Wednesday, 28 July 2010

JANE AUSTEN AND THE THEATRE



"A love of the theatre is so general, an itch for acting so strong among young people”
(Masfield Park p. 121)

This observation was surely based on JA’s autobiographical experience. Have a look  at this clip  from ITV Mansfield Park 2007 and you'll get a glimpse of what I'm going to discuss today.
While re – reading Mansfield Park for My JA Book Club at the public library, I searched for and found some materials about Jane Austen and her attitude to theatre. In Mansfield Park the main characters are involved in a theatrical performance by Tom Bertram. He suggests to perform  Lovers’ Vows while Sir Edmund is away from home (as you can see in the clip above).

What is Jane Austen’s intention at including such a theatrical performance in her novel? Through Edmund’s objections, she seems to convey the idea that to indulge in such a pastime, especially using that kind of play, could be risky and even immoral.

'I think it would be very wrong. In a general light, private theatricals are open to some objections, but as we are circumstanced, I think it would be highly injudicious, and more than injudicious to attempt any thing of the kind. It would show great want of feeling on my father's account, absent as he is, and in some degree of constant danger: and it would be imprudent, I think, with regard to Maria, whose situation is a very delicate one, considering every thing, extremely delicate.' (p. 125)

'It would be taking liberties with my father's house in his absence which could not be justified.' (p. 127)
But was this really the idea she had of drama, theatre and plays in general?

In search for an answer to this, I’ve been leafing through the studies of Prof. Penelope (Penny) Gay , Sydney University, on Austen and the Theatre.

Jane Austen’s experience of the theatre

(Orchard Street theatre in Bath at Jane Austen's time)
Several biographers and scholars have written about Jane’s years at Steventon and about the fact that plays, both contemporary and classic , were evidently available for reading and for the production of home theatricals. Jane’s elder brothers probably brought the “itch for acting” ( Mansfield Park) home from Oxford and this resulted in a series of domestic productions in 1782-90. The reading of plays seems to have been part of the regular family’s after-dinner pastimes.
Clearly the Austen family preferred comedy to the opportunities for ranting and risibility offered by contemporary tragedy: and like Edmund Bertram and Henry Crawford they probably thought of Shakespeare as more suitable for reading aloud than getting up as a performance.
Claire Tomalin in her biography of Jane Austen argues that “plays may have been a feature of Jane’s and Cassandra’s education” in their brief stay at the Abbey School in Reading (1785-86).

The evidence of Austen’s knowledge of plays and tragedies since her very young age is in her juvenilia, which include “The visit”, “The Mystery” and “ The First Act of a Comedy” - clearly parodies of plays - but also in some passages of “Love and Freindship”   or in her five-act play which was an adaptation of Richardson’s monumental novel, “Sir Charles Grandison”.

(Drury Lane Theatre in 1794)
Jane Austen, during her visits to England’s first and second fashionable cities – London and Bath – in 1796, 1797 and 1799, went to the theatre and may well have seen the great stage stars of the London stage of those days, Sarah Siddons and her brother, John Philip Kemble. But the only plays Austen actually known to have seen in this period were in 1799 at Bath: Kotzebue’s The Birth-Day (adapted by Thomsa Dibdin) and Colman’s Blue Beard, or , Female Curiosity! – a “pleasing spectacle”.  Margaret Kirkham has drawn attention to the similarities of plot and theme between the domestic comedy in The Birth-Day and Emma.

This and many other parallelisms,  as well as biographical anecdotes linked to the theatre  or  references to the drama in  Jane Austen’s time,  are what you can find in this interesting essay I’ve been leafing through : Penny Gay, "Jane Austen and the Theatre", Cambridge University Press, 2002.

But what is more interesting in this essay is the research on the influence that the theatrical experiences in general had on Austen’s major works. For example, in  Mansfield Park. But not only. The seven chapters are,  in fact, dedicated to: 1. Jane Austen’s experience of the theatre; 2. Sense and Sensibility – comic and tragic drama; 3. Northanger Abbey: Catherine’s adventures in the Gothic Theatre; 4. Mansfield Park: Fanny’s education in the theatre; 5. Emma: private theatricals at Highbury; 6. Persuasion and melodrama

“The plays performed in the Steventon home theatricals during Austen’s childhood present a conspectus of late 18th century fashionable comic theatre. Arguably these performances, and –perhaps more importantly – the bustle and excitement that inevitably accompanies “putting on a show” had a profound influence on the young writer, alerting her both to the seductive power of theatre and to the ambivalence of acting “ (Penelope Gay, p. 8)

Theatricals and Theatricality in Mansfield Park

Another interesting short essay by the same author, Penelope Gay, is an analysis of “Theatricals and Theatricality in Mansfield Park” ( you can download it here)
She studies,  among other features,  the play within the novel, Kotzebue’s  Lovers’ Vows and its role :

“Kotzebue's Das Kind der Liebe, or Lovers' Vows (literally 'The Love Child' - but Mrs Inchbald had to make even the title 'fit for the English Stage') is an excellent example of the new form. It had an enormous vogue in England in the 1790s and early 1800s; Jane Austen would probably have seen it performed during her residence in Bath. The elements that were to develop into fullblooded Victorian melodrama are almost all there: the exotic and! or rustic setting (Castle and Cottage rather than the Town of English comedy), violent action (Frederick's attack on the Baron), a flirting with risque subjects, and perhaps most significant, the clash of the classes, in which a 'new morality' is adumbrated: the poor are essentially virtuous, even when betrayed into breaking the moral law - they are always forced into this by depraved aristocrats - the upper classes are inevitably corrupt. (…)

(preparing the theatrical performance in Mansfield Park 2007)

So did I find the answer I was looking for? What is JA’s relationship with drama and theatrical performances? What is the function of  Lovers’ Vows in Mansfield Park?
Here's Penelope Gay's answer in the second essay mentioned :
The course of events shows that the theatricals, and the choice of Lovers' Vows in particular, were an extremely unwise undertaking for excitable young persons in a fatherless household; but the novel itself echoes some (though decidedly not all) of the revolutionary sentiments of the vulgar contemporary play.
She concludes: I have tried to show how the novel's disapproving fascination with theatricality informs and indeed structures its moralizing intent.

Exactly the words I needed “disapproving fascination”. An oximoron conveying Jane Austen's fascination for what morals and perbenism banned as wrong and evil. Just like what she did with the charming libertines/rakes she includes in her novels ( see my previous post) :  she has to condemn theatricals and their dangerous effect on young people , it is in accordance to the morals and the social conventions of the time, of his readers, family and friends. But this does not mean she is not fascinated by them.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

LIBERTINES, RAKES & JANE AUSTEN

The Libertine
A thousand martyrs I have made,
All sacrificed to my desire,
A thousand beauties have betrayed
That languish in resistless fire:
The untamed heart to hand I brought,
And fixed the wild and wand'ring thought.
I never vowed nor sighed in vain,
But both, though false, were well received;
The fair are pleased to give us pain,
And what they wish is soon believed:

And though I talked of wounds and smart,
Love's pleasures only touched my heart.
Alone the glory and the spoil
I always laughing bore away;
The triumphs without pain or toil,
Without the hell the heaven of joy;
And while I thus at random rove
Despise the fools that whine for love.

This poem by Aphra Behn  (on the left) depicts the libertine according to the Restoration stereotype. The rake was in the Restoration comedies a hero,  seen  their emphasis on the senses, the temptation to follow one’s ‘natural’ desires, and their recognition of social settings as sites of sexual struggle. A libertine is typically defined  as one who indulges in desires without restraint or regard for a socially accepted code of conduct and his literary fortune goes on through the 18th century.


Jane Austen, obviously familiar with the libertine as a stock character inhabiting the worlds of Restoration drama and Gothic literature, adapts the libertine and makes him an anti-hero for the purpose of social satire and moral instruction . A firm believer in poetic justice herself, an Austen libertine may end up rich but miserable like Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility or equally poor and miserable as Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.
But are there real rakes in Jane Austen's major novels? Libertines? There is at least one libertine-style living character in each of them. Beside the already mentioned Willoughby and Wickham, we have John Thorpe and Captain Tilney in Northanger Abbey, Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, Frank Churchill in Emma and  Mr Elliot in Persuasion. If we compare them with Valmont or Lovelace, they can't compete.

What do they lack? Well, what degree of sexual experience Jane Austen's heroes possess remains open to question, while it  is no mystery if we think of the said 18th century libertines or the Restoration rakes.  Willoughby and Wickham are hardly figures of romance, I mean they are not apparently presented as fascinating , what instead happens for 17th century rakes or 18th century libertines. They are usually winners not losers. Austen's rakes or libertines  are treacherous and  incapable of real love, never  men to fall in love with, to dream about. They may not be as devious as Valmont or Lovelace , but they are equally oblivious to the damage they may do.
They are losers, villains to despise and forget, who end up alone and unhappy. Not Frank Churchill though, but I mentioned him for his libertine-like behaviour with women. He played a dangerous game, lied,  but no one was really hurt , at least. Maybe Jane Fairfax wouldn't agree with me if she could but ...she gets the handsome rich boy in the end, doesn't she?

Now let's try to see who among Austen characters can be actually defined a rake or a libertine.

 Northanger Abbey

1. John Thorpe is  a minor character acting with feigned sophistication masking his sinister, manipulative, even abusive intentions. John Thorpe's role as the anti-hero is dominant in three key scenes: his introduction, his behavior at the ball, and his mock kidnapping of Catherine.


2. Captain Tilney is also a minor character. He's a seducer. Henry hints at this when he discusses his brother's behaviour with Catherine. From the sounds of it, the scandal with Isabella is not Captain Tilney's first indiscretion. Henry tells Catherine that his brother "is a lively, and perhaps sometimes a thoughtless young man; he has had about a week's acquaintance with your friend, and he has known her engagement almost as long as he has known her"

Sense and Sensibility


John Willoughby  is attractive but deceitful , he wins Marianne Dashwood's heart but fascinates her whole family. Only Elinor's sense resists his mesmerizing power. Then,  after openly courting her, Willoughby abandons Marianne suddenly, unexpectedly and with no  explanation .The reader and  poor Marianne will discover that that happened in favour of the wealthy Miss Sophia Grey , who eventually Willoughby marries, and , even worse that he had seduced and abandoned with child a girl who is about Marianne's age.
Jane Austen in the last part of the novel gives Willoughby the possibility to show his grief and some sense of guilt for what he did. He asks Elinor for forgiveness and swears he actually loved her sister.

Pride and Prejudice

Mr Wickham's pleasant manners are but a mask disguising his fortune-hunting, immoral, and deceptive ways. He preys on young women with money, and seizes every wealthy connection possible. His lovely manners and easy-going nature, however, fool Elizabeth (and everyone else in town) into believing that he's a good man whom Mr. Darcy has cheated out of wealth and a career. He seduced Mr Darcy's young sister, Georgiana, but fortunately his attempt to elope with her failed. He succeeded with silly Lydia Bennet. He didn't get much out of his enterprise.

Mansfield Park

Henry Crawford  is  charming and amoral, and he possesses a sizeable estate. First Maria and Julia fall in love with him, and he takes to Maria, despite her engagement. When Maria marries and the sisters leave Mansfield, he decides he would like to prey on Fanny . To win such a modest , innocent girl stimulates the seducer in him. When he even proposes to Fanny, everyone is convinced he is a changed man. Eventually, he meets up with Maria again, and the two run off, but their relationship ends badly.


Tom Bertram
The Bertrams' older son and the heir to Mansfield. He lives to party and has gotten into debt, for which Edmund will suffer. Eventually, his lifestyle catches up to him, as he nearly dies from an illness caused by too much drinking.

Persuasion


Mr William Elliot is a smooth talker who everyone agrees is "perfectly what he ought to be." Only six months after the death of his first wife, and at the end of a marriage that was generally known to be unhappy, Mr. Elliot is searching for a new bride. Good- looking and well-mannered, Mr. Elliot talks his way back into the good graces of Sir Walter, yet Anne questions his true motives. He persues Anne but she finally discovers his real intentions as well as his affair with Mrs Clay.

Emma

Frank Churchill epitomizes attractiveness in speech, manner, and appearance. He goes out of his way to please everyone, and, while the more perceptive characters question his seriousness, everyone except Knightley is charmed enough to be willing to indulge him. Frank is the character who most resembles Emma, a connection she points out at the novel’s close when she states that “destiny … connect[s] us with two characters so much superior to our own.”  Frank develops over the course of the novel by trading a somewhat vain and superficial perspective on the world for the seriousness brought on by the experience of genuine suffering and love.

Now what happens to me is that I can experience the same attraction as the other characters in the book to  some of these Austensque libertines, I even sympathize with them , while I can't stand or even despise some  others. For instance,  John Willoughby, Frank Churchill  and Harry Crawford are complex characters because though I know I should judge them  harshly in moral terms, I cannot help but like them more than they deserve to be liked. As for Captain Tilney, I think he is  "useful " in the economy of the novel :  he gave awful Isabella Thorpe what she deserved. John Thorpe,  Mr William Elliot  or Mr Wickham are  characters I can't actually like.


Who are the real rakes/libertines  in Austen according to you?
Do you sympathize with any of them?

Monday, 19 July 2010

GIVEAWAY WINNERS - LAURIE VIERA RIGLER'S AUSTEN - INSPIRED NOVELS

Here I am, read to keep my promise and to announce two new winners for Laurie Viera Rigler's novels. Last week Luthien 84 and Audra won their copies of Confessions and Rude Awakenings. This week instead ...


Patricia will receive a copy of
"Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict"
directly from Laurie Viera Rigler



and Juliana Piovani wins a signed copy of
"Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict".
Congratulations girls!!! Enjoy your Austenensque readings! 

Thanks to Laurie Viera Rigler for this great event: Talking Jane Austen part I & part II  with her generous giveaway of 4 books. Good luck to her for the writing of her third novel . Can't wait to read it!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

CLUELESS 1995 - EVERYTHING AUSTEN II

I watched CLUELESS (1995) as my first task for the Everything Austen Challenge II. It is lively comedy, loosely based on Emma (1815). 
If I loved the novel less,  maybe I'd be able to talk about this film more...  favourably. Does this remind you of anything/anyone?
It is not that I didn't like it at all , only I felt the wrong person in the right  place? A total stranger in a group of good friends? A mother peeping on her teenage children's life? I don't know... just out of place. Not my cup of tea?
However, the only thing I liked was the active action of my mind,  trying all the time to connect scenes and characters to the original story. It was  a full immersion in a world  of colourful joyful  adolescents. But this movie is already 15 years old! And since teenagers are part of my job and family life,  I started thinking
1. They are not all that shallow, fortunately!
2. They have rather changed their tastes as for fashion, dancing and music but they have not changed substantially
3. I wouldn't go back to their age for nothing at all!
This does not mean that I love the idea of becoming old but I'd rather go back and live directly my 20s.
Sorry! Back to the point.
It's a movie I'm glad I've seen in order to be able to say I've  watched  all the Emmas, that is all the exixting adaptations, but I wouldn't give to this film more than 3 out of 5 stars.

Here is the story quite in detail . Beware of spoilers.

(from wikipedia)

Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) is  a good-natured but superficial girl. She is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. At a few months shy of sixteen, she has risen to the top of the high school social scene and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. She lives in a Beverly Hills mansion with her father (Dan Hedaya), a ferocious $500-an-hour litigator; her mother has long since died, having succumbed to complications while undergoing liposuction. Cher's best friend is Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), who is also rich, pretty, and hip, and understands what it's like to be envied.


Among the few people to find much fault with Cher is Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd), her socially conscious ex-stepbrother who visits during a break from college. Josh and Cher spar continually but without malice; she refers to him as "granola breath" and mocks his scruffy idealism, while he teases her for being selfish, vain, and superficial, and says that her only direction in life is "toward the mall."


Illustrating that Cher's selfishness is usually innocent and relatively harmless, Cher plays matchmaker for two lonely, nerdy, hard-grading teachers, Mr. Hall (Wallace Shawn) and Miss Geist (Twink Caplan). She achieves her original purpose – to make them relax their grading standards so she can renegotiate a bad report card – but when she sees their newfound happiness, she realizes she likes doing good deeds. Cher now decides that the ultimate way she can give back to the community would be to "adopt" a "tragically unhip" new girl at school, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy). Cher and Dionne give Tai a makeover and initiate her into the mysteries of popularity. Cher also tries to extinguish the strong mutual attraction between Tai and Travis (Breckin Meyer), an amiable skateboarding slacker, and to steer her toward Elton (Jeremy Sisto), a rich snob.


Her second matchmaking scheme backfires when Elton rejects Tai and makes a play for Cher. Matters worsen, however, when Cher's "project" works a bit too well and Tai's popularity begins to surpass Cher's, especially after Tai has a "near-death" adventure at the mall that helps to skyrocket her to fame at school. Other classmates, including Dionne and Cher's longtime rival, classmate Amber (Elisa Donovan), soon gravitate toward Tai, and Cher finds herself demoted from queen to courtier at high school.
Meanwhile, Cher has a couple of romantic mishaps with boys at school. The first involves Elton; the next concerns Christian (Justin Walker), a handsome classmate with great fashion sense who turns out to be gay. Cher naively and repeatedly fails to recognize Christian's homosexual tendencies, and tries unsuccessfully to seduce him while they are alone one night watching Spartacus. The next day, Dionne's boyfriend, Murray (Donald Faison), is roaring with laughter, which makes Cher's mistake clear to her at last.
Events reach a crisis after Cher fails her driver's test and can't "renegotiate" the result. When Cher goes home, crushed, Tai confides that she's taken a fancy to Josh and wants Cher to help her "get" him. Cher says she doesn't think Josh is right for her, and they quarrel. Cher, left all alone, begins to think she has created a monster in her own image. Feeling "totally clueless", she reflects on her priorities and her repeated failures to understand or appreciate the people in her life. Most of all, she keeps thinking about Josh and Tai, and wonders why she cares so much.
After much soul-searching (which includes a one-woman shopping spree around various Beverly Hills boutiques), Cher discovers she has fallen in love with Josh. She begins making awkward but sincere efforts to live a more useful life, even captaining the school's Pismo Beach disaster relief effort. A scene near the end of the film finds Cher and Josh stumbling over how to admit their mutual feelings for each other, finally culminating in a tender kiss on the stairs of her home.
The film has a happy Hollywood ending for Cher: Mr. Hall and Miss Geist get married; her friendships with Tai and Dionne are reaffirmed; Tai and Travis are in love; and, in Josh's arms, she too has now finally found love.
Did you see CLUELESS? Did you like it?
That's all for now. My favourite EMMA remains  BBC 2009. No doubt.



What's your favourite Emma so far?  Have you seen my proposal scene comparison on Utube? You'll find both Mr Knightley's proposal 1973  and  Mr Knightley's proposal 2009 on  my channel. Then it is easy to find the other two ones, also. If you don't want to search,  here's Mark Strong's Knightley proposing and Jeremy Northam's proposal to Gwyneth Paltrow.

ONE OUT OF SIX TASKS FOR THE EVERYTHING AUSTEN CHALLENGE II.
FIVE YET TO GO.  
THE FUN GOES ON!!!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

TALKING JANE AUSTEN PART II - LAURIE VIERA RIGLER

INTERVIEW WITH LAURIE VIERA RIGLER (PART II) , GIVEAWAY WINNERS & NEW DOUBLE GIVEAWAY!!!

Last week we ended our lovely chat (CLICK HERE TO READ PART I) discussing the possibility for your two successful novels, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict to be adapted for the screen. Let’s go on dreaming. Who would you cast as your Courtney/Jane? And who might be the perfect Charles Edgeworth and Wes?
I would love to see Arabella Field and Fay Masterson reprise the roles of Courtney and Jane on a bigger screen. Before SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL, I did lots of fantasy casting of actressses like Kate Winslet, Kate Beckinsale, Anne Hathaway, Drew Barrymore, Claire Danes, and Becki Newton. As for Edgeworth and Wes, there are so many dream choices, and here are a few ideas: Daniel Craig, Josh Holloway, Jon Hamm, Simon Baker, and Ryan Phillippe.
Perhaps you and your readers have your own casting ideas?

I’d have a name to suggest but maybe … we’ll ask our readers to leave their choices in their  comments. Now to more serious matters, Laurie. It seems the social world and values described by JA are still appealing to today’s audiences. Her popularity is greater than ever. What are the reasons of this success according to you?
I think that in this modern world of no rules and anything goes, especially in the area of love and courtship, we find ourselves longing for a time when the rules were clearer. Or at least our romanticized idea of that time. We also long for this idea of politeness and manners in everyday life, for a lack of vulgarity, and the books and the movies have convinced us that this was the norm in Jane Austen's world, or at least the norm of the characters we like. And though all that is true, what is also true, and what the books and films leave out--with the exception of the Portsmouth sequence in "Mansfield Park"--is the darker side of life in Regency England. War, poverty, and illiteracy happen offstage from Austen's stories, and that's exactly where we want to keep them. We'd much rather go to Pemberley, and who could blame us?

But the most important reason in my opinion that these books are still so popular is because Jane Austen was an extraordinarily keen observerof human nature, and human nature is the same today as it was 200 years ago. Austen's stories are all about self discovery, love, and love as the reward for self discovery. And who doesn't want love as a reward? We get to see the hero and heroine rewarded every time for their efforts, and that is deeply satisfying. And timeless.


What I don’t actually like is the trend of blending JA’s world with other popular tastes , such as the new fondness for monsters, vampires and dark bloody stories. Austen lampooned the Gothic taste of her contemporaries (its exaggerations and melodramatic pathos) , what would she think of her Darcy turned into a vampire and of the monsters which interact with her heroes and heroines?
Would she be horrified, or would she be amused? Maybe a little of both. She'd definitely have her hand out for a big fat royalty check, as well she should!

Who is your favourite Austen hero and why?

Captain Wentworth, because he is a flawed hero with a very relatable flaw. He has been hurt and rejected by the woman he loves and feels he must hurt and reject her in turn. Who of us has not been guilty of the same thing? Luckily for him and for Anne Elliot, he realizes how blind and foolish he has been to hang on to his old injuries, and thus he puts himself out there with the most heart-stoppingly romantic letter ever written. Besides, who can resist a hero who has made his own way in the world, through the dangers of war, no less, and has a "glowing, manly, open look"?

What about heroines? Is there one you can recognize yourself in?
I think we would all like to be the saucy, playful, witty Elizabeth Bennet, myself included. But in truth I think I recognize a little bit of myself in nearly all of Austen's heroines, depending on which part of my life we're talking about and what I'm going through at any given moment. I've had my witty Elizabeth Bennet moments, and I've also made snap judgments about people just as she did about Mr. Darcy. I've been a scared little creepmouse like Fanny Price, and I've felt her jealousy and insecurity. I've experienced Anne Elliot's despair and heartbreak, and Catherine Moreland's sense of childlike wonder (especially when I went to Bath). I've been a drama queen like Marianne Dashwood and an interfering know-it-all like Emma Woodhouse. But the one thing I have never been able to do is to suffer in silence like Elinor Dashwood because my wish to spare those I love is greater than my wish to indulge in public displays of grief. Someday.

You are a writer but you are also very interested in new technologies. You’ve got a great site/blog . Can you tell us about your relationship with computers and the Net?
Really happy you like my site/blog, Jane Austen Addict. Thank you. As for my relationship with new technologies, my MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone and I might as well be surgically attached! And I started out as a Luddite who had no concept of what a gift it is to be an author in the age of the Internet and new media. But now that I have experienced how exciting and gratifying it is to be able to talk to readers all over the world in this era of the Internet and new media, I feel fortunate indeed. In the past an author could only connect with readers at bookstore readings and other book-related events, or receive reader mail through the publisher, which takes a long time to reach an author. Today it is still a wonderful experience to give readings and talks and to meet readers in person, and I love doing that, but thanks to new technologies I have so many other opportunities to talk to readers. They email and message me through my website, which also has a forum and a blog, and through Facebook and Twitter. I can even visit with book groups via Skype as well as on the phone.

You collaborated to the project Sex and the Austen Girl, an online comedy inspired to your novels. Do you think the Net can contribute to the success of a book? Or can it distract readers from buying and leafing through the pages of a real book?


I believe that any screen adaptation of a literary work, if done well, contributes to the success of the book. Many people read the books based on a movie or a TV series after seeing the screen version, myself included, and the same principle applies to a web series, which is an innovative and exciting way to reach new audiences and a new readership.

Are you working on a new project/book? Can you tell us something about it?
I am working on a third book, also Austen-inspired. I am also writing an Austen-inspired short story for an anthology of Austen-inspired stories that will be published by Random House and includes such authors as Karen Joy Fowler ("The Jane Austen Book Club"), Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series), and Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series).

That's all Laurie. I must thank you very much indeed for your generousity and incredible kindness. It has been so interesting to talk with you about Jane Austen, her world and your novels.
Thanks again for inviting me to your blog, Maria Grazia!


You are welcome Laurie. It's been an incredible pleasure!

NOW GIVEAWAY WINNERS & A NEW DOUBLE GIVEAWAY !!!
These are the two winners of last week's giveaway:

Audra for Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Luthien84 for Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict

or

All the others who were not as lucky as Audra or Luthien84 can try again this week.. Laurie Viera Rigler is giving 2 of you the possibility of winning 1 copy of Confessions or 1 copy of Rude Awakenings. 
Leave your comment for this part of the interview and don't forget your e-mail address!!! Good Luck! Winners will be announced next Monday 19th July.

Monday, 5 July 2010

AUSTENESQUE NEWS

1. I'D LOVE TO BE THERE!


The Jane Austen Festival in Bath opens on 17th July. I’d love to be able to go! What about you? Have you ever been to Bath and, especially, have you ever taken part in the Festival? It must be great to be there. For now, just dream about it…

Some of the attractions at The Jane Austen Festival include small soirees, theatre, concerts, walking tours, food, talks and of course dancing plus the opportunity to dress throughout the week, if you wish, in 18th century costume.  What costume would you choose? I love Romola Garai's costumes in BBC Emma 2009. What about you?

2. SENSE & SENSIBILITY REUNION

Colonel Brandon and Elinor Dashwood have been reunited in  a common project with the supervision of John Willoughby. What kind of ramblings are these? Just news, as I announced in the title.



The fact is that Emma Thomson (Elinor 1995) and Alan Rickman (Brandon 1995) star together  in a powerful and visually arresting film, The Song Of Lunch, made by BBC Drama Production for BBC Two.
The film, a dramatisation of Christopher Reid's narrative poem, tells the story of an unnamed book editor (Alan Rickman) who, 15 years after their break-up, is meeting his former love (Emma Thompson) for a nostalgic lunch at Zanzotti's, the Soho restaurant they used to frequent.


Greg Wise (Willoughby 1995 and Emma Thomson's husband in real life) and Sarah Brown were the executive producers  for the BBC.
BBC2 unique fusion of poetry and drama will be broadcast to mark National Poetry Day on 7 October 2010.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

TALKING JANE AUSTEN PART I - INTERVIEW WITH LAURIE VIERA RIGLER & DOUBLE GIVEAWAY

Laurie Viera Rigler is the best- selling author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict but I discovered she 's an exceptionally kind and pleasant person as well as a talented writer and JA expert. She accepted to be my guest and to answer my (many!) questions. The result is a very interesting discussion of our beloved Austenesque matters. Today I'm going to post the first part of this quite long interview. I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I did.
Comment this part I of Talking Jane Austen, leave your e-mail address and you'll get the chance to win a signed copy of Confessions or Rude Awakenings of  a Jane Austen Addict. Two lucky winners will get their copy directly from Laurie! One winner for Confessions and one for Rude Awakenings . Next week, Sunday 11th, the first two winners will be announced and I'll post the second part of this incredible interview + a new double giveaway!!!

First of all, Laurie, welcome on my JA cyber corner. After reading your Rude Awakenings and following you online for me it's an honour to have you here! I'd like to start talking about your love for JA and her work. When was your first meeting with her wit and her world? What do you most appreciate in her novels?
First I want to thank you for inviting me to your blogs, Maria Grazia, and for all these great questions!
It was fifteen years ago when I first read Austen ("Sense and Sensibility") and saw my first Austen-inspired film (also "Sense and Sensibility"), and it was love at first story. All I could think of was how did I not read this author before? I immediately read Austen's other five novels in quick succession and have been re-reading all of them ever since.
What I most appreciate about Austen is that each story feels new to me in some way no matter how many times I have read it. Her novels have sublime insight into the mysteries of human nature, and thus I learn something new about myself every time. They are also eminently re-readable books because they have all the elements of master storytelling and something for everyone: humor, social satire, suspense, and a deeply satisfying love story.

Your heroines, Courtney and Jane, swap their lives and travel in space and in time: Jane wakes up in Los Angeles in our days but is a well-mannered, Regency England’s young lady ; Courtney travels the opposite route from our time and Los Angeles to Regency and England. Can you tell us how this idea came to your mind?
I was doing some mundane chore in the kitchen of the house I lived in at the time, and suddenly I saw Courtney, a twenty-first-century Austen fan, waking up in that four-poster bed in Regency England in someone else's body. I guess it's no surprise that such an idea would pop into my head, being as obsessed with Jane Austen as I am. I couldn't stop thinking about Courtney, and I began to write down the scene. There was more to the story, and I kept writing (and rewriting), and eventually I had a book.

It’s great fun to follow the sensation of displacement and astonishment the two girls experience, the misunderstandings and the humorous situations resulting from their being in a different body, time and place. Who of the two experienced the greater shock? Which is the most disagreeable experience to Courtney and which one to Jane?
Jane's is the greater shock, because she has no frame of reference for the future, whereas Courtney at least has some idea of the past. Just imagine that you, like Jane, come from a proto-industrial world where the only man-made light is from candles, where transportation is on foot or by horse, and where your only way to communicate with someone not right in front of you is by letter. And that's just the technological side of things. Far more shocking than the technology of the twenty-first century are its manners and morals (or lack thereof).

I think that Jane's most disagreeable experience in the twenty-first century is the realization that she is inhabiting the body of a single woman who has had intimate relations with a man outside of marriage. She cannot for the life of her understand why Courtney would sleep with a man and then refuse to marry him, no matter how unfaithful he had been to her. The consequence for a woman of Jane's time was ruin and disgrace.

As for Courtney, even though she lands in Jane's life in 1813 England with some idea of Regency England (she is, after all, a Jane Austen addict), her idea of Jane Austen's world comes from a combination of reading Austen's novels and watching the movies. Jane Austen's work, though steeped in the morals and customs of the time, was quite spare of period detail. She did, after all, write for her contemporaries, who didn't need an explanation as to what an entail was or what a barouche looked like. As for the movies, what Courtney discovers is that while they may be pretty accurate as to gowns and hairstyles, they present a rose-colored and highly sanitized picture of a less hygienic reality. Besides, it's one thing to read a book or watch a movie and fantasize about living in Jane Austen's world. It's quite another to actually be there, especially if you are a single woman under the control of your parents. And thus Courtney's most disagreeable experience is her close encounter with healthcare, Regency style, complete with dirty knife and copious bloodletting. It's enough to make me fetch my smelling salts!

Love is, of course, one of the main features in your stories but there are also other important aspects you deal with. What about social criticism? Do you use your story-telling to get to a social commentary like JA did?
My wish is that my stories inspire people to look at their own world with new eyes; in this case, through the eyes of someone from another time and culture. Jane, who comes from 1813 England in "Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict," really allowed me to look at my world anew. All the things I take for granted, from the lamp and the laptop on my desk to the freedom I have to walk down my street and talk to whomever I want whenever I want, would be unimaginable to Jane. Most especially, I wanted Jane to shine a light on the potential cost as well as the benefits of all the freedom we have, especially for women. I for one would never want to trade all the choices and mobility I have for the restrictions placed on women in Jane Austen's time. How we use those choices and freedom, however, is not always in our own best interests, and I wanted to take a look at those choices through Jane's eyes.

It's also my wish that we take a look at Austen's world through the light of social realism as well as romance. After all, didn't Jane Austen always want us to temper our romantic sensibilities? And so Courtney, my twenty-first-century protagonist who is absolutely in love with everything she thinks she knows about Jane Austen's world, gets a bit of a rude awakening of her own in "Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict." Nevertheless, she also gets that grand love story she always dreamed of. As does Jane.

What do you think of the many Austen adaptations? As much as I love watching them, I feel they’ve quite distorted the satirical, witty, humoristic spirit of JA ‘s major novels, turning them into just romances. What’s your opinion on this issue?


I love most of the films, but I agree that it's really difficult to capture the comedy and social satire of Austen on film. A film, after all, not only is restricted to two hours or so, as a visual medium it also must show the story a lot more than tell the story. And much of Jane Austen's comedy is in the language, especially in the voice of the narrator. Emma Thompson's screenplay for "Sense and Sensibility," along with Ang Lee's direction, did the best job, in my opinion, of bringing Austen's wit, social satire, and hilarious commentary on human nature to the screen. And that was a particularly difficult task to do, as there is so much tragedy in that story. As for turning the stories into just romances, I think that this is probably the easiest element to bring to the screen and certainly the one that will sell the most tickets. And I can't blame the filmmakers for making Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, for example, sexier and more attractive than they were in the book. Or for giving the audience more explicit proposal scenes than were in almost all of the novels.



 I think both your novels could become delightful comedy on screen. Would you accept if they asked you to adapt them ?
In a heartbeat! Thank you for that lovely thought. Now that my books have inspired the new comedy web series SEX AND THE AUSTEN GIRL  I can see the books even more clearly as a movie or long-form TV series. Especially because the actresses in the web series, Arabella Field and Fay Masterson, are doing such a brilliant job of bringing Courtney and Jane to life. And there are few things more exciting for an author than that!


Before we end this week lovely chat I’d like to remind you that Laurie’s site Jane Austen Addict,  has been nominated for a 2010 Jane Austen Award, an annual award event sponsored by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath.  Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict has also been nominated this year. Follow the link and vote !

(End of Part I )


Now...  Don’t forget to leave your comments and e-mail address. The giveaway is OPEN WORLDWIDE. One of  you will have the chance to win a signed copy of Confessions and another one a signed copy of Rude Awakenings. Good luck! Remember, next week Talking Jane Austen II. Laurie Viera Rigler will answer to other questions and will giveaway other two signed copies of her awesome novels! The names of the first two winners will be announced next Sunday July 11th.

Laurie and I will be waiting for you next Sunday!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

EVERYTHING AUSTEN II - THE FUN GOES ON !!!


Janeites are a wondeful community! So active and creative and loyal!
A great event wrapped - up just yesterday (Jane in June) and a new one opening today and going on for six months, from July 1st  2010 to January 1st 2011. After the success of EVERYTHING AUSTEN I last year Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word propose to double the fun with and EVERYTHING AUSTEN II. Last year I read Austen's minor works or unfinished novels, compared the different adaptations of Emma, Mansfield Park  and Sense and Sensibility, read two Austen -based books.

Here's my list for this year

Readings
1. Laurie Viera Rigler, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
2. Syrie James,  The  Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
3. Jane Odiwe, Willoughby's Return

Films
Clueless
Lost in Austen
Jane Austen in Manhattan