Sunday, July 03, 2011

Traveling, Reading in the Car, & Mansfield Park

Yesterday we drove four hours to our destination.  We came, we saw, we conquered; then we turned around and drove home.  I know, it's insanity, but there are a lot of explorers who also want to avoid Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" at a free concert on the 4th of July weekend. 

And we chatted along the way.

There was lots to talk about.  The state government almost shut down this week, the new Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts movie was declared a flop, the Republicans are raging about their evangelism (what happened to separation of church and state?), and, by the way, what baseball team tied for first place?

I guessed Omaha.  Guess what?  Omaha doesn't have a team.

Then there were various personal things.   

But after awhile, we were thoroughly tired.  

This was my cue to read.  But what can you read in the car?

I read one page of John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun. I admire this book, but after 300 pages I'm thoroughly sick of politics. Don't worry, this isn't the only book I rejected.   I stared at Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.  Adorable, yes?  But these linked stories don't entice me.  Sorry, Karen, but you know I liked Sarah Canary and The Sweetheart Season.

So what can you do?  I didn't like the men's book; I didn't like the women's book.

I switched to Austen's Mansfield Park

I've been reading Jane Austen all summer since a doddering V. S. Naipaul denounced her. (I hope that was just foot-in-mouth disease.)  And this time around I love Mansfield Park.  It used to be my least favorite.

Fanny Price, the reserved, mousy heroine of Mansfield Park, is smouldering with love under the surface but is also highly moral.  MP is not a comedy--I've resigned myself to that.  Then you realize Fanny is nothing like Elizabeth Bennet or Emma, and you stop worrying about it.  Austen is not going to entertain you here the same way.

Don't writers get sick of themselves?  Persuasion also was more serious.

The Crawfords, who move in and flirt with Fanny's cousins, are amusing, but they're slick and sometimes hurtful, and as the novel goes on, we understand Fanny's dislike of them. 

Miss Crawford urges Fanny to marry her libertine brother, but her argument is fraught with inconsistencies that prove Fanny's good sense.  

"...I look upon the Frasers to be about as unhappy as most other married people.  And yet it was a most desirable match for Janet at the time.  We were all delighted...but he turns out ill-tempered, and exigeant, and wants a young woman of fiver-and-twenty to be as steady as himself.  And my friend does not manage him well; she does not seem to know how to make the best of it."

So we're relieved that Fanny loves Edmund.  Mr. Crawford is like Frank Churchill, only really corrupt, the kind of guy you'd want to avoid in a Gothic novel. 


Life in the Big Grey Victorian On The Corner said...

Persuasion is my favorite Austin book (I am so sorry Mr. Darcy! LOL)

Frisbee said...

Persuasion is SO good!

Ellen said...

I like them all. I do the same thing. In the car we talk and when talk runs out, I read. We have a couple of long day-long and one over a night trips planned. My problem is I sometimes don't choose precisely the right book. One I want to read, so taking along an Austen or Trollope is insurance.

So to speak.

Home today because it's so hot and Jim didn't want to go to Castleton. Nor Izzy.

Everything is so far that we would like, including cooler air.


Frisbee said...

I carry many books in the car, too. The long rides are so tiring. I suppose we could try listening to books on tape.

Austen and Trollope ARE always good. I keep meaning to read more contemporary books and have many on my list. They don't always work out for me, and I was glad to have Mansfield Park.

Vintage Reading said...

I have only appreciated the magnificence of MP since I've hit my forties. I'm fascinated by Lady Bertram who never moves from the sofa. I do have a soft spot for Henry Crawford though.

Frisbee said...

The book improves with age. If only Henry Crawford weren't so...