Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Northanger Abbey ~ Jane Austen

I had this big fancy entry written in my notebook, 2 pages front and back, with quotes from the introduction and analysis of Ms. Johnson's assessment of Henry Tilney's attitude on authority and epistemology and, honestly, it's a pretty darn good entry but it's not what I want to say any more. Or at least I don't want to say it that way; it sounds like a paper for class. Really I could (begrudgingly) quote E. M. Forster (boo! hiss!)

Jane Austen is my favorite author!...Shut up in measureless content, I greet her by the name of most kind hostess, while criticism slumbers.

and leave it at that. But criticism, for me, only makes me admire her more. I'm always irked when people treat Austen like a glorified romance novelist; she's using that old boy-meets-girl plot to say so much more. And her prose is so skillful, her wit so sharp and observant. Henry Tilney is her best hero. I like Darcy but he's highly overrated; he and Wentworth act like jerks (disclaimer: I like Wentworth as well. That heart-stopping love letter of his redeems him). Mr. Knightley is a bit imperious. Colonel Brandon and Edward Ferrars are barely there. And I don't think anybody likes Edmund. Henry is not only a delightful person himself, but I love the way Austen uses him. She makes us laugh not just at Henry but at the ideas he's mocking--that women are ignorant and stupid and silly, etc. According to Claudia L. Johnson's introduction to my so-gorgeous-I'd-run-into-a-burning-building-to-save-it Everyman's Library edition (and let me take this opportunity to say how much I fucking hate Amazon's new search engine. Bah humbug)--Johnson claims that NA is really all about reading, a defense not just of novels but of a female literary tradition, of women's reading and women's writing, and I agree. Sure, Catharine's taste for gothic novels exacerbates her naivete and gullibility, but the joke is that in the end, she's right. General Tilney is a villain, and Henry's speech about "the country and age in which we live" seems ultimately a bit naive itself. Austen's novel is proof that excellence really is pretty fairly divided between the sexes. I hate it when people fall into the Austen-as-kindly-maiden-aunt routine, call her "Dear Jane" or "Our Lady" (ick), it reminds me of Henry James' condescending praise of her; I don't want her artistic integrity and genius forgotten, the real importance of her work overshadowed by swooning fangirls and "Victorian" fetishists. She's still so readily dismissed, as a witty spinster who just happened to write a few good romances. A guy in my lit class last semester complained that Persuasion was boring and pointless--after all, it wasn't about anything important. I think Austen is revolutionary in the fact that she's become a great artist by writing about "unimportant" things.

Apropos of nothing, take a look at this website, created by a Ukrainian woman who likes to ride her motorbike through the Chernobyl site. I was only 4 when it happened, so I don't know much about it; but we had old issues of National Geographic in our basement and as a kid I remember looking at their pictures of the accident. I still remember them; I should dig up that old issue next time I go home. I mention the website here because Elena (the webmaster) is strikingly eloquent in her imperfect english:

they call it a town where time stands still. May be it is because clocks in a ghosttown don't show real time, they are set for showing a radiation level.

I wonder how this guy feel, who once went for a fishing trip and who was not able to return home. It is like you life is cut on two pieces. in one is you slippers still under you bed, photos of a first love that left on piano.. in other is you yourself, you memories and a fishing rod.

Usually, beeping of dosimeter speed me up and I pass this part of road as fast as road condition allow. The place in front of me called red or magic wood. In 1986 this wood has been red with radiation and then they cut it off and left there and bury under 1 meter of earth. As you can see, on asphalt things not bad, but if I step 10 meters forward, my dosimeter will run out of scale, if I walk few hundred meters towards reactor, then I will find 3 roengen. If I keep walking all the way to reactor, then at the end of a journey I will glow in a dark. May be this is why they call it a magic wood. this sort of a magic when one walk in in a biker leather and coming out like a knight in a shinning armour.

The pictures are even better. You get a feel for the eerieness of the place; people just up and left and you can see what remains of their ordinary lives; and there are a few who stayed, who came back and live in Chernobyl alongside the wolves and bears and wild horses.


Post a Comment

<< Home