Motivations, or why I started this blog (Part I)
The reason I started this blog can be summarized as follows: Jane Austen. It doesn’t mean, though, that this is a blog about Jane Austen and her work, though that will no doubt be a big part of it. Let me explain.
I am a professional scientist. You can imagine what getting to be called such probably entailed: Graduate school, lots of all-nighters, sleeping in libraries, lots of reading and studying. Yes, I read a lot, but the kind of books I read were obviously technical and scientific in nature, with as much equations as text in them. I had been fond of books as a child. For this I have my family to thank, for raising me in an environment full of books and newspapers. The books were varied, from children’s books to grammar books, chemistry books, complete sets of encyclopedias, medical books, the Pentagon Papers, bibles, big, fat dictionaries, sundry novels, etc. (Alas, no Austen.) Wanting to be a scientist early on, I was eventually drawn more and more to science books—books which contained mankind’s collective knowledge about the Universe. My education in literature, in the other kind of books, was virtually stunted and, until recently, I thought I suffered no great loss from it. Indeed, while in graduate school, I decided that reading fiction was a complete waste of time, because nothing was to be learned from reading such books.
Fast forward to about a year ago. No longer in graduate school and things going well with my research work, I found myself with some expendable time. I guess I began to be envious of people who read, and was embarrassed that I couldn’t call myself a reader. While in an indie bookstore, I picked up a used copy of Austen’s Emma without knowing what the story was about. I had read that Austen was a great writer. If there is any doubt in the reader’s mind that I am illiterate, then that last sentence should erase any trace of it.
In the comfort of home, I proceeded to read Emma. At first, the 19th-century language slowed me down, but it didn’t make me put down the book. (This is an appropriate place to say that I have a short attention span.) The storytelling compelled me to turn each page, and the language eventually gained a rhythm with each page I read, and the rhythm stuck. Around the middle of the book, I began to realize what I was actually reading, and the realization sent a rush of blood to my head, and words of awe from my mouth. I had to pause in disbelief. I realized that before me were words that were strung together into sentences to convey a meaning in a way that was absolutely beautiful and subtle. I realized that I understood what Austen was saying at a much deeper level than what the words and sentences seemed to be conveying at the surface. It was like I was reading feelings and thoughts instead of words. If that doesn’t make much sense, it’s because I am at a loss as to how to describe the experience. Perhaps I should just say that the experience, the realization, was profound.
I will continue this personal story, and the motivations for this blog, on my next post. I welcome your comments.