Saturday, March 27, 2010

16. "Emma" by Jane Austen

Austen, Jane. Emma. New York: Washington Square Press, 1963.
430 pages
Reviewed by J. d'Artagnan Love

Since I started studying literature, I have begun to read in a very calculating way. I read looking for certain things like theme, feminist and queer discourse, post-colonial rhetoric, tropes, plot devices, errors, holes, flat characters, etc. I can’t remember the last time I just read a book forgetting about all these very academic forms of reading. Studying literature has certainly added a new dimension of thought to my reading but it has sucked the life out of the characters for me in some ways. No longer are they there for me to feel connected to, but for me to pick apart and analyze.

I started reading Emma over a year ago and, at first I thought it was this exact form of calculated reading that has kept me at a distance from this novel’s characters. For the first half of the book or so, all I could think about was how boring they were—rich, British snobs sitting around doing nothing but gossip about each other. To me, they held little depth and caused each other nothing but trouble.

So, I tried to put aside my literary “training” and just read the novel for pleasure. I tried to get to know the characters, to become involved in the plot.

It didn’t work.

As much as my academic peers will give me crap for it, I don’t like this book and I couldn’t finish it. It was a little bit like literary torture trying to read to the end. I stopped at 2/3’s of the way through. I could go no farther.

I am a very plot-oriented reader. I like a good story. Emma’s plot bored me. The characters gossip from one party to the next and poor widdle Emma meddles needlessly and unproductively in other people’s lives. Maybe I would gain a better appreciation of the book if I read it through to the end. Maybe there is some mind-blowing plot twist on page 400 that I’ve missed. The thought still wasn’t enough to get me to keep reading.

1 dart out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: DONATE (donated to Goodwill)