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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jane Austen Review

So, I have seen a television of film version of each novel, though only a few minutes of NA as well as a Bollywood version of P&P and one based on a book about a book club. I read a P&P graphic novel. I skimmed her Juvenilia, some letters and odds and ends (e.g., "Plan of a Novel"). And, her major adult works, finished and unfinished:

Short fiction
Unfinished fiction
Overall, the non-novel material was of limited interest though bits and pieces (including some goofy Juvenilia, a few comments in her letters and her summary of reactions to two of her books)  were noteworthy.  I also read two other books, a discussion of her times and some analysis of the novels. There are various biographies and lots of analysis and commentary on her works.  Likewise, I checked out a few websites / blogs associated with her works and two volumes by male relatives of a biographical nature.  Such things, like the works themselves, are accessible for free online.  I also listened, via online, audio to Lady Susan, each letter writer having a separate voice performer. 

Wikipedia also provides a summary, including useful links, on Jane Austen.  The source should be taken with some grain of salt, but it is a productive resource on the basics, particularly when links are provided to sources for those whom do not trust its content.  Oh, I also saw the movie Clueless, which is a take-off of Emma.  Somewhere, I noted the Bollywood version of P&P (just on, so I will repeat) and to add one more, Lost in Austen, where a present day woman switches places with Liz. There are lots of fanfics, online or off, based on Jane Austen's characters as well.  I found one not of interest, but there are so many, surely some are worthwhile. I wonder if there is one that meshes the various characters, a crossover deal, and/or one that is in effect a spoof of the works.

I enjoyed the novels and various video adaptations, Pride and Prejudice and Emma (the best books as well) coming off the best, at least as I recall S&S and Persuasion.  The last one seemed a bit unfinished to me; again, wonder if she would have been satisfied or if it was a type of rough draft.  The book had the most mature and passionate character, though the first two had stronger support staff.  NA also seemed a bit weak, like a not fully formed performance.  Fanny Price is a bit hard to like (her Edward even less so -- it is great he was nice to her but then he tried to push her on someone and then suddenly realizes at the very end she will do)  but the book as a whole has a lot going for it, particularly certain set pieces.  S&S was okay but the leads are a bit weak, the finish not very charming. 

Lady Susan was rather good, particularly given she wrote it first when she was about twenty and it is striking given it is in effect a "bad girl" novella in letters (as was the style in the late 18th Century). A few accounts suggest she figured it would not make a good novel, since that would require caring more about the characters, giving it more depth than it was intended to offer.  It was also suggested her family didn't care for it. This is believable.  I do think there was enough there for a novel, if she cared to write one with a Susan as the lead.  Instead, a similar sort of character, if not as bad, was the "dark side" in Mansfield Park.  The unfinished works are interesting too, the first because of the low middle class type position of the family, the other because it seemed to be a different sort of book.

Jane Austen knew how to write, having her own distinctive style, and had some real bite mixed in to what on the surface seems mostly silly girls going to parties. The various adaptions (except for a few minutes, I did not see two versions of any of them), take-offs, graphic novels and so forth underline how various media can be used here.  I know they have a "zombies" edition and all, but I would love to see or read a truly comical take-off of this material.  Her books often has humor, but good works are prime material for good satire or farce.  I would also like to see a video version of Lady Susan -- it seems quite possible. 

This post might be somewhat repetitive given previous ones, but since my failure to get into a fanfic seems to be the true end of a first run through (something, like a fuller length bio or another run at the bios by her nephews is conceivable), it is appropriate to have this bookend.  I will likely enjoy her more in some fashion, but overall, kudos Jane!