Several writers, including myself, explored this question in honor of Jane Austen's birthday yesterday. Head on over to My Jane Austen Book Club to check out our answers and to enter a HUGE giveaway.
Several writers, including myself, explored this question in honor of Jane Austen's birthday yesterday. Head on over to My Jane Austen Book Club to check out our answers and to enter a HUGE giveaway.
Been thinking about Shakespeare a lot lately, thanks to rewatching for the third or fourth time the entire three-season series "Slings and Arrows." If you have not seen it, make haste to Netflix or iTunes, because you are in for a treat.
Slings and Arrows is set in a fictional Canadian Shakespeare festival and is all about the alchemy of storytelling and theatre and the best and worst of human behavior. It's hilarious, touching, brilliantly written, and makes the language of Shakespeare, the subtext, the structure, all of it, come to life in a way I have never seen before. Here's a little taste:
Jane Austen (and all roads lead to Austen), whose deep and often comic insights into the highs and lows of human behavior led George Henry Lewes (and, according to him, Thomas Macaulay) to call her "a prose Shakespeare," clearly had an intimate knowledge of the Bard; even seemingly passing references to his works in her novels are fraught with subtext.
Consider Mrs. Dashwood's mentioning to Marianne that the family will defer finishing its reading of Hamlet till Willoughby's return, a return that will not come, and which will lead Marianne into an Ophelia-like attempt at self-destruction.
Or the teasing way in which Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey is introduced as a girl of little learning but who has amassed a store of useful information from her reading. For example:...from Shakespeare she gained a great store of information - amongst the rest, that
---------"Trifles light as air,That
"Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong,
"As proofs of Holy Writ."
"The poor beetle, which we tread upon,And that a young woman in love always looks
"In corporal sufferance feels a pang as great
"As when a giant dies."
"like Patience on a monument
"Smiling at Grief."
Although Northanger Abbey is a comedy, none of these quotes is lightly chosen. Catherine will be both the object of jealousy and see her brother suffer from it, is deeply compassionate towards those who are suffering, and will be forced to find reserves of patience to endure the wait for the object of her own affections.
Did I ever say Northanger Abbey is Austen's most underrated novel?
From a beautiful piece in the Washington Post by Zofia Smardz:
"Well, that’s how it goes on a Jane Austen pilgrimage. You think, if I can only see where she lived and worked and danced and played, I’ll get inside her head. Capture her genius.
Hah. That’s not so easy, is it, old girl? After 200 years, there’s not that much to see. And you’re so good at hiding.
But it won’t stop me from looking for you."
I can relate. Which is why I'll be going back to keep looking, too. Do read the whole piece. It's really lovely.
Today's must-read: A fascinating piece by Alice Villaseñor in The Journal of Victorian Culture drawing textual and cinematic connections between two of my most favorite things, Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.
It's that time of year again, when women feel like total losers for being single or wait for their men to pass or fail the big Valentine's Day test. Will he screw up and totally forget, buy a cheap trinket instead of the one thing he knows you want, or, even more stressful and high stakes, will he finally pop the question?
Could there be anything more insane than this holiday that's supposed to be all about love?
I was watching the GREY'S ANATOMY Valentine's Day episode today, and one of the characters was a florist who was so exhausted and stressed from the V-Day rush that he accidentally crashed his delivery van into the ER.
Almost dying in service to Valentine's Day madness was a big wake-up call to this florist, who said he would never stress himself out over this holiday again:
"People call you up you know, they ask you, make something beautiful. Yeah, so some sorry schlep can forget they've been treated like crap every day of the year…Like my flowers are magic or something. But I bought it. Nearly killed myself trying to make sure everyone got their little miracle. What a joke. People oughta just stop being so awful to each other, you know? Leave me out of it."
My biggest takeaway from that speech? "People oughta just stop being so awful to each other."
Not bad advice. If we were good to the people we supposedly love every day, we wouldn't have to prove our love on that one day of the year. We could be more like Jane Bennet of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or Catherine Morland of NORTHANGER ABBEY, or Anne Elliot of PERSUASION. In Austen, kindness is always rewarded, and often with love. Could there be a better recipe for happiness than that?
[Gazing at photos of gorgeous actors playing Austen heroes can also be quite helpful.]
One thing's for sure. Feeling entitled to love, or a certain type of bouquet, or a necklace, or a diamond ring, is a sure recipe for misery.
Just ask that lady in GREY'S ANATOMY who was furious at her admittedly clueless boyfriend for once again giving her a velvet jewelry box on V-Day without a ring inside. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. It's worth watching.
And so is almost every Jane Austen adaptation ever made for the big or small screen. So if you don't expect to get that perfect bouquet, piece of jewelry, or declaration of love today, be kind. To others. To yourself. Fire up the Blu-ray or the Netflix queue and watch BRIDE AND PREJUDICE or the Colin Firth P&P or the Gwyneth Paltrow EMMA (just a few of my faves) or PERSUASION with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Even better, read PERSUASION (my favorite Austen novel) or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or NORTHANGER ABBEY or, let's face it, any of the six. You'll feel much better, I promise.
Be happy. And wish yourself a very happy Valentine's Day.
Posted at 02:35 AM in Austen movies, Austen Wisdom, Emma, Film, Good Works, Jane Austen, Literature, Love and Marriage, Men, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Relationships, TV | 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.
Do you turn to a favorite novel for escape? Check out my guest post on Fiction Therapy at the Chick Lit Central blog, and enter the giveaway:
Two lucky winners will each receive a personally inscribed copy of RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.
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Check out my guest post on chicklitclub.com, where I explore the comic parallels between Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And Fielding's amusing deviations therefrom.
Except that in the book it was a diamond-patterned jumper and bumblebee socks.)
Please join me on May 21 at 2 PM at the Sierra Madre Public Library for a fun-filled afternoon. I'll be talking about Austen's timeless appeal and the genesis of my two Austen-inspired novels. Which could be considered semi-autobiographical, if they did not involve time travel and body-switching.
Hope to see you there! That's 2 PM, May 21. In whichever century you like.
Sierra Madre Public Library, 440 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA
Posted at 06:44 PM in Austen Addiction, Austen Wisdom, Austen-inspired books, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Libraries & Librarians, Readings & Talks, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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October 2011 will be the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and My Jane Austen Book Club is hosting a blog tour to celebrate.
Each month a different author will post on My Jane Austen Book Club about Sense and Sensibility. Along with the post there will be a monthly giveaway: your comment on the blog will give you the chance to win a book or DVD.
Here's the schedule:
1. January: Jennifer Becton Marriage and money in Sense and Sensibility
2. February: Alexa Adams Sense and Sensibility on screen
3. March: C. Allyn Pierson Inheritance laws and their consequences in Sense & Sensibility
4. April: Beth Pattillo Lost in Sense and Sensibility
5. May: Jane Odiwe Willoughby: a rogue on trial
6. June Deb of Jane Austen in Vermont
Secrets in Sense and Sensibility
7. July: Laurie Viera Rigler Interview with Lucy Steele
8. August: Regina Jeffers Settling for the Compromise Marriage
9. September: Lynn Shepherd
The origins of S&S: Richardson, Jane Austen, Elinore & Marianne
10. October: Meredith @Austenesque Reviews
Sense and Sensibility fanfiction
11. November: Vic @Jane Austen's World
Minor characters in Sense and Sensibility
12. December: Laurel Ann @Austenprose
Marianne Dashwood: A passion for dead Leaves and other Sensibilities
If you comment on Jennifer Becton's upcoming post at My Jane Austen Book Club, you'll be entered in the giveaway of The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathleen Shine. This novel, published by Picador, is a new modern re-telling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
Many thanks to Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club for hosting this blog tour. See you all at Barton Cottage!
Technorati Tags: Alexa Adams, Austenesque Reviews, Austenprose, Beth Pattillo, C. Allyn Pierson, Jane Austen In Vermont, Jane Austen's World, Jane Odiwe, Jennifer Becton, Laurel Ann Nattress, Laurie Viera Rigler, Lynn Shepherd, My Jane Austen Book Club, Regina Jeffers, Sense and Sensibility, Sense and Sensibility bicentenary, The Three Weissmans of Westport
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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)
Technorati Tags: Bespelling Jane Austen, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Darcy's Passions, First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice, Intimations of Austen, Jane and the Damned, Jane Austen Birthday Blog Tour, Jane Austen birthday bloggers, Jane Austen birthday giveaway, Jane Austen's birthday, Murder at Mansfield Park, My Jane Austen Book Club, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Willoughby's Return
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Jane Austen turns 235 on December 16, and we at Austen Addict Central will be joining the Austen Birthday Blog Tour, hosted by Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club and Fly High. There will be tributes and lots of fabulous prizes.
The Austen Birthday Blog Tour begins 12/16 and ends 12/22. Winners will be announced on 12/23. Comment at each of the following blogs starting 12/16 for multiple chances to enter!
Adriana Zardini at Jane Austen Sociedad do Brasil (who created this graphic)
Laurel Ann at Austenprose
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):
Technorati Tags: Bespelling Jane Austen, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Darcy's Passions, First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice, Intimations of Austen, Jane and the Damned, Jane Austen, Jane Austen's birthday, Murder at Mansfield Park, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen addict, Willoughby's Return
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Today's Wall Street Journal has a fun piece on the ever-expanding Janeiverse on the web and on Austen's growing appeal with the young.
Makes sense, don't you think? After all, Austen wrote what could arguably be called the first classic YA coming-of-age novel, NORTHANGER ABBEY. The oldest heroine of Austen's six major works was 27-28 (Anne Elliot of PERUSASION), and the youngest was 17-18 (Catherine Morland of NORTHANGER ABBEY).
The latest Austen adaptations--both of which this blogger loved--clearly targeted a young demographic.[Romola Garai, L, as Emma Woodhouse; Felicity Jones, R, as Catherine Morland]
I'm just happy that a 27-year-old is no longer considered past her sell-by date, and a 17-year-old is usually more concerned with starting her freshman year of college than starting a family.
And on that note, I shall close with one of my favorite episodes of SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL, which focuses on this very topic:
[SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL, babelgum.com/sexandtheaustengirl, 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.]
Posted at 02:12 PM in Austen TV series, Austen Web Series, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Emma, Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Arabella Field, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Fay Masterson, Jane Austen and age, Jane Austen and youth, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl, Wall Street Journal Jane Austen, woman's sell-by date
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Stephanie's got lots of choices for challenge participants, from Austen's own works to Austen-inspired novels (like those by yours truly) to sequels and continuations, movies, and even crafts.
I wonder if taking English country dance lessons counts? Or playing with my Jane Austen Action Figures??
And did I say there were lots of giveaways?
Here's what I'm going to do (not necessarily in this order):
Oh, and I want to read so many others on this list. I don't think I can keep it down to six!
Tip: If anyone's looking for a really fun, lovely Austen nonfiction, Margaret Sullivan's JANE AUSTEN HANDBOOK (also on Stephanie's list) is excellent. And did I say funny? There's one line on page 92 that will make you howl with laughter.
Make haste to the Everything Austen Challenge II!
Posted at 01:52 PM in Austen Addiction, Austen-inspired books, Books, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sense and Sensibility | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Everything Austen Challenge II, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Handbook, Margaret Sullivan, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Stephanie's Written Word
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Here's my first guest post on the Babelgum Blog to introduce Jane Austen and Sex and the Austen Girl.
If you haven't yet seen Sex and the Austen Girl, the web series inspired by the Austen Addict novels, Episode 4 has just posted today. In fact, Episodes 1-4 are all ready for your viewing pleasure.
New episodes post every Monday. Only on Babelgum.
Posted at 03:20 PM in Austen Addiction, Austen Web Series, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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And read this piece in the Telegraph by Jay McInerney entitled Beautiful Minds: Jane Austen's Heroines, in which "Jay McInerney, novelist and ladies' man, describes his serial crushes on Jane Austen's heroines - and how they shaped his romantic life."
The British Library has scanned its copy of Jane Austen's HISTORY OF ENGLAND, which you can read in her own hand AND hear read aloud by an excellent reader. (Just click on the "Listen" button.)
Jane Austen wrote the HISTORY OF ENGLAND when she was only 15 years old. It is "a lively parody that makes fun of the popular schoolroom books of the time."
There are many other manuscripts in the British Library's collection that have this feature, including ALICE'S ADVENTURES UNDER GROUND and Mozart's diary; scroll down the page for the Austen manuscript.
Many thanks to my friend Glenn Lambert for alerting me to this! What a perfect gift for National Library Week!
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.]
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.
I just read JULIET, NAKED by Nick Hornby who, along with Zadie Smith, is my idea of a contemporary Jane Austen. Both Hornby and Smith make profound observations of human nature, give us romance without sentimentality, have a divine sense of humor, and are simply masterful storytellers. In my writing workshops I inevitably read passages from various Hornby novels and Smith's ON BEAUTY as examples of the best in contemporary fiction.
For this reader, JULIET, NAKED brought to mind some of the online discussions that occur amongst Austen's most devoted readers. A central premise of the book is that no matter how much the admirers of an artist's work examine that work, study it, parse it for meaning, and become "experts," they can never acquire irrefutable proof that the creator felt a certain way or had a particular type of experience at the time she created it. Bottom line is it's nothing more than speculation. And speculation is often wrong.
In JULIET, NAKED, one of the characters, Duncan, spends a good deal of his time on a web forum holding forth on the hidden meanings and nuances in the songs of a rock singer-songwriter named Tucker Crowe, who mysteriously dropped off the grid back in 1986, causing his small band of devoted followers to speculate endlessly on why he left and what's been going on in his life since his disappearance. And most of all, what was behind JULIET, the album that Tucker was promoting when he dropped out of sight. Annie, Duncan's girlfriend, puts up with Duncan's obsession, but when Duncan posts a review of a newly released album of JULIET demos—an unadorned set of tracks that the fans dub JULIET, NAKED, Annie decides she's had about enough of Duncan's prosings about Tucker's genius. And so she posts her own review. And, miraculously, she is rewarded with a correspondence from the real Tucker Crowe, who periodically reads Duncan's forum and chuckles at the inaccurate conclusions therein.
I've often wondered what Jane Austen might say about the assertions, online and otherwise, about what she did or did not mean when she wrote a particular line or character because of what she did or did not experience or feel. Because, after all, no matter how much we think we are experts on Austen, it is really all just speculation. No one but Austen can know what she meant, felt, believed, or experienced at any given moment in time. No one but Austen could tell us if a certain character espouses Austen's own beliefs. And it is never a given that an author believes what her protagonist believes. Or that what happens in a novel resembles what happened in the author's own life. Even Austen's letters—like all letters--are just snapshots of the moment she wrote that letter, and thus only indicate what she felt or believed at that given moment in time. We cannot even take the words in those letters at face value, for the reader of much of them, her sister and closest friend, Cassandra, would get the ironies and subtext and in-jokes and tone in a way that we can only dream of—and speculate about.
One thing we can be sure of—and this is the greatest gift of any great storyteller or songwriter: The words and music and characters and stories that we love have deep meaning for us, based on our own personal experiences, beliefs, and aspirations. That is how we make these most beloved works our own. As Karen Joy Fowler said very wisely in her novel, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, "Each of us has a private Austen." Or in Nick Hornby's JULIET, NAKED, a private Tucker Crowe.
Do read JULIET, NAKED—it's a beautiful, funny, thoughtful book.
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Next Thorpe scares Catherine as to the perilous
state of her brother James's carriage, & then contradicts himself with the
Thus despite Thorpe's being Isabella's bro &
James's bud, Catherine's not sure that he is "altogether completely
And when Catherine hears she missed seeing Henry Tilney that day, it is "clear to her "that John Thorpe himself was quite disagreeable."
The next day is more promising. Catherine sees Eleanor Tilney in the Pump Room and makes an effort to be friends.
"'How well your brother dances!' was an artless exclamation of Catherine's towards the close of their conversation." Eleanor is amused.
"Henry!" she replied with a smile. "Yes, he does dance very well."
Catherine: "Was not the young lady he danced with on Monday a Miss Smith?... I dare say she was very glad to dance."
Catherine: "Do you think her pretty?" Eleanor: "Not very." Are there any sweeter words than this?
Does Henry ever come to the Pump Room, asks Catherine, & will they be at the ball tomorrow? Eleanor's answer makes Catherine very happy.
Catherine & Eleanor "parted -- on Miss Tilney's side with some knowledge of her new acquaintance's feelings… "
"…and on Catherine's, without the smallest consciousness of having explained them." If only she had time to buy a new gown for the ball.
A waste of a thought, "for man only can be aware of the insensibility of man towards a new gown."
"Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it."
@ the ball, Catherine escapes Thorpe, & Henry asks her to dance. "It did not appear to her that life could supply any greater felicity."
Thorpe acts all insulted, claiming Catherine promised to dance with him. Henry thinks that Thorpe should get lost.
Henry: "I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage." Men "have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours."
Dancing & marriage are not the same, says Catherine. "People that marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. "
that dance only stand opposite each other in a long room for half an
Perhaps, says Henry, but "You will allow, that in both, man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal."
Henry: & in both, it is in the best interest of men & women to avoid "fancying that they should have been better off with any one else."Catherine: "Yes, to be sure…but still they are so very different." Henry finds her position "rather alarming."
Henry asks: Does that mean if Thorpe were to return just now, or some other man, she would give all her attention to him?
Well, Thorpe's her brother's good friend, so she'd have to talk to him. But she knows hardly any other men at the ball.Henry: "And is that to be my only security? alas, alas!"
Catherine: "Nay, I am sure you cannot have a
better; for if I do not know any body, it is impossible for me to talk to
Catherine: "…and, besides, I do not want to talk to anybody."
Henry: "Now you have given me a security
worth having; and I shall proceed with courage."
This Twitter presentation of NORTHANGER ABBEY is brought 2 you by Jane Austen, conveying the liveliest effusions of wit & humour since 1811.
Catherine ends her night w/the happy prospect of seeing Henry the next day for a country walk w/him & Eleanor.
Except that it rains. And when the sun makes an
appearance, so do Isabella, James, & John Thorpe, who insist she go driving
Catherine wants to wait for her friends. But Thorpe insists he saw them driving out of Bath. And he promises to show her Blaize Castle.
How can Catherine resist? She loves ancient buildings better than anything, except perhaps scary novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho.
As Thorpe drives off with Catherine, she catches sight of Henry and Eleanor—who see her, too—and she tells Thorpe to stop the carriage!
"But Mr. Thorpe only laughed, smacked his whip, encouraged his horse, made odd noises, and drove on." [What sort of odd noises?]
[And now I shall call it a night (or a morning), & hopefully without the sound of John Thorpe's odd noises echoing in my ears...]
"Catherine, angry and vexed as she was, having no power of getting away, was obliged to give up the point and submit."
"How could you deceive me so?" says she, but Thorpe won't admit it. Plus, it's too late to make it to Blaize Castle, & so they go back.
Even worse, when she arrives at the Allens' she learns that Henry & Eleanor had come by just a few minutes after she left with Thorpe.
"And now I may dismiss my heroine to the sleepless couch…to a pillow strewed with thorns and wet with tears."
[For more of NORTHANGER ABBEY,
version, follow me on Twitter, or check back here for more digests.]
PERSUASION tweets continue: When last we left Anne, she was
reading Capt. Wentworth's words in his letter: "I have loved none but
"Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath."
Anne does run into Capt W—but Charles is with her. How can she manage "a word, a look" on the DL?
Thankfully Charles has to run & asks Capt W to take Anne home—she can barely refrain from doing a happy dance on the spot.
After the accident, he saw "the perfect excellence of the mind with which Louisa's could so ill bear a comparison…"
And he realized "the perfect unrivalled hold" which Anne's mind "possessed over his own."
He could now "distinguish between the steadiness of principle and the obstinacy of self-will…"
He now saw the difference "between the darings of heedlessness and the resolution of a collected mind."
He saw "everything to exalt in his estimation the woman he had lost."
And he "deplore[d] the pride,…the madness of resentment, which had kept him from trying to regain her." About time, dude!
Capt W's "penance had become severe." Even worse, says he, ""I found…that I was considered by Harville an engaged man!"
Realizing that Louisa's family & Louisa might feel the same, Capt W saw that he was "hers in honour if she wished it."
"I had been unguarded…I had been grossly wrong, and must abide the consequences." [Ah, if only we had consequences 2day]
And so Capt W did what any man would do: he fled. "meaning after a while to return...and act as circumstances might require."
Capt W visited his bro, who asked if Anne had changed, "little suspecting," says Capt W, "that to my eye you could never alter."
Anne smiles. "It was too pleasing a blunder" and she felt "it to be the result, not the cause of a revival of his…attachment."
Capt W had remained w/his bro,"lamenting…till at once released from Louisa by the astonishing…intelligence of her engagement."
And so Capt W did what any man would do: he went to the woman he loved. Got jealous. Made assumptions. & nearly quit the field.
But now all is well. Anne arrives home and enjoys "an interval of meditation, serious and grateful." Ah, yes. Regency Xanax.
Later Anne tells Capt W that tho' Lady Russell's advice to her @ age 19 turned out to be wrong, Anne was right to have listened.
Yet he cannot help but wonder: "whether there may not have been one person more my enemy even than that lady? My own self."
He asks if he had proposed again when he returned in 1808 w/a few grand and a posting on a ship, would she have then said yes?
"'Would I!' was…her answer…'Good God!' he cried, '…It is not that I did not think of it, or desire it…but I was…too proud...'"
"This…recollection…ought to make me forgive every one sooner than myself. Six years of…suffering might have been spared."
Persuasion, Capt. Wentworth, cont'd: "I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed."
Check out my Q&A for insights on writing, Austen, and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. Please post a comment on Scobberlotch if you'd like to be entered in the drawing for a signed copy of Confessions.
Good things come in threes. Three Bears. Three Lord of the Rings movies. Three volumes of Pride and Prejudice. … And now, three Jane '08 videos.
Yes, it's a trilogy, and no, my candidate is not ready to concede.
Check it out. Tell your friends. Share, embed, and spread the word.
Remember: It's not over till every vote is counted and the woman in the bonnet and spencer gets sworn in.
So onward to the White House! And I don't mean Mrs. Norris's sad little crib. I'm talking Pemberley on the Potomac. Bath on the Beltway. State dinners with English country dances. Cabinet members in knee breeches. Which reminds me…
The dream team is now being assembled:
If you have your own ideas about who should serve at the pleasure of President Austen (I rather like the sound of that), do enter your suggestions in the comments section below.
By the way, a little sidebar on author videos: Check out this hilarious one by Seth Greenland, , which came to my attention via Ron Hogan at Galleycat, who is one of my favorite bloggers and who is always posting updates on the funniest and most innovative author vids. Like this one. And this one.
Does this have anything to do with Jane Austen? Not unless you count the fact that Ron definitely knows his Austen, as evidenced by the title of this post, which featured the first Jane '08 video.
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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, The Jane Austen Book Club, TV | 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, TV | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This is how I started off my talk at the Whittier Public Library's Jane Austen series on March 5, 2008:]
In all the excitement of the recent releases of The Jane Austen Book Club movie and Becoming Jane, and now that we are well into Masterpiece Theatre's Complete Jane Austen, one might be tempted to say that 2008 is turning out to be the year of Jane Austen, perhaps even more so than 2007. But let's not forget that 2008 is also an election year. And with all the hoopla and fuss over should it be Obama, Clinton, or McCain, I submit that it should be Jane.
Sure, she's been dead for almost 200 years, but that doesn't seem to stop Masterpiece Theatre, Hollywood, Bollywood, authors like me who are inspired to write books because of how much we love her, and readers like me who continue to read and re-read her six novels incessantly.
And most important, who is better qualified to run the country than she?
Let's talk about character:
If we go by the assumption that there is a little bit of the author in each of her characters—well, at least in each of the characters she likes—than who can lead the country better than someone who has the wit and intelligence of Elizabeth Bennet, the diplomacy of Anne Eliot, the prudence and strength of Elinor Dashwood, and the stay-the-course steadfastness of Fanny Price?
Let's talk about experience: People like to say that Austen never left the south of England, that she led a circumscribed, uneventful life. But in all fairness, it would be pretty hard for her to take a Grand Tour of Europe—supposing she were able to afford it—during the Napoleonic Wars.
Just because one doesn't write about war doesn't mean one is ill-informed about war. Aside from being very well read herself, Jane Austen had two brothers who served in the Navy and fought in those wars, and a cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, who married a French count who got guillotined during the Reign of Terror.
As for that uneventful, quiet life, it's not like Jane Austen was a recluse. She loved to socialize, to dance, to be in company. She traveled many times to London and lived in Bath.
And she may not have married, but she was hardly sheltered. Just read Lady Susan, one of her minor works, and see how sheltered you think she was. For Jane Austen, staying single was a choice. She had at least one proposal that we definitely know about, and very likely more. Being a single woman was a brave choice for a woman of Austen's time, especially for a woman like Jane Austen, who was not exactly flush with money.
So, we've got character. We've got experience. We've got courage.
Let's talk about special interests.
Some people think that Jane Austen panders to special interests—in particular, the special interests of women. After all, her stories are all about bonnets, pretty dresses, balls, and who gets to marry the rich guy.
But are not these stories rife with handsome men in knee breeches and women in beautiful gowns? Does that not pander to the special interests of the fairer sex?
Well yes, I suppose, if you are to take the movies to be the same as Jane Austen's novels, which they are not. The novels were actually quite spare of period detail, as Jane Austen wrote them for her contemporaries, who already knew what a barouche-landau was and what type of waistline the latest gowns had. Of course, we women love the eye candy the movies provide, but so should the men, considering all those heaving bosoms in all those low-cut empire waisted dresses.
Just to illustrate for you the difference between the movies and the books, let's take Sense and Sensibilty as an example. In the book, Edward Ferrars is plain. In the movie, he is Hugh Grant.
In the book, Colonel Brandon is grave and solemn and singularly un-dashing. In the movie, he is Alan Rickman.
Am I complaining about any of this? Absolutely not.
Willoughby, granted, is a beauty in both book and film, but then again, he is the villain of the piece.
As for Jane Austen's allegedly overly zealous interest in female finery, I beg to differ, for she relegated such pursuits to her silly, superficial female characters, such as Mrs. Elton with her overly trimmed dresses and her fishing for compliments, ditzy Mrs. Allen whose main joy in life was dress and shopping, and the vacant Lady Bertram, whose main purpose was to sit on a sopha all day nicely dressed.
How many discerning men might have laughed knowingly had they read this passage in Northanger Abbey:
"It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire…Woman is fine for her own satisfaction alone. No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it."
Even the empty-headed Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey acknowledges that "Men commonly take so little notice of those things." Said she; "I can never get Mr. Allen to know one of my gowns from another."
If Jane Austen were indeed pandering to the special interests of women, then how come
T.C. Boyle, Michael Chabon, Paul Auster, Gregory Peck, and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat all love Jane Austen?
Apparently they know something other men may not know, which is that Jane Austen's genius speaks to all of us, not just women. Her stories have universal resonance, because they are stories of self-knowledge and self-discovery. They are witty social satires, and they are commentaries on the follies and flaws and majesty of human nature.
And yes, each of her books is all wrapped up in a love story—not an overly sentimental one—but one with a happy ending.
And who, male or female, can resist a happy ending? Doesn't this country need a happy ending? Doesn't this country need a lesson on how to become a better human being, especially when that lesson is wrapped up in such an agreeable, amusing package?
I submit that it does.
(Image courtesy of Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose)
[The Whittier Public Library in Whittier, California, is hosting two more events in its Jane Austen series:
Wednesday, March 12th, at 7:00 PM:
Jane Austen, Love & Friendship:
Come and listen as Jane Austen, as portrayed by Mary Burkin, shares family and neighborhood gossip.
Wednesday, March 19th at 7:00 PM:
Tea and Tasteful Conversation:
Enjoy tea while learning about the culinary world of Jane Austen's England.
Presented by Anne Kiley, Ph.D., Professor at Whittier College and WPL Foundation Board Member
RSVP $25.00 per person; limited seating. 562-464-3450; 562-464-3470.
All events are at the Whittier Central Library
7344 S. Washington Avenue, Whittier, CA
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This post continues my ongoing series of guest posts for About.com's Classic Literature blog]
There's something terribly exciting about taking part in a national event, be it the presidential debates or the weekly Austen-related offerings from PBS's Masterpiece. And although we Austen addicts love grumbling about the film renderings of our beloved author's work almost as much, or perhaps more, than we adore grousing over the incivilities of presidential hopefuls, one would be hard-pressed to find fault with the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, which airs in three parts beginning Feb. 10, 2008.
Yes, my friends, there is much cause for rejoicing, for not only is the 1995 P&P longer than any of the new upstart adaptations (five hours as opposed to the scant 90-plus minutes allotted to Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion, and even those were lopt and cropt for the US broadcast), it is gratifyingly faithful to text. Of course, this beloved version of P&P has five hours to do so. And let's not forget the famous Wet Shirt Scene (though truth be told, I find the Fencing Scene infinitely hotter).
Some have posited that Colin Firth and Keira Knightley (in the 1995 and 2005 P&P films, respectively) have done more to fuel these two decades-worth of Austen-mania than the books themselves. In all fairness, we must consider the relative positions of books and movies. The books, like Anne Eliot in Persuasion, live at home, quiet and confined, on shelves and nightstands, while their cinematic pretenders preen on red carpets and grab the headlines. Nevertheless, Emma Thompson said it best when she accepted the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay (Sense and Sensibility): "Everybody involved in the making of this film knows that we owe all our pride and all our joy to the genius of Jane Austen." Indeed. Were it not for the genius of Austen, there would be no Darcy and Elizabeth to play.
Pride and Prejudice is the most famous and popular of all the Austen novels. It is also arguably the most adaptable to the screen. The reasons are manifold.
On a surface level, Pride and Prejudice is a fairytale. Poor (relatively speaking) girl ends up, against all odds, living happily ever after with the rich, handsome prince. This fairytale attribute is universally appealing, as is the brilliant wit with which Austen delivers her story.
Those who see only a light comedic romance in Pride and Prejudice do, alas, miss the most important reasons for its enduring appeal. Jane Austen herself, in a letter to her sister Cassandra following the publication of P&P, comically presaged this popular misconception: "Upon the whole... I am well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story: an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparté, or anything that would form a contrast…"
A discerning reader will find that this story is also a story of empowerment, of control over one's destiny, and of an emerging meritocracy. For the heroine of P&P and her hero, their rewards come not merely through any advantages of birth and inherited wealth, but rather through the hard work of self-examination, revelation, and voluntary shifts in attitudes and behavior. Imagine the appeal of such a story back in Austen's class-stratified day. Consider its appeal today, in our world of make your own destiny, re-invent yourself, and hard work wins the day.
For if we, like Elizabeth Bennet, see that the very flaws that annoy us in others (in her case, the vanity and pride of Mr. Darcy) are merely reflections of our own failings, we will be rewarded. Elizabeth's vanity causes her to trust the wrong man. Her pride makes her blind to the merits of the right man. Her ultimate self-revelation and humility are painful but highly rewarding. If we, like Elizabeth, engage in the hard work of honest self-examination (as in her famous line, Till this moment, I never knew myself), the rewards are immeasurable, though they may not necessarily take the form of Mr. Darcy and Pemberley.
As for Mr. Darcy's hard work and consequent reward, is there anything more satisfying than watching "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" humbled by the realization that it would take a lot more than a big bank balance to win the girl? Says Darcy to Elizabeth, "You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased." Hearing his confession gives us hope that maybe, just maybe, there is justice in the world.
So yes, we can let the Mr. Darcys of the world waltz into town and buy their way into our heart or business or country, or we can own our power to make them prove that their worth goes deeper than their wallet. We can be like Elizabeth's best friend Charlotte Lucas, who sells out for money and security by marrying a man she does not love. Or we can be like Elizabeth Bennet, who, like Jane Austen herself, held out for more. Did Austen regret accepting, then turning down, the proposal of Harris Bigg-Wither, a man who was, according to JASNA past-president Joan Klingel Ray, three times wealthier than her fictional Mr. Darcy? Could Austen have seen herself in Elizabeth Bennet's thoughts when, after turning down Mr. Darcy's first proposal, she tours his great estate with her aunt and uncle? "And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress!"
The recent PBS offering, "Miss Austen Regrets," has a great deal to say on that score. I believe that if Austen had any regrets, they were of short duration. I believe that the satisfaction of sending four of her six great novels into the world (two were not published till after her death) and maintaining a close, lifelong relationship with her sister Cassandra more than compensated for the wealth and social consequence she gave up. As Claire Bellanti, Coordinator of JASNA-Southwest points out, it is unlikely that being the mistress of Harris Bigg-Wither's great estate (well, actually three great estates) and the mother of his children would have left any time for writing.
There is something else about Pride and Prejudice that gives it timeless resonance: the human propensity to make snap judgments (and often erroneous ones) about our fellow creatures. In the novel, Darcy's coldness and reserve at a public dance results in universal agreement on the part of Elizabeth and her neighbors: He is the proudest, most disagreeable man that ever was seen.
By the time Wickham appears in the story with his tale of ill-usage at the hands of Mr. Darcy, everyone, including the reader, is eager to believe it. But like all "truths universally acknowledged," this one tends to be as false as the rest.
The parallels between the prejudices in Pride and Prejudice and our enduring predisposition to prejudge individuals and entire races of people are staggering. From our eagerness to believe gossip overheard by the school lockers to our willingness to take as received wisdom the latest rumors in the break room, we are voluntary dupes of our own, and others', false judgments. We hear about the latest celebrity meltdown or trip to rehab, and we decide we know everything there is to know about that person. We hear one presidential candidate accusing another of misconduct, and we decide we know the whole truth.
Pride and Prejudice, and its creator, Jane Austen, know better.
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(This is yet another of my series of guest posts for About.com's Classic Literature blog.)
Discuss Mansfield Park in your book club, and your friends, like most readers, will tend to differ over a variety of points. The most typical one is this: Is the heroine, Fanny Price, a model of moral integrity, or a self-righteous prude? Is the marriage that ends the story (and Austen's stories always end with a marriage) between the right two people? And what's up with that part about the play?
The story begins when nine-year-old Fanny Price is taken from the home of her impoverished parents and moved to the estate of Mansfield Park to be brought up by rich relatives. This is no clear-cut Cinderella story, however. Although there are a couple of mildly wicked stepsisters (Fanny's cousins Maria and Julia) and a stand-in for a wicked stepmother in the form of her Aunt Norris, teenaged Fanny's central nemesis—and rival in love--is the saucy, sassy anti-heroine Mary Crawford.
The object of both Fanny's and Mary's affections is Fanny's cousin Edmund (I know, I know, but in Jane Austen's day one could marry one's cousin without anyone batting an eyelid). Edmund loves Fanny like a cousin, but he is in love with Mary.
Did you ever feel jealous of someone, and at the same time also felt you didn't have the right to be jealous? Fanny, being in an inferior position in the Mansfield Park family and unloved by her birth parents, has deeply rooted self-esteem issues. Mary, on the other hand, walks through life with a serious sense of entitlement. Shouldn't that be enough to put us squarely in the pro-Fanny camp?
Perhaps, but Fanny challenges us at every turn. For example, there is the famous section of the book in which Fanny disapproves of and refuses to participate in a play that her cousins and neighbors are putting on at home for their own amusement. For this part of the story to make the least bit of sense to a modern reader, one needs to understand that this particular choice of home theatricals would be the modern equivalent of a group of teenagers voting to have a wild, high-risk party in their strict parent's house while said parent was out of town.
Despite Fanny's balking at participating in said wild party, we cannot quite dismiss her as a buzz-killing Miss Perfect. After all, she is eaten up with jealousy for a great deal of the book, and as we all know, jealousy is not a pretty emotion. She is also not one to obey those in authority at all costs. In fact, she stands up to the biggest authority figure in her life by refusing to do what she knows in her heart would be wrong, and I'm not talking about acting in a play. (I'll say no more, lest I spoil the book for those who've yet to read it.)
If you've ever had an opinion that your friends considered uncool, and you stuck to it despite ridicule and pressure, you'll find a kindred spirit in Fanny Price, and you'll want her reward to be the man she loves. However, if you're still doing shots with your inner bad girl, you'll be rooting for Mary Crawford to win the object of her, and Fanny's, affections. (By the way, Austen scholar Emily Auerbach pointed out at one of the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual meetings, that several of Mary Crawford's lines of dialogue are astonishingly similar to lines from Jane Austen's own letters.)
To make things more interesting, some readers will want Fanny to be won by Mary's rakish, heartbreaker brother, Henry Crawford, who finds himself unaccountably in love for the first time in his life. Henry doesn't seem to stand a chance with Fanny, who is not only in love with another man, but also has watched in contempt and pity while Henry toyed with Fanny's cousins, the above-mentioned Maria and Julia. It's one big love triangle. Or square. Or heptagon.
Could there possibly be a better Austen novel for book clubs to chew on? And I haven't even touched on the theories about Mansfield Park's antislavery subtext.
In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen is clearly at the height of her storytelling mastery, deftly playing with reader loyalties and expectations while serving up the delicious social satire and suspenseful plotting that keep us coming back for more.
Nevertheless, Mansfield Park presents clear challenges to filmmakers who wish to adapt it, which is perhaps why director Patricia Rozema turned the heroine of her 1999 adaptation into a synthesis of Fanny Price, Mary Crawford, and Jane Austen herself. As for the latest adaptation of Mansfield Park, which airs on PBS's Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, January 27, I am all anticipation. Let's see what the filmmakers have got up their sleeves this time.
Posted at 04:19 PM in Austen movies, Austen Wisdom, Blogs, Book Clubs, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Mansfield Park, Masterpiece PBS, Regency England | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: 2007 Mansfield Park movie, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Laurie Viera Rigler, Mansfield Park, Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Theatre, Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park
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(This is part of a series of guest posts I am doing for About.com's Classic Literature blog.)
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
--Henry Tilney, in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
When Henry Tilney speaks these words in Austen’s funny and touching novel, Northanger Abbey, the story’s heroine, Catherine Morland, gets a serious crush. (Truth is, Henry had her at hello.) Still, Henry’s declaration is a bold one, for in Austen’s day novels were considered low art, especially if they were penned by a woman and consumed by women. Catherine favors the lowest of the low--scary Gothic novels written by women and featuring abduction, seduction, supernatural horror, and/or murder—the kind of novels that teens (and many an adult) could not get enough of.
Every era likes to marginalize certain forms of art. In Austen’s day, it was the novel (and not just the Gothic ones). Today, it might be graphic novels or romance or so-called "women’s fiction" or "chick lit" or science fiction or horror. Take your pick. Despite the snobbery, Jane Austen and her whole family were, in her own words, "great Novel-readers, & not ashamed of being so." Nevertheless, Northanger Abbey is a hilarious send-up of just the kind of horror-and-romance-fest that Catherine Morland—and Jane Austen—liked to read. The difference between the heroine and her creator is that Catherine Morland kept expecting real life to play out like one of her favorite novels, while Jane Austen thought real life had its own set of fascinating stories to tell.
Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland’s story unfolds as she leaves home for the first time, bound for the fascinating city of Bath. She falls in love, is whisked off to the romantic-sounding estate of Northanger Abbey, witnesses betrayal and deception, suspects murder, and takes a dangerous journey alone. Ultimately, Catherine learns self-reliance in more ways than one. No
t only does she cease to be, in her mother’s words, "a sad little shatter-brained creature," she also learns to distinguish between her own wild imaginings and her intuition, between fantasy and reality, between false friends and true.
Northanger Abbey is the perfect coming-of-age story, for it is in no way about giving up our youthful fancies and zest for living. Quite the opposite. Through Catherine’s innocent, exuberant embrace of what is fresh and novel (no pun intended), we the readers remember the first time we traveled to a new city, danced with the person who made us feel valued for who we are, or "learnt to love a hyacinth."
by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.
(This is my first guest post for About.com's Classic Literature Blog.)
Bringing in a New Year is all about second chances. This year, we vow, we will do it right. We have a second chance to take better care of ourselves. We have a second chance to be kinder, wiser, and better human beings. It is therefore fitting that Masterpiece Theatre’s Complete Jane Austen ushers in this New Year with the Austen novel that is all about second chances, Persuasion.
If you haven’t yet read Persuasion, you now have a second chance to do so. If, like me, you’re already a Jane Austen addict, then you’ve probably read the book several times and will no doubt do so again. If you’re not already an admirer of Austen, then you may be under the misguided impression that Austen wrote fluffy romances that were all about who got to marry the rich guy and where the stories were as archaic as the characters’ horse-drawn carriages. Not so. Granted, Austen novels always include a love story, and yes, her books do predate the four-door hybrid. Nevertheless, her characters are as real and relevant as the people sitting across from you at the dinner table, in the office, and at your favorite dance club/bar/coffeehouse/bookstore/hangout. Jane Austen was as keen an observer of human nature as you’ll ever come across in life or literature, and human nature hasn’t changed a bit since women wore bonnets and men knee breeches.
If you’ve ever felt like your family didn’t treat you the way they should; if you’ve ever been misunderstood, misled, or misguided in any way, then Persuasion will speak your language. If you’ve ever yielded to the opinions of others over what your heart told you to do, if you’ve ever given up someone because you were told you had to, if you’ve ever wasted even a tiny bit of this short life holding onto resentment instead of opening up to forgiveness and love; then you will get your second chance to make things right with Persuasion.
Persuasion is the story of Anne Eliot, who has never got over a romantic disappointment she had when she was 19 years old. She has little support from her ruin of a family, which consists of a vain, widowed father and a self-centered, caustic older sister. Eight years before, Anne had fallen in love with and got engaged to Frederick Wentworth, a bright, earnest young man whose lack of money and career prospects set Anne’s status-conscious family against the marriage. Her surrogate mother, whose advice Anne trusted above all, persuaded Anne that the only right thing to do was to give up the engagement. Now, eight years later, Anne’s family is in financial trouble, and Frederick Wentworth, now Captain Wentworth, is back in town and rich from the spoils of the Napoleonic Wars. Problem is, he’s never forgiven Anne for breaking his heart. In fact, he proceeds to flirt with other women right in front of her.
Is it man’s nature to forget the woman he loves sooner than woman forgets man? Is an invariably determined person any wiser than an easily persuadable one? And most important, will Anne and Frederick ever get what they really want? Persuasion is a page-turning, heart-stopping story that I’ve read at least twenty times, and I find something new and illuminating in it with every reading. It is also, like all of Austen’s novels, filled with delicious social satire and wickedly funny moments.
Still not persuaded? How about this suggestion: If the latest Persuasion film doesn’t send you running for your nearest bookstore (and I hope it will), then rent the 1995 version directed by Roger Michell and starring Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root. If you do, I guarantee you will not be able to resist having that book in your hands. And as an added bonus, the book has the best love letter of any novel you’ll ever read. So good you’ll want to commit it to memory. (“Tell me not that I am too late…”)
It’s not too late to read Persuasion. Take your second chance. And Happy New Year!
Surrender to your Austen addiction at janeaustenaddict.com.
I hope this finds you well and happy and indulging in Austen!
Great news for all Austen lovers awaits us in the new year: Masterpiece Theatre’s Complete Jane Austen begins in January with four new adaptations, plus rebroadcasts of the Kate Beckinsale Emma and the inimitable 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries starring the man in the wet shirt, Colin Firth.
Canada's public station, TVO, has cool clips and commentaries on these exciting new productions. (If you get TVO you don't even have to wait till January to see three of the new films. You can watch Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion on TVO beginning December 16, which also happens to be Jane Austen’s birthday.)
In the meantime, consider taking a break from holiday stress (or feigning work at your desk ) while eying an array of all your favorite Austen movie trailers and clips. And if you dearly love a laugh, watch some of these, too.
Wish you’d come to one of my readings instead of washing your hair that night? Check out this Authors @ Google’s video of a reading at Google’s Ann Arbor offices, which was one of the highlights of my book tour. Imagine working for a company that cooks you a delicious lunch every day and brings in authors to read you stories during the workday. Where can I sign up?
Speaking of unusual venues, how about a hair salon that’s also a bookstore? That’s Beauty and the Book, the Jefferson, Texas headquarters of The Pulpwood Queens Book Club, another exciting stop on the tour. What would Jane Austen say about such a place? Read my guest post on Book Club Girl and find out.
Coming up this month: Satellite Radio interview on XM 163’s Sonic Theater-“This is Audible.” If you don’t have XM, the interview will be available on audible.com for free download. Just type in keywords "This is Audible," "Josephine Reed" (the delightful interviewer/program director), and "December 2007" to find the download. Exact broadcast date will be posted here as soon as it’s available.
In the meantime, let’s all enjoy the holiday season and raise our glasses to Miss Austen on December 16. And while you’re making your lists and checking them twice, consider giving your favorite Austen addicts a round trip ticket to 1813 England for the mere price of a book (or six-CD unabridged audiobook, which just got a glowing review in Publisher’s Weekly).
May this holiday season and the coming year bring you much happiness,
Posted at 10:50 AM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Author Videos, Book Clubs, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Masterpiece PBS, Readings & Talks | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Authors @ Google, Beauty and the Book, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane Austen, Josephine Reed, Laurie Viera Rigler, Masterpiece Theatre Complete Jane Austen, Pulpwood Queens Book Club, This is Audible
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[BS: The great thing about Jane Austen fans is the myriad of reasons they come to Jane. Some come for the clothes, stay for the satire. Others seek the social skewering but discover the empathy. And, yeah, there a few who figure if it's good enough for Colin Firth... Today, we welcome Laurie Viera Rigler, whose novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict captures the beauty of loving Jane while indulging in the ever-tantalizing "what if"]The decision to write Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict wasn't exactly a decision. It happened like this: I was standing in the kitchen of the house I used to rent in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, and I saw, in my mind, the opening scene of my book unfold. I saw a twenty-first-century woman who, like me, reads and rereads Jane Austen's six novels. Unlike me, she wakes up one morning in the body and life of an Englishwoman in Austen's time. I couldn't stop thinking about her, and finally I decided to write down what I saw. Once I opened that door, there was, of course, a good deal more to her story.
[BS: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is available at bookstores right now, and Laurie Viera Rigler's website is a treasure trove for fans of Jane, ready-to-become fans of Jane, or just people who understand the value that comes from wasting time on a really fun site. Laurie is also making appearances in support of her novel.]
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I keep thinking about "Becoming Jane," which I saw last night at a special screening for JASNA-Southwest. Sure, it took liberties with chronology and no doubt fashioned characters and events out of pure imagination. Sure, it may not be everyone's idea of who Jane Austen was or what she would have done. But who cares? Who could possibly claim to know who Jane Austen really was? Not the most scrupulous biographer, not the most accomplished Austen scholar, not the family members who wrote about her, not we who read her surviving letters and her six great novels and her juvenilia.
Even if we possessed every letter she wrote--and it is well known that Jane's beloved sister Cassandra Austen made sure that would not happen (though A.S. Byatt's Possession is still my fondest Janeite fantasy)--we would still have only those snapshots of her life. We can only guess at who the author is, who any author is, by reading her letters and reading her books and stories. I always smile when I read and hear heated debates as to who of Jane Austen's heroines most closely resembles Miss Austen herself. How about all of them? Is not each of us a myriad of identities and concepts of ourselves, from what we think we are to what various people around us conjecture? Would each of our friends and relations provide the same description of our character, or even our appearance? So yes, "Becoming Jane" is fiction based on fact. Once one is comfortable with that notion, one can truly sit back and enjoy this lovely film. It's a compelling story with stellar performances by all.
For me, the most enchanting thing about it was seeing how the filmmakers portrayed the process of creation, how we would hear the words rushing through Jane Austen's head, flowing out of her pen, considered, rejected, crossed out, and replaced with something even more brilliant; and yes, how the people around her spouted lines from her books, because that is what writers do, they listen and store away and then use whatever they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. It also gave me a lot to think about in terms of why authors might choose, as a service to themselves and their readers, to give their protagonists happy endings.
For me the most gratifying thing about this film was seeing Jane Austen portrayed as a passionate, independent, empowered, and sexually awakened women who made staggeringly courageous choices in her life, including the choice to be a novelist and the choice not to marry. This is a refreshing change from the caricature of the sweet-tempered virgin writing fluffy romances, an image that was born with the "Memoir" of Jane Austen written by her nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh (see Emily Auerbach's excellent book, Searching for Jane Austen, for a fascinating analysis of our misconceptions about Jane Austen).
The only thing I didn't appreciate was the closing line written on the screen, which stated that neither Jane nor her sister Cassandra ever married. That seemed unnecessary (and perhaps unintentionaly sexist) after the previous lines, which stated that Austen wrote six of the greatest novels in the English language; and that Tom Lefroy became Chief Justice of Ireland. I think the filmmakers should have left it at that.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend this film. Bring tissues.