Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Review of the New Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (2005) Poster
I have no idea if I will be able to catch this flick in the theaters, but I am certain that I will rent it as soon as it is released on DVD. I found this even-handed review at Christianity Today. I appreciate the fact that the reviewer acknowledges the first reaction by this (and many an other, I'm sure) P&P fan: Why? The reviewer then does an admirable job explaining why she thought this movie was made and why it is appropriate for a Jane Austen fan to devote two hours to this latest adaptation. So, I'm convinced that it should be worth a viewing; though, Colin Firth will always be the quintessential Mr. Darcy in my mind, just as the glorious Jennifer Ehle could never be replaced as dear Lizzy. Case closed.

The Classics: Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth

The Upstarts: Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden

Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen

Some other P&P adaptations that I'd like to see (preferrably curled up on the couch on a rainy Sunday afternoon, my Bug napping, my Sweetie by my side, sipping Twinings Tea and munching on popcorn) are Bride and Prejudice (the Bollywood version!) and Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy (the Mormon version!).

Bride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy

Okay, Maybe I Was Trying For This One ...

Okay, it would have been intolerable to have come out as any heroine other than dear Lizzy.

I'm certain that I was anticipating the answers most likely to point to "fine eyes" and a "lively mind."

So what?

I am like Elizabeth Bennet.

Elizabeth Bennet

You are Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and
! Yay, you! Perhaps the
brightest and best character in all of English
literature, you are intelligent, lively,
lovely-- in short, you are the best of company.
Your only foibles are that you stick with your
first impressions... and your family is quite

Which Jane Austen Character Are You?
brought to you by

Friday, November 11, 2005


You Win!!! :>
You scored 100% Janey-smarts
WELL DONE!!! Is she your favorite author too?? Even if she's not, you definitely know your stuff! Have your read the novellas? Of those, I recommend Lady Susan. :>

Think you know Jane's novels? Take this test and find out your Janey-Smarts.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I Buy More Jane Austen Books

Just because Jane Austen has not put out a new novel in almost 200 years, doesn't mean that I do not have to keep spending money on her work. I just got a Barnes & Noble gift card from my parents for my birthday -- Hallelujah! Hallelujah! -- and I immediately went to and purchased the Norton Critical Editions of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion (I already had the Norton of Emma). Now, I at last have a complete set of Jane Austen, by one publisher, in one format. The Norton Critical Editions are very good, as a rule, since they have some notations and often illuminating essay addendums.

I have actually worn out paperback copies of my Jane Austen books. Mansfield Park is on its last legs. It would not survive another read-through. Pride and Prejudice has already had one copy recycled, and copy the second isn't looking too healthy anymore. Emma (not the NCE one), Northanger Abbey, Persuasion -- all could use retirement. The only one I haven't worn out is Sense and Sensibility, but, as I've already posted, that's the one I re-read the least.

I have also worn out many L.M. Montgomery books and have had to replace them. I just love books to their death - taking them everywhere: eating while reading, reading in the bath, marking my place by leaving them open -- belly-side down, spine up. Do not ever lend me a book, if you expect to get it back pristine. Jason, on the other hand, treats books with reverence and respect (but, I suspect, far less actual love) and handles them with kid gloves. He doesn't let me touch his books. I cannot really blame him.

So, new Jane Austen books for me -- a happy birthday indeed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When I Fell for Fitzwilliam Darcy

While Lizzy may jokingly have begun to fall in love with Mr. Darcy upon "first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley," he had captured my heart many pages before when he asked Elizabeth during their dance at the Netherfield Ball, "What think you of books?" Especially with that little smile of his that Jane Austen is particular to note for our benefit. To a bibliophile like myself, that question is the most beguiling of conversation starters. Silly Lizzy in her little fit of Wickham-loving pique fails to be charmed, but the less prejudiced reader knows better.

Or, maybe I fell earlier still when Mr. Darcy said that a truly accomplished woman in his eyes must add to all feminine talents, civilities, and gentilities "something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading." Mr. Darcy: the ultimate embodiment of the thinking woman's hero!

What if Jane Austen had married her own Mr. Darcy? Happy for her to be the wife of such a man! Sad for us, since she would most likely have abandoned literary pursuits in her state of domestic felicity.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Annotated Pride & Prejudice (2004)

Hardcore Austen fans: Buy this edition!

I just got from The Annotated Pride & Prejudice, and it has exceeded my (admittedly high) expectations. The annotator/editor is David M. Shapard who, despite having graduated from UC Berkeley, takes a level-headed, even-handed approach to this most beloved of Jane Austen novels. While I have disagreed with a few of his "clarifications" of Austen's intended meaning, I have been very impressed by his scholarly approach to contextualizing this book in terms of time and place. Especially appreciated by this reader were the chronology appendix, the citations and cross-references from Austen's other works as well as her juvenilia and personal letters, and the handiness of having historical explanations and definitions immediately accessible to the text. I also really liked the fact that the annotations were all included on the right-hand side of the book, with the text on the left-hand side. Although it was a little difficult to get used to, it certainly beats having all the annotations at the end of the book, as was done by Dierdre La Faye in The Letters of Jane Austen collection. Most preferrable for me would have been the notes at the bottom of the pages of text, as is my MacArthur Study Bible, but I am determined to be pleased with what I can get. The only addition I can think of that would have improved this edition would have been some geneology charts for the characters, including their full names and relationships as far as Jane Austen provided. That would have been desirable indeed.

An endearing part of this edition lies in the acknowledgments that the editor provides prefacing the text. He thanks the "citizens of the Republic of Pemberley, who formed one of the inspirations for my decision to embark on the project in the first place, and whose questions and discussions concerning Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice have stimulated my thinking and helped direct me to issues and points in the novel that deserve explanation or commentary." This tickled me pink, since I am such a fan of that wonderful community.

I cannot think of one library that would not be benefitted by this excellent edition. It is at least a venial sin for any Austentatious-type of collection to be without this well-done volume.

Friday, July 29, 2005

If I Were A Rich Mom - La-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da!

Alibris has, through their used and rare book search, a first edition (1813) copy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice from Peter Harrington's Books in the UK for a mere $43,474.89.

(I wonder: Why the 89¢? Why not round it up to $43,475.00? Would anyone at all prone to purchasing such a tome be put off by that extra 11¢? But I digress.)

Aaah . . . for a spare $50,000!

There's your "pewter," dearest Jane, but none of it matters to you now. God bless you!

Sponging Off Jane

What Jane Austen Earned from Her Books During Her Lifetime
(from The Friendly Jane Austen by Natalie Tyler (1999), pg. 227)

1803: £10 from Richard Crosby for the manuscript of Susan (later published posthumously as Northanger Abbey)

1811: £140 from the publisher Thomas Egerton for Sense & Sensibility. £150 from its profits.

1812: £110 for Pride & Prejudice.

1814: £450 from the publisher John Murray for Emma and the copyrights to Sense & Sensibility and Mansfield Park.

Any way you look at it, even inflating the total to today's currency, Jane Austen was severely underpaid for a lifetime of work, or, rather, for a lifetime of such genius. Many other authors could have made far less and been justly compensated for their drivel, but Miss Austen deserved the wealth of Solomon for matching his wisdom and, surely, outshining that ancient monarch's wit. Now, coming upon two full centuries after her death, many good folks have worked her legacy for a tidy profit in the form of biographies, literary critiques, sequels, films, plays, audiobooks, and countless sundry others of the Austenly themed.

Here's my list of some of the very best and very worst that I have so far found of those who have dared to tread on the blessed ground first indented by Jane's daintily-slippered feet.

Best and Worst Film Adaptations:

Best: Pride & Prejudice (1995) (BBC/A&E) - Mention this finest of the film adaptations to any female Janeite and watch her bosoms heave in her Empire-waisted gown. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy was a stroke of casting genius - he brings a vigor and virility to a role that could easily be made too restrained and dandified; yet, he is completely believable as the proprietor of Pemberley - conveying equally well his complete abhorrence of Lizzy's vulgar relations and his burgeoning attraction to her despite it all. Speaking of whom, no one else can ever be Lizzy to me now other than the spectacular Jennifer Ehle. She is simply amazing as this most beloved of Brit-Lit heroines - how daunting it must have been for her to undertake this role, knowing how Elizabeth Bennet is nearly sacrosanct to P&P fans! The rest of the cast is exemplary too - I especially like Mr. Collins, Jane Bennet, and Mr. Bennet. I am so grateful that this mini-series format allows for five hours to revel in the perfection of it all.

Worst: Mansfield Park (2000) - It is very difficult for me to express fully my all-consuming hatred for this travesty cloaked in celluloid. Suffice it to say that it sucks with a sucking power that Hoover would envy. It sucks itself into the black hole of "cinema-with-an-axe-to-grind" that doesn't even try to make a faithful representation of the work which it purportedly portrays. I'd tar and feather Patricia Rozema if I ever caught her walking down the street. Jane, being ever so much more the lady than I, would probably merely freeze her out with the cool kind of cutting at which the Eighteenth Century English gentry excelled. I'm planning on suffering through it again, so that I can report on more of the specific ways that it sucks. Look for that future post.

Best and Worst Novel Sequels: (I have not read every sequel, having only so much time and stomach for what is too often disappointing fare. For a complete review and opinions on the myriad JA sequels, I refer you to The Republic of Pemberley.)

Best: Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken - Not exactly a "sequel" but a "parallel-quel," this is a really rather good re-telling of Emma from the point of view of a minor character, Jane Fairfax. The author also fleshes out Jane's back-story and provides believable insights and motives for an (in Emma) rather unfathomable young woman.

Honorable Mention: Presumption: An Entertainment by Julia Barrett - As far as I can remember (though it has been several years since I read it) this sequel to Pride and Prejudice did not fail as miserably as most sequels to JA's work. It centers around Darcy's sister Georgiana and her courtship and marriage, and it is not too offensive without being particularly memorable or endearing.

Worst: Oh Goodness! Anything by Emma Tennant, who seems to think that writing a good JA sequel involves having characters do and say things completely, well, out of character! I do not think that Emma Tennant likes JA's novels, or, if she does, it is a superficial appreciation without any understanding of what make JA so very beloved. If you want to torture yourself, read Emma Tennant's Pemberley (a sequel to Pride and Prejudice) and Emma in Love (a sequel to Emma). JA would certainly not approve of this author, and she would not even be excessively diverted by her literary pretensions. Emma Tennant is the Patricia Rozema of JA sequels.

Best and Worst Spin-Offs: (Works definitely related in some way to Jane Austen, but not directly based upon her work)

Best: The Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron - Jane as detective - absolutely delicious! I really like this series, and I think that Ms. Barron has done a better job than just about anyone in capturing the ironic, yet genteel, tone of Ms. Austen. An interesting and fulfilling vision of what Jane Austen fans and biographers often refer to as the "lost years," the eight year period between Steventon Rectory and her original drafts of P&P, S&S and NA, and Chawton House and the writing of MP, Emma, and Persuasion.

Worst: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding and Pride and Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan - These British women authors need to get over riding on Jane's coattails to chick lit fame. I can understand borrowing elements of JA's work - she was so foundational as an author, it is difficult not to borrow a little bit - but re-tellings of P&P over and over again (except with sex and more modern sensibilities - yuck!!) are getting old, ladies. Try for something a bit more original, like Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series - echoes of JA without direct lifting of plot and character.

Best and Worst Jane Austen Reference Works:

Best: The Friendly Jane Austen by Natalie Tyler - This is a wonderful collection of fact and supposition, scholarly insights and not-so-scholarly gossip. If I were to recommend just one book to the novice Jane Austen fan who loved P&P and wanted to know more, this is the book I would suggest. Chock full of trivia and tid-bits, you couldn't ask for a better overview of everything JA.

Worst: Sibling Love & Incest in Jane Austen's Fiction by Glenda A. Hudson - Okay, probably not too much of an explanation is needed here after taking a look at the title, but I just want to add that it managed to take a completely prurient topic and turn it into the driest of scholarly assessments. So, it's premise is disgusting, and it's body is boring. Enough said.

Best and Worst Biography:

A Confession: I have not read a biography of Jane Austen for many years. At one point, I read two different biographies, Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes and Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin, in immediate succession. One, I liked very much; the other I didn't really like at all. Now, I cannot remember which was which. I shall have to re-read them and post more about that later.

Well, that's a brief overview. I'm sure there will be lots more sponging off of Jane Austen in the future. They say that "imitation is the highest form of flattery," and I'm certain Jane would be tickled, but, as she once wrote, "tho' I like praise as well as anybody, I like what [brother] Edward calls pewter too." I wish that she could have had fewer financial worries during her lifetime. No novelist deserved pecuniary advantage more than she.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Upon Re-Reading Mansfield Park . . .

I am nearing the end of probably my fifth or sixth reading of MP, and I know what's coming up.

**spoiler alert**spoiler alert**spoiler alert***

I know that in a few more pages, Henry Crawford will run off with Maria Rushworth, condemning him and her forever in the eyes of the Bertrams and Fanny Price. Oh, Henry, don't do it! You're getting so close to Fanny. Only let Edmund propose to Mary, let her accept his hand, and give Fanny a little while to get over her disappointment. Stay the course - she will reward your steadfastness with her love in just a little while. Don't show her that her opinion of your principles was well-founded. Don't do it!

I love MP, but the ending kind of stinks. Mary and Henry Crawford are so delightful. I cannot help but think that they would have, in turn, made better spouses for Edmund and Fanny than those two were for each other. Oh, Jane, what would you think of my impudence and audacity in wishing a re-write of the ending?

Fanny and Edmund - each one so principled and steady and virtuous and dull, dull, dull. I picture their married home-life as consisting of much sitting around, reading poetry, and rhapsodizing on Nature and its glories. Not that there is anything wrong with Nature and its glories - I rather like them myself - but where is the witty interplay of lively (and acerbic) observations of the human scene that made this Georgian/Regency era such a fun one? Fanny and Edmund have to be the most boring couple of protagonists ever to tie the knot in a Jane Austen novel.

And yet, I love this novel. It is so fine and well-written and entertaining. I actually bristled when I read one person's opinion that it was one of the "lesser works" of Jane Austen. It is, in fact, one of the greater works of all British Literature - thank you very much.

Jane Austen recorded for posterity all of her family's and friends' observations of MP. They are delightful, in and of themselves, to read. It is amazing how frank some of the comments are:

Mrs. Augusta Bramstone - owned that she though S&S and P&P downright nonsense, but expected to like MP better; &, having finished the first volume, flattered herself that she had got through the worst.

Fanny Cage - did not much like it - not to be compared P&P - nothing interesting in the characters - language poor - characters natural and well-supported - improved as it went on.

Mrs. Bramstone - . . . Preferred it to either of the others - but imagined that might be her want of Taste - as she does not understand Wit.

Edward & George (Knight - JA's nephews) - Not liked it near so well as P&P - Edward admired Fanny - George disliked her - George interested in nobody but Mary Crawford - Edward pleased with Henry C. - Edmund objected to as cold and formal - Henry C.'s going off with Mrs. R. - at such a time, when so much in love with Fanny, thought unnatural by Edward.

To this last, I must heartily agree. HC seems so in love with Fanny - he seems so likely to have reformed and refined his rakish ways - it just is too weird and jarring when we learn of the adulterous elopement. I'm sure JA wanted to shock us completely, but it is a most dreadful shock, because (at least to me) Henry Crawford seems a much better match for Fanny - who needs someone to liven her spirits. Mary Crawford would have shaped Edmund right up from his superfluity of gravity, and he would have steadied her character. Oh, it's just too bad.

Oh well, what's done is done. MP will be 200 years in print in just a few years. I'm sure JA would have been highly gratified to see its enduring popularity and success.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Quick Ranking. . .

My quick rank of the six completed novels:

1. Pride & Prejudice - Goodness, I just re-read this novel for at least the tenth time. No better novel, in my opinion - not only Jane's best, but the best novel ever. "Light, bright and sparkling," with the heroine lovingly (and correctly!) described by her creator - "as delightful a creature as ever to appear in print." If you do not love Elizabeth Bennet, you may not be my friend.

2. Mansfield Park - Apparently, from others' opinions I have read, this is the red-headed step-child of the Austen ouvre. I just cannot see why anyone would not love it. It is so marvelously structured and so thoroughly intuited as far as character development. It leaves me in wonder at its perfection of style and tone. Fanny Price may not be the most charismatic of Austen heroines, but the ensemble production more than makes up for any of her deficiencies.

3. Persuasion - What a lovely novel! Austen's humor is still sharp, but the total effect of the work is softer somehow, more autumnal (to use the cliched description for this story). Anne Elliot is so real, and our invitation to her inner-self is one that we should not take too lightly. The major fault of this work is the whole Mrs. Smith revelation of Anne's cousin, which doesn't really work for me. It's rather jarring. I wonder how JA would have refined and re-worked her writing if she had lived to see it through publication. I'm just so grateful that we have it at all.

4. Emma - Emma Woodhouse is not a bad egg, and this novel is quite entertaining in the main. I think it runs on a little long, and some of the sub-plots are strange (what's with Harriet's nearly getting attacked by the gypsies with Frank Churchill's rescuing her?). We could have used a little more of the Eltons, who divert me exceedingly. Emma does not seem to have much to recommend her to Mr. Knightly (she seems to be the least intelligent of Austen's ladies - excepting Catherine Moreland), and Mr. Knightly seems too old for her anyway. The ending always leaves me a little off-kilter and wanting more of something and different of everything.

5. Northanger Abbey - There is a lot of humor in this strange, little work. It is entertaining, but obviously written by a diamond in the rough and not the accomplished author of S&S and beyond.

6. Sense & Sensibility - I have read this through several times, and I just can't force myself to love it over its number six placement. Since it is Jane Austen, it is far better than just about anything else you can read, though. Much like my feelings for Carolyn Arends' songs (about which I always think that the least liked of her songs still beats out a song by anyone else), I'd rather read S&S than something else by another author.

The Whys and Wherefores

The Republic of Pemberley is a wonderful site, but I think that I've come to that party a little too late to dance, so I'll be a lurker there.

This will be my little outpost of Austen Adoration, solely for my own amusement and anyone else's who happens to stumble across this humble blog.

So, to this first short post I will add:

"You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve. . . .God bless you!" --Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen (1798)