When Clueless came out, DMC (my then-very-best-friend) and I were the very first people at the local theater for the very first showing. (This surely betrays my age a bit since we were allowed to go alone and did not need chaperones.) Of course, we then spent the entire summer quoting the film (as if!) and pining for a closet like Cher’s.
And so it came to be that my first Jane Austen novel was Emma. Truly, I did not fall in love with the book upon this reading. I’m not even certain that I finished it. This is not a story of an adolescent love affair with the love affairs of Jane Austen’s imagination. But I’ve always held on to the book, and I did re-read it sometime in college – at which time, I guess liked it.
And then I read it again. And again. And somewhere along the way, I realized that I truly love this book. Recently, I exaggerated to a friend that I read Emma every summer, in August. That’s not entirely true (confession!) But I have read it several times, and typically in the late summer: those hot, lazy days when reading in your home with the curtains drawn to plead for some kind of relief from the sun is about all you can manage to do. The idea of reading Austen annually triggered a romantic curiosity though, and an idea – surely, reading any Austen novel in the summer is an enjoyable way to pass the time.
And so begins my first three-month project: Summer of Austen. I have read Emma, of course, and Pride and Prejudice (though I’ve seen the BBC miniseries countless more times than I’ve read the novel). I have not read any other Austen novels though and really know little about her life and contemporaries, beyond common popular knowledge.
I will immerse myself in Austen for the next three months: her novels, film adaptations, biographies, contemporary and current reviews and criticisms. I will read (and watch) with the eye of a historian, an amateur literary critic, an easily amused hopeful romantic.
First up: Northanger Abbey.