I was browsing on Pinterest, trying to come up with a topic for my blog rotation here on Austen Authors, and voila, I was inspired by a collection of images that didn’t seem to fit with the search term, “Jane Austen.” I decided to tackle the subject of Jane Austen and her corruption by a Fifty Shades of Grey mentality. First let me say, I have not read the Fifty Shades of Grey novels, and I don’t have anything in particular against them—everyone’s reading tastes are distinctively different. What I am against—not in a ranting, lynch mob sort of way, more in a tsk, tsk sort of way—is dragging Jane into those sorts of books.
I can see the allure. Mr. Darcy is the ultimate, romantic fantasy for many women. And there is naturally a wide spectrum of fantasies–from the completely chaste, to the racy, to the scorching, and beyond. It’s the ‘beyond’ (the BDSM, multiple partners, etc) that seems out of place for Darcy and Elizabeth, and admittedly, leaves me feeling like an overprotective spinster aunt, trying to chaperone my lovely young charge with an iron fist. Not to mention a little hypocritical.
Because for the most part, I have NOTHING against the creative license taken by authors of Jane Austen fan fiction. I love the imagination and creativity, as we all do. There’s plenty of room for new characters, new settings, new romances, and even sex. My point is that the sex shouldn’t eclipse the story itself, and the characters should behave, for the most part, in character, because otherwise, what makes it JA fan fiction and not simply a story with a Mr. Darcy fantasy? Whereas most adaptations feel like homages to our literary darling, the Fifty Shades sort seem more like they’re merely capitalizing on Jane’s popularity. And corrupting it.
Maybe I’m naïve, but in my mind, Jane Austen will always symbolize a simpler time, with picnics, tea, cozy chats and long walks. Naturally there is love and romance and passion. Ardent declarations and smoldering looks certainly aren’t out of place, and even sexier scenes. (We all know these things happen!) But not the other stuff–the ‘beyond.’ I want to believe that Elizabeth is too much a lady for those things—that even if those things were happening (you cannot convince me they were!!), I’d like to think that Elizabeth would be so secretive about them that they could never, ever, ever, show up in any novel.
This is, obviously, just one person’s opinion: mine. I agree with the question posed by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, “Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” I pray not, but authors will write exactly what they want to write, and readers will read what they want to read, which is exactly as it should be.
Shades of Pemberley print available on etsy.
Image of Jane reading Fifty Shades can be found here.
If you are a Jane Austen purest, then The Lizzie Bennet Diaries may not be for you. By no means a purest myself, I’m not exactly sure what took me so long to check it out. I finally watched the first episode in March of this year, almost a year after it was produced. And yesterday,The End came, with the series’ 100th episode. (But I haven’t seen it yet, so no spoilers please!)
A bit of background on this latest Austen adaptation:
1. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a serial video blog (www.lizziebennet.com), loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Each episode runs between 3-5 minutes. Amazingly, Episode 1 has chalked up over a million views.
2. It has a strong social media component, with character Twitter accounts (like @EdwBennet!), Tumblrs, and live fan chats.
@TheLizzieBennet has 44K followers, and @wmdarcy has 31K followers.
3. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a DVD boxset of the series and a new miniseries, “Welcome to Sandition” to launch in Summer 2013. The $60,000 goal was raised in 3 hours! With 25 days still to go, $318K has been pledged.
4. Beyond the main storyline (distinguished by the “Episode” distinction), there are other side stories that can be explored via YouTube, Tumblr, and/or Twitter.
I personally think it is a wonderfully creative, modernized version of a beloved classic. Not to mention a testament to the power of social media.
In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the Bennets only have three daughters: Jane (the fashionista), brainy, snarky Lizzie (the grad student studying Mass Communications), and Lydia (the skank). Eventually, Lydia gets a kitty cat and calls her Kitty. The cat has her own Twitter account: @TheKittyBennet (and 15K followers). There’s been no mention of Mary (at least so far). Charlotte Lu is Lizzie’s best friend and is the woman behind-the-scenes of the video blog. These four characters are the only ones I’ve seen thus far, and I’m on Episode 22. Other characters pop up occasionally in the form of costumes and props. For instance, Mrs. Bennet is portrayed by Lizzie, wearing a Kentucky Derby style ensemble (hat, shawl, and jewelry) and speaking with a Southern belle accent. Continue reading →
TOP TEN REASONS TO LOVE JANE AUSTEN
10. Jane inspires a feeling of comfort. A frantic day can be calmed down considerably by brewing a cup of tea and settling in with Jane and her cast of characters. And how lovely that one can choose between one of Jane’s original six novels or the latest bit of Austen fan fiction. They all promise the comfort inherent in familiarity and a cozy story with a happy ending.
9. In a world where it often seems as if chivalry and even good manners are very nearly dead, Jane’s stories help us revisit a time that was different—when strict etiquette, respectful behaviors, and attentive courtship were the way of the world. That too is a comfort—and an inspiration for the future.
8. The underlying snark. Reading Jane’s novels makes us feel as if we’re stealing a moment, gossiping with an old friend—a friend who knows all the really good gossip. The woman had a wicked wit and wasn’t afraid to use it. We all have a Mr. Collins, a Mrs. Elton, and a John Thorpe among our acquaintances. Letting Jane poke fun at them is more socially acceptable than doing it oneself.
7. Jane understood the appeal of a happy ending. “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.” ~ Mansfield Park. She may as well be the Patron Saint of Romance Novels. Continue reading →
Austen Authors and Alyssa Goodnight are pleased to announce the winners of Alyssa’s launch of Austensibly Ordinary. If your name is below, please contact Regina Jeffers at either firstname.lastname@example.org (or) email@example.com. Provide your name and mailing address in the response email. Congratulations!!!!
The winners are rae, Kathy, and Samantha McNulty.
Ever since writing Austentatious, I’ve been boggled by the number of people who are confused by the spelling of that word. (The correct spelling being, of course, ‘ostentatious.’) So many have embraced ‘austentatious’ as the correct spelling, and I admit, it has me wondering whether it’s because they associate the word somehow with Jane Austen.
But Jane Austen doesn’t exactly scream ‘ostentatious’ [marked by conspicuous, pretentious or vainglorious ways].” She lived a quiet life and contented herself with family, friends, and her writing, which I wouldn’t exactly describe as ostentatious either. I confess: I’m baffled.
I liked it for my first Jane-inspired novel, both because it was a clever play on words (word?) and because it seemed to fit the manner that Jane had appeared in the novel in modern-day Austin, Texas. With no warning but with very specific intentions and bits of advice. She is utterly no-nonsense and absolutely convinced of her eventual success in a spot of twenty-first century match-making.
She and the journal are back in my latest release, Austensibly Ordinary, and Jane is just as feisty this time around! The storyline draws from my favorite Austen classic, Emma, so you can expect match-making, misunderstandings, and plenty of mischief. This time around, the title continues on trend and implies that perhaps not everyone is as they seem… This word seems a much more accurate descriptor of Ms. Austen, and I will definitely be watching to see if there is also widespread misspelling of the word ‘ostensibly.’ I’ll keep you posted.
Until then, I’ll offer a blurb for Austensibly Ordinary and a quick preview:
Cate Kendall is no stranger to daydreams of brooding men and fancy parties–after all, she teaches one of her beloved Jane Austen novels in her English classes every year. But as for romance or adventure in her own life, the highlight of most weeks is Scrabble with her cute coworker, Ethan, and he draws the line at witty banter. But Cate is ready for a change. When she finds a mysterious journal that seems to have a link to the soul of the great Jane Austen herself, she knows it’s her chance. And she grabs on with both hands… Continue reading →
This past weekend was a bit of a blur. I am the parent coach for my son’s elementary school robotics team, and Saturday was their district competition, which lasted much of the day. (They placed 1st in Teamwork and have advanced to the city-wide competition to be held in February!) After that, I had a holiday party, then Sunday was church and THE HOBBIT (love, love, loved it!), and then the weekend was almost over. But I did manage to slot in some time on Friday and Saturday to watch the Masterpiece adaptation of Northanger Abbey for the first time, and what a pleasure it was!
Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey
I loved the dual portrayal of Catherine’s sweet innocence and her love of the dark danger of Gothic novels. The mini scenes, conjured by her imagination, in which she cast herself in the role of desperate novel heroine were the perfect touch. While re-reading the book this fall, I was reminded of Henry Tilney’s playful teasing and engaging manner. JJ Feild was, I think, born to play the role of Henry Tilney. Mr. Tilney has never before been a particular favorite Austen hero of mine, but I find that I am looking at him in an entirely different light. So charming, so gentlemanly, so willing to toss aside his inheritance for love…*swoon*.
One wonders if the casting director of the upcoming Austenland had JJ Feild’s rendition of Mr. Tilney in mind when they chose him to play “Henry Nobley,” an actor playing a Regency-era gentleman at an English resort that caters to women who want the entire Jane Austen experience. It’s been a while since I read (and truly enjoyed) Austenland, but I believe Mr. Nobley plays the dreamy Darcy-type character in the film. Having just seen JJ Feild in action, I can absolutely believe that he would have no trouble charming his way into the hearts of ladies wanting to immerse themselves in the world of Jane Austen. Just look at how dashing he looks!
Henry Nobley in the upcoming Austenland
And yet…I wonder. What do Henry and Darcy have in common? Confidence. Family pride. Charm?…Maybe. But not to the same degree. I wonder if I will like Henry Nobley nearly as well as I like Henry Tilney. I suppose it depends on whether the “Darcy character” is played as the swoony, romantic type, without all the close-minded pride. We shall see. Until then, I think I’m going to read Austenland again and refresh my memory…
What do you think? Can you see JJ Feild as a Mr. Darcy character? If you were to visit Austenland and meet Mr. Nobley, would you want him to behave like Mr. Darcy? Do tell.
Alyssa is the author of AUSTENTATIOUS and the upcoming AUSTENSIBLY ORDINARY. Visit her at alyssagoodnight.com.
Ahhh, the honeymoon… These days, it’s quite a big deal. In our busy, stressful lives, the honeymoon is the bride and groom’s escape, with just each other, for a week or two before the realities of married life begin. In Jane Austen’s time, honeymoon travel often simply meant a trip home.
For example, Austen writes of the Collins’ wedding: “The wedding took place; the bride and bridegroom set off for Kent from the church door.” And while that might have been a special circumstance, Mr. Collins being Mr. Collins, it seems as if it might have been the norm. Travel was difficult, uncomfortable, and at times, uncertain or even dangerous. Coaching houses and inns were crowded; their cleanliness was questionable, and vacancies were not guaranteed. Besides that, a good portion of marriages at that time were not love matches. Likely the couple saw no reason to moon over each other at considerable expense, preferring instead to simply get on with the ‘arrangement.’
Certainly there would have been some travel. Newly married couples might have gone to London, staying in a comfortable hotel or a family townhouse. They might have traveled to Bath or Brighton or Lyme for a little sea air, or even into Scotland. They might also have gone visiting, traveling around the country to the homes of relatives who were unable to attend the wedding. (Doesn’t sound like much of a honeymoon, does it?) Travel into Europe in the early 19th century would have coincided with the on-again-off-again Napoleonic Wars and potentially made traveling undependable and possibly dangerous. It’s conceivable that when faced with their options, the couple simply looked at each other and said, “Let us go home.” Continue reading →
Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding would not have been a lavish affair, no matter how much Mrs. Bennet might have wished it. In the Regency years, the wedding celebration was a subdued affair, attended mostly by family. Jane Austen’s niece Caroline Austen gave the reason as such, “The old fashion of festivity and publicity had gone by, and was universally condemned as showing the great bad taste of all former generations.” Yikes! Imagine what she might have had to say about the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton! Although, perhaps royalty was forgiven–or even encouraged in–such a display. Either way, I’m sure Mrs. Bennet would not have agreed with Caroline Austen even the slightest little bit.
Wedddings were required to take place in the morning hours, between eight o’ clock and noon, per Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753, and as the attendees would likely have been fasting before taking communion following the church ceremony, the celebratory meal afterwards would be the first opportunity to break their fast. Hence the ‘wedding breakfast,’ which tended to be a light meal, similar to a modern day brunch. Continue reading →
I’ve always enjoyed the simple pleasure of a walk. It’s a little escape from a day’s difficulties and stresses that offers the opportunity for contemplation or conversation and camaraderie. Before our family had dogs, my walks were occasional and sporadic, but when first one and then a second puppy came gamboling into our lives, walks became everyday necessities–both for them and for me. Those walks gave me a precious half-hour alone, when no one was asking me for anything, and no one was clamoring for attention. And even now, with my boys ten and twelve, I still welcome the space.
Those walks afford me an opportunity to think clearly and quietly, to brainstorm the latest pickle in my current work in progress, to plan the week ahead, or decide how to tackle a new project, and I look forward to them with anticipation, even in the steamy heat of the summer. Some days my thoughts aren’t focused, and I simply take the time to enjoy my surroundings: to notice the clouds, feel the breeze, admire trees and flowers, or simply listen to the birdsong. There are some feral Monk parakeets that nest locally, and lately, I have been stalking them, hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of the raucous group on every morning’s walk. Each sighting feels strangely triumphant. (The picture to the left is my attempt to capture them.) Continue reading →
I am currently poring over the page proofs (the final version of the novel before printing) of Austensibly Ordinary, my January 2013 release, hoping (praying) I catch every little inaccuracy that might remain. I am also re-reading Northanger Abbey, an intention which has been a long time in coming. I started it last weekend, and it was, at least partially, because I was in the mood for Fall, and a Gothic novel (or even a spoof of a Gothic novel) feels like Fall to me. Coincidentally, Austensibly Ordinary is set in the fall, so reading it again has gotten me even more eager for the changing of the seasons. I’m having to force myself to resist the pumpkins at the grocery store and keep from pulling out my colorful Fall decor. Maybe after I get my page proofs turned in…
If memory serves, Northanger Abbey was the last among all six Austen novels that I read, and as is pretty typical for me, I remember enjoying it, but I don’t particularly remember *it*. Perhaps I was distracted (or pregnant!) or simply oblivious, because I do not remember thinking while first reading it that it was Jane Austen’s playful attempt at a Gothic novel. But it is obvious to me now.
I love all the tongue-in-cheek commentary on Catherine looking and behaving as a heroine (or not!) , and it’s funny, because the protagonist of Austensibly Ordinary, Cate Kendall, has, at the opening of the book, decided that she’s looking to be a heroine as well. Although she’s not quite certain what sort she’ll be…
Catherine shortly meets Henry Tilney, and he teases her about what she now must write in her journal after their quirky, strange introduction: Continue reading →