Call me a glutton for punishment. Call me a procrastinator. Call me stupid. Even though I have a thesis project looming in the distance (the not-so-distant distance, in fact), and even though I have apartments to hunt for and a 1,000 mile plus move to plan, I have embarked on a new project.
No, I’m not going to hike up a mountain or swim across the English channel or watch every Bollywood movie ever produced or cook my way through The Joy of Cooking or train a guide dog, all of which I think of as very involved things that would be stupid to start when you have other necessary projects. What I have decided to do is work my way through Jane Austen again.
My love of Jane Austen goes back to a bookstore gift card that I spent on a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I believe that they had been published by Tor Books, and on the cover they had strangely misshapen women, who I assume were supposed to represent the main characters. I say strangely misshapen because something about the way the facial features were drawn made these women look more like Picasso paintings than John William Waterhouse. In any case, I read those two books over the summer of, I believe, my freshman year of high school, and I fell in love.
Of course, then I got to Mansfield Park. And Emma. And the Austen magic seemed lost. It wasn’t until a Jane Austen and Film course my sophomore year that I rediscovered my love for Jane Austen, and finally read the majority of her books. When the class was over, I was so crazy for Jane Austen that I read Northanger Abbey and even the incomplete Sanditon. I watched most of the Austen film adaptations. I reread her books over and over until I had almost memorized them.
Then, of course, school got in the way again, and I put aside Jane Austen for a few years. Now, however, with the Oxford editions of all her books on my shelf, I’m ready to jump back in. Hopefully, this project will get me away from the computer, away from the anxiety of working on a thesis, and back into the love of reading that was the reason I wanted to be an English major in the first place.
I’ve decided to go in chronological order based on publishing dates, so I’ve started with Sense and Sensibility, with eldest sister Elinor embodying sense and younger sister Marianne embodying sensibility. Already, the book has come back to me, like an old friend. Reading Jane Austen is like escaping into a time when country picnics and balls were the greatest form of entertainment, although Austen doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the time. What Austen-lover hasn’t sighed longingly when Mr. Darcy confesses his love to Elizabeth a second time, hasn’t danced for joy when Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are reunited after years of misunderstanding and hurt feelings, or been shocked and delighted when it is revealed the Edward Ferrars is not, in fact, married?
I think that most people could use a little extra joy in their lives, and Jane Austen brings mine. What brings extra happiness to you when you’re feeling stressed out?