Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two Guys Read Jane Austen - Yawn

I confess, I was really looking forward to reading about how Two Guys Read Jane Austen.

I had a nice long flight from Denver to Boston on Sunday, and settled back and read the whole thing cover to cover. I'm glad I'm done with it and can pass it on to someone else. I don't think I'll even bother to shelve it on my miscellaneous Austen shelf (I had been thinking between Fay Weldon's Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen (Weldon, Fay) and Kate Fenton's Lions and Licorice,which I just found out is now called Vanity and Vexation: A Novel of Pride and Prejudice.

What didn't I like? Well, for starters reading Austen means reading the lot, not just Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. That's called starting to read Austen. There are only six novels, for goodness sake. I got the feel these two guys were so eager to rush to print (to take advantage, as they acknowledge, of the Austen goldrush) that they read two and decided to call it good enough. But, no Emma? No Persuasion? Not good enough.

And frankly, they could have dispensed with the college-prank stories, the rehab stories, the plugging-their-other-books stories, and the wife stories. Publishing their letters is a nice gimmick, but how many times do I need to read "Give my love to Miranda" to get the effect of the letters-between-friends bit? When I read a book about Austen, I want it to be about Austen. I found myself skimming the non-Austen stuff looking for more Austen stuff.

The one bright spot was when one of them--and I never really tried to keep straight which one was talking--gave a reasonably good explanation for why Austen chose Henry VIII as the play from which Henry Crawford read and that Lady Bertram labels Crawford as quite a good actor.

They're probably looking for speaking opportunities now that they're Austen "experts" and they're a novelty in that they are beer-drinking guys who like to talk Austen. If they come to my neck of the woods, I might give them another chance, but I thought the book a trifle dull.


  1. I once persuaded an American male to read Pride & Prejudice (he read it twice and watched the BBC adaptation - I was impressed!)but yes, men who have read all of Austen's novels are pretty thin on the ground. And it's not as though reading all six books would take that long - none of them are War and Peace :)

    I'm glad they read Mansfield Park though - seems to be the least-liked Austen novel, though I can't understand why, when you have such wonderful characters as the Lothario Henry Crawford and his sister Mary.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Jezebel--love your comments! It seems that men don't read a lot of women authors--based on purely empirical evidence. Women read equally between the two sexes, I think, but I would venture a guess that Austen is read by more men than any other female author.

  3. Thank you, Jane! I like your blog (as you can tell :) ) - and I find it easier to comment on other people's blogs than be inspired to update my own.

    Yes, it's true that men generally don't read female authors (she says, trying to think of a female author men might like, apart from JK Rowling :)). And it's a good job women are happy to read male as well as female authors - I would hazard a guess (cos I don't have the stats to hand but I'm sure I've seen it somewhere) that women and girls generally read more books than men.

    Books men probably will read - Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird (though she only wrote the one book, but what a book!), Margaret Atwood? female Science Fiction authors - I'm thinking of the movie The Jane Austen Book Club, which despite the lacklustre reviews I enjoyed watching, and thought it was so much better than the book. My partner will happily watch a Jane Austen film or TV adaptation, but I've never managed to persuade him to read the books. At my children's secondary school, they try to give books that will have male appeal specifically to the boys, rather than force them to read books that appeal primarily to girls. I remember chatting to my son's English teacher at parent's evening (my son was present as well) and she was asking him about the books he liked reading, which meant she added Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to her list of books teenage boys would like (we ended up talking about book clubs and Johnny Depp - my partner had to drag me away :) )

  4. Jezebel - I agree that "women and girls generally read more books than men." That's my unscientific observation as well, and definitely more novels. I'm sure the publishing industry has stats on this if we only looked hard enough. It's great your son's teacher was open to expanding her curriculum to include books boys like. My own son took the leap from HP to real lit this summer with Dracula so I'm hopeful for him :) I think HP will be to him what the Little House books were to me. Now, go update your blog, I'll be stopping by later :)

  5. Well, thank you - but mine's more of a diary than a blog - though the publicly-accessible bit is mostly on books. Will try to find time to update it.