One of my favorite bloggers, Laurel Ann of Austenprose and Jane Austen Today, posted the other day about the Sex and the City movie, and in that post she casually mentioned a drink called an Austentini.
An Austentini!? As an Austen devotee with a taste for vodka (no wonder my protagonist sought refuge from her romantic woes in an Austen-and-Absolut-induced haze), I had to have the recipe.
And so here, with Laurel Ann's compliments, is something you might like to imbibe (in moderate doses, of course) to cool off in the midsummer heat. As Laurel Ann says, the Austentini is "sweet and sour like our Jane!"
2 ounces of Vodka
2 ounces of sweet and sour mix or margarita mix
splash of framboise
Pour into a chilled martini glass, open volume one of Pride and Prejudice. Or Persuasion or Emma or Sense and Sensibility or Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park. Sip. Turn pages. Smile.
If you do not drink alcohol, here is a suggestion for an alcohol-free Austentini:
2 ounces Pellegrino or your favorite sparkling water
2 ounces sweet and sour mix or margarita mix
a few crushed raspberries or a splash of raspberry juice
Warning: Falling asleep after reading Jane Austen and drinking too many Austentinis in bed may result in your waking up, as my heroine did, in Regency England. Not to mention raspberry stains on your sheets.
One of the things I love most is talking to book groups. I've done conference calls, visited book groups in person, and now I am happy to announce an upcoming book club call-in event on Blog Talk Radio.
Here are the specifics:
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
7 PM EST
Live call-in show on Blog Talk Radio.
Hosted by Book Club Girl (a must-read blog for book clubbers everywhere)
So if you and/or your book group would like to discuss Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict with me, do call in!
Here is the link to the show, which enables you to set a reminder for yourself:
Your call-in number for June 25 at 7 pm EST is:
In the meantime, feel free to check out my reading group guide.
Looking forward to talking to you!
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.
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, TV | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Book Club Girl, Cassandra and Jane, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Darcy's Story, Lost in Austen, Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Masterpiece Complete Jane Austen, Michael Sadleir
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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 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.
Tags: Colin Firth, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Keira Knightley, Laurie Viera Rigler, Masterpiece Theatre, Pride and Prejudice
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by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (http://janeaustenaddict.com)
(This post also appears as a guest post on About.com's Classic Literature blog.)
It was only about six years ago when I looked at pictures of empire-gowned members of the Jane Austen Society of North America and said, "I'll never be one of those people who dresses up in costume and goes to a Regency ball. Isn't that a bit like going to a Star Trek convention and wearing Vulcan ears?"
Lesson #1: Whenever you say, "I'll never be one of those people," what it really means is that you already are one of those people. You just don't know it yet.
Lesson #2: It all starts with English country dance lessons. You know how they talk about gateway drugs? Well, English country dance lessons, my friends, is the gateway drug.
I went to my first dance lesson at the 2004 Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA AGM) , which took place in my part of the world, i.e., Los Angeles. Learning English country dance was, after all, part of my research for my novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, which is about a modern L.A. girl who wakes up one morning as a woman in Austen's time. Dance lessons were as legitimate a pursuit as attending the various lectures. Or so I told myself. How could I, in all good conscience, write a dance scene if I had the opportunity to dance and passed it up?
Then came the JASNA ball itself that Saturday night in 2004. Sure, I didn't wear a costume; lots of people didn't. But I danced every dance and not only did I have a blast, I also discovered that English country dance, which in the movies looks like people are merely parading about and posing like peacocks, is actually quite a workout. I also found that when I looked at the women in their gowns this time, I experienced costume envy. I too wanted to wear a dress and pretend I was Elizabeth Bennet dancing with Mr. Darcy. Wouldn't my turns and steps look ever so much more elegant in a Regency ball gown than in black velvet pants? No, I told myself, I won't give in. Costumes are where I draw the line.
Since then I have attended two more JASNA AGMs and two more JASNA balls. Still in contemporary dress. But the turning point came when I attended something last year called the Jane Austen Evening, which is not a JASNA-sponsored event. At the Jane Austen Evening, which is organized by the Society for Manners and Merriment, almost all of the attendees are in costume. Unlike the JASNA balls, where everyone is there because they are Jane Austen readers, the attendees of the Jane Austen Evening appear to be a mixture of Jane Austen readers, period-dance aficionados, people who are into historical re-enactments, and combinations thereof. You can imagine the costumed glory of these folks.
Lesson #3: No one is immune to the costume bug. Case in point: At this year's Jane Austen Evening, I was in the powder room where a number of women were primping. One of them, who was in her early twenties, said to a friend, "I can't believe I'm doing this. I'm actually a t-shirt-and-jeans kind of girl." Another woman, who was perhaps forty and in a gorgeous bright green gown, said, "How about me? I'm an airline mechanic."
You can't make up that kind of dialogue.
Lesson #4: English country dancing can heat you up in more ways than one. The best thing about going to the Jane Austen Evening last year was the fact that I went with my husband Thomas, he who had previously informed me that Regency dancing was the most fundamentally uncool activity he could imagine, and that it would be a cold day in hell…you get the picture. But when the girlfriend who was supposed to go with me couldn't make it, Thomas gallantly offered to take her place. Even took English country dance lessons with me. And that's when I realized that not only is English country dancing a good workout, it's also pretty hot.
It's one thing to dance with one of your girlfriends or some random guy you're not interested in. It's quite another to stand up with the man you find most agreeable in the whole world, the handsomest man who ever was seen, the man who has a noble estate in Derbyshire, I mean, Pasadena. It was then that I truly got why all that serious courting went on at balls in Jane Austen's novels, and why women longed for a dance. Not only was it pretty much the only genteel outlet for vigorous exercise, aside from walking and horse riding; it was the only place that a young man and woman could spend lots of seriously flirtatious face-time with each other. All that eye contact and hand touching and display of bodies was highly charged, and all done with the full sanction of society. No wonder the women were fanning themselves. It was after going to that ball with Thomas that I expanded the ballroom scene in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. As for Thomas, he had such a good time that this year he decided to invite a group of friends to go with us.
At last year's Jane Austen Evening, I wore a long skirt under a knee-length, empire-waisted dress, in a sort of poor man's imitation of a Regency gown. This year, I decided, I would cross the line for good. And so I had a gown made for the occasion. I even had my hair done (admittedly more like big prom hair than authentic Regency hair, but more of a period look than my usual flat-ironed style).
Bring it on, I said. There's no difference between me and those guys who speak Klingon to a friend of mine whenever she ventures into the sci-fi section of her local bookstore. I may not speak Klingon, but I can dance Mr. Beveridge's Maggot like Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle did in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. Yes, I am a Jane Austen addict, and my version of Vulcan ears is a scarlet silk-taffeta empire-waisted gown.
If you'd like to learn English country dance and you live in Southern California, visit lahacal.org for lessons near you. (You can also link from there to the Jane Austen Evening site.) If you're in another part of the U.S., you can try the English Country Dance Webring; or just do a Google search with the keywords "English country dance" and your geographical area, and you're sure to find something nearby.
And if you'd like to join a warm and welcoming community of fellow Austen addicts, visit the Jane Austen Society of North America at http://jasna.org and find out where your local region meets and what events are going on throughout the year. As for the AGM (and that famous Saturday night ball), this year's event will be held in Chicago.
By the way, the most important thing that the JASNA AGM balls and the Jane Austen Evening have in common, aside from dance and costume, is the abundance of warm and welcoming people. So if you're shy with strangers or don't have a partner to accompany you to these events, never fear.
(I came across a YouTube video of folks dancing the Sir Roger de Coverley at the Jane Austen Evening, and there I am in the foreground dancing with my friend Alice. Video by Larry Buckel. He and his lovely wife Carin helped organize the event:)
Posted at 03:32 AM in Blogs, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Costume, English Country Dancing, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Regency England | Permalink | Comments (36) | TrackBack (0)
Tags: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, English country dance, Jane Austen ball, Jane Austen Evening, Laurie Viera Rigler, Regency ball, Regency dance
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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)
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.
[You can read my guest post here or on Book Club Girl. In any case, check out Book Club Girl, a priceless resource for anyone who has a book group, wants to start a book group, or just loves to read. ]
I was en route to Jefferson, Texas to give a reading of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict to the Pulpwood Queens Book Club when
the flight attendant announced that he wasn't quite sure our landing
gear was working. There probably wasn't anything to worry about, he
said, though I later learned that the Shreveport Fire Department was
out in full force to greet us just in case. Hands gripping the armrest,
I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, "Why did they have
to tell us that?" She shrugged. And so I said some prayers and then
went back to my book; I was reading Emma.
If those last twenty minutes of flight time were to be my last twenty
minutes alive, I would go down reading Jane Austen. Sure enough, Austen
took me out of myself, out of my fears, and into Highbury, where Emma
danced with Mr. Knightley at the Crown. And before I knew it, the plane
was safely on the ground.
Like the protagonist of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict , I use Austen as comfort, guidance, and a cure for a host of ills that come with modern living. Unlike her, I found myself transported not to Regency England, but to Beauty and the Book, the headquarters of the Pulpwood Queens, and the only beauty salon/bookstore in America. Their motto? "Where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule!" At Beauty and the Book, bookshelves lined with must-reads face racks of RedKen products, and stacks of the club's monthly picks are flanked by hairdryers. Tiaras and other rhinestone goodies are also on offer. One thing that struck me was the absence of gossip magazines, the typical reading fare of hair salons. Then again, there is nothing typical about Beauty and the Book. If you want to read while you're getting your hair done, there are plenty of choices, but they don't include accounts of celebrity divorce and who made a fashion faux pas on the red carpet.
At the meeting, book club members, most decked out in tiaras, some sporting the club's signature hot pink T-shirt, seat themselves in hairstyling chairs to tuck into fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and other Southern delights they've cooked specially for the occasion. Kathy Patrick, the original Pulpwood Queen and author of the upcoming Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life, is the charismatic and benevolent ruler, making announcements, encouraging everyone to fill a plate and get comfy. This group is here to have fun, but first and foremost it is there to fulfill Kathy's mission, which is "to get the world reading."
And so the readings and discussions began. This month there were two selections, and so I not only got to read and discuss Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, I got to meet Masha Hamilton and listen to her read from her wonderful novel, The Camel Bookmobile, as well as hear about the real Camel Book Drive she's launched as a result of writing her book.
When the last bite of chocolate pie had been consumed and the last of the tiara-wearing Queens filed out the door, Masha and I were in for yet another treat: hair tips from Kathy, who showed us some cool tricks for last-minute special looks. As I left this enchanted place, I wondered, What would Jane Austen think of Beauty and the Book and The Pulpwood Queens? I'm convinced she'd love them. For one, the Pulpwood Queens live up to what Anne Eliot said in Persuasion: "My idea of good company... is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation." The Queens are definitely my idea of good company--truly a delightful group of women who were full of questions and stimulating ideas. As for their Jefferson, Texas venue, I am reminded of the circulating libraries of Austen's day, often fashionable places where patrons could borrow books for a fee, and which also sold jewelry and other trinkets. If they had offered hairstyling, too, they might have been nearly as perfect as Beauty and the Book.
Book Club Girl Here: Laurie, this sounds like it was great fun and I'm glad you got to meet Masha Hamilton too! I grabbed some photos from your site and here's a link to all the rest of them.
[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.]
Tags: becoming jane, confessions of a jane austen addict, devoney looser, jane austen, jane austen book club, laurie viera rigler, pride and prejudice
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