So I mentioned the other day that I was going to start a new feature in my blog, with the strange title of "Janespotting." It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I'm a big fan of Jane Austen, author of such classics as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and several shorter and/or unfinished pieces. Many people are devotees of Austen—especially many of us literary types, it seems. Not only do many editors profess their love for Jane, but many authors admire Austen so much they create new novels (and series!) inspired by her work. Filmmakers can't stop making adaptations; last year PBS devoted a whole Masterpiece season to her work, and there have even been films based on her life. I'm a sucker for all things Jane, so "Janespotting" is going to be my excuse for revisiting her novels and exploring the myriad adaptations and reworkings she has inspired.
First, I have to make a confession: I did not always love Jane so well as I do now. But in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable.* That's right, I wasn't one of the girls who had a dogeared copy of Pride and Prejudice that she had read ten times by the time she was sixteen. I wasn't a very girly girl, and during my teenage years my reading consisted almost entirely of fantasy and science fiction, leavened by the occasional YA classic by authors like Paul Zindel. And look at my copy of P&P, which I probably acquired during college: it looks like the box for a feminine hygiene product from the '70s. I didn't want to read something prettified and girly, all simpering and dances with no fun to it.
Now, if I had known that Jane Austen heroines had nothing to do with simpering and that her narrators were dripping with wit, I probably would have got around to reading all her books before I reached my 30s. But it took a couple of really excellent movie adaptations (especially Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility) for me to delve more deeply into her oeuvre. (Of course I had read Austen in college, Emma being the professors' favorite, but I hadn't been inspired to go further.) And now, like many latecoming fans, I tend to be more rabid than some who may have been lifelong devotees. But perhaps that's why I'm not a purist, and can enjoy an adaptation even if it cuts a few characters or scenes that might be my favorites. I guess we'll see—and I do hope you'll join me for some fun discussions.
Coming up first (and soon): Pride and Prejudice, the original book.
*Pride and Prejudice, vol. 3, chap. 17