Are you in or near San Francisco? Do you like people talking about Austen? Do you enjoy dancing on tables? Oh, wait.
LitQuake is coming, and Janeites from near and far (probably mostly near) are gearing up for Jane Austen A Go Go: The Enduring Appeal of Jane Austen, otherwise known as A Panel. We love panels! Get ready to talk Austen with Karen Joy Fowler, Kirke Mechem, Sandy Lerner, and Elizabeth Newark. We are!
What we’re saying is, you should go, ask some questions, drink some tea, and absorb the ambient Janeosity. Miss Osborne and Miss Ball will be there (not onstage), and we’d love to see your pretty/handsome faces!
When: Tuesday, October 9, 6 p.m.
Where: Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter St.
The event listing says there’ll be tea, but we’re bringing our white boots and miniskirts just in case.
Readers, you’ve got to know: we at Austenacious read what might be considered a lot of Jane Austen stuff on the internet. For everything that appears on this site, there’s an awful lot that doesn’t make the cut—and it’s all due to that wonder of the postmodern world, the Google Alert. The whole concept of this is pretty mind-boggling, when you think about it: every time anybody anywhere says anything about Jane Austen, we know about it. That’s insane! But what is equally insane to me is this: fully a quarter of the links that come through our inboxes have something to do with stage productions of Austen works, usually Pride and Prejudice.
My Beloved Sisters and I saw some live-theater Jane action once, in opera form at a weekend workshop at San Francisco State University. It was delightful, and we all came out wondering why nobody’s made their millions on Universally Acknowledged: The Musical, or whatever. So it’s not the concept or the general appeal that confuses me, exactly; it’s just that I have so many questions! Such as:
- Are there really that many theater troupes doing Jane at one time? I mean, I love Pride and Prejudice as much as (probably more than) the next girl, right? But the numbers on this just seem unreal. It’s gotta be some kind of conspiracy. By which I mean a conspiracy of sweetness and relational equality, but still.
- Is it all the same play? There are two options here, more or less: either somebody wrote the definitive Pride and Prejudice stage adaptation and I missed it, or many, many people have written un-definitive versions and are having them performed worldwide. This seems like a bizarre duplication of effort, but hey. More playwrights making it, I say! Congratulations to all of you! Enjoy your name in lights!
- Musical, or no? I’m just saying: I need my singing Mr. Collins, stat.
- Why has Jane On Stage never made it to the big time? If that many people in Cleveland/Yorkshire/Manitoba/Tallahassee are making the regional/local/village-wide production worth it, just think how many tickets Broadway could sell! I’m calling it out now: I don’t know who Neil Patrick Harris is going to play, but we’ll get him in there somewhere.
Readers, have you ever seen a Jane work on the stage? Please advise.
Recently I went to a conversation between William “Bill” Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, and Karen “Karen” Joy Fowler, author of Jane Austen Book Club. There were about 15 of us there at Books, Inc in Berkeley, and OK, it was almost a month ago (don’t you just love instant reporting on the Internet?), but it was really cool! It was like hanging out with all you dear readers, all of us gabbing about Austen, all of us being surprised at just how differently we see the books. One of those, you know, life metaphors.
Here’s a few of the things we talked about. And because I think of you all as my Jane Austen friends, I’d love to hear what you think about any of them.
- The way that the humor of the books is generally lacking in the movies, and if this could be remedied. I and a few others said, yes, it could, but those movies would not be the rather swooshy pink rom-coms lots of people want from their Austen films. (Talk about irony . . . .) How you would do this I’m not sure, being better at watching movies than making them. Any ideas out there?
- Secularism in Jane Austen—how church and religion are hardly ever mentioned in her books, yet she was the daughter of a clergyman, etc, etc. And how the clergymen run the gamut from Edmund Bertram and Edward Ferrars to Mr. Collins and back again. Now my own take is that church and the clergy were such a ubiquitous part of Austen’s life that she hardly ever thought to comment on them, and that she saw the clergy in particular as just a bunch of guys. What do you think?
- Bill said that widowhood and loss are a theme in Persuasion. I’m not so sure. He pointed out that most of the characters are widows or widowers, which is true. Anne’s loss of Captain Wentworth and other losses do play a role, but as Miss Ball argued, the recovery of love and happiness is crucial to the book (and is significantly lacking in widowhood). And the way Austen treats the widows and losers of Persuasion, other than Anne, is not really very sympathetic. Like the clergy, I would venture to say that they were just more common in an age of earlier deaths. But it is an interesting thought.
- So was Karen’s comment that Mrs. Smith is a rather sinister character—she doesn’t tell Anne how wicked Mr. Elliot is until after Anne declares she won’t marry him. This is a common problem in friendship, though, isn’t it? In my own circle I know of two instances of one person on the brink of a disastrous marriage and their friend deciding whether or not to say something. One friend did, the other didn’t (having already made her opinions known). It didn’t make a difference in either case, and both couples are now divorced. Aside from the fact that it had never occurred to me that Mrs. Smith was sinister, this discussion pointed out parallels in Austen’s books to my own life that I hadn’t even thought of!
- One person asked how reading Jane Austen has enlivened your life. Do you think and act differently because of her? Karen said she suffered fools better than she used to, enjoyed them even! And Bill said she’d made him able to admit the possibility of his being wrong. For myself, I think that I started reading Austen young enough (~13) that she helped shape my entire outlook on life, both my morals and my ever-present sense of irony. Though I also simply felt that I had found a friend.
What about you? How has reading Jane Austen enlivened your life? Has she changed you?
Photo credit: ©2000 by Sean Dreilinger. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
Is it just me, or do you get the tiniest twinge of excitement when you hear something about the upcoming royal wedding? When the subject comes up around anyone around my age or older, we reminisce about getting up in the wee hours to watch Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981. Diana wore the puffiest of puffed sleeves, the likes of which would make Anne Shirley swoon with delight! She was so young and lovely, and I wanted to be a princess just like her! Of course, now I think the dress is sort of hideous, and we all know what a disaster the marriage turned out to be.
Even in Jane Austen’s time, the royals weren’t so good at marriage. Apparently, while George IV was just a young prince, he secretly married a woman named Maria Fitzherbert, who was not only a commoner, but also Catholic. Big no-no considering he wouldn’t be able to become king if he were married to a Catholic (fun fact: the Act of Settlement 1701 is still in effect today!), nor could he marry without the king’s consent (which he didn’t have). Eventually, his crazy dad (King George III, see also “Madness of…”) promised to help pay his debts if he married his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. I don’t know if it’s just that she was German, that she was his cousin, or perhaps that she wasn’t particularly easy on the eyes, but they didn’t get along. Things were so bad that in an act of extreme turdiness, he banned her from his coronation. Through the years, George continued his relationship with Maria Fitzherbert, as well as many other mistresses.
I hope for much better relationship between William and Kate—and, despite the odds being against marital harmony, I can’t help but get excited about their wedding. Clearly, I’m not alone, otherwise we wouldn’t have the wedding artistically recreated with Legos or replica engagement rings coming out the wazoo. I am rooting for them, and I wish them the best as I share their joyous occasion along with millions around the world! I’ll be the one wearing the “I (heart) Prince Harry” t-shirt.
Guess what we got you?
JAAAAAAAAANE INNNNNNNN SPAAAAAAAAAACE!
(Okay, more like JAAAAANE IN THE SKYYYYYY!, but bear with us.)
Happy Jane’s Birthday, everybody!
Photo credit: Erica Martinson © 2010
Greetings, my excellent friends, old and new alike! Austenacious had a fab time at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday! It may have been 100° F in the shade, but we enjoyed chatting with Austen fans and other book lovers. We wished for some wholesome English rain, so we could be picked up by the beautiful people passing by, or at least cool off a bit, but whatthehey. At least Empire waists are back in style, and fans and parasols too.
We also had hours of quiet enjoyment watching small children and big children create dioramas using our Jane Austen action figures. We even got complimented on our antique toy collection. (Most common remark from passersby: “Look, a rubber chicken!”) The late Mr. Fitzpatrick had three rubber chickens, all of whom assisted Miss Austen at the fair, as did Strawberry Shortcake, the villains of G.I. Joe, and certain handsome Starfleet officers. What we say is, why limit yourself? And you evidently agreed with us, because Jane certainly had an interesting day! So, we are asking for your help. Use your imaginations! What’s Jane up to in these parallel existences, and should we be afraid? Please tell us, in each picture, what in the world is going on. The sky’s not the limit! Thank you so much.
All photos ©2010 Heather Dever or Christine Osborne. All rights reserved.
Attention, California peeps! Do you like books? How about fairs? Are you in favor of the celebration of literacy coupled with a festive atmosphere and tents full of fried food? What about celebrity authors, group Jedi training, public letter-writing, and pet psychics?
Have we got a deal for you!
Austenacious will be at the West Hollywood Book Fair this Sunday, all day long! We’ll be the ones with the black-and-white sign, the small army of Jane action figures, and the super-scientific documentary film (starring a number of single men; good fortunes and wife-want TBD). Come! Chat! We foresee a good time had by all—booth B5 is where the party’s at.
(Please excuse the colloquial use of the sentence-ending preposition. Kids these days.)
If Austen’s not your thing—in which case, you seem to have taken a wrong turn somewhere—it turns out that thirty thousand people aren’t coming to WeHo just for some Action!Jane time and the Austenacious red carpet. Apparently, the canny reader can find whole genres represented, without an Empire waist or enviably happy ending in sight—in short, it’s a wonderland! We’re talking eight author panels, three live theater/poetry/storytelling/reading stages, a teen stage, a whole day’s worth of writing workshops, and enough off-stage hijinks for a capital-a Adventure—and it’s all FREE. Consider yourself out of excuses.
See you there?
Details:West Hollywood Book Fair Sunday, September 26 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. West Hollywood Park 647 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood
Hello, lovely readers! Please come out and support us and reading at the West Hollywood Book Fair on September 26! We will be in hanging in booth B5, chatting up Austeneers, zombie fans, and even Brontëites. We’ll also be premiering our premiere film, working title A Truth Universally Acknowledged. You may remember that we shot this at WonderCon, but production has been, um, delayed . . . to make you that much more excited . . . not because we got busy or anything . . . . Anyway, it will be so satisfying to have real data on this question at last! Bringing science to Austen, that’s us.
In the vein of films about books (has that been done at all?), check out the Book Fair’s awesome PSA on reading! Too bad they couldn’t fit Jane in, but maybe next time.
Photo credit: Used by permission from the West Hollywood Book Fair.
We have spoken before about Jane Austen’s individualistic punctuation. Many of us feel that Austen’s incessant dashes, and other weird habits were ebullient—that we’d like to be as free as she was, even if our ever-copyediting hearts might tidy things up a little bit for other people.
Now there is a fracas afoot regarding Austen’s punctuation! Word on the street is that two chapters of the original manuscript for Persuasion will be on view at the British Library from November 12 to April 3 as part of the Evolving English exhibit. (Hey everyone, field trip!) Well, there has been back and forth about Miss Austen and her punctuation. Here’s Roger Walshe, curator of the exhibit:
Austen hardly punctuates at all, so what you get is a much more urgent form of language which becomes more restrained when it is edited. There tends to be an awful lot of clauses and sub-clauses. There is the odd comma, but they aren’t always in the most rational places. There are no paragraphs. It’s like she’s telling a story rather than writing one. The amazing thing is that there are so few corrections. You can imagine her thinking through a scene and then rushing to write it down. That’s possibly why the dialogue works so well, and why [film adaptations] are so successful.There is a real sense of urgency – more so than the slightly more restrained form you get from the novels.
This has led to snide comments about people’s comma usage and spirited rebuttals about artistic license (which take a comment of Walshe’s quite out of context). I’m kind of expecting that we’ll next see something about Jane Austen being the foremother of lolspeak and generally informal writing habits online, like abbreviations and the elongation of words to suggest tones of voice. (I feel impossibly elderly writing that, but wtf, i can roflol all night looooonnngggg. Righhhhtttt.)
All I’m saying is, I love to see a good comma fracas, and especially one where Our Girl Jane takes center stage! People getting passionate about language, that’s what we need! I hardly even care what they say—it just does my heart good—. With extra dashes!—
Guess what? Austenacious is going to the West Hollywood Book Fair! We would love to hook up with any of our LA fans at the Fair on September 26, 2010. (Well, or have tea, I mean.) We are so excited about this event! We even hope to have delicious new swag out to test your pocketbooks. But mostly we’d just like to see you.
Based on my previous experiences at the West Hollywood Book Fair and the inclusion of Austenacious at this year’s event, we might expect, among other delights, Zombiefied Regency figures posing for pictures with tourists, and children acting out Pride and Prejudice in their own words. “Hi my name is George Wickham and I look nice, but I’m evil!” I wouldn’t even be too surprised to see panels on new possible avenues for Austenploitation, and Carol Channing and Reza Aslan in conversation with Jane Austen about seances and big hair in the Middle East. Given the incredible confluence of different worlds at the Book Fair, our minds actually boggle at what might come of it all. We can’t wait!
Hope to see you there!