Thursday, October 29, 2009
The Lost in Austen miniseries finally reached the top of my Netflix queue! My husband and I enjoyed watching it last night. It really is very funny at moments but, overall, I have to agree with one of Amanda Price's lines - "that's Jane Austen spinning in her grave like a cat in a tumble dryer" - when I reflect on this film. Let's face it, Jane Austen probably spends a lot of time tossing and turning in her coffin. Those of us who, to quote myself, are "determined to continue, elaborate on, or simply meddle with Jane Austen's novels" take extraordinary liberties with her work and it is appropriate to acknowledge that much of what we do would not meet with her approval. I have struggled with this in my own writing and in my reading of Austen fan fiction, sometimes horrified by the fantastic scenarios which her characters are thrust into (like Darcy and Elizabeth conversing with Lady Catherine while swimming naked in an alpine lake in Mr. Darcy, Vampyre or engaging in premarital relations in almost every one of the The Pemberley Variations ). What Lost in Austen reminded me is that while I might rave and rant about incongruity or historical inaccuracy, it is all done out of love for Austen. Her stories have become so much a part of our lives that they virtually live and breath, constantly changing and expanding into new avenues as they adapt to our modern world. Amanda Price puts it beautifully: "I love the love story. I love Elizabeth. I love the manners and the language and courtesy. It's become part of who I am and what I want." This rings so true to me. It doesn't matter if Georgiana is a spoiled little girl determined to have her way or if Miss Bingley sexual preferences are less than conventional. I'm even willing to overlook the fact that a night in a hotel room with a man didn't ruin Lydia's reputation. It's all in homage to Austen and, while sometimes maddening, overall it's thoroughly delightful. So please try to rest in peace Jane. Being one of the most beloved authors of all time cannot be easy but it's sure have its compensations.
One last thought - is Christina Cole destined to play all the hated ladies in Austen? She was Miss Bingley in Lost in Austen and Mrs. Elton in the new BBC version of Emma. What's next? I could see her playing the role Isabella Thorpe and think she would be a perfect Elizabeth Elliot. She is absolutely stunning to watch on screen.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Added 11/24/09 - I just learned from the author herself that Searching for Pemberley is not only Pemberley Remembered but also a continuation of that story. Now I'm off to put a copy on my wish list. A review is sure to follow.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
A woman with neither property nor fortune must ward off affliction by cultivating the beauty, brilliance, and accomplishment that will blind a promising suitor to the want of a dowry.
Quite cute, I thought, and much more in keeping with the spirit of Austen's text than the rest of the book has so far proven to be.
So what about last lines? Lady Susan's is classic:
For myself, I confess that I can pity only Miss Manwaring, who, coming to Town & putting herself to an expense in Cloathes which impoverished her for two years, on purpose to secure him, was defrauded of her due by a Woman ten years older than herself.
It has the same catty bite to it as the end of Persuasion:
It would be well for the eldest sister if she were equally satisfied with her situation, for a change is not very probable there. She had soon the mortification of seeing Mr Elliot withdraw, and no one of proper condition has since presented himself to raise even the unfounded hopes which sunk with him.
Austen is similarly sarcastic at the end of Northanger Abbey:
To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty–six and eighteen is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced that the general’s unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.
Jane Austen's other endings are rather more "happily ever after" in style than school girl cheek, though she still demonstrates an unwillingness to let her characters go in peace. For example, in Pride & Prejudice she must remind us of our heroine's unpleasant relations:
Elizabeth did all she could to shield him from the frequent notice of either, and was ever anxious to keep him to herself, and to those of her family with whom he might converse without mortification; and though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from the season of courtship much of its pleasure, it added to the hope of the future; and she looked forward with delight to the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.
In Emma we are not allowed to forget that the Knightlys will still have to endure the Eltons:
The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. "Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it." But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.
And the end of Sense & Sensibility undermines the entire premise of perfect happiness:
Between Barton and Delaford there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that, though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.
Only in the case of Fanny Price, of all Austen's heroines, does the authoress leave us with a prospect of complete contentment and that is gained only in juxtaposition to her previous suffering:
On that event they removed to Mansfield; and the Parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been.
Perhaps Fanny is the only one capable of such quiet complacency? As Elizabeth freely admits to Jane, "Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness."
Monday, October 19, 2009
My favorite of all the beginnings to Jane Austen's novels is also only one sentence, but its enormous length renders any comparison with the brief quote above comical. My imaginary writing teacher would find great fault with the opening of Persuasion but I am, nonetheless, prepared to argue its merits on three grounds. First I will assert that on the very first page of the novel, in a single paragraph mind you, Jane Austen successfully provides a complete character sketch of Sir Walter Elliot, thereby freeing up the remainder of her novel for the exploration of far more interesting characters and sparing her readers as much as possible from his presence. Perhaps this holds less true on a first reading of the novel, but those of us who have long known and despised Sir Walter can recognize it as a perfect summary:
Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt, as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century--and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed--this was the page at which the favourite volume always opened --
My second argument lies solely in the fact that the sensations of contentment Austen subscribes here to Sir Walter are precisely the same as mine when I read this paragraph.
"ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH-HALL.
"Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester; by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789; Mary, born Nov. 20, 1791."
My third reason for believing this to be the best opening in all of Austen is that Anne Elliot is barely in sight, a footnote in the beloved entry, mimicking the role she plays within her family. She is not mentioned again for three pages, when we learn that Anne is "... nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way; --she was only Anne." This is a story of a neglected lady's second chance to be courted and esteemed. Austen must deliver us into the despondency of Anne's situation at Kellynch if we are to fully appreciate her resurgence later. It's only appropriate that it takes a second look to notice her in the first place. Here is Austen at her very best.
Just for fun, here are some of my favorite evocations of the Pride & Prejudice opening:
"If, as the prevailing wisdom has had it these many years, a young man in possession of a good fortune is always in want of a wife, then surely the reverse must prove true as well: any well-favoured lady of means must incline, indeed yearn, to improve her situation by seeking a husband." - Julie Barrett, Presumption
"One might say that the divine gift of human memory used for the recitation of three-month-old annoyances constitutes talent misspent." Eucharista Ward, Illusions and Ignorance or A Match for Mary Bennet
"The true misfortune, which besets any young lady who believes herself destined for fortune and favour, is to find that she has been born into an unsuitable family." - Jane Odiwe, Lydia Bennet's Story
Friday, October 16, 2009
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters awaits.
This is not what I read Austen for. This is more akin to torture.
Why am I doing to myself, forcing my way through this new subset of Austen fan fic? And where did all these monsters come from anyway?
It's not the first time I've encountered the occult in Austen sequels: Carrie Bebris' Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, which I enjoyed, are full otherworldly occurrences, well beyond the bounds of Jane's "two inches of ivory". But there is definitely something different going on with this monster phenomenon, particularly in these vampire stories, their major similarity being not fangs but sexual frustration (I'm struggling not to spend an enormous amount of time psychoanalyzing that). I admit to enjoying Ms. Jeffers' effort, more so than I did her previous books, but I much preferred Ms. Grange's diaries of the Austen heroes to this new effort, which really does resemblance Ann Radcliff's work more than Austen's. I never did manage to finish Udolpho. It's one of the very few book I've ever abandoned mid-read.
I don't mean to imply that these harrowing takes on Austen aren't readable. Obviously the concept of inserting Zombies into Pride and Prejudice appealed to a great many people. Is it wrong of me to suspect them of being the same people who didn't much care for the tame world of Austen in the first place? Furthermore, is it unfair for me to expect something different from people like Ms. Grange and Ms. Jeffers, who obviously have a deep and passionate love for Austen? I need to take a step back and think.
Ms. Grange is going on a blog tour. Perhaps she'll address some of my questions.
I'm still determined to pick up that copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, but I think I first deserve a reprieve from monsters and mayhem. I believe I'll reread Lady Susan - her kind of chaos seems quite palatable right now.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Linda Wells produced one tomb entitled Chance Encounters and managed to pump out another one in 2009 called Fate & Consequences: A Tale of Pride & Prejudice. She also just released a book last month called Perfect Fit: A Modern Tale of Pride & Prejudice which I haven't read (I have never gotten excited by the modernizations - maybe someday I'll go on a spree and pound through them all). Chance Encounters, for the first couple of chapters, had me grinning and giggling like Charlotte Palmer. There is no other word I can use but tickled to describe how much I enjoyed the premise. Bingley has postponed his residency at Netherfield, delaying the time when he and Darcy meet the Bennets. As she attends the theater in London with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth catches Darcy's eye and both are instantly smitten. Unfortunately, as the book progresses it grows less compelling. Still, on my first read, I could barley put it down. It was only on my second pass through that I grew impatient, both with the bad editing and the amount of sexual content (since I was unconcerned with missing plot I just skipped over those scenes).
Fate & Consequences is a much more polished text than Chance Encounters but I didn't enjoy it as much. This story strays a bit from the standard "What If?" formula by not changing the action of a particular moment in Pride & Prejudice but what happened before the story began. Here Georgiana Darcy actually departs Ramsgate with Wickham and Darcy, along with Colonel Fitzwilliam, is forced to pursue them. Where do they catch up with elopers? Meryton of course, giving Elizabeth the opportunity to comfort a distraught Georgiana and begin a correspondence with her. It's a fun concept but it just didn't grab me in the same way that Chance Encounters did. Still, a worth while read.
I am sure that there are many more examples of "What If?" stories circulating online, I just haven't read them. If anyone would be so kind as to bring the better ones to my attention I would appreciate it.
I must note that my favorite of Kara Louise's books is not a "What If?" story at all but a retelling of Pride & Prejudice from the perspective of Mr. Darcy's faithful dog entitled Master Under Good Regulation. It's really quite well done.
Also, the links for Ms. Louise's books will take you to Lulu.com, not Amazon (where I typically link to). They might be slightly cheaper on Amazon but I believe the author receives larger royalties if the books are sold directly through Lulu. I'm not sure why her books haven't been optioned and wonder if she has intentionally chosen to remain within the self-published realm. Gives me something to think about ...
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Vampire Darcy's Desire, on the other hand, is a totally new rendition of the Darcy vs. Wickham conflict, packed with folklore and mythology. I only wish Ms. Jeffers had edited the book a bit more carefully. It feels like she rushed to publish while the trend was in full force. This book is much more sensual than Austen ever dares to be. While overt sexuality sometime makes me a bit edgy in Austen spin-offs, the fact that we're dealing with vampires here makes it far more acceptable. What is vampirism if not the 19th century's way of expressing repressed sexual desire? Still, here we are thrown into a world of nightmare and suspense (Udolpho, anyone?) and I constantly heard, as the text progressed, Henry Tilney whispering in my ear:
"Remember that we are English, that we are Christian. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetuated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest [Ms. Jeffers], what ideas have you been admitting?"
Wouldn't it be wonderful, while we're all monster happy, if some inventive writer produced a more satirical work of the sort, in the style of Northanger Abbey? Something to bring us out of the Gothic and secure our feet back on that solid, well-warn road between Longbourn and Meryton, where the worst disaster one might encounter is a pig escaped from its yard or enough mud to render a petticoat thoroughly unpresentable.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
So I FINALLY saw the 2007 Masterpiece Theater version of what I think is, hands down, Jane Austen's wittiest novel and was quite pleased. It was wonderfully cast. Felicity Jones captured all of Catherine Morland's charming naivety while JJ Feild was fabulous as Henry Tilney (he has something of the look of Jude Law - very dashing). I was also thrilled to see Sylvestra Le Tozel in the roll of Mrs. Allen having loved her portrayal of Fanny Price in the 1983 BBC Classic Miniseries version of Mansfield Park (which is really well done - Lady Bertram is fabulously comical in this version!). The Thorpes were also excellently portrayed, their deviousness and hypocrisy perfectly preserved.
I love the character of Henry Tilney, Austen's most playful hero. I'm only sorry they did not include my favorite piece of dialogue, probably because it expresses what we today would certainly see as a sexist sentiment. I believe that Jane couldn't possibly think so poorly of her own gender and was only mocking the condescending way in which brothers will deprecate their sister (a phenomenon with which she would have been quite familiar). It was she, after all, who was clever enough to think of it. The scene encompasses Chapter 14 (the one which contains Austen's classic defense and criticism of novels and their reader) in which the Tilney's and Miss Morland walk to Beechen Cliff:
The general pause which succeeded his short disquisition on the state of the nation was put an end to by Catherine, who, in rather a solemn tone of voice, uttered these words, “I have heard that something very shocking indeed will soon come out in London.”
Miss Tilney, to whom this was chiefly addressed, was startled, and hastily replied, “Indeed! And of what nature?”
“That I do not know, nor who is the author. I have only heard that it is to be more horrible than anything we have met with yet.”
“Good heaven! Where could you hear of such a thing?”
“A particular friend of mine had an account of it in a letter from London yesterday. It is to be uncommonly dreadful. I shall expect murder and everything of the kind.”
“You speak with astonishing composure! But I hope your friend’s accounts have been
exaggerated; and if such a design is known beforehand, proper measures will undoubtedly be taken by government to prevent its coming to effect.”
“Government,” said Henry, endeavouring not to smile, “neither desires nor dares to interfere in such matters. There must be murder; and government cares not how much.”
The ladies stared. He laughed, and added, “Come, shall I make you understand each other, or leave you to puzzle out an explanation as you can? No — I will be noble. I will prove myself a man, no less by the generosity of my soul than the clearness of my head. I have no patience with such of my sex as disdain to let themselves sometimes down to the comprehension of yours. Perhaps the abilities of women are neither sound nor acute — neither vigorous nor keen. Perhaps they may want observation, discernment, judgment, fire, genius, and wit.”
“Miss Morland, do not mind what he says; but have the goodness to satisfy me as to this dreadful riot.”
“Riot! What riot?”
“My dear Eleanor, the riot is only in your own brain. The confusion there is scandalous. Miss Morland has been talking of nothing more dreadful than a new publication which is shortly to come out, in three duodecimo volumes, two hundred and seventy–six pages in each, with a frontispiece to the first, of two tombstones and a lantern — do you understand? And you, Miss Morland — my stupid sister has mistaken all your clearest expressions. You talked of expected horrors in London — and instead of instantly conceiving, as any rational creature would have done, that such words could relate only to a circulating library, she immediately pictured to herself a mob of three thousand men assembling in St. George’s Fields, the Bank attacked, the Tower threatened, the streets of London flowing with blood, a detachment of the Twelfth Light Dragoons (the hopes of the nation) called up from Northampton to quell the insurgents, and the gallant Captain Frederick Tilney, in the moment of charging at the head of his troop, knocked off his horse by a brickbat from an upper window. Forgive her stupidity. The fears of the sister have added to the weakness of the woman; but she is by no means a simpleton in general.”
Catherine looked grave. “And now, Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “that you have made us understand each other, you may as well make Miss Morland understand yourself — unless you mean to have her think you intolerably rude to your sister, and a great brute in your opinion of women in general. Miss Morland is not used to your odd ways.”
“I shall be most happy to make her better acquainted with them.”
“No doubt; but that is no explanation of the present.”
“What am I to do?”
“You know what you ought to do. Clear your character handsomely before her. Tell her that you think very highly of the understanding of women.”
“Miss Morland, I think very highly of the understanding of all the women in the world — especially of those — whoever they may be — with whom I happen to be in company.”
“That is not enough. Be more serious.”
“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”The entire text of this novel can be read at The Republic of Pemberley.
Friday, October 9, 2009
The Other Mr. Darcy
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I intend this blog to be a place for me to record my thoughts on all things Austen but primarily my own experience trying to get my work read. I tried to get Wytherngate Press (publisher of the Fitzwillian Darcy, Gentleman and Fredrick Wentworth, Captain books - both of which are quite good) to read my book but never received a response. It's too short for most publisher's submission guidelines and I have little interest in procuring an agent so I'm thinking strongly of self publishing. Most of the fan fiction novels I have read were initially self-published and have since been picked up by Sourcebooks (who seems to monopolize Austen fan fic). This would be my ultimate goal. Come back to learn more about my publishing efforts and my book, First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice.