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Bill Deresiewicz

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12 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Jane Austen (PHOTOS)

Posted: 04/29/11 08:47 AM ET

Sometimes I feel like everything I know about life I learned by reading Jane Austen. The funny thing is, I never wanted to read her in the first place. I was 26, a pompous young graduate student who preferred to associate himself with the big, masculine modernist heroes: James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov. Jane Austen? She was for girls. But when I had to read her for a course, I found out what an idiot I had been. Not just about her, I mean, but about everything. In other words, how much I had to learn about life. So I let her teach me. In A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, I talk about the lessons I learned and how I learned them. Here's a sample of her wisdom:

You aren't nearly as special as you think. (from "Emma")
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You may walk around like the heroine of your very own novel, but you're no better than any of the minor characters. You know--those dull, ordinary, conventional people you're forced to be surrounded by. Take a good look at them: that's you.
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This Jane Austen Lesson
Jane Austen didn't know what she was talking about
Great advice!

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Top 5 Jane Austen Lessons
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