Saturday, October 13, 2007

Jane Austen -- sort of

I'm having a hard time with The Yiddish Policeman's Union, so I gave up for awhile (in fact I may give up on Michael Chabon altogether) and read Faye Kellerman's The Burnt House and Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club. Kellerman's was typical Kellerman -- a fast read -- but more boring than usual and full of improbable coincidences and a Rina Lazarus who's even more insufferably good than usual ; that's all I'm going to say about that book.

The Jane Austen Book Club: Karen Joy Fowler. The reviews of this book have been really good and I liked the idea of a book club devoted to one author, so I picked this one up. I didn't hate it but I wasn't as enamored of it as the reviewers were. Five women and one man start a book club where all they read is Jane Austen novels. I liked the discussion of the different Austen books and the way in which Fowler segues those discussions into reflections on the characters' lives -- I've seen this done much less skillfully before in Elizabeth Noble's The Reading Group. The characters' personal lives fit Fowler's thesis, stated in the prologue, that "Each of us has a private Austen." Jocelyn is so much like Emma it's a wonder that she herself doesn't remark on it. What I didn't like was the sheer number of characters -- some of them, such as Prudie, seem completely unnecessary to the plot and Fowler spends far too much time dwelling on Prudie's new sexual awareness without doing anything with it. Some characters such as Prudie's husband, whatishisname, are thinly drawn. Other characters, such as Bernadette, are a distraction from the main story, which is really about Allegra, Jocelyn, Sylvia, Daniel and Grigg.

Friday Shuffle -- the late edition
  1. I'm Not Bitter: Minus 5 from Down With Wilco
  2. Bloodletting (The Vampire Song): Concrete Blonde from Bloodletting
  3. I Never: Rilo Kiley from More Adventurous
  4. Me and Baby Jane: Leon Russell from Carney
  5. The Right Place: Taylor Hicks from Taylor Hicks
  6. Promises: Eric Clapton from The Cream of Clapton
  7. Change: Tracy Chapman from Where You Live
  8. Meadowlake Street: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals from Cold Roses
  9. Salala: Angelique Kidjo featuring Peter Gabriel from Djin Djin
  10. Vapour Trail: Aqualung from Memory Man


Marg said...

I'm with you! I thought The Jane Austen Book Club was pretty average when I read it too.

Katya said...

That's a good word for what I thought -- average.

Kristina said...

Man am I jealous of all the reading you get to do! My books read 2007 list is pitifully small. Looking forward to life after grad school! :)

nutmeg said...

Hi Katya! I have to say I was beginning to think I was one of the very few who also thought that The Jane Austen Bookclub was "average". Another term that comes to mind is underwhelming! Honstly, I didn't make any connection between Fowler's characters and Jane Austen's - but I think it was ultimately because I didn't care and was rather bored by this book. I did finish it but remember practically nothing about - that says it all really ;-)

nutmeg said...

Oh and don't tell me that about the Chabon! I couldn't finish Cavalier and Klay but still bought this book, primarily based on the subject matter. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Katya said...

nutmeg: I'm going to try and finish it -- I think it's his writing style that gets to me. I also checked this one out based on the subject matter.

Underwhelming is also a good word for The Jane Austen Book Club. I don't get why the reviewers praised it so highly.