Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld – A Review

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield 2016 x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Jane Austen is a tough act to follow and that is exactly what the Austen Project asks contemporary authors to do: reimagine one of Austen’s novels in the here and now. Curtis Sittenfeld, the author of four novels including Prep and American Wife, was chosen to take on Austen’s best-known work, Pride and Prejudice. While P&P-inspired books and films such as Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bride and Prejudice demonstrate that the story and its themes have broad appeal, I wondered how Sittenfeld’s Eligible would handle the main plot points in a modern setting. Many of the issues that Austen’s characters grappled with are barely recognizable if they exist at all in modern daily life.

In Eligible, the tension between the original story and Sittenfeld’s inventions kept me turning pages. Brief, episodic chapters mirror the short attention span of a digital era audience. In contemporary Cincinnati, Mr. Bennet spends as much time as possible alone at his computer, while Mrs. Bennet’s life revolves around country club gossip and planning luncheons for the Women’s League. Jane and Liz have carved out careers in Manhattan: the eldest Miss Bennet teaches yoga while her sister writes features for a magazine. They return to Cincinnati when Mr. Bennet has a heart attack. Their practical assistance and support are needed because their younger sisters while living at home, are little help to their parents. Socially awkward Mary is pursuing her third online master’s degree while Kitty and Lydia, as crass and self-absorbed as ever, are obsessed with working out at the gym and following trendy diets. Sittenfeld’s group portrait of the Bennet clan was one of my favorite parts of Eligible. It’s easy to picture Jane Austen smiling at this: Continue reading

Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors, edited by Susannah Carson – A Review

Living with Shakespeare, edited by Susannah Carson (2013)From the desk of Br. Paul Byrd, OP:

Is there, as an English teacher, anything more intimidating and yet thrilling than teaching Shakespeare? He is, after all, the one author whose works are thought essential to a “good education.” But having just finished a three week unit on Macbeth, I am confident only that I have invited my students to the conversation about Shakespeare’s greatness; I’ve yet to really convert them. In Living with Shakespeare, Susannah Carson–who previously compiled the excellent essay collection in praise of Jane Austen entitled A Truth Universally Acknowledged–brings the conversation about Shakespeare to a whole new level by presenting over forty extraordinary voices in dialogue about their connections to Shakespeare. Carson writes “I’ve attempted to bring together as many perspectives as possible, not in order to be exhaustive–but to celebrate the many different approaches to appreciating Shakespeare that there are possible” (xvii). To that end, there are actors and directors, writers and professors, united in a chorus of myriad accents all acclaiming the undisputed genius of the Bard.

Not surprisingly, some may find reading Living with Shakespeare to be as intimidating as studying the plays themselves. However, although many of the essays are heavyweight academic or professional reflections, there are others that are much more accessible to the general reader, including those readers who are more interested in learning what their favorite graphic novelist (say Matt Sturges) or their favorite film star (say James Franco) has to say about his relationship to Shakespeare than they are about discovering the glories of the dramatic masterpieces themselves. Accordingly, I think this volume equally suitable for the well-stocked library as the classroom or college library. Continue reading

Jane Austen’s England, by Roy and Lesley Adkins – A Review

Jane Austens England, by Lesley and Roy Adkins (2013)From the desk of Shelley DeWees:

“In her novels Jane Austen brilliantly portrayed the lives of the middle and upper classes, but barely mentioned the cast of characters who constituted the bulk of the population. It would be left to the genius of the next generation, Charles Dickens, to write novels about the poor, the workers and the lower middle classes. His novel A Tale of Two Cities starts with celebrated words: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’ This is a succinct summary of Jane Austen’s England, on which we are about to eavesdrop.” p. xxvi

You’ve been warned. Should you wish to maintain the sanctity of your internal imagery of Jane Austen, turn back now, before you step into the not-so-forgiving light of real history. Do thoughts of frocks and frolicking and tea cakes and rainbows seen through the thin gauze of parasols really blow your skirt up? Wishing you could be amongst the ladies and gents of an Austen ball? Hoping against hope that somehow, magically, you could be transported into Jane’s idyllic agrarian life? Jane Austen’s England, in all its cool clarity and detail, is probably not where you should look for inspiration, and may, in fact, leave you reeling; your perfect imaginary life forever ruined! The humanity of it! Continue reading

New Jane Austen Short Story Anthology Announced Today

Hot off the presses is an announcement today in Publishers Weekly of a new Jane Austen short story anthology to be published by Random House in 2011. The collection will include approximately twenty stories inspired by Jane Austen, literature’s witty muse of the modern novel and astute observer of human nature and the heart.

Readers familiar with Austen inspired paraliterature will recognize many popular authors among the list of those contributing and a few surprises from best selling authors who greatly admire Austen’s works. Contributing to the line-up are best selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club), Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series) and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Approximately twenty Austenesque authors and others from related genres have already committed to the project including:

Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman Trilogy)

Elizabeth Aston (Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, & Writing Jane Austen)

Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series, & The White Garden)

Carrie Bebris (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries Series)

Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, & Mrs. Elton in America)

Frank Delaney (Shannon, Tipperary, & Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show)

Monica Fairview (The Darcy Cousins, & The Other Mr. Darcy)

Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club, & Wits End)

Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, & Mr. Darcy’s Diary)

Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, & The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte)

Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances)

Janet Mullany (Bespelling Jane Austen, & Rules of Gentility)

Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story, & Willoughby’s Return)

Beth Pattillo (Jane Austen Ruined My Life, & Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart)

Alexandra Potter (Me & Mr. Darcy, & The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather: A Novel)

Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino Bradway (Lady Vernon & Her Daughter)

Myretta Robens (Pemberley.com , Just Say Yes, & Once Upon a Sofa)

Maya Slater (The Private Diary of Mr. Darcy)

Margaret C. Sullivan (AustenBlog.com, & The Jane Austen Handbook)

Adriana Trigiani (Brava Valentine, Very Valentine, & Lucia, Lucia)

Laurie Viera Rigler (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict)

Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series)

In addition, a short story contest hosted by the venerable The Republic of Pemberley website will be held to fill one slot in the anthology for a new voice in Austenesque fiction. Further details on submission and manuscript deadlines will be posted here and at Pemberley.com.

And if you were wondering how I know so much about the project, I have been secretly working on it for months and will be the editor. I’m the luckiest Janeite in the world!

Cheers, Laurel Ann

© 2007-2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose