Jane Austen: A Few of My Favorite Things

This past Tuesday –July 18th– was the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death at the age of 41. And there have been “think pieces”  about her contributions to literature, and tributes to Jane all over the internet. So, of course, I want to add my own thoughts about Jane Austen to the deluge.

But rather than try to write authoritatively on Jane Austen and her contribution to literature, I’m instead listing my favorite books, movie/TV adaptations, and stuff that I’ve collected over the years.

So, here are  a few of my favorite Austen things.

Jane Austen Mug from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. See the photo above for my actual mug. As I took the photo that mug had coffee in it. I love this mug so much. It’s covered in fabulous quotes from Austen’s novels. And drinking my coffee and reading the sharp and beloved words of Jane is always a good way to start the day.

And, from Out of Print, this lovely tote bag.  It’s just so pretty. And they have this P&P print on a t-shirt as well. 

 

 

 

 

Pride and Prejudice (Special Edition) by Colin FirthMy favorite TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.  There are many out there, it is true. In my opinion there is only one adaptation worth watching( this one) and only one Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) and Lizzie Bennet (Jennifer Ehle). And I will fight you about this.

 

 

 

Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)

My favorite movie adaptation is  Sense & Sensibility. I think this may have more to do with Emma Thompson and the late Alan Rickman. I re-watched this over the weekend and it is so good.

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite Jane Austen novel: Persuasion. It’s all about regrets. The regret that Anne feels for rejecting PersuasionCaptain Wentworth. The Musgove’s regret that Anne didn’t marry Charles. He married Anne’s sister Mary-a snob-who makes them all miserable. As a middle aged person I have many regrets too, and I think that’s why I love this novel and the way Austen explores the characters regrets. And this cover on this edition from Penguin Classiscs. Love it. (By the way, the BBC 1995 adaptation of this novel is a close runners up for favorite movie adaptation.)

Bitch In a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen From the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps, Volume 1My favorite book about a Jane Austen’s novel: Bitch in a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps, volume 1 by Robert Rodi. This book explores the critical eye that Jane Austen cast on the world in which she lived.

 

 

 

LongbournAnd my favorite Jane Austen adjacent novel is LongbournI’m not a fan of novels based on classic novels like The Wizard of Oz. (I really disliked Wicked. A lot. Its one of those books I threw across the room before I finished it.) But this particular novel is one of my favorite reads of 2014.  

 

 

 

 

And finally, here are some links to two of my favorite Jane Austen think pieces published across the internet the last week or two:

This article from The Atlantic was originally published in August 2014 and came up in my Facebook feed over the weekend. It tackles an issue that is evident from the first line of Austen’s most famous novel, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Wealth is important in Austen’s novels.

And this essay published this week on the web site Literary Hub  makes a point I’ve long argued. Mrs. Bennet maybe a foolish woman, but she isn’t wrong to worry, fuss, and plot marriages for her five daughters.

Are you a fan of Jane Austen? Do you agree with my favorites? Or do you disagree most vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

To Read or Not Read?

Or I’m going to watch the TV show instead.

The new season of Game of Thrones  is set to begin soon(July 16 in the USA) on HBO. And I have been thinking about why I have decided not to read George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Fire and Ice on which the TV series is based. And this is a controversial admission for me, a confirmed bookworm, to make. But make it I am and I stand by it, too.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)
Courtesy GoodReads

I watched the series for the first time after my cable company offered us a free year of HBO. One cold winter’s night we decided to watch GOT since we had both heard so much about the most recent season. (Anyone heard of The Red Wedding episode? Thought so!) We really enjoyed it and were genuinely shocked by the death of Sean Bean at the end of season 1. (But we should have known since it is Sean Bean. The poor man rarely survives in anything he’s cast.) And I was enthusiastic enough about the series to read the books. So I downloaded the first book onto my Kindle and began to read.

And I liked the first book. There is a lot more to the story there. And there are characters that didn’t make it to the TV adaptation. It is a fun read. So, I downloaded book two to my Kindle. And again, its a good story. I enjoy it, too. So much so that I buy the third book rather than wait for the library copy to become available. And I begin to read. But. At about a 1/4 of the way in I stopped. And I stopped, according to my notes, because I just didn’t care about the book or the story it tells at that moment in time. I’m ready to read something else.

I had spent two months reading nothing but the first three books. I read the books late into the night and curled up in an air conditioned room during the day. I read no other book during this time. And I reached a point where I wanted to read something else. I have so many books that I want to read. So many other stories to become involved in that I put the book on my Kindle shelf and wander off to read something else. I fully intend to return to the book but I never do. Finally, about a year after closing the book I make the decision to not finish the book or read any of the rest of series. I decide to to only watch the TV adaptation.

And I’m okay with this decision. My husband never read the Harry Potter series and only watched the movies. And he is fine with it. He also has no interest in reading the Song of Fire and Ice series, either. The world and his reading life is still going forward. And we both know we are missing characters and story lines by only watching the TV show. And we are fine with it. And we are missing fun details like the trees in the North talking to each other, which my brother Scott tells me is a thing in the books. But I know this detail because he told me. and it makes certain scenes with the trees more interesting. But if I’m interested in some minute detail about the GOT world, there is a wiki where I can read all about it. Or I can ask Scott. Is it cheating? Maybe. But I’m fine with it.

At this point George R.R. Martin has yet to publish book six. But the TV adaptation has gone on. And I like that story lines are coming together and wrapping up in a, at least for me, satisfying way. And yes, I have debates with people (Hi Scott!) about whether or not this is the right way to consume this story. And I may at some point change my mind and read the rest of the series. But as of today I’m planning on just watching the TV show.

Have you ever decided not to read the book but only watch the adaptations? Tell me about it in the comments below.

 

Happy Belated Birthday, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!

Twenty years ago on June 26, 1997 Harry Potter was first published in the UK. And the reading world has not been the same.

This series of books has launched movies, merchandise, and fan fiction. Publishers are on the prowl continually looking for the “new” Harry Potter. Children have grown up with Harry and are there are  now children being introduced for the first time to his wizarding world. But not all fans of J.K. Rowling’s series were children when the series first appeared 20 years ago.

I was in my early 30’s when I first read about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone  in 1998. I was reading an essay about children’s books since I was always on the look out at the time for good books for my kids to read. At that time both kids were close in age to Harry in that first book. Both kids were readers and I thought they might enjoy this story that had taken the UK by storm. So, the next time I went to the store I bought it for the kids. And they both loved it. Loved it! The pestered me to read it too certain I would enjoy it as much as they did. But I put it off since that summer I was taking classes at the local community college and getting ready for a cross-country move. Harry would have to wait.

By the fall of 1999, we were settled in our new home, getting ready to go back to school, and waiting for the paperback version of the second Harry Potter book to come out. I knew my kids were very excited to read more about Harry’s adventures. They pestered me to read the book too, but I was enrolled in college busy reading the required texts and hadn’t time to read for pleasure at all. So again, Harry would have to wait.

It wasn’t until the third book in the series was published that I read the books. The film version was coming out and I try to read the books before I see the movie, if at all possible. So, finally, that summer of 2001, I belatedly sat down and read Harry’s story. And I loved it. I finished the first book in a day and moved on to the second, then the third. I was hooked. Later, when the fourth book came out, we all went to the Harry Potter book release party at the local B&N. (I miss those book release parties. They were such fun.) After we bought the book, like a good mom, I gave it to one of the kids to read. In the car. On the way home. In the dark.  And “encouraged” her to stay up all night and read it. Because her brother and I needed our turn! After she finished it, the boy took his turn. But he stopped at some point to play video games. So, while he played video games, I read. I suppose I could have bought two books or books for all of us, but money was tight in those days so all three of us shared the books.

At some point J.K. Rowling slowed down a bit and needed more time to write Harry’s story. But my kids didn’t slow down. They grew up and became older than Harry. By the time the final book was published both kids were grown and gone. And they bought their own copies of Harry Potter to read.

But we three can still argue about Harry Potter when they come home. Their dad, who has not read any of the books, has seen all of the movies and can follow our discussions. Harry was such a part of their young adulthood that realizing how many years ago it all started is shocking to me. It’s shocking because the kids who read Harry Potter are now adults. My kids are adults. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are adults, too. How can that be?

Have you fond memories of reading Harry Potter for the first time? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

June Plans

Reading and blogging slumps. I spent more time in a slump in May, and I hope that in June I can get back to focusing on my blogging and my reading challenges. Here is a link to my May Wrap-Up.  There is one book I’m really looking forward to this month:

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It’s just been released and I’m number six in line for it at my library. So, I might not get it until August. Sigh. So, as back up, here is the rest of my planed reads for June.

The Art of Fielding

I got Borne in the Quarterly Box at the beginning of May, and I noticed that it popped up in a lot of book boxes in May. And different celebrities have mentioned it on their social media feeds. So I’m guessing that the publisher is really pushing this book. And I seldom read books that are freshly printed, so I kind of want to join in the hype. I’m planning on reading it this week and sometime before the end of June I’ll write a book review for it.

What do you plan to read in June? Let me know in the comments below. Happy Reading!

Why Not More Love for the Brontë Sisters?

image courtesy Wikipedia

This is a part of my Brontë April. I have dedicated this month to mostly blogging about these three sisters. You can read a bit about it here.

Over the last 20 years or so there has been a love affair with Jane Austen and her novels. Beloved TV adaptations, movies, modern-day settings for movies are all based on her beloved works. But, in spite of the rush to make money off all the 19th century female novelists on the shelf, the fan love seems to be denied the Brontë Sisters. There are a few TV movies based on Charlotte and Emily’s most famous works produced over the last 20 years, but the fans of the Brontë’s just don’t seem to have the same love for them that Jane Austen enjoys. And I’m not really sure why this is so. I think it’s time for the Brontë Sisters to be in the spotlight.

With feminism getting a boost post-election, it seems to me to be a great time to go back and read Jane Eyre. It contains metaphors of the sort of growth and independence that feminism celebrates. It also has a hint of the intersectional feminism too. You know, Bertha. (Bertha gets her own story in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys which is really good. You should read it, too.) Jane is a strong willed woman who is fascinating and strong and takes no crap from any man (I’m looking at you, St John). So why not a miniseries based on this complicated and emotionally intense novel about a girl overcoming her traumatic childhood and a dicey love affair to come into her own and know her own worth? The movies produced in the past 20 years just don’t do this story justice. Someone needs to call Netflix and give them a heads up about this lack in our lives.

And in this world that seems to be shocked by so many readers reading about a women’s  obsessive love of a domineering and cruel man (yeah, I’m looking at you Twilight and your naughty descendant 50 Shades of Grey) Emily’s Wuthering Heights is absolutely the great grandparent of those modern stories. Wuthering Heights, in its day, was just as shocking to the public as 50 Shades was when it was originally published. Remember all the scandalized think pieces all over the web about women choosing to engage in an S&M relationship in the novel and women all over the world were reading this book and breaking sales records set by the Harry Potter series?  The idea of that kind of relationship fascinates readers. And the original Wuthering Heights, should be outselling Twilight and 50 Shades.

Anne. The poor girl is constantly ignored. I’m guilty of ignoring her too. Anne’s books aren’t out in special editions as far as I can tell after looking through Amazon. And according to IMDB, there is only one filmed version of her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s a miniseries produced by the BBC and shown in the USA on PBS, so I’m sure it must be available somewhere out there in the universe on some platform or another. If I find it I’ll let you all know. I just started reading her most well received novel this month. Is she as good a writer as her two sisters? Well, that’s what I’m hoping to find out.

I think what I’m trying to convince you to do, Dear Reader, is read the Brontë Sisters if you have not, and reread them if you have. Watch the mini series and movies based on these women’s works to encourage those that have the power to produce new versions, and possibly better versions of these stories. Help give these sisters the spotlight they deserve.

***UPDATE: I found the BBC 1996 version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall on Amazon Prime. It isn’t free. But for the low, low price of $4.99 you can own all three episodes. There are also DVDs available for around $15 dollars on Amazon, too.

So what do you think about the Brontë Sisters? Are you fans of their novels? Do you think they need a large and joyful fandom similar to Jane Austen’s? Let me know in the comments below. And if you know where I can get the 1996 BBC version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall do let me know in the comments!

My First Library: The Bookmobile

As a part of National Library Week, today is National Bookmobile Day in The United States. And as a lifelong reader and supporter of public libraries, I just want to celebrate my  love of bookmobiles and the librarians who run them. For many in rural communities, bookmobiles are the only way to access library books. And I wanted to remember the  bookmobile librarian that helped me become the reader I am today.

I grew up in a tiny community in the rural West. It was miles from everywhere. The nearest town with banks, grocery stores, and a library was a 30 minute drive—in good weather. So my first exposure to a library and library books was the bookmobile. The bookmobile came to our house twice a month, every other Wednesday. Mr. Riggs, the librarian, would park the large bus-sized vehicle near our house. In the spring, when our yard was muddy, he would park in the driest spot possible and help my mother lay wooden boards to the door of the bookmobile as a makeshift sidewalk. This kept the mud out of both our house and the bookmobile!

Mr. Riggs really seemed to appreciate my mother’s love of books. I don’t recall him limiting the number of books I checked out. He knew my mother had taught me to love reading and to respect the books. I remember having a stack of 15 or so storybooks at one time checked out from the bookmobile. And I can honestly say I never lost or ruined any of the books I checked out from the bookmobile. Mr. Riggs would also set aside books for Mom. He knew what she loved to read and would make sure to get the books for her. The bookmobile also visited our elementary school. And once as I checked out a book at school, he gave me a book he knew she would want to read. Mom had not been home that day when he visited our house. Now, did the other patrons of the bookmobile receive such consideration? That I don’t know. What I do know is he recognized in my mother a fellow lover of books.

Image result for bookmobile bad girlI, of course, didn’t know what a special person he was until after he retired from running our bookmobile. The next fellow (whose name I don’t remember) wasn’t as friendly. He put limits on the number of books I could checkout and, when I was a teenager, tried to stop me from checking out “inappropriate” books that I wanted to read. I continued to visit the bookmobile and check out books, but it wasn’t the same. As I read back over what I’ve written I see that it’s hard for me to differentiate between the man who ran the bookmobile and the bookmobile as a service. And I think that’s okay. Because of his kindness and dedication as a librarian and bookmobile operator, I became a supporter of libraries and librarians. And I passed the love of libraries along to my children because of Mr. Riggs and his bookmobile.

Here is the link to the page where I found The Bookmobile Bad Girl Image.

Do you have a bookmobile or library story? Share it in the comments below. Happy #NationalBookMobileDay, y’all!

 

Emily Brontë, Poet.

It’s National Poetry Month and to celebrate it, I’m sharing one of the Brontë sisters poems each week. Most readers know that the sisters wrote novels and stories, but it may surprise many to find out they also wrote poetry. Here is Emily Brontë’s Warning and Reply.

Death and nature are themes found in Emily’s novels and poetry, it seems. Spoiler alert! This fascination with death and the grave shows up in Wuthering Heights. And the scene that focuses on it directly is something else. (Gothic indeed!)

**If you are interested in reading more of Emily Brontë’s poetry, you can find it where I did: Project Gutenburg. Here is a link to the collection of the Brontë sisters poetry.

Are you a fan of the Brontë sisters? Have you read their poetry? What do you think of this poem? Does it make you want to delve deep into Emily’s writing? Let me know in the comments below. And if you have a favorite poem, be sure to share it by leaving a link in the comments.