Filming Fan Fiction, Persuasion Edition

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Not one but two modern-set film adaptations/fanfic based on/inspired by Persuasion are in progress. Now, we want to be clear about our opinion of filming fanfic:

This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Clueless is fan fiction, right? As are Bride and Prejudice and The Jane Austen Book Club, both of which we love. (Seriously, how h*cking adorable is Hugh Dancy in TJABC? Really h*cking adorable, that’s how much.)

hugh-dancy-jabc2

They’re not sequels.

Continue reading

Your Sunday Austen Meditation for Michaelmas

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Church of AustenologyThis week’s reading is taken from Persuasion, Vol. I, Ch. VI:

Michaelmas came; and now Anne’s heart must be in Kellynch again. A beloved home made over to others; all the precious rooms and furniture, groves, and prospects, beginning to own other eyes and other limbs! She could not think of much else on the 29th of September; and she had this sympathetic touch in the evening from Mary, who, on having occasion to note down the day of the month, exclaimed, “Dear me, is not this the day the Crofts were to come to Kellynch? I am glad I did not think of it before. How low it makes me!”

The Crofts took possession with true naval alertness, and were to be visited. Mary deplored the necessity for herself. “Nobody knew how much she should suffer. She should put it off as long as she could;” but was not easy till she had talked Charles into driving her over on an early day, and was in a very animated, comfortable state of imaginary agitation, when she came back. Anne had very sincerely rejoiced in there being no means of her going. She wished, however to see the Crofts, and was glad to be within when the visit was returned. They came: the master of the house was not at home, but the two sisters were together; and as it chanced that Mrs. Croft fell to the share of Anne, while the Admiral sat by Mary, and made himself very agreeable by his good-humoured notice of her little boys, she was well able to watch for a likeness, and if it failed her in the features, to catch it in the voice, or in the turn of sentiment and expression.

Mrs. Croft, though neither tall nor fat, had a squareness, uprightness, and vigour of form, which gave importance to her person. She had bright dark eyes, good teeth, and altogether an agreeable face; though her reddened and weather-beaten complexion, the consequence of her having been almost as much at sea as her husband, made her seem to have lived some years longer in the world than her real eight-and-thirty. Her manners were open, easy, and decided, like one who had no distrust of herself, and no doubts of what to do; without any approach to coarseness, however, or any want of good humour. Anne gave her credit, indeed, for feelings of great consideration towards herself, in all that related to Kellynch, and it pleased her: especially, as she had satisfied herself in the very first half minute, in the instant even of introduction, that there was not the smallest symptom of any knowledge or suspicion on Mrs. Croft’s side, to give a bias of any sort. She was quite easy on that head, and consequently full of strength and courage, till for a moment electrified by Mrs. Croft’s suddenly saying,–

“It was you, and not your sister, I find, that my brother had the pleasure of being acquainted with, when he was in this country.”

Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.

“Perhaps you may not have heard that he is married?” added Mrs. Croft.

She could now answer as she ought; and was happy to feel, when Mrs. Croft’s next words explained it to be Mr. Wentworth of whom she spoke, that she had said nothing which might not do for either brother. She immediately felt how reasonable it was, that Mrs. Croft should be thinking and speaking of Edward, and not of Frederick; and with shame at her own forgetfulness applied herself to the knowledge of their former neighbour’s present state with proper interest.

The rest was all tranquillity; till, just as they were moving, she heard the Admiral say to Mary–

“We are expecting a brother of Mrs. Croft’s here soon; I dare say you know him by name.”

He was cut short by the eager attacks of the little boys, clinging to him like an old friend, and declaring he should not go; and being too much engrossed by proposals of carrying them away in his coat pockets, &c., to have another moment for finishing or recollecting what he had begun, Anne was left to persuade herself, as well as she could, that the same brother must still be in question. She could not, however, reach such a degree of certainty, as not to be anxious to hear whether anything had been said on the subject at the other house, where the Crofts had previously been calling.

We love the great older married couples in Austen’s work: the Crofts, the Gardiners, the Westons. There is a perception that there are a lot of dysfunctional couples in Austen’s work (and there are), but the great ones make up for so much.*

Here endeth the lesson. Happy Michaelmas to all!

*Can we put in a plug for the fabulous Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and our own contribution to that delightful volume, “Heard of You”? It’s our take on how the Crofts met, with the help of an unlikely Cupid.

In defense of Persuasion

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Cross-posted to This Delightful Habit of Journaling

So I guess it’s kind of obvious that I’m burned out on Austen blogging, but that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to what’s going on in Janeworld. I suppose I’ve just been waiting for something to bring me out of my funk. So I guess I should thank Adelle Waldman for her article in Slate, as it aroused my ire sufficiently to get me blogging again; but really it just made me cranky, and made me get the Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness out of hibernation.

Why do so many of Jane Austen’s smartest readers consider her weakest novel to be her best? Persuasion, the story of kind, helpful Anne Elliot—who made a mistake years ago and is still suffering for it when the book opens—is didactic and full of crude, overdrawn characterizations.

*splutters* 

*hefts Cluebat*

Okay, this is the opening paragraph. I’ll give her some slack.

*caresses Cluebat lovingly*

It is also the least funny of Austen’s books.

Oh, really? But wait, she’s read it several times. No one else has, of course. No one could possibly pull several funny quotes out of her butt. Could they?  Continue reading

Guest Post: A Fine Naval Fervor in Jane Austen Made Me Do It by Laurel Ann Nattress

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AustenBlog is delighted to host Laurel Ann Nattress, proprietor of the fabulous Austenprose and editor of the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, for a little tidbit about the anthology. The Editrix had her share in the conversation, er, anthology, as you will read below. LA and I have known each other for a really long time–we were reminiscing how long at the JASNA AGM last week!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Hi Mags, thanks for graciously inviting me here today on AustenBlog during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. It is particularly gratifying to me since you were one of the first authors I reached out to contribute a short story and have been with me through the entire publication process. You have always been so incredibly supportive of me and my blog Austenprose, advising me on the technical geeky stuff, SEO, social media and all-around advice guru. I sincerely thank you. [Aww. –Ed.]

Captain Frederick MarryatI was really intrigued when you told me that your inspiration for your story would be from two sources: Captain Frederick Marryat’s novel Peter Simple and Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Honestly I was expecting the further exploits from The Very Secret Diary of Henry Tilney, so this was a jolting surprise! After you explained that Peter Simple was an Age of Sail novel written by an English Royal Navy officer, it all started to make sense. I knew that in addition to our shared passion for our “dear Jane” that you were a huge Captain Horatio Hornblower fan who had studied naval history and lore from the era. I was astonished that you were able to pull a plot element out of Peter Simple about sailors receiving family letters and selling them to their shipmates for entertainment and then make the leap to creating your story, “Heard of You,” about the early career of Austen’s Captain Wentworth and Admiral Croft. I remember reading the first draft and shaking my head in amazement at how you pulled it all together. I was truly touched by the story and I hope that readers will be too. Continue reading

Your Sunday Austen Meditation

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Church of AustenologyWelcome to the Church of Austenology (and happy Easter to those who celebrate). Here is today’s lesson:

The Musgroves, like their houses, were in a state of alteration, perhaps of improvement. The father and mother were in the old English style, and the young people in the new. Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove were a very good sort of people; friendly and hospitable, not much educated, and not at all elegant. Their children had more modern minds and manners. There was a numerous family; but the only two grown up, excepting Charles, were Henrietta and Louisa, young ladies of nineteen and twenty, who had brought from school at Exeter all the usual stock of accomplishments, and were now like thousands of other young ladies, living to be fashionable, happy, and merry. Their dress had every advantage, their faces were rather pretty, their spirits extremely good, their manner unembarrassed and pleasant; they were of consequence at home, and favourites abroad. Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are, by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good-humoured mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.

This came up in the past couple of weeks in relation to an acquaintance who has what we consider an outsized ability to get what she wants (and sometimes stuff we want that she doesn’t) from other people, much of it in our opinion based on youth, looks, and personality. Said acquaintance is also a remarkably shallow person, concerned more with appearances and fortune than with intellect or meaning. We were stewing over a particular incident privately and then remembered this passage. Certain material things–fortune, luck, tickets to certain sporting events we wish to attend–might be showered upon her; but we would still not exchange with her. Thank you, Jane, for the lesson in perspective.

Here endeth the lesson.

Friday Bookblogging: Jane Austen Wrote Six Books Edition

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With all the excitement over the Complete Jane Austen, we would like to take this opportunity to issue our periodic reminder that Jane Austen wrote six novels, not just the one with that moody Darcy git (TEAM TILNEY REPRESENT!), and if you haven’t tried them all yet, there’s no time like the present! And even after you finish the Big Six, there’s more Jane to read–let us know if you need a list.

Laurie Viera Rigler, the author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, is writing a series on each of Jane Austen’s novels for About.com’s Classic Literature blog in conjunction with the films. Last’s week’s Bookblogging included her Persuasion post, and this week she wrote about Northanger Abbey.

Every era likes to marginalize certain forms of art. In Austen’s day, it was the novel (and not just the Gothic ones). Today, it might be graphic novels or romance or so-called “women’s fiction” or “chick lit” or science fiction or horror. Take your pick. Despite the snobbery, Jane Austen and her whole family were, in her own words, “great Novel-readers, & not ashamed of being so.” Nevertheless, Northanger Abbey is a hilarious send-up of just the kind of horror-and-romance-fest that Catherine Morland—and Jane Austen—liked to read. The difference between the heroine and her creator is that Catherine Morland kept expecting real life to play out like one of her favorite novels, while Jane Austen thought real life had its own set of fascinating stories to tell.

The Adventures in Reading blog has a few posts examining Persuasion, which, as many of our readers know, is our favorite Jane. The first part has an anecdote that made our jaw drop:

My sophomore year in college a classmate of mine told me about his experience with Persuasion in another class. While I cannot recall what he said the instructor had said, I do recall that he argued the novel was classist and he felt Anne Elliot was a “gold digger.”

WHAAAAAAAAT? Anne Elliot, of all people, a gold digger? Our Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness, let us show you it.

Part 2 has more reflections upon the novel–it’s always so interesting to hear from someone making their first engaged read.

Another character I have yet to mention but that plays an enormous part is Mrs. Smith. Anne knew Mrs. Smith from her school days and only knew that shortly after Anne left the school that this woman became Mrs. Smith and seemed to have married quite well. When Anne rediscovers her, Mrs. Smith is an invalid, dependent on the “kindness of strangers”, selling hand made crafts through a friend, and living most of her life in two small and shabby rooms. Mrs. Smith plays a key role in revealing Mr. Elliot’s (the cousin and heir) true character to Anne, but I will say I found her more of a remarkable character after reading about Austen’s own invalid brother. Perhaps there is no connection, but at the very least Mrs. Smith is a very interesting comparison to Lady de Bourgh’s daughter in Pride & Prejudice.

We doubt Mrs. Smith had anything to do with George Austen, but it is interesting to contrast her treatment, as someone who is genuinely ill–indeed, crippled to the point of being unable to walk–and yet bears with her infirmities and her deplorable financial situation with cheer; and (this always gets us) as poor as she is, she seeks to sell her little knitted items to do good for even poorer people. As a comparison with hypochondriacs such as Mary Musgrove, Mrs. Bennet, and, yes, Anne de Bourgh (though we have no way of knowing if she was really ill or not), and considering that Persuasion was written as Jane Austen was suffering the first symptoms of her fatal illness, Mrs. Smith is a truly amazing character.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Bookblogging, Gentle Readers, and always remember: Books Are Nice!