, the fishy-humanoid Guildsman in his tank… picturing the Tleilaxu Face Dancer Scytale manipulate his physical body to be one form one second, then turn into the ghola version of Duncan Idaho (also a mind-bender of a thought), then back again… it’s all an exercising of my imagination muscles… both enjoyable and tiring at the same time.

Reading may be a little easier to do here… but I won’t guarantee it.  Sam, my oldest, has gone to her dad’s for the two-week vacation, and Gwen will go closer to Christmas day, but only stay gone for a week.  Maggie, however, will be here throughout, as her dad has moved back to town.  She’s happy about this, but it has it’s downside, too.  He’s here more, which means he’s nit-picking about my housekeeping more… which means less time to read.   And it means that he no longer needs to take her home with him to spend time, since he can see her whenever he wants. 

LOL.. the remainder of my reading may be Magic Treehouse books with Maggie.

I’ve been watching the Tudors, also.  I got hooked on it when I was sick with the flu last month.  I watched Seasons 1 and 2 straight through on Netflix’s Instant thing.  When the third season came out on DVD this past week, it was on the top of my queue.  I watched the first two discs last night, but I’ll have to wait for the third to come on Monday.  Watching it reminds me how we tend to judge history with modern day values.  Henry VIII was quite a tyrant through 21st century eyes, but was he all that bad or different in his own time-frame?  Sure, he had the north of England hung without trial for rebellion, but the Catholic Church had the Inquisition.  I suppose it all balances out.

I have to admit to a bit of cheating.  I had forgotten which wife Henry took after Jane, so I watched this video.  Now the rest of this season’s lost all suspense for me! 

Happy Reading and have a safe and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Viral Video Wednesday ~ Mash-ups

Well, after a couple weeks hiatus while setting up the new computer and importing bookmarks (all my VVW ones, especially), Viral Video Wednesday is back on.  And this week’s topic, per Maggie’s request, is:  Mash-ups.  A mash-up is when you take scenes from one move and add scenes or the audio from another movie to and make it one video as if they’d been from the same show.

So, here are my vids:

First up, in honor of his opening today, I thought a Harry Potter mash-up would be perfect.  It might not entirely qualify as a mash-up… it’s more of a parody, actually… but it takes characters from 3 movies and puts them together.

And here’s another Harry Potter mash-up, this time with Pride and Prejudice.  Does this count toward my Everything Austen Challenge?

What if Harry knew that he was just a fictional character?  That he was merely a figment of J. K. Rowling’s imagination and that all his suffering was merely a device to propel a story along?  Harry Potter, Stranger that Fiction…

Now, I hadn’t realized until I watched the following mash-up that Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter were in both Sweeny Todd and Harry Potter, which of course makes this next vid worth sitting through someone camming their TV.

And finally, this is similar to one of the first mash-up type video I saw (the one I wanted had been removed, poo!), and has yummy Ioan Gruffudd in it.  It tells the story of the Founding Four of Hogwarts :-)

There are thousands of mash-ups out there, if you search a movie title (usually a more popular one) and the word “mashup,” you’ll find plenty to choose from.

Now it’s your turn… What are some of your favorite mash-ups?

Next week’s VVW:  Commercials

BTT ~ Stickin’ it to ya!

 

saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question for all of you:

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

Fifteen books that will always stick with me, right off the top of my head….  K, here goes:

  1. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  2. Matrimony by Joshua Henkin
  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  5. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  9. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  10. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  11. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  12. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  13. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  14. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  15. A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo

Now, not all are on my top 10 list, oddly enough, and not all of them are what I’d call “great novels.”  Of course, there are many others that will also stick with me, but I’ve written this post while Gwen and Maggie are fighting and tattling, my friend came over to chat and The Departed is playing on the TV, so we’re all lucky Dick and Jane wasn’t the only book title I could think of.

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer


Title: Eclipse
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Hardcover: 629 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publish Date: September 2007
ISBN: 9780316160209

“Can I tell you what the worst part is?” he asked hesitantly when I said nothing… “The worse part is knowing what would have been…” Jacob shook his head. “I’m exactly right for you, Bella. It would have been effortless for us – comfortable, easy as breathing. I was the natural path your life would have taken…” He stared onto space for a moment, and I waited. “If the world was the way it was supposed to be, if there were no monsters and no magic…”

I could see what he saw, and I knew that he was right. If the world was the sane place it was supposed to be, Jacob and I would have been together. And we would have been happy. He was my soul mate in that world – would have been my soul mate still if his claim had not been overshadowed by something stronger, something so strong that it could not exist in a rational world…

Two futures, two soul mates… too much for any one person. And so unfair that I wouldn’t be the only one to pay for it. Jacob’s pain seemed too high a price. Cringing at the thought of that price, I wondered if I would have wavered, if I hadn’t lost Edward once. If I didn’t know what it was like to live without him. I wasn’t sure…

“He’s like a drug for you, Bella.” His voice was still gentle, not at all critical. “I see that you can’t live without him now. It’s too late. But I would have been healthier for you. Not a drug; I would have been the air, the sun.”

The corner of my mouth turned up in a wistful half-smile. “I used to think of you that way, you know. Like the sun. My personal son. You balanced out the clouds nicely for me.”

He sighed. “The clouds I can handle. But I can’t fight with an eclipse.”

-Eclipse, pages 598-600

I am soooo addicted to this series. It’s everything I’ve loved in reading. It’s Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice (Twilight). It’s Romeo and Juliet (New Moon). It’s Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights (Eclipse). In fact, I found that Edward points to these three couples on page 28 when I checked back to make sure I spelled Heathcliff correctly :-D . Makes me wonder if Breaking Dawn will be Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. (Those of you who’ve already read it, DON’T TELL ME!!!!)

I really enjoy Meyer’s writing style. Yes, this series is romantic in that it’s about lovers whose love is epic and the opposition to their realization of this love almost insurmountable. It’s everything I fell in love with when I read Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice as a teen. This series brings the same feelings of hope, agony, love, desire and despair, all occurring at the same moment, that I had at 15 with my first real boyfriend (by real I mean the first one you kiss for hours and wonder what’s beyond the kissing but the kissing is satisfying enough not to cross that boundary… the first boyfriend you park with… that first boyfriend that when we broke up it felt like my heart had been ripped out with a dull spoon).

Okay, I admit it… The Twilight series isn’t an intellectually stimulating set of books, they are more like brain candy. But it’s so nice that at 35 I can feel those fresh and new emotions. I give Eclipse 4 out of 5 stars.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Paperback: 498 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publish Date: 2005
ISBN: 9780316015844

“It’s not only your company I crave! Never forget that. Never forget I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else.”

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is the ultimate good-girl-falls-for-bad-boy story. Bella, daughter of the local police chief, fall for the mysterious Edward Cullen… whom she discovers is a vampire. It is everything I remember from being a teenager, some of it wonderfully nostalgic and some of it painfully annoying. While there were parts that dragged, and I honestly could have stopped at the hospital scene at the end… about 50 pages less than the final 498 pages, for the most part it was fun, arousing, and quite a page turner.

I definitely want to linger on the point of arousal. Twilightfull of the kind of sexual sensations I remember from being a teenager. The flutters of the attraction, new and exciting feelings, and the lingering over the first moments, uncertain and inexperienced about what comes next. The long lasting moments spent staring, lightly touching and feeling the skin of the object of one’s affection. All this innocent (or mostly innocent) pleasure before the actual end-run of sex becomes common and mechanical, losing all the magic it once held. I really enjoyed this aspect of Twilight.

“So what you’re saying is, I’m your brand of heroin?” I teased, trying to lighten the mood.
He smiled swiftly, seeming to appreciate my effort. “Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin.”
“Does that happen often?” I asked.
“Never.”

While Twilightis definitely no literary classic, for me there were aspects of other stories that are classics. I couldn’t help but see that obvious Romeo and Julietaspect of it. The fated lovers, separated by their identity (Capulet v. Montague, Human v. Vampire), brought together by their love. I also saw a parallel of Pride and Prejudice: Edward as a Darcy of sorts, loving Bella against all his better judgment, and Bella as an Elizabeth Bennett, opinionated, headstrong, and impossible for Edward (Darcy) to read.

It is definitely a YA fiction, but there is a lot in it for an adult to love, as well. I can, however see how it could seriously grate on a reader’s everlasting nerves. There is a soppy-sweetness to it that is, at times, indigestible. It’s a bit aggravating that Bella tends to be a bit dippy and put herself in dangerous situations… again and again. She could also stand to grow a spine, as she hooks up her potential suitors with her girlfriends instead of saying “No.” Damsels in Distress annoy me. But I couldn’t help loving Edward all the more for rescuing her. I couldn’t help, at thirty-four, imagining myself in the role of Bella.

He rolled his eyes and set his lips. “Bella, we’re not having this discussion anymore. I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night and that’s the end of it.”
“If you think that’s the end, then you don’t know me very well,” I warned him. “You’re not the only vampire I know”

With the end of Twilight, Meyer’s sets up New Moon with the possibility that Bella may get her way and become a vampire with Edward. This question is left hanging, and I have my suspicions it with remain so until Breaking Dawn. A new American Gothic, Twilight is a fun, fast read that will leave you thirsty for more. :-D 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Club Classics -Classics Meme!

In order to promote her new site, LitGuides.com (a site dedicated to helping teachers/students navigate classic lit), Kristen over at Book Club Classics has started her first meme – and S. Krishna has tagged me for it! The questions are below, and I’m tagging: Katleen, unfinishedperson, meghan, Mrs. Hall, and Traci.

  1. What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?
  2. What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?
  3. Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?
  4. Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?
  5. **Bonus** Why do you think certain books become classics?

What is the best classic you were “forced” to read in school (and why)?

The best classic I was “forced” to read was The Pearl by John Steinbeck. I was in 7th grade, and this book was my introduction to critical reading. It was the first time I was taught I could think for myself, not just espouse my parents’ ideas. When I started teaching my daughter to read the same way, The Pearl was our first book. The school’s no longer seem to be teaching logic and reason, only sheep-think.

What was the worst classic you were forced to endure (and why)?

Oh gawd! That would be Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I seriously do not think most teenager have the patience for this largely philosophical book. It bored me to tears, and most likely went over my head. I should try to reread it, but I’m just not that masochistic!

Which classic should every student be required to read (and why)?

To be honest, and I’m sure this will offend a few people, The Bible. My reason for saying this is, in our Western society, so much of our collective conscious comes from this classic. Shakespeare took from Solomon’s writings, the moralities many books are built around are Judeo-Christian ethics, and most social structures stem from it. We would not be the society we are without The Bible.

Which classic should be put to rest immediately (and why)?

I really don’t know of any that should be put to rest. Maybe some should be saved for older ages, but a classic is a classic because it is always relevant.  Even Harry Potter is relevent for all ages (though I don’t think I’d count it as a classic yet.  We’ll have to see how it goes).

Why do you think certain books become classics?

As I said above, a classic is always relevant. It’s not restricted to it’s own time or place, but speaks to everyone, everywhere, at any time. It reveals something of humor nature, whether it’s arrogance and assumption as in Pride and Prejudice, or the desire to be important and matter as in Vanity Fair, or the evils of the pursuit of power and control as in Animal Farm and 1984. Sometimes they warn us not to give up our power because of fear as in The Giver and Fahrenheit 451, and some mock society to reveal it’s failings as we read in Candide and Le Tartuffe. They challenge us to think and act, and broaden our views of the world around us.

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