A Christmas Carol

christmas carolThis month, Read It & Steep met to discuss the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol.  This was the first time that we’ve chosen a book without it ever having graced the insides of the teapot.  We considered reading another Jane Austen title (probably Persuasion) because we were meeting on the 16th and that happens to have been Ms. Austen’s 239th birthday (thanks to our visiting member Mary for doing the math, I’m not so good at the math).  When it came down to making the decision though, we realized that we had only read Pride & Prejudice a few scant months ago and I had the idea about A Christmas Carol.
Full disclosure, the group also decided that this book would be the one due to the fact that our January book is about 600 pages long.  We decided that since A Christmas Carol comes in right around 80 pages, it would be perfect for a hectic holiday season.  We were missing some of our regulars (Happy Hanukkah!) but we still had a good turn out with two visitors who ended up being very knowledgeable about Dickens and his most famous holiday work.

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First Impressions

Pride and Prejudice by Leigh DoguetLook at how pretty this “cover” by Philadelphia artist Leigh Doguet is!
In August, we finally read a novel by my very favorite author: Jane Austen.  The group decided that we would read Pride & Prejudice, which a surprising (to me) number of us hadn’t read.  Isn’t that a funny thing?  I just assumed that my smart, funny, well rounded group of female reader friends would have already read a novel that I’ve devoured at least 6 times in my 32 years?  Well, duh, Kate, not everyone is creepy like you and just cause some of them haven’t doesn’t make them any less smart, funny, or well rounded. I’m okay, I swear.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take many notes during our discussion, which probably had something to do with the fact that I didn’t shut up long enough to write anything down.  It was fun to share the ridiculous amounts of knowledge I have on the subject and point out things that the normal 21st century reader would miss, including Miss Austen’s wicked sense of humor and how much her writing is satire of societal norms of her day.  We had a great conversation of Miss Austen’s masterpiece including how and why it still resonates today.  Our discussion ranged from how Jane Austen has recently been credited as the first game theorist (seriously, there’s an entire book about how she applied game theory non-mathematically before game theory was even a thing) to how P&P has been successfully updated and translated to 20th & 21st century ideals al la Bridget Jones.
The only notes that I did make about our conversation was that we agreed that Mr. Bennett is lazy and doesn’t deviate from the path of least resistance.  Even when he goes after Lydia in London, he does so for a few days and then throws his hands up, “Oh, well!  Can’t find them.  I tried.”  He relies on others to do his heavy lifting for him, which makes him and Mrs. Bennett actually a better fit for each other than I had ever realized.
Further proof that Jane Austen was generations before her time, not only was she practicing game theory without knowing what it is, she wrote a character who’s quite possibly on the autism spectrum before the autism spectrum was a thing.  The Read It & Steep group thinks it’s quite like that Mr. Darcy has some kind of high-functioning autism, possibly Asperger’s syndrome.  Definitely, he suffers from some pretty extreme social anxiety if nothing else.
With a novel that has been picked a part and shown in every conceivable format, it was only natural that we would discuss some of the adaptations of Pride & Prejudice, from the holy horror that is the Kiera Knightly (Sorry, Melissa, I know you like it, but it’s simply awful) film to graphic novel (yes! Marvel comics?!?!), to the homages like P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley (newly aired on PBS Masterpiece with Matthew Goode!) and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.(which is, God help us, going to be in theatres sometime soonish).  I recommend Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant for witty comics on all kinds of stuff, P&P included (she’s got some great stuff on the Brontë  sisters) and for a really fantastic reimagining of Pride & Prejudice, I can’t recommend the YouTube series The Lizzie Bennett Diaries highly enough.  You’ll never think of Lydia Bennett the same way again!
While I would give Pride & Prejudice a resounding 10 teacups, as a group we think this is a 4 teacup book.