Linda's Reviews > Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan
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Nov 25, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, about-books
Read in January, 2010

It was reassuring when I was living alone to have all those familiar presences in the room with me; it was also a little scary. Maybe I was turning into an eccentric whose apartment had become a macrocosmic metaphor for her own fevered mind. I know a fair number of people - some friends or acquaintance, some relatives - who would have wrinkled their noses at those cramped apartments smelling of paper. These people - let's call them the Bounderbys - see books only as commodities. (A refresher: Mr. Bounderby is the "eyes on the bottom line" business whom Dickens lampoons in Hard Times. One advantage of a grad-school degree in English is that you can insult people more elegantly.) "I like bigger books because you get more for your money," a Bounderby one half jokingly confided in me. "I read 'em and I toss 'em," another Bounderby announced when I was visiting her book-free home. Books just don't register with this crowd. They think I lack common sense; I think they lack a part of their souls.

Anne and Emily certainly captured the call of the wild and lonely in their novels, but Charlotte was the sister who ventured the deepest in exploring the terrors of utter isolation. I'm not talking about just the physical experience of being all by your lonesome; no, Charlotte Bronte shoves her readers into the dark prison of the self and throws away the key.

…I do think Austen and her sisters envisioned something much more ambitious in their novels than a bit of literary beefcake served up with a side of clever repartee. These romances continue to captivate readers because they throw together adult men and women with complicated pasts who have to painstakingly work out the terms of their relationships before they achieve wedded harmony. That's the realistic, strikingly contemporary angle to these romances; the fairy-tale aspect enters in when these mostly plain-to-pleasant-looking poor girls win the alpha males by dazzling them with their smarts.
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