Saturday, May 13, 2023

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "Mansfield Park"

D.W. Buffa's recent novel is The Privilege, the ninth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. The tenth, Lunatic Carnival, will be published soon. He has also just published Neumann's Last Concert, the fourth novel in a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, finally,  America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when I was in college or in my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park begins:
The first page of Jane Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park, tells the story:

“About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences an handsome house and large income.” Lady Bertram had two sisters, neither of whom was so fortunate, because there “are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.”

One of the sisters married a clergyman, Reverend Mr. Norris, “who had scarcely any money at all.” The other sister married a naval officer, Lieutenant Price, “without education, fortune, or connections,” and before they had been married eleven years had nine children. The eldest daughter, Fanny, who is nine, is sent to live with Mrs. Price’s sister, Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. Lady Bertram has four children of her own, two sons and two daughters, all of them several years older than Fanny. They think Fanny remarkably stupid, so stupid she does not know the principal rivers in Russia and has never heard of Asia Minor. They, themselves - and this tells something of how different education was then to what it is now - used to repeat in chronological order the kings of England, and the Roman emperors “as low as Severus,” a good deal of ‘Heathen Mythology, and all the Metals, semi-Metals, Planets and distinguished philosophers.” Fanny Price knows nothing, but, as we will discover, is more intelligent, and has better judgment, than anyone else at Mansfield Park.

It is a rule, sometimes understood by politicians, that it is often more difficult to protect yourself from your friends than from your enemies. Jane Austen never had any enemies; she has had too many friends. Nearly everything said about her, certainly everything...[read on]
About Buffa's recent novel Neumann’s Last Concert, from the publisher:
Neumann’s Last Concert is a story about music and war and the search for what led to the greatest evil in modern history. It is the story of an American boy, Wilfred Malone, who lost his father in the early days of the Second World War and a German refugee, Isaac Neumann, the greatest concert pianist of his age when he lived in Berlin, but who now lives, anonymous and alone, in a single rented room in a small town a few miles from San Francisco.

Wilfred has a genius for the piano, “a keen curiosity not yet corrupted by vanity” and “a memory that forgot nothing essential.” Neumann, alone in his room, is constantly writing, an endless labyrinth of questions and answers, driving him farther and farther back into the past, searching for the causes, searching for the meaning, of what happened in Germany, trying to understand what had led him, a German Jew, to stay in Germany when he could have left but instead continued to perform right up to the night that during his last concert they took his wife away.

Neumann’s Last Concert is a novel about the great catastrophe of the 20th century and the way in which music, great music, preserves both the hope of human decency amidst the carnage of human insanity and the possibility of what human beings might still accomplish.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

--Marshal Zeringue