Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Jane, Annotated

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Jane, Annotated

Monday, November 15, 2010

At first I was less than charmed by the idea. An annotated edition of “Pride and Prejudice”? Could be interesting, yes, but this was one of my favorite books. Did I want to read it with 2000 footnotes? Did I want this additional voice intruding on my private time with Elizabeth Bennett? The answer, as it turns out, is yes. I kept an open mind on this, and now, dear reader, I must tell you how much I am enjoying this. The book, officially, is “Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition,” edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks and published by Harvard University Press.

First of all, the book is physically beautiful. An e-book is all well and good in its place, but this is not the place. This is a large, heavy book with paper that affords noticeable tactile pleasure. There are wonderful illustrations, from the familiar watercolor of Jane painted by her sister Cassandra, to a wonderful drawing “A Gentleman’s Art Gallery” that shows what a room at Pemberley might have looked like, to a group of illustrations done for the book in 1894, including a priceless one in which the unbearable Mr. Collins is recoiling at the thought of--horrors!--reading a novel. One of my favorites is the poster from the movie version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, that looks like the cover of a paperback bodice-ripper.

The footnotes, rather than getting in the way, are like having a knowledgeable companion on the sofa next to you, pointing out all the good bits. I had the pleasure of hearing Patricia Spacks talk about the book, and her warm voice is exactly what I hear as I read about various kinds of coaches the characters rode in, the relative levels of social standing of the characters, or what quadrille is. A chatty aside may dish about how Mr. Collins looks at women and furniture alike as objects awaiting his approval or disapproval.

Maybe a gift for the Austen fan in your life?

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