Archive | December 2010

I like this.

Biblioburro is something I ran across on Wonkette, an internet site that I otherwise think is wasting cyberspace which, I believe, is supposed to be infinite, but not so infinite to justify polluting us with more snarky stupidity.

Nonetheless, I like this.

Nice people, a good cause, a donkey, some books….What’s not to like?


In this corner, the Janeites; in the other…

Catching up on Austenblog, I found an interesting post about the relatively recent controversy regarding Jane Austen and her style, ie was Jane Austen’s style created in part by the interventions of an editor and/or printer?

Great links here so I recommend popping over to the post.

Reading Sutherland’s, so to speak, rebuttal definitely heightened my awareness that her book would be worth a look. I want neither to criticize her unfairly – sometimes the messenger gets shot when she’s only relaying facts or reasonable ideas to a sentimental audience. But, when I looked at Geoff Nunberg’s essay on Language Log (also linked from Austenblog) I found he said a very interesting thing:

“You can repunctuate them according to the modern system without changing a word of the text”

Now, in her response piece, Sutherland cites two passages from Persuasion to show the differences between the edited Austen and the unedited Austen. The latter version, she states, shows,

“replaced by a more discreet syntactic emphasis carried by subtle shifts in punctuation”

So, I read the passages and thought, Whoa, now that’s kind of busy punctuation. I thought the second graph was so much cleaner and more easily readable, more the Austen I knew and loved. But, then I read them again keeping Nunberg’s comments in mind. And, wouldn’t you know? He’s right. About the words, I mean. There’s no change in words or word order from pre-edit to post-edit.

Interesting, actually.

I tried reading the pre-edit passages another time and found that, really, they were pretty easy to read if you just accepted what seemed to be the punctuation rules that JA was using. She wasn’t really breaking punctuation rules, it seems, as, apparently, these and spelling rules were not carved in s tone so much then as now.

So, what’s the big deal? I’m no Austen scholar – or Regency-era language scholar, either – but isn’t what Nunberg and others are saying just that Austen’s originality and contribution to literature was her newfangled way with dialogue? Well, that remains the same no matter how you punctuate it. So, the fact of her inventiveness remains the same one way or the other.

I know that, for me, this is really just light dawning on Marblehead, a sense of Hey, now I see what he’s/they’re saying. Still, interesting.

Who’s right, then? Sutherland or the Austen devotees? Who knows, really? I would only feel really confident – I mean really, really confident – in an opinion if I studied Sutherland’s book and, frankly, the original manuscripts and papers. It’s nice, in a way, though, to sink your teeth into the effort, be it a little or a lot.

Now, see, this is sanity….

I googled the phrase ‘time travel romance,’ which I’ve realized is a genre – or sub-genre? – I like, and lo and behold, a site appears and it makes me think, Can this be? You’re kidding!” But, there it is. In 2002, the Missouri Secretary of State appears to have published a recommended reading list of time travel romance.

Instantly, this Secretary of State got my stamp of approval. Now, I don’t know her politics (or anything about her, really), but obviously the woman has good taste in novels, at least insofar as the Diana Gabaldon ‘Outlander’ rec is concerned.

Actually, looks like an adviser chose the books (there’s a position I wouldn’t mind having), but this is the first government site I’ve ever seen that may discuss bodice ripper romances. I’m not sure, I haven’t read the whole list yet. I’m just saying. And I think it’s nice.

The site calls the books “pure escapism, and pure fun.” Probably, it’s to encourage an interest in libraries and reading. I’d like to think it’s also an attempt at de-stressing society by turning thoughts to, well, silliness. I mean the good kind of silliness that relieves your mind of its burdens and re-energizes it to face the horrible real-life stories we necessarily have in our lives.

A key component to avoiding insanity, I believe, is the responsible indulgence in fantasy. Unless you’re willing to be a little bit crazy, you can’t be sane. Unless you’re able to deviate from rigidity, you can’t find your way.

And reading helps you relax in ways necessary to the psyche.

This government recommended reading list doesn’t take the place of a strong social infrastructure with national health care, strong public education, truly affordable housing, as well as a transparent government and politicians who speak in substance instead of slogans….but, hey, it’s sane. At least, it’s a step toward understanding that people are complicated. It takes even silly mass-market paperbacks with fairy-tale covers to raise a society.

Would that whoever thought of this list knock some sense into today’s errant political environment and persuaded our leaders that we’re humans, not automatons; we can’t be afraid of ideas simply because they come with words like “government-funded” and ‘”social.” The proper way to to see society is through the gray, not the extremes.

And this is why I thought this little discovery of mine was so refreshing. There’s no stale, meaningless posturing on important issues here. Imagine, an actual government site that acknowledges our humanity.

Funny how you’re sitting on the bus thinking about something and then…

there it is in The Guardian newspaper.

Of course, I am of a different opinion than Mr. Docx. Genre fiction often explores the same issues as literary fiction – death, illness, greed, deception, lust, etc. – but in a way that has a broader appeal. This does not mean it’s better; broad appeal is never a guarantee of better quality. But, people will pick it up, read, think, daydream, feel, escape and confront and read and enjoy in a way that’s difficult when the author is falling over himself to deliver wordy invention. I hate those novels.

Of course, we need both types of writing. Incidentally, genre fiction seems to run the gamut of moods and subjects. Doesn’t literary fiction always seem to have some profound and depressing ideas behind it? It’s seldom you find happy literary fiction. Big thoughts can happen in mass market paperbacks. Really.

Ultimately, if you were condemned by some horrible and bizarre literary tyrant to only be free to read literary or genre, which would you choose? How much advantage would you really get from a steady diet of lit fiction? Would it be worth it?