Sunday 2 December 2012

Penguin Classics

Every now and again I like to read outside of my comfort zone and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad was certainly that. A perceptive examination of the music industry with its drug casualties, sell-outs, passion and punks.  At times it's brilliant, at others uneven but I did like the kleptomaniac Sasha.  If you've ever sat through a 'death by Powerpoint' presentation at work you will appreciate Egan's creativity with one whole chapter relayed by Powerpoint slides.

I blame Anbolyn and this lovely post for my inability to resist the new clothbound Penguin Classics editions of Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park . I do like the embossed covers and best of all Sense and Sensibility has the original Penguin introduction by that most perceptive of Austen critics Tony Tanner.

Talking of Austen critics The Sky Arts Book Show which seems to have been renamed Mariella's Book Show featured a highly enjoyable interview with John Mullan talking about his excellent book What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved.  Much as I like Mariella (and I always like to check out what she is wearing!) she seemed a bit lukewarm about Austen.  No accounting for taste I suppose.

I like the fact that Jane Austen is down-to-earth about money.  In a letter to her brother she wrote of her pride in receiving royalties for Sense and Sensibility "I have now written myself into £250 and it only makes me long for more."  She knew that women - particularly single women - needed money to survive and thrive. 

The novel is dominated by money.  Mrs Dashwood and her daughters are forced to live in reduced circumstances because of the selfishness of their brother and his appalling wife.  Willoughby marries an heiress rather than Marianne to clear the debts caused by his extravagance.  Mrs Dashwood continually imagines she can live beyond her income and her optimistic speech about her financial outlook is one of the most amusing in the novel.

"I could wish that the stairs were handsome. But one must not expect everything; though I suppose it would be no difficult matter to widen them.  I shall see how much I am beforehand with the world in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly."  In the mean time, till all these alterations could be made from the savings of an income of five hundred a year by a woman who never saved in her life, they were wise enough to be contented with the house as it was ...
Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility,1811


Joanne said...

I love those clothbound Penguin Classics, I'd love to build up a collection of them.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading the John Mullan, Nicola - it's marvellous and making me want to scoop up all of my Austens, take a week off work and start reading!! Love those hardbound classics - I always fondle them in bookshops but am yet to take the plunge and actually buy one!

Audrey said...

Sigh. If I didn't already have a matching set of Jane in Everyman's Library editions (they're nice, too - lovely paper and a ribbon bookmark), and two of the annotated editions, and one of the coffee-table sized annotated editions... I love the look of these editions, and I'll just have to find another author to collect them in. Or, maybe I'll think about a new accessory -- someone on Etsy was making purses out of them!

I would have loved to see the John Mullan program. I'm like Rachel ... I'm ready to start re-reading all six and paying attention to those crucial questions! I also like the fact that he is so unabashedly impressed with her.

Darlene said...

That bright Spring-green edition of Cranford never failed to make me drool a little bit every time I saw it in a bookshop. As a set they certainly are gorgeous!

I wonder if that interview will ever pop up on my podcast list? It's always a good tramp around the park while listening to either of those two talk about books but together...hmmm. Off to find out...thanks, Nicola!

Ellen said...

I agree about "A Visit From The Goon Squad", I thought it was very original and refreshingly quirky. I am also a sucker for a beautiful book cover. The Persephone book covers are to die for, almost too nice to read and crease!

Anbolyn said...

I'll take the blame for inspiring you to buy these pretty books!

Sense & Sensibility is my favorite Austen, but I haven't read it for several years - Emma, though, is going to be my next since I've never been able to complete it!

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

ooh - clothbound classics - where is my Christmas list! Now you're talking! Don't get that with a Kindle! xCathy

Penny said...

Nicola, Jane and I were positively drooling over these beautifully bound books the other day. But as we each have perfectly good and readable paperback editions, I don't suppose we could justify the expense. However, if the Lottery numbers come up, it'll be a different story.

I wonder if we have that programme waiting to be watched on Sky+. We have 'series linked' the Book Show and still have a few to watch... How do you take a book programme presenter seriously if she doesn't love JA? But I do love the Book Show and have withdrawal symptoms when it's not on...

Vintage Reading said...

Joanne, at least with Austen you only have to collect six! Couldn't afford Trollope or Dickens ...

Rachel, Mullan is wonderful on Austen isn't he? Perceptive and witty.

Audrey, I know, I've got the Everyman's Austens, too. My excuse is that there are only six novels in the series!

Darlene, yes I've seen the Cranford. Wouldn't mind re-reading it actually, love Gaskell's gentle humour.

Ellen, some people collect designer shoes and handbags, we
collect books!

Anbolyn, S&S is my current favourite, too. Good luck with Emma!

Cathy, no, you can't stroke a Kindle ...!

Penny, yup, if a book blogger won the lottery it wouldn't be a house or a car or a holiday, just a new pile of Austens!