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Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Sometimes I really like these minimalist winter views. Yesterday the fog was such that the eastern horizon of Grand Traverse Bay vanished from sight entirely. After morning fog and afternoon deluge, we have another day of rain in today's foreast, turning (back) to snow tonight. Warm temperatures and non-icy road surfaces have made life temporarily easier in some respects, which is good, since it’s been more difficult in other ways.

Question here: why is it that mechanics have to provide a written estimate before doing anything to your car but doctors can recommend—even order--tests for you with no idea what you’ll have to pay for them? I have to suppose that the idea (rationalization?) is that what you need in terms of health care shouldn't be a matter of cost--but of course it is, for most of us, one way or another. Looked at the other way around, what your car needs is often a matter of safety as well as cost. So isn't it important in both cases, both to get what you need and to know what it's going to cost?

Okay, enough of that. Rather than bog down in complaints, let me turn to books--exactly what I did last night. Call it self-medication. Prescription: books and bed rest.

As a Jane-ite (is that what one says?) of decades, I’ll admit I was surprised last year (having picked it up not expecting a lot) to enjoy very much Paula Marantz Cohen’s JANE AUSTEN IN SCARSDALE, a modern reworking of PERSUASION, one of my favorite Austen novels (and coincidentally, the one I believe was most faithfully translated to the screen in recent years). Cohen has a nice, light touch, making her modern version of the plot neither slavishly imitative nor relentlessly determined to be as wild as our modern times can be. I look forward now to reading her JANE AUSTEN IN BOCA (which preceded SCARSDALE and was a best-seller), and just my wanting to read it tells you how much I enjoyed SCARSDALE.

Yesterday, however, I decided to go out on a different limb, to stop (finally) rolling my eyes and give THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, by Karen Joy Fowler, a try. Fowler’s book, unlike those of Cohen (and so many recent films), is not, it turns out, a retelling of one of Austen’s novels but exactly what the title suggests: the characters are a group of people (six women of varying ages and one man) getting together to discuss Jane Austen’s novels, one book per meeting and, reasonably, one meeting per chapter of the novel holding all the stories. Each meeting is hosted by one of the book club members, and the narrative moves back and forth between the meeting itself, with members’ comments and disagreements on the book under discussion, and the life, past and present, of the member hosting the meeting.

It was a brilliant prescription, if I do say so myself. The novel kept me reading until sleep claimed my weary brain. I’ll have more to say about it in the future, but I can say now that the story was pleasant, intriguing, relaxing and rewarding and that no sleeping pill could give anywhere near as much pleasure.


Anonymous said...

You might also enjoy The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James. I did!

Michelle Constantinescu said...

I prescribed myself the same remedy last night! I finished one book and somehow got through half of another. I guess I needed extra strength therapy after all that work I did yesterday!

P. J. Grath said...

Thanks for the tip, Maiya. I have another at the bookstore (can't emember title) that I need to look into, also. Do you suppose these books constitute "fan fiction" in some sense?

Diana, what books soothed yout fevered mind last night?