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Tuesday, 26 June 2007

So why aren't I reading?

Semester one is done, there's a swag of new titles on the shelf, and I've got the evening hours to get stuck in. But I don't. Instead, I work on my Web site (oooooh, the capital 'w'!!!).

Between 2001 and 2003 I read extensivley around Jane Austen. Is it daggy to admit to this level of interest? Austen is the anti-Romantic par excellance and we live in an anti-Romantic era, so Kate Crawford tells us. The linked post is outrageously postmodern, segueing from the grounding of the big red coal transport off Newcastle to Crawford, and on to Alan Kohler, the ABC's highly-credible and engaging economics guy.

I put it to Crawford during the session, when questions were invited from the floor, that our era of 'bad adults' is not so much postmodern as 'post-Romantic'. She liked the idea.

It was glib and well-executed.

Jane Austen, outrageously popular today, really disliked the Romantic sensibility. Walter Scott praised Emma in the pages of the Tory review The Quarterly. But she didn't really hit her stride, as a canonical favourite, until about the nineteen-twenties. Now, she has truly come of age.

I've got two big, fat 'Marbig'-brand two-ring binders on my top shelf stuffed with notes I scribbled during my quest to fathom Austen. The list, already a good A4 sheet long, will go on my Web site soon.

The story I told Crawford to illustrate my idea hearkens back to the days I worked in an office in Enmore operated by the Department of Family and Community Services. The name indicates the vintage, because it's not called that any more.

A guy came into the office to get a transport concession card, as many did. And he bragged that his mother bought his clothes. He lived at home -- another boast. He simply refused to rebel, as did Austen.

In Austen's case, much of the justification for her poor showing as a 'modern' (as the Romantics considered themselves at the time) lies with her wonderful father. She adored him, and he merited her love. He would read the trashy novels she enjoyed and encouraged her scribbling as a teenager. I can see him laughing at her silly juvenilia.

So there's a message here for prospective parents: patience has its own, unique rewards. On my site there's a page dedicated to my grandfather, whose daughter loved him very much. So I have a model of my very own.

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