So, as you know, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice as a sort of one-man-book-club, and as a way to respond to the first 70 pages, which is all I’ve had time to get through so far, I thought it best to have my intern, Mr. Zane Kai, interview me about my experience. He’s a big Jane Austen fan, though, I’m sorry to say, not that great an interviewer. But he’s free. The interview, albeit a bit short, is in its entirety below.
Zane Kai: Good morning, Benjamin
Benjamin: Hi, Zane. Hi. Sorry for being late.
Zane Kai: That’s okay! I work for you, remember!
Zane Kai: I see you’ve got your copy of the book with you.
Benjamin: Want to be able to find passages and all that.
Zane Kai: So, where should we start?
Benjamin: I don’t know.
Zane Kai: I could ask you what you think of the novel so far.
Benjamin: You could ask me what I think of the novel so far.
Zane Kai: (awkward laughter) So…what do you think of Pride and Prejudice so far?
Benjamin: It’s good.
Zane Kai: Care to elaborate?
Benjamin: (12 second pause) It’s funnier than I expected.
Zane Kai: Is that a good thing?
Benjamin: Definitely. No, definitely a good thing. I didn’t mean that as, like, when you say someone has a great personality because you don’t want to name the fact that they’re ugly. I just mean it’s one of the things about the book that stands out.
Zane Kai: In what way does humor affect the book?
Benjamin: Mostly, Jane Austen seems to employ humor to tell us things about the characters. Like when, early in the novel (flipping pages)…in discussion with her daughter on the subject of a certain Mrs. Long
Zane Kai: Uh huh
Benjamin: Mrs. Bennet comments, saying, hold on, let me find it, saying…”she is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion of her.” I mean, that’s funny. I laughed and underlined it. And we learn something about Mrs. Bennet while we’re laughing.
Zane Kai: I love that line too! Cool, what else? How else does she use humor?
Benjamin: Well, I don’t know, um…the humor also creates tension. There’s constant verbal bantering that goes on between the characters that almost reminds me of the kinds of battles of wits Shakespeare’s characters often engage in.
Zane Kai: Such as?
Benjamin: Like when Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy–can I just ask, does he have a first name?
Zane Kai: Um…I don’t know. I don’t think so…just Mr. Darcy!
Benjamin: Anyway, when they’re coyly flirting/feeling each other out at a ball early in the book. Hold on, let me see if… (More flipping pages)…yeah, here. Before they are in proximity of one another, this guy Sir William, this idiot at the party, says to Darcy, “what a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy. There is nothing like dancing after all,” to which Darcy dryly replies, and you can just feel this guy’s icy glare, “…it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” Moments later, Elizabeth Bennet comes up and Sir William tries to get her to dance with Darcy, and Elizabeth says, and we can start to feel how smart and sassy she is, “I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner.” Damn! Darcy then asks her to dance but she rebuffs him, playing very very hard to get. So, you know, there’s a lot of that kind of tension driven humor. Austen’s pretty crafty the way she shows us stuff and ratchets up the stakes through these kinds of interactions.
Zane Kai: So…I can’t help noticing, and I’m sorry to say this, and don’t take it the wrong way, but it looks as if you haven’t read that much. You told me you’d hoped to be half way through the book by now and I can see your bookmark isn’t a third the way in.
Benjamin: Yeah. Well, I’ve been pretty swamped at work this week.
Zane Kai: Are you planning to keep reading?
Benjamin: Definitely! I mean, I’m enjoying it a lot. I don’t know that I find it a page turner necessarily.
Zane Kai: Because of the writing?
Benjamin: It’s less that. I think it’s more the situation and the conflicts. I’ve just never been that into British society the way a lot of people are. There’s a bottomless well of romance in 19th Century British life for some people…although, I’ve watched a couple episodes of Downton Abbey and it’s pretty rocking. And Ang Lee’s film of Sense and Sensibility is unreal.
Zane Kai: And there’s always, you know, Shakespeare.
Benjamin: Smart ass.
Zane Kai: Sorry.
Benjamin: And Shakespeare’s work was often set outside of England.
Zane Kai: Good point.
Benjamin: Thank you.
Zane Kai: What else?
Benjamin: Well, now I know where the idea for pretty much every romantic comedy ever comes from.
Zane Kai: What do you mean?
Benjamin: The set up of the novel feels like When Harry Met Sally or something. They don’t like each other at first, but there’s clearly sexual tension beneath the surface and you sense they’ll probably end up together, but everything will conspire against them.
Benjamin: So…are we done for now?
Zane Kai: We can be. Remember, I work for you!
Benjamin: Let’s check in after another 70 pages.
Zane Kai: Deal!