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Northanger Abbey (Everyman's Library, #109) - Claudia L. Johnson, Jane Austen NOVELS.
Let us leave it to the Reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another, we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens,--there seems almost a general with of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel reader--I seldom look into novels--Do not imagine that I often read novels--It is really very well for a novel.’--Such is the common cant.--”And what are you reading, Miss--?’ “Oh! it is only a novel!’ replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame.

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein: Do you know why you are here Mr. Keeten?
Keeten: I don’t even know where I am.
Stein: You are before the Book Tribunal.
I rubbed my jaw.
Keeten: Did Hemingway have to slug me?
Stein: Fetching, people such as yourself, to appear before this tribunal seems to be the one thing that Hemingway does enjoy about serving on the panel.
Hemingway gave a short bark of a laugh.

Ernest Hemingway

Stein: Let me introduce Charlotte Bronte and of course you’ve met Mr. Hemingway.
I waved at Bronte. Hemingway gave me a salute. I gave him a tight nod and my jaw another rub.
Stein: You have been assigned counsel. Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Keeten: Yes I would like to talk to him. Maybe he can explain what this is all about. Where is he?
Stein: I do believe he is under your table.
I leaned over and spied a slumped form softly snoring. I grabbed a shoulder and rolled him over. Gin fumes teared up my eyes.
Keeten: Miss Stein I need a new counsellor.
Stein: I’m afraid that is impossible. You’ve told many people that Fitzgerald is your favorite writer and the rules of this tribunal is that your favorite writer represents you.
Keeten: I’d like to change that to Gore Vidal.
Bouts of laughter greet this request. Only then did I realize that the seats behind me were full of dead writers. I waved to Kurt Vonnegut and he gave me a wink.
Keeten: Was something I said humorous?
Stein: In the short time that Mr. Vidal has joined us he has been requested many times, but unfortunately no one has been before us that actually considered him to be their favorite writer.
Hemingway: You chose unwisely. Fitzgerald over me what a joke that is.
Keeten: I think your work is swell Hemingway and Miss Bronte, I really loved Villette.
Stein: Okay, okay Mr. Keeten enough with the flattering. What do you think of my work?
Keeten: Erhhh
Her mannish features framed a pronounced grimace.
Stein: That’s okay Mr. Keeten I won’t force you to manufacture platitudes, very few people can really understand and appreciate my work.
I thought a change of subject was in order.
Keeten: Why exactly am I here?
Stein: It is regarding Jane Austen.
I felt my blood run a little cold.
Keeten: I just finished reading Northanger Abbey.
Stein: Yes we know. In the past you have made some rather cutting remarks about Miss Austen.
Keeten: I won’t deny that I harbored some resentment, not towards Miss Austen as much as towards a survey class I was forced to take in college.
Stein: You sir, are parsing words.
Hemingway interrupted. Isn’t it time for a drink?
Stein: Why not?
Djuna Barnes walked out with a silver tray filled with shots of gin and as the glass clinked on the table in front of me Fitzgerald sprang up like a jack in the box with his hand out, fingers none too steady, reaching for a glass. He slammed the shot down his throat and before I could tilt my own glass up he’d already slid back beneath the table.
The gin hit my stomach like a mariachi band.
As Barnes walked back by me after serving the judges, looked in the prime of life like all the judges, although that was up for debate with Stein, I said you are prettier than your pictures.

Djuna Barnes

Barnes: Save it. You are not even remotely my type.
I could feel the heat on my neck climbing up to my cheeks. She flipped my chin with her finger.
Barnes: Good luck anyway.
Stein: If you are finished annoying Miss Barnes, Mr. Keeten, can we proceed?
Keeten: Of course.
Stein: As you were saying.
Keeten: I apologize to Miss Austen if any of my remarks were inappropriately expressed. I can assure her that I have the utmost respect for her as a writer. In fact I intend to write a very positive review about Northanger Abbey.
Stein: The writer in question is not allowed to attend the proceedings, but we will express your regret for your behavior to her. We have a party that we must get to Mr. Keeten so we are going to wrap this up. It is our intention here today to give you a warning about expressing yourself in such flippant ways about the works of the members of this novelist community in the future. If we feel the need to call you back again I can assure you more strident discussion will be conveyed to you.
Keeten: Yes ma’am.
Stein: Anything further to add Miss Bronte.
Bronte: I think he is kind of handsome.

Charlotte Bronte

Stein: Irrelevant Miss Bronte and to balance the scales I must say I find him to be a rather unattractive man. Mr. Hemingway?
Hemingway: Do I get to send him back?
Stein: *Sigh* yes Mr. Hemingway please do so.
Hemingway walked across the room towards me. Before I could even speculate about how he was going to send me back his fist imploded against my jaw. As I slid to the floor I heard him say.
“I got to send you back the same way you came Tinkerbell.”
I woke on the floor of my library in a slurry of drool. My head pounding, both sides of my jaw tender to the touch. Note to self do not write a negative review of Hemingway. From the way my stomach feels I’d say the gin ate a hole through my insides and was still burrowing deeper. I pull myself up to the computer.

The Lovely Jane Austen

The heroine of this novel, Miss Catherine Morland, was a reader of gothic literature. I know it was Jane Austen’s intention to poke fun at the craze of people reading this type of novel, but since I’m a fan of the genre I actually enjoyed the frequent references to the author Ann Radcliffe and the other books that were being bought, enjoyed, and discussed in English drawing rooms of the time. Miss Morland has hopes of finding herself enmeshed in a romance of gothic proportions. When her parents consent to letting her visit friends and she meets new friends she knows she is on the verge of a grand adventure. She meets the Tilney’s, and in particular meets the man of our tale, Henry Tilney, who demonstrates early on that he had the makings of being the romantic hero of the new plot evolving in the mind of Miss Morland. She is invited to visit the Tilney’s at the family estate and the vision that Catherine composes in her mind about Northanger Abbey is doomed for disappointment. To give one example where the Abbey failed to provide the proper gothic atmosphere:

The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the General talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved--the form of them was Gothic--they might be even casements--but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone-work, for painted glass, dirt and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.

Catherine is mortified by her own ineptness with proper behavior. She is manipulated by friends, but proves to be a quick learner and shows a steely spine standing up to their overbearing behavior towards her. When she is cast out she proves her mettle once again finding her own way home with quiet determination despite her inexperience with the workings of the world. Yes she is silly, and maybe because of her Gothic view of the world, I liked Catherine...a lot. I wish the plot of the novel would have allowed more of Henry Tilney as he certainly seemed like a man, a reader of novels, who I would have enjoyed taking a long walk with to discuss literature, life, and all things nice. There is subtle comedy throughout this short novel and even when our heroine is unhappy I didn’t feel distressed, for how could the world deny Catherine her happy ending? If you have struggled with other Austen novels I can assure you this is a breezy affair, not to say that it doesn’t have literary merit, for it has, if nothing else, repaired my relationship with Miss Austen and I fully intend now to reread her other works and evaluate them through attitude adjusted eyes.