Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (Everything Austen II)

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard.
Anchor Books, 2007.  739 pgs.

During parts of June and July I read the AP&P while reading along with the online group read at Austenprose.  The group read was called "Pride and Prejudice without Zombies: Reclaiming the Classic."  Please see the delightful graphic used to highlight this event.  (If you've read P&P with Zombies, you will note the image and how absolutely perfect it is.)  It was a great event, with some great discussions about JA, some details into the plot and various movies etc.  (Did you know the dancing is all wrong in the various movie editions of P&P? As is some of the costuming--think P&P '05--but that we did at least know.  Did you know that there were books being written during JA's time about 'touring the countryside' and visiting the various great houses of England--it was what folks did for vacations.)

I also included/incorporated reading AP&P as part of my list for Everything Austen II at Stephanie's Written Word. (What is EA II?  Briefly:  Sign up by making a list of six Austen-themed somethings to do/read/watch--ie: books, movies, craft etc.  Blog about each one, link it to the main EA II page and see what others are reading/saying.)

Hooray for me!  It is with great pleasure and success that I can announce that my copy of The Annotated Pride and Prejudice has been moved from my nightstand (the JA' to read' pile) to one of the downstairs bookcases (on one of the many JA shelves).  Why such jubilation one might ask?  Oh, friends.  Friends. Really now.  Do you know how long this copy of P&P has sat on my nightstand?  Let's just stay quiet about that, ok? 

It was not my first attempt.  Nor my second.  Perhaps it was my third.  It's all very fuzzy which attempt this time was exactly.  What I've learned about myself is that I do not do well with footnotes on opposite pages.  The novel is entirely its own.  All original bits of P&P are on the left-hand side of the book, annotations are on the right.  Each chapter starts a new numbered sequence of annotations. 

The annotations are helpful and insightful.  At times.  For someone who has read P&P at least once a year since she was a junior in HS, I can honestly say that I didn't need the annotations.  Sure, I liked the illustrations that clarified a coach (pg. 55) , a low phaeton (pg. 291) and a chaise (pg. 397).  I can never quite recall the specific differences in them, but then again I can hardly today's versions--a Toyota, Honda or any other car--apart for that matter.  I struggled to gain momentum this time as the book started.  Do I read the whole page, then the annotations? The whole chapter, then all the annotations? Do I read, stopping at each annotation and jump across to the corresponding annotation and then jump back to the novel?  My eyes couldn't keep it straight and Mrs. Bennett was tiresome to say the least.  Finally, I settled on reading each page and then it's annotations.  Once I found a rhythm, I cruised through yet another reading of my dear P&P. 

This time, with the help of Mr. Shapard and the wonderful hostess Laurel Ann at Austenprose, I was introduced to the theme of the picturesque--a definition of what was considered "natural beauty" by William Gilpin, an author, during JA's time.  (In case you are curious, here is the link from the discussion at Austenprose about Mr. Gilpin.

During this reading, I also had the opportunity to delve into my copy of Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Austen Scholar Deirdre Le Faye.  Ahem.  Um.  Erm.  Right-o.  Let's not dwell on how long this delightful book has sat on my JA 'to read' pile either. And when I say delightful, I mean it.  Paperback with just the right tactile feel of glossy paper and perfect weight.  And color images inside!  I read the P&P chapter this go 'round and at least started the chapter titled, "A Sense of Place." 

Now I must pause and give myself a nice round of applause.  Did you catch that?  That's right---reading any part of, skimming or otherwise of JA: The World of Her Novels was another EA II item from my list!  HOOHAAA!--That's two down.  Sort of.  When I read Persuasion I will read that chapter and try again with "A Sense of Place."  I do struggle so with non-fiction even when it's JA or Regency related.

Until then, adieu.