I found myself back in Paris this winter because my 10 year old son, the indomitable Miloš, took on The Three Musketeers for his essay, and I read itI found myself back in Paris this winter because my 10 year old son, the indomitable Miloš, took on The Three Musketeers for his essay, and I read it in support. It is my sixth or seventh reading, but I haven't read it in a while so I honestly can't remember which reading it is, not that it matters. I had quite the experience this time through.
In the past I have been obsessed with the treatment of Milady de Winter -- both Dumas' treatment of her and the Musketeers' treatment of her -- but this time I was much more focused on the Musketeers themselves. Most if not all of that can be chalked up to Miloš' essay topic. About half way through he was zeroing in on the fact that the Musketeers, particularly Athos and D'Artagnan (who begins the tale unattached then turns Guard then turns Musketeer) are vastly less than heroic. So my reading went down the same path, and damn are they an ugly bunch.
I've spoken and written of their iniquities in the past, so I'll leave the listing of their bad behaviours aside, but I will say that I was struck most profoundly -- once again -- by the way pop culture has twisted the Inseparables.
I am sure that Dumas' didn't conceive of them as humorous, sexy, devil-may-care, lily white, honourable or even upstanding heroes. He conceived of them as flawed men living in a flawed society, busy taking advantage of whatever they could to get ahead, get in a bed, get rich or richer or forget their pasts. Sure they are fun to read when they have a rare sword or musket fight (and there are precious few when you consider the page count of this book), but so much of who they are is so unsavoury that, as Miloš said to me, "they can't be heroes." No. They really can't.
I wonder if we started a petition of literary fans if we could get HBO to produce a version of the Musketeers that makes them appear as they truly are, though I doubt it. BBC has succeeded in making their time dirtier and grungier, and even made Cardinal Richelieu vastly more nasty than Dumas intended, but their Musketeers are as charming as ever Hollywood made them. I, for one, would rather see the nasty Musketeers. I want to see them as they were conceived by Dumas. That would be something. ...more
This is the first time I have ever read (listened) to a series of Conan stories that were all by Robert E. Howard, undiluted by his imitators and dimiThis is the first time I have ever read (listened) to a series of Conan stories that were all by Robert E. Howard, undiluted by his imitators and diminishers, and what a revelation. Howard's work was not the pulpy trash of his followers; it was accomplished, vital, deep and rich in characterization, and some of the finest world building ever achieved. It was that thing I love most: a novel in short stories.
Listening to this collection, one gets a full picture of Howard's Cimmerian. Not the "barbarian" his copycats like to present (it's interesting to note that Howard's Conan only ever refers to himself as a Cimmerian), but the man with powerful personal ethics, a good man born of a bellicose tribe in a time of war, a man whose lustiness is lustful rather than rapacious, a man as capable of personal brutality as he is of noble heroism as he is of tactical genius as he is of creeping stealth as he is shocking kindness as he is geniune responsibility. Howard's Conan is a possible man, a realistic man, a man who does great things and travels far -- rising from thief/pirate to general/king -- but a man who, despite his titular status, suffers consequences and faces situations with real stakes.
That Conan, Howard's Conan, disappears in the writing of others, becoming a buffoonish barbarian pseudo-god, a "barbarian" in every caricatured sense of the word, a moron, a being of pure instinct and no intellect, the sort of character Arnold Schwarzenneger might play, rather than a real actor with a real brain (say Tom Hardy).
The stand out stories: "The Tower of the Elephant" (my favourite to teach), "Queen of the Black Coast" (recently adapted and serialized beautifully by Brian Wood for Dark Horse Comics), "Black Colossus," and "The Devil in Iron" are some of the finest short stories ever put to typewriter -- by anyone.
If the only Conan you know is the Conan co-opted by L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Robert Jordan et al., and you enjoyed their pulpy goodness well enough, do yourself a favour and read the real thing. Robert E. Howard was the real deal, and I'll be surprised if he disappoints you.
One final word: the narrator of the audiobook -- Todd McClaren -- is excellent. His voice his clear, his feminine voice avoids insipidity, and the way he paces the tales is impeccable. I'll be seeking his voice out in the future....more
A story doesn't have to be factual to be true, and I don't think I have read a truer story in any form than Alan Moore's From Hell.
At the heart of theA story doesn't have to be factual to be true, and I don't think I have read a truer story in any form than Alan Moore's From Hell.
At the heart of the tale is Jack the Ripper. It is the truest telling of Jack the Ripper that I've ever read. It matters not a whit whether Dr. William Gull is actually Jack the Ripper. Nor whether Queen Victoria set the ball rolling with her orders. Nor whether Abberline actually fell for one of the prostitutes. Nor whether the Freemasons had their hands all over the deeds in Whitechapel. Nor whether Druitt was sacrificed to keep the peace and maintain power dynamics. Nor whether Sickert was involved. Nor whether industrialized, fin-de-siècle, London was our clearest real world dystopia.
What matters is that Alan Moore's writing and Eddie Campbell's artistry uncover a deep emotional and philosophical truth about the reverberations of the smallest actions in the world. The smallest and the biggest. What matters is that they recognize that their tale is nothing more than a tale told from their perspective. What matters is that they painstakingly researched anything and everything that had to do with that autumn in East London, that they rode every ripple from the epicentre no matter how far it took them in time and space, that every decision they made was conscious, and that the sum of that conscious work offered a hyperreality of that definitive event in the life of London that encapsulates the beauty of our existence within the ugliest of events. That is the truth they uncovered: the beauty of living in the ugliest of circumstance.
Theirs is an astounding achievement that transcends the graphic novel medium. It is not simply the greatest graphic novel ever written (though it is that), it is also one of the greatest five stories I have ever read. I would put it up there with Hamlet and Gravity's Rainbow and The Outsider and Wuthering Heights (forgive me this list ... I've not read some others that are undoubtedly great and perhaps deserving of my praise).
From Hell is not for the delicate of heart. I demands work. It demands that you stare at the horror and not simply turn the page with a desire to get past the horror because Moore and Campbell demand that you engage with the horror and cut deep, to the bone, to discover what it is that makes us terrible and wonderful.
The changes this masterpiece (superior to Watchmen and The Killing Joke and V for Vendetta) have wrought on storytelling, on the comic form and even on me are unclear at the moment. But they will be real, and with the benefit of hindsight they will be traceable to From Hell....more
Whenever I read Shakespeare, I always find myself longing to be back in Rome watching the assassination of Caesar. So I do just that.
I read Hamlet foWhenever I read Shakespeare, I always find myself longing to be back in Rome watching the assassination of Caesar. So I do just that.
I read Hamlet for class, and I immediately pick up Caesar. I read one of the plays I've been meaning to get to, and I immediately pick up Caesar. I catch a late night TV showing of Much Ado About Nothing or Othello, and I immediately pick up Ceasar. It feels like home to me.
It contains the elements that make Shakespeare's great plays great (at least to me). Death as the great equalizer. The corruption of power. Errors in judgement. The indecision that "goodness" necessitates. The supernatural as an inescapable motivator. The manipulative power of speech.
It's an old friend, is Julius Caesar. My son's middle name is Cesar, and at least part of the reason for that is my love of this play. It is always on my mind, even when I am not reading other Shakespeare. Yet I cannot watch the Brando/Mason film of the play (too daunting); and I've never actually seen it staged (when I wasn't involved).
I want to play Brutus some day soon. Then maybe Cassius before it's too late. And then Caesar when my hair is all grey. Maybe by then Milos Ernest Cesar can play Antony. Now that would be cool. ...more
iii. Finished, but I need some time to let this sink in. The review is coming.
iv.One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about non-conformity. It is also about the horrors of the mental health system circa the late ‘50s & early ‘60s. I am sure it is about some other things I didn’t pick up this time around. But it is also about metaphor, and that was the theme in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that most spoke to me.
Chief Bromden is the narrator, you see, and he is schizophrenic. Some would say he is an unreliable narrator because of his hallucinations. I think those people are wrong. I don’t see his opening statement as an admission or a warning:
I been silent so long now it’s going to roar out of me like floodwaters and you think this is too horrible to have really happened, this is too awful to be the truth! But, please. It’s still hard for me to have a clear mind thinking on it. But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.
I see this as a declaration that just because he is schizophrenic, just because he sees the world differently from you, doesn’t invalidate what he’s seen and what he’s been through. It is a declaration of his reliability, and one that I heeded throughout my reading.
Because, you see, like many schizophrenics, Chief is aware that all the things he sees may not be there, or aren’t there for everyone. He knows that people around him will call him crazy when he is fogged in or trying to clean the green filth from the walls of the meeting room. He knows that people will shun him for the way he sees the world, so he – or Ken Kesey – needs you to know that he recognizes your biases before he even starts telling this story, and he needs you to hear him despite that, not just listen with a condescending head pat for the poor crazy Injun. Some of the things he sees may intrude on what you call reality, but reality is still there amidst the "crazy" stuff.
And oh! what he sees. He isn’t just witness to a battle of dominance-submission-freedom. He isn’t just a witness to sadism and selfishness. He isn’t just a witness to hope. He isn’t just a witness to change. He is gifted the ability to see metaphor. For you, metaphor is a tool with which you understand the world. Your brain takes some input, filters it through metaphor, and out comes your meaning. But the Chief takes some input and that input suddenly becomes the metaphor and that meaning is the metaphor. Perhaps that’s what all schizophrenics see. Perhaps that’s their “illness.” Perhaps it’s their gift. An ability to see metaphor as a physical construct, for metaphor to cease being a filter and become reality.
And that was the book for me. Despite all the great characters, despite the battle for control that rages between Ratched and McMurphy, despite the damage done and the control won and lost and won and lost, I was totally focused on the journey through Chief’s mind. I get him. And I love him. And I still love Milos Foreman’s film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest -- good thing too since I named my son after Foreman -- because the film and the book are two completely different works. They are akin. No doubt. And they are both beautiful. But they are too different (in delivery) to be considered the same.
My mind was blown.
v. I guess I'll have to add this to my "crazier-than-a-lobotomized-mcmurphy" shelf, even thought it isn't crazy at all....more
WARNING: This "review" (if you can call it that) contains some veiled but serious spoilers. Only read this review if you've read Kraken or aren't planWARNING: This "review" (if you can call it that) contains some veiled but serious spoilers. Only read this review if you've read Kraken or aren't planning to read it for some time.
Star Trekiteuthis: The Original Series Episode: TOS 061 - Spock's Brain Season 3 Ep. 1 Air Date: 09/20/1968 Stardate: 5431.4
The U.S.S. Architeuthis is on a routine mission in its preservative bottle when a riffling, ink stained, paper tiger beams into the National History Museum. Without a word, the tiger reorders the ink of its pages and everyone is rendered unconscious. It moves around the Museum until finally it comes to Miéville. Smiling an inky smile, it lays a hand on the author's head, as if it's found what it was looking for.
When Wati Kirk awakes, Miéville is gone from the Museum. Before the labour organizer can find out where his author has gone, Dane Parnell calls, demanding his presence immediately. Miéville's body lays on a diagnostic table, on full life support. Dane Parnell explains that his brain is gone ... miraculously removed with some technology that the Kraken Agent has never seen before. Every nerve was sealed and there was no blood lost. However, Parnell tells him if the author's brain isn't returned to his body within 24 hours, Miéville will die.
Wati Kirk orders the city's familiars to pursue the paper tiger. By following its lack, the Architeuthis arrives at the Sea's embassy in Varmin Way. When Wati Kirk and party shift inside, they find a soaked, underwater world inhabited by two villains: Grisamentum, who is comprised of ink and paper, and the Tattoo, a crime lord tattoed onto the back of a man named Paul. While Grisamentum is resurrected in the liquid body of ink, he doesn't fully understand the power of metaphor. Only the "Great Prophet" -- a.k.a. Billy Harrow -- has this knowledge, and he was left behind by ancient squid cultists (or bottle angels) who once lived on the planet.
Dane, having borrowed a device which will control Miéville's body without the aid of his brain, goes with the author to join Wati Kirk and his party. They find Grisamentum, the tiger who came into the Museum. They quickly realize that Gris doesn't have the skill or knowledge to have understood the operation on Miéville, and the Londonmancers tell them about the Great Prophet.
Finally, Wati Kirk finds Miéville's brain. The Tattoo has hooked it up to control his main thug, Goss and Subby. The brain is now revered by the thug as the "Controller," which the thug hopes will fulfill his (its? their?) murderous thirst for the next 10,000 years. After trying unsuccessfully to get Gris to repeat the operation on Miéville in reverse, Dane submits to the Great Prophet and gains the knowledge of metaphor needed to restore Miéville's brain and save both the author's life and all their existences.
Without his Controller, Goss and Subby succumb to the wrath of Paul who conquers his Tattoo. Wati Kirk suggests the familiars go on strike once more, and Grisamentum's attack on Miéville never-was.
Cormac McCarthy is talking about big things in Blood Meridian, and he is doing them extremely well. But what are those big things? Is he talking about violence? The sacred? Violence and the sacred? Is it war, as the judge says? Is McCarthy talking about ineluctability of humanity and humanism? Is he talking about hubris? The divine in man? The divine itself? Is he talking about the cost of living? The cost of being conscious? The cost of being a killer species that pretends to avoid its murderousness? The cost of conscience? The worth of conscience? Or is it all of these and more at once?
And then I wonder whose story this is. Is it the kid's? The judge's? The U.S.A.'s? Everyone's? Is it our story? Is this the story of mankind? Is this a gospel of man?
And just who is the judge? Is he a nation? Is he the devil? Is he an immortal? Is he merely a man? Is he mankind itself? A mirror held up to make us shudder? Is he the übermensch while the kid is man? Is the judge Yahweh the vengeful? Is his violence born of love? Of hate? Of necessity? Of desire? Of fulfillment? Of being human?
And how does this book slip under the radar of those who would ban books (though, perhaps it doesn't; I haven't researched that yet)? It is the single most violent text I have ever read (except The Bible). It's far more violent than American Psycho or A Clockwork Orange and just as graphic. Is it that the bulk of the violence -- though nowhere near all -- takes place amongst men engaged in a pseudo-war (I say "pseudo" because it is a personal, paid, roving genocide perpetrated by Glanton and his men, and while what they do is what warriors everywhere and always do, to call it war feels like ennobling their acts)? Is it that the violence is so beyond anything we're familiar with (apart from a couple of Tarantino movies) that we are quickly desensitized and can't help accepting what's put before us? Or is it that violence on that scale and of that much detached cruelty is so deeply a part of what humanity is that we are enervated by its familiarity?
My answer is that "I don't know. I'm not sure." And the contemplation of these questions (I am positive I have missed a few that I will remember later) is far from over.
That was me, that is your humble commentator, sitting down to pass my glazzies over a book eemyaed A Clockwork Orange'What's it going to be then, eh?'
That was me, that is your humble commentator, sitting down to pass my glazzies over a book eemyaed A Clockwork Orange I'd sobirated from the biblio. I was ready to be tolchocked in my litso, to have my mozg pried out of my gulliver, to feel that sickening drop in the yarbles when falling from a great tower block; I expected to be preached to by that nadmenny veck A. Burgess in all his high goloss; I expected to loathe Alex and all his malenky malchick droogs. But by Bog or God I got something much more horrorshow.
I actually enjoyed A. Burgess's nadsat burble. I found veshches -- like all the ultra violence and razrezzing and oobivatting and twisted radosty -- to be oomily delivered. I ponied where little Alex was coming from and raged against the millicents and infintmins and prestoopniks and bolnoy sophistos that were arrayed against him. I actually guffed and smecked at like many veshches. But I nearly platched at how malenky little Alex saw the error of his ways and looked forward to a life of chai and a zheena and malenky vecks of his own.
But once I viddied the story like once I wanted rookerfuls, and I've returned again and again, both to A. Burgess's book and S. Kubrick's sinny.
A Clockwork Orange is one of the five or six true greats ever govoreeted. The nadsat isn't at all gimmicky. The lomticks of philosophy are compelling and grow in relevance with the passing of raz. And I for one, oh my brothers, will always "remember the little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal."
Now he was a chelloveck of malevolently heroic proportions....more
For me, Meursault is a hero. Not for killing the Arab on the beach -- which was carried out with far more motivation than I expected -- but for his toFor me, Meursault is a hero. Not for killing the Arab on the beach -- which was carried out with far more motivation than I expected -- but for his total refusal to bullshit. He is a human stripped of our indoctrination to seek ease through conformity, leaving him as human as a human can be. For that, Meursault is a hero to me. And so is Camus....more
We book lovers can’t help speaking of authors as “the next ....” We’re always keeping our eyes open for the next Jane Austen or the next Ernest HemingWe book lovers can’t help speaking of authors as “the next ....” We’re always keeping our eyes open for the next Jane Austen or the next Ernest Hemingway or the next Salman Rushdie or the next Ursula K. LeGuin, and we gleefully trumpet their arrival in our reviews. Of course, what we really ought to be looking for is the first China Miéville, the first Lisa Moore, the first Neal Stephenson, the first Iain Banks, the first whomever. When we find those authors who are truly themselves, we’ve really uncovered gold.
There is a comparison that is valuable, however. It doesn’t place impossible expectations on burgeoning authors; it doesn’t reduce the work they are doing; it simply places them in the context of literary history and points us in the direction of their progenitors. What I am talking about is authorial inheritance. There are some authors who, for whatever reason or in whatever way, have “inherited” a technique or a focus or an obsession from an established author and somehow built upon what came before.
Tolkien’s world building, especially linguistically, is legendary. He knew everything there was to know about the races, religions, languages and histories of Middle Earth. It remains a world of immense richness, and Fantasy authors of every generation have aspired to create worlds that match Tolkien’s genius.
I don’t think Vandermeer is one of those authors, at least not consciously. I don’t think he’s sitting down with his scribbled maps and booklets of backstories and rules of behaviour, aspiring to be the next Tolkien.
Yet what Vandermeer has done is create a world every bit as alive and teeming as Tolkien’s, and he has done it in a way that is unique to his time and personal experience and place in the world (a Pannsylvanian born, Fiji raised, Floridian).
Can you imagine a world where the grey skinned alien invaders people fear come from below, not from above, and are living, breathing fungus beings? Jeff Vandermeer can. Can you imagine a world where historians and artists are the venerated celebrities of the day, rather than actors and athletes? Vandermeer can. Can you imagine a world where weapons of mass destruction are fungal weapons that alter the world in a fearful burst of steampunky modernity? Vandermeer can.
But Vandermeer doesn’t stop at these peculiarities. He produces artifacts for reproduction, like a fungus rotted page from Janice Shriek’s Afterword, complete with Duncan Shriek’s annotations, and reproduces it in Sirin’s Afterword to her Afterword. He offers us photos of Janice’s mushroom overrun typewriter, the key artefact of her writing process, the green, glowing keys she writes about as she writes about her brother and Mary Sabon and Ambergris and herself.
And Vandermeer doesn’t stop there either. He invites bands into his world to write soundtracks for the works he’s writing. He hints at characters whose roots might be our world, madmen trapped in Ambergrisian madhouses. He offers histories of commerce and religion every bit as alive as the creations of any other world builder. And there’s more, so much more. It's in City of Saints and Madmen. It's in Finch. It's in Vandermeer's mind.
Vandermeer lives and breathes Ambergris and cities and nations it competes with, and all its environs, and his world is always expanding, always becoming. In its own way, Vandermeer’s world is as alive and important as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and he has one leg up on the old master. He’s still alive, still working, and Vandermeer’s world can continue to grow.
Wuthering Heights is many things. A late-gothic ghost story. A tale of love and revenge. A chronicle of violence -- physical, mental, emotional and soWuthering Heights is many things. A late-gothic ghost story. A tale of love and revenge. A chronicle of violence -- physical, mental, emotional and social. A dark peek into human nature. A condemnation of England's broken class system. A sort of anti-Austen book without manners.
I've loved it since I first read it in grade eight. It's another of the books my crazy cool Mom foisted upon me in her big, three year pushing of classics that defined my reading tastes for the rest of my life. I love the book so much, and Emily Brontë's leading man, that I named my daughter Brontë (dooming her, no doubt, to a life of pain, depression, and unfinished business, sorry Të).
This time through, however, I found myself not caring a whit about Heathcliff and Catherine the Older, or Hareton and Catherine the Younger, or Edgar, or Isabella, or Linton the king whinger. I found myself caring about Nelly Dean, and only Nelly Dean. And in so doing I discovered another thing that Wuthering Heights is: the most circuitous character sketch in the English language.
To read Wuthering Heights caring only about Nelly is to read an entirely different story. Suddenly the ill-fated love of Heathcliff and Cathy -- the torture and pain and ghosts and revenge -- becomes the way Nelly reveals herself, and the unreliability of Nelly as a narrator becomes the very stuff of herself. Every action she comments on, every action she claims to take, every piece of those tales she tells Lockwood cease to be about her subjects and, instead, reveal her as the subject. She is the star of her own narrative, and all those characters she claims to love or hate are mere supporting players to a servant's tale of herself. Which, for me, makes Wuthering Heights even more brilliant than I've always believed it to be.
I wonder what a stage version of this would look like if one were to use Nelly's perspective AND make her the focus, subverting her attempts to obfuscate her importance. Maybe I should take a crack at it. Or maybe I could just pass the idea on to my very own Brontë. I bet she could do something magnificent with it someday....more
Comedy is tough to do well, even by those who create it, but it is even tougher to go back and restage past comedies for modern audiences. The easy exComedy is tough to do well, even by those who create it, but it is even tougher to go back and restage past comedies for modern audiences. The easy explanation is that humour is such a product of its time that audiences are simply not capable of getting the jokes -- not truly. There may be something to that, but I think the real problem is more complex, and I think it can be remedied.
Most comedies, particularly those that hold up and become memorable classics, tell their jokes to make a point. Great comedies are generally political, either explicitly or implicitly, and the laughs spring out of the message(s) being delivered. On the surface, again, the time distance between a comedy's creation and restaging could be blamed for any problems. Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, for instance, satirizes the Victorian era in which it was written, so modern audiences simply don't have inherent access to the shared experiences that would have made The Importance of Being Earnest easily accessible to its audiences.
Yet I don't consider these problems of time insurmountable. The real problem arises in the way directors and actors approach classic comedies. It is not so much their or the audience's understanding of the setting as it is what they choose to emphasize in their restaging. Restagings of comedies invariably focus on the humour, and in doing so they deliver the humour humourously. Everything is an attempt to be funny, so the restaging becomes about buffoonery, slapstick, the obviously funny, and the subtleties of great comedies are drowned out by the vuvuzuela cacophony of silliness.
The most recent screen adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest is a prime example. Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Reese Witherspoon, Francis O'Connor and even Dame Judi Dench -- under the misguided direction of Oliver Parker -- do everything they can for cheap laughs, making their characters a pack of blithering, over-the-top idiots rather than the trivially serious idiots Wilde intended them to be (the play is subtitled, after all, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People).
The key to The Importance of Being Earnest, as with so many comedies from the past, is to play it straight. The comedy is in the writing rather than the performance. Algernon and Jack are written to believe the inane things they say, they are also written to believe the brilliant things they say, and it is their belief in who they are, silly as that may be, that makes them genuinely funny. It is the genius of Wilde: to make us believe that his characters believe in themselves. But when the people restaging Wilde don't believe that his characters believe, when they don't believe in the characters themselves, they wind up being too silly by far. (e.g. they have Algernon prance around in plate mail armor while wooing Cecily).
Yep, playing comedy for laughs is a mistake. Comedy is a serious business, and when it is performed seriously it is vastly funnier than comedy performed foolishly. The laughs will come, they don't need to be shopped for.
So if you ever have a chance to see The Importance of Being Earnest onstage, I hope that you find a group of performers who are playing it seriously, delivering the jokes with the conviction that Jack and Algy should have rather than delivering the jokes as jokes. If you do the time it was written, the distance between now and then won't matter one wit. You'll see a comedy as fresh and relevant and genuinely funny as anything being written today -- and The Importance of Being Earnest will forever be one of your favourites. I promise....more
The reasons are myriad: my mother hated Austen (a disdFor a lover of books, I came to Pride and Prejudice (P&P from now on) very, very, very late.
The reasons are myriad: my mother hated Austen (a disdain she took to the grave without ever explaining), so she never recommended her to me; I was a boy in the '70s and a teen in the '80s and even though I loved Barbra Streisand, ABBA, Wham!, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran (and...yes...I still do) I wasn't about to let people know that, and since I carried whatever book I was reading with me wherever I went, I wasn't about to let myself get caught in possession of a literary chick flick; I played tons of D&D and there's no room for P&P when you're busy writing new spells and fragging Orcs with exploding eggs; and when I began studying literature in earnest, in my undergrad years, I was more taken with the Lost Generation than any other generation, so I spent most of my time steeped in the early-Twentieth Century.
I finally bumped into Ms. Austen in grad school. I took a course that covered all her novels, but even there I skipped over P&P. The reading list was her entire body of work, and the A&E P&P miniseries, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle -- which remains an excellent adaptation of P&P -- was big at the time; it saved me from having to read P&P along with S and S and E and P and NA and MP. I took part in the P&P discussions, albeit sparingly, and wrote my papers on E and P, eschewing P&P for the books I knew well.
But P&P wasn't about to let me off that easily. You see...my wife was a former stage manager turned accountant who wanted to get back into theatre, and one of the profs at school was putting on Love's Labour's Lost. There was a bit of an emergency, and she put out a call to the entire grad community for a stage manager, with any level of skill, to save the production. Enter my wife (who is an amazing stage manager). I gave her the heads up; she became the s.m.; two weeks later I found myself rushing to learn the lines and blocking for Nathaniel to save the show from a second emergency, and suddenly I was an actor.
I was actually pretty darn good (I have only recently bowed out of the craft), and I found myself cast as Mr. Darcy early the following year. Now I had to read P&P.
So I did. And I read Bridget Jones's Diary. And I watched every version of P&P I could get my hands on. And I grew out my mutton chops. And I learned how to dance. And I improved my posture. And I had the most miserable time I have ever had on stage anywhere. My Elizabeth and I grew to loathe one another (I have never worked with a more selfish actress). Our director cast herself in a fairly important role and lost track of actually directing, so the performances were terribly imbalanced. The play adaptation we were working from was butchered beyond recognition, which horrified the writer in me as the playwright was never consulted. And the rehearsals were utterly excruciating.
But that acting gig gave me some great things too. It gave me one of my finest moments on stage (I fell off the thrust in the middle of my first dance with Elizabeth, climbed back on stage and rejoined the dance, never missing a line or breaking character. Whew!) It gave me my first leading role and the confidence that comes along with that. It made me a better playwright (showing me what was actually doable); it made me a better director (teaching me what not to do when in charge of a show); it gave me some everlasting friendships; and, despite all the impediments thrown up by the play, it made me love P&P.
These days I teach P&P every semester or two, and it gets better every time I read it. My twins, now 6, recently watched the mini series for the first time, and they, too, have fallen in love with Darcy and Elizabeth. P&P looks to continue its popularity well beyond my lifetime, and there are few books that deserve such sustained readership as P&P.