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Archive for February, 2009

mebMARY ELLEN BERTOLINI
(Middlebury College)
“THE GRACE TO DESERVE: WEIGHING MERIT IN JANE AUSTEN’S PERSUASION

 

Following Waterloo, rich naval officers vied with impoverished aristocrats for position and importance. Against this political drama, Jane Austen unfolds her story of Anne Elliot, who pines for Frederick Wentworth, the Naval Captain she rejected. Wentworth’s final words in the novel, “I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve” are no coincidence, for the idea of deserving, of earning one’s blessings, is at the very core of Persuasion, Austen’s last completed novel.

Read here  on Mary Ellen’s blog, her comments on her talk to us last week.

Sunday, 1 March 2009
2:00 p.m.
Champlain College
Hauke Family Campus Center (375 Maple St.)
Burlington, VT

free and open to the public ~ light refreshments served

persuasion-cover-vintage

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This is just too good not to print the whole thing right here.  Much has been made the past few weeks about the zombied-out Pride & Prejudice and Elton John’s latest foray into a literary alien-infested monster-land – I’ve not commented on it, just  taking it all in and wondering what to make of it really!  But today in the New York Times, Jennifer  Schuessler writes on this so perfectly, I copy it all here for your delight and save you the need to even click on a link:

I Was a Regency Zombie

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER

These days, America is menaced by zombie banks and zombie computers. What’s next, a zombie Jane Austen?

In fact, yes. Minor pandemonium ensued in the blogosphere this month after Quirk Books announced the publication of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” an edition of Austen’s classic juiced up with “all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem” by a Los Angeles television writer named Seth Grahame-Smith. (First line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”) 

Then, last week, the monster alert at Meryton went from orange to red when it was reported that Elton John‘s Rocket Pictures was developing a project called “Pride and Predator,” in which the giant alien from the 1987 cult classic pays a call on the Bennet family. 

Holy Northanger Abbey! Is this some mutant experiment in intellectual property law escaped from the lab? Proof of the essentially vampiric nature of today’s culture industry? Or an attempt to make Austen safe for audiences – read “boys” – raised on “Mortal Kombat” and “Evil Dead”? 

According to Mr. Grahame-Smith, who confessed to being “bored to tears” by “Pride and Prejudice” in high school, the idea was mostly to sell resistant readers on the joys of Jane while having a bit of fun. The book, probably the first Austen/horror mashup to make it into print, is roughly 85 percent Austen’s original text, with references to monsters, putrefying flesh and ninja swordplay added on just about every page.

 “I think Austen would have a sense of humor about it,” said Mr. Grahame-Smith, whose previous books include “How to Survive a Horror Movie.” (Rule No. 1 in a zombie attack: “Stop Being So Pathetic.”) “Or maybe she’s rolling in her grave. Or climbing out of it.”

 But not everyone in the Austen world relishes the idea of Elizabeth Bennet, action hero. Myretta Robens, site manager and co-founder of the Austen fan site Republic of Pemberley, pemberley.com, (and herself the author of two Regency romance novels), said she was cautiously pessimistic about the forthcoming zombie invasion. 

“I’m interested in anything relating to Jane,” she said. “But to me this is like Jane Austen jumping the shark.” 

To some scholars, however, it’s a short leap from verbal sparring to real swordplay. “It makes sense to give Lizzie a grander scope for her action,” said Deidre Lynch, an associate professor of English at the University of Toronto and editor of “Janeites,” a collection of scholarly essays about Austen devotees. “It goes with the muddy petticoats and the rambling across the countryside in this unladylike way. The next step is ninja training.”

 In fact, “Pride and Prejudice” may already be a zombie novel, contends Brad Pasanek, a specialist in 18th-century literature at the University of Virginia.

“The characters other than the protagonist are so often surrounded by people who aren’t fully human, like machines that keep repeating the same things over and over again,” Professor Pasanek said. “All those characters shuffling in and out of scenes, always frustrating the protagonists. It’s a crowded but eerie landscape. What’s wrong with those people? They don’t dance well but move in jerky fits. Oh, they are headed this way!”

 While the vast industry of Austen sequels and pastiches runs heavily toward the romance-novel end of the literary spectrum – see “The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy” by Maya Slater, to be published in the United States in June – scholars have long emphasized the mean-girl side of Jane’s personality. Professor Pasanek, who has collaborated on a project that uses spam-detection software to analyze Austen fan fiction, cites the psychologist D. W. Harding’s 1940 essay “Regulated Hatred,” which sounds more like a death-metal band than a piece of influential Austen scholarship.

“Most people try to ignore the fact that Austen’s novels are sort of acid baths,” Professor Pasanek said. “She’s so much better, deeper, more sensitive and intelligent than everyone around her that she has to regulate her own misanthropy. Her novels are hostile environments.”

Despite her own reservations, Ms. Robens acknowledged that Austen would probably be “laughing her head off” at the new mashups. 

Or maybe plotting delicious revenge. Next year, Ballantine Books will publish Michael Thomas Ford’s novel “Jane Bites Back,” in which Austen turns into a vampire, fakes her own death and lives quietly as a bookstore owner before finally driving a stake through the heart of everyone who has been making money off her for the last two centuries. 

“She’s a woman who has been middle-aged for 200 years and is fed up,” Mr. Ford said. “She finally gets to restart her life and reclaim her literary fame.”

The undead Austen also settle scores with some old literary rivals, though Mr. Ford declined to name names. Another mashup in the making? 

 

bennet-zombie-pic[Leah Hayes]

 

 

 

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exceedivertaward

 

Ok, this is tough…  the Jane Austen in Vermont blog has been honored with the Excessively Diverting Blog Award by TWO other blogs:  Catherine Delors at her Versailles and More blog and Jane Odiwe at her Jane Austen Sequels blog.  So does this mean we need to come up with FOURTEEN blogs to honor in kind??  I am afraid that SEVEN will be a task, largely because all my favorite blogs have already been chosen by all my favorite blogs! 

The Excessively Diverting Award, created by Ms. Place and Laurel Ann at Jane Austen Today,  is described thusly:

The aim of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen’s genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humor, wit, and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of the sparkling banter, witty repartee, and gentle reprove. This award was created by the blogging team of Jane Austen Today to acknowledge superior writing over the Internet and promote Jane Austen’s brilliance.

So I shall begin by breaking all the rules and listing my favorite blogs that have already been so honored: [in random order]

etc,. etc, … endless really…so much out there!

So with those thoughts on the above, I pass the baton to the following, albeit not all Jane Austen related, but some of the blogs that I can always depend upon to be thoughtful and interesting, i.e “excessively diverting”:

 Grey Pony – beautiful

The Art of Clothes – lovely [also now with music!]

Two Teens in the Time of Austen - [Kelly’s blog, always interesting!]

Dove Grey Reader scribbles – insightful

New York Public Library blog – a daily surprise

Fabulous Covers – fabulous

Books Please - books!

and one more for good measure:

Bronte Blog – deserving

Recipients, please claim your award by copying the HTML code of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award badge, posting it on your blog, listing the name of the person who nominated you, and linking to their blog. Then nominate seven (7) other blogs that you feel meet or exceed the standards set forth. Nominees may place the Excessively Diverting badge in their side bar and enjoy the appreciation of their fellow blogger for recognition of their talent.

[Posted by Deb]

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Does the following sound familiar? Remind you of anyone??

aqu1Aquarians “basically possess strong and attractive personalities. They fall into two principle types: one shy, sensitive, gentle and patient; the other exuberant, lively and exhibitionist, sometimes hiding their considerable depths of their character under a cloak of frivolity. …. In spite of the often intensely magnetic forthcoming and open personality of the more extrovert kind of Aquarian, and of their desire to help humanity, neither type makes friends easily. They sometimes appear to condescend to others and take too little trouble to cultivate the acquaintance of people who do not particularly appeal to them. They do not give themselves easily – perhaps their judgment of human nature is too good for that – and are sometimes accounted cold. But once they decide that someone is worthy of their friendship or love, they can exert an almost hypnotic and irresistible mental attraction on them and will themselves become tenacious friends or lovers, ready to sacrifice everything for their partners and be faithful to them for life. However, they are sometimes disappointed emotionally because their own high personal ideas cause them to demand more of others than is reasonable. And if they are deceived their anger is terrible. If disillusioned, they do not forgive.”

pp2It does a lot to explain the personality of Mr. Darcy… Wouldn’t you agree?

Was Jane at all interested in astrology?? Born 16 December, she would have been Sagittarius — The Archer. Interesting that the sign is described as the “bow & arrow,” but also as a sign with a burden or struggle. Hmm…

What sign accounts for Lizzy Bennet’s characteristics??

 

If you have any particulars among the other novels, What about star signs for any of the characters in Austen’s novels??

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Here is a new, thoughtful book-related game to play.  Weekly Geeks offers up each week a theme to muse on and share with other “geeks” – “One week might be ‘catch up on your library books week’  and the next might be ‘redecorate your blog week’ or ‘organize your challenges’ week or ‘catch up on your reviews week’ –  It’ll be fairly bookblogocentric, but not exclusively.” 

Some past “weekly geeks” have been what are your passions other that books, how do you feel about “classic” literature?,  and judging a book by its cover – go to the Weekly Geek website to learn about participating.  This week’s theme is about characters:

For this week’s edition of Weekly Geeks, we’re going to take a closer look at character names. What are some of your favorite character names?

Go to Google or a baby name site like this one or this one, and look up a favorite character’s name. What does their name mean? Do you think the meaning fits the character? Why or why not?

If you’d like, look up your own name as well and share the meaning.

   **************************************

 One of my favorite names from a novel was Eustacia from Hardy’s Return of the Native ~ such a sad, forlorn figure, her name conveying such an ethereal nature, always out of ones reach, aloof, never at rest, haunting. 

I thought as a teenager that I would name my daughter Eustacia, but ended up dating a guy in college who had a sister with this name, so it never felt right after that ~ I do have a daughter, named her Jessica [after my grandmother and my middle name], but she also so loved the book and name she called her pet rabbit Eustacia!…so life comes full circle!

The “Tuttle Dictionary of First Names” [Tuttle 1992] says this:

[Eustace: Eustacia, feminine form; uncommon except for the derivative “Stacy”]  This comes from the Greek meaning “good harvest” and was the name of a saint who was popular in the Middle Ages but who was probably fictional.  His legend had many connections with that of St. Hubert; it involves the loss of possessions, wife and children and their miraculous recovery, in a form found elsewhere in medieval romance.

Other baby name sites refer to its Greek meaning as “bountiful grapes,” “fruitful,” yet another site says it is from the Latin and means “tranquil” [Eustacia Vye is not tranquil!]

Hardy obviously chose this name for its classical and tragic allusions – and how you interpret his meaning depends upon whether you sympathize with Clym or Eustacia in the novel (and that’s a whole other post, maybe a whole other BLOG!]

returnofthenative-cover

 

As for my name, Deborah:

a Hebrew name meaning “bee”.  From the account of the original Deborah in the Old Testament book of Judges, she must have been a formidable woman, for at a time when the role of women was very much that of a subordinate, she was a prophetess, a judge of the people, and even a leader of the army.

[and so alas! that is a hard act to follow…]

I welcome your comments – what is your favorite character name?  and if you have your own blog, check out Weekly Geeks and participate with other online book-lovers…

[for instance, why does Austen name Knightley “George”?  did you know that “George” is derived from the Greek word for “farmer” ~ literally “earth-worker” and is also the name of the patron saint of England?]

Have fun with this…

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prada-prejudice-cover

 A new Pride & Prejudice knock-off, this time for the younger set and with all the proper ingredients of a rousing romantic plot, a time-travel adventure, and a setting in our favorite place, Regency England.  The book, Prada & Prejudice, by Mandy Hubbard, and due out June 11, 2009, is what one author calls “Pride and Prejudice meets The Wizard of Oz meets The Princess Diaries.”  Here’s the publisher’s blurb: 

Fifteen-year-old Callie buys a pair of real Prada pumps to impress the cool crowd on a school trip to London. Goodbye, Callie the clumsy geek-girl, hello popularity! But before she knows what’s hit her, Callie wobbles, trips, conks her head… and wakes up in the year 1815!

She stumbles about until she meets the kind-hearted Emily, who takes Callie in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. Sparks soon fly between Callie and Emily’s cousin, Alex, the maddeningly handsome—though totally arrogant—Duke of Harksbury. Too bad he seems to have something sinister up his ruffled sleeve…

From face-planting off velvet piano benches and hiding behind claw-foot couches to streaking through the estate halls wearing nothing but an itchy blanket, Callie’s curiosity about Alex creates all kinds of trouble.

But the grandfather clock is ticking on her 19th Century shenanigans. Can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, win a kiss from Alex, and prove to herself that she’s more than just a loud-mouth klutz before her time there is up?

[Click here for the author’s website ]

 

….hmmm!  who knows? but if it is even half as good as Polly Shulman’s  Enthusiasm, this P&P “Clueless”-like confection should be a great summer read for teens, and some of us oldsters besides! 

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Check out this post at Belle of the Books ~ she has pulled together a variety of Pride & Prejudice covers that have been published through the years…. vote on your favorite!

pride_and_prejudice-cover

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