I don’t know… Has January felt a little dark to you? Maybe it’s the holiday letdown, or the fact that Professor Snape and the Goblin King died within days of each other, but holy library card Wonder Woman, this has felt like a depressing month.
Between texts about our Neko Atsume cats, our darling contributor Maria mentioned to me that Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg and Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton might cheer me up. And because Maria is almost always right about the things that will cheer me up, I bought them straightaway. Yes, you heard me right, without even looking at them I bought them, that’s how good Maria is at recommending things. I hope you have a Maria in your life.
The thing is, that like me, Maria has a little clutch of degrees in English literature. We’ve both spent a big chunk of life (and change) coming up with smart and serious thoughts about Literature (with a capital L). We can both tell you, that unless everyone’s had a couple, most of Literature isn’t super funny. It’s just not.
Except…. It is, kind of.
Ortberg and Beaton both get this, in spades. They see the humor in Cathy and Heathcliff, the laughs in Jane Eyre and The Odyssey alike. Both books feel like Beaton and Ortberg sat through all the same lit seminars we did and went home and snarked around about it. Man, I hope they’re friends.
I kind of want to tie these two books up with a ribbon and send them off to someone writing their dissertation in a dark little attic. That’s where people write dissertations, isn’t it? I think a little laughter about Circe sexting would do some dear PhD candidate good, so if you know one, maybe you should purchase this book for her.
Here’s the rundown:
Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg is almost just exactly what you’d expect. Ortberg has delved deep into her imagination to give her readers a taste of what the text logs of literature’s favorite drama queens might be like. It had me in tears in certain chapters.
Step Aside, Pops, by Kate Beaton is a collection of comics. Beaton’s focus ranges wide, from Wuthering Heights to Superman, and all are equally funny, but I’ll admit that Beaton’s “Straw Feminists” had me rolling in chuckles. Beaton’s characters have fantastic faces and her sharp interpretation of literary relationships kept me smiling.
I think that if you haven’t been subjected to a concentrated curriculum of THE CLASSICS then the humor of these books might be a little lost on you — and that’s not a bad thing. I’m not sure I would have read much of any of the stuff referenced here if I didn’t have two degrees in English Lit. Both Texts From Jane Eyre and Step Aside, Pops are a lovely reward for my trouble.
Allison Carr Waechter has a coupla Lit degrees, a cat and big cuppa tea. It’s snowy in St. Louis and she’s ready for a nap. Happy January, y’all.