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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Discomposed

[Followup to my earlier message "Music to my ears", responding to comments by Christy and Elissa in Janeites]:

Christy and Elissa,

I am deeply honored at the depth and breadth of your responses to my various imaginings and theories. That is all I could wish for in a Janeite reading my ideas and giving them not merely a fair shake, but a genuinely heartfelt and well-thought-out reaction.

Christy, first some quick reactions to your comments:

“Fascinating to all of us (Janeites), being held under the spell of her endearing and maddening ironies, ambiguities, and inconsistencies, she gave a brilliancy of life to her prosed players that brings her artistry to a collectively relate-able place that crosses the centuries; and this deeply long-lived appreciation will most likely continue as long as there are human worlds inhabited.”

Amen, sister!

“At least, for me, with regards to the puns and special inclusions of ironic contrasts coming from the old male literary masters of her learned-reading history, along with her abundant feminine-reading influences, I can certainly see that there are many connections....”

Christy, you are paying some serious dues, reading as widely and intensively as you are doing, and it is obvious to me that you are already reaping a huge payoff, as you spiral ever more deeply toward the center of the multi layered onion that is Jane Austen. I consider you to be on the same journey I am, and it does not DISCONCERT me in the slightest that you don’t agree with all I say, quite the contrary. ;)

“And would not have JA and her family very well have relished the playfulness of all of this with those double, triple and even quadruple meanings so often afforded to them because of this familial sharing of such exceptional intelligence and cleverness. “

Indeed! Although I do suspect that what her family initially treasured might in time have come to seem dangerous to some members of her family who might have come to realize that her relentless search for truth had led her to see her family in very complicated ways, mixing much bad with much good.

“And another thought on what has been considered and conversed on the "disconcerted"..... Even though it may be seen by some as a stretch, when one performs on a musical instrument, piano or harp, a budding artist's creative imagination might very well be often tempted in taking that necessary license for going beyond the ordinary perception of ones moment to moment performance; and feel themselves as if in a concert-especially if there is any kind of an audience.”

I LOVE your formulation, Christy, that beautifully extends what I started to elaborate myself in my discussion of the scene in MP when Henry Crawford starts riffing on Edmund’s future “performances” as a clergyman.

I will add that I reread Chapter 18 of P&P in its entirety yesterday, and I was very pleased to note (ha ha) that the theme of performance was pervasive in it, with Lizzy making the statement to Darcy about not speaking unless to amaze the room, a sentiment Darcy will echo in Ch. 31 in his equally famous statement about “not performing to strangers”.


And…(now segueing to reply to Elissa’s post riffing on the word “concert” which came in just as I was composing this message):

Yes, Elissa, your acute ear for metaphorical wordplay is spot-on in analyzing the word “concert” in its sense of two or more “performers” making “music” together, and it is clearly a meaning JA had in mind for poor Mary Bennet, whose fantasies of “playing in concert” with Mr. Collins have been dashed yet again by her cruel father.

I say “again” because I noticed yesterday for the first time that it is ALSO Mr. Bennet who, in Chapter 15, prods Mr. Collins to walk into Meryton with Lizzy, Kitty, Jane, and Lydia. Although the narration does not point it out, what he ALSO accomplishes by this action is to deprive Mary—who stayed behind at Longbourne, and surely spent some time in her father’s library looking at his books—of the opportunity of some relatively private time with Mr. Collins to discuss Fordyce and thorough bass.

So, twice in four chapters, Mr. Bennet is the driving force in sabotaging Mary’s chances with Mr. Collins. What an insensitive narcissitic jerk he can be sometimes!

And….I had a sly purpose in writing about “composing” this message, because I also found the following wonderful additional wordplay in P&P on this same theme of music and love, in that very same passage in Chapter 15 where we hear about Mr. Bennet’s getting rid of Mr. Collins:

“Lydia's intention of walking to Meryton was not forgotten; every sister except Mary agreed to go with her; and Mr. Collins was to attend them, at the request of Mr. Bennet, who was most anxious to get rid of him, and have his library to himself; for thither Mr. Collins had followed him after breakfast, and there he would continue, nominally engaged with one of the largest folios in the collection, but really talking to Mr. Bennet, with little cessation, of his house and garden at Hunsford. Such doings DISCOMPOSED Mr. Bennet exceedingly.”

So what this means, and surely this was deliberate on JA”s part, wordplay in stereo if you will, is that because Mr. Bennet was DISCOMPOSED by Mr. Collins in Chapter 15, he chose to DISCONCERT Mary in Chapter 18!

Cheers, Arnie

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