I spent last week bathed in estrogen. Alone, reading the Austen classic Pride and Prejudice while opossums slithered between my ankles and gnats gnatted on my arms; while my cat suffered a ravenous maiming by wild dogs; while birds were attacked and later saved; while fish suffocated.
I had never read it, or others like it. It was so delightful to listen to poor Lizzy and poor Jane suffer the insufferable–the exaggerated Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine, the dashing Darcy and Bingley and Wickham. The chaises, the balls, the estates with names, the gardens, the servants. England! A country of bewildering manners and ridiculously inflexible social hierarchies. A country I experienced first-hand as an eight year-old in a public school, loathe to rise each morning, fearful of dirty children eating disgusting food and kicking soccer balls, and sometimes kicking me too. Often hiding at home on lunch breaks eating canned meatballs watching American telly with mom (because I think she hated it there too). We cursed the rain and the rubber boots. And their extra U’s in words and all that confusion over driving lanes. Dastardly place, Devonshire in the ’70s. I’m sure it’s better now. The social internet has normalized human behavior. I mean behavioUr. I don’t know what I mean.
But P&P was a delightful experience. I read my parent’s 1959 pocketbook edition, musty pages and all. I wondered if it had ever been opened. They claimed it was a book purchased during an incident with appendix and hospitals whilst on honeymoon. But who actually reads during hospital stays, especially in the ’50s when you just had to be scared for your life, what without computer-aided surgery and designer drugs?
No matter, it has been read now. And the cat mends itself while the fish don’t; the bird has been sent to a rescue shelter and the book re-shelved. But the evil dogs remain as they were, attentive, hungry, and very loud.