Friday, December 04, 2009

Replacing Wine With Books

Last year at Christmas time I gave a book instead of wine as a hosting gift. (How's that for a nongender specific way of putting it?) I'm doing the same thing this year and to the same couple. I wanted to get them The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen because I got them something by M.T. Anderson last year, and I thought I might eventually make them into groupies. Plus I think Linoleum Lederhosen would make a great crossover book because of all the references to books adults read back when they were not adults. In fact, I wonder if it might go over better with adults than with kids for that very reason.

But the bookstore I was in didn't have it. It did have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I think is an excellent choice for a male/female couple because it is a truth universally acknowledged that women like Austen and men like zombies, right?


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Our Jane Is Still Making The News

My computer guy says that the question of what killed Jane Austen should be filed under the category "Who Cares?"

We do!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Even Better With Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith is just terrific. It's funny but not so overwhelmed by the running zombie joke as to make the story pointless.

I know there's nothing people hate quite so much as a woman getting all feminist political, but, nonetheless, I'm going to go forward and say that the zombie menace seemed to work very well in the context of the original Pride and Prejudice story because in Austen World the hunt for a husband is life and death, much like encounters with zombies. As I once read elsewhere (no idea where), as foolish as Mrs. Bennet is, with her obsession on marrying off her girls, she is also correct. Life without a man will be very grim for her daughters. Yet, once the hunting is done, and an Austen woman is married, life is pretty much over for her. In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the Bennet daughters, like many other upper class Britons, have all trained in the martial arts in order to fight for the Crown against the zombie menace. They have pledged to serve His Majesty until they "are dead, lame, or married."

And marriage, remember, is the good fate for women.

I wondered if this Pride and Prejudice and zombie mash-up wouldn't bring more readers to Austen. (We like to believe that that this is a classic read by teenagers, but I suspect many of them rent one of the movie versions.) Sure, Austen's portrayal of romance within a rigid world order isn't to everyone's taste. But who doesn't love zombies? Unfortunately, if you're already Austen-adverse, the zombies, no matter how endearing, may not be enough to win you over.

I suggested to my computer guy that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might be just the trick to get him to finally read...sort of...the Austen classic. He said that zombies didn't do it for him. "Now, if they'd worked it in with Star Trek..."

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Is Hardly Good News

Those of us who didn't care for him as a teenager are probably not going to like Holden Caulfield any better as a 76 year old. Evidently J.D. Salinger wasn't delighted to hear about this, either.

I like reworkings of classics, myself. But I prefer that they be classics I liked in the first place or find interesting for some reason. And I guess I also prefer that they be classics that are so old that the original authors are dead. If the authors are still alive, the revisionist work is treading on their turf. If they're dead, the reworking brings their work to the attention of new readers.

Just think of the new readers who are going to be exposed to Pride and Prejudice as a result of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I have a friend who reread the original just to get ready for the zombie book.

I might like Catcher in the Rye better if it included some zombies.

Training Report: Oh, woe is me. I lost four days of work what with the holiday weekend and errands and family stuff yesterday. I have a very hard time getting into flow again after something like that. I did manage to revise two segments for the 365 Story Project today and copy one over nicely onto my hard drive. And I did a few paragraphs on my new essay.

In 48 hours we'll be having another weekend!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vacation Reading: Book Three, Another Kind Of Fantasy

While I've done my fair share of reading of Jane Austen, favoring Pride and Prejudice like so many other readers, I can't say I get the love for Mr. Darcy that I'm always hearing about. Sure, I enjoy the I hate you, I hate you, I love you relationship between the P&P male and female leads, a formula that Austen may have created. But, seriously, Darcy doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun to live with to me, I don't care how many wet shirt scenes actors do while playing him. (Did anyone else think Pandering to the audience while watching that? Did anyone else think about how exploitative that scene--which does not appear in the book--would have been if it had involved a woman instead of a man? Nah, I guess not.)

I'm not all that interested in the romances Jane Austen wrote about. They're sort of beside the point to me. I'm interested in her. I like the sharpness of her observations, and the world she creates in her books. I like the way she makes me feel that there have always been women who stepped to another drummer.

All this build-up is to explain why I felt some reservations about sitting down to read Austenland by Shannon Hale, as my third vacation book. I've liked some of Hale's work, but other things I found "girly". Fairy-tale-like fantasies seem to be her turf, and though she often gave them a bit of a feminist, "girl-power" spin, they still seemed very "girly" for my taste.

But my attitude toward her work changed after reading Austenland, her adult novel about thirty-something Jane, a Pride and Prejudice junky who can't find happiness in love because of her obsession with Mr. Darcy. Now I see Hale as someone who is, indeed, attracted to what might be called fairy tale fantasies but who also looks at them and goes, "Oh, come on!"

For instance, Jane in Austenland inherits a week at what might be described as a very high class Jane Austen theme park--Austenland. Well-heeled women with Austen fantasies dress up in early nineteenth century fashions and live with Austen re-enactors, a number of whom are handsome men who develop Austen-like romantic relationships with the often middle aged clientele.

But unless this feminist of a certain age was reading too much into this tale, Hale doesn't just lay out a light-hearted romantic comedy here. She also raises the question of whether or not fictional romances have left many women readers disappointed in real men. (I know--there's a joke in here somewhere about real men actually being disappointing.) Her main character certainly comes to recognize the flaws in a real-life Mr. Darcy. Hale also points out how mind numbing life must have been for upper class women in Austen's world. All the early nineteenth century stock romantic novel characters end up disappointing. In fact, the guy who is playing Mr. Darcy only becomes interesting when he's not playing him, anymore.

I found the weakest part of this book to be the main character, Jane. She seemed wishy washy, always changing her mind about what she hoped to get from her Austenland experience, and never being very clear about any of her thinking. But she didn't matter to me, anyway. What I liked about Austenland was the sharpness of the observations and the world within the world. It was an interesting book from someone I now consider to be an interesting writer.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Maybe You Can Get Too Much Of A Good Thing

The Complete Jane Austen ended on Masterpiece last weekend. I still haven't finished watching the first episode of the last installment. I'm having a hard time getting up any enthusiasm for it.

I've read a number of Jane Austen books over the years, but I liked some more than others. And I read them over the years. When taking in all her work, even on-screen, in only a few months, it's hard not to notice that she's a bit predictable, what with the happy endings and love conquering all and what not. And while I've been a fan of Pride and Prejudice, reading the book twice, watching at least one film adaptation, this time I felt that maybe Mr. Darcy (who appears on many readers' Book Boyfriend lists) is kind of a pain in the arse.

I can't say I found Gillian Anderson's readings off the teleprompter all that stimulating as far as introductions are concerned, either.

All in all, it wasn't as exciting an experience as I was hoping for.


Friday, December 21, 2007

How Much Do You Love Jane Austen?

By this time of year, I am looking forward to my favorite month, January. Oh, the splendors of that quiet, winter month filled with quality nothing time! I can't say enough good things about it.

This January has its own special pleasures to offer. On Sunday, January 13, PBS will begin broadcasting The Complete Jane Austen. Every Sunday until the first week in April, you can find something Austeny on your TV.

And look! Scully will be our host! Can January get any better?

Why, yes, it can.

On December 30 and January 6 PBS is rerunning an excellent version of Jane Eyre. I loved it the first time it was on.

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