Saturday, September 29, 2007

What I would Like to See in Sense and Sensibility

I really enjoy the Columbia Pictures version of Sense and Sensibility from 1995. I thought it was a great adaptation, even though the story line is so contracted. I guess they can't all be a mini-series. Even though the actresses Emma Thompson and Kate Winslett each gave an excellent performance, all in all I would like to see a younger Elinor and Marianne. These sisters are both supposed to be in their teens. Winslett may pass, but not Thompson. I once heard somewhere of Sense and Sensibility with the mock subtitle; "You're Never Too Young to be an Old Maid." I know to carry a movie like this you want the acting clout of an Emma Thompson that is hard to find in someone who looks nineteen. It does change the story though to have the sisters older. (Having said that, I will let you know that Emma Thompson has me Crying like a baby every time I watch it). The men cast in this version couldn't be more perfect. And I don't say that lightly. In addition to being good actors they look the part, and the age, that they should. I love Alan Rickman as Brandon. Now let me tell you what I would really like to see, regardless of the age of the participants. I would like a little more something between Elinor and Lucy Steele. Their story is a genteel, regency version of a hair-pulling, nail slashing cat fight, and I would like to see the claws out a little more. As I read the novel, Lucy knows Edward Ferrars is in love with Elinor, and I suspect Elinor know that Lucy knows it. Lucy is not just trying to warn her off, she is basking in the drama and her own triumph. Engagements were virtually legally binding at the time. In the movie Elinor seems to be trying to be polite to Lucy and not letting it be known that she loves Edward. It the book it seems that every comment is a bit of a barb, and all of Lucy's comments and little worries are gloating jabs back at Elinor. I would like to see this played up.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Opinion About Mansfield Park

This was in reply to a thread but I thought I'd post it here. Some people get turned off of Mansfield Park because it doesn't suit everyone, But maybe a few positive accounts will encourage more people to give it a try. I also like to think of Jane Austen at this time in her life being more willing to experiment with different combinations of character traits. For example, Mary Crawford at first appearance is a lot like Elizabeth Bennett. They are both quick witted, lively, and fun loving. But on further study they are quite different. Elizabeth has sense of right and wrong and an appreciation for goodness, while Mary's underlying values are seriously flawed and corrupt. Yet look how they each attracted the hero of the novel with their outward charm. Mr. Darcy was almost immediately attracted to Elizabeth, but he didn't take it seriously until he had learned her true worth and goodness. Edmund was almost as instantly attracted to Mary, but eventually, and only through many painful revelations, was he able to see past the veneer to her dark character. Here are my earlier posted comments: Mansfield Park is my Favorite Jane Austen Novel, and I read all of them often.I adore Fanny Price. Maybe because she is the one I identify with the most, though I could never be as good as she is. I feel so strongly for her. I beleive Fanny is extremely powerful. It is only her health and constitution that is weak. She is submissive not because of weakness, but out of self control and her extreme belief in doing what is right at all costs. The only time she wavers is when it is not quite clear exactly what is the morally correct thing to do. Furthermore, though Edmund gets the credit for shaping Fanny's mind, I believe it is her pure goodness that has influenced Edmund as he matured, raising him above the petty selfishness of his siblings. I've written an essay on this and I should find it and post it.And about the irony, it is abundant in this novel. Almost every cruel remark Mrs. Norris makes is laced with irony for the reader. And there's a wonderful scene where Tom neglects Fanny at a dance until Mrs. Norris asks him to join a card table, and he quickly jumps up and grabs Fanny's hand, saying they were just about to dance. Then he comments on Mrs, Norris selfishly trying to use him to form the card table without consulting his feelings, and how lucky it was of him to think of Dancing with Fanny at that moment.There is so much symbolism in Mansfield Park, the garden gate scene, the necklace and chain, one of my particular favorites is the idea of improving land in general and how each man's thoughts on land improvement reflect his actions in the marital arena, complete with poor Mr. Rushworth's not knowing what to do with his fabulous new property and Henry Crawford stepping in to make a mark on it himself.My true heart's wish is for someone to make an accurate adaptation of this lovely novel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What I would Like To See in Pride and Prejudice

Last night I was thinking about Jane Austen’s novels, and what the movies are missing, or particularly what I would like to see in an adaptation. I’m sure you have all thought about this before, and rather than spending time wondering why I am not consulted I decided to put all my ideas on the table and see if you agree. Today- Pride and Prejudice.

Any of the books, to be done well, would have to appear as a six part mini-series. Thus The BBC / A&E version of Pride and Prejudice comes closest to approaching perfection as any adaptation can. When life gets a little heavy or the stress is too much, curling up on the couch with this bit of heaven and drifting off to Austen World is just the remedy.
So having said all that, is there anything I would change or add? Yes! And on a five hour show, what are a few more minutes?
During the period when Jane is sick at Netherfield there is another delightful scene chiefly between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. It shows off Mr. Bingley’s wit, which is usually ignored and in place he is just Mr. Super-Nice guy. The scene establishes the group as good friends, teasing, witty and playful with each other. Here is a portion of the chapter.

"Oh!" cried Miss Bingley, "Charles writes in the most careless way imaginable. He leaves out half his words, and blots the rest."
"My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them -- by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents."
"Your humility, Mr. Bingley," said Elizabeth, "must disarm reproof."
"Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast."
"And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?"
"The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved on quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself -- and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or any one else?"
"Nay," cried Bingley, "this is too much, to remember at night all the foolish things that were said in the morning. And yet, upon my honour, I believed what I said to myself to be true, and I believe it at this moment. At least, therefore, I did not assume the character of needless precipitance merely to shew off before the ladies."
"I dare say you believed it; but I am by no means convinced that you would be gone with such celerity. Your conduct would be quite as dependant on chance as that of any man I know; and if, as you were mounting your horse, a friend were to say, 'Bingley, you had better stay till next week,' you would probably do it, you would probably not go -- and at another word, might stay a month."
"You have only proved by this," cried Elizabeth, "that Mr. Bingley did not do justice to his own disposition. You have shewn him off now much more than he did himself."
"I am exceedingly gratified," said Bingley, "by your converting what my friend says into a compliment on the sweetness of my temper. But I am afraid you are giving it a turn which that gentleman did by no means intend; for he would certainly think the better of me if, under such a circumstance, I were to give a flat denial, and ride off as fast as I could."
"Would Mr. Darcy then consider the rashness of your original intention as atoned for by your obstinacy in adhering to it?"
"Upon my word I cannot exactly explain the matter -- Darcy must speak for himself."
"You expect me to account for opinions which you chuse to call mine, but which I have never acknowledged. Allowing the case, however, to stand according to your representation, you must remember, Miss Bennet, that the friend who is supposed to desire his return to the house, and the delay of his plan, has merely desired it, asked it without offering one argument in favour of its propriety."
"To yield readily -- easily -- to the persuasion of a friend is no merit with you."
"To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either."
"You appear to me, Mr. Darcy, to allow nothing for the influence of friendship and affection. A regard for the requester would often make one readily yield to a request without waiting for arguments to reason one into it. I am not particularly speaking of such a case as you have supposed about Mr. Bingley. We may as well wait, perhaps, till the circumstance occurs before we discuss the discretion of his behaviour thereupon. But in general and ordinary cases between friend and friend, where one of them is desired by the other to change a resolution of no very great moment, should you think ill of that person for complying with the desire, without waiting to be argued into it?"
"Will it not be advisable, before we proceed on this subject, to arrange with rather more precision the degree of importance which is to appertain to this request, as well as the degree of intimacy subsisting between the parties?"
"By all means," cried Bingley; "let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting their comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet, than you may be aware of. I assure you that, if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference. I declare I do not know a more awful object than Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening, when he has nothing to do."
Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended, and therefore checked her laugh.
***There you go. Wouldn’t you love to see that scene? Bingley is so funny, I love the line “he would certainly think the better of me if, under such a circumstance, I were to give a flat denial, and ride off as fast as I could." It is SO Jane Austen, and reminds me of her juvenilia, as does the line about ‘comparative height and size’ making Darcy an ‘awful object.’

Well, that’s about enough for today. Life has been busy this week, and I’m lamenting the fact that I haven’t had much time to spend on my dress, even as I spend an hour posting to my blog.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Get the Dress Done

I had a phone chat with Mom Thursday and she has already read and finished Persuasion, which she loved. We talked a little more about Mansfield Park, and she was telling me what she plans to read next. When someone is first discovering or rediscovering Jane Austen novels, I get a little jealous of them having all the joy ahead of them. I dream of browsing through a bookstore and all of a sudden finding a new Jane Austen book. How wonderful that would be.

Yesterday I was thinking as long as I’m making myself a dress I should make a little Barbie dress as well and fix up a little regency / Emma Barbie to put on my dash while I drive to Vancouver. I got pretty carried away thinking how fun it would be, then she’d need a room or maybe a little dollhouse……

I have to stick with my FIRST priority this month, which is getting my dress done. Then maybe I can play around with that other idea a little more.

As far as today goes, I’m hoping to work on the dress a bit, maybe get it cut out at least. I am doing my teenager’s Saturday chore for her because she took the ACT test this morning. Fall is definitely in the air today. I made banana-chocolate chip bread, and listened to soft rock oldies till my husband came home and made fun of me. OK, he accepted the music for a while without saying anything, but I swear the corner of his eye was twitching.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

23 Days Untill the Jane Austen AGM !

I finally have a pattern for my regency dress. I will eventually be able to use the same pattern for a few different dress but since this is my first I want it to be a sort of all purpose dress. My fabric is creamy white cotton with black polka dots.

Dotted Fabric- Here is the fabric and a little sketch of the style of my dress.

Regency Dress Pattern- This is the pattern, though I'm altering it a little bit for my first dress. It will be like the light colored dress, except without the over-dress layer, just floor length, and no bow. I will embellish it a little with some lace.

My Inspiration Dress- Here is a picture of the dress I chose to model mine after.
Here are the Breakout sessions I signed up for at the AGM.:
Session A: Status, social climbing and the meaning of gentility in Emma
Session B: Fun with Frank and Jane: Austen on Detective Fiction
Session C: Matchmaker, Matchmaker
Session D: Women’s Clothing in Jane Austen’s Time
Session E: Austen’s “passion for taking likenesses”: Portraits of the Prince Regent in Emma
I am also taking the Regency Reticule workshop, to make a reticule (or as Jane referred to in a letter, a ‘ridicule’) which is a little purse used to hold small items at the ball. We will be making them ourselves. So please don’t ridicule my reticule. Ahem. I know that was pretty weak. I couldn’t resist.
I also want to find the perfect little book for all my note taking, likeness sketching, and maybe for writing down a charade or two. 23 Days 'till the AGM !

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A New Book

Yesterday my husband and I were sitting around the dinner table when my daughter returned from the mailbox. There was a package for my husband, and as he began opening it I was pouting, sticking my lip out a little and saying in a sad little voice, "Gee, I wish I got packages in the mail." Then as he opened it up he said "Hey, this is for you." I was so excited. It was "Jane Austen, Obstinate Heart, a Biography". I've never read it before and love adding to my JA library. I own several Jane Bio's and have read several more. What a fun treat. My husband said "I told you I was getting it for you." and now I may vaguely remember him mentioning something about a book...... I guess when you have a bad memory every day can be a surprise.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Discussions with My AGM Roommate

One exciting aspect of my Jane Austen adventure in October is that I opted for the roommate matching, in order to save money and share a room in Vancouver. While saving money is a benefit, I think it will be great just to have a head start meeting new people in a place where all the faces will be new. The roommate I’ve been paired with works in a bookshop and will be coming to Vancouver from the other side of the USA. Her e-mails are friendly and it’s been fun getting acquainted. Here is a portion of our first e mail exchange, starting with my letter to her. Names have been omitted.

Thank you for reserving the room. I will be getting there Thursday afternoon sometime and staying till around noon on Sunday. The room sounds perfect.
I live in the mountains in Washington, so the trip to Vancouver is just a couple hours drive for me.
It will be so fun to be around people who love Jane Austen as much as I do. I think I drive everyone crazy when a new movie is coming out.

I'll tell you a little about me...
I have a husband and three daughters. Besides reading, I like oil painting, scrapbooking and other art crafts, but I never have time to do them. My favorite Jane Austen is Mansfield Park. Right now I am reading Emma again to get into the spirit of it all!
This October is also my wedding anniversary and my husband and I are going to Disneyland without the kids.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Here is a portion of her e-mail to me:

After a few details about contacting the Hotel she writes:
I can't think of anything that would make me an undesirable hotelroom-mate----I don't snore and I can't imagine that I will be coming in very late at night.

I live in ------------ and belong to the -------- JASNA group. I have not ever attended an Annual General Mtg. before so I am *quite* excited about going! I am an assistant manager of ------------- independent bookshop, and if you're curious you can see my "staff picks". They only list the most recent, so my review of "Persuasion" is not on there, but the ones listed probably give some small idea of my personality.

Let me know what you think & best regards,
Awesome Roommate. (I added that part----FTSJ )


My Response,
I read your reviews and they are great. The book shop has a very nice web page too, I'd like to add. But your reviews were interesting and yet concise, (something I have a problem with sometimes). I'm going to have to get 'The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane' for my 10 year old. She has read 'because of Winn Dixie' once but she actually LOVES 'Tales of Despereaux' and has read it three times.

I'm going to go out on a limb here since you called yourself a progressive, and tell you in the spirit of full disclosure that I am a hard core conservative, sitting here typing in my Reagan sweatshirt, and hope you still like me. I am very excited to just have a full weekend of Jane Austen, so we can just focus on what brings us together if you want. Or we can just be ourselves and consider it a cultural exchange. :) Maybe we could keep a blog.

I am currently reading Emma again in my spare time, so I'll be ready for October. I want to make a regency gown, but I'll have to wait till I get my kids in school to start work, so I hope I can finish. I'm also going to attach a pic so you can put a face to the rambling……..


Roommate’s Response:
She also sent me a pleasant picture.
I had to chuckle! I'm sure we'll have a great time --maybe we SHOULD keep a blog (though I confess I'm not sure how to do that). I tell you what: I'll forgive the Reagan sweatshirt if you'll forgive my cheeky "Republicans For Voldemort" bumper sticker on my car......

Anyway, you have a great brood there; it looks like a happy family.

I will have to start re-reading Emma soon. The last Jane Austen book I re-read was "Sense and Sensibility" and that was because I was involved in a community theatre production of a play based on the book. I was Mrs. Dashwood, of course. That was a great deal of fun! We performed scenes from it for the local JASNA chapter.

I was hoping to have a gown made, but time is slipping away and it may not happen. Good luck with yours, and I'll see you on Thursday Oct.4th.

So, my roommate appears to be very nice, and I think I’m a pretty good roommate too. I like to have fun and maybe even be a little silly, but I’m not wild and am pretty good at reading people and adapting myself to their situation and personality.
One great thing about the roommate is she is active in her local JASNA group. I admire that. Mine is sort of far and I haven’t ever gone, though I would like to do that sometime. OK, now I don’t know if I should say ‘my’ roommate or ‘the’ roommate. ‘my’ sounds a little teenager and possessive, and ‘the’ sounds a little aloof and wry. Maybe it should just be a title, The Roommate.
You also have noticed that since that exchange I have started the blog, (Since you are reading it), It was an idea I had bouncing around in my head and finally asked my husband and kids how to start. One of my daughters said I should have a Jane picture rather than mine as an icon. I thought that was for your own picture, but you see I am still learning the ropes. I’ll see if I can find one.
My daughter just made twelve teeny cookies in her easy-bake oven. They were actually quite good.
OK, that was a little writer’s break. Where was I….Oh! The other thing about the pictures, is that from the start I wanted to put up a lot of pictures from the Jane Austen AGM when I go, and now I don’t know if I can do it here or if they can only be 100x100 like the icons. I want to put up a lot of pictures, so I’ll have to figure it out and look at some other sites to see what they are doing.
That thing about the easy bake cookies made it sound like I ate all twelve. I did not- I only had one.

I talked to my Mom yesterday and she had just finished Mansfield Park for the first time. She was heading out with Dad to take Grandma for a drive, and visit some of my siblings who are all out camping over the Labor Day weekend.
Mom said it had been a while since she had read ANY Jane Austen and she didn’t remember it being so full of humor and irony. One example we talked about was Mrs. Norris, easily the cruelest character in the book, and yet so much humor swirling around her grumpy conversations. I love it! There is no one like Jane. The edition she read had a long introduction dealing with Austen’s use of symbolism, particularly relating the improvement of land to the improvement and education of people. We discussed this theme a little but I would like to have carried it a little further. The theme adds great insight into the book and the characters and I’ve heard it discussed in various essays, but through my almost annual reading of Mansfield Park I have noticed other themes that I never hear discussed, and If I don’t run across it after a little more review I’ll write it up and post it here for you. Fanny Price is an angel. How I would love to see her, true as written, in the movies, or even better, perhaps a miniseries. But who could write her? Who could play her? I’m tired of seeing Fanny Price reduced to a vivacious bustle of scheming defiance. So unlike her.
She asked if I had finished Austenland, which she gave me for my birthday. I did, and I liked it too. It was a lighthearted little romance that was only the slightest bit steamy. I don’t read a lot of the Jane Austen related novels. Even a quick perusing at the bookstore will show me the book doesn’t pass my ‘blush factor’ and I don’t read much beyond what would be a PG rating. Hot scenes don’t make up for the incisive wit and realistically crafted personalities that Jane Austen created.
Mom had also found a copy of Persuasion and might start that. She is a 1st grade teacher and now that their school is in I know she won’t have as much time to read. Still, maybe I can persuade her to read it, or us both to read it together and discuss it over e-mail.