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A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen
     

A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen

by Richard Jenkyns
 

Jane Austen's work was a true triumph of the comic spirit—of deep comedy, rising from the heart of human life. In A Fine Brush on Ivory, Richard Jenkyns takes us on an amiable tour of Austen's fictional world, opening a window on some of the great works of world literature.
Focusing largely on Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, but with many

Overview

Jane Austen's work was a true triumph of the comic spirit—of deep comedy, rising from the heart of human life. In A Fine Brush on Ivory, Richard Jenkyns takes us on an amiable tour of Austen's fictional world, opening a window on some of the great works of world literature.
Focusing largely on Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, but with many diverting side trips to Austen's other novels, Jenkyns shines a loving light on the exquisite craftsmanship and profound moral imagination that informs her writing. Readers will find, for instance, a wonderful discussion of characterization in Austen. Jenkyns's insight into figures such as Mr. Bennett or Mrs. Norris is brilliant—particularly his portrait of the amusing, clever, always ironic Mr. Bennett, whose humor (Jenkyns shows) arises out of a deeply unhappy and disappointing marriage. The author pays due homage to Austen's unmatched skill with complex plotting—the beauty with which the primary plot and the various subplots are woven together—highlighting the infinite care she took to make each plot detail as natural and as plausible as possible. Perhaps most important, Jenkyns illuminates the heart of Austen's moral imagination: she is constantly aware, throughout her works, of the nearness of evil to the comfortable social surface. She knows that the socially acceptable sins may be truly cruel and vicious, knows that society can be red in tooth and claw, and yet she allows the pleasures of comedy and celebration to subordinate them.
Insightful and highly entertaining, A Fine Brush on Ivory captures the spirit and originality of Jane Austen's work. It will be a cherished keepsake or gift for her many fans.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The subtitle of his slim volume perhaps best sums up the theme: this is indeed an appreciation of Austen and her work. This theme is carried out with gusto. Jenkyns contends early on that there is hardly another novelist of whom one may so readily say, 'That chapter, that paragraph, that sentence is a moment of genius'... Highly recommended."—Library Journal

Michael Dirda
The abundance of anecdote and episode in the book -- the sheer amount of things happening -- is a part of its vitality; it is a means of imparting the ethos of sparkling comedy." Elsewhere, Jenkyns points out that Persuasion is "that great rarity, a novel which is too short." He goes on to say that we really need to live through Anne Elliott's "lonely endurance" more extensively than the book allows us to and that the "reawakening of Wentworth's love for her" should have been a more gradual process.
The Washington Post
Library Journal
Jenkyns (classical tradition, Oxford Univ.) defends his decision to "add to the pile of books about Jane Austen" by explaining that he "thought [he] had something to say." The subtitle of his slim volume perhaps best sums up the theme: this is indeed an appreciation of Austen and her work. This theme is carried out with gusto; Jenkyns contends early on that "there is hardly another novelist of whom one may so readily say, `That chapter, that paragraph, that sentence is a moment of genius.' " He then goes on to analyze the plot and characters of each of Austen's novels, focusing on Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma. He never fails to point out Austen's great ability to choose a unique form and technique for each novel, endorsing her use of comedy to explore the human condition and to meet the disappointments of life "with a kind of stoical common sense." In the end, like the author himself, we are left pondering how a young woman with slight education and little knowledge of the world could produce a novel like Pride and Prejudice-"perhaps as perfect a comedy of manners as was ever written in prose." Highly recommended.-Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199276615
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
10/01/2004
Pages:
230
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Richard Jenkyns is Professor of the Classical Tradition and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.

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