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Archive for the ‘Jane Austen’ Category

On January 24, January 31, and February 7, PBS’s Masterpiece Classic will be airing the new BBC Emma starring Romula Garai and Michael Gambon.  I’m looking forward to this one.  Emma is the independent and fickle heroine bent on matchmaking.  Watch with her as she learns what real love and charity are all about.  It should air at 9:00 PM on each night, but CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS!  The first episode is 2 hours, and episodes 2 and 3 are each 1 hour long.  In Denver, Masterpiece airs on KRMA Channel 6.  Beginning February 9, you can also purchase Emma from PBS at their shop for about $35 or on Amazon for about $25 (pre-order).
You might want to also tune in the following week, February 14, for the short and delightful Northanger Abbey.  Give an hour and a half to giggle and sigh over the silly but likeable Catherine Moreland and her hero, Henry Tilney.  See my full review here.
Also to update you on my Jane Austen movie preferences, I could not excuse myself for failing to point you to the good adaptation of Persuasion, BBC’s 1971 miniseries starring Ann Firbank.  It is old, but much closer to the book.  Live for the moment when Mr. Elliot’s notice of Anne reawakens Captain Wentworth’s attention, or that letter, the perfect letter, at the end of the story.
Update April, 2010 – see my review of Emma starring Romola Garai!
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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To balance the post-election doldrums this week, I read Lady Susan, a complete short novel written by Jane Austen, the last on my list of her works to read.  Consisting entirely of letters except for the last two or three pages (which summarizes both why the story could not be continued in letters and the fates of all the main characters).  For my part I wish that the story had been developed more.  I want to know the young Miss Frederica, and the smart Mr. Reginald de Courcy.  Perhaps the value is in the art by which Miss Austen communicates so much leaving almost the whole unsaid.  One feels that there is a whole story and world of events that Jane Austen knew but wouldn’t share because she didn’t have to. 
 
The worldview of the widow Lady Susan is summed up in her words from Letter 16, “Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language, as admiration waits on beauty.”  She is a scandalous flirt and insufferable liar, scheming throughout the novel to acquire pleasure, money, and importance at the expense of all her relations, friends, and even her daughter.  Jane Austen tends to end with her villains unpunished.  They don’t go to prison, or suffer a life-long illness or poverty or death.  The world may scorn them, but generally they never cared what the world thought.  We the good readers may pity the partners with whom they finish the tales, but the villains themselves will not wallow, we think, in self-pity for long, rather getting something for which they have always aimed. 
 
Lady Susan is a novel where, with the concise style, these patterns are readily exposed.  Read Lady Susan.  It’s a light, funny story with a background romance.  Characters are typically Jane Austen even if we see little of them.  And the style makes a good template for understanding the rest of Jane Austen’s beloved books.
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Books Read in 2008
Persuasion by Jane Austen (ok, so I re-read it, but loved it more the third time. The tale of a good, intelligent woman on the verge of being forever an “old maid,” whose family ignores her but whom she helps all the same. There is a handsome man she loved before he was rich, and so turned down at the influence of her family and friends, and very much regrets. He comes back into her life and suddenly everyone realizes Anne Elliot is the girl they want to marry. I underlined every word that illustrated persuasion, steadfastness, or persuad-ability. There are a lot.)
The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (a modern history book looking at leadership, politics, and big decisions as associated with Billy Graham.)
A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith (Single Christian girl in early thirties goes to England to trace Jane Austen’s life. She dreams of love, finds something special, and goes on to share her very human, very female thoughts about life, love, and God – often borrowing words from Jane Austen herself.)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I’d say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don’t understand what’s going on. And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work. I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages. It’s the kind of thing she would like and live – and the kind of thing I would like and try to live.  Kit grew up in the free, warm Atlantic equatorial islands.  When her grandfather, who raised her, died, she decided to move in with her penpal aunt in New England.  The Puritan atmosphere doesn’t quite suit Kit, who looks for friends who share her sense of freedom.  Life doesn’t turn out quite how she imagines (through failure of imagination of consequences), but she means well.  Her influence gently softens the community, but eventually she is still tried as a witch.
I recently read GK Chesterton’s first novel, Napoleon of Notting Hill. It was a quick read, interesting and fast-paced. It follows the life and career of the most unique humorist of England, one Auberon Quin, who was elected by lottery the king of England according to the consummate democracy of his fictional future government. Auberon enjoys making people confounded and annoyed, by being himself completely ridiculous. I have a feeling that this would be an even less popular course in England than in America.
 Young, Restless, and Reformed by Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of ‘young Calvinists.’ He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what’s so exciting to us about God’s sovereignty. Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping – we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West. Why is God doing this? We wait to see.
Brave New Family by GK Chesterton is a compilation of many essays written about the Home and Family, about relationships between men and women and children.  It is excellent, but I read it so long ago that I can’t remember all that much about it.

The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton is a sort of allegorical tale about sovereignty and the war of the anarchists.  It is filled with character sketches.  The full impact of this book did not hit me until after I had read it and proceeded with life, when I began to encounter ideas and people frighteningly similar to those in this book.  I think Chesterton based some of them off real people whom he had met as well.  Hang in there for the end of the book.  It will blow your mind.

Ekklesia, edited and compiled by Steve Atkerson of the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, is an exposition of the New Testament’s descriptions of and instructions for the Church.  Apart from the business model, consumer structure of traditional church meetings, the authors argue from the Bible for a more personal and interactive gathering in homes.  There was very little in this book with which I could disagree.  Not only was it informational, reading Ekklesia was also challenging and encouraging.  The theology and exposition is spot on, well supported with biblical references.  In an age when God is working in many hearts to produce a desire to engage in community and God-powered ministry, this is a good book for direction.  An added bonus is that NTRF has not copyrighted Ekklesia, encouraging you to distribute portions to your friends or quote it in publications.

The Shack, by William Young, is a novel of a man dealing with the tragic death of his daughter and his feelings about God.  He ends up spending a weekend with God, dealing with classic issues of the problem of pain and our acceptance of God’s goodness despite what we feel.  God is incarnate in three persons, with whom he has many vivid interactions and conversations.  At the end of the story, he is left with more peace about God and the life he has experienced, but still does not have answers about what God expects of him.  The story is written in a way that tempts you to believe it is based on a true history.  At the end when I read the “making of” that told me it was only fiction, I was much relieved.  There is enough truth in the philosophy and theology that I could not believe the book represented demonic activity (producing the supernatural things described).  But there were also enough problematic elements (God as a girl wearing blue jeans) that I could not believe the events were truly from God.  Realizing that the author used fiction to introduce his own thoughts on theology must allow for him to be mistaken yet in some areas.  Most concerning are the indications that God would not send any of His creations to hell, because He loves ‘all His children’ – with an unbiblical definition of God’s children.  The semi-gnostic tendencies and references, including a conference with Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, provide insight into the background of Mr. Young.  The book is not keen on the Bible or church, either.  For a best seller, this book is a quick read and an interesting visit to theology.  But God gave us the Bible as His personal revelation; don’t substitute anything for it.

The Midnight Dancers is Regina Doman’s fourth fairy tale novel.  I don’t know whether she was a rebel herself or consulted heavily with people who had been there, but all of her observations on motive and inner conflict resonated well with my observations, and actually explained things.  Her main character is very human, torn between desires to be responsible and to be appreciated as an adult, between her love of freedom and her love of people.  Midnight Dancers also shows the slippery slope of sacrificing even a little bit of discernment while justifying your freedom and pleasure.  Like all of Mrs. Doman’s books, I was entranced.  However this edition, similar to Waking Rose, got pretty graphic and even too intense for my spirit to remain healthy.  I skipped a few pages near the end.  Fairy tales are fairly predictable in their endings, and this is no surprise.  They all lived happily ever after.

Mark is a book that transports me immediately back in history.  Full of action with little explanation, it is a biography of acts more than teachings, of impact rather than influences.  Beginning with a scene straight from a screenplay, of a voice crying in the wilderness, climaxing with the compassionate passion of a good Man suffering in the place of others, and closing with a simple instruction to pass the story on, Mark is a book for the ages.  Even though Jesus is the main character, the other characters are just as active and many are vivid personalities.  Mark himself may even make a cameo in a humble role at Gethsemane.  First to last this gospel is glorious.

It never ceases to amaze me how many facts are tucked into Genesis.  Details of the lives and failings of men who lived so long ago surprise me with their human reality.  Places and people, kings and battles, ancestries and inventions cover the pages.  Of course Genesis begins with creation, establishing the understanding of matter, time, energy, life, marriage, science, music, farming, boats, rain, rainbows, government, justice, worship, sacrifice, truth, possession, family, and judgment.  The generations are also sprinkled with hints of redemption and unwarranted preservation and forgiveness, of the second man supplanting the first.  Read in light of the New Testament’s references to this first book, Genesis is remarkably alive with parables and theology.  My favorite part in this reading was the theme of changed lives.

Treason by Ann Coulter is a history book with a strong political bent.  She documents how the Democratic Party is always cheering for and or supporting America’s enemies.  In the very least they have a record of opposing any efforts Americans make to defend themselves against enemies.  She describes the myth of McCarthyism, pointing out that all those people whose lives McCarthy’s trials (and just his influence) supposedly ruined were either open Communists or eventually found out to be Communists.  And most of them enjoyed long, pleasant lives (not getting everything their way, but who does?).  McCarthy, on the other hand, died young, at age 48.  But Ann Coulter doesn’t stop with the post World War II McCarthy.  She goes on to discuss Vietnam, the Cold War, North Korea, and the War on Terrorism.  History is dirty, and she both addresses some mature issues and references them to make jibes.  But I appreciate the excessive documentation of the habit of Democrats to stand up on the side most opposed to America’s interests.  They used to call such blatant and effective acts “treason.”

Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power by Jesse L. Byock (see full review)
Sphere by Michael Crichton (see full review)
Alien Intrusion by Gary Bates (see full review)
Godcast: Transforming Encounters with God; Bylines by Media Journalist and Pastor Dan Betzer (see full review) 

Lady Susan by Jane Austen (To balance the post-election doldrums this week, I read Lady Susan, a complete short novel written by Jane Austen, the last on my list of her works to read.  Consisting entirely of letters except for the last two or three pages (which summarizes both why the story could not be continued in letters and the fates of all the main characters).  For my part I wish that the story had been developed more.  I want to know the young Miss Frederica, and the smart Mr. Reginald de Courcy.  Perhaps the value is in the art by which Miss Austen communicates so much leaving almost the whole unsaid.  One feels that there is a whole story and world of events that Jane Austen knew but wouldn’t share because she didn’t have to.  The worldview of the widow Lady Susan is summed up in her words from Letter 16, “Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language, as admiration waits on beauty.”  She is a scandalous flirt and insufferable liar, scheming throughout the novel to acquire pleasure, money, and importance at the expense of all her relations, friends, and even her daughter.  Jane Austen tends to end with her villains unpunished.  They don’t go to prison, or suffer a life-long illness or poverty or death.  The world may scorn them, but generally they never cared what the world thought.  We the good readers may pity the partners with whom they finish the tales, but the villains themselves will not wallow, we think, in self-pity for long, rather getting something for which they have always aimed.  Lady Susan is a novel where, with the concise style, these patterns are readily exposed.  Read Lady Susan.  It’s a light, funny story with a background romance.  Characters are typically Jane Austen even if we see little of them.  And the style makes a good template for understanding the rest of Jane Austen’s beloved books.) 

Dead Heat by Joel Rosenberg (see full review)

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (There wasn’t a lot of new Christian stuff in this book, but it was a good read and some challenging reminders.  This book covers topics ranging from worry to service to worship to personal devotions.  I love how the book draws everything together into the One Thing conclusion.  Joanna invites you to join her journey of seeking a Mary Heart in a Martha World.)

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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My favorite part of the movie was when a friend, a married woman came up to Jane and told her that many women needed the encouragement that Jane Austen’s books offered.  Their love wasn’t perfectly romantic anymore, but they could read books.  (Lisa insert: maybe the books inspired the women to have a balanced view of love and marriage, or a value and lightheartedness for the friends and family and husbands and wives that they had.)  The woman went on to say that God had given Jane Austen her gift for writing so that she could be such an important encouragement in the world – even if it meant that Jane couldn’t be married.  That way she could still impart her gifts to the world.  Jane’s life had meaning and purpose. 
 
With all the happily ever afters we all love in Jane Austen’s novels, it is encouraging for single girls to occasionally hear a story where the girl doesn’t end up with the handsome prince, but her life was still good and worth something.  Don’t worry; I know my life means something.  It is just nice to hear the stories, to see an unmarried life in a romanticist-inspired light. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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The book I just finished, A Walk with Jane Austen, is about a regular Christian girl who wouldn’t want me to call her that any more than I would want to be called ordinary. But she is a Christian, single, no one born important. She loves Jane Austen, knows a lot about her books and life, wanted to go to England, and so she did. This authoress has her ups and downs, struggles wandering about England looking for sites associated with her heroine. There is romance and analysis of romance and longing for the love that lasts beyond the wondering.

Lori Smith, the Austen fan, writes, “I long for someone to care about the quotidian things, to know about the daily turmoil and disruptions.” Whereas in context she was speaking of marriage, I can relate to her as a writer. We’re obsessed. I’m not writing these things because I think they’re important, but because I think them in sentence form.

For example, I want to tell you that I didn’t feel like being in a hurry this morning, so I ran conditioner through my hair and styled it like an elf (inspired by Deborah Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond last night, and my dad noting that her ears stuck out of her hairstyle), straightened up a bit, and rather than making a lunch (realizing at the last minute that I have zero cash in my purse after Village Inn Tuesday night and not yet cashing my paycheck), I loaded my backpack with juice and water bottles.

On Saturday I think I might try to be silent all day, but now I’m conflicted, because I want to go to the abortion clinic and pray, and while I can do that without talking aloud, I can’t figure out what to tell my friends who also gather there and who already think I don’t know how to talk while they themselves are not known for their timidity.

When I was in third grade, my teacher praised a four-line long sentence, and so I began for spelling assignments to attempt one ultra-long sentence each week. I got some a page long, but they were horrible sentences, filled with commas that should have been periods, delighting in the recent discovery of semi-colons, and profusely employing conjunctions. I think they call them run-on’s. But the practice, of trying to fill a page with one connected thought without stopping for a period, has contributed to the writer I am today (see above paragraph). Perhaps it is what wants me to see the unbroken theme of a passage of Scripture, too.

My doctor is on break, and no doubt listening to the fluttering clack of keys as I type out thoughts as fast as I possibly can, interrupted by the discordant beat of the backspace key when I get ahead of myself. I wonder what she thinks. Once I told her I was writing a book, which was true, but I’m not sure I’ll publish it. A published author wrote the advice to aspiring authors that they should write a book, and then write another one, then another one. Forget about publishing the first one you finish, was basically their point. At the time I read it, I couldn’t imagine abandoning the first full-length, actually ended novel I wrote, but now I’m quite unimpressed by it (though I do love parts of it), that I may take the advice and write something else. I am so not-diligent.

The use of the word “so” just there reminded me. Last week a friend went to a Bible study expositing John 3:16. I know, we think there can’t be much there if everyone knows it and it hasn’t taken over the world yet. One of the things he said was that “God so loved the world” was not a statement of how much God loved the world, but how God loved the world. It refers us to the context, drawing a comparison (usually we would use like or as). Though this John 3:16 usage is older and more correct, I can see how it developed into its present form, and if one insisted interpreting a word literally, my sentence would still make sense.

Patients come in and, noting how quiet and secluded is my office, inquire what I do all day. If only they knew that I sit at my computer and type out my thoughts, goaded by the wise words of books and Bible, by recollections of conversations. Here, in fact, is where I wrote most of my book that may or may never be published. I might as well write in silence, and publish it on my blog. There’s little difference in the result, and I’m more satisfied to have my thoughts offered to the world even if few people take them.

I just stopped, stretched, and looked at the clock, wondering whether I have time to read Ephesians and get some semblance of an idea of what we’ll talk about at church on Sunday. And the clock reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Schultz songs, about life in corporate America. I sing it twice a week after church (Mondays and Wednesdays), when I’m almost the last to leave the empty parking lot, and I see how close I can get to 80 mph. Most of the time I get within 50 mph of the song’s 80, before I have to slow down for the corner and re-admittance into society’s roads and regulations. But in the song, he sings about an afternoon smattering of looking at the clock, spinning in the chair, and solitaire. Any minute now I’ll be busy with real work again, and I’ll probably stop writing and get back to Ephesians.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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PBS has slowly been airing the new series of Jane Austen movies. (They have made other movies in the past. Make sure you don’t get the old Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, or very old Pride and Prejudice).

The new movies of the “Jane Austen Season” are:

Persuasion (labeled 2007 or 2008 – since BBC England released some of these earlier than USA, starring Sally Hawkins; see my review) buy individually at PBS Shop Persuasion $20 (as of now it is backordered 2-4 weeks) or Amazon.com $17

Northanger Abbey (2007 or 2008; written by Andrew Davies, starring Felicity Jones; I liked it with one exception – see my review) buy at PBS Shop Northanger Abbey $25 (as of now it is backordered 2-4 weeks) or Amazon.com $17

Mansfield Park (2007 or 2008, starring Billie Piper; not extremely faithful to the book or the period, but not a bad movie – my biggest complaint is that they seemed to make Fanny give in on her morals, which the literary Fanny Price would never do) buy at PBS Shop Mansfield Park $25 or Amazon.com $20

Pride and Prejudice (Andrew Davies’ classic, the best, 1995 Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle) buy at ebay, your local bookstore, (you might try Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, etc.) or Amazon.com $20 or the Collector’s Set for $33 or PBS Shop Pride and Prejudice $40

and still to come is:

Emma on March 23 (1997, Kate Beckinsale; I watched this movie once a long time ago, and since it was not the movie for which I was looking – the bright, witty Gwyneth Paltrow version – I hated it. But I’m ready to repent a little.) buy at Amazon.com $13 or PBS Shop Emma $20

NEW!! Masterpiece Emma (2009/2010) starring Romula Garai; I LOVE this movie – see my review.  $35 on the PBS Shop on February 9, 2009. Or on Amazon for about $25.

The 2008 Sense and Sensibility also done by Andrew Davies starting March 30. Starring Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield, for about $35 you can buy the movie with Miss Austen Regrets at PBS Shop Sense and Sensibility or spend $25 at Amazon.com

The Sense and Sensibility Collector’s Set is $50 on the PBS shop, and includes the new Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and what I understand was a remarkably entertaining dramatized bio, Miss Austen Regrets.

The Sense and Sensibility DVD’s are not available until April 8, 2008.

All prices are estimates, not including shipping or tax.

I prefer the Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root Persuasion, even though I don’t really like it.

(NEW December 2009: I discovered I like the old version of Persuasion, from the 70’s!) Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility (also starring Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant) is excellent, and I don’t expect it to be supplanted even by Andrew Davies. None of the Mansfield Park adaptations are worth seeing. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma is the best; even guys like this Jane Austen movie! See Amazon.com’s list to purchase these DVD’s.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This isn’t very well-written, but then I was very uninspired. However, I hope you can get a feel for the recent movie, and my opinion of it.

If BBC/Masterpiece wanted to just to photograph illustrations for each chapter of the book, they should have done that. A movie is supposed to present dialogue, motives, characters, emotion… I did spend some moments enjoying the visual manifestation of Jane Austen’s sentimental classic. I said, “Awwhh!”: appreciation for seeing the tender and uncertain love come alive. Anne Elliot was well-cast, and Captain Wentworth was sufficiently handsome to be a hero in this adaptation. Captain Wentworth’s early snubs were a great set-up for the rest of the story, but then, well…

At the beginning of this new version I was disappointed by the made-for-tv staleness quite unlike P&P. But I reconciled quickly, acknowledging they were setting a somber tone for the beginning.

They said everything only once except for how unmarriageable Anne was, and then inexplicably every man is after her. So we had to remember the Mrs. Russell relationship to everything, and that Anne was responsible (demonstrated by nursing and inventory skills).

What did I like? Anne. I think that except for the end, she was perfect. I liked Capt. Wentworth ok. Mr. Musgrove was nice (felt sorry for his old depiction of Edmund Bertram). Mr. Elliot was well-cast. And I really liked the widowed friend (despite her miraculous and unexplained recovery sufficient for running across Bath herself to warn her friend).

I so wish they’d had Andrew Davies do this one instead of Sense and Sensibility. We already had a really good version of Sense and Sensibility. That is to say, the writing for Persuasion was horrible.

Knowing the book was the only key to what was going on. They left out or destroyed all the conversations (isn’t that most of what makes Jane Austen so great – her wit?).

However, in the book I was made to believe Anne might settle for Capt. Benwick or Mr. Elliot. At least she cared about Capt. Benwick, and had scruples about how to deal with Mr. Elliot, which the movie entirely omits. In the movie I was never convinced that Capt. Wentworth loved Louisa, or that Anne was truly despairing and desperate expecting her beloved’s constancy to Louisa no matter what. Louisa got better too quickly. Capt. Wentworth’s reluctant “entanglement” with Louisa wasn’t even addressed. Everything happened too quickly, with no suspense. They seemed set on telling the end of everything from the beginning. At the end they told almost nothing.

The title represents the theme of the story, and the movie seems to have forgotten to bring it to resolution. The end was incredibly choppy and ridiculous. What was wrong with Anne? She’s supposed to be this quiet, thoughtful, patient woman, and she takes off running, alone, all over the city pursuing a man whom she has every reason to believe will effect an opportunity to see her soon anyway? She doesn’t even read the whole letter in the horrible revision of the letter scene. And then they don’t finish the story. In all fairness, Jane Austen did write an alternate ending, and they rather mixed the two and added parts of their own. I much prefer the standard, “letter” ending.

My family came in just as it was getting ridiculous, and made excessive fun of the kiss.

There was no depth in this movie, rarely was there subtlety, and yes, they rushed through an outline of a beautiful story. But I like some parts still better than the 1995 version. Mary was a little more believable, I think. The dowager was less disturbingly ugly.

The best thing about this movie? It inspired me to read the book again. And I did enjoy the book very much.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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