All right, Austen Nation, are you ready to do an awesome deed? Make some fellow book nerds’ days? Maybe wallpaper your home with beautiful handmade Austenian paper goods? Dare I say it…CROWDSOURCE?
(Ick. “Crowdsource.” Sorry.)
Whatever. Jarrett Morrison of The Bowler Press and Alanna Simenson of the Mad Hatter Book Binding Co. are raising $20,000 to fund their project of hand-setting a new letterpress edition of Pride and Prejudice—the whole thing, 138 copies, three volumes each, entirely produced by hand. Let’s just say…that’s a lot of letters to press.
Got $2 to give? They’ll love you forever. $50? They’ll send you a copy of the first page for your framing/gazing-at pleasure. And if you’re one of those lucky folks with a spare $2,950 lying around, they’ll happily send you one of twenty-four deluxe editions of the novel, bound in full bookcalf (here I nod with deep understanding, pretending to know what that means). Help ‘em out! You might get a super awesome bookmark out of the deal, and you’ll help spread the gifts of 1) Jane and 2) beautiful bookcraft!
(Seriously, if anybody buys the actual books, do let us know. We want to interview you. By which we mean come over to your house and invade your space and hover over your practically priceless new literary work of art. Without drooling, because that would be bad for the books. So….call us!)
In any case, you’ll want to watch the video, especially if phrases like “hand-carved woodcut illustrations” and “multicolored frontispiece” and “matching slipcase” get your motor running. (Have we ever told you, dear readers, that the Beloved Sisters met in publishing?) There’s a whole lot of coolness happening here, and you should check it out. JANE WOULD. THERE, I SAID IT.
Have at it, people!
This week, only 13 years late: BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth!
As many of you know, I first saw this a few weeks ago. There’s nothing like some good MST3K time with my beloved sisters. But, I have to admit, I came out of it pretty meh. I am not the adoring fan that I know so many of you are. I can see why you love it! I can see it as a good intro to Austen. And I didn’t hate it. But it wasn’t enough to sway my persnickety self from the 1980 version, and, so much better than both, the book itself. Deep thoughts:
- It’s pretty close to the book, lots of word for word, even if they did leave out some of my favorite lines. Though the post-Lydia-eloping part gets really compacted in this version. Seems like all the characters do is get in and out of carriages.
- I actually liked the scene-setting parts that aren’t in the book—showing the countryside and town and all. You get a better sense of their world.
- Plus I liked Jennifer Ehle better than I thought I would! I thought she would be too sappy; she was not too sappy. Check.
- You want to talk Colin Firth? OK, let’s talk Colin Firth. Sure, he’s tall and cute, but he’s wooden. (Ha ha, get your minds out of the ha-ha, kids!) By which I mean he stares at Lizzie in a frankly creepy way for 3/4 of the movie. I’m spoiled by already having seen him in A Single Man and The King’s Speech, and I say he could tear the part up now 10 times better than he did it then. (Apart from being too old, and what do we think of Helena Bonham-Carter as Lizzie? . . . OK, back to 1995.)
- Let’s talk more Colin Firth! Why do we call it “the Colin Firth version?” Is fans’ love of this version simply based on the Firthy Goodness (thank you, Miss Osborne)? Is it because we’re not sure how to say “Ehle”? (AY-lee, I think.) I’m curious. Because she is after all the star, though this version does try to bring him closer to stardom than Jane put him, by showing us his Inner Feelings, and his butt, and his famous wet shirt. Thoughts?
- Jane Bennet is all wrong. No one thinks she’s prettier than Lizzie. (And she has a thick neck.)
- It was kind of amusing at first, but it grated on me more and more that all the supporting characters were seriously exaggerated from the book. Any complexity in them was left out, and they were all completely one-dimensional. It makes them more fun to laugh at and all, but it does hurt the story. I mean, who would really believe Miss Bingley was their friend? She’s totally scary! And Mrs. Bennet always shrieking flattens the drama and believability of her crazy mood swings. Etc.
So, as I said, some mixed feelings. However, at least I now know what all you crazy kids mean when you say “No one wants your concertos here!” and “Lord, I’m so fat!” And that is a comfort.
I know Mother’s Day was three whole days ago. My mom and I spent the day together—in Idaho, in fact—until I got on a plane and she and my dad hopped in the car and started driving to California. But it seems that 2012 is the Year of Mom and Jane Austen, and so here we are. It’s Wednesday, but hey, I can still talk about my mom.
I mentioned it briefly during the read-along, but my mother read Mansfield Park along with the rest of the Austen Nation. (She even commented semi-anonymously, like the ninja she is, on one of our read-along posts! Can you spot the rogue parent?) It was her first time—not just her first time reading The Chronicles of Fanny and her Ha-Ha, but her first time reading Austen, period. Shortly afterwards, she joined my Beloved Sisters and me for the second half of Pride and Prejudice and immediately absconded with Miss Osborne’s DVDs, which were apparently better than the identical set that lived on her daughter’s bookshelf from late 2009 through the middle of 2011.
People, I think we have a new member of the cult. I mean, family.
According to mom, that Henry Crawford wasn’t such a bad guy until the whole wife-stealing thing. That was unexpected, but anyway, Maria and Julia weren’t very nice anyway. But before that, why was she so set against him? HE WAS NICE. And why do they call this a romance, again?
Also, Mrs. Bennet is hilarious and having to choose between never speaking to her mother again and never speaking to her father again is great. But is Jane supposed to be prettier than Lizzy? Because that woman looks like a man. And wait, what actor is that? Oh, right, Colin Firth. I liked him in The King’s Speech.
Rumor has it she might pick up Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice (the novel) (though I keep trying to press the Keira Knightley movie on her, for Colin Firth/Matthew McFadyen comparison purposes) next. I promise to stand supportively by, books in hand. Happy reading, Mom!
What is Mother’s Day without fondly remembering the times when our mothers were looking out for our best interests? Mrs. Bennet certainly took great pains to ensure the future happiness of all of her daughters. When Jane asked for the carriage to visit the Bingley sisters, Mrs. Bennet replied, “No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night.” Always thinking ahead, that Mrs. B. And she wasn’t wrong, was she?
To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, I have collected some wisdom bestowed on me and my friends by our dear mothers.
On marriage prospects…
• When you get on the plane, you have to be nice if there is a man sitting next to you. He might be single and marry you.
• The entire family is going to fast for one meal every day until you find someone and get married.
• After receiving an email saying I was dating someone, her response was, “I’m so happy! I’ve been praying for this for so long!”
On personal safety…
• No, you can’t go to the New Kids on the Block concert. If you were to go to a concert, you’d probably stand up on a chair to see better. Then you might fall off the chair and break you neck!
• Whatever you do, don’t try on clothes in a Parisian boutique. If you do, you will be abducted and sold into white slavery in Saudi Arabia! I read about it in a magazine.
On the lack of hardiness of subsequent generations…
• Your Great Grandmother Lizzy would wipe her arse with a broken gin bottle.
On becoming a lady of musical accomplishment…
• Don’t bother playing those country songs. Just scream rock ‘n’ roll and kick up your leg and shake your bum!
On the importance of an heir…
• Just get pregnant, you don’t have to get married. I want great grandchildren.
• What? Why would you adopt? You don’t know where that baby came from! If you can’t find a husband, just go out and get pregnant. (Note: This occurred when I was in my 30s.)
On appropriate clothing…
What with Miss Ball’s recent Mansfield Park deflowering, (and some of you got deflowered along with her, I know), it’s been a confessional little old time over here at Austenacious. And since they say confession is good for the soul . . . or catching, at any rate . . . I too have a confession to make. I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice!
Ha, ha, no, psych! I’ve read all Jane Austen’s major books many times, I’ve read Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon each more than once, I’ve read Jane’s History of England—I’ve even read the Juvenilia, which are pretty hilarious and a lot less refined in more than one way, if you know what I mean. I’ll admit that I haven’t yet read the complete Letters, but that is not my deep dark secret. No, gentle readers, the secret that I have hidden from you all this time . . . is that I have never seen the 1995 BBC Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice. Nope! Never seen him jump into the lake even once! (How do I know he jumps into a lake? Have you met yourselves at all, AustenFirth fans??)
“But how can this be, Mrs. F?” I hear you cry. “Were you not raised by a good, Austen-lovin’ mamma?” Well, I was. But those were different times, and I was raised on the clean, wholesome 1980 BBC version, always dear to my heart. I did see 2 minutes of the 1995 version when it first aired, and, bear with me here, I thought Jennifer Ehle was far too sappy to be Lizzie. No Colin Firth onscreen, and I didn’t stick around.
Well, that was 1995 and this is 2012. And here I am, ready to give this another try. Miss Ball and Miss Osborne will be on hand to laugh at my ignorance. And if you haven’t seen the Colin Firth version recently, say this year, you can laugh along with them! We’ll be liveblogging Pride and Prejudice this coming weekend:
4/28, 12-3 pm, PT: Episodes 1-3
4/29, 12-3 pm, PT: Episodes 4-6
Will my curmudgeonly heart stay true to Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul, or will I be swayed by the wet, billowy cotton of Colin Firth? Stay tuned! And come on, I know you all need a refresher course, right? I mean, can you think of a better way to spend the weekend?
See you on Saturday!
Thanks to Mr. Miller for pointing us to Lizzie’s new video blog. Can’t wait to see how it comes out! (Re the statistics on single men of good fortune, see our informal sample. Regression analyses to come. Or possibly not.)
(Click here for video.)
Send us your questions! Mrs. Fitzpatrick knows a lot of stuff, useful and useless alike. “Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick” will answer anything related to the world of the books, the books themselves, P.G. Wodehouse, math, or Star Trek. Jane Austen (deceased) will comment on your personal problems in “What Would Jane Do?” Write to us using the contact form on the About page. We’d love to hear from you!
Ms. Parvate asks: How early can I read Austen with my daughter? She turns 10 next month! And which book do you suggest as the first one?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick answers: Way to go, Ms. Parvate! We like your spirit! The young ones, female and male alike, should be introduced to the great Miss Austen as soon as possible. Still, I have to say I think 10 is probably a little young, even for Miss A, who I know is precocious. (All daughters of Austenite mothers are precocious—well-known fact.)
Anecdotal evidence indicates that 11 is probably a good time to start, and that you and Miss A can’t go wrong with Pride and Prejudice. This is a good general theory, but we can refine it with a little insight into your daughter’s character.
- Is she contrary as all heck, like me? If so, not letting her read the book, while showing her that you enjoy it, may ultimately make her more of a Jane Austen fan.
- Jane’s language is a bit of a tall order for a 10-year-old. Does Miss A eat long sentences for breakfast? If not, it will help if she has some idea of the story first. So you could show her some adaptations this year. (Cue furious debate on which ones!)
- However, watching the movie first does take away some suspense. Do we want to deprive her of the true full satisfaction of the ending? I mean, to adults it may seem obvious how Pride and Prejudice will turn out, but I devoured that ending as a girl. It was touch and go there, when they come back and Bingley is trying to propose! I mean, I was worried Darcy wouldn’t make it!
- If Miss A does read at a very high level, then I’d say you can go ahead. How is she on P.G. Wodehouse? If she reads Bertie Wooster stories after school every day, she’s probably ready for Jane. If she doesn’t, well, why doesn’t she??
- I’m going to throw in a good word for Northanger Abbey here. This might have been my first Jane Austen book, and look where it’s gotten me . . . . The heroine is a bit younger, the satire is a bit broader, and the nuances are a bit less nuanced. Especially if Miss A has any sort of gothic background (as which tween girl in these vampire-ridden days does not?), she might relate more to gawky geeky Catherine Morland than cool poised Elizabeth Bennet. Just a thought.
So there you have it, Ms. Parvate. Let us know how it turns out. It’s exciting to think of reading Jane Austen for the very first time! Kinda makes me want to get out my book right now!
P.S. Even though Miss Ball is hosting an Austenacious read-a-thon of Mansfield Park right now, I do not recommend that until Miss A is much older.
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from everywhere else match wits and fists for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “The first rule of fight club is, we don’t talk about Mr. Darcy” t-shirt and possibly some Regency medical care for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!
Today’s contestants: Lady Catherine “You’re in MY House Now” de Bourgh, patroness to Mr. Collins and owner of many a fine staircase, and Violet “We Can’t Have Him Assassinated…I Suppose,” the Dowager Countess of Grantham, matriarch of matriarchs and subject of many a Youtube mashup. Both get whatever they want! Both enjoy lording it over their inferiors—i.e., everybody! When they put up their dukes, whose pride will prevail?
In their corners:
The Dowager Countess of Grantham has a big-ass house, a large and accommodating family, and a stare that would melt steel. She’s Maggie Smith. She wears excellent hats and says whatever she wants, and the Internet loves her for it. She always wins the flower show…if you know what we mean.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh also has a big-ass house, plus a dreamy nephew. She hosts a mean dinner party. She says whatever she wants, and nobody says otherwise. She does whatever it takes to get what she wants.
The Dowager Countess has a granddaughter who killed a Turk with her lady parts, the constant glare of electricity burning her delicate eyes, and a bunch of random, sick commoners sleeping on cots in her parlor. It’s rather too much to bear, one thinks!
Lady Catherine? Two words: MR. COLLINS.
This is bound to be a down-and-dirty brawl, but the Dowager Countess takes it all: the crazy but compelling family, the edgy sense of humor, and the Internet obsession. This, of course, indicates an inevitable rematch, because Lady Catherine does NOT take this business lying down. (She might, however, settle for marrying her sad, sickly daughter off to Matthew. Because THAT’s going to go over well.)
Jane and data mining: could there be a less appealing hobby to do with a more appealing subject?
Microsoft scientist Matthew Hurst has combined our favorite topic with perhaps our least favorite topic to create something downright cool (and not inappropriate for my art-starved new apartment, hint hint): visualizations of various novels, notably Pride and Prejudice, with certain key terms highlighted and color-coded. Need to know exactly how many times Mr. Collins makes his most awkward appearance in P&P? You’re in luck: Hurst has highlighted the relevant paragraphs in purple, notable (though not readable) at a glance. He’s also done Emma and Churchill (turquoise) and Sense and Sensibility and Willoughby (yellow); apparently he has a fondness for the non-hero. Which I, being a bit of a closet fan of Mr. Collins, certainly am in no position to judge.
Enjoy, all you modern-design-obsessed, Austen-loving mathletes! I know you’re out there.
Do you ever wonder whether or not (if you have children) your children will grow up to be like you at all—in personality and tastes? I’ve always feared I would have a kid who uses bad grammar, hates reading, and loves the Yankees. One can only hope some of the things we love can be passed on and shared. Recently, one of my girlfriends introduced her 11-year-old daughter to Jane Austen. Here’s a compilation of our FB conversations.
Mrs. Light: To counteract Mr. Light’s ST:TNG summer marathon, I started Mags on Jane Austen movies. Mansfield Park was first—loved it…then Sense and Sensibility, then Emma. Now we are 3 episodes into P&P…she’s addicted. Last night it took away the night-before-school-start jitters. All she could say was, “Darcy is a jerk! Can we watch another tomorrow?” She tried to read Sense at the beginning of the summer. I think seeing the movie will ease the language for her.
Miss Osborne: That’s terrific! And yes, Darcy is a total jerk…in the beginning…
Mr. Light: No! THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!!!!
Miss Osborne: I heard there were 5 lights.
Mrs. Light: Tonight it all changed…@ Pemberley. Episode 4: I could see it in Mag’s face…suddenly Darcy’s lookin’ good…
Miss Osborne: I think you’ll need to also do a viewing of the short movie with Matthew MacFadyen…just to see what her thoughts are on a different version of P&P.
Miss Osborne: And yes, who wouldn’t be impressed with Pemberley? (“Does the young lady know the master?”)
Mrs. Light: I couldn’t accept him…too sad looking and altho greater in stature than Firth, no where near as grand…or SEX-SAAAAAAA!
Miss Osborne: I like MacFadyen from the early years of MI-5, but clearly he’s no match for HisRoyalFirthyGoodness.
Mrs. Light: I think Firthy has a permanent Darcy-shaped corner in an incalculable number of women’s hearts.
Mrs. Light: Add one 11-year-old girl’s.
Miss Osborne: Inquiring minds want to know…what does Mags think of the massive Regency sideburns?
Mrs. Light: After Mansfield (which was the fashion shock), she laughed a bit at Sense and the sideburns. Had to get over Snape being Colonel Brandon—and me swooning over him. By Emma, she was used to the hair—and the weird man pants and the bonnets. If anything she is starting to say which dresses are pretty and which aren’t.
Mrs. Light: I think Firthy has won her heart.
Miss Osborne: I just LOVE it! When she’s old enough, she should see Truly Madly Deeply to see Alan Rickman in a romantic role. (Tho, of course, I love him in Die Hard and that stupid Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, too.)
Mrs. Light: If I were Maid Marion, I would have pillaged the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Miss Osborne: Hahahaha! Dirty.
Mrs. Light: Oh! And she is already dissecting Jane’s plot construction and making predictions based on what she knows of how she writes about society…I may explode with joy!
Mrs. Light: It’s fabulous to hear her say, “Please…one more episode!”
Mrs. Light: We watched the rest of P&P yesterday, picking up back at the inn at Lambton when Darcy brings Georgiana to meet Lizzy. Mags was done—cooked—totally smitten with Mr D. All of the gazing back and forth…I’m so happy that this is her introduction to what “romance” is. (Yeah yeah…I know I won’t being hearing from Gloria Steinem.) Mags was outraged by Lydia running off with Wickham. Brighton must have been the Jersey Shore of it’s day, and Lydia is Snookie. It all unwinds too quickly at the end. We both longed to savor the moments when Lizzy concedes her love for Darcy. The final stroll when she tells him…Mags said, “They didn’t kiss! When are they gonna kiss!?” Then they do, and it’s over, and she said “NOOOOOO! It can’t be over! What happens next? I want to see what else happens to them!” Don’t we all?
And there you have it…one girl’s introduction to the world of Jane Austen!