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.
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