The Best Shelf Defense Is a Good Shelf Offense: Pride and Prejudice

To cap off finishing the first letter of Shelf Defense, I bought one extra, essential book that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten around to anytime soon. This was done totally 100% as part of a well thought-out plan, and not in any way because I’m still impulsively buying way more books than I should. Just so we’re clear. I’ll try and keep to this pattern as we go, time permitting (dear lord, time permitting…).

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THOUGHTS: What follows is strictly a practical, what-can-this-book-do-for-me-now kind of reaction. Obviously the book has historical merit. That’s why I sought it out, and that’s why I’m glad to have read it, no matter what. However: I could not figure this thing out. And it’s not that I’m a boy, and therefore unable to read at length about icky feelings (in fact I think Austen is uncommonly good at writing about them). It’s just that I can’t work up the energy to get invested in a world where the stakes are so obviously piddling and outdated—several variations on “But what will the neighbours think?!” I was glad to see Elizabeth call out Lady Catherine as an over-perfumed gasbag, and the father is fun, but mostly you feel suffocated by those starchy collars by proxy. And let’s not forget about Mister Darcy: Convincing Young Women To Pursue Emotional Bear Traps For 199 Years And Counting.

More interesting to me is Austen’s narration, whose free indirect style hops from one character to the next like static cling. That habit she has of suddenly paraphrasing extremely important dialogue (eg. Darcy’s response to Elizabeth at the book’s climax) is strange, too. Was this a common practice back then? I don’t recall coming across it before.

Posting Austen quotes last week won me a bunch of new followers; this will probably send them right back out the door. Don’t worry: I didn’t like Jane Eyre, or Mad Men, or Stoner, either. Chafing against obviously unjust social decorum is always going to be unbelievably boring to me. At this point it’s basically heroism- and romance-by-numbers. Far more interesting would be the person who happily goes along with said social decorum, and rationalizes it, and knows how to get the most out of it. So forget Cinderella; I’ll take Drizella’s story any day of the week.


  1. 52books said: Love it when people don’t like the obvious! Seriously, I do. I do it all the time. That said, I am a sucker for “romance by the numbers” type books. They get me every time! And for that I am not sorry.
  2. mediumdensity said: Really *novel* way of talking about literature, this series. I had very similar experience with Hardy’s Tess of the d’urbervilles… just couldn’t engage with the outmoded social context. Though greatly admired his prose, in places.
  3. othernotebooksareavailable said: WHOOOOSH - What was that? A massive breath of fresh air. Thank you for your nuanced and honest review.
  4. booksinthekitchen posted this