Where Memory meets Therapy and lives happily every after.
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, Fences, Buried 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.**