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.
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.
The author of THE PRIDE AND PREJUDICE MOVIE COOKBOOK sent me a copy, and though I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, it looks like so much fun that I just had to share.
Playfully riffing off text from the novel and scenes from the movie versions of Austen's most beloved novel --and adding teensy dashes of culinary history just for fun--author Anne Derry has concocted a host of P&P-inspired recipes that evoke the Regency but are nevertheless fashioned for a 21st-century palate.
Just to give you a taste:
There's The White Menu (in honor of the white soup need for the Netherfield ball).
There's an entire series of recipes with the key ingredient being Guinness stout, inspired by the banter between Lizzy and Darcy on whether poetry is indeed the food of love and Lizzie's declaring that it is only so if the love is "fine, stout, [and] healthy."
There's even a zombie cocktail. And of course as Charlotte was wanted about the mince pies, there's a recipe for that as well.
Bon appetit, and please don't invite Mr. Collins to dinner. You may just get stuck sitting next to him.
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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Last year, in the pre-Halloween season, Oxford professor Kathryn Sutherland (see NPR interview) claimed that Jane Austen's manuscripts were heavily edited for punctuation (egads, an altered semicolon!). Here's a piece in The Guardian about Sutherland's findings.
What's most interesting about this tempest in a teapot is that if one reads the two pieces linked above, plus this one in Language Log, Sutherland never once implies that heavy editing of punctuation detracts one iota from Austen's genius. Quite the contrary, in fact. She calls Austen "modern," "experimental," and says that her use of dashes for emphasis, for example, is not to be seen anywhere in literature until Virginia Woolf. This is praise, folks, not censure.
But analysts of all kinds pounced on these findings, concluding that Austen must not have been the brilliant stylist we know and love after all. Sounds like just one more attempt to assert that an unmarried clergyman's daughter who didn't mix in literary circles couldn't possibly write those novels on her own.
And now, just in time for the ghosts of authors past to rise again, comes ANONYMOUS, a movie all about how poor, low-born William Shakespeare couldn't possibly have written all those high falutin' plays. It had to be—wait for it—a British peer.
In this week's New Yorker, David Denby aptly called this theory the "dreariest of snobberies."
So what's scarier than trying to diss a dead author? The fact that such attempts keep rising up no matter how many times we think we've vanquished them. Sort of like the villains in the umpteenth installments of Saw, Scream, or Halloween.
Mindly Kaling of The New Yorker wrote this hilarious piece on women who exist only in romantic comedies, and I just had to share. Enjoy!
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)
Technorati Tags: Arabella Field, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Fay Masterson, Jane Austen TV series, Jane Austen web series, Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl
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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)
Technorati Tags: Ang Lee, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Emma Thompson, Gemma Jones, Kate Winslet, Pride and Prejudice (2005) Blog, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sense and Sensibility
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Today is Jane Austen's 235th birthday, and each of the bloggers listed at the end of this post, including myself, are posting tributes and challenges and offering lots of fabulous prizes.
Leaving a comment here = one chance to win. The more blogs on the tour you comment on (see list below), the more chances you have to win.
My part in the Jane Austen Birthday Blog Tour begins today, 12/16, and ends Wednesday 12/22 at the stroke of midnight, PST. Other bloggers on the list may end a bit earlier or later. All bloggers will submit the names they draw to our host, who will draw the winners from those names on 12/23.
To enter my giveaway, please leave a comment below. And if you're inspired to do so, feel free to include your birthday wishes to Jane Austen .
Here are mine:
Dear Miss Austen,
On this occasion of your 235th birthday, I would like to thank you for all the wisdom, laughter, and insight that your stories provide. Your words have been a constant guide and an abiding inspiration in my life.
I wish that you could know how many millions of people you have made happy with your stories. I wish that you could see the films that have been adapted from your books. I wish that you could read all those sequels, continuations, and inspired-bys. And I wish I could buy you a birthday drink* (or seven) to help you over the shock!
*By the way, did you know that there's a drink named after you? They say it can be quite a restorative.
With gratitude I remain your humble servant,
Laurie Viera Rigler
LIST OF BLOGGERS PARTICIPATING IN THE AUSTEN BIRTHDAY BLOG TOUR:
Adriana Zardini at Jane Austen Sociedad do Brasil
Laurel Ann at Austenprose (who created the Austentini recipe)
Vic Sanborn at Jane Austen's World
Katherine Cox at November’s Autumn
Karen Wasylowski at her personal blog
Laurie Viera Rigler (that's me) at Jane Austen Addict Blog
Lynn Shepherd at her blog
Jane Greensmith at Reading, Writing, Working, Playing
Jane Odiwe at Jane Austen Sequels
Alexa Adams at First Impressions
Regina Jeffers at her blog
Cindy Jones at First Draft
Janet Mullany at Risky Regencies
Meredith at Austenesque Reviews
and our host, Maria Grazia, at My Jane Austen Book Club
Books – (signed copies):
Posted at 12:05 AM in Austen Wisdom, Blogs, Books, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Film, Food and Drink, Jane Austen, Literature, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict | Permalink | Comments (77) | TrackBack (0)
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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.]
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.
Are you as excited as I am about the new EMMA miniseries on PBS Masterpiece Classic?
If so, please read my post on PBS's Remotely Connected blog, and let me know your thoughts!
Victoire Sanborn of Jane Austen's World and Jane Austen Today has also posted about EMMA.
Along with PBS and Masterpiece, Jane Austen's World and Austenprose are co-hosting the East Coast Twitter party. I'll be co-hosting the West Coast Twitter party with Kali Pappas, a fellow Austen blogger.
To join, sign up with TweetGrid or your own Twitter aggregator, and use the hashtag #emma_pbs. And you don't have to wait for Sunday to start tweeting about EMMA.
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December 16 is Jane Austen's birthday, and I wish that I could give her a present. I wish that I could thank her for all the joy her work has given me. For every time I re-read one of her novels, I revel in the pure pleasure of a well-loved tale. But along with the familiarity is ever-unfolding discovery, for these are stories that are all about human nature, its beauties as well as its follies.
And isn't there always something new to learn about ourselves and those around us? That's the beauty of Jane Austen. As she put it herself via her heroine, Elizabeth Bennet in her most famous book, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, "...people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever." The same is true for her novels. There is something new to be observed in them for ever.
What would Jane Austen say, I wonder, if she knew that at the age of 234, she would be as young and fresh and relevant to her devoted readers of the twenty-first century as she was when her first published novel, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, delighted readers in 1811? I imagine she would be pleased with her immortality, for who among us has never had a wish to live forever? I do believe, however, that Jane Austen has achieved something far greater than immortality: She has made millions of people happy.
What better way is there to celebrate this day than to spread some of that happiness around? That, and maybe curling up with one of her novels.
Check out my guest post on the pros and cons of courtship today vs. courtship in Jane Austen's world. It's a question I pondered constantly while writing my latest novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.
Posted at 01:51 PM in Austen Wisdom, Blogs, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Current Affairs, English Country Dancing, Film, Love and Marriage, Regency England, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
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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)
Technorati Tags: Charles Lynn Batten, Jane Austen, JASNA, JASNA-SW, Laurie Viera Rigler, Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Margaret Horwitz, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James
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[This is my second guest post for Penguin USA's blog.]
Ever assume that the protagonist of a novel is a self-portrait of the author? I have.
I make the author-equals-protagonist assumption so often that I have to laugh at myself when I catch myself at it. For example, I was happily reading Literacy and Longing in L.A., the story of a bibliophile who uses books for comfort and escape (oh how I could relate to that), when my fuzzy cocoon of protagonist/author/me kindredness broke open upon the protagonist's announcing her dislike for Jane Austen. What?! My favorite author scorned by the book-loving heroine of a book I really like?
After the initial shock passed, I reconnected with the heroine. After all, poor misguided thing, look what she was missing out on: Jane Austen. It didn't even occur to me that her tastes might not be shared by her creators, coauthors Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack. In fact, when I was about to meet Jennifer and Karen as my fellow panelists at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, I actually felt a bit of trepidation. Would these Austen-hating authors snub me? After all, the title of my novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, says it all.
No, I told myself, that's just plain silly. And of course, they were absolutely lovely. To my surprise, Karen Mack even mentioned the Austen thing during the panel. It seems that she and Jennifer had received quite a lot of angry emails from Jane Austen devotees berating them for their lack of literary taste. Karen wanted it on record that although her protagonist had no use for Austen, both Karen and Jennifer love her.
I was duly chastened. Not that I was one of the people who had fired off an angry email (nor did I have an impulse to do so). But I, like them, had not questioned my assumption that author equals protagonist.
As an author, I should have known better. After all, many a reader has assumed that at least parts of Courtney, the protagonist of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, are exactly like me. And I don't mean just her taste in books. The question is usually couched in polite language, e.g., "How much of Courtney is you?" But I imagine what they really want to know is do I thrive on high drama, consider vodka to be one of the four basic food groups, and can I "be had," as Bette Davis famously quipped in All About Eve, "for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut."
Notice I'm not answering the questions. [Pauses to sip from huge martini glass.]
See? You fell for it.
Here is the real answer: Authors are like actors. We step inside the minds of the characters who speak to us, we hear what they say, and we become them, we live inside their worlds—while we are writing, that is. Not that we don't think about them all the time when we're away from our desks, hear them inside our heads, see scenes unfolding. But we still know the difference between them and us.
At least I hope we do.
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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.