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Mallory Ortberg – Texts from Jane Eyre

June 23, 2017

20. Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg (2014)

Read By: Zach Villa and Amy Landon
Length: 2h 22min (220 pages)

Genre: Humor

Started/Finished: 30 May 2016

Where did it come from? From Audible.
Why do I have it? I’d read and enjoyed Mallory Ortberg’s posts on The Hairpin and The Toast, and this was Audible’s deal of the day.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 05 May 2016.

What would happen if
you gave Hamlet or Ahab
a cell phone? This book.

Summary: This book is pretty much what it says on the cover: a collection of short conversations-by-text-message featuring various literary personages. Some are text messages between two characters from a given work (the titular “Texts from Jane Eyre” are between Jane and Rochester, and the “Texts from Pride and Prejudice” are between Lizzie and Mrs. Bennett). Others are text messages between an author and some generally anonymous and frequently nonplussed second person (Edgar Allan Poe and the person he is standing up because there is a bird staring at him, for example.) The book is arranged more-or-less chronologically, starting with the Greeks (Medea, Odysseus and Circe, etc.), moving on to Shakespeare, spending most of its time with classics of the 1800s, and including a few more modern classics (The Lorax, Harry Potter, The Babysitter’s Club) at the end.

Review: Many of the pieces in this book were originally published on The Toast or The Hairpin, although there are some that are unique to the book as well (and some on the web that didn’t make it into the book, too). It’s a fun concept, especially if you like Ortberg’s sense of humor, which I do. Obviously some of the pieces work better than others, and a lot of the humor is dependent on your knowledge of the source material. I consider myself moderately well-versed in the classics, so most of them I understood just fine, and there were others that I haven’t read but know enough about to catch the jokes (Moby Dick, Emily Dickinson, etc.) but there were several pieces that were more obscure (at least to me), so those wound up making zero sense (The Wife of Bath, The Yellow Wallpaper, etc.).

I initially listened to the audio version of this, which was well done but I’m not sure I’d recommend. The narrators were clearly game for anything (I mean, whale noises! And he WENT for it.), and were surprisingly good at distinguishing the two sides of the text conversation just from voice cues alone. But when it’s spoken rather than text, you lose some of the quirks of spelling and spacing and text-speak that make up a lot of the humor and charm. Plus, it’s not like this book is exactly an onerous read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you’re pretty well-read in the classics, and like literary humor, this is fun, although I’m not quite convinced that there’s enough extra here to merit it being a book in addition to a blog. Good for browsing or picking up and reading little chunks in between other things (or the audiobook for short spurts of driving when you don’t want to listen to something longer and more involved) — I think reading/listening straight through wears the humor a little thin.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Lesa’s Book Critiques, Shooting Stars Mag, So Many Books, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

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