Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Texts From Jane Eyre

Texts From Jane Eyre
By: Mallory Ortberg
Published By: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: September 30th, 2014
Page Count: 226
Source: Library Copy
Audience/Genre: Adult Fiction
 Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

Touted as "conversations with your favorite literary characters" this book was one I really wanted to like. Who doesn't wonder how much differently Romeo and Juliet would have ended if Snapchat had existed in their day? As an idea this book is a great, with sections devoted to Mythology, Modern Lit, British Lit, etc. and strives to connect a younger audience with historical events and classic literature, but aside from the handful of entries I enjoyed immensely for a few notable novels and authors, I found this book to be inconsistent in its characterization and writing.

I found many of the entries too mean-spirited and the book overall to be inconsistently written. For example, some texting lingo/writing elements were used (IDK, writing in all lowercase, etc.), but just as many were completely absent from the book. The prevalence of foul language didn't enhance the book as it was out of character for many of the entries in a book priding itself on being in tune with the characters. Finally, the inclusion of Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High characters in the modern literature section which included Atlas Shrugged made no sense to me. Don't get me wrong, I adored both of those series in my youth, but I don't think of the Wakefield twins when I think about Ayn Rand. 

I found myself skipping over about 95% of the character entries in the Mythology section, assuming I just didn't have the necessary background to enjoy the banter in the texts. But once I got to the authors whose works I knew moderately well (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Donne, Alcott), I didn't find them funny. Though I was hoping for more than the usual Jo is/is like a man trope, the section devoted to Little Women was completely expected. Notable exceptions to this were the sections for Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, and the texts from John Keats. Those three sections were hilarious, witty, and so enjoyable I found myself laughing out loud. 

I'll admit, as a high school English teacher my students and colleagues expect me to know something about pretty much every book ever written. And many days, I do know about lots of books, even ones I haven't read, that's what happens when you like literature and reading. You know things. You hear things. You discuss books with people who HAVE read them, etcetera, ectetera. But this book made me seriously question the quality of my literary upbringing, and as someone who had a high school English teacher and a middle school History teacher for parents, I thought I had a pretty decent foundation in classic literature. I was left wondering if I wasn't the target audience for this book, who is?

Summary via Goodreads

Hilariously imagined text conversations—the passive aggressive, the clever, and the strange—from classic and modern literary figures, from Scarlett O’Hara to Jessica Wakefield.

Mallory Ortberg, the co-creator of the cult-favorite website The Toast, presents this whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters. Everyone knows that if Scarlett O’Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she’d constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie with suggestive messages. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all-caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she’d text you to pick her up after she totaled her car. Based on the popular web-feature, Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mashup that brings the characters from your favorite books into the twenty-first century.

1 comment:

  1. Oy. I'm a little surprised how popular these long-form text books are getting. I'm all for Twitter plays and the like (heck, I write for Hooked!) but I don't see how these simple conversations or text-retellings have the power to push on for hundreds of pages. I wasn't a fan of "#YOLO Juliet" and I can't imagine this would be anymore my cup of tea. Thanks for the review though, sounds like you were very fair to it.


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