Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jane Austen Book Club; or, a total Jane Austen nerd fest in which I invite you to read with me

I saw the movie The Jane Austen Book Club a year, or so, ago. Of course, I liked it. I didn't love it, but it was a good movie, I would watch it again and that says something. One of my students wants to read Persuasion after seeing JABC.  I didn't discourage her, but I did warn her that it was a little different from the normal chick lit novels that I have seen her pull out of her bag on breaks from class. Persuasion was the first Austen novel that I read; long ago in one of my favorite undergraduate english classes. We read it alongside a gore fest of icredibly male books and plays: Titus Andronicus, The Crying of Lot 49, FencesBuried Child, and the Bacchae were all companion texts. The sort of hidden theme was family dysfunction. Persuasion was not my favorite after than class, instead I became obsessed with Crying of Lot 49, reading it close to 80 times in the next couple of years.  But, now, Persuasion is by far my favorite from that class.

 After talking to my student and promising to loan her a copy of Persuasion, I looked through my books and sadly, I only have Sense and Sensibility and Emma. I don't know what happened to the others. Suddenly, I realized that I hadn't read Austen for a long time. When I lived in London in 2002--or was it '03 hmmm, how quickly things are forgotten-- I bought a complete works and I read them in Hyde Park on weekends. There was something so lovely about reading Austen in London, although I have been told since then that it prolly should have been in Bath.  I left my book in London because I did not have room in my suitcase for such a large book.  I regret it now. Well, not as much as I regret leaving my favorite blue raincoat. But it is close.

The last time I read Austen was in a somewhat infamous UNR seminar on Satire in 2007. We read Emma and that experience resulted in a spirited discussion between myself and the professor in which he asked me to stay after class to talk to him. He told me that "that is how I hope seminar discussions will always go, well done." Which was flattering, but odd, considering that everyone else in the class thought I was being reprimanded. Praise in public. Chastise in private. Or not. I wrote a paper on Emma in that class in which I compared the social risks in Emma to the political risks in Gulliver's Travels. It was an okay paper. I wrote a similar paper several years ago compaing Emma to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I guess I like the idea of emphasizing the very real social peril that Austen puts her characters in. Something that many filmakers (Gwyneth Paltrow I am looking at you) forget or miss.

I am very interested in the Austen films. I try to watch as many different film versions of the books that I can. I watch the films whenever they are on Masterpiece Classic, although the latest ones were a little wonky. I love watching film makers try to add more and more romance with each ensuing version.  The Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice had more kissing than all the Austen books combined. One of my favorite Jane Austen movie references is when Liz Lemon on 30 Rock says she got rid of all her Colin Firth movies just in case the woman who is doing her adoption interview "thinks they are erotica." That P&P was far more smoldering with far fewer changes to the text. But really, it might be best if film makers understood that Austen isn't supposed to smolder... no, she really is more about longing and propriety.  But that is okay. I have to confess that I did love Becoming Jane. But, then maybe I just love James McAvoy, even if he could totally fit into my pocket. Now that film smoldered.

So, anyway, all this to say: I am going to nerd out on Jane Austen for the next couple of months. If anyone is interested in joining me, it would be really great to have someone to chat to. I am starting with Sense and Sensibility (because that is the book I have, and I will need to go find  (buy) the others).  Every Sunday, I will post a Jane Austen Post. Feel free to join me for Jane Austen comments, or if you have a blog post something too.  I am by no means a book snob, so comments and insights based on books, films and quasi-Austen films including Bridget Jones, You've Got Mail, the wonderful Bollywood Bride and Prejudice, and yes, even  Jane Austen Book Club are welcome.

Bonus points to anyone who begins using Approbation in everyday sentences.**

Oh...and one more McAvoy. Just for fun.


  1. This sounds like fun! And (I'm about to shock some here), I've barely read Austen. I have a few around here, but I might only have read Emma for said Satire class. I obviously need to read more, and reread Emma, because I totally didn't know the You've Got Mail reference. (By the way, I *loved* Shop Around the Corner. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I'll definitely one day put that back on my Netflix cue.)

    I'm on my way to the library in a few minutes and I'll pick up a copy of Sense and Sensibility while I'm there. (I might own a copy, but I can't find it if I do.)

  2. Oh, how I love James McAvoy. (and Jane Austen, but I want to focus on the guy for now :) ) About a year or so ago, Dr. M had an end of semester party at his place. His lovely wife asked us to name three actors we drool over. I am fairly certain I got some odd looks when I named James McAvoy, but that could have been in large part because I admitted that I was even attracted to him in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In that, he plays Mr. Tumnus, who is an, uh, faun. Yeah.

    If you haven't seen Penelope or the TV seris Shameless, try to do so. (If you subscribe to Netflix, Penelope is on the Instant Watch option.) They are both fabulous. (But be forewarned -- as I said, I adore James McAvoy, so I might be biased.)

    Sorry, I just want to add one more thing. I saw Wanted in the theatre, and the scene you posted above was so unexpected yet so delicious that I actually gasped out loud when he walked out like that. Yum.

  3. Okay, yet again, I'm so out of the loop. I don't know McAvoy. Yes, I've heard of him. I've also seen Penelope (which I also very much enjoyed and I'm glad to know that I can watch it through Netflix), but the name and the picture spark no recognition for me. I also remember the party and remember that being about the point where we completely shed our 'student' identities for the evening.

    Ms Kat: Carpenter writes about sacrifice (of the animals). She's quoting someone and stating something that isn't exactly obscure, but that made me stop and think. She, whoever Carpenter is quoting, points out that 'sacrificing' is to 'make sacred.' And, somewhere before that, she writes about thanking the animals for providing for her. I like this idea, but it is a difficult concept when I am so removed from the animals who become the meat I eat. I'm trying to be more conscious of where my food comes from though.

  4. Oh, I love me some Jane Austen... and some James McAvoy. If I have time, I'll give S&S a go this week.

  5. I read Sense and Sensibility for the first time a few months ago.. actually I don't remember exactly when it was, but I didn't like the ending. And I missed being able to talk to people about it so that I could get more out of it than just that. :P So, I'll pick it up today (there are certain advantages to working in a library).

  6. Yay for Jane Austen (and James McAvoy)!

    V- On the topic of animals, I don't think I would have the ability to see the whole sacrifice concept w/o having raised the animals and then been involved in the butchering process. I always knew they were essentially food, but we named them, played with them, fed them... so it was different.

    B-- Ha! I almost put up the Tumnus pic. I feel the same way. Yes, I have seen Penelope. I kind of love it. Becoming Jane used to be on the Netflix instant watch for a while too. I haven't heard of Shameless, I'll check it out. I didn't really like Wanted (too violent) but I have watched it like three times just cause I think McAvoy is so good in it.

    J-- Love to have you!

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  8. Anni-

    I responded to you about the films, and then went back and realized you were talking about the book. I haven't read S&S for a long time. I am finding it to be very different than I remebered. Looking forward to the ending-- then we can talk!

  9. Hah. I haven't seen the movie for years and don't remember it well--I'd say I'd watch it again but I never get around to movies :/

  10. Yes, the post-hype letdown...I get that. Cardo is bewildered by it and it wasn't until about a year ago that I knew other people I know experienced it also. I hope you had a great post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving and the comedown was slight if there at all.

    (And, Cardo is better. Thanks for the concern. I get to sleep in my own bed tonight! I should probably be doing that right now.)

  11. I think it was Prelude to a Kiss, but I can't be sure now, and without another word to me, he walked up to the counter and rented it. I just stood there and watched him walk to the car.