Lady Susan by Jane Austen

classic-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Lady SusanLady Susan by Jane Austen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Enter: Lady Susan Vernon, a handsome, coquettish, recently widowed mother engaged in matrimonial schemes for herself and her daughter. Enter–by way of a letter.

Yes, it’s quite a rarity that a book I’ve so rated would appear on my blog, and this one appears because, should one love it or otherwise, I’d still recommend that other fans of author Jane Austen read this early work of hers, Lady Susan.

Maybe Austen only knew why, in the course of her lifetime, she didn’t have it published.

As for myself, I purposely came to the text without knowledge of the story, since I find that Introductions and whatnot tend to say far more about a work than I wish to know before I’ve read the work for myself. I had, therefore, all the room in the world to be surprised by this Susan Vernon.

I wouldn’t have imagined an Austen heroine like Lady Susan, and I didn’t enjoy her much, nor did I gain much satisfaction from the way it all turned out for her in the end. Plus, though there was a time when it had greater popularity in literature, the style of telling a story chiefly through characters’ written correspondence isn’t my favorite.

I imagine that Austen wasn’t the keenest on the style for her own writing either, given that she didn’t use it in any of her other six completed novels. She even gives the style up before this novel is finished, beginning her third-person Conclusion by writing, “This correspondence…could not, to the great detriment of the Post Office revenue, be continued longer.”

I now feel much as I did after reading The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott: glad that I read it, and even gladder that the authoress got better with time.

 

Becoming Jane (2007)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Becoming Jane (2007) from Miramax Films, HanWay Films
Rated PG. Drama, Romance, Biography/Period Film

Description (from the film case): It’s the untold romance that inspired the novels of one of the world’s most celebrated authors. When the dashing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a reckless and penniless lawyer-to-be, enters Jane’s [Anne Hathaway] life, he offends the emerging writer’s sense and sensibility. Soon their clashing egos set off sparks that ignite a passionate romance and fuel Jane’s dream of doing the unthinkable–marrying for love.

My thoughts: The beautiful film that first made me a fan of Hathaway. I’m sure my already being an Austen enthusiast and a writer myself helped, but Hathaway is truly wonderful in this role, regardless. And McAvoy, a versatile actor, does a heart-wrenching job as Lefroy. The ending is inevitable, and so excellently done.

Yes, Jane, you can live by your pen.

My corresponding reading: Austen’s six classic novels, of course, and Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin.

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Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Pride and Prejudice (1995) from British Broadcasting Corporation
Not Rated. Drama, Romance, Period Film

Description (from the film case): With a masterful script, deft direction, and star-making performances from Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, Pride and Prejudice transports viewers to Georgian England, where affairs of the heart are an exquisite game, and marriage the ultimate prize. But Elizabeth Bennet–spirited, independent, and one of five unmarried sisters–is determined to play by her own rules and wed for love, not money or privilege. Will her romantic sparring with the mysterious and arrogant Darcy end in misfortune–or will love’s true nature prevail?

My thoughts: It might be unfair, but the five hours I spent when I first watched this BBC miniseries, and however many more five-hour periods of my life I’ve passed watching it over again, have ruined all other onscreen versions of Pride and Prejudice for me, regardless of the fact that I haven’t seen all the others.

At less than five hours now, the story feels like a rushed, cursory portrayal of parts of the tale. I’m sorry. 🙂

The cast in this miniseries is all around excellent, I don’t believe Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet could be more superbly interpreted and realized than they are here, and I don’t believe I shall ever be shaken from that belief.

My corresponding reading: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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The Adverb: A Necessary Modifier

how-to-hold-a-pen-hi

As I stated in an interview with Wendy Van Camp at No Wasted Ink, “I’m a poet and a lover of words… I understand the importance of concision, of not being redundant or wordy for the sake of wordiness, but we live in a media-driven culture of quick sound bites and 140-character limitations, where ‘idk,’ ‘smh,’ and ‘lol’ have become what we frequently fall back on to express ourselves in writing on a regular basis. I believe there should still be books where readers can delve into the magnificence, the depth and height and breadth, of language. Sometimes taking the scenic route and enjoying the ride in literature is a great way to paint a compelling, lasting picture for reading audiences and thinkers, something I find and appreciate in much of the classic literature I read—something I don’t want our society to lose. I don’t yet have the command of language I’d like to have one day, but I’m working on it.”

I can’t tell you how many articles, tweets, and blogs I’ve come across that have warned writers about using adverbs, since I’ve gotten involved with social media. (No, really–I can’t tell you how many, not because I’ve come across a literal million, but because I didn’t tally the articles, tweets, and blogs as I read them. I have indeed read several, though, rest assured.) The running sentiment has been that nouns and verbs are what tell a story and that adjectives and adverbs–especially adverbs–should be used as little as possible, since they tend to be fluffy and unnecessary.

Yet, ever since I got a clear picture of what adverbs are (by way of watching “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here” on Schoolhouse Rock! as a child), I’ve been convinced that adverbs must be an important part of reading, writing, and speaking, otherwise they wouldn’t have been invented. What’s more, how pedestrian would the English language become without the modifying grace and efficacy of adverbs?

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From books I’ve read, by writers I esteem: quotes that would lose their full meaning, and therefore their full power, without modifiers.

The Portrait of Lady“It had come gradually–it was not till the first year of their life together, so admirably intimate at first, had closed that she had taken the alarm. Then the shadows had begun to gather; it was as if Osmond deliberately, almost malignantly, had put the lights out one by one.” ~The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, published in book form in 1881.

Emma

“They would feel that they could trust him; that the nephew, who had done rightly by his father, would do rightly by them; for they know, as well as he does, as well as the world must know, that he ought to pay this visit to his father; and while meanly exerting their power to delay it, are in their hearts not thinking the better of him for submitting to their whims.” ~Emma by Jane Austen, published in 1815.

Emily's Quest“She knew that a hard struggle was before her; she knew that she must constantly offend Blair Water neighbours who would want her to write obituaries for them and who, if she used an unfamiliar word, would say contemptuously that she was ‘talking big’… she knew there would be days when she would feel despairingly that she could not write and that it was of no use to try… days when the echo of that ‘random word’ of the gods, for which she avidly listened, would only seem to taunt her with its suggestions of unattainable perfection and loveliness beyond the reach of mortal ear or pen.” ~Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery, published in 1927.

The Great Divide

“Faces turned in unison toward the cemetery. Today was the first time Marcus had actually laid eyes on the place, and part of him understood perfectly why New Horizons had found it so offensive. The cemetery was not only large, it had a ramshackle air that defied orderly profit-driven thought.” ~The Great Divide by Davis Bunn, published in 2000.

The Small Rain“She smoothed the pages down very carefully, and when she came to one that still had little wet spots on it like rain, left there by Manya’s tears, she knew that the short verses with the title heavily underscored were what had made Manya cry. Softly she read to herself: Western wind, when wilt thou blow, The small rain down can rain?” ~The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle, published in 1945.

I’ve had this on my mind for a year or longer, so what prompted this post today? My agreement with recent points made by Robin Black: that adverbs aren’t “bad,” that they fulfill a need in the English language that would go wanting if adverbs didn’t exist. By no means should these modifiers be driven into the ground and be made ridiculous with excess, but they are as legitimate a part of speech as nouns, verbs, etc. and should be respected and utilized accordingly.

(“Accordingly”–to end my thoughts with an adverb!)