Masterpiece Theatre's production of Northanger Abbey

Wow, I had another great weekend. Although I didn't get an opportunity to celebrate MLK weekend as I had intended, I made significant progress with my Peace Corps application, read a lot, went to Marvin (!), and spent quality time with friends. But of course, I want to dedicate this entry to the Masterpiece Theatre production of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, which aired on Sunday night.

Northanger Abbey is the one story that I remember least among all of Austen's works, but I hope to revisit it this week before the re-airing of the production Thursday evening. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey. I think the actors did a great job of conveying the sense of the book. The actress who played Catherine particularly did a great job of portraying the young heroine. I really liked the interspersed fantasy sequences because they helped convey the wondrous imagination of Catherine, given all the gothic romance novels she's read. Seeing the sort of enjoyment that Catherine gets out of gothic romance novels makes me want to read Ann Radcliffe's, The Mysteries of Udolpho. Indeed, my interpretation and level of enjoyment will probably be different from Catherine's, but it should be interesting. As with Persuasion, the costumes and the settings were solid. Unlike Austen's subsequent books, Northanger Abbey isn't a complex or layered story, though many themes (e.g., status, propriety, money, etc) that are treated in later works do surface. Check out this review for more specific commentary.

Austen wrote Northanger Abbey over the course of one year when she was 23, though the book wasn't published until after her death. Her gift is truly amazing and I can only hope to aspire to her magnificence in clever, moving storytelling.

In response to the underlying question in the novel, I think that one can read too many novels and that reading many novels can result in an extension of the suspension of reality created by the novel into the reader's everyday life. In this way, the reader, like Catherine, begans to interpret and imagine reality in literary terms with dubious results. Life is not like a book. In fact, it's better. Books provide a lifetime of enjoyment to readers but by no means can the wonders of literature replace wonders of everyday exchange and the struggles of living. Nor should it. So, keep reading but also live.

Next up: Mansfield Park. It will be aired this Sunday at 9 on MPT and WETA. I've already checked the book out of the library in order to reread it before Sunday.

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