September 18, 2010

At least I'm not the only one...

Back before the school year started, we had a Professional Development Day for teachers new to the district. They were giving away books, and each person got to take at least one. One was about poetry and that's just not my thing. Two were textbooks I actually acquired in college, and I thought "Really, who would want those...?". Then there was this book. It looked to be the most interesting, and I've only more or less skimmed through it in the last few weeks. Here is what caught my attention:

"A few years ago, I gave up on Crime and Punishment. I found it not enough crime and too much punishment. I went beyond fifty pages. In fact, I went about two-thirds of the way through before I finally surrendered and accepted that one person's masterpiece may be another's misery...Frequently, the bad reviews are written by literary lions. Here's Emerson on Jane Austen: 'I'm at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen's novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world.'
No matter what treasured classic or highly praised new book you dislike, you almost certainly are not alone (and are often in venerable company)."

While I can't say I share Emerson's exact opinion, I've always wondered why I've never quite "gotten" her novels. The movies aren't bad. But I can't seem to make it to Chapter 2 in the books, and boy have I tried. I always thought it was just me or my intelligence level or something. I WANT to like her books, I really do. But when you can't get to Chapter 2, it's really hard to like a book. Especially when she keeps writing in circles the way she does. Descriptive writing is one thing, but it comes to a point when a picture would serve better at saying a thousand words. At least I know that it's not just me. For a multitude of reasons, others have felt the same.

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