Somehow (though I couldn’t really tell you how) I made it through the month of June.  Here on the blog, I’ve talked about all the reading I’ve done (Jane Austen and John Green all June!).  But I’ve also a) found and moved into a new rental b) been to Philadelphia and back and c) juggled my day job and work as a student.  It’s been one of the longest and most stressful months of the year while simultaneously being one of the most interesting and successful.  Hooray for contrasts!

When I started planning out Jane and John in June, I had nothing in mind except how awesome I thought the title was.  I mentioned I’m a fan of consonance, right?  I thought so.  Anyways!  I just had a general idea to read these two authors together, one famous in classics-land, the other a popular contemporary author.  I didn’t have any pre-planned connections or any themes I wanted to find.  I just wanted to read, and to create a fun, alliterative reading plan for the month.

You can see from the many posts on the two authors that I did find a lot of connections, at least between their literary works.  Some characters followed similar plot lines between the two authors.  Some emotional themes occurred in each of their stories, over and over again.  Some events occurred simultaneously in others.  All in all, it was easy to find contrasts between a Jane book and a John book, if I only thought about it for a moment.

So what did I learn, beyond the generic “here’s what I think about these books” spiel?  Well, I learned that sometimes it’s important to be polite, while at other times you have to stand up for yourself.  I learned that heroes can be introverts.  I learned that the language you speak is the language you’ll find easier to read (though a few weeks in a different style of writing will adjust you quickly to similar works).  I learned that time is the great equalizer, and that sometimes there is no villain.

I learned that I like to sit in Starbucks with a booklet of paper tabs so that I can mark pages with awesome quotes.  I learned that I will carry around giant books in the hopes that I can read just two pages between meetings.  I learned that I like to read on paper and on my Kindle pretty equally.

I learned that Jane Austen was an even sassier author than I has believed.  I learned that John Green knows exactly how to hone in on the insecurities so many of us share.  I learned that there is a book out there for everyone, with a hero just like you, if you just read enough of them.  I learned that deadlines make me a faster reader and maybe even a little bit of a faster writer (though probably not a better writer, but at least I keep writing).

I learned that no matter when you exist in time, or in space, or if you’re a prodigy or a penniless waif or the loneliest person in the world, there is a book for you.  And if there’s a book for you, that means that there’s at least one other person that Gets It.  There’s a character that feels the same things you feel, which means there was likely an author that felt those things (or knew someone that felt those things), too.

Most importantly, I learned that we, as humans, are indomitable.  If I ever forget it, I have a month’s work of reading and research to remind me again!


What have you learned from literature, classic or contemporary?  Have you had any epiphanies elicited by Jane or John?

In the final week of June, I almost didn’t finish my Austen book.  I’ve been moving (physically this time – not from server to server) and it’s taken a huge toll on my free time.  I finished Looking for Alaska quickly, but as much as I enjoyed Emma, I just kept running out of time for reading.  Real life can get crazy.Continue reading

Well, well.  Now that we’ve (almost) reached the end of the lovely month of June, I can happily say that I have consumed and enjoyed the majority of both Jane Austen and John Green’s novels!  It’s been a wild ride.  I’ve spent hours reading on airplanes, in coffee shops, in my lab, outside national monuments – pretty much anywhere I had a spare moment, I’ve been reading one or the other author.  I’m still pushing through Emma and Looking for Alaska (check in on Monday for an analysis of those two books), but I’ve reached the point where I feel confident ranking the novels in order of my least to most favorite!

Along with the eight books I’ve read (am reading) this month, I wanted to include Pride and Prejudice and The Fault in Our Stars.  Though I didn’t add them to the schedule, I have read both before, and think this ranking would be incomplete without them.  However, on the Austen side, I’ve never read Persuasion, so I’ve excluded it for the time being. (This also keeps us even between Jane and John.  Don’t judge me for my love of organization!)


Jane Austen

5. Mansfield Park – I appreciate this novel for its use of an introverted heroine – but I can’t get behind Fanny’s lengthy, unrequited crush (even if it does end well).  That, and the unrelenting negativity of several of the secondary characters puts this story firmly on the bottom of the list.

4. Sense and Sensibility – The humor and lively debate between sisters makes this novel an excellent family story.  Elinor is charming and Marianne is fierce, and together, these young women present a lovely contrast between their lives and relationships.

3. Emma – This cheerful romp is the perfect ‘girl’s night’-style novel!  Featuring matchmaking, flighty crushes, and the power of true love, Emma makes a wonderful read for anyone looking for a good, old-fashioned romance book.

2. Northanger Abbey – Catherine is possibly the most adorable heroine in any Jane Austen novel ever, especially with her bashful, oblivious flirting and love of reading.  Add in Austen’s sassy commentary on Gothic literature, and you’ve got a phenomenal piece of writing.

1. Pride and Prejudice – Maybe it’s the fact that Elizabeth Bennet is a role model for young women even today, in both her mistakes in her successes.  Maybe it’s the adorableness of Bingley and the steadfastness of Mr. Darcy.  Whatever it is, Pride and Prejudice is beloved by many for its romance – and by me, for its usage of an independent heroine.


John Green

5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – While an excellent collaboration, this story of two boys with the same name isn’t pure John Green.  Also, as a Sarah Williams, I’ve met endless numbers of people with my same name.  Totally not a novelty.

4. An Abundance of Katherines – An fascinating example of someone using model-fitting in his own life, and how models can only display the past, not predict the future.  Also features an entertaining fight scene.

3. The Fault in Our Stars – I’m a sucker for tear-jerkers, and TFIOS delivers.  ‘Nuff said.

2. Looking for Alaska – We’ve all had that crush on someone less than good for us; and, no matter how that crush ended, it changed our perceptions of the world.  Looking for Alaska is one boy’s journey into understanding someone who didn’t come from the same world of family love and privilege as him.

1. Paper Towns – Maybe I’m partial to this novel since it’s set in my current city of residence, but Paper Towns also features adventure and dynamic characters.  I only wish I could have physically joined Q and the gang on their mad-dash to the state of New York!


Which books by Jane Austen and John Green are your favorites?  Why do you love these authors?

Another week of Jane Austen and John Green has flown by.  Unlike the first two weeks, I didn’t read the two novels interchangeably.  Instead, I tore through Will Grayson, Will Grayson while waiting in an airport last Monday, and paced Mansfield Park throughout the week.  I’ll blame the change in my reading style for an initial lack of obvious connections between the books.  That, or the fact that Will Grayson, Will Grayson is complicated by the fact that two authors wrote an intertwining story featuring two narrators whose primary similarity is their name.  But I did, finally, figure out some parallels!

In order to smooth out the process of discussing the books, I’ll first give some general information and thoughts on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, then I’ll do the same for Mansfield Park, and finally, I’ll discuss the two together.  But I should warn you: spoilers appear below for both books!

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I’ve imbibed so much Jane Austen and John Green in the first three weeks of June, that I’ll probably dream about them for months.  Fanny Price will have tea with Quentin Jacobsen and Marianne Dashwood will move to Gutshot with Colin and Lindsey.  It’ll be wild.

Dreaming about books is a fairly impermanent way of carrying a story with you.  If you love a book enough, you can always keep it in your bag (or on your Kindle, which may make carrying Les Misérables a bit easier).  But sometimes life is not conducive toward carrying a book around at all times.  While every once in a while you may come across a kind soul who’s interested when you pull out your dogeared copy of The Fault in Our Stars and proceed to proclaim its virtues, it’s more likely that strangers will step carefully around your soapbox and ignore your practiced oration.

So how do you show your love for literature to the world?

While tattoos are always an option, and can be absolutely gorgeous, not everyone wants to spend the money or energy on getting them.  Money and energy are exactly why I haven’t stuck “So it goes.” on my person (that, and a healthy fear of tattoo needles).  Sometimes you can’t find a quote to capture your feelings about the book, or you want something more visible to passerby or visitors to your home.

Well, lucky for us, we live in a sales-oriented world!

And lucky for you, I scoured the internet to find as much merchandise as I could for John Green and Jane Austen works, and picked out a few of my favorites!  Now you can either use these links to quickly jump to collections of items, or a specific item I recommend!


 

Litographs is all about making art based on book texts.  While they don’t have an John Green items, they do have a lovely collection of Jane Austen pieces, ranging from shirts to totes to wall prints.  Personally, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the Persuasion print after I move in July!

Paper Towns comes out in a month, and is already causing quite a stir.  The movie has its own shop on DFTBA, a collaboration site co-owned by the Green brothers.  Their section of the store contains other items linked to John Green’s books.  My personal favorite?  This pendant, featuring a line from Looking For Alaska.

Jane Austen has literally thousands of items you can purchase from Barnes and Noble.  I filtered the search results so that only the items in the gift section of the store showed; even so, there are still an absurd amount tchotchkes you choose from.  For those wanting the truly immersive experience, you can even purchase a Jane Austen-scented candle! (I may or may not have the one scented after John Steinbeck.)

JAcandleSquare

Barnes and Noble also has a few items related to John Green.  Far fewer than Austen, but still there!

The last shop on the list is the massive collective of craft gods and goddesses, Etsy.  Both Jane Austen and John Green have massive selections to choose from, covering any and all of their books.  While I didn’t have the time (or the restraint on my credit card) to skim everything available, I did find a few items for both of them that are now definitely on my wish list.  There’s the Pride and Prejudice infinity scarf produced by LiteratiClub.  You can download and print (and frame!) a premade Austen wall print.  For the truly invested, you can even buy a Regency era dress and experience style, the Jane Austen way!  John Green, meanwhile, has items ranging from this adorable book cover charm bracelet, quote prints, earrings featuring the “Okay? Okay.” line from The Fault in Our Stars, and more.  If you can’t find exactly what you want on Etsy, I’m sure you could find someone to make it for you.

 


 

Don’t feel like spending tons of money?  Or maybe you don’t see anything you like?  Make your own!

Here’s a great tutorial for making Sharpie mugs.  My friend made some for a gift exchange a few years ago, featuring a quote from Pride and Prejudice!

mugJA


 

Do you have a favorite literary accessory?  How do you like to share your love of literature with the world?

Week two has passed, and though I expected to run out of time to finish my Jane Austen or John Green selection (I’ve been traveling), somehow I fit them both in!  It was a fascinating pair to read, especially since, more than any other novel by either author, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.

In order to smooth out the process of discussing the books, I’ll first give some general information and thoughts on An Abundance of Katherines, then I’ll do the same for Northanger Abbey, and finally, I’ll discuss the two together.  But I should warn you: spoilers appear below for both books!

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If you’ve been aware of pop culture, particular teen-oriented pop culture, this past decade, then you’ve been aware of the paranormal/urban fantasy trend in media and literature. Vampires (along with the ever-present juxtaposition of the werewolf) seem the popular choice, though recently I think zombies have taken center stage (I’m a huge fan of the CW’s iZombie).  While I love a good dash of mysticism with my otherwise realistic fiction, this zeitgeist has led to some odd crossovers and adaptions.

Enter Quirk Books, the publisher of such fun novels as William Shakespeare’s The Phantom Menace.  I haven’t read anything produced by them, but their fascination with attaching monstrosities to classic literature led to two “amended” Jane Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Weird, right?  Weird.  (But definitely now on my to-read list!)

But seeing all these fun titles made me wonder: what would John Green books be like with an added element of the fantastic?  This led to a frenzied re-plotting of the blurbs found for his books on amazon.com.  It helps that I started this endeavor while in Philadelphia, where Quirk Books resides – I’m pretty sure I channeled their energy in the process.


A Werewolf in the Paper Towns

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her.  Little does he know that she is lycanthrope bent on turning him before the sun rises and the full moon ends.  Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up (and distinctly hairy) for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished.  Alone and newly bitten, Q searches for answers.  Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery wrapped in a werewolf.  But there are clues.  And they’re for Q to sniff out.


Looking for Alaska’s Monster

Before.  Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home, free from the influence of mad scientists.  His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet).  He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, where he becomes student to the premier researcher of the afterlife.  There, his life becomes the opposite of safe.  Not because of the corpses or creatures that lurk in Culver’s classrooms.  But because down the hall is Alaska Young.  The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself, and determined to bring life to a Frankenstein-like subject of her own.  She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.  Then. . . .

After.  Nothing is ever the same.


An Abundance of Korpses

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine.  And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped.  Nineteen times, to be exact.  However, Colin begins to suspect that the common denominator between these girls is not their name or their penchant for leaving him; instead, he finds that each and every one of them has been undead.  On a road trip miles from home in an attempt to escape his cursed fate, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy–loving best friend riding shotgun—and many shambling Katherines close behind.  Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the best way to avoid dating zombies, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him a nice (breathing) girl.  Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself and defeating the living dead.


Will Grayson, Will Grayson

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths.  A science experiment gone wrong led to the release of two genetically identical boys into the city.  As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical – starring both clones in a Jekyll- and Hyde-style horror.


And as a bonus, here’s how I would revise Northanger Abbey:

In this spirited comedy of manners, Catherine Morland falls in love with a young clergyman while vacationing in Bath, and his father, thinking her wealthy, invites her to be a guest at Northanger Abbey, the family’s country estate.  All is not right at Northanger Abbey – just as Catherine is convinced everything she’s read in Gothic novels is dramatized, she finds herself at the center of haunting that could only be precipitated by her – horror of horrors – lack of family money.  Will her knowledge of literature allow her to exorcise the greedy spirit that drives the Tilneys to madness?


Are you a fan of “updating” classic literature?  What book would you love to see with paranormal additions?

Interestingly, I’d say my first foray into pairing Jane Austen and John Green novels was a weirdly serendipitous success.  Themes and concepts central to both quickly rose through the murky literary waters; parallels appeared in unexpected places.  I only hope the rest of the month goes this well!

In order to smooth out the process of discussing the books, I’ll first give some general information and thoughts on Paper Towns, then I’ll do the same for Sense and Sensibility, and finally, I’ll discuss the two together.  But I should warn you: spoilers appear below for both books!

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Hello! As promised, a first “wildcard” post in my Jane and John in June series.  In order to give my reading more context, here’s a brief history of the two authors’ lives (or lives thus far).

Jane Austen was born in December of 1775.  Her love of reading was nurtured by her family, and in turn, the love of reading transformed into an interest in developing her own writing.  She started writing in her teens, and though none of her works were officially published until 1811 (putting her at age 36 or so), she then had comfortable stretch of publishing success prior to her death in 1817. Her siblings, ever the supporters of their sister’s genius, pushed for the posthumous publication of two other novels.  In later years, Jane Austen’s estate has also released various forms of her juvenilia and of the novel that remained unfinished at her death, Sanditon.

-Look! Jane Austen is so cool, they're gonna put her on money

-Look! Jane Austen is so cool, they’re gonna put her on money

In contrast, John Green is alive and well.  Having been born in 1977, I hope we can expect many more good years of writing and vlogging and general entertainment from him!  Like Austen, he also seems to receive great support from his family in his endeavors (or so says the acknowledgments page of Paper Towns).  He’s of a generation of authors who use social media as a means to relate to fans.  While much of Jane Austen’s life was gleaned from letters and primary sources and information from her family, John’s life is more accessible.  In the distant future, when some poor ninth-grader is doing an English project on contemporary authors of the early 2000s, at least she’ll be able to look at archived tweets for information on John’s everyday life.

-Becauses John Green is not yet dead, he has plenty of time to write more cool books like these

-Because John Green is not yet dead, he has plenty of time to write more cool books like these

Jane and John are separated by almost 200 years of history, as well as the big blue ocean between America and England.  Jane Austen’s books are primarily considered romances, though she’s lauded for her irony and biting wit.  Thanks to the significant amount of time between now and when she wrote, she’s now found happily in the classics section (i.e., we know we’ll be reading her books forever, because we’ve been doing it ceaselessly for a good century or more).  John Green’s books fall under the umbrellas of young adult fiction, contemporary fiction, and realistic fiction, and while I think they have the potential for modern-classicdom, only time will tell.

Other people with many more years of research under their belts have written about Jane Austen’s life; and honestly, if you want to know more about John Green, just follow him on Youtube or Twitter!  I’m listening to his vlogs in the background as I write this – I just learned he hates nature.

Check back on Monday for a review (and comparison? we’ll see) of Paper Towns and Sense and Sensibility!

What do Jane Austen and John Green have in common?  Well, for starters, their names form a lovely consonant rhythm when added to the month of June.  That rhythm may have been the driving force behind my reading project for the next few weeks.  As a former English major, I should probably make up a more intelligent reason, such as my plan to focus on the generational differences in their portrayals of youth, love, and personhood.  Or maybe I should mention that I think both authors have a phenomenal grasp on characterization.  But if I’m honest, it’s all about the consonance for me.

These guys clearly look like best buds to me.

These guys clearly look like best buds to me.

After I had this burst of poetic title-making, I sat down to really consider how I could incorporate both authors into my reading plans.  Jane Austen has six or so novels in her opus (depending on if you count pieces such as Lady Susan), and John Green has a solid five.  Prior to this June, I’ve read two of John’s (we’re on a first name basis, for the sake of alliteration) novels, and a whopping one of Jane’s books.  However, I still know more about Jane’s work than John’s, thanks to an endless supply of PBS and BBC in my childhood.  But awareness of plot aside, I had no causal links for reading either author in any order besides chronological.

That’s when I said screw detailed planning, let’s just start reading!

So I downloaded Paper Towns to my Kindle and cracked up Austen’s collected works to page one, which happened to be Sense and Sensibility.  I’m currently knee-deep in both books.  My soul is struggling between a deep affinity with Elinor Dashwood and a desire to follow Margo Roth Spiegelman’s trail from Orlando to beyond.  Some sort of strange battle of wills occurs every time I switch from one book to the other; it reminds me of when you have two delicious foods on your plate (let’s go with Gouda cheese and dark chocolate) and you can’t decide what flavor you want lingering in your mouth at the end.  Randomly pairing two wildly popular authors and searching for arbitrary comparisons is a refreshing experience.  I feel like my literary-thinking muscles are getting an excellent work out.

Because I am an incorrigible scheduler, I did have to make myself some sort of plan for the month!  Every Monday, I’ll post about my reading experience for the previous week.  Every Friday, I’ll figure out some fun way to entertain you, whether it be with factoids from their lives, coincidental parallels I draw between Jane and John, or maybe even a parody dialogue between universes – who knows!  We’ll just call Fridays a wildcard and leave it at that.

Week One: Paper Towns and Sense and Sensibility
Week Two: An Abundance of Katherines and Northanger Abbey (insert sly wink here)
Week Three: Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Mansfield Park
Week Four: Looking for Alaska and Emma

Care to join me in my month-long excursion? Do you have any favorites among the books by Jane or John?