Election Day Reading

Earlier this month (November 3), we had citywide elections for mayor, park board, and a referendum on changing the structure of the board of taxation. Voter enthusiasm was low, so when I showed up at my polling place at 2:00 p.m., I was only the 125th person to show up for voting.

All the same, the volunteers at my polling site were cheerful and friendly, and I fell into an easy conversation with a teen volunteer, who, I noticed, had a copy of Jane Austen’s Emma. After he explained to me how to use the ballot, I asked if he was reading Emma of his own accord or for an English class.

I wasn’t particularly surprised when he admitted to the latter, nor when he said he wasn’t really that fond of Jane Austen. But we chuckled when we agreed that he would earn points with any future girlfriend; and then I headed off to check out a copy of Emma for myself at the local library.
I love Jane Austen. She’s witty, observant, and eminently quotable. Remember the first line of Emma, in which the heroine is described as “handsome, clever, and rich”?

As it happens, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York currently has a fascinating Jane Austen exhibit in place that runs until mid-March 2010. It includes a large collection of Austen’s personal correspondence, illustrated versions of her works, prints and drawings related to her life, and a documentary film. (See the New York Times review of the exhibit from earlier this month.) You can also take a look at our TFCB biography Jane Austen by Amy Ruth in our BIOGRAPHY series. It’s one of many great biographies on our list and offers a good overview of Austen’s life and work. If you go to the exhibit in New York, let us know what you think of it.

In the meantime, check in next week for more from TFCB.

(Photo: watercolor and pencil portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen, c. 1810, National Portrait Gallery, London; from Wikimedia Commons)