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!
You’d think a single, rich dude was moving in next door, the way the Austen community’s buzzing with the news: the only Austen manuscript still in private hands, a fragment of The Watsons, is scheduled to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in July, with a predicted selling price of nearly half a million dollars.
What’s that I hear about five thousand a year? Maybe there’s going to be a ball!
As much as I like the idea of owning an Austen manuscript, I think I’d rather a public (or private-but-willing-to-share) institution end up with The Watsons. Sure, the prospect of a temperature-controlled, carefully lit glass case in somebody’s living room makes a certain amount of collector-ly sense (as much as temperature-controlled anything in the living room can make any kind of sense), but having a practically priceless manuscript around the house seems a bit like buying a pet iguana for a dog person. There’s no sticking the original Watsons in one’s purse and heading down to the park—no dog-earing the pages or underlining favorite passages, one hopes—and so any private owner is likely to do with the manuscript exactly what they would if they saw it in a museum: look at it, sigh over it, marvel at the illegibility of Jane’s handwriting, and yet imagine her at her impossibly tiny writing table, just like the rest of us. And so I don’t begrudge anybody the desire or the ability to purchase the manuscript privately, but it does seem to me that the amount of joy and wonder and inspiration it disperses into the world could be greater—not just spread more widely, but actually greater—than it could possibly be in the hands of one person, even a person who loves it $485,000 worth.
Readers? What do you think—would you rather see The Watsons come to a museum near you, or would you rather press your nose up against the museum in your very own library?
Lovely Jenn over at Citivolus Sus asked us whether she was the only Austenite who like beer. Well, I hardly think so. She even posted recommendations on which beers go with which books. I am, sadly, allergic to beer, but I do like to eat and drink (and travel), so here are my own recommendations on the right ambiance for each book. I won’t insist on Regency dishes. I won’t even go into the hardback/paperback split, and how the musky odors of old books bring out the woodier notes in certain pinot noirs, changing the whole dynamic. Just imagine Giles twittering on in the background, and making you read your Kindle only on the airplane, eating airplane food.
Northanger Abbey has a hard feeling, and such sharp edges and corners. So I see it as going well with Chinese food. I’m not particular as to the dish. Something spicy hot, perhaps with fermented black beans in it. You should drink lots of jasmine tea and get a really surreal Jane Austen fortune cookie afterward. Try to be in a restaurant that at least has Chinese people in it. No P.F. Chang’s, please. If the people are speaking Mandarin or some other form of Chinese, this is a bonus.
Sense and Sensibility: What a weird book, foodwise. There’s no doubt it can be unsettling to the stomach. I think a nice butternut squash soup. Or maybe Welsh rabbit. Orange food is called for, apparently. Orange juice? Sure. Maybe you should be in Orange County, too, whatthehey. Or in any one of these fine Orange places.
Pride and Prejudice: There is no wrong thing to eat or drink with Pride and Prejudice, right? And no wrong place to read it. For all that I have to say: No junk food. Do not insult Miss Austen with McDonald’s, or I will kill you. There are some things beyond even irony. If you must have a specific setting, I seem to see you in a wonderful Belle Epoque patisserie in Alexandria, sipping your tea and eating French/Egyptian sweets. It’s probably sunset or something, too.
Mansfield Park: Somehow, I see Mansfield Park as going best with Indian food. A good rogan josh and a steaming cup of chai make a nice counterpoint to the sometimes startling flavor of this book. You should be somewhere rainy. By the ocean.
Emma is a summertime book. Think a picnic lunch on the lawn, with strawberry shortcake. Please be nice to Miss Bates. Do try the cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, and make the Assam tea strong, with plenty of cream. As long as you sit in the sun, you may be anywhere you like.
Persuasion: This is also a book that makes me want to feel cozy and warm. It has, yes, autumnal overtones. A traditional Irish dinner followed by a really good whiskey, and some chocolate cake, maybe? Please curl up on the couch and enjoy a roaring fire while you read.
Lady Susan and The Watsons: You really should be absolutely drunk to read these, and possibly high on opium as well.* I don’t mean this in a bad way! Absinthe, I think, is the way to go. If you want to smoke a hookah and be in Istanbul as well, just to get the feel right, we’re down with that.
Sanditon: With its emphasis on health fads, I do see Sanditon as a breakfast book. You can do the straightforward hippie thing with yogurt and granola, or go all ironic with croissants and coffee. I seem to see you doing this in Paris, I don’t know why. Can you even get granola in Paris?
As a final note, I feel that all Jane Austen is most properly accompanied by chocolate. Dark, rich, delicious chocolate. Any other suggestions are optional. Readers, what do you think?
*Austenacious does not endorse the use of illegal drugs, even if they are picturesque. Note that absinthe is not illegal in the U.S. anymore. Yay!
Photo credit: ©Ed Yourdon. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
I took up my pen tonight intending to tell you all that “Jane Austen Loves Emoticons.” It would be a steep leap, I knew. She was not the girl for happy faces lying down beside her words. But—she was the woman for dashes—! Dashes of all kinds, & all sorts of other slapdash grammar by our standards;—Miss Osborne is going to go crazy when she sees this post. — She usually cleans up our punctuation. (That’s what you get for reading the blog-child of a writer, an editor, & a copyeditor.) But—Miss O—I’m saying lay off this one!—This is the homage to Miss A’s own crazy punctuation.
When I first read Lady Susan, The Watsons, & Sanditon as a teenager I was struck, by the plots, by the rawer picture they present as compared to the polish of the finished, longer works;—but also, by the punctuation. As a good little student, it had simply never occurred to me that punctuation could be a means of expression!—Not to mention the charming, erratic Capitals. Punctuation, until then, was a list of rules, not a playground.—So, I started Wildly Varying the style of my grammar, and even of my spelling. I used punctuation in my writing to indicate the Quality of different Types of Silences. . . the questioning silence —? . . . the shocked silence —! . . . the “I can’t believe my ears; how could you suppose I’d be so stupid” silence —?! . . . or —!? I even, you can see it coming, started drawing little happy faces beside my notes to indicate that I was being sarcastic (who, me?) . Though I never liked the winky face or the sad face; they seemed to me insincere at the time. Mind you, this was in the dark ages, back when I wrote LETTERS to people, and they wrote letters back to me. Now, everyone understands what those little faces mean.
It was Jane who taught me to play with punctuation, to make sentences read the way they sound in your head. Why then, am I not telling you that Jane Austen loves emoticons? — Two reasons: one, I have a feeling she’d think they were lazy (though maybe space-saving in letters); and two, flipping through my copies of the aforementioned works and the complete letters, I noticed that she uses dashes after almost, if not every sentence. — This is in addition to using them mid-sentence, and to using other ending punctuation after phrases and sentences.
What’s up with this? Was it a convention of the age, a stylistic peculiarity all her own, a device to make it easier to read cross-hatched letters, or what?—I sincerely hope some scholar of the age can enlighten the grammar geeks of Austenacious on this point, or we may be drowning in our own dashes. Though I have noticed scholars seem to fight passionately about editing Austen’s punctuation, so they may not have time for a simple question from the likes of me.
In the meantime, though I may edit other people’s work with the sparingness of modern punctuation, I reserve the right to be as profligate as I like with my own.