Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Senseless Sensibility

My wife and I caught the last half hour of the movie Sense and Sensibility on television Saturday night. We made a point of trying to watch the beginning on Sunday before church, but had to leave before we got to the point we started with on Saturday.

After church I suggested that I read the story to her. "You have Sense and Sensibility, I thought you only had Pride and Prejudice" was her reply. I assured her that I had the complete works of Jane Austen and could easily read the story to her if she didn't mind.

Please bear in mind that typically I read bed-time stories to my wife and she promptly falls asleep. I must have a relaxing quality to my reading voice because this has happened to others I read to as well. However, whenever I tried reading Pride and Prejudice to her she says that she can't sleep, so I figured that I could get away with reading Sense and Sensibility to her without fear of her falling asleep.

I know that many of us learn to read aloud, and that when you write you should write so that it can be read aloud easily. I don't know if it is because of the way Jane writes, or if it is because I am reading it cold— but I was tripping over many words and did not have a very good rhythm. Still the same, around the middle of the third chapter I noticed my wife is asleep so I stop. She wakes up realizing that she had fallen asleep and asks where I was. I back up a paragraph and she comments "what… you're only on the third chapter— you haven't even gotten past the opening credits of the movie yet".

We then sat there and discussed Jane's writing style. My wife feels that she tends to have a lot of narrative and wonders how anybody could pull a movie script from all those words. I tend to think that Jane uses a lot of big words. This could be that she is trying to convey the mood of being proper, but I think it just sounds like she's trying to show off.

I don't know how many of you have had to read certain authors and struggled. My guess is that this is one of them. If trying to read it aloud is any indication as to the difficulty, it makes me curious as to how it got to be such a popular piece of literature.


junebug said...

I have found that if you read much from around her time period most books have that quality about them. There wasn't much else to distract them from the every day grind of the home and work. Their main sources of entertainment was reading and gossiping therefore they went for as much detail as possible to fill the time. To be perfectly honest I found her stuff much easier to read then many of her contemporaries. Even Frankenstein(which I love) can be detailed in places but not anywhere as bad as Shelley's father's book, Caleb Williams. I, also, noted that there were more books that the authors assumed you had read before their work such as Darwin, Blake and/or Milton. This quality can come off as snobby.
I think it is nice that you read to your wife at night. :-)

Barbaloot said...

I'm curious about it, too. I am not a fan of Sense and Sensibility or Emma. At all. I am partial to Pride and Prejudice, but even less than the writing style, I just do not like the stories. Or the characters. They're so irritating!

Unknown said...

I'm with you on this one. I had these collectors editions Jane Austen books. But after letting them sit with little bookmarks for nearly two years I finally gave them all away and gave up. I couldn't finish a single one. Not one. And I love Tolstoy! Go figure.

Anonymous said...

It is the desire to believe in an unwavering true love. Personally I saw pieces of myself in each of the Misses Dashwoods from Miss Margaret's thirst for knowledge, Miss Marianne's romantic ideals, and how Miss Elinor puts society's rules in front of her own feelings.

Anonymous said...

I will try to keep it brief--I am sure you know what an Austenite I am. I LOVE the flowery language, the delayed requited love, the headstrong girls and sensible women, the dashing gentlemen and even the silly parents. (Parents in Austen novels are always the silliest of the cast.) P&P is a clear favorite of mine with a three way tie of Persuasion, S&S, and Emma for second, depending on my mood. I realize that leaves only a couple of novels remaining, but those I am not as fond of at all.

I think that period lit like this is just not for everyone. It requires a certain taste, and I think that possession or lack of it is NOT a reflection of level of refinement, though that is often implied. It's like sushi. You like it or you don't and it may be chic to do so, but it really doesn't mean much if you can't stand it.

Kingsmom said...

I think it would be totally cool to read to and be read to in bed. I've suggested it but it did't go over very well. Good for you!

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