October 17th, 2007

new year

It is to laugh

So I read some more miscellaneous sf. A couple more Regency period romances, a modern take, by Elizabeth Hoyt. Then I had finished The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen essays, and that got me thinking, and I had to read Sense and Sensibility again. And that led to Mansfield Park.

I began trying to actually identify and underline the humorous bits. Frequently I laugh out loud at Austen, I noticed while reading S&S. Austen's letters do refer to certain relatives when she read to them being all amused at the amusing parts of Mansfield, so they must be there. But most of the humor is built into the absurd situations of hypocritical characters saying what is patently false. (I was particularly aware of Jeanne G's observation in our Jane Austen Book Club that Fanny Price (how dickensian a name) is really the ideal of traditional patriarchal femininity, although it doesn't work out all that well for her except through the author's sheer fiat.) Eventually I gave up as Mansfield Park is really pretty grim, particularly in comparison to the others. But that is the kind of humor I want to learn how to do. Dreadful people, being mean. What else are they good for but a laugh?

So now I am reading Carolyn Heilbrun's Writing a Woman's Life to which all the Austen and Bronte biography and fiction and that is highly a propos. Also some of Louisa May Alcott's trashy thriller novellettes. Heilbrun is all about finding women new stories of their own heroism, instead of that patient Penelope. (She notes the theory that the Odyssey might actually have been written by a woman, because a man would have let Odysseus go first with his story, instead of actually listening to Penelope after his twenty years' absence.) And thus Atwood's Penelopiad.