Book Corner 2019.21


The Annotated Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

The five stars are for Jane, not for the annotator. I bought this for my Kindle for one of those “need reading now” situations.  Now I realize that Harvard University Press also has an annotated edition with a different editor which is probably the one I really wanted.  Also, a book with what appear to be beautiful illustrations like this is really one you want in hardcover, not a screen.  Finally, footnotes are something I’ve now thoroughly learned are things you really want to see on a physical page as well.  The reading experience on Kindle was greatly marred by having to click footnotes – I am an old-school typist who hates “clicking” in general, persnickety clicking in particular, like when you have to cursor your mouse right in the middle of a tiny checkbox; or, in this case, position your fat fingertip precisely on the little superscript, else find yourself thrown onto the next page instead of into the footnote.  That happened to me more than 50% of the time in the beginning, I’d say only a little less than 50% by the time I’d trained myself as best I could to hit the superscript.  And the nasty icing on the cake, and the reason I am not thrilled with this annotated edition – half the footnotes are mere definitions of words and expressions that are pretty damn obvious to someone with more than an eighth-grade education.  Once I’d clicked (with difficulty) a footnote on the word “amusing” which, I swear, did nothing more than define “amusing” as “entertaining” – then I had to train myself to identify which footnotes were most likely to be mere, stupid definitions vs. those which were likely to actually enrich my reading experience.  End of the sentence was more likely to be worthwhile; middle of the sentence, on a word more than four letters long, was more likely to be a stupid definition.

Back to Jane! The inspiration for this purchase was that I’d recently read Reading Jane Austen which made me want to re-read Jane Austen.  Even with all my complaints, annotations make a re-read much more fun.  And re-reads of excellent, beloved books always bring some new discovery, feeling, or interpretation.  I was surprised this time at how much I loved Marianne.  Most touchingly, I loved her love for her sister.  She makes clear upon first making Edward’s acquaintance that he is not her cup of tea; but once she understands that her sister loves him, she practically loves him even more on her behalf.  When he pops in for a visit, she’s almost more thrilled than Elinor – well, she is more thrilled than Elinor, because the visit is complicated, to say the least, by the presence of Elinor’s rival; but she is SO loving towards Edward, and genuinely happy to have her sister’s love interest there, on Elinor’s behalf, it’s just adorable and endearing.

I reconcile myself a bit more to her ending, too, which I used to feel was a disservice to her, fobbing her off on an old Colonel who wore flannel waistcoats who was totally contrary to all her predilections… but I’ve decided to take heart in the phrase “Marianne could not love by halves.” Once she had found herself developing a fondness towards Colonel Brandon, it could not help but develop into full-fledged love, I’m sure.


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