Tag Archives: classics

SBD: Persuasion (again)

In case you missed my earlier posts in which I proclaim my adoration of Austen’s Persuasion, let me just repeat:  it’s my favorite of her books.  It is one of my Top Ten Reads of All Time.  I have a copy of the 1996 adaptation with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.  Wentworth’s letter to Anne is….*sighs*… The Letter.  I own three four paper copies of the book, all from different points in my life:  high school, college, copy acquired when away from home and in need of a comfort read, and now  an annotated edition.  There’s an e-version on my Kindle, too, downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

I’ve been reading the annotated version lately, reading it slowly, allowing myself only one chapter every couple of days.  Reading it out loud, because the sound of the words in the air somehow has a different import than words left silent on the page.  As much as I’m enjoying it, though, I’m not really certain what the point of the annotations is.  Or more precisely, who the intended audience is.  Some of the notes are interesting, with bits about how naval ranking works/worked (three types of admirals with three ratings in each tier), clothing and carriages of the time, social hierarcy, the difference between a knight and a baronet, etc.  Other notes are fairly elementary, though, explaining word selection or usage that seems obvious based on context.  So is this annotated edition intended for the reader who is unfamiliar with the vocabulary quirks and style of 19th century British writers?  Is it supposed to be a text book for an English lit class?  I’d be interested in hearing from anyone else who has read Shapard’s annotated edition of either Persuasion or Pride & Prejudice, just to know what others think — I haven’t found many reviews by non-academics (and relatively few by academics or Austen-philes).

When culling my archives for Persuasion-related posts, I realized two things:  1) my tags are really not consistent; and 2) I’ve never written a review of Persuasion.  Perhaps that will change.  Or perhaps not.  

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Jane Austen

I wrote up a brief post for Readers Gab yesterday…but it turns out I was early, so it’s getting pushed back until Monday.  It was prompted by a display table full of Austen spin-offs.  This review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies asks the same question:  what is it about Jane Austen?

So I guess I should come up with another post?

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SBD: Persuasion (again)

‘Tis Monday, and Beth has charged any and all with the SBD.

If you’ve read my archives, you’ll know that I [heart] Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  And I’ve SBD’d about it a couple of times.  But, y’know, it’s a classic, so there’s always more to say about it.

And here’s my first bit of bitchery:

Dear PBS/Masterpiece Theatre:

What were you thinking? Why did you mangle Jane Austen’s Persuasion so?  

I saw at your website that Andrew Davies wrote the screen play for four of the productions; I could tell that this one was not on the list even without being told.  Why?  Because the text of the book was hacked apart, with bits of dialogue being rearranged and inserted helter skelter, without regard for where they actually belong in the story.

I haven’t checked out the direction or cinematography; will I recognize the names, or will I learn that Persuasion was their debut?  I can only hope the later.  The blocking was awkward; the acting was wooden; the shots and lighting were odd.  At one point, the frame seemed to vibrate as if the filming was being done by a handheld camera — that modern technique did not fit the story well at all.

And the casting.  Where to start?  The fellow who played Giles in Buffy played Sir Walter Elliot; not bad but not as foppishly foolish as Colin Redgrave.  The sister?  Eh.  Mrs. Clay?  Okay.  Admiral and Mrs. Croft?  Didn’t really suit the crusty admiral established in the book and she just seemed silly.  And Anne.  That actress was woefully miscast in my opinion.  She seemed unable to convey anything other than a sort of pathetic mooniness.  Captain Wentworth?  Well, Rupert Penry-Jones was not at all hard on the eyes.  Not who I would’ve cast, but his prettiness distracted me from the horror of the screen play.

Anne goes running around Bath, chasing after Wentworth?  I cannot imagine any Austen heroine doing that.

I’ve saved the biggest offense for last:  you butcher The Letter.  *splutters incoherently*  The Letter?  Is sacrosanct.  Do. Not. Edit.  Ever.

I’m going to watch the 1995 version of Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, erasing this version from my memory.

Utterly disappointed,

Edited for verb tenses, etc.


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Walk like an Egyptian

Anybody seen the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia? Any advice?


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Nora Roberts & Jane Austen & daffodils

Go check out today’s post at Dear Author — it is the tale of best selling author (295 million books in print!) Nora Roberts’ first sale.

Jane Austen: I’m rereading Emma, and the afterword by David Pinching has me thinking about why I admire this book but don’t love it the same way I love Persuasion. It is a marvelous piece of fiction written by a master storyteller. The lack of plot doesn’t bother me, but I just don’t *care* about any of the characters, who all seem to be a bit like caricatures to me. Apparently Austen’s intent was to write a heroine whom no one would love but her; Pinching says that we the readers really do like Emma. He also says that Emma is heroine who is “not always right but she is always sympathetic.” Hmm, I disagree there — I find her well-drawn, but unsympathetic through a great deal of the book. Which is why I seldom reread the book, I suppose.

Daffs are everywhere. There are huge banks of them in the median of the parkway on my way to and from work. Yesterday I was tempted to feign car trouble so I could pull over and snip a few. (They might die because of the frost tonight or this weekend, y’know; I’d be doing them a favor!) But that’d be bad karma (with my luck my car wouldn’t start again) and probably a ticketable offense. It’d cheaper and safer just to pick some up at the flower stall in Cross Street Market.


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Belated birthday wishes

¡Feliz cumpleaños a Gabriel García Márquez!

Well, belated birthday wishes, since his 80th birthday was yesterday.

And (woo hoo!) he’s working on the follow up to Vivir Para Contarla. Courtesy of the LA Times via Galley Cat. Happy news, especially since I didn’t know that he had given up writing and was looking forward to the next volume of his memoirs! 

And Mike Newell & Javier Bardem just finished filming Love in the Time of Cholera. Bardem is playing Florentino Ariza, with Benjamin Bratt as Dr. Juvenal Urbino and Giovanna Mezzogiorno as Fermina Daza.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing this over the Thx holiday.


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I was over at IMDB checking out some other stuff, and I noticed that there is a new TV version of Persuasion in the works. Check out the summary. I’m a curmudgeonly creature of habit. I like the old version: Ciaran Hinds (mmmm) as Captain Wentworth; Amanda Root as Anne. Now, Rupert Penry-Jones is hawt — I’ve caught him in a couple of episodes of MI-5/Spooks — but in my mind he’s not Wentworth. I can’t imagine him reading or saying “I can listen no longer in silence…I am half agony, half hope…” And who is Sally Hawkins? Is she Anne Elliot? I can’t tell. I wonder if this will air or be available in the US?


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Continuing education and Gabriel’s Ghost

I signed up for a class that starts on Monday. I’ve been feeling kind of stagnant lately, so I’m trying something new. We’ll see how it goes. I really wanted to take a brush up class in Spanish or Russian, but didn’t register in time to be tested and placed before classes begin, so I’ll have to wait until the winter or spring session for that. So instead I’m taking a different language entirely 🙂 It would make sense to specialize in one wouldn’t it? rather than have a smattering of several, none of which I am truly proficient in. But I never claimed to be the most practical of people.

Finished Gabriel’s Ghost by Linnea Sinclair, which was a RITA winner for science fiction/fantasy, I believe. Liked it, although there were a couple of things that irritated me, as I mentioned when I posted to a chat group. It reminded me of Firefly, but I’m not entirely sure why. May have to go back and reread and reconsider to figure that out.

ETA: I skimmed Janet Aylmer’s Darcy’s Story. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, but it didn’t really grab me. And I saw an ad banner over at AAR for Mr. Knightly’s Diary, a retelling of Emma from Mr. Knightly’s perspective. Eh, another JA spin off? Enough, I say!

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Fanny Hill

Check out Jonathan Yardley’s review of Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure in the Post today. He calls it “a splendid bedtime story for grown-ups.”

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SBD — Jane Austen again

Welcome to SBD!

I blame Beth and Doug. It’s all their fault, I swear it. I started checking out Beth’s blog on Mondays after finding my way there because of the post about Persuasion that turned into a discussion of Pride & Prejudice. And Doug, well, he mentioned Madame Bovary’s Ovaries, which purports to be a literary critique from an evolutionary biology perspective. It’s not, really, as I wrote in my review. But the book did set me off on my way to reading some of the work of lit-crit guru (apparently) Harold Bloom. My local library had 25+ volumes of literary criticism that he’s edited, and being a Persuasion fan, I picked that volume to read, as well as the volume on Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’ve just finished the Persuasion edition, which was interesting but also gave me a headache. Yes, JA is a master (mistress?) of words and images, but did she really intend all of the stuff that literary critics see and write about in her books? Some of it, yes, I can see that, but all of it? I’m not so sure.

Tangent: Sometimes I wonder if all lit-crit isn’t kind of like a writing class I once took. One assignment was to write about a barn, but use the barn as an image, not the main theme. Okay. So I wrote about a ramshackle barn as a metaphor for a crumbling marriage, and my question was whether or not it was fixable, building or marriage. Not being a farmer, I had a limited number of farming tools in my vocabulary: tractor, roto-tiller, hay-bailer, rake, hoe, etc. Every damn person who read the piece thought my mention of a hoe meant that the marriage was falling apart because someone cheated. [Eddie Murphy has a lot to answer for, the meaning and use of that word is changed for ever and it’s all his fault.] No, when I was writing, I was thinking that the problem was age and indifference and neglect (hence, the falling down barn; I’m a pretty obvious person when it comes to imagery, what can I say?). The instructor’s position was that it didn’t matter what I consciously intended for readers to get from the words I used, all that mattered was what readers got, and since that’s what they read, then I must have subconsciously selected words to create that effect. No, really, I just couldn’t think of any more farming tools and didn’t have time to do research, since I procrastinated til the night before the assignment was due. So I wonder if we as readers are doing the same thing to Jane Austen’s work. Not that my lame barn story was that good, but really, if it happens to sucky writers like me, it could probably happen to amazing ones, couldn’t it?

Anyway, some of the critical essays seemed to be, well, reaching, to me. Like they were written by an academic who had forgotten how to just enjoy the written word on the page, or how to read a book or watch a movie without always looking for subtext. But a couple of them were really good and made me think, including one that wrote about Anne Elliot as a listener. The author (I forget what his name was, Stuart Tavo, maybe?), wrote about how JA changed the ending of Persuasion, because she needed to show the metamorphosis of Wentworth. Anne was always the listener; to have her overhearing a conversation, as the original ending went, would be nothing new. Wentworth, though, had consciously refused to “hear” Anne when they met again because of wounded pride, stupidity, etc. Being overheard would not demonstrate the change in his thinking re: Anne, but having him strain to listen to Anne speak to Harville about female steadfastness, and then write that he can listen no longer in silence was a big, big deal. Hence, the second version of the ending, which is the ending that readers know and love.

That same essay mentioned perspective briefly, and wondered about the use of Anne as narrator. Because really, a more normal (for that time) perspective would have been that of Wentworth. It would likely have made the book more of a light comedy, rather than the melancholic book that Persuasion is, despite the HEA. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to imagine the tale told from Wentworth’s perspective. If I ever manage to get my head around it, I’ll post a synopsis and maybe a blurb here. But can you imagine it? Do you think you’d like that version as much as Anne’s? However much I like Wentworth because of his letter, Anne, sympathetic Anne, is the draw to Persuasion for me.

Another essay was about fiction as a biography, listing all of the similarities in Anne’s life to Jane Austen’s life. Okay, whatever. A third essay, which was one that I enjoyed a great deal, talked about community, which was actually pretty interesting. Unlike the other books Austen wrote, Persuasion does not end with a happy new couple being established within the existing community. Instead, Anne and Wentworth create their own new community that is unlike any other in JA’s works. It’s a landless community. The author’s point is that land and community (read: the estate of the main characters) in JA’s books was used as the stimulus for familial and cultural continuity. Without them, that stability is eroded, leading to change in social structure and the class system. This kind of touches on another essay I read once in the Norton edition which also wrote about Wentworth as a New Man. While I tend to think of JA as a member of a gentry class, unchanging, she was writing about the change of society in a small, incremental way in Persuasion.

What’s my point? What am I bitching about? Well, mostly that these essays, however thought-provoking or headache-inducing they may be, seem to forget an important point: it’s a ROMANCE, stupid! Yeah, it’s got other stuff going on because JA was a smart writer who included social commentary and criticism in her work, along with layers of all kinds of stuff, but really, for a lot of readers Persuasion is about the Happily Ever After. Anne and Wentworth are reunited after an eight year absence, each recognizing the sterling qualities in each other and appreciating them. Do readers really care about the creation of a new community? Uh, I don’t think so. Do they ever think that a more traditional comedic narrator would’ve been Wentworth? I doubt it. It’s his letter to Anne that melts us.


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