Weekend (literally!) Bookblogging

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Nothing like waiting till the last minute, is there? 😉

The Adventures in Reading blog is delighted by Northanger Abbey, but then, aren’t all right-thinking people? 😉

The novel is humorous, witty, and a delightful commentary that touches on a multitude of themes from 19th Century England.In many ways, NA is similar to Austen’s other novels. We have the seventeen year old Catherine Morland from a happy and pleasant if not wealthy family, and she ultimately falls in love and (assumedly) lives happily ever after. However, Austen infused the novel with so much brilliant satire and mirth – all I keep thinking is, “If only I had read this first! I would never have doubted my appreciation for Austen.”

[. . .]

Some of my favorite discussion in the novel is about novels and people’s perceptions of the novel (and keep in mind the added irony that the author is a novelist). The pompous Mr. Thorpe accuses that “Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out some Tom Jones, except the Monk; …but as for all others, they are the stupidest things in creation” (980). In contrast, the endearing Mr. Tilney argues “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid” (1013).

Mr. Tilney is endearing, isn’t he? So very, very endearing. 🙂

Andrea Mullaney writes in The Scotsman about how the many films and spin-off novels of Jane Austen’s work mostly misunderstand the originals.

How did Jane Austen come to be so purely regarded as a writer for women only? It was not always the case: her earliest admirers included Sir Walter Scott and Byron’s publisher, John Murray. The essayist and poet Thomas Macaulay, in the Edinburgh Review, declared her second only to Shakespeare. Even by 1948, FR Leavis was placing her at the start of his influential great tradition of English fiction.

Unless obliged to revise for an exam, few men seem now to take up Jane Austen’s works for pleasure. I’ve taught adult education courses on Austen at two different Scottish universities this year, to which a surprising number of women came along first thing in the morning or on cold wet nights, eager to discuss every aspect of the books. Most had read them numerous times, relating them to their own lives, feeling them to be as alive as if they’d been published yesterday. And only one man turned up – who introduced himself by cheerfully admitting he was there purely because his other class was cancelled.

Well, the movies are a whole different thing. Nothing blows up in Jane Austen adaptations, therefore, boys are told to stay away, because they won’t like them. We think this does both the films and the boys a disservice. Men who read, in our experience, are just as apt to read Jane Austen as anything else.

Asking around men of my acquaintance, most hadn’t even tried reading Austen, put off by the adaptations. Perhaps they glaze over when presented, even in print, with the sight of a bonnet, mentally fainting away like the heroines of Austen’s hilarious teenage satire, Love and Freindship. (her spelling, dear reader). “It’s the proto-chicklit thing,” said one, himself actually a lecturer. “They’re all about women desperately trying to get themselves married off.”

Actually, they’re not, any more than Hamlet is a ghost story or Bleak House is just about a court case. But I can see why some men, and the many women who don’t fancy some sort of period Mills & Boon either, might think that’s all there is to them. For the Austen industry is about more than the books themselves – there are adaptations, sequels and chicklit spin-offs, and all are geared towards an interpretation of her stories which downplays the sharp social satire and the firm morality of her work, foregrounding the romance. Mr Darcy is enshrined as the ultimate lover, whether in his Colin Firth wet shirt guise or Bridget Jones’s modern version of Colin Firth in, well, another wet shirt.

Well said; but one should never judge Jane Austen by the Jane Austen Brand™, at least not until we succeed in our campaign to have each item marketed under that brand vigorously vetted and properly licensed.

Having started the modern revival of Jane-fever (if it can ever be said to have gone away) with his beloved 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Davies’s word is law.

Not in these parts. 😉

And for Sense and Sensibility, he boasts of “butching up” the male characters, who just weren’t manly enough to make women viewers swoon. “I’ve had to work up the guys to make them stronger. Austen never really had men in her books on their own, or men without women,” he said at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival earlier this year. “I don’t think she really understood them.” Odd that, for a woman with six brothers who grew up in a house used for a small boys’ school.

We’ve snarked that before, but we’re glad someone else has noticed!

That “uneventful”, “barren” life cannot be allowed to be the whole story: there must be something else, some secret romance. Earlier this year, the film Becoming Jane turned a minor incident in her early life, a week-long flirtation with a visiting young Irishman which she cheerfully joked about in letters, into the major, tragic “event” of which all her novels were supposedly lightly fictionalised accounts. At least 1998’s Shakespeare in Love was a comedy and about a mostly unrecorded life; Becoming Jane blatantly twisted the known facts to fit its agenda, in the process reducing the writer to a sort of heritage Heat magazine star.

Next year, another drama (although subtler and more interesting), BBC1’s Miss Austen Regrets, stars Olivia Williams as a middle-aged Jane fretting over her lost opportunities and under attack by her family for staying a spinster.

But actually, Austen’s own letters reveal an acerbic and confident woman who was bloody relieved she hadn’t got married and died young after churning out 11 children, like two of her sisters-in-law. Her sparky favourite niece, Anna, who at one time had hoped to write novels herself, married and immediately was lost to the repeated child-bearing common to the time. “Poor animal, she will be worn out before she is 30. I am very sorry for her … I am quite tired of so many children,” wrote Austen, on hearing of her latest pregnancy. That does not sound like a woman who “regrets” having missed out on marriage and babies, which would have almost certainly prevented her writing.

That is the irony – that someone who rejected romance, in her life and work, should be held its greatest icon. Although she would probably have enjoyed all the men in wet shirts.

Hear, hear!

Another, rather shorter, article in the Sacramento News & Review covers some of the same territory.

The recent Jane Austen Book Club barely rates a description, though the movie is rumored to be better.

The book and the film are both wonderful.

The author then goes on to praise the Jane Austen Mysteries (of which we also are mighty fond at AustenBlog World Headquarters) and ends with this rather confusing bit:

The newest Barron, A Flaw in the Blood, “an enthralling suspense novel centered on Queen Victoria’s troubled court—and a secret so dangerous it could topple thrones,” is due in early 2008. Jane will fix things, I’m sure. I am eagerly awaiting my copy.

Uh…Queen Victoria’s court? Victoria wasn’t even born when Jane Austen died! What the Frank Churchill? Surely Stephanie Barron couldn’t make such a mistake! We consulted Amazon.com, and discovered that A Flaw in the Blood is not a Jane Austen Mystery (though it sounds most interesting), takes place in 1861, and therefore has nothing to do with Jane Austen. We wonder why someone who sets herself up as enough of an expert/critic of Jane Austen to write such an article wouldn’t have figured that out.

Speaking of epic failure

When JANE AUSTEN WAS FIRST RESUSCITATED, I, ALONG WITH OTHER READERS, CHEERED LOUDLY.

Now, I weep when a new Jane Austen-themed book is published. I can’t bear to even glance at “Austenland” by SHANNON HALE, “CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT BY LAURIE VIERA RIGLER, “A WALK WITH JANE AUSTEN” BY LORI SMITH, “LOST IN AUSTEN” BY EMMA CAMPBELL WEBSTER OR “MR. DARCY’S DIARY BY AMANDA GRANGE.

Not even sure I’ll watch Masterpiece Theater in January when “The Complete Jane Austen” airs.

Publishers, please! The bandwagon’s overloaded.

We’ve had enough Jane — in movies, in popular fiction, in “look-alikes” like the movies “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones Diary.”

Can we stop now?

One last thing, though: KAREN JOY FOWLER, WHO WROTE “THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB,” IS NOW A PART-TIME RESIDENT OF SANTA CRUZ.

Her new novel, “Wit’s End,” will be published in April.

It’s not about Jane Austen.

To an extent we can sympathize with the writer’s sentiment, but dude, WHAT’S WITH THE CAPSLOCK ABUSE?

That’s it for Friday Really End of the Weekend Bookblogging, Gentle Readers, and always remember (we shall bold and capslock to emphasize): BOOKS ARE NICE! YES THEY ARE!