Posted by Sari
Are not my favourite things, and neither are brown paper packages tied up with string. Unless they contain books. And Bill Clinton gave me an idea, yes he did. His fancy new presidential library is going to be opened in the fall of this year near Little Rock, Arkansas and part of the exhibition he has picked 21 of his favourite books of all time. Now, I have read - okay in some cases just leafed through - whopping six of his choices (Marcus Aurelius, Eliot, Ellison, Marquez, Weber and Yeats), and few more are on my endless to-be-read list (Orwell and Wright mainly), but most of them go straight to the never heard -category. Some of his choises are pretty representational for a man hof his generation and beliefs and are less central to someone outside that experience and some are in fields like theology, philosophy or political science which I have always found, well, boring, so I am not going to feel too bad about not liking same books. And I think it is kind of cute he has Hillary's autobiography up there with Eliot and Thomas a Kempis...
But that got me thinking. Which would be my 21 books? Okay, firstly I could not narrow it down to 21. So I have 32. Which is 11 more than Bill and I am sure there is some deep numerological wisdom to be found in there. Secondly, I love novels, and in order to have some other works besides novels on the list I divided my list to 16 novels, five plays, five poems and six non-fiction books. Thirdly, the previous classification is the only structure I allowed for the list. I did not aim for erudition, geographical balance, inclusion or exclusion of genre books or anything other these are just books that made me go "Wow!" for some reason or another. And fourthly, I exluded all books however good that have to do with my work, this is pleasure reading only.
So you want to see the list? Sorry, not yet. What would be fun in that? I spent enough of my Jukka's and Mexi's time on this excercise to just blurt it out. I am feeding it to you in drops, one book at the time, in alphabetical order. Which mean we are beginning with one of my passions, Jane Austen.
Me and Jane got of to a very bad start when I was about eleven years old. I had just read Jane Eyre and was full of Mr. Rochester's passionate speeches and windswept moors and wanted more. My gran with whom we were spending our summer did not have Villette or Wuthering Heights, so she gave me Pride and Prejudice. Big mistake. How could "My affections and wishes are unchanged" hope to compare with "Oh Jane! My hope - my love - my life"? What a lame stuffed shirt that Darcy was, and there there was no kiss, even. Bah.
Later in life I learned to appreciate Austen’s fortes as a writer: sharp eye for character and charicature, engaging though very civilized love stories, delicious wit and masterful command of language. She worked on limited subject matter, the relationships between a small closed set of English gentry, the world she knew best. She herself described her work famously as “a little bit of ivory, two inches wide, on which I work with so fine a brush as to produce little effect after much labour”.
Though I loved each and every one of Austen’s books, the one which I keep returning time after time is her last, Persuasion (Viisasteleva sydän). There are millions of reasons I love the book to bits. In addition to the qualities it shares with all Austen’s work Persuasion has something extra. Firstly there is the heroine of the novel, of all the engaging characters Austen created I love Anne best, her hidden wit, her cool head in the crises and her kindness. I also love the more introspective and melancholy mood of the novel. I also think the it captures wonderfully Anne’s agony when she is trying to singnal captain Wentworth that she still loves him when it is not proper for her to make it obvious neither by act or word. It is a beautiful and true depiction of how the society and the dominating friends and family have forced the heroine in such a passive position, she really has very few means to communicate what she wants. Then there is of course there is” the letter”, the one Wentworth gives to Anne. Swoon.
And last but not least is the fact that this is the most nautical of Austen’s novels. Which mainly meas that in the novel there are a number of naval officers living on shore on half pay, and were thus available as objects of romantic attachment to the heroines of the novel. We have the adorable Admiral and Mrs. Croft, and the Captains Benwick, Harville and of course Wentworth to entertain us with tales from the seven seas. There just seems to be a little more feel of a world outside the tightly knit gentry community than in other Austen novels which makes Persuasion more part of the world than many other Austen novels. There are some glitches in the structure, mainly due to the fact that Austen died before she could polish it off, but even so it is a gem. And now I want go and read again the bit where Anne comes to visit her Musgrave relatives at Uppercross, and then maybe the bit where Luisa jumps of the stairs in Lyme and injures herself. And then the beginning wher Sir Walter is depicted obsessing over his entry in the baronetcy and then the scene at the recital at Bath which stills leaves me breathless in its perfection.