Sunday Salon: A Review

the-sunday-salonThis weeks reading has been a little….scattered, to say the least. Let us being, shall we, with the picking of my honors undergraduate thesis for my English major, which will basically involve me looking at the literature of the 1960s counterculture and investigating it as a form of propaganda and as the manifesto of a movement. This means that by next spring (when I actually have to start, you know, writing my thesis) I will have read a ton of work by Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bukowski, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesy, and a host of newspaper articles as well as studying quite a bit of the music of time time (studying lyrics as a form of contemporary poetry). I’m really, REALLY excited about the topic, and it was the highlight of my week to sit in my advisor’s office and make book list after book list!

Other than that, my reading is hitting a stride for sure. I’m about halfway done with The Sound and the Fury as well as Rock Bottom, which is a completely hilarious book that I got not too long ago from my fabulous local library. I’ve also started Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by the famed Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. It really has been quite the week. I say this because, unfortunately, I may be a little absent from the blog for a bit (in person, that is. I’m going to try a get a few reviews written tomorrow that I can publish throughout the week) because this next weeks spells PAPER CITY!!! My Transnation Migration requires a 10 page paper on the morality of globalization. A 12 page literary analysis of Sense and Sensibility for my Jane Austen class, and a historical background for the ‘personal narrative’ as a form in early-18th century American writing. Sounds like just buckets of fun, right? Maybe not so much, but so is the plight of the student! So, enough of my whining. How about a book review?

northanger-abbeyTitle: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Pages: 182
Bookmarks: 2 (out of 5)

I’ll admit it – I didn’t like this book as much as I feel like I should have. I mean, its part of the Austen canon and, as usually happens with so-called ‘classic literature’ I tend to go in to it expecting it to knock my socks off. After all, there are reasons that these books are so classic. However, Northanger Abbey wasn’t like that.

The story is about Catherine Morland, an absolutely normal girl who leads an absolutely normal life. She reads a lot of novels, particularly of the gothic persuasion. In fact, Northanger as a whole is really just a huge satire of the gothic novel genre. Anyway, Catherine goes to Bath and ends up making some friends in a local family on vacation, the Tilneys. The Tilneys, after some time in Bath, invite Catherine to go with them to their home at Northanger Abbey. Catherine, as such a huge fan of gothic novels, thinks a trip to an old, dark, creepy Abbey where the mother of the Tilney family died is just too good to be true. SPOILER The truth is, however, that nothing happens to Catherine while she’s at the Tilney’s. Everything is perfectly normal. The only thing that DOES happen is when General Tilney, the father, finds out that Catherine isn’t as rich as he thought she was so he kicks her out. The the son, Henry, gets all ‘oh-n0-you-didn’t” and goes to her and is all like “I love you, I don’t care how poor you are, screw my dad, lets get married” and, of course, because its Austen, shes all like “yeah, totally!” END SPOILER

As you can probably tell, the whole problem I had with this book is kind of that nothing really happens. To begin with, the narrator, at least to me, has no real qualities that make me want to sympathize with her in any way. Catherine is described as being plain and kind of boring. And that is EXACTLY what she is. So much so that it’s not like Austen is making fun of those kind of people, but that she just wrote a completely flat character. I will say, however, that I did enjoy the slightly more realistic love story that develops in Northanger than that happens in Sense and Sensibility. In Northanger the characters go through some kind of actual flirtation and we can, as readers, see them falling in love with one another, as opposed to some other Austen lit that is just, like, “and then everyone woke up one day and was in love and got married”. I also liked this particular passage of the novel, a paragraph that, for me, got close to redeeming the entire book.

Yes, novels; – for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptious censure the very perfomances, to the numer of which they are themselves adding – joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel talk to threadbare strains of trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure that those of any other literary corporation in the world, no speices of compostition has been so much decrie. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are alomst as many as our readers.

As you can see, there is definitely a little bit of sarcasm going on there, which is just one more thing to appreciate about Austen. Of course she knows how to satirize with the best of them. All in all, I will say that Northanger Abbey is not a difficult book. Its just one that I didn’t particularly care for, either way. Happy late Valentine’s Day, and happy reading!

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