Contents: 1 holiday greeting, 2 news updates, 2 Jane Austen quotes, 2 Shannon Winslow quotes, 1 new game addiction, and a partridge in pear tree…
First of all, I want to wish all of you a marvelous New Year. I hope the rest of your holidays were special as well, although I’m a little late to pass along those greetings except for sharing the picture above. It’s a little pastel painting I did a while back, which I decided to feature on the front of my Christmas card this year. Notice how small the cows are? That’s because my limited artistic skills aren’t up to portraying people or animals any larger. (Check out my book covers for other examples of miniature creatures. And see related post for more on my homemade Christmas card/letter tradition.)
Secondly, I’m thrilled to report that Return to Longbourn made the Austenprose list of best Jane-Austen-related books published this past year, in fact it TOPPED the list. That’s right; it’s #ONE! Whoohoo! I’m in excellent company too. Take a look here and see if your (other) favorites made the list too.
Next, I want to let you know that I’m making good headway on the new book! (See Work-in-Progress page) Housework is definitely suffering as I steal time away time from other responsibilities to closet myself in my cluttered studio with my books and laptop. But when the words are flowing, I can’t NOT write. It’s over halfway done now, and I’m having SO much fun with it – weaving Jane Austen’s story together with her writing of Persuasion.
It’s not just the story that excites me, though; it’s putting together the words themselves. It’s true of my own writing, but also Jane Austen’s. Language and story: it’s the excellence of both that makes her books stand out in my mind, and what I try to emulate in my own. Today, however, it’s the use of language I’m focused on.
She could be playful, as in this excerpt from a letter to her sister Cassandra:
I shall be able to send this to the post to-day which exalts me to the utmost pinnacle of human felicity, and gives me any other sensation of pleasure in studied language which you may prefer. Do not be angry with me for not filling my sheet, and believe me yours affectionately, J.A. (January, 1799)
The other excerpt I chose on the subject of language is a small portion of her most stunning example of “author intrusion” (see related post), as set down in chapter 5 of Northanger Abbey. Here, Austen comes out from behind her characters to take center stage, talking to her readers directly and giving them an earful in defense of her at-the-time-much-maligned art form:
“Oh! It is only a novel!”… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
This line may sound familiar to you, if not from the book itself than from the movie Becoming Jane, where Jane spouts a version of this at Tom Lefroy during one of their verbal sparring matches.
Clearly, Jane Austen had a way with words. She knew it; she was proud of it; and I believe she enjoyed it immensely. I have on occasion, when a turn of phrase comes out just right, had a delicious taste of the same. Here’s one of my all-time favorites from For Myself Alone:
According to her, his character has no rival for loyalty and integrity; his temper is mild as a lambs; his nimble mind navigates the mechanics of the law and the subtleties of poetic verse with equal dexterity; and in the countenance and person of no other man does the ideal of understated male beauty more comfortably reside.
And now, something I wrote the other day in the new book (Jane Austen is telling her own story, as it relates to the one she’s writing, which becomes Persuasion):
But there was no Captain Benwick for Bernadette to fall in love with at the critical moment, only possibly a Captain Bothwell, who had been less interested in cultivating a new literary garden in her fallow mind than in reaping the already well-grown harvest in mine.
There a trill of accomplishment when the words fall perfectly into place and create a music of their own. Every line can’t be a perfect gem (oops, I’m mixing my metaphors), but they do come along now and again.
It’s fun to see which lines readers especially like too, as evidenced by how many have highlighted a particular phrase on their Kindles (Spooky! How does Amazon know that? Big brother is watching.). And I remember one reviewer saying that she began The Darcys of Pemberley with skepticism, doubting that she could be drawn into a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. But then she got caught up in the beauty of the language, to the point where she ceased to worry about the story. The language itself made the book worth reading. I took great satisfaction in that praise, because I enjoy that aspect of writing (and reading) so much myself.
I will end with this little bit on nonsense – an example of an entirely different way I enjoy playing with words.
Since I got my smart phone, I’ve become slightly obsessed with playing Scrabble online using the Wordfeud ap – mostly with random opponents, but also my husband and sons. I only allow myself one game addiction at a time, by the way, so Spider Solitaire and Sudoku have had to take a back seat for now. Anyway, as you may know, there are hundreds “words” in a Scrabble dictionary that most of us have never heard of. When my husband, by trial and error, comes up with one of these that actually plays, I’m fond of challenging him by saying something like, “Yea, right. If that’s a real word, then use it in a sentence.”
This happened again the other day, when he played enoki (e-no-kee) on a triple word score for big points. (You may just be able to make it out in the upper left corner of the screen). When I asked him to use it in a sentence, he thought for a moment and then came up with this:
“I need to open the door, but I got-e-no-ki.”
I thought it was brilliant, and I still chuckle when I think of it. His witticism earned him his second quote on my blog. (For the first, see the classic Summer: it’s all washed away except the mouse fur.)
In case you’re wondering, enoki is a legitimate word. I looked it up. It’s a white edible mushroom with a small cap and a long stem, native to Eastern Asia and North America. Latin name: Flammulina velutipes. Did I tell you that I love Latin too? I don’t speak it (except for the science-based terms I picked up in college); I just love the sound of the words tripping off my tongue. By now, I guess that shouldn’t surprise you.