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So yes, I decided to get and read an annotated version of Pride and Prejudice written (of course!) by Jane Austen, and annotated/edited in this case by David M. Shapard.

This is a bit hard to "review" in any meaningful way, but I figured I'd give it a shot. It's difficult because for one thing, I've read and re-read Pride and Prejudice many times, and love it very very muchly, rating it as probably my favorite novel after Watership Down. So how do you review something like that, at this point? So what I'd mostly be reviewing are the annotations themselves, which is... odd.

But anyhow, to make my stab at it, I wasn't quite as thrilled with this as I was hoping I'd be. As I love Jane Austen's books and find the period and manners interesting, I was hoping maybe for a little more that goes off on tangents about meaty subjects from the age, or gives rich details. Sorta like the annotated James Herriot hardcover that I have, that includes not only information about the area and time, but even recipes and such-like of some of the foods mentioned.

Instead what I got was a book with some interesting annotations, such as a few (really basic) maps and sketches of different carriages and such, but for the most part they were a let-down. Most of the annotations are as simple as (pretty basic, honestly) definitions, some of which just make no *sense*. Like, for example, on one page you get the annotation "conjecture: guess, figure out." I mean, if you need that definition for "conjecture," you don't really have any business reading anything as "difficult" as Jane Austen. What's even funnier is when the definitions are even more obscure than the things they're describing, such as another annotation later on of "ungenerous: ignominious." I mean, WTF?

It's also a bit odd in general because of the nature of many annotations - they have to go into detail about further in the story, meaning that if you're reading it for the first time, reading the annotations would spoil you, and if you're in love with the book enough to be reading it multiple times, chances are good you'd have twigged onto a lot of what they're annotating, anyhow. At times it's almost even insulting, as the annotations seem to want to have to point out every non-subtle "subtlety" and digest it so that us, the mere mortal readers, can understand it.

Okay, that's overstating it a bit - I didn't feel actually insulted by the book, but I felt, well, the pointlessness of the annotations at times. Still though, like I said some of the annotations were useful or interesting. In general I guess I'd say to not try this if this is your first time reading the book, or if you're not a huge fan, but if you absolutely adore Pride and Prejudice or Austen in general, it might be interesting to peruse.

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stormfeather
Oct. 20th, 2007 05:35 am (UTC)
True, but I'm thinking more along the lines of comparing some of the annotations with others... I mean, when they feel you need a (modern, as far as I can tell) definition of "conjecture," and yet then give something more obscure, "ignominious," AS another definition?
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