I’ve been mulling it over and have come to the conclusion that I’m somewhat comfortable publishing my secret little crush; I’m also pretty certain that my husband will be understanding of the situation. It would be an absolute travesty to not admire a man who willingly admits, and I quote him word for word, that, “I was as arrogant as they come and didn’t think there was much anyone could teach me about life—especially not Jane Austen, the godmother of chick-lit. Imagine my surprise when she taught me not just how to grow up, but how to be a man.”
Those are some strong, sexy words. And Jane Austen’s name is at the forefront of it all. I need to pause momentarily; I’m feeling a little woozy.
Ah, now then…
In author William Deresiewicz’s new book, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter from Penguin Press, he takes time to dissect each of her novels and the influences that each had on him.
Additionally, in a recent piece from The Wall Street Journal, Deresiewicz discusses his book. He talks about Austen as an educational tool for his personal growth, going so far as to say, “Knowledge, culture, ego: That was pretty much the formula. But now I was learning a new idea—about education, but also about being a man. You didn’t have to be certain, Austen taught me, to be strong, and you didn’t have to dominate people to earn their respect. Real men were not afraid to admit that they still had things to learn—even from a woman.”
It’s nice when a man learns a lesson.
Broken out into six novels, six chapters, and six themes, Bill (I feel I can comfortably move to a first-name basis at this point), talks about how reading Jane Austen novels helped him grow up, especially as he “started paying attention to what those people might be feeling in relation to me. Surprise, surprise, I really hurt them—a lot. If you’re oblivious to other people, chances are that’s just what’s going to happen. I knew now that if I was ever going to have any real friends—or should I say, any real friendships with my friends—I’d have to learn to stop being a defensive, reactive, self-enclosed jerk.” He readily admits to being awed by how much he could learn from Austen’s books, and how he could relate his own life lessons and epiphanies to that of, say Emma, as well as other Austen characters.
There is nothing wrong with a sensitive man.
Bill’s tender ability to attach his own meaning and experiences to his revelations offer us the opportunity to see one person’s growth through the understanding and appreciation of literature, and more importantly, demonstrates how we can all learn from incredibly witty and brilliant books.
Nevertheless, that’s what we women LOVE about Austen. Even today, in a world of technology and cell phones, Facebook and Twitter, television and non-stop hustling, we get Austen and can still relate to her. I want to be witty and clever like Elizabeth Bennett. I want to understand my own faults like Emma does. I want to feel passion like Marianne Dashwood.
It’s so nice to hear that a man gets it, too.