Happy Sunday afternoon! I hope it is the start of a good week. We're supposed to see some fall-ish weather later in the week, which for Houston means temps in the low 80s. Even more than cool weather, I am looking forward to Deborah Crombie's new book, To Dwell in Darkness, which will be released on Tuesday. She will be signing at Murder by the Book on Friday, and I will be there.
Yesterday our Houston JASNA branch met, to discuss Jane Austen's last, unfinished work, now known as Sanditon. Austen began it in January of 1817, but she had to give up working on it in March as her health declined, leading to her death that July. Her manuscript is now at King's College, Cambridge, which has digitized it as part of their "Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts" project (you can see the pages here). The complete manuscript was first published by the Austen scholar R.W. Chapman in 1925, and one of our members brought her first edition to the meeting. My own introduction to Sanditon was through a one-volume collection of the "Minor Works," part of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen (also edited by Dr. Chapman). My edition includes the Juvenilia, Lady Susan, and The Watsons, as well as Sanditon. I had only read Sanditon once, and it didn't leave much impression on me, I think because there is just so much in this combined edition. I should have read the four very different works separately, each on its own terms - as I have done with the Juvenilia and Lady Susan.
Re-reading Sanditon was a revelation. It is a satirical look at a seaside town on the south coast of England, which two of its residents are promoting with all their might. One of the investors, Mr Parker, is as effervescent as Mr Weston in preaching the merits of "a young & rising Bathing-place, certainly the favourite spot of all that are to be found along the coast of Sussex." He constantly points out the benefits of sea bathing and sea breezes, and with his coadjutor Lady Denham he schemes to lure people to fill the cottages and the Terrace waiting for summer visitors. He is in hopes that his two sisters and brother will also come, and a funnier set of hypochondriacs I have never met. His younger brother Arthur's lectures on why toast must be slathered with butter, and the horrors of green tea, top even Mr Wodehouse's paeans to gruel and Hartfield eggs softly boiled. There is a young man who has read too many novels and aspires to be a seducer; Lady Denham, who has married twice and inherited both husbands' estates, to the discomfort of their families; Charlotte Heywood, a young woman staying with the Parkers, who watches all the antics with a cool, detached, amused eye; and most intriguingly, a young heiress from the West Indies, Miss Lambe, "half Mulatto." In the discussion, Miss Lambe brought to mind "Belle" Lindsay, with whom Jane Austen may have been familiar through family connections.
I felt that in Sanditon, Jane Austen was trying something new. The story has such energy, with people rushing around - it even opens with a carriage accident! And as we considered in the discussion, it is focused on a commercial enterprise, creating a sea-side resort out of a sleepy village. And while there are several eligible females, and three single men (if you count the hypochondriac Arthur), it isn't clear who if anyone will pair off. I also think it is amazing that Austen could write such a satire of hypochondriacs while she herself was so ill.
I know there is a continuation of Sanditon, "By a Lady," which has been enthusiastically recommended to me. I usually avoid Austen sequels and spin-offs like the proverbial plague, but I am a little tempted. I so wish we could know what Austen intended with this story. Have you read Sanditon, or the sequel? If so, what do you think - about where Austen's story would have gone, about the story she did write, whether the sequel is worth reading.
My Tivo box is acting up again. It is claiming that it's unable to connect to my wi-fi, though everything else in the house can. Now it's stuck on a single screen, and nothing I've tried will unblock it. The Tivo website hasn't been helpful, so the next step would be to call them, I guess. At this point I can't even watch TV. On the other hand, though, I am wondering if this isn't a good time to cut the TV cord - or at least cancel my cable. My bill keeps inching up, but I only watch a very few of the 700+ channels available. I have a premiere level, so I can get the Turner Classic Movies channel, but I record far more than I ever watch. And in reality, I generally end up flipping through channels, only to end up with something that I don't really want to watch, out of inertia. I do watch stuff through Netflix streaming, but I can do that without cable. And I have been reading about some of the other services, like Hulu and Apple TV, which seem more cost-effective. I think I'm going to let the TV sit, see how it goes this week. I think that having it shut off might give me more time to read, and maybe a bit more mental energy, especially if I cut out the mindless watching.
James at James Reads Books has announced the impending arrival of a new dog in their family. I have also added to mine, a new cat. She is two years old, so technically an "older cat," the kind that are harder to place, because people want kittens. She's a "dilute calico," which I've learned means mostly white, with the calico colors "diluted" - red, brown, and grey splotches. My older cat Sophie (aged 8) is Not Amused. Here she is keeping a wary eye out:
Sophie is named for The Grand Sophie, but under the pressure of the newcomer, she is acting more like Eugenia Wraxton. On my vet's recommendation, I now have a dry food called "Calm," which includes tryptophan. The new kitty does not yet have a name. She was originally Eowyn, and then Eve - neither of which I like. She is totally copying Sophie, where she sleeps, sits, eats - even how she sits or sprawls. And she so desperately wants to be friends! I am considering little sisters' names, like Ginny Weasley, which would be appropriate for a red-head. But after Sanditon, I'm also thinking of Charlotte. I have never had this much trouble naming a cat!