Into My Bookshelf: Jane Eyre

Welcome back to my bookshelf!

Today, we’re continuing on along my short shelf, looking today at Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

My first experience with this novel was in seventh grade, when I read it as one of my required reading books. I was going through classics at the time, and I read it along with other female-authored classics of similar size (notably other Bronte sister novels and some Jane Austen). From my initial impressions, I recall preferring it vastly to all of Austen and a little bit to Wuthering Heights. It was melancholy without being (thirteen-year-old me felt) overdramatic.

My second read happened sometime in high school, although the details are fuzzy. By this point I’d ready a gross amount of Dickens, Vanity Fair, and several quite thick Russian classics, and Jane Eyre no longer cut the mustard for me, I’m afraid. It went into the stack of books like Frankenstein and The Old Man and the Sea that I never wanted to see again in my life. If someone had asked me at the time to discuss my violent assessment in intelligent terms with things like sentences and adjectives, I don’t think I could have done it. I had a very visceral reaction to my reread that leads me to believe now that it was something I was experiencing in my life that must have subconsciously mixed with the novel in a very negative way.

Because now, while I don’t think I will ever love it, I’ve kept it on my bookshelf in spite of my previously violent reactions to it. Frankenstein wasn’t so lucky. It was one of the few non-children’s books that I opted to give away when I was cleaning. Something about Jane Eyre, however, reached out and appealed to the 22-year-old me. Perhaps it’s the melancholy nature, the darkness that finds communion with my inner Mistress of Dark Emotion. Perhaps it’s my inner Victorian. I really can’t put my finger on it exactly, but it’s staying on my short shelf for now, and when I go to pack up and move in a couple year’s time, we’ll see if it’s still so lucky.

I’ll confess that this one is due for a reread, and when I go through rereading things it will most likely be on the list. But here’s a few thoughts from those around me on the novel, and my reactions to them.

First of all, my brother had to read it in his 9th grade English class, and the particular exercise was to annotate the book as he read. So he left sticky notes all through the copy (or maybe he wrote in the margins, I haven’t actually looked, but my other brother still has all his sticky notes in the copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude I loaned him for AP English) and had to turn in his thoughts to the teacher. I will say that he didn’t especially enjoy the novel, and found it too long and vastly depressing. Not so much that he refused to watch Pride and Prejudice with me, but enough that his teacher actually said she couldn’t finish reading his comments because they were too disturbing. Whatever it was he wrote, he wasn’t referred to the counselor, but I’m sure it was witty, entertaining, and vaguely bizarre. I’d like to get my hands on those comments one day.

My excellent friend, fellow writer, and aspiring young-adult author Meg happens to be a big fan of Jane Austen, and consequently knows much of its offshoots. While she says she’s never read Jane Eyre, she happens to have learned that the novel was born out of a question Charlotte Bronte asked herself: What would happen if Jane Fairfax (from Jane Austen’s Emma) had become a governess rather than marrying? Thus was the beginning of a great classic.

So for those of you who have heard or said that fan fiction can’t be great literature, there’s that proved wrong. One of the greatest classics, taught frequently to high school students, began its life as a fan fiction. Proof that the question “what if” can do just about anything in the right hands.




What’s REALLY Going to Happen in the Publishing Industry?

First you hear to traditionally publish, then you hear that self-publishing is the way to go. Print will always be the best, then e-books are vastly outselling physical books.

With Borders out of business, Barnes and Noble following, and who knows what going on where actual publishing companies and agents are concerned, it’s a very relevant question: What is REALLY happening in the publishing industry, and what does it mean for writers?

Though I don’t really have an answer to this question, I will give two answers actual authors I have met in the past month have given to this question, and why I think one of them might be right.

Firstly is one Joyce Carol Oates, famous writer of a variety of fictional works, writing instructor at Princeton University, and winner of several life-time achievement awards in the work of fiction. These credentials, of course, mean that she is excessively well-versed in the publishing industry. She’s published time and again, and with much success. What did she say about the idea that e-books might put print books out of business?

Well, of course, e-books would never fully replace print books, she said. The great masterpieces of print wouldn’t likely have been made, she argued, if all they’d had to show for their work was a digital copy, and not a massive tome of paper and cover and binding that would fill bookshelves and be collector’s items, of sort. Similarly, she said, the great directors weren’t likely to put as much effort into their works if all they had to show for it was simply a inch-by-inch screen version.

I’ll talk about my thoughts on this later, and she was thoroughly, if a bit inarticulately, lambasted by a student who felt that she was completely wrong.

The second writer was one Amy Sterling Casil, well known to the Claremont Colleges, as she was a distinguished graduate of Scripps College, which was why she was there giving a talk during Parent’s Weekend. The talk was about, naturally, the way the publishing industry is heading.

Very simply, she was of the firm belief that non-traditional publishing, as it is often called today, is the way of the future. In fact, if she’s right, it is not too far off to be the only way of the future, and that the traditional publishing houses and the agent system are relics of the past, eventually to die out as self-publishing and e-publishing overtake them. In such a world as this, Smashwords, Amazon, and iTunes are likely to thrive, as well as the likes of Kobo and Diesel. Conglomerates of authors working together to benefit from each other’s publishing strengths and boosting each other where one has a weakness are not only advisable, but the most logical, profitable strategy for all parties. If one is good with covers and a friend a crack-hand at formatting, why not give each other a hand to save time and frustration?

I did tell her about what Joyce Carol Oates said, and we both agreed that she, herself, is a bit of a holdover from that previous era of the traditional workhorse that is finally meeting its end. After all, she was born in the thirties, published quickly out of college. Of course to her it seems that the physical book is the best representation of a work. However, Dickens wouldn’t necessarily agree, living in a time where the serial publication was king. We’ve already seen that publishing format die out, effectively. Why is it so strange to think that traditional publishing will die out too?

That’s not to say that I won’t try to be traditionally published, at least once, before the ship sinks. It’s a vestige of my childhood that I feel is an important part of the cultural history that will be studied by future generations, just as we study the serial today, and I want to be a part of it. But Natalie and I have already started talking about creating our on author conglomerate to help each other in the world of self-publishing, as well as our own literary magazine (because we’d be great at it). Sticking a toe on a sinking ship isn’t so bad. Jumping onto it when the dock is still very stable is foolish.

I’m preferring, at this time, not to put all my eggs in one basket, but I do think that self- and e-publishing are the way of the future. But just in case I’m wrong, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for traditional publishing sticking around, now, does it?

What do you guys think? Where will the publishing industry be in the next ten, twenty years? How are you preparing for this?



Back To School

Well, for many of us we’ve either been in school for a while now or we’re just starting (like myself… this is my first week back). All sorts of exciting things are happening! 😀

First of all, I’m back with all of my dear friends (including Natalie), and although I admit that the list of my irl friends is short, they’re all very wonderful and inspiring and it’s so great to be back with them.

Secondly, my classes are going really well! I’m more than two weeks ahead in my philosophy reading and I’ve not even had the second day of class in it yet. I’m about a week ahead in my British Writers’ class, but I’ve read a lot of it before so that was unsurprising. I’m taking a course called British Domestic Interiors and what are we reading excerpts of the first week??? What else but Dickens??? 😀

I haven’t had much time for watching things lately, so once again I’m behind on Revenge, but with the rate my schoolwork is going I think I’ll probably catch up this weekend. Natalie and I are probably going to watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower on Friday because my college is showing it free. I’ve got a massive box of microwave popcorn and it SHALL be utilized!

As far as writing, while it’s slowing down at the moment because of school, it’s not coming to a screeching halt. I’ve come up with a system that lessens the amount of time spent writing voluntarily to virtually zero (unless I’m at least a week ahead in all classes and do not have a paper due within two weeks, in which case I can write while I, idk, do laundry or something) and I only write when I get reviews, follows, reminders from my calendar programmed months ago at strategic times in the semester…. So virtually not very often, especially because posting is going to be at a bare minimum, BUT, it will happen maybe once or twice a month I expect, probably with chapters that are already nearly done.

And God help me if I finish my next chapter of Faithful, because I will then be bombarded. That’s the one that people follow randomly even when I’ve not updated in weeks. *sigh*

Well, that’s all of your update for now. I swear nothing exciting has happened, so don’t feel like I’m holding back. I haven’t even had a chance to get my submission ready for The Cincinnati Review. It’s on my list of things to do this weekend, so we’ll see. It’s a long list.