When Should I Start Worrying About My Pride & Prejudice Obsession?

Guys, I have a sort-of-awkward question to ask you.

Since the start of the New Year, I have consumed over a dozen Pride and Prejudice adaptations, with no signs of slowing down. In addition to listening to the original text on audiobook (beautifully performed by Rosamund Pike), as well as Bridget Jones’s Diary, I’ve watched:

  • the 1995 BBC miniseries,
  • the 2005 Keira Knightley version,
  • (twice),
  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,
  • Austenland,
  • The Jane Austen Book Club, and
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I’ve also read:

  • Eligible, last year’s atrocious modern retelling,
  • Epic Fail, another lousy adaptation set in a Los Angeles high school,
  • Austenland (the book), and
  • The Jane Austen Book Club (ditto).

Oh, and I bought myself these adorable post-its.

I can’t decide if there’s something deeply wrong with me, or if this is the best use I’ve ever made of my free time. It seems impossible, even to me, that I have not yet tired of this story and these characters—despite the occasional unfortunate rendering. But there’s no such thing as a healthy addiction, even to Jane Austen… and the rest of my TBR is growing resentful.

So, inevitably, my question is this: When should I start worrying? Where is the line between everyday-fan-of-a-beloved-classic and devout-disciple-of-a-new-religion? Is it when I begin referring to my husband as “Mr. Darcy” and asking him to call me “Miss Elizabeth”? Is it when I stop leaving my house? Is it when I start acting out scenes from the book with my Pride and Prejudice post-its?

Because, you know, I’d like to be on the lookout. The moment cannot be long in coming at this point.

P.S. If you have any recommendations for P&P adaptations not listed here, please send them my way. Thank you in advance.

#70 Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

All the Thoughts I Had While Listening to Robinson Crusoe on Audiobook

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Early On

  • So, Mr. Crusoe, your first sea voyage ends in shipwreck, and the second ends in your capture by Moorish pirates. Upon escaping slavery, your first move is to get back on a boat??? Fool me thrice, and all that.
  • Glad to hear you feel one measly qualm about selling Xury after he helped liberate you from bondage, Crusoe. Seriously, I’m dabbing a tissue to my eye’s flooded edge as we speak.
  • Cue another shipwreck. Didn’t see that coming for a minute.
  • “Island of Despair.” Ha. Hahaha. Karma’s a bitch, isn’t she?
  • Hang on—did I hear that right? Penguins?

Later

  • My, aren’t we resourceful.
  • Actually, “resourceful” is putting it mildly.
  • OK, we’ve now ventured way beyond resourcefulness and traipsed into surrealism. Is anyone a man of this many talents? Or did the entire English population of the 17th century know how to farm, fish, craft pottery, weave baskets, build rafts, carve canoes, fashion clothing, and make candles, cheese, bread, and wine?
  • Forgive me, Mr. C., for the impertinence, but shouldn’t you have gone crazy by now? Shouldn’t you be carving yourself a cedar family at this point, instead of all those canoes?
  • So many cats, so few bullets. *Shakes head.*
  • I’m pretty sure that, under the same circumstances, I would have abandoned religion instead of adopting it. But whatever. At least there’s no one around to evangelize.
  • JUST KIDDING. Thank God for Friday.

Later Than That

  • What are the odds of strolling into the middle of a cannibal party?
  • OK, Wikipedia says the odds aren’t THAT slim. Fine, then.
  • So… once you taught Friday to speak English, dearest Crusoe, you couldn’t have asked him his real name?
  • Holy crap is this book racist.
  • OOF racist.
  • Racist!!!
  • ALL THE RACISM.

Very Late

  • Bear with me for a minute, Crusoe. So you saved Friday’s life once, and he vowed to serve you as lord and master. I get it. I really do. But now that Friday has saved your life at least five times, shouldn’t you switch???
  • Also, why is every slave in this book so excited to be a slave? (Except you, NATCH.)
  • Well done, Crusoe. You finally realized the moral of your own story: Travel overland.

The End

  • But look out for wolves.

Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?

The concept trumps the execution in this case. (The same, of course, can also be said of all reality TV, of which Robinson Crusoe is an ancestor.)

Favorite Quotes:

It put me upon reflecting how little repining there would be among mankind at any condition of life, if people would rather compare their condition with those that were worse, in order to be thankful, than be always comparing them with those which are better, to assist their murmurings and complaining. 

It is true, I had been very unfortunate by sea and this might be one of the reasons. But let no man slight the strong impulses of his own thoughts in cases of such moment. Two of the ships which I had singled out to go in, I mean more particularly singled out than any other, that is to say, so as in one of them to put my things on board, and in the other to have agreed with the captain; I say, two of these ships miscarried, viz. one was taken by Algerines, and the other was cast away on the Start, near Torbay, and all the people drowned, except three; so that in either of those vessels I had been made miserable, and in which most, it was hard to say.

Read: 2015

Audiobook Advice from an Audiophile (io9)

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This was an inspiring find during a recent break in my daily hacking and trolling eating and Netflixing routine: io9’s list of 10 audiobooks “worth getting for the voice acting alone.”

At some point in the last two years, I went from an occasional audiobook listener to a devout fanatic, finishing a range of titles from Bossypants to Robinson Crusoe to Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line and then lecturing everyone around me on the benefits of this (convenient! entertaining! eco-friendly!) format. I’m already excited to pick up Sissy Spacek’s reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Stephen Fry’s take on Harry Potter, as soon as a few Audible credits free up.

As much as I love the concept, though, I’ve learned the hard way that some books lend themselves better than others to an audio format. If you’re in the market for a great new listen, I’d recommend sticking first of all to books narrated in first person. Memoirs and autobiographies go down particularly well, along with travelogues and diaries. Standard novels in first person are fine, too, in many cases.

The reason? It’s pretty simple, really: Third-person narratives can be confusing, especially in dialogue, and especially if the voice actor doesn’t clearly and consistently differentiate individual characters’ voices. Multiple perspectives might well be a disaster of biblical Tuesday-esque proportions (though I’ve never tried it myself).

The second consideration when it comes to audiobooks is plot. This is NOT the format for complex dramas, convoluted mysteries, non-linear structures, or any other kind of stories-as-puzzles. If you suspect that the book atop your TBR will leave you wishing you could refer back to previous sections, you’re better off with the paper version. Remember that, with audiobooks, you’re depending entirely on your own (frayed, threadbare) memory to gather up all the plot essentials—and some studies show that our minds are prone to wandering when we “read” passively vs. actively.

In terms of style, quick and easy (usually modern) reads are your safest bet. Short chapters are a blessing, as are short sentences. If you prefer non-fiction or the classics, don’t worry—it CAN be done. You just need to choose your titles carefully. The Russians are famous for casts of characters so large they require their own appendix. Stream-of-consciousness ramblings and long-winded descriptive passages are difficult enough to get through on paper. So don’t be a masochist, OK? Limit your plate to more straightforward, easy-to-swallow fare.

Obviously, the voice actor will play a major role in your enjoyment of any audiobook. It’s always a pleasure to listen to the author read their own work (the way the story was “meant” to be told, we can assume), especially when it comes to celebrity memoirs and/or humor. Also: Character accents are a gift and a half to the literary listener—and they help a lot with the recurring problem of distinguishing among diverse voices.

My last piece of advice: If you have multiple options of voice actors for your next audiobook purchase (as is often the case with classics), it’s worth listening to any available samples. I have, on occasion, found low-pitched voices difficult to hear distinctly, especially when competing with other ambient noises (e.g., traffic, the dishwasher, the neighbor’s cat, particularly crunchy scones).

For those of you who aren’t quite sure when/where you can work audiobooks into your daily habits, I am currently drafting a list of times/places to squeeze them in—if only for a few minutes. Those minutes add up quicker than you’d think. And, if you choose carefully, audiobook narration can make your reading experience even better than what you get on paper. So happy listening, from me to you!