I’m not quite sure how this has happened, but the last day of August has arrived which means Austen In August 2015 is at its end. Oh, dear!
As we move onward from this annual event, I offer a few reflections:
All that being said, I am also pleased to have finished one book for the event this year, which is the Penguin Classics Clothbound edition of Jane Austen’s Love & Freindship and Other Youthful Writings. I’ve now read all of Jane Austen’s published works, including juvenilia and unfinished pieces, at least once (most of them more than that).
Reading the juvenilia was so much fun. It was fascinating to see the young Austen flexing her muscles, as it were, and playing with the styles and conventions of her day. It is clear to see how she developed her craft. What I think I most enjoyed about the experience, though, was getting to know Jane Austen a bit more. Her brilliance truly shines through her writing, but her youthful writing also offers generous glimpses at her personality. Having read Austen in the way that I did (first the completed novels, then the unfinished stories, then the juvenilia–so, backwards, as it were), I find I can appreciate in a unique way her skill, her practice, and her profound wit and intelligence.
Of the juvenilia, I do have a few favorites. First, I think, is “Henry and Eliza,” which I found to be incredibly funny. Another is “The Three Sisters,” which is an early attempt at a novel and in which, I think, we see the very early manifestations of certain iconic Austen characters, such as Mrs. Bennet, Emma, and Mr. Darcy.
“Love and Freindship,” of course, is the titular story for a reason; it is humorous, insightful, witty, and characteristic of the author who would be Austen. Another point of interest for me in this story, as well as in a few other of these early works, are hints at homosexuality. Jane Austen was much more daring than many readers give her credit for, even in her later, finished works, where she discusses a number of important themes in subtle ways. She’s more audacious and overt in these youthful writings, though, which is a pleasure because it allows us to see how knowledgeable and socially aware she really was, and how adept she became at revealing just as much as she wanted to — a craft developed through genuine talent and practice. Austen, such a lady, even includes a number of murders in these early tales!
Two other sections I really enjoyed were “The History of England,” which is an absolute riot. Young Austen responds to some of the critical histories of her time that claim to be unbiased (Oliver Goldsmith’s The History of England for example) with a work saturated by overt opinion representing itself as pure fact. She employs characterizations of her own family, with the help of images drawn by her sister Cassandra, which adds personal intrigue and humor to the story as well, and she lambastes Queen Elizabeth I at every opportunity (with sincerity? in jest?). It’s one of the funniest and charming stories in the whole collection. In addition, the section of letters, which seem to be simply practice for creative/fictional epistolary writing, are a joy to read.
I had my doubts about reading Austen’s juvenilia, not because I thought it would be boring or without merit, but because I wondered what it could possibly add to my understanding of Austen as an author, which is best understood by reading and interpreting her finished works. The reality is, though, because Austen was always a writer, one organized her work in volumes, even the early attempts and scraps, reading these pieces adds an extraordinary amount of depth and richness to the entire experience. I could see a lot of the later novels’ themes and characters beginning to develop in these early attempts. I think it will be great fun to re-read (again) the big six works and consider all the practice Austen had put into her craft originally.
Now that Austen has concluded, I’ve decided to approach the future with much more general abandon, meaning I don’t want to plan too much of my reading. I’m still participating in The Classics Club, so I do have a “list” for that, and I’m also writing a dissertation, so I have plenty of works that I must read as part of my research. Other than these projects, however, I have little intention of participating in any other events or challenges for the foreseeable future, with one exception: RIP X!
For those who don’t know, RIP stands for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril. It’s an annual event that takes place in September and October of each year. The goal is to read books/stories or watch movies that fit into the categories of horror, thriller, suspense, gothic, mystery, etc. This is its tenth year, but my first time participating. I’m getting married on Halloween this year (it is our favorite holiday), so I thought — well, all the stars and such are aligning! Why not?
There are a variety of challenge levels and goals and such, but I’ll keep my plans pretty simple: read at least two books in the horror/suspense genre. If all goes well, I might add a third, so I’ll list that as an alternate.
Book One: Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764). This is essentially the godfather of the gothic genre. It is very short and I’ve been meaning to read it for years. It’s also an entry on my Classics Club list, so I’ll knock out a two-fer if I finish it.
Book Two: Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three (1987). I read the first in this series a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to continue on with the Dark Tower books ever since, but things get in the way. This will be a great way to get back into it.
Alternate: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson. I love Shirley Jackson – her short story, “The Lottery,” is one of the best ever written, in my opinion, and I also absolutely loved The Haunting of Hill House. I can’t wait to read more from her, so hopefully there will be enough time for me to get to this one as well (I do plan on it, actually, but I don’t want to set the bar too high with so much else happening right now).
So, that’s it! The end to one extraordinary event and the commencement of another. I hope you all had a great time with Austen in August this year, and if you plan on participating in RIP X, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts and reading/viewing plans.
Thank you for another marvelous Austen in August, Adam! I didn’t get around to posting much, but I did read three books and am working on my fourth right now. Also, I’m participating in #RIPX for the first time and should have a post up tomorrow or Wednesday at latest. I don’t read a lot in those genres so I’ll have to see what books I have that will fit with the event.
Adam, effusive thanks for hosting this event. It was amazing! It really had opened my eyes to the whole wide word that is Austen. I’m pretty excited that I got Austen posts and reading done, and my TBR is longer than ever …! I will be participating again next year come hell or high water ha!
I’m going to participate in RIPX too, but am going through my books to figure out what to read. Ah, the problems of bibliophiles ;P
Thanks for hosting again this year. Austen is once again in my head and heart after read WHAT MATTERS MOST IN JANE AUSTEN? this year. Now I think I will reread Sanditon. Congratulations on your up-coming nuptials and thanks for the heads up about the RIP X. I am going to check it out!
Thanks for all the Austen awesomeness, Adam! This was my first time participating and I will definitely be joining in next year. Maybe next time I will actually have time to read an Austen book and not just host a giveaway.
R.I.P.! I’m so excited! I’m getting ready to do my post right now. I am on Book 3 of The Dark Tower series. I still need to finish it. I had to put it aside for other reading obligations and I never picked it up again. Maybe I will be able to soon. I’ll also be reading Stephen King. I’m hosting a read-a-long of Salem’s Lot at my Stephen King Challenge blog. Should be nice and scary!
By the way, since you’re going to be reading scary books anyway, you should join me for my FrightFall read-a-thon in October. 🙂
I always feel a little melancholy at the end of AinA, esp so this year, as moving house this month meant that my participation was minimal.
Thank you once again for hosting such a wonderful event Adam – all your hard work is appreciated and worth it!
The Dark Tower series is wonderful. I’ve read it through twice (so far). You may get hooked and find your Perils increase quite easily.
It was a wonderful event again! I think it’s funny that we both read Love and Freindship after first reading all her novels, then all her short stories and unfinished work. Like you I felt like I really got to know her better through L&F. I loved that her sense of humor was present even in her earliest works! Thanks again for hosting this year. It’s been a blast to participate.
Can’t wait to read Love & Freindship and Other Youthful Writings. I’m waiting for them to release the full set in a box this fall, like they’ve already done for the UK. 🙂
Adam: I hope you enjoy the R.I.P. Event! I’m not big into horror or spooky, but since mysteries are allowed I can totally rock that. 🙂
I do hope you can get to the Jackson—Castle is SUCH a great one.
Congrats on such a fantastic Austen in August event and finally getting me to read P&P. 😉 I’m glad that reading her earlier works was such a worthwhile experience for you!
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