I finally got around to reading "The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler, which I have to say, I enjoyed very much. My favorite addition to the book was a list of quotes and reviews from other sources over the last 200 odd years about Jane Austen and her books. What is so amazing is the way she had been perceived over the generations, from patronizing quotes, to damning ones, to absolute admiration and respect.
1898-"Every time I read "Pride and Prejudice" I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin bone." Mark Twain.
What's up with that? Is he saying he's jealous because she's so good or that he hates every word she'd ever written. And if he hates her, why keep reading her books? I wish I could ask Mark Twain the answer to that one.
1913-"Jane Austen was born before those bonds which,(we are told) protected women from truth, were burst by the Bronte's or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew more about men than either of them. Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her." G K Chesterton
I like that one. that's how I see Jane Austen as an acute observer of the little things that make up the big picture, the small unpleasantness, the snide snub, the obstacles of class and money. And she writes about them all in a way which I think still appeals to us because we love to see weakness in those who are held up to us as our betters, these days mainly celebrity's and sports stars, in her day the upper classes.
Long long ago when I was in my twenties, (in black and white land when I was chased to college by dinosaurs according to my 14 yr old) I wanted to be Jane Austen. I tried to write like her and failed miserably because, well, I had to learn to be myself and find my own voice. but I took away certain things from her writing that I believe help me today. The layering of subtlety, the implications of the class system and her sly wit-I hope I incorporate those elements into my love stories.
My favorite Austen book used to be "Pride and Prejudice", mainly because I have 5 sisters myself and I suspect my father used to worry about how he was going to get us all out of the house. He left a ladder leaning up against the back of the house for 2 years but unfortunately no one took him up on the offer and eloped. Now, it's Emma, because I love the flaws in her, and the way Mr. Knightly 'knows' her and loves her despite herself.
My favorite TV film adaptations are the BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin Firth and film-wise I love Emma Thompson's "Sense and Sensibility" and Gwenyth Paltrow at "Emma".
I'm not a big fan of "Mansfield Park" I had to do it for my A' levels and hated every page. Seriously, Fanny is the one I'd like to attack with her own shin bone.
So would anyone like to tell me how they see Jane and pick their favorites?