07 December 2009

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

I really can't say much for a review about A Truth Universally Acknowledged, edited by Susannah Carson.  It's a very nice collection of thirty-four extant essays (plus a foreward by Harold Bloom) about Jane Austen's collected works.  The contributing authors run the gamut from the very literary (Bloom, Lionel Trilling (who appears twice), Martin Amis, Kingsley Amis, and Virginia Woolf), to the somewhat literary (AS Byatt and Inges Sodre doing an "interview-style" essay, Susanna Clarke, C.S. Lewis, and and Rebecca Mead) to the popular (Amy Heckerling).  It's a very well-rounded collection and I enjoyed reading all the essays.  I even went off and ordered Lionel Trilling's collection The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent because I liked his two contributions and, if I liked his two contributions on Jane Austen, imagine what he has to say on other subjects (have I mentioned I got in an essay-reading kick lately?).

I do have a small complaint about this book and it's not even about the content.  It's about the arrangement of essays within the volume.  It took me quite a few essays to realize Carson had grouped them roughly by subject: general essays about Austen's work followed by essays on the Auten novels in order of publication and lastly a few speculative essays (Woolf's "Jane Austen at Sixty" is here).  I don't have any complaints about the arrangement itself but I would have preferred the groupings as printed headings on the contents page.  It helps my transitions between essays if I know why things are arranged as such.

But overall, if you're an Austen freak (like me) this is a must-have book of Austen criticism.  It looks nice up on the shelf next to my volume of Austen's letters.

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