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This is about Jane Austen
I thought I’d share some mature thoughts on Lisa Robertson’s magic powers but instead I’m thinking about Jane Austen. She’s really come down in the world. My parents were watching some PBS bodice-ripper a few months ago, and it took me several minutes to discern that it was a hotted-up Pride & Prejudice. Lots of longing and heavy breathing in between those elegant sentences. (I know I sound Puritanical but I’ve recently realized I am a Puritan.)
Sentences are what fascinated me so much, I think, about Jane Austen’s novels, when I was a developing poet, ages oh twelve through nineteen is about the peak of my engagement with what I now realize ARE truly romances. I used to always point to Austen as a strong influence, alongside Henry James, and what I thought I was talking about was the absoluteness of the precision with which her characters express themselves and with which she defines their motives. Sentences are there to be reported, broken, or completed, in poems, and I have loved doing all of these.
But I have to admit to a clinical disappointment reading Persuasion, her last novel, during a recent bout with Lyme disease. Granted I was sporting Fever 103 and all its attendant visions (one audio hallucination that I could perfectly “mix” a Crosby Stills & Nash song with a Radiohead song–they blended so beautifully–gone forever), but this was like a reverse hallucination: The novel stripped of all its language-aura, a pedestrian strapping together of elements of plot that Must Come Together, the sentences workmanlike. I wonder if I ought to go to Charlotte Bronte now.