Reading While Human

This week I read a wonderful essay titled “Reading Jane Eyre While Black”  that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. Not only does it compare two of 19th -century England’s most fascinating writers — Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen — but it hits on many of the issues I’ve been thinking about lately. About authorial intent, and how there will always  be something a little mysterious about it, even to the author. Also how as both readers and writers we bring our own biases, both the known and unknown, to the page.

Tyrese L. Coleman makes many interesting points along the way, but one key theme is how “Jane Eyre” has been ruined for her by Bronte’s depiction of Bertha Mason, whose craziness and evil is inextricably linked to her West Indian origins and implicit blackness. Continue reading


(Still) Rereading Anna Karenina

Seventy-five percent in, and I feel how I have misjudged it in what I wrote, for at some point since then I  tipped over into the point at which fiction resembles magic. I no longer see Tolstoy’s little tricks, how he’s pulling the reader’s strings, but am simply being pulled by them. I’m utterly beguiled;anna I’ve forgotten I’m reading in translation. All I feel is how it’s all becoming deeper and somehow stranger and at the same time solid and real. Continue reading

New Beginnings, Old Problems

I’ve been away from this blog for so long I feel almost obliged to fashion some adroit explanation — picnic, lightning — but the truth is, I was doing other things. Reading, writing, rethinking, rewriting. (When does rewriting have an end? I can only say, not yet.)

After “The Golem and the Jinni” I proceeded to read a string of amazing books I wish I had stopped to write about, for now I cannot do justice to them: Continue reading

Further Reading: Ivanhoe

Near the beginning of my current draft of “The Jane Austen Project” there is an allusion to “Ivanhoe.” As a matter of principle I have tried to read the books my characters read, and while I long doubted there was much to be gained from reading “Ivanhoe,” I downloaded the free Kindle version onto my phone anyway, just to have something to read in case I accidentally found myself on the subway between library books. This happened, and I started reading it.

I am perhaps a third of the way through, and it’s astonishing. Continue reading

What Are Chapters For?

In the long time that I have been away from this blog, I have not been entirely unproductive. Among other things, I’ve been revising The Jane Austen Project and am now through Chapter 6. In honor of that, I have decided to post Chapter 2 here.

I’ve also been thinking about a lot of things, like Downton Abbey, which deserves a post of its own, only I don’t know where to start, and also, not completely unrelated, about chapters. For one thing that intrigues me about Downton Abbey is the issues it raises about the different ways there are of telling a story, and chapters have something to do with that. How do we decide where they begin and end, and what do they have to do with the architecture of a novel? Continue reading