Friday, July 31, 2009

Harry Potter and Jane Austen? Yep.

Sigh. He's coming. Can you feel him? The Dark Lord ascends. Ok, well, not quite yet, but after seeing the Half-Blood prince last weekend, I feel a foreboding sense of darkness blanketing Harry and the gang.

All summer the one movie I wanted to see was HP & the Half-Blood Prince. It was the one outing I anxious looked forward to, especially because it came out in theatres on my birthday. But then there was an unexpected camping trip to the BWCA for my partner in crime and HP had to be postponed. I was ok with that as long as we got to go.

Ah, and it was worth it. The expensive meal in downtown Mpls (to celebrate an anniversary, not to celebrate HP), then going to the local theatre all dolled up. Yep, it was all worth it. I'd read a review that called this HP movie "artsy" and I like that. It's been interesting watching the movies as they ebb and flow with the tides of directors & screenwriters coming and going. (1. Chris Columbus/Steve Kloves, 2. Chris Columbus/Steve Kloves, 3. Alfonso Cuarón/Steve Kloves, 4. Mike Newell/Steve Kloves, 5. David Yates/Michael Goldenberg & 6. Daivd Yates/Steve Kloves.) Each one has its own sense of something--be it awe, wonder, intrigue, foreboding and that works for me. They don't have to be just like the books, but I do think they do a good job on their own of telling the HP story.

A bits were added here and there (fire at The Burrow, the inferi scene), but all were done to tell part of the story that couldn't be fit into the final cut of the movie. (IE: The Burrow = muggle attacks throughout the book?) I loved the black inky smoke that arose from the pensieve and was also used for credits. Portraying the budding romances of H&G and R&H was done well. Sigh.

But friends, what has this to do with Dear Jane Austen? Oh, read on. There's always something.

I just happened to glance at the Sunday newspaper as the movie came out and what did they liken HP to? That's right folks--Pride and Prejudice. The article actually quoted John Granger, a Potter scholar. So I did some digging and found the actual artcle. "Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower: A Poster Scholar Puts J.K. Rowling's series on a shelf with Stoke, Chaucer, Austen and other Great Book Authors" can be found here.

Here's a small excerpt about its likeness to P&P:
Just as the key to Darcy and Elizabeth’s engagement in Pride and Prejudice was Darcy seeing past his pride and Elizabeth overcoming her prejudice, Harry’s victory over Lord Voldemort must come through love and after the revelation of an unexpected back to a revered or reviled front. Harry, like Darcy and Elizabeth, however, had to transcend his pride as a Gryffindor and free himself of his “old prejudice” against Slytherins.
Earlier in the article, Granger also discusses pride and I liked his thoughts. I'd never thought of this before. "Capital, capital," as Mr. Lucas would say.
We have, of course, the constant of “proper wizard pride” by which all nonmagical people, indeed, even magical brethren who are not “pure-blood” witches and wizards, are held in disdain. The Muggles we meet too hate the abnormality of the people living in Harry’s world. The poor, the clumsy, the awkward, the stupid, the ugly, and the unpopular at Hogwarts are also shown to have a hard time. Even the “nearly headless” ghost is a second-class citizen among the properly “headless” ghosts and prevented from participating in the annual Headless Hunt.
It is a fun article and worth a read for all Potter fans as well as Austen fans. :)

Where the Wild Things Are

I had to go to B&N to purchase some books for a baby shower gift yesterday and of course I came home with more than just gifts. It's just inevitable; a trip to B&N means buying books for someone in our family. (Me, the kiddo etc...) I had small small stack of board books, gifts and personal, and then I rounded a corner shelf in the children's section and there it was. A Maurice Sendak display. And I remembered...
We don't have a copy of Where the Wild Things Are just yet. And it is, well, Where the Wild Things Are. You know, Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for "Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year," and first published by HarperCollins in 1963...While I wasn't completely enamored with this book as a child (not sure we even owned a copy), I knew it and liked it. And we'd just been to the movies where we discovered that this beloved book is going to be a movie coming out in October. And so I came home with a hardcover edition. I just had to.

See the trailer here.
(Youtube has the embedding turned off for this one and I don't have it in me to find it somewhere else.)

Really, though, what I'm excited about is that Maurice Sendak has given his blessing over this movie. And it's not a cartoon or a special effects filled action movie. It's live action, but simple from what the trailer and video below show. It just looks right.

Looks like we're going to need another babysitter...

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Memorial of Sorts

Saturday (July 18) marked the anniversary of Dear JA's death (in 1817). How fitting, then, that it also coincided with the family and I breaking out my birthday present--a Pride and Prejudice board game.

Each player is a couple (Darcy & Elizabeth, Bingley & Jane, Charlotte & Collins, and Lydia & Wickham) and one races around the board answering questions about the novel, visiting Longbourn, Meryton, Pemberley etc. and drawing Regency cards (think Chance in Monopoly--Go to Meryton to purchase lace for a new bonnet and while there collect the token if needed.) in order to collect tokens to fill your game card. Once all tokens are collected, the players race to the parish church to be the first couple there in order to win. It was a good time; I'm looking forward to playing it again, but this time as Lydia & Wickham and not Darcy & Elizabeth. HA!

Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Thought I'd share this lovely little JA quiz I came across today.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Walk With Jane Austen (Everything Austen Challenge 1)

Lori Smith's A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith by (Waterbrook Press, 2007) is a delightful memoir of an Austen fan's journey through England's Austen landscape. Smith travels throughout England making stops in Oxford, Steventon, Chawton, London, Winchester, Lyme, Bath, Lyme Park & Chatsworth (with a few more thrown in there) where she envisions Austen's life amidst the local landscape and takes readers into her own life and emotional journey of depression and love mixed with humor.

This book is an easy and compelling read, which surprised me. Usually, I am not the biggest fan of the memoir. Just by chance, it seems I've been on a kick of them lately and so I was a bit lackluster in wanting to start this one after picking it up from the library. However, Smith's journey is empathetic and her style of writing easily flows from chapter to chapter. One bit that stuck out to me was her reflection upon Jane's close friendships with her own. There was something about the way she phrased it, I could relate to it. I think most people could relate to it at some time or another in their life. She says,
"My friendships shift with what sometimes feels like alarming frequency, sometimes painfully so, regenerating themselves like skin cells, or taste buds so that you fear that seven years from now your group of friends will not look the same as it does today. Dear people move in and out, we no long move in the same circles, or see things quite the same way. Sudden changes sometimes, other times just slowly growing in different directions. Sometimes there is no emotional distance at all, only physical separation, but always some level of grief, some question about whether there will be more who understand me or whether I will just be alone. I've heard the saying about choosing your friends, but I think most of my great friendships have just happened to me. Some are easy and fun, some are serious, some feel slightly askew between seasons of nearness (111-2)."
More than anything, though, this book made me long for England. Having been to so many of the Jane Austen sites, I could clearly envision Smith's description of the sights and how she saw them. I noticed I stopped to daydream numerous times and remember pouring rain at Lyme Park, a dark and damp Winchester cathedral--me making a B-line to Jane's tombstone, Bath--so much Austen, rain and Roman Baths, and the brief glimpse of Chawton from a tour bus, but with enough time for a photo. Sigh. (Which I'd show you, but I'd have to scan them as they are on actual film and scanning isn't a priority right now.) I have a feeling that I might have to plan my own Austenland tour for my next visit (which is now shaping up to be an extended stay in Scotland and England).

5 bonnets.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

Friends, there is so much Austen Fun (yes, fun with a capital F) in the blog world right now! AustenFest has concluded; it had some great author interviews and I won some coffee (no books, sadly). Now it's time for more AustenFun!

Blogger Stephanie @ Stephanie's Written Word has introduced the Everything Austen Challenge on her blog. For the next six months participants are to pick out six Austen-themed things you want to finish to complete the challenge. Those "things" can be reading a book (Austen or Austen Fanfic), watching a movie or crafting in some way shape or form. It's pretty wide open. Sign up at the blog (more details there, too) and you can win the DVD for Lost in Austen as a prize!

For twice the challenge, the ladies at AustenProse have upped the ante--if participants do 12 things Austen, not only will participants be in the running for the DVD, but also for a book from Laurel Ann's reading list of her Austen things at AustenProse. See Stephanie's entry here about the 12 things.

So here are my six things. Many of these books are in my book pile, so this is good for me. I will get them read! (I am afraid to commit to 12 for fear of not being able to meet them as my reading/movie watching/all things me time is limited these days.)
  • A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith by Lori Smith (memoir)
  • Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken
  • A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Austen-Leigh
  • 101 Things You Didn't Know About Jane Austen: The Truth About the World's Most Intriguing Literary Heroine by Patrice Hannon
  • Find a copy of the Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black OR Cooking with Jane Austen by Kirsten Olsen OR Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson and make something from one of them--find a recipe for scones or biscuits perhaps?
  • Watch Miss Austen Regrets, which I taped when it aired on PBS and just discovered that I never watched. (This is what happens when you rearrange your living room and have to rearrange the DVD's/VHS tapes.)
Phew! I think there might be some more fanfic on my list--I mean, I could just type all of the books I know I want to read, but it might be a bit much. Plus, there's always reading Persuasion again. Or watching both the newer BBC/PBS version and then comparing it to Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds. Hmmm....

Fun with Zombies

MPR often starts segments with bits of music to start and finish as story. Tag music, I think they call it. Today, I would play the Cranberries song, "Zombie." Imagine screeching/singing/yelling of "Zombie, zombie, zombie, b, b, b..." running through my head. I hope it's now in your head. Heh heh heh....

On our recent vacation I finished Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith.

I took this book slow and savored it like a nice, smooth cup of coffee or tea or a rich dessert. I enjoyed the book; it was just plan old fun, albeit a bit out there. Some might call it sacrilege to defile a JA work, but I think those folks are too prim & proper. They need to let go and have fun.

Let me set up the story. First, it is pretty much P&P as we know it. Mr. Grahame-Smith changes some wording and some of the story here and there, but much of it remains intact. Lizzy & the sisters Bennet are warriors that fight for the crown to defend Hertfordshire against the terrible plague of unmentionables (zombies) that swarms the land.

Cue the regular plot events in P&P (Netherfield Park is let at last, Bingley and Jane fall for one another, Darcy is a proud as ever etc.) However, slight differences occur in this version--the Netherfield kitchen staff are eaten by zombies during the Netherfield ball & Charlotte is bitten by a zombie and dies a slow death/change into one of the unmentionables that only Lizzy seems to notice.
As dinner continued in this manner, Elizabeth's eye was confinually drawn to Charlotte, who hovered over her plate, using a spoon to shovel goose meat and gravcy in the general direction of her mouth with limited success. As she did, one of the sores beneath her eye burst, sending a trickle of bloody pus dow nher cheek and into her mouth. Apparantly, seh found the added falvor aggreable, for it only increased the frequency of her spoonfuls. Elizabeth, however, could not help but vomit ever so slightly into her hankerchief (121).
Lizzy is a bit blood thirsty, showing little or no patience for her sisters and other silliness surrounding her. (She imagines beheading Lydia at one point while she prattles on about bonnets and officers.) This line from Lizzy made me laugh:
There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every zombie comfirms my belief that God has abandoned us as punishment for the evils of people such as Miss Bingley (103).
One of the best bits, though, is Lady Catherine as a warrior with a line of ninjas. Grahame-Smith treats us to the Lady Catherine confrontation scene in the Bennett dojo as Lady Catherine & Lizzy spar all the while delivering the "shades of Pemberley" lines. It's priceless!

I'm giving this one 4 bonnets for a fun summer read. Also, I leave you with this image. I just happened to leave the book on the floor and someone found it. I think I have a Jane Austen Addict in the making.
Oh, and kid you not, said child got into the DVD's for the first time the other day. Guess what the first DVD she pulled out was? That's right! P&P '95 with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Again, not staged at all. :)

"Zombie, zombie, zombie, b, b, b...."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

JA Sequels Etc.

Here is a list of Jane Austen sequels or companion novels that I've read and the ratings I've given them. Also linked here a description of my Bonnet Rating System in case you need a refresher course, Dear Reader.

Pride and Prejudice--Continuations

  • Pemberley Shades by Dorothy Bonavia-Hunt (read sometime in HS): 3 Bonnets
  • The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy by Marjoirie Fasman (BB read in college): 3 Bonnets
  • Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston. 0 Bonnets. Ok, I haven't read the books in this series. But Darcy and Elizbeth would never name a daughter Octavia. I'm sorry, but no. I stand on that principal alone and will not read these books.
  • Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife by Linda Berdoll (read 1/06): 5 bonnets.
  • Darcy and Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley by Linda Berdoll (read 6/06) 5 Bonnets
  • Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer (read 3/07): 4 Bonnets.
  • Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange (read 6/07): 3 Bonnets, no lace.
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy Trilogy--1. An Assembly Such As This, 2. Duty and Desire and 3. These Three Remain by Pamela Aiden (read 8-9/07): 3 Bonnets
  • Letters From Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins (read 12/07): 3 Bonnets
  • Suspense and Sensibility (or First Impressions Revisited): A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris (read 2/08): 1 bonnet.
  • Pride and Prescience (Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged): A Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris (read 2/08): 3 bonnets.
  • More Letters From Pemberley: A Novel of Sisters, Husbands, Heirs 1814-1819 by Jane Dawkins (read 3/08): 3 bonnets.
  • The Darcy's & the Bingley's: A Tale of Two Gentlemen's Marriages to Two Most Devoted Sisters by Marsha Altman (read 1/09): 3.5 bonnets.
  • Mr. Darcy's Decision by Juliette Shapiro (read 1/09): 1.5 bonnets.
  • The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street (read 2/09): 4 bonnets.
  • The Darcys Give A Ball: A Gentle Joke, Jane Austen Style by Elizabeth Newark (read 2/09): 3 bonnets.
  • The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins (read 3/09): 1 bonnet.
  • Impulse & Initiative: A Pride a Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds (read 3/09): 3 bonnets.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan (read 4/09): 2 bonnets.
  • From Lambton to Longbourn by Abigail Reynolds (read 1/10): 2 bonnets, with lace.
  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World (read 2/10): 3 bonnets.
  • The Plight of the Darcy Brothers: A Tale of Siblings & Surprises (read 2/10): 3 bonnets.
Pride and Prejudice--Modern Settings
  • Impressions by Marilyn Sachs (read 4/07) (Young Adult fiction): 3 Bonnets.
  • Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman (Young Adult Fiction) (read 3/08): 2 bonnets.
  • Pemberley By the Sea: A Modern Love Story, Pride & Prejudice Style by Abigail Reynolds (read 2/09): 4 bonnets.
  • Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz Cohen (read 8/09): 4 bonnets.
Pride and Prejudice--Mashups Etc.

  • Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler (read 6/08): 3 bonnets.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith (read 7/09): 4 bonnets.

  • The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz (read 6/07): 3 Bonnets.
Mansfield Park--Continuation
  • Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken (read 8/09): 1 Bonnet
  • The Matters at Mansfield (Or, the Crawford Affair): A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery by Carrie Bebris (#4) (read 8/09): 3 Bonnets.
Jane Austen (Fiction)

  • The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James (read 10/08): 3 bonnets.
  • Cassandra's Sister: Growing Up Jane Austen by Veronica Bennett (Young Adult Fiction) (read 1/09): 2 bonnets.
Jane Austen As A Theme (Modern Settings)

  • The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Flowler (read 9/04): 1 Bonnet.
  • Me and Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter (10/07): 0 Bonnets.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale (read 12/07): 2 Bonnets.

  • A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love and Faith by Lori Olson (read 7/09): 5 bonnets.