Jane Austen

For Love of an Author: The Value of Being a Completist

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I finished reading Jane Austen’s major works (and unfinished novels) in ninth grade, with Mansfield Park, and thereby officially became a completist, although I later read more of her juvenilia and claimed that title more firmly. Being a completist, or a near-completist, was nothing new to me then, coming towards the end of the era of full-on immersive early-teen reading.
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How ‘Clueless’ Illuminates the Timeless Genius of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’

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A year after Clueless hit screens, which was also about a year after I started seventh grade, I embarked on my first read of Jane Austen’s Emma. Middle school had revealed me to be more hopeless, sartorially speaking, than Tai, and more naive than Cher Horowitz herself — although I’d never have admitted either of these things. Thus, my primary refuge became classic novels, which temporarily distracted me from thornier topics like cliques, loafers, and lip …Read More

Why Do We Re-Read Our Favorite Books as Kids, and Why Do We Stop When We Get Older?

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As an avid young reader, I tore through every Nancy Drew book — both the originals and the cheap paperback updates — twice, experiencing my favorites up to five or six times. Even more sacred was my semi-annual ritual of re-experiencing all of L.M. Montgomery’s major novels, including the entire eight-book Anne of Green Gables series, alternating with my personal favorite, Emily of New Moon, and its two sequels. For weeks I would go back to Prince Edward Island and dwell with those characters. This journey was supplemented by a solemn re-reading of The Lord of the Rings every four or five years, an experience so intense that my dreams would begin to look like Peter Jackson’s set designs, even before those designs existed. As I got older, I switched out some of these childhood classics for adult ones, going back through the “Austen six” again and again, while also making a point of re-watching my favorite Austen miniseries and the Lord of the Rings films in marathon fashion.
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“An Endless Succession of Magnificent Possibilities”: Why We Love Vacation Novels

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“Something tells me we’re not going to like this place,” declares Rosemary Hoyt’s mother in the first spoken words of Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. “I want to go home anyway,” Rosemary replies. It’s a moment of exquisite irony, considering Fitzgerald has just spent 500 words describing the perfect isolation of the Hoyts’ French Riviera environs, where “the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea plants through the clear shallows.” It’s a traveler’s utopia, with all the romance of an undiscovered paradise and none of the touristic trappings — yet Rosemary, a follower in all things, doesn’t immediately see it that way. But with her unexpected introduction to Dick and Nicole Diver, models of cool elegance and social surety, Rosemary feels the sense of possibility she longed for in her travels open up. With one chance encounter, the promise of the trips unfurls itself. Dick’s voice “promised that he would take care of her, and that little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities.”
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