Good job, guys! According to a study by people who track library loans, Pride and Prejudice is the most loaned classic in the UK! (Wuthering Heights is #2.) Jane takes three more of the top 20 spots as well:
- #8 Emma
- #11 Sense and Sensibility
- #17 Northanger Abbey
The Telegraph‘s article says, “The study involves a comparison of lending data from Britain’s libraries for 50 classics by British and Irish authors from the literary canon from the early 1990s, a decade ago, and last year.”
Mission #1: People of Britain, read more Austen! I want to see Persuasion and Mansfield Park on this list next time too. We can’t leave Anne Elliot out in the cold and Fanny Price sitting on her bench, now can we?? And let’s get those other numbers up, too. (Special Sneak Preview: Austenacious will do our part by hosting another read-a-long soon!) People of Not Britain: don’t think I’m not watching you too!
Also according to The Telegraph, “Works by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot and EM Forster have seen their popularity plummet over the last two decades . . ..”
I’m not going to say a word for Thomas Hardy. (Anyone want to take that on in the comments?) But, EM Forster, you guys! I love EM Forster. A Room With a View, anyone? Howards End? So beautiful! So smart! The article says maybe Austen got more popular because of the adaptations, and because of her “rather too light, bright, sparkling tone.” (Though George Orwell also got more popular, and he’s, like, super-funny, right?)
Forster is comic, just as much as Austen, so maybe we need more adaptations? I love the 1985 version of A Room with a View—Helena Bonham Carter, before she was crazy! Naked guys! … Good lord, has it really been that long? IMDB says there’s also a 2007 version, which I completely missed. Have any of you seen it? Thoughts? We could do better, though, right?
For Howards End there’s just the 1992 version with Emma Thompson. I’m conflicted here—I really don’t think this book is adaptable. But if anyone wants to have a go, feel free!
Then there’s our girl George Eliot. I’ll admit I’ve only ever read Middlemarch, and I only read that because of the 1994 version. (See, TV adaptations pay off!) Middlemarch is pretty awesome—though it’s not as joyous as Austen and Forster, it does have depth, without being as, um, self-conscious as the Brontës. Do we want a new Middlemarch adaptation? But Rufus Sewell and Colin’s brother Jonathon are so cute… Juliet Aubrey is so Dorothea…. I don’t know. What do you all think?
Mission #2: People of Britain and Not Britain, read more Forster! Read more Eliot! Demand quality adaptations, or make your own crazy vlogs! Or both! Think, live, breathe fiction!
P.S. (Mission #3: Contemplate Colin Firth’s legs.)
Photo credit: dbking. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
I gotta tell you guys: I am having a Sense and Sensibility THING.
Do you all do this? A few years ago, I went through a phase where I re-read Pride and Prejudice, watched the Keira Knightley version, watched the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary, watched THAT movie a hundred million couple of times, sought out Bride and Prejudice…there are just a lot of Pride and Prejudice adaptations out there, and I watched and read a bunch of them, is what I’m saying. (I did not watch the 1980 BBC version, as this was before the days of this site and I didn’t know any better, but I want Mrs. Fitzpatrick to know that I hear her exasperation in my head retroactively.)
That was awhile back. Where this new Sense and Sensibility yen came from, I couldn’t say, but here we are.
Somewhat sacrilegiously, I think, I skipped the actual novel this time; I’ve read it relatively recently, and decided to opt for Netflix and instant gratification instead. And, okay, the pickings for Sense and Sensibility adaptations are slimmer than they are for Pride and Prejudice, but I think what Sense and Sensibility lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality: the modern adaptations of it are both excellent. (The other option here is From Prada to Nada, which I haven’t seen, but which has jumped up the Netflix queue in recent weeks.)
I don’t own a single adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, which now strikes me as completely insane. Why don’t I keep the Emma Thompson version on hand? I love the Emma Thompson version! (Fun fact: I have a clear memory of seeing it in the theater, then promptly and enthusiastically re-creating the entire plot for a friend the next day. This is, of course, why I’m so great at parties.) Being from the mind and the pen of Thompson herself, it understandably does many many things well; despite the 90210-ing of several actors’ ages, she makes it work (mostly). Elinor’s freakout at the end, in particular, never fails to impress.
(Speaking of the aging-up of actors, both modern adaptations cast Colonel Brandon as significantly older than he is in the book—fifty-one for Alan Rickman and forty-four for David Morrissey—which I think makes cultural sense, considering the shift in life expectancies since the good old days. Otherwise, the old dude is, like, Ryan Gosling or something.)
I remember liking the 2008 version very much…and then never tracking it down again. I’m now about halfway through, and enjoying it completely—among other things, it’s from that post-Ruth Wilson Jane Eyre period where the BBC decided to get with the times, visually, and it’s both true to the novel (despite some dialogue modernization magic on Andrew Davies’s part) and modern enough to appeal to a wider audience. I’m particularly loving Janet McTeer as Mrs. Dashwood and the girl who plays Margaret—Lucy Boynton, IMDB tells me, and she is comic gold here—and I have to say that if anybody is going to make a better Edward Ferrars than a young Hugh Grant(!), I think it has to be a young and extremely floppy-haired Dan Stevens, playing to type in the best way possible. (Will Edward and Elinor ever be able to express their sweet selves properly and live happily ever after? Don’t tell me how it ends!) (Poor Marianne. I love her, but I’m such a fan of Elinor that I tend to overlook her a bit. Also, ever since Miss Osborne brought it up, I’ve been a little horrified that she ends up with only a nice, relatively happy marriage to the good Colonel.)
Since I took up this new, uh, interest, I’ve been thinking about what makes Sense and Sensibility such a crowd-pleaser. Why do I recommend it to so many new Austen readers? Why does it lend itself to such good adaptations? But also, why is it similar to Pride and Prejudice but always a little in its shadow? My current theories have to do with the simplicity of the story and the relatively small cast of characters (compared to, say, Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park); it’s a pleasant story with something for everybody, regardless of temperament; on the other hand, maybe neither Elinor nor Marianne carries as much sparkle as Elizabeth Bennet. I don’t know. So many thoughts! What do you think, readers?
Today we lucky ladies at Austenacious have the golden opportunity to bring you an exclusive interview actor/writer/producer/personal heroine Emma Thompson, whose Oscar-winning screenplay for Sense and Sensibility and general sense of brilliance has made her an icon for smart girls everywhere. We sat down at Austenacious Studios for a brief chat:
Emma Thompson: Hello! I’m Emma Thompson.
ET: Hello? I’m Emma Thomp—Hey! What are you doing on the floor?
ET: Are you trying to kiss my feet?
ET: Yes, you are. Stop that.
A: They smell like roses after the rain.
ET: Get up.
A: Right. Let’s see. Ah, yes: In 1995, you wrote an Oscar-winning screenplay of Sense and Sensibility, as well as portraying the sensible Elinor Dashwood in the film. Can you tell us about your relationship with that character?
ET: Oh, yes, well, I’d always felt that as a woman who processes things quite intellectually, that Elinor is still quite capable of having an emotional life, and so—
A: —of course. You bawled your eyes out. It makes so much sense.
ET: Yes, and—
A: —was it you-know-who?
ET: Excuse me?
A: You-know-who. He Who Shall Not Be Named.
ET: I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.
A: Your ex? Does all the Shakespeare? To work out his pain over losing you?
ET: Ah, Kenneth.
A: Sssh! Beware the Death Eaters!
ET: That’s Ralph Fiennes. You’ve got it all wrong.
A: No, that’s just a coincidence. We called him that before the movies! Honest! What we’re saying is that he’s stupid. Stupidity is the point.
ET: ….okay, though Voldemort is in fact not stupid. I—I thought we were here to talk about Austen?
ET: Jane Austen?
A: Oh. Right. Say, what made you decide to grow your hair out?
ET: [Sighs] Well, I got tired of the idea that a woman of a certain age should have short hair, and I thought I’d challenge the the social norms surrounding middle age and sexuality—
A: That is so brave.
ET: —and also I was starting to be indistinguishable from Hugh Grant, at first glance.
A: Well, yes. But wasn’t it all part of Operation: How Hughie Got His Groove Back?
ET: I’m not familiar with that particular operation.
A: We thought it was philanthropy on your part.
ET: Getting back to the subject, I was so proud to have worked with him on Sense and Sensibility. I’ve always loved Edward Ferrars, and I thought Hugh brought such a believable sensitivity to the role.
A: Sure, whatever, but tell me: when you and Helen Mirren have sleepovers, do you dress up your Oscars?
ET: That is totally not your business.
A: We’re just saying: We would. Of course, neither of you have really braid-able hair, so that‘s out the window…
ET: I have to go now.
A: But wait! I haven’t given you my resume yet!
ET: Is that my bodyguard at the door?
A: We could do this every day!
ET: We really couldn’t.
A: Don’t you need a personal pencil sharpener? Award-polisher? Sycophant?
A: Wait! Someone told me the other day that I look just like Hugh Grant, too! I know you can’t resist a good cause!
Note: This interview is entirely a work of fiction, and is in no way meant to reflect on Ms. Thompson. In fact, it would probably be better for everybody if it also did not reflect quite so strongly on the staff of Austenacious.
Oh, readers, it’s been so long since we’ve had a good awards show. The Oscars seem so long ago! And the Emmys—the poor, misguided Emmys, still quaintly nominating Diff’rent Strokes or whatever—don’t roll around until August. Oh, my Tivo for an E! red carpet special, especially if there’s a Ryan Seacrest/Joan-and-Melissa Rivers tag-team cage match. What to do about this land of no sequins and fruitless but ardent water-cooler discussion? If only there were another ceremony we could dote over, or a place where the Jane-loving community would make our voices heard via media grandstanding and full-page ads in Variety. Where’s our red carpet?
I mean, really: Lydia Bennet pulls an Adrien Brody with whatever gentleman or gentlemen happen to be within grabbing distance, whether she wins or not. Emma Woodhouse already knows—or thinks she does—who goes home with a statuette, and who goes home with another nominee. Emma Thompson travels through time by the sheer force of her own awesomeness, and gives a smart and hilarious speech, just because. Darcy refuses to show up at all, though Bingley’s happy to rock the eveningwear and accept any honors in his stead.
So, you see, it’s really too bad there aren’t any awards for Regency greatness.
The 2010 Jane Austen Awards, sponsored by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, are now open for voting—click here through June 30 to share the innermost workings of your soul, or at least your favorite Emma/Knightley pairing and the like. Results come out July 14 in Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine, to which we assume each and every one of you subscribes. Obviously.
And if you feel the need to break out that strapless dress in your closet, well, Jane won’t tell.
So, how can I put this? Let’s see. Okay, so. Sometimes, it seems to me that Austen adaptations are…shall we say, remiss in failing to offer a satisfying ending? Failing to seal the deal, if you know what I mean? Sure, Lizzy and Darcy end up in the Carriage of Loooove at the end of the 1995 adaptation, but what’s with the little peck as they’re driving off (frozen for effect, even—what, BBC, do you think we didn’t see what you did there, you dirty cheaters)? And, really, nothing for Jane and Bingley? They’re going to get a complex, people. Even Emma Thompson’s Elinor promptly explodes with emotion when Edward turns out not to be married—but does she sweep him off his feet and carry him away, complete with soaring music and distracting crane-shot camera work? Spoiler alert: she does not. And oh, sure, maybe it’s not in the book, exactly, but then neither is a thirty-six-year-old Elinor, a Jane Bennet that looks vaguely like a Greek statue, or that awesome cake on a pedestal (with ribbons!) at the end of Sense and Sensibility. I stand by what I say: more kissing, please! Jane won’t mind.
Thankfully, there are some recent Austen adaptations that seek to remedy the situation, and I think this sort of thing requires some, uh, research. Or, more specifically, a poll. Here are seven ending scenes from relatively recent Austen adaptations, all of them containing some sort of kissy-kissy true-love moment. Inquiring minds want to know: Austenacious readers, which is your favorite, and why? If there’s one that isn’t listed here, what is it (and why couldn’t we find it)?
Pride and Prejudice 1995
Mansfield Park 1999
Pride and Prejudice 2005
Northanger Abbey 2007
Mansfield Park 2007
One of the things I love about reading a book or watching a movie for the twentieth time is noticing something that didn’t strike me in previous encounters. I’m currently re-reading Sense and Sensibility, and there are two things that keep jumping out at me: Elinor’s emotions and long sentences.
My movie-watching-to-book-reading ratio is decidedly tilted toward the Emma Thompson movie, making my mental image of Elinor Dashwood significantly older, more reserved, and less giddy and/or painfully in love than how I imagine her when I’m reading. Then again, I don’t think the recent portrayal by Hattie Morahan was any less austere, so perhaps not having the benefit of reading Elinor’s inner thoughts makes all the difference. I enjoy hearing those inner thoughts. It makes her outward self that much more thoughtful. Elinor is as emotional as Marianne. She just has the amazing fortitude to contain her innermost feelings and not count her chickens before they hatch. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that? I’m not suggesting that emotions aren’t healthy, wonderful, and enjoyable to behold; I simply find it a relief to know that there are some cautious (while still lovable and loving) people out in the world.
A friend of Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s recently commented that she was like Marianne in her youth, but has become more like Elinor as she’s gotten older. This suggests that there’s hope out there for our confessional culture! Also, it may be another reason why I think of Elinor as being so much older than Marianne—most people learn Elinor’s kind of fortitude as they get older, and don’t have it when they’re 20!
Now for the long sentences. I confess that I can only quote books or films in short bursts. (We’re talking things like, “I greatly esteem . . . I like him” and “No one wants your concertos here!” and not soliloquies.) So it’s no wonder that when Edward Ferrars is talking about his search for a profession, I remember the lines, “I always preferred the church . . . but that was not smart enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me.” Pure, snarky Austen! But Edward continues:
“As for the navy, it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the subject was first started to enter it, and, at length as there was no necessity for my having any profession at all, as I might be as dashing and expensive without a red coat on my back as with one, idleness was pronounced on the whole to be the most advantageous and honourable, and a young man of eighteen is not in general so earnestly bent on being busy as to resist the solicitations of his friends to do nothing.”
My friends, that is a sentence of epic proportions! And still filled with Austenian goodness. My bold plan was to diagram the sentence, but I failed miserably and am too embarrassed to share my work. (Though if you want to put on your grammar hat and give it a whirl, you will receive a gold star or perhaps a congratulatory haiku from Miss Ball.) Some movies and even audio books distill dialog and exposition to the essence of the situation at hand. Emma Thompson’s Academy Award–winning script certainly did that, and I appreciate it. As much as I love Hugh Grant, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to sit through that entire speech. Mostly, I’m amazed at the idea that Austen’s dialog is typical of her own speech patterns and those of her circle. Is it, or was book dialog fancier in the day? Anyway, no executive summary for that gang! They clearly had enough time on their hands to get into the nitty gritty. But I don’t find that Austen’s long sentences make her hard to read. Do you?
On a completely unrelated note, I have to share one annoying thing:
I never write in books. I treat them with respect. (Yes, that’s right. I never highlighted a single page of a textbook in college.) But I was so irked to see this typo that I marked it. Perhaps it’s time to move the colored pencils and Post-It notes away from my nightstand.