08 October 2011

Bits and Bobs

Do you have an ear for Austen?
My dad recently read his very first Austen (Pride and Prejudice) and Bronte (Jane Eyre). He enjoyed his experience (and has moved on to The Tenants of Wildfell Hall) but he had a question for me: "Did they really talk that way?"  My first thought was "of course they did". But then I began to wonder if that was truly the case. Obviously I understand that verbal communication during the eras of Austen and Bronte would have sounded much different then our own today. But was it indeed as formal and convoluted as depicted in the works of the authors of those eras? I guess my real question is: Was there anything about the conventions of novel writing at the time that would have had authors writing narrative in a more formal style than the way they would have spoken in daily life? Thoughts anyone?

My reading life
It has been a while since I finished a book which would suggested that I am not reading much these days. The truth of the matter is that I have many things in progress and one of these days there will be an avalanche of books finished in close succession. (Lessing, Shute, du Maurier, Sarton and more all hovering near completion.)

Update on e-books
I have said many times that e-books are not the thing for me. Of course that was before I tried them. I decided to take my very expensive Scrabble machine (also known as an iPad) and try out an e-book. Not willing to pay for a test model I downloaded some free Trollope. It took me about 30 seconds to reach a verdict. No, e-books are still not for me. Blech. Fooey. Not interested. Glad you all like them, but I will die reading from dead trees. But speaking of trees...they are a renewable resource that can be managed responsibly and books are essentially biodegradable. E-books on the other hand are a pile of non-renewable metals and petroleum-based materials that are not only not biodegradable, but leave a pretty toxic trail at all points of their life cycle. Not to mention the fact that even in broad daylight one is using electricity to read a book. Think about that. "My book is powered by coal..." Of course I own the iPad (not to mention a computer and TV and TiVo and on and on) so my environmental footprint is no smaller than all of you reading e-books. So I guess it all gets back to my love for the look, feel, and smell of paper.

Dewey's Readathon coming up
The annual Dewey's 24-hour Readathon is coming up on 10/22 (I think) and I am not sure if I am going to participate. I kind of enjoyed myself last year, but there was something about it that felt a bit like a weekend killer. I don't mind devoting a weekend to reading but I really don't like trying to stay awake to cleave to the 24-hour format. I have never really liked staying up beyond about 1:30. I feel like it just turns the next day all topsy turvy. Plus I think the need to go online every few hours to blog about my progress is too disruptive to the cosiness of reading. Perhaps most importantly for me,  I only really enjoy extended periods of reading if I have a book that has me so enthralled I can't put it down. I obviously read a lot of books but I tend to do it in short bursts and in stolen moments (commuting, before bed, etc.) And unless I have one of those page-turners, which even among wonderful books are pretty scarce, I just won't enjoy hours and hours of reading over a specific period. So I think the short answer is that I am going to allow myself the opportunity for lots of reading on the readathon weekend but I am not going to  force it. If it happens it happens. (And I will go to bed at a normal time, and watch TV, and surf the web, and hang out with John and Lucy...)


  1. Re talking like Austen, I recently read that not only did they talk that way, but they also pronounced the words quite differently than we do now, looking at the same spelling.

  2. Good question about Austen -- I vaguely remember that writing was more formal than spoken English, but that may have been another era. I'm going to the JASNA convention this week, I'll see if I can find out!

    And I have to agree with you about paper books. I do love a good audio book when I'm in the car, but somehow an e-reader seems kind of cold and impersonal, not to mention the carbon footprint. And what would you do on a desert island? No way to power it up!

    It's probably silly, but I don't think I'd get the feeling of accomplishment scrolling through pages as I do when I finish a paper book, especially a real doorstop like a Victorian. I don't think I'll ever give up traditional books.

  3. I've downloaded a couple of books to my iPad, but just can't seem to read them for more than a minute or two. It doesn't feel right ..... I need those dead trees, too!

    Good question about Jane Austen's conversations. I've wondered the same thing myself. Will be curious to see what Karen finds out.

  4. Forgot to check the subscribe box :-)

  5. I'll wager that the speaking style in the early 19th century was as different from today's as the writing style is. I'll also wager that 19th century writing is probably much closer to actual speech than 21st century writing.

    When people talk, they wander all over the place, throwing in a long series of subordinate clauses, multiple coordinating conjunctions in a single sentence, opportunities for dashes and semicolons abounding. Modern writing has streamlined dialogue making it far more economical than actual speech really is. It may appear realistic on the page, and it is much easier to read, but I think Austen and Bronte are probably closer to actual speech.

  6. I'm pretty certain that Austen's characters speak the way Austen herself would have spoken.

  7. I think they did talk that way. If you read letters and diaries from that period, the language is similar. Granted, they could write those differently as well, but somehow I can't imagine the way they spoke was drastically different from the way they wrote, formally and informally.

    I'm with you on books. I love me a "real" book. Among the many benefits--I'm closing in on the end of War and Peace. When I'm done, I can hold that sucker up and say, "Look at all these pages I read!" Hard to celebrate the heft of War and Peace on an e-reader.

  8. As you know, I like my e-reader just fine, but I get grumpy about the people who proclaim how green their e-readers are because they aren't killing trees. From what I've read, it's a wash between the two, once you've read about 40 books on the e-reader. But that's on a single reader, which means not upgrading every time a new one comes along. I'll keep my old Sony going until it dies, as much as I'd like a newer one with a little less glare.

    I'm signed up for the Readathon, but I learned a while back not to stay up later than I feel inclined to. And I don't update much on my blog, mostly on Twitter. I just consider it a way of making myself take a day to read to (but not beyond) my heart's content, and I always donate something to a literacy charity as part of the festivities.

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  10. I think the austen question is great I m sure they did speak in a way we'd find hard to understand these days ,but language is fluid so sure todays books will seem the same in two hundred years ,all the best stu

  11. Your reading sounds like mine these days -- many going at once, and ALL from dead trees. :)

  12. As you might remember my dissertation research was focused more or less on Regency England (although on music criticism in periodicals). My verdict, having read LOTS of periodicals, letters, diaries, and journals, is that, yes, they did talk that way.

    This was brought home recently when reading McCullough's John Adams, which is largely composed from family letters. Even the most intimate letters between husband and wife, or between tweener kids and parents are phrased with this kind of formality.

  13. Jill: I think the pronounciation thing shows up in some poetry where rhymes don't make sense to our modern ears.

    Karen: I think some of the readers show a percentage read on the screen, but it isn't the same thing as seeing the bookmark move further and further back in the book.

    JoAnn: I think I would probably do it for an out of print title, but I haven't come across that yet.

    CB: You are so right about the difference between modern speech and writing.

    Harriet: That seems to be the consenus.

    Amy: War and Peace can only be enjoyed in doorstop print versions.

    Teresa: I think I will do the same on the readathon.

    Stu: Crazy to think of how people may talk in 200 years.

    Susan: I will be glad to clean up the in progress pile.

    Steve: I didn't remember what your research was on. I remember the notecards but not the content of them. I am often oddly rather incurious about things. Especially back then. Your answer is a good one. If it was on one of those websites where users vote on the best answer I would vote for yours.

  14. The only time I craved an eReader was when Atticus was newborn and nursing 24/7. I was trying to read Gaskell with one hand and it didn't work well.

    I agree with you on readathon. This year I'm not cheerleading and I plan on blogging every 3-4time hours. I can never manage a solid 24 hors, but i'll try for 12-15the hours with breaks.

  15. Recently, a publisher of an author I enjoy sent me her new book via amazon kindle. I downloaded it to my phone to 'give it a try' but was so disappointed. I had a hard time connecting to the 'book' and after finishing (waste not want not)deleted the app from my phone. I simply cannot establish a connection with an electronic device!


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