I was going to go to a classics book club at my local Barnes & Noble, but instead went to an after hours thing at the Asian Art Museum. But in prep for the possible book club attendance, I picked up the chosen book, Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
When I bought it at the used bookstore, I was told (not unkindly) by the owner that I was the first man to have bought a Jane Austen novel from him. I think it was a compliment, but you’re never quite sure if it reflects as well on you as you think it does.
So, I’d read it before, enjoyed. That’s that.
But I picked it up again for this book club thing and I was… disappointed. Can one say that about Jane Austen? Pride and Prejudice is a model of gem-like perfection. My second reading of Persuasion left me a little unsatisfied.
Anne Elliot’s interior life lacks the richness of Elizabeth Bennett’s. She is frankly less interesting, yet we are held very much within her third person limited perspective. While one does not read Austen for lush geographical details nor for the richness of her descriptions of rooms or people, I dare you to read Pride and Prejudice and not come away with a very personal vision of the environs. Whereas, Persuasion‘s market town and then Bath are very vague. The people, too, leave me with no clear image of them (as for Pride and Prejudice, my generation has a very clear picture of the characters and they look remarkably like Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth).
So, instead of that, we went an after hours open house at the Sackler-Freer Gallery (the African and Asian art museums, respectively, of the Smithsonian) where they kicked off an installation project riffing on Whistler’s famed Peacock Room (which is a room he decorated and designed for a wealthy liverpudlian and which has been moved entirely to the Freer Gallery), entitled Filthy Lucre. It’s starting point was the fights over money between Whistler and his patron about the final cost of the Peacock Room. Basically, it’s a closed room installation where the room is redone as someone decaying, sagging. The ceiling bursting with age and water damage; asian pottery shattered; the walls scarred with age and mold and lord knows what else. For the night, the music/performance art group BETTY played within the room. All in all, it was awesome.