http://picasion.com/i/1TCxR/ happy friday! looks like it's time to fire up the Blu-ray...
Today's must-read: A fascinating piece by Alice Villaseñor in The Journal of Victorian Culture drawing textual and cinematic connections between two of my most favorite things, Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.
It's that time of year again, when women feel like total losers for being single or wait for their men to pass or fail the big Valentine's Day test. Will he screw up and totally forget, buy a cheap trinket instead of the one thing he knows you want, or, even more stressful and high stakes, will he finally pop the question?
Could there be anything more insane than this holiday that's supposed to be all about love?
I was watching the GREY'S ANATOMY Valentine's Day episode today, and one of the characters was a florist who was so exhausted and stressed from the V-Day rush that he accidentally crashed his delivery van into the ER.
Almost dying in service to Valentine's Day madness was a big wake-up call to this florist, who said he would never stress himself out over this holiday again:
"People call you up you know, they ask you, make something beautiful. Yeah, so some sorry schlep can forget they've been treated like crap every day of the year…Like my flowers are magic or something. But I bought it. Nearly killed myself trying to make sure everyone got their little miracle. What a joke. People oughta just stop being so awful to each other, you know? Leave me out of it."
My biggest takeaway from that speech? "People oughta just stop being so awful to each other."
Not bad advice. If we were good to the people we supposedly love every day, we wouldn't have to prove our love on that one day of the year. We could be more like Jane Bennet of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or Catherine Morland of NORTHANGER ABBEY, or Anne Elliot of PERSUASION. In Austen, kindness is always rewarded, and often with love. Could there be a better recipe for happiness than that?
[Gazing at photos of gorgeous actors playing Austen heroes can also be quite helpful.]
One thing's for sure. Feeling entitled to love, or a certain type of bouquet, or a necklace, or a diamond ring, is a sure recipe for misery.
Just ask that lady in GREY'S ANATOMY who was furious at her admittedly clueless boyfriend for once again giving her a velvet jewelry box on V-Day without a ring inside. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. It's worth watching.
And so is almost every Jane Austen adaptation ever made for the big or small screen. So if you don't expect to get that perfect bouquet, piece of jewelry, or declaration of love today, be kind. To others. To yourself. Fire up the Blu-ray or the Netflix queue and watch BRIDE AND PREJUDICE or the Colin Firth P&P or the Gwyneth Paltrow EMMA (just a few of my faves) or PERSUASION with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Even better, read PERSUASION (my favorite Austen novel) or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or NORTHANGER ABBEY or, let's face it, any of the six. You'll feel much better, I promise.
Be happy. And wish yourself a very happy Valentine's Day.
Posted at 02:35 AM in Austen movies, Austen Wisdom, Emma, Film, Good Works, Jane Austen, Literature, Love and Marriage, Men, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Relationships, Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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Check out my guest post on chicklitclub.com, where I explore the comic parallels between Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And Fielding's amusing deviations therefrom.
Except that in the book it was a diamond-patterned jumper and bumblebee socks.)
It's the season finale of SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL! Watch our time-swapping heroines swoon over the man who launched a thousand sequels--and especially that version of him played by Colin Firth.
Comment on what you love about Darcy--on or off-screen-- to enter a giveaway of signed copies of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. Giveaway ends Thursday, January 6th, at midnight PST .
Has there ever been a greater specimen of the male sex than that ultimate romantic hero, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? And is there anything more satisfying than watching "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" humbled by the realization that it takes a lot more than a big bank balance to win the girl?
Yes indeed, there is a Santa Claus. And he's brought us Mr. Darcy. So what if you think Darcy's a fictional character? That's your problem!
[SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL is inspired by the novels CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and stars Arabella Field and Fay Masterson. Catch up on all the episodes you missed.]
Posted at 04:18 AM in Austen movies, Austen TV series, Austen Web Series, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Film, Pride and Prejudice, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
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Part 1 of a two-part interview has been posted. Comment on the post at the Pride and Prejudice (2005) Blog to enter the giveaway of signed copies of RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.
Enjoy a chance to voice your thoughts about your favorite Jane Austen-inspired movies. And good luck!
Here's one of my favorites:
Posted at 12:42 AM in Austen movies, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Film, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sense and Sensibility | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Check out Part 2 of my interview at the lovely Maria Grazia's blog, My Jane Austen Book Club, in which I talk about--you guessed it--Jane Austen, SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL, and the Austen Addict novels.
Speaking of which, enter a comment with your email address at My Jane Austen Book Club, and you will have a chance to win either a signed copy of RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, or a signed copy of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.
Enjoy, and good luck!
Posted at 08:00 AM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Austen TV series, Austen Web Series, Austen Wisdom, Austen-inspired books, Blogs, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is out in paperback today.
Enter this contest at Austenprose for a chance to win a signed copy: http://austenprose.com/2010/04/27/the-bbc-pride-and-prejudice-it-does-get-better-than-this-a-book-giveaway/
And get yourself a copy of the newly remastered P&P95 DVD--also out today!
And now, fresh from her triumph on Beechen Cliff, here is Catherine in Chapter 15 of Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY:
Soon Catherine receives the delightful news that she & Isabella are to be sisters--Isabella & James are engaged!
Isabella says Catherine "will be so infinitely dearer to" her than her own sisters. "This was a pitch of friendship beyond Catherine."
"You are so like your dear brother," continued Isabella, "that I quite doated on you the first moment I saw you."
"The very first moment I beheld [James] -- my heart was irrecoverably gone…I thought I never saw any body so handsome before."
"Catherine secretly acknowledged the power of love; for, though exceedingly fond of her brother…she had never…thought him handsome."
Isabella fears Catherine's parents will oppose the marriage, for Isabella is poor. "I am sure they will consent," says Catherine.
Isabella: "For my own part…the smallest income in nature would be enough... Where people are really attached, poverty itself is wealth…"
James's parents consent to his marrying Isabella—she's ecstatic. All that is TBD is how much Mr. Morland will give them.
Says John Thorpe to Catherine,
"A famous good thing this marrying scheme, upon my soul!...What do you
think of it, Miss Morland ?"
"I am sure I think it a very good one." Thorpe: "Do you? --that's honest, by heavens!"
you ever hear the old song 'Going to One Wedding Brings on Another?' say, you
will come to Belle's wedding, I hope."
Catherine: "Yes; I have promised your sister to be with her, if possible."
'Forcing a foolish laugh' Thorpe says,: "Then you know, we may try the truth of this same old song."
Thorpe's "song" is one that Catherine would be horrified to think of singing, were she not happily oblivious to his hints.
This Twitter presentation of NORTHANGER ABBEY is brought to you by Beechen Cliff, "a little of the south of France right here in Bath."
James & the Thorpes try to guilt Catherine into another excursion, but she
refuses: She's made plans with Eleanor.
Catherine unkind and obstinate. " If I am wrong," she says, "I
am doing what I believe to be right."
"I suspect," says Isabella, "there is no great struggle." Ouch. Poor Catherine.
It gets worse: Thorpe
announces he has cancelled Catherine's plans with Eleanor. WTF? Off Catherine
goes to set things straight.
Her parting words:
"If I could not be persuaded into doing what I thought wrong, I never will
be tricked into it."
Bypassing the Tilneys' servant, Catherine
rushes into their drawing room and breathlessly explains what happened.
All is forgiven;
she even meets Henry's father, General Tilney, who walks her to the door &
admires "the elasticity of her walk."
"Catherine…proceeded gaily" home, "walking, as she concluded,
with great elasticity, though she had never thought of it before."
Walking next day w/Tilneys, Catherine talks of her love for gothic novels. "But you never read novels…?" she asks Henry.
Henry: "Why not?" Catherine: "Because they are not clever enough for you -- gentlemen read better books."
Henry: "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a
good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
Catherine: "But I really thought before, young men despised novels amazingly."
may well suggest amazement if
they do -- for they read nearly as many as women."
"Do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?"
nicest; --by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon the
said Miss Tilney, "you are very impertinent. Miss Morland, …The word
`nicest,' as you used it, did not suit him…"
"I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say any thing wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I call it so?"
true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a
very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies."
Henry: "Oh! it is a
very nice word indeed! -- It does for every thing…every commendation on every
subject is comprised in that one word."
"While, in fact," cried his sister, "it ought only to be applied to you, without any commendation at all."
"Come, Miss Morland, let us leave him to meditate over our faults…, while we praise Udolpho in whatever terms we like best."
turns 2 history. Cath: "I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me
nothing that does not either vex or weary me."
"The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or
pestilences, in every page…"
"...the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is very tiresome…"
"…yet I often think it odd that it should be so
dull, for a great deal of it must be invention."
And as for historians: "to be at so much trouble in filling great
volumes, which...nobody would willingly ever look into…"
"...to be labouring only for the torment of little boys
and girls, always struck me as a hard fate…"
for historians "are perfectly well qualified to torment readers of the
most advanced reason and mature time of life."
The Tilneys began talking about drawing, and "Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing."
heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to
attach, they should always be ignorant."
"To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others."
inability of administering to the vanity of others" is something "which
a sensible person would always wish to avoid."
"A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can."
"To the larger and more trifling part of the [male] sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms…"
is a portion of [men] too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire
anything more in woman than ignorance."
"But Catherine did not know her own advantages."
good-looking girl, with an affectionate heart and a very ignorant mind, cannot
fail of attracting a clever young man."
A lecture on drawing follows. From there, Henry segues to politics. And "From politics, it was an easy step to silence."
Then Catherine offers this comment on current affairs. "I have heard that something very shocking indeed will soon come out in London."
Eleanor is alarmed; Henry amused. Says Catherine: "I shall expect murder and everything of the kind."
Eleanor says that
the government will of course take matters in hand. Henry, "endeavoring
not to smile," disagrees.
"Government…neither desires nor dares to interfere in such matters. There
must be murder; and government cares not how much."
"The ladies stared. He laughed… 'Come, shall I make you understand each other, or leave you to puzzle out an explanation as you can?'"
Morland has been talking of nothing more dreadful than a new publication,"
i.e., a gothic horror novel.
Eleanor warns that Catherine will think Henry "intolerably rude" 2 his sister "and a great brute in [his] opinion of women in general."
Eleanor: "Miss Morland is not used to your odd ways." Henry: "I shall be most happy to make her better acquainted with them."
Henry: "Miss Morland, no one
can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do."
Henry: "In my opinion, nature has given
[women] so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half."
Eleanor: "We shall get nothing more serious
from him now, Miss Morland. He is not in a sober mood."
Eleanor: "But I do assure you that he must be
entirely misunderstood, if he can ever appear to say an unjust thing of any
woman at all."
Eleanor needn't have worried, for "it was no effort to Catherine to believe that Henry Tilney could never be wrong."
[This Twitter presentation of NORTHANGER ABBEY is brought to you by The Upper Rooms, where there is always a bit of a crush.]
Which is why I'm spending my Valentine's night watching JJ Field, Felicity Jones, Carrie Mulligan (she of the Oscar nomination for AN EDUCATION), and the rest of the brilliant cast of NORTHANGER ABBEY , which airs on PBS Masterpiece Classic tonight.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a romantic who is happily in love with my wonderful husband. But let's face it, Valentine's Day is a holiday designed to make single people feel bad about themselves (and I spent many years in the state of singledom) and people in relationships disappointed in one another.
Sure, I loved Valentine's Day as a child, because it meant cute little cards and candies for everyone in class. But once childhood is over, we enter the stage of adult expectations. And expectations always mean disappointment.
You know, the kind of disappointment where you told yourself your loved one was going to buy you expensive flowers at the florist's instead of supermarket flowers. Or dinner at that restaurant you told him about instead of bringing home burgers from the diner down the street. Or a piece of jewelry instead of something with an electrical cord.
See what I mean? Suddenly love is measured in dollars and cents and units of thoughtfulness and degrees of mind-reading and catering to neediness. Is that anywhere a thinking/feeling/loving person wants to be? Not to mention the fact that if you don't have a special someone to put to the test of true love every February 14, you feel even worse. Which is why I swore off Valentine's Day long ago. And I haven't had a glimmer of one of those disappointing V-Days ever since.
Which is why I'm celebrating love with the perfect antidote to the Valentine's Day blues: It's called NORTHANGER ABBEY, and it's a lovely adaptation of Jane Austen's delightful, witty, and very romantic coming-of-age story. NORTHANGER ABBEY airs tonight on PBS Masterpiece Classic. Check your local listings, settle in with something and/or someone yummy, and treat yourself to a date with Henry Tilney. If you don't know who he is, you soon will.
And if you really want to have fun, join the NORTHANGER ABBEY Twitter party and tweet away with other Austen fans during the broadcast. We had so much fun tweeting during the EMMA broadcasts the past three weeks that we can't resist doing the same for NORTHANGER ABBEY. We'll be using the same hashtag: #emma_pbs .
Please check out Fiction to Film's interview with me, where I answer reader questions and provide advice for authors seeking a publisher, discuss my love of Jane Austen, the idea of bringing my Austen Addict novels to the screen, and much more.
NORTHANGER ABBEY is, sadly, perhaps the most underrated book in the Austen canon. It is also becoming one of my favorites. (In truth, they are all my favorites.) The more I read and re-read this novel, the more I appreciate its humor, its heart, its wise commentary on human nature, and the lessons it provides, not only for those coming of age as teenagers, but those of us who are coming of age at any stage of life. And its famous defense of the novel form is worth the price of the book.
The heroine of NORTHANGER ABBEY, Catherine Morland, reminds me to see the world anew through the eyes of someone who is anything but jaded. Her innocent and naïve belief that people say exactly what they mean is both poignant and refreshing.
Experience is a great teacher to Catherine, and so is the irresistable hero of the book, Henry Tilney, who embodies all that is best about an Austen hero, or indeed, any hero: humor, compassion, and intelligence.
How could a young girl (or any woman) not fall in love with Henry Tilney?
I love NORTHANGER ABBEY so
much that I decided to make it the next subject of my Twitter experiment, i.e.,
I've decided to tweet the entire novel, 140 characters at a time, just as I did
(and had so much fun doing) with PERSUASION.
[I'm in the minority for sure, but I love this version as well. It stars Catherine Schlesinger and Peter Firth, who later became the fabulous Harry of my favorite thriller series, MI-5 (Spooks in the UK).]
Here are the first eight
chapters tweeted thus far. To read them as they come out, follow me on Twitter.
To read them in periodic digest form, check this blog periodically or subscribe
to its feed. When I finish tweeting the entire novel, I will post it on my
Tweets of Chapters 1 through
8 of Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY:
In the meantime, if you'd like to read the Twitter version of Jane Austen's PERSUASION, go here.
"From fifteen to seventeen [Catherine] was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read"
Yet Catherine "had reached the age of seventeen, without having seen" anyone worth falling in love with."
Indeed, Catherine had never "inspired one real passion" herself, only "very moderate and very transient" admiration.
"But when a young lady is to be a heroine,…something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way."
And so Catherine accepts the invitation of her neighbors, Mr. & Mrs. Allen, to travel with them to Bath.
For "if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad."
Catherine's "heart was affectionate; her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind."
"When in good looks, pretty -- and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is."
But instead of warning Catherine about noblemen who seduce young girls, Catherine's mom only advises her to dress warmly.
And on the journey, "neither robbers nor tempests befriended them, nor one lucky overturn to introduce them to the hero."
When they arrive at Bath, Catherine is "all eager delight… She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already."
1st they shop. Mrs. Allen, Catherine's host, tho' good-natured, has "a trifling turn of mind" and a passion for clothes.
Finally, Catherine's first ball in Bath: Crowded, not a friend in the room, and not a chance of being asked to dance.
Yet, at the end, she hears "two gentlemen pronounce her to be a pretty girl"—and so the evening is not a total loss.
At the next ball, Catherine even gets to dance. Her partner is Mr. Tilney, who, "if not quite handsome, was very near it."
"There was an archness and pleasantry in his manner which interested, though it was hardly understood by her."
Tilney mocks the empty words that men & women must say when first they meet--& Catherine is unsure if she should laugh.
"I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."
& "I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms…was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man…"
"Indeed I shall say no such thing." T: "Shall I tell you what
you ought to say?" C: "If you please."
T: "I danced with a very agreeable young man… seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him."
T: "That, madam, is what I wish you to say."
C: "But, perhaps, I keep no journal." T: "Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting by you."
Mrs. Allen interrupts, worried she might have torn a hole in her gown, a favorite tho' it cost only nine shillings a yard.
"Particularly well…my sister has often trusted me in the choice of a gown. I bought one for her the other day."
is impressed. "Men commonly take so little notice of those things…what do
you think of Miss Morland's gown?"
is very pretty…" said he, gravely examining it; "but I do not think
it will wash well; I am afraid it will fray."
can you," said Catherine, laughing, "be so ----- " She had
almost said "strange."
prattles on, Tilney politely answering, & Catherine wonders if he's having
just a little too much fun w/Mrs. Allen's silliness.
Still, Catherine ends the night with a definite wish to see him again. Whether she dreams about him that night is unknown.
For "it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her."
Next day, Mrs. Allen runs into a friend, Mrs. Thorpe, whose daughter Isabella befriends Catherine. Tilney’s a no-show.
It seems Isabella knows Catherine’s brother, James Morland. He and Isabella’s brother John are college friends.
Catherine's so happy w/Isabella that she almost forgets Tilney: “Friendship is...the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love."
Still no sign of Henry Tilney the next day. But at least Catherine can distract herself with gothic horror novels. “Yes, novels.”
For “if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?”
“Let us leave it to the Reviewers to…talk…of the trash with which the press now groans… Let us not desert one another.”
“We [novelists] are an injured body…Our foes are almost as many as our readers…”
“There seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist.”
"Oh! it is only a novel!”…”only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed…”
It is only a work that displays “the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties…”
It is only a work in which “the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”
Novels ease the pain of MIA Tilney. Says Catherine, "while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable."
Meanwhile, Isabella schools Catherine in the mysteries of men: One must " treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance."
And so when Isabella spots 2 "odious young men" staring at her in the Pump Room, she grabs Catherine & takes off in pursuit of them.
The odious young men are forgotten, for Catherine's brother James Morland arrives with Isabella's brother, John Thorpe.
And when Isabella passes the "offending young men" while walking w/Catherine, James, & John, "she looked back at them only three times."
Catherine endures John Thorpe's bragging about his horse & ignorant remarks about novels. But he does ask her to dance w/him that night.
Thorpe's late for the ball. Isabella swears she will not dance without Catherine "for all the world" but does so anyway.
Poor Catherine! Asked to dance, yet "sharing with the...other young ladies still sitting down all the discredit of wanting a partner."
Ah--there's dishy Henry Tilney, talking to a young lady whom Catherine guesses to be his sister, rather than "lost to her forever."
Henry asks Catherine to dance, & she very reluctantly says no, as she's promised to Thorpe, who shows up a moment later.
Thorpe proves to be not only inconsiderate in his lateness, but an excruciatingly boring dance partner.
Luckily Henry's sister, Eleanor, stands next to Catherine at the dance & has something intelligent and interesting to say.
Catherine no sooner escapes Thorpe than finds that Henry Tilney has tired of waiting and asked another girl to dance. Dang.
"Catherine was disappointed and vexed. She seemed to have missed by so little the very object she had had in view…"
This Twitter version of NORTHANGER ABBEY is brought to you by Jane Austen, displaying the liveliest effusions of wit and humour since 1811.
The theme of the Spring Meeting of JASNA-SW, the Southwest Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America, was "A Day of Pride, Prejudice, and Politics," and I had the good fortune of being on the program with a stellar group of speakers:
First, there was Dr. Charles Lynn Batten, the UCLA professor about whom I've been hearing for years. The conversation with my fellow Austen addicts usually goes like this:
"You mean you've never heard Lynn Batten speak?"
A disbelieving shake of the head and pitying look follows.
Well, now I have heard Dr. Batten speak, and he is not only exceedingly knowledgable and insightful about Jane Austen, he was also downright hilarious. Dr. Batten's talk was called "Jane Austen: Conservative or Liberal?" His verdict: Austen was most likely a moderate Tory.
My opinion? I see his point, which is far more well-researched than my own belief, which is, quite simply, that Jane Austen had exactly my politics and beliefs. Same favorite colors. Would have like the same movies, too. As Karen Joy Fowler put it in THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, "each of us has a private Austen."
Then there was Margaret Horwitz, JASNA's Traveling Lecturer, who gave an illuminating talk called “The Legacy of Her Voice: Ethics and Wit in Austen’s Novel Pride and Prejudice and Its Filmed Adaptations." Dr. Horwitz's talk made me want to go back and watch both the BBC mini and the 2005 movie (as if I need an excuse) to see all the symbolism in props and camera angles that Margaret pointed out in her lecture.
As for me, I gave the very first public reading of my upcoming novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. If I am to judge by the laughter in the audience, then everyone was having as good a time as I did.
If that wasn't enough fun, there was a white elephant sale of – you guessed it—Jane Austen related books and tschotschkes. I spent $60 on 12 back issues of PERSUASIONS, the wonderful bound journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Such a deal! My bookshelves are groaning. But I'm all smiles.
Posted at 12:32 PM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Film, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Pride and Prejudice, Readings & Talks, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Writing Life | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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The Becoming Jane Fansite, an entertaining and informative site that celebrates Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, the world they inhabited, and, of course, the film, is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a quiz/contest.
The site has extended its deadline to enter the contest to May 31, 2008. The prize is a DVD of Becoming Jane.
Every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies…
--Henry Tilney, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey
What do Jane Austen and Her Majesty's Secret Service have in common? A great deal, it would seem. In fact, I'm starting to think there is some sort of conspiracy afoot.
Why else would all these alumni of Austen movie adaptations end up in my favorite British TV series, MI-5 (known in the UK as Spooks)?
What's even stranger is that their personae on MI-5 are often strangely reminiscent of their Austen characters.
Later, I found it personally significant that Matthew MacFadyen's MI-5 character Tom Quinn was replaced by agent Adam Carter, played by Rupert Penry-Jones—who later became Capt. Wentworth in the 2007 Persuasion. I was as torn between my loyalties to Tom Quinn and my new crush on Adam Carter as I was when I first started wondering if Captain Wentworth might supplant Darcy as my favorite Austen hero.
Then, having caught as many episodes as I could of what was aired on American TV, I started renting the DVDs, starting with season 1, to see the episodes I'd missed and re-watch the ones I'd already seen. And what do you know but Hugh Laurie, a/k/a Mr. Palmer of the 1995 S&S, shows up in season 1 as a muckety-muck in MI-6. Granted, he's channeling more Dr. House than Mr. Palmer for his role, but still…
There's more: Anna Chancellor, Miss Bingley of the 1995 P&P mini, shows up in season 4 as Harry's (Peter Firth's) boss and starts being very Miss Bossy Bingley. She even has some romantic history with Harry, who is admired by another spy, Ruth. Any minute I just know Anna Chancellor is going to start mocking Ruth's fine eyes.
No, I told myself. It must all be just an amusing coincidence, or simply the natural result of a small pool of British actors who inevitably end up in a long-running, high-quality production. Still, you have to admit it's pretty odd that in one scene that takes place in an episode from season 2,four of the five actors were Austen film alumni: Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen), Henry Tilney (Peter Firth), Sir John Middleton (Robert Hardy), and Dr. Harris of Sense and Sensibility (Oliver Ford Davies). Here they were, all sitting around a table trying to figure out how to recover and hide the theft of one billion dollars from a British bank so that England didn't have a crash of its financial markets. One wonders what their Austen characters would do. Mr. Darcy would probably see if he could track down the thief in some dicey London neighborhood, while Henry Tilney would offer his services as co-tracker and wit, which would be the perfect foil to Darcy's straight man. I see a buddy picture in this. In the meantime, Sir John would invite Dr. Harris to shoot with him, followed by a big picnic at Barton Park so that they could take their minds off the whole disagreeable business.
But why should we stop with that scene? Wouldn't it be fun if all these former Austen movie folks stepped into their Austen characters on MI-5 whenever we least expect it; say, in the middle of some heart-stopping action sequence? I posed this "what if" on the janeaustenaddict.com forum, and got this response from DKDC:
"Hugh Laurie would recreate the annoying husband while talking to Peter Firth, aka Mr. Tilney. Rubert Penry-Jones, while in the middle of an interrogation with a terrorist, starts reciting "You pierce my soul. I am half hope half agony..." etc etc."
Just when I'd about convinced myself that the Austen/MI-5 connection was all an amusing coincidence, I watched a scene that gave me pause.
In the scene, Rupert Penry-Jones checks into a clinic for some much-needed rest. He has a suitcase and a book in his hand. The book? Persuasion.
The person who checks him in says," You fond of Jane Austen?"
"Yeah," says RPJ, "she noticed things."
Friends, take notice. Somewhere in here is the key to a great mystery. Or a grand conspiracy. Or watching too many episodes of MI-5 is bound to make one paranoid.
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This is my guest post for Jane Austen Today.]
What? No more weekly doses of Austen on PBS? Fear not, my fellow addicts. Help is here. All you need to do is follow this ten-part program.
Re-reading Austen's six novels (or reading them for the first time) will of course play a big role in this program. Ah, but what accompanies each read will make your experience even sweeter.
1. Try Northanger Abbey for your first post-Masterpiece read. Why Northanger Abbey? One reason could be that it was the first of Austen's novels to be accepted by a publisher—who then couldn't be bothered to publish it. Idiot. Thumbing your nose at such stupidity is one reason to read it first. Another, even better reason, is that NA's a fun way to shake off the post-Masterpiece blues.
• After you read the book, see what it's like to be Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey. How? Drive or walk around your city or town and pretend you are seeing it from the point of view of someone who has never been there and finds it fascinating and exciting. See? You're experiencing your world like Catherine experienced the city of Bath. If you're hard pressed to find something exciting or fascinating about your world, go into the nearest flower garden and learn to love a hyacinth. Or just think about how a young woman from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century might respond to some of the modern technological wonders you take for granted. Like hot showers, for example. Flush toilets in every house. Mascara. Tampons.
• Then, top off your newfound sense of wonder and appreciation for your world by firing up your DVD player with the 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey* starring J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones. There. Aren't you feeling better already?
• *Ready for more? Try the 1986 adaptation of Northanger Abbey. Though it's unpopular with a lot of Janeites, you might, like me, find it entertaining.
2. Read Sense and Sensibility.
• After you close the book on Elinor and Marianne, imagine what happens next. (We all know these characters are real and keep living their lives after the books end, don't we?) Here's a fun situation to ponder: What happens the first time Edward and Elinor go to London and have dinner at Edward's mother's house—and are sitting across the table from Lucy and Robert? What do they talk about? Imagine Elinor sitting in the drawing room after dinner with Mrs. Ferrars and Lucy. And here's another one to consider: Should Marianne, or Mrs. Dashwood, ever confront John Dashwood about his broken promise to help them financially? If you were to write that speech, what would you have Marianne say? Or should the Dashwood ladies let John's own guilty conscience do all the work?
• Now that you've survived all those Dashwood/Ferrars family reunions, reward yourself with a screening of the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility (1995)* And while you're at it, order yourself a large pizza, chocolate cake, and/or a trough of margaritas. Yes. This program is definitely working.
3. Read Pride and Prejudice.
• After you read the book, imagine that you are Elizabeth experiencing your first visit to Rosings as Mrs. Darcy. (Lady Catherine has cooled down by now and consoles herself by hoping that her nephew will be so fortunate as to become widowed at a young age and redeem himself by taking a second wife, i.e., Anne de Bourgh.) Amuse yourself by observing the gyrations of Mr. Collins when he and Charlotte join the Rosings party for dinner. As Elizabeth once said to Mr. Darcy, "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."
• But wait, there's more. It's time to watch the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle P&P mini again (one can never watch it too many times), and/or the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, depending on whether your idea of Mr. Darcy is Colin Firth or Matthew MacFadyen or both. The 1995 mini is a great excuse to have a pajama party (where I grew up, we called them slumber parties). And one is never too old to have a slumber party. Send the kids away for sleepovers and banish any curmudgeonly significant others. Then, bring in lots of goodies, because five hours of viewing requires a great deal of fuel. There's all that fencing and swimming and dancing and taking refreshing turns around the room. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it. No matter which film you watch (or even if you watch both), be sure to buy the soundtrack of the 2005 film and play often. It's stunning.
4. Read Mansfield Park.
• Even if you're a reader who can't quite warm up to Austen's heroine Fanny Price (I feel your pain, but do give her some time; she grew on me after awhile), you can have a lot of fun thinking about how this book could have ended but didn't. For me, that's the most fascinating, thought-provoking aspect of Mansfield Park. As Patricia Rozema, director of the controversial 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park, put it in her screenplay, "It could have all turned out differently, I suppose. But it didn't." With that in mind, imagine what would have happened if Edmund had married Mary Crawford, and if Fanny had given in and married Henry Crawford. Happy marriages? Reformed rakes? Or a disaster?
• As compensation for the lack of a truly satisfying Mansfield Park film (see below)*, you get to watch the lovely 2007 BBC mini of Sense and Sensibility instead. I know, it's Sense and Sensibility, not Mansfield Park, and you just saw it on TV, but who cares? It's worth seeing again. It'll make you feel good. And isn't that what this program is all about?
*I'm one of the minority of Janeites who liked the 1999 Patricia Rozema adaptation of Mansfield Park, but I liked it more as a story inspired by Mansfield Park than as an adaptation per se. Rozema's rendering of Fanny Price is more like the director's idea of a young Jane Austen than the protagonist Jane Austen wrote for Mansfield Park. And Rozema's vision of the story's subtext is pretty dark. But then again, the book itself is perhaps the least "light, and bright, and sparkling" of Austen's works. By the way, there is a fascinating article on this film by Kathi Groenendyk in JASNA's journal Persuasions: As for the latest adaptation that aired on PBS, it has such a truncated version of the story that one wonders how anyone who didn't read the book could figure out what's going on. Mrs. Norris, Fanny's main nemesis, has mysteriously turned into a bland creature. And Fanny Price looks entirely too 21st-century and wears cleavage-baring day dresses (none of this is the fault of the actors, but still). As for the 1983 BBC mini, the heroine is more faithful to the book than its companions. However, while the principal actors are unquestionably talented I couldn't quite see some of them in their roles. And it's got that static, video-on-a-stage feel of early BBC productions that I find challenging to watch.
5. Read Emma.
• After you finish the book, play a little game called "Emma, Reformed Matchmaker." You'll need to play with a single friend (preferably a single friend who would like to be in a couple). Each of you sits down and writes a list of qualities that your friend's perfect, future mate should possess. Do not reveal what is on your lists until both of you are finished writing. Now share. You may be surprised to find that your lists differ greatly. When you read your friend's list, refrain from exclamations of horror unless one of the items on that list includes "must be incarcerated in a maximum security prison." Now, give your list to your friend to take home with her. Tell her she is free to cross out whatever she doesn't like on your list and keep whatever she does like. Or burn the whole thing. If she cares to share her final list with you, you may keep your eyes open for appropriate candidates and discreetly point them out to her. That's "point them out," not shove them in her face. Remember, you are "Emma, Reformed Matchmaker." If your friend doesn't care to share her final list, then graciously wish her all the best in finding her dream partner and promptly change the subject. Then, take her to Ford's (or local emporium of your choice) to buy a new dress. Or draw her picture. Without a potential mate watching the proceedings. See? You're a better, happier human being already.
• Now that you've had a successful run at self-improvement, Jane Austen-style, you deserve to have an Emma film festival. That's three very clever films indeed: The Kate Beckinsale/Mark Strong-starrer, the Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam movie , and the brilliant Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and directed by Amy Heckerling. Three fabulous films means you get to invite at least three friends over to have a viewing party or slumber party. And stock up on provisions, for a private screening of three films, without sitting down to supper, [would be] pronounced an infamous fraud upon the rights of men and women.
6. Read Persuasion.
• After you finish the book, amuse yourself by imagining whether or not Mrs. Clay will indeed become the next Lady Eliot. If she does, will Anne and Frederick, or any of her family, ever visit Sir William and Lady Eliot? How will Mary's health survive it? Or Elizabeth's pride? Or on a pleasanter note, will Capt. Wentworth allow his wife on board his ship? If so, what exciting places will Anne visit?
• Watch the lovely, 1995 adaptation of Persuasion starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Optional: the 2007 version of Persuasion. Although Austen's story is compressed into a scant 93 minutes in the latest version, this one is also worth watching, particularly if you love Rupert Penry-Jones as much as I do. Besides, the DVD restores the small but significant bits that were cut from the PBS broadcast.
7. Join the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and mingle with fellow Janeites at local and national meetings. I know what you're thinking, and yes, the rumors are all true. It's a cult. We have a secret handshake. We aim for total world domination. Okay, you can stop sweating now. I'm kidding. Really. JASNA is a community of warm, welcoming, fun-loving people who love Jane Austen and love getting together and talking about their favorite author with like-minded people. Like you. There are local reading groups (think Jane Austen Book Club, but usually with more than just the six Austen novels), regional get-togethers with fascinating speakers, entertainment, and delicious food, special screenings for members, and annual general meetings (AGMs) in a different city each year with talks and panels and workshops and English country dance lessons and a banquet and a Regency ball. At my first AGM I thought I'd died and gone to Austen heaven.
8. Watch a film that's so life-affirming and joyful that it merits a place of its own on this list: Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood-meets-Hollywood tribute to Pride and Prejudice. It's way better than a year's supply of antidepressants or a gallon of Absolut martinis. Hint: This one merits a party or at least inviting one friend over to watch with you. First, order in Indian food. Then, before popping in the DVD, unearth floaty scarves from your wardrobe or nearest accessory emporium, and keep them on hand to wave around while you dance along with the various musical numbers. Be sure to buy the soundtrack and play it in your car or on your iPod while commuting to work the next day. I feel better just thinking about it.
9. Now that you've got that Indian groove thang going, try English country dancing. Then you can watch all the movies set in Jane Austen's time again, and at the ballroom scenes you can dance along. There are many places to learn English country dancing, and from my experience, the people are friendly and welcome beginners, and there's no need to bring a partner with you. Some dance societies hold regular dances and even annual balls. In Southern California, check out Vintage Dance & History. Nationwide, go to the English Country Dance Webring and the Country Dance and Song Society.
10. Finally, take a trip back in time to Regency England. No, I haven't lost my mind. I have, however, written a novel that will transport you to 1813 England. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is the story of a modern L.A. girl and Austen fan who wakes up one morning as an Englishwoman's in Austen's time. As of April 29, Confessions comes out in paperback, which means the fare to Jane Austen's world becomes even more affordable.
Posted at 12:38 AM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Emma, English Country Dancing, Film, Food and Drink, Games, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Literature, Mansfield Park, Masterpiece PBS, Music, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Television, The Jane Austen Book Club | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
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Book Club Girl, which is a fabulous resource for book clubbers and solo readers alike, is running a contest for all of us who've been watching the Masterpiece Complete Jane Austen extravaganza on PBS. All you need to do is go to Book Club Girl and vote for your favorite Masterpiece adaptation of Jane Austen's novels. Then, post a comment to Book Club Girl's blog saying why you chose that particular film, and you'll be entered in a random drawing. The prize is a collection of Austen-inspired books: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by yours truly, Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James, an advance copy of Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathley, and Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer, plus the DVD of whichever is the favorite Masterpiece adaptation of Austen’s novels as chosen by voters on the Book Club Girl blog.
By the way, I've met two of the authors of the prize books: Emma Campbell Webster, author of Lost in Austen, (we were on a panel together at Book Expo); and Syrie James, author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, at a JASNA meeting yesterday. They're both lovely women.
And speaking of being inspired by Austen, at yesterday's JASNA meeting (a regional meeting of JASNA-SW), a highlight of the program was a tour of the Michael Sadleir rare book collection at UCLA. Among the treasures in that collection was a gorgeous first edition of Pride and Prejudice, the third volume of which I held in my hands. That was a moment I will never forget.
Posted at 09:18 PM in Austen movies, Blogs, Book Clubs, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Film, Jane Austen, Masterpiece PBS, Sense and Sensibility, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (http://janeaustenaddict.com)
[This is the latest in my series of guest blogs for About.com's Classic Literature Blog.]
How do I love the panoply of Austen film adaptations? Let me count the ways. I love the women in empire-waisted gowns and the men in form-fitting knee breeches. I love the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages and the turns and figures at Regency balls. Most of all, I love seeing Jane Austen's brilliant words (or at least, one hopes, a reasonable approximation of them) come to life on the screen.
I admire that anyone even attempts to brave the minefield of adapting my favorite author. Although it is a truth universally acknowledged that the book is always better than the movie, a good movie often inspires those who haven't read the book to do so. And the more Austen readers there are out there, the closer we Janeites come to world domination.
Just kidding. But would that be such a bad thing?
In any case, the latest and final installment in Masterpiece Classic's Complete Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, does Miss Austen proud. Why, you might wonder, should anyone bother to adapt this beloved book again, when the Oscar-winning Ang Lee/Emma Thompson film did such a marvelous job? Turns out there is always something new to say. Or show.
PBS asked me to guest-blog about the new Sense and Sensibility on Remotely Connected, their guest-blogger project. I have a lot to say about what I admire about this new film, how it deviates from and stays true to the novel, and how it complements the Emma Thompson movie. Check out my review here.
[Photos: Hattie Morahan as Elinor and Charity Wakefield as Marianne; Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars.]
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (http://janeaustenaddict.com)
[This post continues my series of guest posts on About.com's Classic Literature Blog.]
Yes; I'll admit it. There have been times when I've acted a bit like Emma, the eponymous heroine of Jane Austen's novel. There have been times when I have, shall I say, ventured into the unsolicited advice department. Times when I've been so convinced of what I knew about others that no one could convince me my assumptions were absolutely wrong.
I haven't always seen myself in Emma. In fact, there was a time when I would have been offended at the very suggestion. After all, Emma is the heroine that Jane Austen said "no one but myself will much like." But the older I get and the more I re-read Austen's works, the more I begin to see myself not only as Elizabeth Bennet (and who doesn't want to see herself as "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth"?), but also as some of Austen's more flawed characters.
These "a-ha" experiences are high on the list of reasons why I love Austen. I have this theory that if you read her works enough times and really contemplate the life lessons therein, you can pretty much give up your psychotherapist. You can even reduce your library of self-help books to Austen's six novels. They are so much fun to read, so satisfying, so full of dramatic tension and hilarious commentary, that you hardly know you're getting a life lesson at all. Which is exactly how I like my life lessons delivered.
When we first meet Austen's heroine Emma Woodhouse, she is enjoying the "triumph" of what her truth-telling friend (and only critic) Mr. Knightley dismisses as Emma's "lucky guess." Said "lucky guess" is the marriage of Emma's dearest friend (and former governess) Miss Taylor. Emma, however, gives herself more credit for the match than Mr. Knightley chooses to do. Emboldened by the success of her first foray into matchmaking, and lonely for the newly married Miss Taylor, Emma takes on a new project, Miss Harriet Smith. Determined to make over the trusting and subservient Harriet into Emma's own idea of perfection, Emma decides that Harriet's current romantic interest is too low on the social scale for her new friend. Emma, in all her social consequence and omniscience, will elevate Harriet on the social scale. Emma, in all her generous solicitude for the well-being of others, will bestow upon the vicar, Mr. Elton, the perfect wife. For he would be just the right man for Harriet.
Never mind that Mr. Elton has plans of his own and that the worshipping Harriet would follow wherever Emma leads. For Emma, those around her are pawns, and she their queen. Emma, of course, fancies herself a benevolent ruler. And thus she embarks on a series of misguided adventures into high-stakes meddling in the lives of others while having not the slightest doubt of her own sagacity. Challenged by no one but Mr. Knightley, she willfully misreads and misinterprets everyone's actions. She is, in short, a character we might heartily dislike, were it not for the genius of her creator.
Austen's brilliance is about making us see the universal humanity of all of her characters. Even if we cannot see ourselves in a particular character, we most certainly have known someone like that character. From the very beginning, we cannot truly dislike the high-handed, I-know-better-than-you Emma, for she has sacrificed her own domestic comfort to her best friend Miss Taylor's interests. Mr. Knightley may call the marriage of Miss Taylor to Mr. Weston a "lucky guess," but it was Emma who encouraged Mr. Weston to visit her friend, in hopes that he would eventually propose—and take that best friend away. Thus we see that under her meddling is a warm, affectionate heart. And we cannot truly dislike Emma because she patiently and without complaint—even to herself—ministers to the comfort of her hypochondriacal, self-centered, childlike father.
Most of all, we cannot truly dislike Emma because she becomes ensnared in her own machinations. And thus Mr. Knightley's wish that he "should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return " comes to pass.
(Be careful about what you wish on others, Mr. Knightley. It may just come back to kick you in the hindquarters.)
And that is all I shall say. If you have not read the book, I urge you to do so. You might just recognize that you, like Emma, find the idea of arranging someone else's life to be so much more appealing than looking at your own.
By the way, all of you who are jonesing for Austen since Masterpiece Theatre cruelly took a hiatus from its Complete Jane Austen extravaganza are in for a treat: the 1995 adaptation of Emma starring Kate Beckinsale. It airs on PBS in two parts, beginning Sunday, March 23. The Kate Beckinsale Emma is also available on DVD, as is its worthy companions, the splendid adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Amy Heckerling's contemporary take on Emma, the delightful Clueless.
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This is how I started off my talk at the Whittier Public Library's Jane Austen series on March 5, 2008:]
In all the excitement of the recent releases of The Jane Austen Book Club movie and Becoming Jane, and now that we are well into Masterpiece Theatre's Complete Jane Austen, one might be tempted to say that 2008 is turning out to be the year of Jane Austen, perhaps even more so than 2007. But let's not forget that 2008 is also an election year. And with all the hoopla and fuss over should it be Obama, Clinton, or McCain, I submit that it should be Jane.
Sure, she's been dead for almost 200 years, but that doesn't seem to stop Masterpiece Theatre, Hollywood, Bollywood, authors like me who are inspired to write books because of how much we love her, and readers like me who continue to read and re-read her six novels incessantly.
And most important, who is better qualified to run the country than she?
Let's talk about character:
If we go by the assumption that there is a little bit of the author in each of her characters—well, at least in each of the characters she likes—than who can lead the country better than someone who has the wit and intelligence of Elizabeth Bennet, the diplomacy of Anne Eliot, the prudence and strength of Elinor Dashwood, and the stay-the-course steadfastness of Fanny Price?
Let's talk about experience: People like to say that Austen never left the south of England, that she led a circumscribed, uneventful life. But in all fairness, it would be pretty hard for her to take a Grand Tour of Europe—supposing she were able to afford it—during the Napoleonic Wars.
Just because one doesn't write about war doesn't mean one is ill-informed about war. Aside from being very well read herself, Jane Austen had two brothers who served in the Navy and fought in those wars, and a cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, who married a French count who got guillotined during the Reign of Terror.
As for that uneventful, quiet life, it's not like Jane Austen was a recluse. She loved to socialize, to dance, to be in company. She traveled many times to London and lived in Bath.
And she may not have married, but she was hardly sheltered. Just read Lady Susan, one of her minor works, and see how sheltered you think she was. For Jane Austen, staying single was a choice. She had at least one proposal that we definitely know about, and very likely more. Being a single woman was a brave choice for a woman of Austen's time, especially for a woman like Jane Austen, who was not exactly flush with money.
So, we've got character. We've got experience. We've got courage.
Let's talk about special interests.
Some people think that Jane Austen panders to special interests—in particular, the special interests of women. After all, her stories are all about bonnets, pretty dresses, balls, and who gets to marry the rich guy.
But are not these stories rife with handsome men in knee breeches and women in beautiful gowns? Does that not pander to the special interests of the fairer sex?
Well yes, I suppose, if you are to take the movies to be the same as Jane Austen's novels, which they are not. The novels were actually quite spare of period detail, as Jane Austen wrote them for her contemporaries, who already knew what a barouche-landau was and what type of waistline the latest gowns had. Of course, we women love the eye candy the movies provide, but so should the men, considering all those heaving bosoms in all those low-cut empire waisted dresses.
Just to illustrate for you the difference between the movies and the books, let's take Sense and Sensibilty as an example. In the book, Edward Ferrars is plain. In the movie, he is Hugh Grant.
In the book, Colonel Brandon is grave and solemn and singularly un-dashing. In the movie, he is Alan Rickman.
Am I complaining about any of this? Absolutely not.
Willoughby, granted, is a beauty in both book and film, but then again, he is the villain of the piece.
As for Jane Austen's allegedly overly zealous interest in female finery, I beg to differ, for she relegated such pursuits to her silly, superficial female characters, such as Mrs. Elton with her overly trimmed dresses and her fishing for compliments, ditzy Mrs. Allen whose main joy in life was dress and shopping, and the vacant Lady Bertram, whose main purpose was to sit on a sopha all day nicely dressed.
How many discerning men might have laughed knowingly had they read this passage in Northanger Abbey:
"It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire…Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it."
Even the empty-headed Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey acknowledges that "Men commonly take so little notice of those things." Said she; "I can never get Mr. Allen to know one of my gowns from another."
If Jane Austen were indeed pandering to the special interests of women, then how come
T.C. Boyle, Michael Chabon, Paul Auster, Gregory Peck, and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat all love Jane Austen?
Apparently they know something other men may not know, which is that Jane Austen's genius speaks to all of us, not just women. Her stories have universal resonance, because they are stories of self-knowledge and self-discovery. They are witty social satires, and they are commentaries on the follies and flaws and majesty of human nature.
And yes, each of her books is all wrapped up in a love story—not an overly sentimental one—but one with a happy ending.
And who, male or female, can resist a happy ending? Doesn't this country need a happy ending? Doesn't this country need a lesson on how to become a better human being, especially when that lesson is wrapped up in such an agreeable, amusing package?
I submit that it does.
(Image courtesy of Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose)
[The Whittier Public Library in Whittier, California, is hosting two more events in its Jane Austen series:
Wednesday, March 12th, at 7:00 PM:
Jane Austen, Love & Friendship:
Come and listen as Jane Austen, as portrayed by Mary Burkin, shares family and neighborhood gossip.
Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00 PM:
Tea and Tasteful Conversation:
Enjoy tea while learning about the culinary world of Jane Austen's England.
Presented by Anne Kiley, Ph.D., Professor at Whittier College and WPL Foundation Board Member
RSVP $25.00 per person; limited seating. 562-464-3450; 562-464-3470.
All events are at the Whittier Central Library
7344 S. Washington Avenue, Whittier, CA
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This post continues my ongoing series of guest posts for About.com's Classic Literature blog]
There's something terribly exciting about taking part in a national event, be it the presidential debates or the weekly Austen-related offerings from PBS's Masterpiece. And although we Austen addicts love grumbling about the film renderings of our beloved author's work almost as much, or perhaps more, than we adore grousing over the incivilities of presidential hopefuls, one would be hard-pressed to find fault with the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, which airs in three parts beginning Feb. 10, 2008.
Yes, my friends, there is much cause for rejoicing, for not only is the 1995 P&P longer than any of the new upstart adaptations (five hours as opposed to the scant 90-plus minutes allotted to Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, and even those were lopt and cropt for the US broadcast), it is gratifyingly faithful to text. Of course, this beloved version of P&P has five hours to do so. And let's not forget the famous Wet Shirt Scene (though truth be told, I find the Fencing Scene infinitely hotter).
Some have posited that Colin Firth and Keira Knightley (in the 1995 and 2005 P&P films, respectively) have done more to fuel these two decades-worth of Austen-mania than the books themselves. In all fairness, we must consider the relative positions of books and movies. The books, like Anne Eliot in Persuasion, live at home, quiet and confined, on shelves and nightstands, while their cinematic pretenders preen on red carpets and grab the headlines. Nevertheless, Emma Thompson said it best when she accepted the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay (Sense and Sensibility): "Everybody involved in the making of this film knows that we owe all our pride and all our joy to the genius of Jane Austen." Indeed. Were it not for the genius of Austen, there would be no Darcy and Elizabeth to play.
Pride and Prejudice is the most famous and popular of all the Austen novels. It is also arguably the most adaptable to the screen. The reasons are manifold.
On a surface level, Pride and Prejudice is a fairytale. Poor (relatively speaking) girl ends up, against all odds, living happily ever after with the rich, handsome prince. This fairytale attribute is universally appealing, as is the brilliant wit with which Austen delivers her story.
Those who see only a light comedic romance in Pride and Prejudice do, alas, miss the most important reasons for its enduring appeal. Jane Austen herself, in a letter to her sister Cassandra following the publication of P&P, comically presaged this popular misconception: "Upon the whole... I am well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story: an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparté, or anything that would form a contrast…"
A discerning reader will find that this story is also a story of empowerment, of control over one's destiny, and of an emerging meritocracy. For the heroine of P&P and her hero, their rewards come not merely through any advantages of birth and inherited wealth, but rather through the hard work of self-examination, revelation, and voluntary shifts in attitudes and behavior. Imagine the appeal of such a story back in Austen's class-stratified day. Consider its appeal today, in our world of make your own destiny, re-invent yourself, and hard work wins the day.
For if we, like Elizabeth Bennet, see that the very flaws that annoy us in others (in her case, the vanity and pride of Mr. Darcy) are merely reflections of our own failings, we will be rewarded. Elizabeth's vanity causes her to trust the wrong man. Her pride makes her blind to the merits of the right man. Her ultimate self-revelation and humility are painful but highly rewarding. If we, like Elizabeth, engage in the hard work of honest self-examination (as in her famous line, Till this moment, I never knew myself), the rewards are immeasurable, though they may not necessarily take the form of Mr. Darcy and Pemberley.
As for Mr. Darcy's hard work and consequent reward, is there anything more satisfying than watching "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" humbled by the realization that it would take a lot more than a big bank balance to win the girl? Says Darcy to Elizabeth, "You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." Hearing his confession gives us hope that maybe, just maybe, there is justice in the world.
So yes, we can let the Mr. Darcys of the world waltz into town and buy their way into our heart or business or country, or we can own our power to make them prove that their worth goes deeper than their wallet. We can be like Elizabeth's best friend Charlotte Lucas, who sells out for money and security by marrying a man she does not love. Or we can be like Elizabeth Bennet, who, like Jane Austen herself, held out for more. Did Austen regret accepting, then turning down, the proposal of Harris Bigg-Wither, a man who was, according to JASNA past-president Joan Klingel Ray, three times wealthier than her fictional Mr. Darcy? Could Austen have seen herself in Elizabeth Bennet's thoughts when, after turning down Mr. Darcy's first proposal, she tours his great estate with her aunt and uncle? "And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress!"
The recent PBS offering, "Miss Austen Regrets," has a great deal to say on that score. I believe that if Austen had any regrets, they were of short duration. I believe that the satisfaction of sending four of her six great novels into the world (two were not published till after her death) and maintaining a close, lifelong relationship with her sister Cassandra more than compensated for the wealth and social consequence she gave up. As Claire Bellanti, Coordinator of JASNA-Southwest points out, it is unlikely that being the mistress of Harris Bigg-Wither's great estate (well, actually three great estates) and the mother of his children would have left any time for writing.
There is something else about Pride and Prejudice that gives it timeless resonance: the human propensity to make snap judgments (and often erroneous ones) about our fellow creatures. In the novel, Darcy's coldness and reserve at a public dance results in universal agreement on the part of Elizabeth and her neighbors: He is the proudest, most disagreeable man that ever was seen.
By the time Wickham appears in the story with his tale of ill-usage at the hands of Mr. Darcy, everyone, including the reader, is eager to believe it. But like all "truths universally acknowledged," this one tends to be as false as the rest.
The parallels between the prejudices in Pride and Prejudice and our enduring predisposition to prejudge individuals and entire races of people are staggering. From our eagerness to believe gossip overheard by the school lockers to our willingness to take as received wisdom the latest rumors in the break room, we are voluntary dupes of our own, and others', false judgments. We hear about the latest celebrity meltdown or trip to rehab, and we decide we know everything there is to know about that person. We hear one presidential candidate accusing another of misconduct, and we decide we know the whole truth.
Pride and Prejudice, and its creator, Jane Austen, know better.
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(This is yet another of my series of guest posts for About.com's Classic Literature blog.)
Discuss Mansfield Park in your book club, and your friends, like most readers, will tend to differ over a variety of points. The most typical one is this: Is the heroine, Fanny Price, a model of moral integrity, or a self-righteous prude? Is the marriage that ends the story (and Austen's stories always end with a marriage) between the right two people? And what's up with that part about the play?
The story begins when nine-year-old Fanny Price is taken from the home of her impoverished parents and moved to the estate of Mansfield Park to be brought up by rich relatives. This is no clear-cut Cinderella story, however. Although there are a couple of mildly wicked stepsisters (Fanny's cousins Maria and Julia) and a stand-in for a wicked stepmother in the form of her Aunt Norris, teenaged Fanny's central nemesis—and rival in love--is the saucy, sassy anti-heroine Mary Crawford.
The object of both Fanny's and Mary's affections is Fanny's cousin Edmund (I know, I know, but in Jane Austen's day one could marry one's cousin without anyone batting an eyelid). Edmund loves Fanny like a cousin, but he is in love with Mary.
Did you ever feel jealous of someone, and at the same time also felt you didn't have the right to be jealous? Fanny, being in an inferior position in the Mansfield Park family and unloved by her birth parents, has deeply rooted self-esteem issues. Mary, on the other hand, walks through life with a serious sense of entitlement. Shouldn't that be enough to put us squarely in the pro-Fanny camp?
Perhaps, but Fanny challenges us at every turn. For example, there is the famous section of the book in which Fanny disapproves of and refuses to participate in a play that her cousins and neighbors are putting on at home for their own amusement. For this part of the story to make the least bit of sense to a modern reader, one needs to understand that this particular choice of home theatricals would be the modern equivalent of a group of teenagers voting to have a wild, high-risk party in their strict parent's house while said parent was out of town.
Despite Fanny's balking at participating in said wild party, we cannot quite dismiss her as a buzz-killing Miss Perfect. After all, she is eaten up with jealousy for a great deal of the book, and as we all know, jealousy is not a pretty emotion. She is also not one to obey those in authority at all costs. In fact, she stands up to the biggest authority figure in her life by refusing to do what she knows in her heart would be wrong, and I'm not talking about acting in a play. (I'll say no more, lest I spoil the book for those who've yet to read it.)
If you've ever had an opinion that your friends considered uncool, and you stuck to it despite ridicule and pressure, you'll find a kindred spirit in Fanny Price, and you'll want her reward to be the man she loves. However, if you're still doing shots with your inner bad girl, you'll be rooting for Mary Crawford to win the object of her, and Fanny's, affections. (By the way, Austen scholar Emily Auerbach pointed out at one of the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual meetings, that several of Mary Crawford's lines of dialogue are astonishingly similar to lines from Jane Austen's own letters.)
To make things more interesting, some readers will want Fanny to be won by Mary's rakish, heartbreaker brother, Henry Crawford, who finds himself unaccountably in love for the first time in his life. Henry doesn't seem to stand a chance with Fanny, who is not only in love with another man, but also has watched in contempt and pity while Henry toyed with Fanny's cousins, the above-mentioned Maria and Julia. It's one big love triangle. Or square. Or heptagon.
Could there possibly be a better Austen novel for book clubs to chew on? And I haven't even touched on the theories about Mansfield Park's antislavery subtext.
In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen is clearly at the height of her storytelling mastery, deftly playing with reader loyalties and expectations while serving up the delicious social satire and suspenseful plotting that keep us coming back for more.
Nevertheless, Mansfield Park presents clear challenges to filmmakers who wish to adapt it, which is perhaps why director Patricia Rozema turned the heroine of her 1999 adaptation into a synthesis of Fanny Price, Mary Crawford, and Jane Austen herself. As for the latest adaptation of Mansfield Park, which airs on PBS's Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, January 27, I am all anticipation. Let's see what the filmmakers have got up their sleeves this time.
Posted at 04:19 PM in Austen movies, Austen Wisdom, Blogs, Book Clubs, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Mansfield Park, Masterpiece PBS, Regency England | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: 2007 Mansfield Park movie, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Laurie Viera Rigler, Mansfield Park, Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Theatre, Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park
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(This is part of a series of guest posts I am doing for About.com's Classic Literature blog.)
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
--Henry Tilney, in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
When Henry Tilney speaks these words in Austen’s funny and touching novel, Northanger Abbey, the story’s heroine, Catherine Morland, gets a serious crush. (Truth is, Henry had her at hello.) Still, Henry’s declaration is a bold one, for in Austen’s day novels were considered low art, especially if they were penned by a woman and consumed by women. Catherine favors the lowest of the low--scary Gothic novels written by women and featuring abduction, seduction, supernatural horror, and/or murder—the kind of novels that teens (and many an adult) could not get enough of.
Every era likes to marginalize certain forms of art. In Austen’s day, it was the novel (and not just the Gothic ones). Today, it might be graphic novels or romance or so-called "women’s fiction" or "chick lit" or science fiction or horror. Take your pick. Despite the snobbery, Jane Austen and her whole family were, in her own words, "great Novel-readers, & not ashamed of being so." Nevertheless, Northanger Abbey is a hilarious send-up of just the kind of horror-and-romance-fest that Catherine Morland—and Jane Austen—liked to read. The difference between the heroine and her creator is that Catherine Morland kept expecting real life to play out like one of her favorite novels, while Jane Austen thought real life had its own set of fascinating stories to tell.
Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland’s story unfolds as she leaves home for the first time, bound for the fascinating city of Bath. She falls in love, is whisked off to the romantic-sounding estate of Northanger Abbey, witnesses betrayal and deception, suspects murder, and takes a dangerous journey alone. Ultimately, Catherine learns self-reliance in more ways than one. No
t only does she cease to be, in her mother’s words, "a sad little shatter-brained creature," she also learns to distinguish between her own wild imaginings and her intuition, between fantasy and reality, between false friends and true.
Northanger Abbey is the perfect coming-of-age story, for it is in no way about giving up our youthful fancies and zest for living. Quite the opposite. Through Catherine’s innocent, exuberant embrace of what is fresh and novel (no pun intended), we the readers remember the first time we traveled to a new city, danced with the person who made us feel valued for who we are, or "learnt to love a hyacinth."
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.
(This is my first guest post for About.com's Classic Literature Blog.)
Bringing in a New Year is all about second chances. This year, we vow, we will do it right. We have a second chance to take better care of ourselves. We have a second chance to be kinder, wiser, and better human beings. It is therefore fitting that Masterpiece Theatre’s Complete Jane Austen ushers in this New Year with the Austen novel that is all about second chances, Persuasion.
If you haven’t yet read Persuasion, you now have a second chance to do so. If, like me, you’re already a Jane Austen addict, then you’ve probably read the book several times and will no doubt do so again. If you’re not already an admirer of Austen, then you may be under the misguided impression that Austen wrote fluffy romances that were all about who got to marry the rich guy and where the stories were as archaic as the characters’ horse-drawn carriages. Not so. Granted, Austen novels always include a love story, and yes, her books do predate the four-door hybrid. Nevertheless, her characters are as real and relevant as the people sitting across from you at the dinner table, in the office, and at your favorite dance club/bar/coffeehouse/bookstore/hangout. Jane Austen was as keen an observer of human nature as you’ll ever come across in life or literature, and human nature hasn’t changed a bit since women wore bonnets and men knee breeches.
If you’ve ever felt like your family didn’t treat you the way they should; if you’ve ever been misunderstood, misled, or misguided in any way, then Persuasion will speak your language. If you’ve ever yielded to the opinions of others over what your heart told you to do, if you’ve ever given up someone because you were told you had to, if you’ve ever wasted even a tiny bit of this short life holding onto resentment instead of opening up to forgiveness and love; then you will get your second chance to make things right with Persuasion.
Persuasion is the story of Anne Eliot, who has never got over a romantic disappointment she had when she was 19 years old. She has little support from her ruin of a family, which consists of a vain, widowed father and a self-centered, caustic older sister. Eight years before, Anne had fallen in love with and got engaged to Frederick Wentworth, a bright, earnest young man whose lack of money and career prospects set Anne’s status-conscious family against the marriage. Her surrogate mother, whose advice Anne trusted above all, persuaded Anne that the only right thing to do was to give up the engagement. Now, eight years later, Anne’s family is in financial trouble, and Frederick Wentworth, now Captain Wentworth, is back in town and rich from the spoils of the Napoleonic Wars. Problem is, he’s never forgiven Anne for breaking his heart. In fact, he proceeds to flirt with other women right in front of her.
Is it man’s nature to forget the woman he loves sooner than woman forgets man? Is an invariably determined person any wiser than an easily persuadable one? And most important, will Anne and Frederick ever get what they really want? Persuasion is a page-turning, heart-stopping story that I’ve read at least twenty times, and I find something new and illuminating in it with every reading. It is also, like all of Austen’s novels, filled with delicious social satire and wickedly funny moments.
Still not persuaded? How about this suggestion: If the latest Persuasion film doesn’t send you running for your nearest bookstore (and I hope it will), then rent the 1995 version directed by Roger Michell and starring Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root. If you do, I guarantee you will not be able to resist having that book in your hands. And as an added bonus, the book has the best love letter of any novel you’ll ever read. So good you’ll want to commit it to memory. (“Tell me not that I am too late…”)
It’s not too late to read Persuasion. Take your second chance. And Happy New Year!
Surrender to your Austen addiction at janeaustenaddict.com.
I hope this finds you well and happy and indulging in Austen!
Great news for all Austen lovers awaits us in the new year: Masterpiece Theatre’s Complete Jane Austen begins in January with four new adaptations, plus rebroadcasts of the Kate Beckinsale Emma and the inimitable 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries starring the man in the wet shirt, Colin Firth.
Canada's public station, TVO, has cool clips and commentaries on these exciting new productions. (If you get TVO you don't even have to wait till January to see three of the new films. You can watch Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion on TVO beginning December 16, which also happens to be Jane Austen’s birthday.)
In the meantime, consider taking a break from holiday stress (or feigning work at your desk ) while eying an array of all your favorite Austen movie trailers and clips. And if you dearly love a laugh, watch some of these, too.
Wish you’d come to one of my readings instead of washing your hair that night? Check out this Authors @ Google’s video of a reading at Google’s Ann Arbor offices, which was one of the highlights of my book tour. Imagine working for a company that cooks you a delicious lunch every day and brings in authors to read you stories during the workday. Where can I sign up?
Speaking of unusual venues, how about a hair salon that’s also a bookstore? That’s Beauty and the Book, the Jefferson, Texas headquarters of The Pulpwood Queens Book Club, another exciting stop on the tour. What would Jane Austen say about such a place? Read my guest post on Book Club Girl and find out.
Coming up this month: Satellite Radio interview on XM 163’s Sonic Theater-“This is Audible.” If you don’t have XM, the interview will be available on audible.com for free download. Just type in keywords "This is Audible," "Josephine Reed" (the delightful interviewer/program director), and "December 2007" to find the download. Exact broadcast date will be posted here as soon as it’s available.
In the meantime, let’s all enjoy the holiday season and raise our glasses to Miss Austen on December 16. And while you’re making your lists and checking them twice, consider giving your favorite Austen addicts a round trip ticket to 1813 England for the mere price of a book (or six-CD unabridged audiobook, which just got a glowing review in Publisher’s Weekly).
May this holiday season and the coming year bring you much happiness,
Posted at 10:50 AM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Author Videos, Book Clubs, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Masterpiece PBS, Readings & Talks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Authors @ Google, Beauty and the Book, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Josephine Reed, Laurie Viera Rigler, Masterpiece Theatre Complete Jane Austen, Pulpwood Queens Book Club, This is Audible
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[BS: The great thing about Jane Austen fans is the myriad of reasons they come to Jane. Some come for the clothes, stay for the satire. Others seek the social skewering but discover the empathy. And, yeah, there a few who figure if it's good enough for Colin Firth... Today, we welcome Laurie Viera Rigler, whose novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict captures the beauty of loving Jane while indulging in the ever-tantalizing "what if"]The decision to write Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict wasn't exactly a decision. It happened like this: I was standing in the kitchen of the house I used to rent in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, and I saw, in my mind, the opening scene of my book unfold. I saw a twenty-first-century woman who, like me, reads and rereads Jane Austen's six novels. Unlike me, she wakes up one morning in the body and life of an Englishwoman in Austen's time. I couldn't stop thinking about her, and finally I decided to write down what I saw. Once I opened that door, there was, of course, a good deal more to her story.
[BS: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is available at bookstores right now, and Laurie Viera Rigler's website is a treasure trove for fans of Jane, ready-to-become fans of Jane, or just people who understand the value that comes from wasting time on a really fun site. Laurie is also making appearances in support of her novel.]
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I keep thinking about "Becoming Jane," which I saw last night at a special screening for JASNA-Southwest. Sure, it took liberties with chronology and no doubt fashioned characters and events out of pure imagination. Sure, it may not be everyone's idea of who Jane Austen was or what she would have done. But who cares? Who could possibly claim to know who Jane Austen really was? Not the most scrupulous biographer, not the most accomplished Austen scholar, not the family members who wrote about her, not we who read her surviving letters and her six great novels and her juvenilia.
Even if we possessed every letter she wrote--and it is well known that Jane's beloved sister Cassandra Austen made sure that would not happen (though A.S. Byatt's Possession is still my fondest Janeite fantasy)--we would still have only those snapshots of her life. We can only guess at who the author is, who any author is, by reading her letters and reading her books and stories. I always smile when I read and hear heated debates as to who of Jane Austen's heroines most closely resembles Miss Austen herself. How about all of them? Is not each of us a myriad of identities and concepts of ourselves, from what we think we are to what various people around us conjecture? Would each of our friends and relations provide the same description of our character, or even our appearance? So yes, "Becoming Jane" is fiction based on fact. Once one is comfortable with that notion, one can truly sit back and enjoy this lovely film. It's a compelling story with stellar performances by all.
For me, the most enchanting thing about it was seeing how the filmmakers portrayed the process of creation, how we would hear the words rushing through Jane Austen's head, flowing out of her pen, considered, rejected, crossed out, and replaced with something even more brilliant; and yes, how the people around her spouted lines from her books, because that is what writers do, they listen and store away and then use whatever they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of why authors might choose, as a service to themselves and their readers, to give their protagonists happy endings.
For me the most gratifying thing about this film was seeing Jane Austen portrayed as a passionate, independent, empowered, and sexually awakened women who made staggeringly courageous choices in her life, including the choice to be a novelist and the choice not to marry. This is a refreshing change from the caricature of the sweet-tempered virgin writing fluffy romances, an image that was born with the "Memoir" of Jane Austen written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh (see Emily Auerbach's excellent book, Searching for Jane Austen, for a fascinating analysis of our misconceptions about Jane Austen).
The only thing I didn't appreciate was the closing line written on the screen, which stated that neither Jane nor her sister Cassandra ever married. That seemed unnecessary (and perhaps unintentionaly sexist) after the previous lines, which stated that Austen wrote six of the greatest novels in the English language; and that Tom Lefroy became Chief Justice of Ireland. I think the filmmakers should have left it at that.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend this film. Bring tissues.
Welcome to the janeaustenaddict blog. I’m hoping you’ll click on the Contact page of my site or post a comment to this blog and tell me about your own addiction to Austen.
To get you started, I'll tell you a little about my own ungovernable passion. At any given season of the year, I am reading at least one of Austen’s six novels. I cannot imagine ever not wanting to re-read Austen. Why? Aside from the lure of the exotic--carriages, English country dancing, and men in tight knee breeches--there is the comfort of the familiar. Knowing that Anne Eliot will always pierce Captain Wentworth’s soul and that Lydia Bennet will be stuck with George Wickham for the rest of her life makes everything right in my world.
Knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t make reading the book for the umpteenth time any less exciting, and herein lies the true allure of Austen. Every time I read one of her novels, I learn something new about myself and about the people in my world. Jane Austen is the keenest and funniest observer of human nature of any author I know. In fact, that is what makes her books timeless, despite the bonnets and balls and carriages. Human nature hasn’t changed a bit since Austen’s day. “But,” as Elizabeth Bennet said, “people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.” That is why I can read Pride and Prejudice twenty times and get something new out of it every time. I am a different person before each reading, and by the time I reach the end of the book I am changed by it yet again.
And then there are the movies. They may not be as true to the books as we Janeites wish they could be, but we sure love the eye candy. I know I do. It's enough to make me wish I could transport myself into that world, that is, the clean, sparkling, Hollywood version of that world...
The Roman Baths in Bath: a portal to another time?