Another post inspired by Yahoo Answers, where it has become painfully clear to me that Ms. Austen's estimable works are still being forced upon young people. The same thing happened to me.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the books at the time and likely would again. I enjoyed the 1940 MGM movie of Pride and Prejudice. Lawrence Olivier as Darcy? What could possibly be wrong with that?
Here's what's wrong. High school students forced to answer the following essay question: "Compare and contrast the relationships between Lizzie and Darcy and Jane and Bingley." In English class. Now, I'm sorry, but how is this getting anybody ready for anything? How is reading a novel that is nearly two hundred years old helping?
Teachers teach Jane Austen because she is easy to teach, familiar, and non-controversial. She makes Golding and Salinger look like wild-eyed radicals. But generation after generation of high schoolers are left with the impression that Austen's novels are what writing should be, and it's poisoning them. Long descriptions, endless parlor scenes, pace that drags across empty weeks and months. It's not beautiful language and astonishingly complex human relationships, as Shakespeare is. It's ploddingly dysfunctional and does not help young writers learn their craft or young anybody learn how to communicate.
Someone stick a fork in Ms. Austen. She's done.