Monday, November 8, 2010

Brief Interruption...

I know, I know...I'm on break and not supposed to post, but I wanted to announce a giveaway on Stephanie's Written Word blogShe is giving away three copies of The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.  I am pretty excited about this book, since I loved her other book, The House at Riverton.  Check out Stephanie's great review, also.

Good luck!  Since there are three copies, I hope you win too! ;)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Blog is Now Officially on Mini-Break

I have to write this post because, if I do not, I'll keep just keep on posting when I should, instead, be working on my application to graduate school.   For those of you who are interested, I am applying to an MA in Humanities program with a concentration in English and Art History.  My tentative topic is:  Jane Austen, Social and Gender History, and the Home.  I am completely fascinated by the whole idea of marriage and the transfer of property in Jane Austen, and how the two intersect i.e. the woman being transferred as a sort of property in marriage.  I would also like to contrast this with the attitude of Austen's female characters towards the home, in general, and what home itself means to them.  Wish me luck, and I'll be back when I am finally done! ( p.s. I will still be commenting and checking my dashboard, so I won't be completely absent, just so you know. :) )

Friday, November 5, 2010

Culture Clash: In Pictures

Italian "Camping" in style
Tristan adapted quite well to Italy- he's been speaking Italian since we returned home in July

A Child's Mask from Venice

Gentleman in traditional garb- Graz, Austria

Iced Coffee and "Macher" torte in Graz
A Whole Plate full of Meat!!  Now how do I eat this?!  My gall bladder is screaming right now...

Must Americans make a sandwich out of everything?

Rabbits in your own backyard?  Visiting family in Hungary

Thermal spa in Hungary, or floating in a pond full of weeds!

Palenka! goes down pretty easily...

Hector, the family dog in Hungary-he was even part of the wedding procession until he got kicked out of church!  Poor Hector...

Cool!  Basketball in a Hungarian back yard

View from a Rest stop- Austria

Camping on Lake Garda

Pool at Camping with Afternoon Activity-locked in a see-through ball!

Ahhh!  Una Siesta...

Finally a decent cappuccino!  Lake Como

Risotto with shrimp and saffron- Bellagio

Jumping in Lake Garda with my Danish friends at camping.  Last day of the trip and oh so sad!
Viva Italia!
Buona Notte!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Everything Austen II Challenge Wrap-Up

Today, I'd like to wrap up the Everything Austen II challenge, so I can get on with the mini-break I will be taking, over the next week, or two.  I'll be leaving my blog for a little while to tie up some loose ends at home and prepare my application to graduate school.  I wanted to complete this challenge to the best of my ability at this point, and here are my results:

1. Lost in Austen mini-series-FINITO! 4 stars-see my review from Monday.
2. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict-Laurie Viera Rigler-FINITO! 3 1/2 stars-see my review from Monday.
3. Pride and Prejudice-a re-reading and re-viewing of 1995 film-I will be reviewing below. 5 stars, of course!
4. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
FINITO! 2 1/2 stars
5. Attend my first JASNA regional meeting in Rochester, NY (I wish I could have gone to Portland this year, but I didn't want to miss Halloween with my son!!) FINITO! 4 1/2 stars
6. Finish reading Becoming Austen by Jon Spence-not very motivated at this point to finish, and not sure I will!

This has been a great challenge, all-in-all.  It has definitely forced me, a person with not much patience for long term projects, to complete most, but, unfortunately, not all, my self-imposed tasks.  For those of you who have read my review of Lost in Austen and Rude Awakenings, you know that I enjoyed both takes on the same theme:  the interchange through some kind of time travel between the Regency era with our Modern one.  I have read Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattilo, but this didn't give me too much of an impression, so I won't review this one.  It is more of a fun novel for leisurely reading, and I find these days, that I really prefer something more intellectually stimulating.  Maybe at another point in my life, I will enjoy it more.

I did attend my first JASNA regional meeting in Rochester, NY this past month, and I was wowed!  Not only by the fact that there is a such a place to celebrate Jane, but by the fact that there are people out there with such an incredible knowledge of Jane Austen, almost bordering on encyclopedic! One particular attendee claims to have all of her writing memorized, and she took the opportunity on many occasions to "show her stuff".  What a resource she was!   Everyone was fully attentive, and the discussion was quite thorough and intense.  We discussed the issue of money in Austen's novels, which is one of the most interesting aspects of her novels, in my opinion.   I am so glad I made the hour-long drive to attend and spend a couple hours immersed in Jane's writing.

So, there are two items left on my list.  Becoming Jane by John Spence is still in the works, but, to be honest, I haven't touched it in a while.  It is a slow moving , rather dry biography, and right now, I have so many other books keeping my attention.  I do have until the end of the year, right?  Well, one can only hope.

The last item then on my list is the combined reading and watching of Pride and Prejudice-both the original novel and the 1995 film, written by Andrew Davies.  I have actually read the novel twice:  once in the form of her traditional novel format and the other an annotated edition by David  M. Shapard.  I loved both re-reading the novel (I had read it a few times previously) and reading an annotated edition.  I love Shapard's analysis of this novel, and it would be the book I give to someone who wants to read Austen, but never has before. I love some of his comments, and here is a good example:

Shapard gives us this note about Mr. Collin's proposal to Elizabeth:
pg. 199
            "It is significant that, amidst his lengthy explanations as to why he has decided to marry, Mr. Collins has said almost nothing in praise of Elizabeth herself; clearly she has little to do with his decision.  All this makes his next sentence, speaking of his violent affection for her, especially ludicrous."

Yes, "especially ludicrous" would be a good term to use for Mr. Collins.  He is always ludicrous and exasperating, and his proposal is him at his most foolish.  He is such a buffoon!  
I highly recommend Shapard's edition to anyone, whether you know Austen by heart, or have never heard of her before. 

So, lastly, we come to the film, the most celebrated of all the P&P adaptations:  the 1995 BBC film with a screenplay by the great Andrew Davies.  I think the majority of us will concur that this is the definitive adaptation, and it would be extremely difficult to improve upon.  I think one of the few criticisms I have heard about this film is the excessive masculine references added by Davies.  Yes, of course, these parts were not in the novel.  We see little of the male perspective in Austen's novels.  In my opinion, a film does not need to follow the novel word-for-word.  That is why it is called an adaptation for the screen.  The novel must be adapted to fit the viewing audience, and I think seeing things from a male perspective is a wonderful addition, especially Darcy's personal perspective, which I highly enjoyed!  

Another aspect I enjoyed about this particular film is the purely evil Mr. Wickham, played by Adrian Lukis. He is definitely the best Wickham I have seen:  so slimy, duplicitous, a true cad, and a very bad human being.  I feel sorry for the actor because he probably cannot get past this casting.  We will always know him as that awful Mr. Wickham. 

Mr. Bingley is also wonderfully cast.  He is so incredibly positive and friendly, and I think this is who Austen had in mind.  Lastly, and most importantly, the casting of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle as Darcy and Elizabeth is iconic, and cannot be touched, by anyone, anywhere.  The romance, the chemistry cannot be topped.  It is amazing to me that they are not married in real life, but I guess that is the true power of acting.

I do love the visual quality of this film, from the costumes to the landscapes and buildings chosen, especially Pemberley, but as far as the set design, I would give Joe Wright's film higher regards.  Wright's film is just amazingly rich and beautiful and the colors are exquisite.  The music as well, in this film, is perfect and cannot be improved upon.

But, having said this, when it comes to a Jane Austen film, especially P&P, what really matters are the characters and how they deliver her witty lines, how they interact with each other and bring her story to life.  So, I think that the 1995 film is the best and takes top honors, and prove me wrong, but it will always be the best ever made.

So, this is my wrap-up.  I may have to add to it, but right now this is what I have to say.  Happy Reading, Crafting, Viewing etc. Everyone!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jane News from the Blogosphere

Hot off the presses!
Laurel Ann from Austenprose posted today on her blog about Day 2 of the JASNA AGM.  Sounds like she had a wonderful time! I would have liked to hear Stephanie Barron speak.  I've never read her books, but she wrote an essay about writing that is the best I have ever read on the subject.  She also posted about Day 1, so click here to read more.  Oh, I am soo jealous!

Also, the blog Jane Austen Today compiled a list of all the first hand accounts out there.  Click here for the post with links.

Finally, Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, is having a giveaway.  Visit her website for more info.

Happy Voting today!  I know I for one cannot wait until this election is over and done with.  I can't take these campaign ads anymore!  Agggh!

Monday, November 1, 2010

And November Begins...

As much as I look forward to Halloween every year, I am excited when it is finally over.   The coming of November means that, finally, book-reading season is here.   The weather starts to get pretty chilly (today in Buffalo it is 41 degrees, and there will be snow by the end of the week), sweaters and scarves come out, and the fire begins to blaze.  What perfect moments await, snuggling in front of the fire with some great books!  Time to catch a little bit of solitude before the crazy holiday season begins. 

This week will be all about Jane Austen.  I would like to write a little bit about each of the items on my Everything Austen II challenge list.  I will also be honoring her by sharing anything I read out in the blogosphere about the Annual General Meeting in Portland that was held this weekend.

Today, I will be crossing two items off of my list:  The Lost in Austen mini-series, combined with Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler.

I watched Lost in Austen on YouTube, in ten minute segments of course, with french subtitles.  Quite an interesting way to watch it, but nevertheless, I was able to watch the whole thing in almost one piece.  I found the series incredibly funny and an interesting take on Austen.   When Amanda Price (played by Jemima Rooper) discovers a secret passage in her bathroom, she enters the fictional world of her favorite novel by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.  As Amanda meets all the characters in this fictional realm in many hilarious situations, she notices the plot start to change.  She spends the rest of the movie trying to fix these changes, so that the novel ends the way it was intended.  So, as not to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it already, I won't say how all her machinations work out, but I will say it is a great series, and I highly recommend it for any of you avid Austen fans out there.   4 stars

I'd like to start out by giving you the context of my reading of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.  I bought a paperback copy of the novel with the above cover in Toronto airport on the way to Venice.  I proceeded to read it during my entire summer trip from Venice, to Hungary, to the Italian Lakes.  I read it here and there, so I did not get much continuity from the novel.  I do remember finishing it poolside on Lake Garda, and the ending of the novel will always bring me back to that particularly pleasant moment.

I did enjoy this novel and now believe I would have enjoyed it even more if read in one long sitting, or over a couple days.  Since I didn't (I wanted to savor the book over the entire 2 1/2 weeks for my nightly read before bed. It is very difficult, to say the least, to find good English books in Italy.), my initial impression was lukewarm.  But, looking back, it was a wonderful read.  Actually these books had to have been pretty difficult for Rigler to write, and I admire her for writing them. And, I love that she attended my alma mater, the University of Buffalo!  I learned this from a recent alumni newsletter.

The main character, Jane Mansfield, a gentleman's daughter living in 1813 England, awakens in the body of Courtney Stone in 21st century Los Angeles.  Contrary to what most people say, the aspects of this novel I most enjoyed weren't the trials of Jane trying to adapt to our technologically advanced society.  I loved how Jane Mansfield uses her own particular strengths and point of view from her own life in another century  to succeed in our 21st.  I think what is most important about Jane's time travel experience is her awareness of both her lack of choice in early 19th century England, and her abrupt awareness of having too many choices in our modern world.  As Jane says herself, from pg. 265 of the novel, "I cannot deny that in the brief time I have been here, I have had more choices in a single day than I had in my entire life as a gentleman's daughter.  Choices of everything from what I might wear and how I might spend my day to how I could earn my living.  But the thing that I now know I want the most seems the farthest from my reach." And that "thing" turns out to be love.  This novel proves to the reader that attaining love is difficult no matter who you are, or what era you live in, or come from.

I would next like to find Rigler's other novel to compare it to Lost in Austen, and to see if it is as great as Rude Awakenings.  I give this one 3 1/2 stars after some reflection.  Reading Rigler gives me some hope for any other novels out there who claim to be continuations of Austen.  In my experience, there is a minefield of really bad books written using Austen's novels as a takeoff point, and I dread spending any money on them until I'm sure they will not disappoint me.

This was my first Everything Austen II review.  More to come this week....