What will they think of next?
What will they think of next?
By Corrie GoldmanThe Humanities at Stanford
Fascinating article. Seems that reading makes us smart. And reading Austen makes us smarter (I can take liberties with the findings if I want to.)
But what's really fascinating to this reader is that the folks conducting the study chose "Mansfield Park" for t their test subjects. "Mansfield Park," with which many Janeites have a love-hate relationship, and which has caused many a flame war on Austen forums.
Personally, I've grown to admire it, but I cannot help but wonder why they didn't choose a more popular read, such as "Pride and Prejudice" or "Persuasion."
Another thought: Has anyone ever tried to think, let alone read, for pleasure or study, inside an MRI? It's sort of like having a jackhammer next to your head. A jackhammer that laughs at noise-cancelling headphones and says, "As if."
The author of THE PRIDE AND PREJUDICE MOVIE COOKBOOK sent me a copy, and though I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, it looks like so much fun that I just had to share.
Playfully riffing off text from the novel and scenes from the movie versions of Austen's most beloved novel --and adding teensy dashes of culinary history just for fun--author Anne Derry has concocted a host of P&P-inspired recipes that evoke the Regency but are nevertheless fashioned for a 21st-century palate.
Just to give you a taste:
There's The White Menu (in honor of the white soup need for the Netherfield ball).
There's an entire series of recipes with the key ingredient being Guinness stout, inspired by the banter between Lizzy and Darcy on whether poetry is indeed the food of love and Lizzie's declaring that it is only so if the love is "fine, stout, [and] healthy."
There's even a zombie cocktail. And of course as Charlotte was wanted about the mince pies, there's a recipe for that as well.
Bon appetit, and please don't invite Mr. Collins to dinner. You may just get stuck sitting next to him.
Talk about making the classics accessible. I defy anyone who has ever resisted Jane Austen to not want to crack open Pride and Prejudice after watching this.
Totally cute. Looking forward to episode 2!
It's that time of year again, when women feel like total losers for being single or wait for their men to pass or fail the big Valentine's Day test. Will he screw up and totally forget, buy a cheap trinket instead of the one thing he knows you want, or, even more stressful and high stakes, will he finally pop the question?
Could there be anything more insane than this holiday that's supposed to be all about love?
I was watching the GREY'S ANATOMY Valentine's Day episode today, and one of the characters was a florist who was so exhausted and stressed from the V-Day rush that he accidentally crashed his delivery van into the ER.
Almost dying in service to Valentine's Day madness was a big wake-up call to this florist, who said he would never stress himself out over this holiday again:
"People call you up you know, they ask you, make something beautiful. Yeah, so some sorry schlep can forget they've been treated like crap every day of the year…Like my flowers are magic or something. But I bought it. Nearly killed myself trying to make sure everyone got their little miracle. What a joke. People oughta just stop being so awful to each other, you know? Leave me out of it."
My biggest takeaway from that speech? "People oughta just stop being so awful to each other."
Not bad advice. If we were good to the people we supposedly love every day, we wouldn't have to prove our love on that one day of the year. We could be more like Jane Bennet of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, or Catherine Morland of NORTHANGER ABBEY, or Anne Elliot of PERSUASION. In Austen, kindness is always rewarded, and often with love. Could there be a better recipe for happiness than that?
[Gazing at photos of gorgeous actors playing Austen heroes can also be quite helpful.]
One thing's for sure. Feeling entitled to love, or a certain type of bouquet, or a necklace, or a diamond ring, is a sure recipe for misery.
Just ask that lady in GREY'S ANATOMY who was furious at her admittedly clueless boyfriend for once again giving her a velvet jewelry box on V-Day without a ring inside. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. It's worth watching.
And so is almost every Jane Austen adaptation ever made for the big or small screen. So if you don't expect to get that perfect bouquet, piece of jewelry, or declaration of love today, be kind. To others. To yourself. Fire up the Blu-ray or the Netflix queue and watch BRIDE AND PREJUDICE or the Colin Firth P&P or the Gwyneth Paltrow EMMA (just a few of my faves) or PERSUASION with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Even better, read PERSUASION (my favorite Austen novel) or PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or NORTHANGER ABBEY or, let's face it, any of the six. You'll feel much better, I promise.
Be happy. And wish yourself a very happy Valentine's Day.
Posted at 02:35 AM in Austen movies, Austen Wisdom, Emma, Film, Good Works, Jane Austen, Literature, Love and Marriage, Men, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Relationships, Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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THE COMPLETE JANE AUSTEN ADDICT Includes CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT,RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And at a really good price. How cool is that?
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Check out my guest post on chicklitclub.com, where I explore the comic parallels between Helen Fielding's BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY and Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And Fielding's amusing deviations therefrom.
Except that in the book it was a diamond-patterned jumper and bumblebee socks.)
It's the season finale of SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL! Watch our time-swapping heroines swoon over the man who launched a thousand sequels--and especially that version of him played by Colin Firth.
Comment on what you love about Darcy--on or off-screen-- to enter a giveaway of signed copies of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. Giveaway ends Thursday, January 6th, at midnight PST .
Has there ever been a greater specimen of the male sex than that ultimate romantic hero, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? And is there anything more satisfying than watching "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" humbled by the realization that it takes a lot more than a big bank balance to win the girl?
Yes indeed, there is a Santa Claus. And he's brought us Mr. Darcy. So what if you think Darcy's a fictional character? That's your problem!
[SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL is inspired by the novels CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and stars Arabella Field and Fay Masterson. Catch up on all the episodes you missed.]
Posted at 04:18 AM in Austen movies, Austen TV series, Austen Web Series, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Contests/giveaways, Film, Pride and Prejudice, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Arabella Field, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Fay Masterson, Jane Austen TV series, Jane Austen web series, Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Sex and the Austen Girl
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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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RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is out in paperback today.
Enter this contest at Austenprose for a chance to win a signed copy: http://austenprose.com/2010/04/27/the-bbc-pride-and-prejudice-it-does-get-better-than-this-a-book-giveaway/
And get yourself a copy of the newly remastered P&P95 DVD--also out today!
When Paula Dacker, a librarian friend (whom I wrote about here in a previous post), gave the Marvel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE graphic novel the thumbs-up, I knew I had to get a copy. And it did not disappoint. From the girlie-magazine-like cover with headlines like "Bingleys Bring Bling to Britain" and "How to Cure Your Boy-Crazy Sisters" to the scrumptious illustrations by Hugo Petrus, it was a blast. Adapter Nancy Butler did a fine job of retaining the sense and integrity of Austen's inimitable prose while at the same time condensing and compressing the action to fit within the graphic novel form.
The bottom line? PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Marvel version, is a fine and fun way to introduce new readers to Austen, a gateway to the full book that will crack the code of Austen's language for contemporary readers who can't quite penetrate the style--or fear that they can't.
And for those of us who feel at home with Austen's texts in their pure form, this Marvel version is nevertheless pure fun. Some may ask--if they haven't already objected to the inherently abbreviated form of a graphic novel--why another PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? Do we really need another movie, another play, a Broadway musical (fingers crossed), and now a graphic novel?
To which I reply, Can there ever be enough ways and forms to say "I love Jane Austen"?
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.
The theme of the Spring Meeting of JASNA-SW, the Southwest Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America, was "A Day of Pride, Prejudice, and Politics," and I had the good fortune of being on the program with a stellar group of speakers:
First, there was Dr. Charles Lynn Batten, the UCLA professor about whom I've been hearing for years. The conversation with my fellow Austen addicts usually goes like this:
"You mean you've never heard Lynn Batten speak?"
A disbelieving shake of the head and pitying look follows.
Well, now I have heard Dr. Batten speak, and he is not only exceedingly knowledgable and insightful about Jane Austen, he was also downright hilarious. Dr. Batten's talk was called "Jane Austen: Conservative or Liberal?" His verdict: Austen was most likely a moderate Tory.
My opinion? I see his point, which is far more well-researched than my own belief, which is, quite simply, that Jane Austen had exactly my politics and beliefs. Same favorite colors. Would have like the same movies, too. As Karen Joy Fowler put it in THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, "each of us has a private Austen."
Then there was Margaret Horwitz, JASNA's Traveling Lecturer, who gave an illuminating talk called “The Legacy of Her Voice: Ethics and Wit in Austen’s Novel Pride and Prejudice and Its Filmed Adaptations." Dr. Horwitz's talk made me want to go back and watch both the BBC mini and the 2005 movie (as if I need an excuse) to see all the symbolism in props and camera angles that Margaret pointed out in her lecture.
As for me, I gave the very first public reading of my upcoming novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. If I am to judge by the laughter in the audience, then everyone was having as good a time as I did.
If that wasn't enough fun, there was a white elephant sale of – you guessed it—Jane Austen related books and tschotschkes. I spent $60 on 12 back issues of PERSUASIONS, the wonderful bound journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Such a deal! My bookshelves are groaning. But I'm all smiles.
Posted at 12:32 PM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Film, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Pride and Prejudice, Readings & Talks, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Writing Life | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Charles Lynn Batten, Jane Austen, JASNA, JASNA-SW, Laurie Viera Rigler, Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Margaret Horwitz, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James
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Two reviews in major UK papers in the space of a week. What riches! Lord bless me! I shall go distracted.
Okay, enough channeling of Mrs. Bennet.
Here's an interesting thought: Jane Mansfield, the protagonist of the upcoming parallel story, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT (and no relation to the 1950s screen siren), will be able to go online and read The Observer, the same paper she could read in print in 1813 (it's been around since 1791). What I really can't wrap my mind around is that this nineteenth-century woman will be able to sit in her apartment in the twenty-first-century and read a 2009 review of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, which will tell her what's going on in the nineteenth-century life she left behind.
Brain in pretzels? Me, too. Absolut martini? Thought you'd never ask.
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by Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
[This is my guest post for Jane Austen Today.]
What? No more weekly doses of Austen on PBS? Fear not, my fellow addicts. Help is here. All you need to do is follow this ten-part program.
Re-reading Austen's six novels (or reading them for the first time) will of course play a big role in this program. Ah, but what accompanies each read will make your experience even sweeter.
1. Try Northanger Abbey for your first post-Masterpiece read. Why Northanger Abbey? One reason could be that it was the first of Austen's novels to be accepted by a publisher—who then couldn't be bothered to publish it. Idiot. Thumbing your nose at such stupidity is one reason to read it first. Another, even better reason, is that NA's a fun way to shake off the post-Masterpiece blues.
• After you read the book, see what it's like to be Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey. How? Drive or walk around your city or town and pretend you are seeing it from the point of view of someone who has never been there and finds it fascinating and exciting. See? You're experiencing your world like Catherine experienced the city of Bath. If you're hard pressed to find something exciting or fascinating about your world, go into the nearest flower garden and learn to love a hyacinth. Or just think about how a young woman from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century might respond to some of the modern technological wonders you take for granted. Like hot showers, for example. Flush toilets in every house. Mascara. Tampons.
• Then, top off your newfound sense of wonder and appreciation for your world by firing up your DVD player with the 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey* starring J.J. Feild and Felicity Jones. There. Aren't you feeling better already?
• *Ready for more? Try the 1986 adaptation of Northanger Abbey. Though it's unpopular with a lot of Janeites, you might, like me, find it entertaining.
2. Read Sense and Sensibility.
• After you close the book on Elinor and Marianne, imagine what happens next. (We all know these characters are real and keep living their lives after the books end, don't we?) Here's a fun situation to ponder: What happens the first time Edward and Elinor go to London and have dinner at Edward's mother's house—and are sitting across the table from Lucy and Robert? What do they talk about? Imagine Elinor sitting in the drawing room after dinner with Mrs. Ferrars and Lucy. And here's another one to consider: Should Marianne, or Mrs. Dashwood, ever confront John Dashwood about his broken promise to help them financially? If you were to write that speech, what would you have Marianne say? Or should the Dashwood ladies let John's own guilty conscience do all the work?
• Now that you've survived all those Dashwood/Ferrars family reunions, reward yourself with a screening of the Ang Lee/Emma Thompson Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility (1995)* And while you're at it, order yourself a large pizza, chocolate cake, and/or a trough of margaritas. Yes. This program is definitely working.
3. Read Pride and Prejudice.
• After you read the book, imagine that you are Elizabeth experiencing your first visit to Rosings as Mrs. Darcy. (Lady Catherine has cooled down by now and consoles herself by hoping that her nephew will be so fortunate as to become widowed at a young age and redeem himself by taking a second wife, i.e., Anne de Bourgh.) Amuse yourself by observing the gyrations of Mr. Collins when he and Charlotte join the Rosings party for dinner. As Elizabeth once said to Mr. Darcy, "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."
• But wait, there's more. It's time to watch the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle P&P mini again (one can never watch it too many times), and/or the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, depending on whether your idea of Mr. Darcy is Colin Firth or Matthew MacFadyen or both. The 1995 mini is a great excuse to have a pajama party (where I grew up, we called them slumber parties). And one is never too old to have a slumber party. Send the kids away for sleepovers and banish any curmudgeonly significant others. Then, bring in lots of goodies, because five hours of viewing requires a great deal of fuel. There's all that fencing and swimming and dancing and taking refreshing turns around the room. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it. No matter which film you watch (or even if you watch both), be sure to buy the soundtrack of the 2005 film and play often. It's stunning.
4. Read Mansfield Park.
• Even if you're a reader who can't quite warm up to Austen's heroine Fanny Price (I feel your pain, but do give her some time; she grew on me after awhile), you can have a lot of fun thinking about how this book could have ended but didn't. For me, that's the most fascinating, thought-provoking aspect of Mansfield Park. As Patricia Rozema, director of the controversial 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park, put it in her screenplay, "It could have all turned out differently, I suppose. But it didn't." With that in mind, imagine what would have happened if Edmund had married Mary Crawford, and if Fanny had given in and married Henry Crawford. Happy marriages? Reformed rakes? Or a disaster?
• As compensation for the lack of a truly satisfying Mansfield Park film (see below)*, you get to watch the lovely 2007 BBC mini of Sense and Sensibility instead. I know, it's Sense and Sensibility, not Mansfield Park, and you just saw it on TV, but who cares? It's worth seeing again. It'll make you feel good. And isn't that what this program is all about?
*I'm one of the minority of Janeites who liked the 1999 Patricia Rozema adaptation of Mansfield Park, but I liked it more as a story inspired by Mansfield Park than as an adaptation per se. Rozema's rendering of Fanny Price is more like the director's idea of a young Jane Austen than the protagonist Jane Austen wrote for Mansfield Park. And Rozema's vision of the story's subtext is pretty dark. But then again, the book itself is perhaps the least "light, and bright, and sparkling" of Austen's works. By the way, there is a fascinating article on this film by Kathi Groenendyk in JASNA's journal Persuasions: As for the latest adaptation that aired on PBS, it has such a truncated version of the story that one wonders how anyone who didn't read the book could figure out what's going on. Mrs. Norris, Fanny's main nemesis, has mysteriously turned into a bland creature. And Fanny Price looks entirely too 21st-century and wears cleavage-baring day dresses (none of this is the fault of the actors, but still). As for the 1983 BBC mini, the heroine is more faithful to the book than its companions. However, while the principal actors are unquestionably talented I couldn't quite see some of them in their roles. And it's got that static, video-on-a-stage feel of early BBC productions that I find challenging to watch.
5. Read Emma.
• After you finish the book, play a little game called "Emma, Reformed Matchmaker." You'll need to play with a single friend (preferably a single friend who would like to be in a couple). Each of you sits down and writes a list of qualities that your friend's perfect, future mate should possess. Do not reveal what is on your lists until both of you are finished writing. Now share. You may be surprised to find that your lists differ greatly. When you read your friend's list, refrain from exclamations of horror unless one of the items on that list includes "must be incarcerated in a maximum security prison." Now, give your list to your friend to take home with her. Tell her she is free to cross out whatever she doesn't like on your list and keep whatever she does like. Or burn the whole thing. If she cares to share her final list with you, you may keep your eyes open for appropriate candidates and discreetly point them out to her. That's "point them out," not shove them in her face. Remember, you are "Emma, Reformed Matchmaker." If your friend doesn't care to share her final list, then graciously wish her all the best in finding her dream partner and promptly change the subject. Then, take her to Ford's (or local emporium of your choice) to buy a new dress. Or draw her picture. Without a potential mate watching the proceedings. See? You're a better, happier human being already.
• Now that you've had a successful run at self-improvement, Jane Austen-style, you deserve to have an Emma film festival. That's three very clever films indeed: The Kate Beckinsale/Mark Strong-starrer, the Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam movie , and the brilliant Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and directed by Amy Heckerling. Three fabulous films means you get to invite at least three friends over to have a viewing party or slumber party. And stock up on provisions, for a private screening of three films, without sitting down to supper, [would be] pronounced an infamous fraud upon the rights of men and women.
6. Read Persuasion.
• After you finish the book, amuse yourself by imagining whether or not Mrs. Clay will indeed become the next Lady Eliot. If she does, will Anne and Frederick, or any of her family, ever visit Sir William and Lady Eliot? How will Mary's health survive it? Or Elizabeth's pride? Or on a pleasanter note, will Capt. Wentworth allow his wife on board his ship? If so, what exciting places will Anne visit?
• Watch the lovely, 1995 adaptation of Persuasion starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds. Optional: the 2007 version of Persuasion. Although Austen's story is compressed into a scant 93 minutes in the latest version, this one is also worth watching, particularly if you love Rupert Penry-Jones as much as I do. Besides, the DVD restores the small but significant bits that were cut from the PBS broadcast.
7. Join the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and mingle with fellow Janeites at local and national meetings. I know what you're thinking, and yes, the rumors are all true. It's a cult. We have a secret handshake. We aim for total world domination. Okay, you can stop sweating now. I'm kidding. Really. JASNA is a community of warm, welcoming, fun-loving people who love Jane Austen and love getting together and talking about their favorite author with like-minded people. Like you. There are local reading groups (think Jane Austen Book Club, but usually with more than just the six Austen novels), regional get-togethers with fascinating speakers, entertainment, and delicious food, special screenings for members, and annual general meetings (AGMs) in a different city each year with talks and panels and workshops and English country dance lessons and a banquet and a Regency ball. At my first AGM I thought I'd died and gone to Austen heaven.
8. Watch a film that's so life-affirming and joyful that it merits a place of its own on this list: Bride and Prejudice, Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood-meets-Hollywood tribute to Pride and Prejudice. It's way better than a year's supply of antidepressants or a gallon of Absolut martinis. Hint: This one merits a party or at least inviting one friend over to watch with you. First, order in Indian food. Then, before popping in the DVD, unearth floaty scarves from your wardrobe or nearest accessory emporium, and keep them on hand to wave around while you dance along with the various musical numbers. Be sure to buy the soundtrack and play it in your car or on your iPod while commuting to work the next day. I feel better just thinking about it.
9. Now that you've got that Indian groove thang going, try English country dancing. Then you can watch all the movies set in Jane Austen's time again, and at the ballroom scenes you can dance along. There are many places to learn English country dancing, and from my experience, the people are friendly and welcome beginners, and there's no need to bring a partner with you. Some dance societies hold regular dances and even annual balls. In Southern California, check out Vintage Dance & History. Nationwide, go to the English Country Dance Webring and the Country Dance and Song Society.
10. Finally, take a trip back in time to Regency England. No, I haven't lost my mind. I have, however, written a novel that will transport you to 1813 England. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is the story of a modern L.A. girl and Austen fan who wakes up one morning as an Englishwoman's in Austen's time. As of April 29, Confessions comes out in paperback, which means the fare to Jane Austen's world becomes even more affordable.
Posted at 12:38 AM in Austen Addiction, Austen movies, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Emma, English Country Dancing, Film, Food and Drink, Games, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Literature, Mansfield Park, Masterpiece PBS, Music, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Television, The Jane Austen Book Club | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
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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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Welcome to the janeaustenaddict blog. I’m hoping you’ll click on the Contact page of my site or post a comment to this blog and tell me about your own addiction to Austen.
To get you started, I'll tell you a little about my own ungovernable passion. At any given season of the year, I am reading at least one of Austen’s six novels. I cannot imagine ever not wanting to re-read Austen. Why? Aside from the lure of the exotic--carriages, English country dancing, and men in tight knee breeches--there is the comfort of the familiar. Knowing that Anne Eliot will always pierce Captain Wentworth’s soul and that Lydia Bennet will be stuck with George Wickham for the rest of her life makes everything right in my world.
Knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t make reading the book for the umpteenth time any less exciting, and herein lies the true allure of Austen. Every time I read one of her novels, I learn something new about myself and about the people in my world. Jane Austen is the keenest and funniest observer of human nature of any author I know. In fact, that is what makes her books timeless, despite the bonnets and balls and carriages. Human nature hasn’t changed a bit since Austen’s day. “But,” as Elizabeth Bennet said, “people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.” That is why I can read Pride and Prejudice twenty times and get something new out of it every time. I am a different person before each reading, and by the time I reach the end of the book I am changed by it yet again.
And then there are the movies. They may not be as true to the books as we Janeites wish they could be, but we sure love the eye candy. I know I do. It's enough to make me wish I could transport myself into that world, that is, the clean, sparkling, Hollywood version of that world...
The Roman Baths in Bath: a portal to another time?