Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jane Austen Parody (Style as guide)

Auden once said (I've read) that instead of criticism, he'd rather people wrote parodies. I suppose a parody is a great method for exaggerating certain characteristics of a writer's style to the point of absurdity or ridiculousness, but it can also reveal the style's (author's) merits, and possibly deliver, or lead to, a work that isn't altogether terrible or stupid sounding. What I mean is, by writing a parody, making ridiculous the elements that together form a certain author's DNA or constellation maybe, it may also reveal the ways such a style works, effects the reader, recreate (in a seemingly cheap manner) the mere excellence of it. It may prove fruitful, and demonstrate some styles' inability to be made ridiculous; exaggerating it may actually prove potent rather than malignant. Or instead, if not potent, teach the author (comedian?) whereby potential exists.

Here are some text message parodies of Jane Austen (sounds like Auden) I sent my wife, a huge Austen fan, after finishing Pride and Prejudice. If you've read it, you understand the excited, creative-feeling state that book can leave you in, and the reason I did this; it wasn't intended really as mockery, just playful, enthusiastic sort of fan-boy stuff: homage. Imitation as flattery...

"I finished p&p. 

"I wish lydia had not been so foolhardy and was more resolute with regards to her station and had promoted, by means of her inborn (by way of fair gender) virtues and her simple country pleasantry, a more upright moral standing and a modicum of modesty; her character, her ineptitude of manners, or just plain lack thereof, has left me in a most heated - nay charged - and agitated state!!! 

"But aside from that, i guess it wasnt bad. 

"Oh and dont get me started on mrs bennets meager portion of good breeding and general sociality that nearly led to the bennet sisters complete ruin, a state of affairs that would, no doubt, befit a woman of such crass misbehaviors, ill conceived schemes and reprehensive endeavors; such folly is truly an unfortunate lot for a mind astute and prone to meandering as our dear,  goodhearted mr bennet, the sort of man no shire can manage to retain without a silly shrew like mrs bennet to engage his thoughts until he simply exhauste his mental talents and one day finds himself satisfied by little more than news of the neighbors and a decent novel or history book."

I think certain parts of the above sound more Victorian but not so much specifically like Austen: the heated or charged state is the main example. Otherwise, feels pretty accurate. But by copping the style, sort of feigning the Austen voice, it felt pretty good -- kind of like Merrill's Changing Light at Sandover, I sort of channeled the famous author as a lark, but was surprised by, to me, the faux-quality of the work produced.

It makes me wonder about a style having inherent merits, for one, and also the potential benefits for a contemporary author of "channelling' a past success. When I took to aping Mrs Austen, it was the sonic structure and diction-ideas - sound and sense - I took as guide. (Style as guide.) The style is almost a lens or filter that augments and makes visible the actual, even though in the act of speaking through it, I wasn't really sure how sound (sensible) the content was, since the process was entirely intuitive, or felt so. (It felt as though I was feeling through it - sort of meta-feeling or meta-intuition.) It's almost as if Austen's voice were imprinted like grooves on a vinyl record in my mind, and I was able to sort of trace those grooves -- it's almost like a cover song. Same structure, different voice and instruments, only different....

I believe Auden was onto something - no surprise there, his depth of knowledge with regards to poetics and the aesthetic was akin to Eliot's and Pound's; it's a depth very few a generation seem to possess (maybe requires some obsessive qualities of mind coupled with more: memory, wit...) - I think the parody form can unlock or reveal merits that can be therefore "stolen" by mature artists who take the time or have the mind to recognize it; can be beneficial, a benediction maybe. At least, for the fellow writers who care about language and artifice, producing the new amidst the cacophonous clutter of redundancies and superfluities (that was on purpose there...).

One thing I'll note -- I think there is not so much a difference between Austen's prose and Marianne Moore's poetry: they both lean heavily on polysyllabic Latinate vocabulary, only Moore in the Dickinsonian strange, dissonant way, Austen in the sensible (real-ish, literal-ish) but complicating and enriching way - her word-pictures create a depth, richly textured, similar to the paradoxical world-figures of Joseph Heller and Marcel Proust. (I just read them both recently, too.)

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