Reading is one of my favorite pass times, cathartic escapes, and all around safest way to occupy my time. I would call my reading habits avid, voracious, and dedicated. I prefer fiction to non-fiction, but read all genres written from all perspectives. One of my all time favorite authors is Jane Austen.
Austen’s style is well crafted. I love the restraint from melodrama, and how she gives a sense of all characters, not just the main ones. What I have, however, never particularly liked is when she breaks the narrative to address the dear reader. The one positive thing I can say on this point is that she does it very infrequently.
When I think about who this dear reader must be I think of the people of the time in which Jane Austen was writing, men and women who spent much of their time in leisure while their money mysteriously managed itself to reproduce and provide for the leisure. I am quite sure that is an exaggeration that doesn’t truly capture life for those who read Austen’s novels, but the idea that these dear readers were most likely very similar to the characters she wrote about does weigh heavily in my mind. Still, it is clear to me that I am not a dear reader though I dearly love to read her work.
At best I might be like Catherine Morland eager to be lost in the pages of The Mysteries of Udolpho, but I fear I am better described as a demoniacal reader. I talk to my books, scream at them, and have even thrown a few before snatching them back up to continue my reading tirade. I am that woman who laughs out loud, which always seems to draw attention when I’m reading in public. I will gnash my teeth and glare at anyone who dares interrupt me while I’m engaged within the pages of a novel.
Am I the dear reader Jane Austen envisioned? I think not. As I said before Jane Austen doesn’t address this dear reader often so I can over look it. I do, however, find it particularly annoying when other writers over use this little narrative device when they engage in writing their Austen Fan Fiction.
Every time a writer uses the words dear reader it is as if they are raising their heads to jump in my face to point out what is either clearly already obvious to me as a reader or their personal opinion that may not really lend itself to enhancing the story at all. It kind of feels like you’re watching a movie with someone who’s already seen it and just can’t keep their comments to themselves to let you watch it. I always find myself telling the narrator to shut up until the end of the book so we can talk about it then. Of course, that never works.
What are your thoughts on the dear reader as used by Jane Austen versus Austenesque writers?
*Photo: Reading by BinaryApe, obtained through Flickr Creative Commons.