Austen Update

Summer of Austen is over.

Well, Summer of Austen is supposed to be over. The three month allotment expired this weekend.

I still have half of Mansfield Park to read and all of Emma to reread. But making it a four month project basically ruins the entire premise of the blog.

Is it better to extend my deadline to accomplish my goal or to stick to the strict (and completely arbitrary) parameters I established and move on?

I think the former makes more sense.

Summer of Austen took a back seat to an interview process, prepping for a huge and life-changing move, and the necessity of saying “yes” and doing more during my last month in Chicago.

I’ll gladly call Summer of Austen a failure in exchange for the experiences of the last few weeks, and the memories I’ll take with me out east, to ease the inevitable homesickness for Chicago and Chicagoans.

Jane Austen, of anyone, would understand – nothing goes according to plan.

Sneaking in Some Austen

While this weekend was primarily dedicated to naive wonderment and baby-steps in programming, I found plenty of time to sneak in bursts of Jane Austen.

pride and prejudice

I pushed through my fatigue and read quite a bit more of Pride and Prejudice. Currently, Mr. Collins is in town and has his heart set on Elizabeth but I have not yet gotten to the proposal. I believe I stopped in the midst of Wickham’s well-spun yarn of Darcy’s betrayal and his own admirable forbearance. I owe P.D. James quite the apology for my expression of distaste at the amount of time spent on Darcy’s thoughts in Death Comes to Pemberley. I posited that this was in sharp contrast to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but it is not true! Much more space is dedicated to the inner thoughts of Mr. Darcy as he recognizes and fights his infatuation with Elizabeth Bennet than I had recalled. I have become so accustomed to the BBC miniseries that it holds sway in my mind as to the truth of Pride and Prejudice. While the adaptation is certainly the story of Elizabeth Bennet, the novel is much more equitable in its dedicated space. This is a delightful discovery and I am supremely enjoying this re-reading. I am so glad I didn’t truly quit!


With a bottle of white wine already chilled, I was quite agreeable to Anna’s suggestion that we watch the Gwyneth Paltrow-led adaptation of Emma on Saturday evening. This is another of my favorite Austen adaptations and though I had not seen it years, it lived up to my nostalgic expectations. Paltrow is a fantastic Emma and the cast is littered with esteemed British actors. I am happy to say I have not yet seen a disappointing Austen adaptation – though I am sure they exist, so I tread into these waters carefully. I also discovered that Anna owns a copy of Clueless, and so…

On Sunday, we had to watch Clueless! It has easily been ten years since I’ve seen this film, but it also lived up to expectations. I was a bit wary as we started it that it would be one of the films you loved in your adolescence but upon later viewing seemed cheesy and dated. It is not the case at all here. First, it is an excellent modernization of Emma – the key plot points are all there, but manipulated just enough to make them plausible for a 1990s teenager. The script is smart: the jokes are clever and stand up to the test of time. The only thing that really dates this film is the fashion and the music, and those are two things we love to look back on with rosy nostalgia.

I am happy to report that Jane Austen made my weekend quite enjoyable. I will surely owe her more gratitude as Pride and Prejudice provides me tiny moments of escape during this busy, busy week.

Summer of Austen Begins

When Clueless came out, DMC (my then-very-best-friend) and I were the very first people at the local theater for the very first showing. (This surely betrays my age a bit since we were allowed to go alone and did not need chaperones.) Of course, we then spent the entire summer quoting the film (as if!) and pining for a closet like Cher’s. 

Oh, how I wanted that yellow plaid skirt!

And so it came to be that my first Jane Austen novel was Emma. Truly, I did not fall in love with the book upon this reading. I’m not even certain that I finished it. This is not a story of an adolescent love affair with the love affairs of Jane Austen’s imagination. But I’ve always held on to the book, and I did re-read it sometime in college – at which time, I guess liked it.

And then I read it again. And again. And somewhere along the way, I realized that I truly love this book. Recently, I exaggerated to a friend that I read Emma every summer, in August. That’s not entirely true (confession!) But I have read it several times, and typically in the late summer: those hot, lazy days when reading in your home with the curtains drawn to plead for some kind of relief from the sun is about all you can manage to do. The idea of reading Austen annually triggered a romantic curiosity though, and an idea – surely, reading any Austen novel in the summer is an enjoyable way to pass the time.
And so begins my first three-month project: Summer of Austen. I have read Emma, of course, and Pride and Prejudice (though I’ve seen the BBC miniseries countless more times than I’ve read the novel). I have not read any other Austen novels though and really know little about her life and contemporaries, beyond common popular knowledge.

I will immerse myself in Austen for the next three months: her novels, film adaptations, biographies, contemporary and current reviews and criticisms. I will read (and watch) with the eye of a historian, an amateur literary critic, an easily amused hopeful romantic.
First up: Northanger Abbey.