Posted by gkb on August 07, 1998 at 17:11:04:
In response to What is it YOU like about JA?, written by Elizabeth/mr on August 06, 1998 at 19:27:52
] When anybody asks me what it is I like so very much about JA I just can't give them a decent reply.
] I can't put my finger on exactly why I think she was so talented and had the ability to characterise so well.
Once I saw a Rembrandt painting in person (okay, so maybe you all have seen many Rembrandts, I am museum-challenged) It had a remarkable effect. Standing very close to the painting, all I could see was a weird looing mix of paint flecks, swipes, dots, and so forth. But when I steeped back to the proper viewing distance, Behold! It was as if a living person or perhaps a hologram had appeared in the frame. It had depth, light, it almost seemed to breathe.
Now imagine a village painted by Jane Austen--in words. See the living breathing portrait of--let's say Emma. Step closer to the canvas for a moment--what do we see? Does the likeness dissolve into bits of pant? Does it appear artificial? No, it seems to get more and more realistic. If we look away from Emma's face into the background, we can see Mr. Woodhouse snoozing in his chair, and he looks just as real and detailed as Emma does. There is a table beside him with white spots on it. What are they? We take out a magnifying glass and see that the table is highly polished and it is strewn over with carefully drawn alphabets in Emma's handwriting. Marvelous! Off to one side of the fireplace is an open window through which we catch a glimpse of Highbury, with smoke rising from the chimneys, a flowering tree, and was that a raincloud that passed over just now? Is that Miss Bates's voice coming up the sweep?
We have become utterly absorbed with this miniature world, facinated with the depth perception and artistic skill that could have drawn this simple-seeming portrait. If we had brought a microscope, we could undoubtedly see a little spot of gruel on the Pembroke--but the museum guard is looking at us rather oddly, so we step back to the proper viewing distance and act as if we were normal.
And that is why I like Jane Austen.
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