It’s not you, Jane. It’s me.

I can only attribute it to mental failure resulting from my advanced age. I thought I was doing a pretty good job keeping the brain nimble by doing challenging mental work.

But if that’s true, how do I explain being unable to read Jane Austen’s Emma?

I’ve read Austen in the past. I recall enjoying Pride and Prejudice quite a lot. I made it through Sense and Sensibility, which I’m told is not the author’s best. Everyone speaks well of Emma.

But I couldn’t bear it. It bored me sick. I didn’t find much to like in any of the characters, except perhaps Mr. Knightly – and he isn’t around that much in the first fifth of the book, which is as far as I got. I especially disliked Mr. Woodhouse. Since I subscribe to the Law of Perverse Criticism (a theory of my own invention, which says that anything that really irritates you is probably something you do yourself), that indicates I’m probably a lot like that fussy old man.

I hereby turn in my Literary Snob card. I hang my head in shame.

Now I’m reading a book about the Lewis Chess Men. That one’s keeping my lowbrow interest.

5 thoughts on “It’s not you, Jane. It’s me.”

  1. Especially after, say, 50, one may generally bail out of a book one doesn’t have to read, and which isn’t a case of “OUGHT to read, if it’s not holding one’s interest. Up to that point, though, often one should stick with it if it is an old, established classic in which one had taken an interest, because perhaps one would be glad after all to have tackled it and completed it.

    I relish Mr. Woodhouse, myself, with his fussing over his gruel and so on.

    The reading group I used to host was mostly women. It seemed that women did not like Emma. My feeling was that I would have seen her as at fault and still found her interesting.

    I’m about halfway through King John; then it’s Henry VIII, and then I will have read all the Shakespeare plays. I’d made false starts on both before. But I really want to do this.

    Dale Nelson

  2. I have read all of Austen’s novels and I, too, found this one a bit of a slog at first. The author herself said Emma was not a likeable character. I was glad I finished it because Emma definitely gets her comeuppance and grows into a better person, so that you actually root for her in the end.

  3. Jane herself knew Emma was an unsympathetic character. She wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” I love Emma, both the book and the character, but it is largely because Emma is so terrible, her father is so terrible, and Mr. Knightly is so wonderfully snarky to Emma about all her shortcomings. But, then, I also liked Mansfield Park and that is famously unliked. 🙂

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