Everything Austen II: The Jane Austen Challenge #everythingausten

So, Jane Austen. Woman writes six books, dies at the age of 41 with something no one is quite sure what killed her and is discretely known during her lifetime for her writing. BUT! And here’s the big but, she’s NEVER gone out of print in the nearly 200 years since her death. She’s as beloved today as when she began publishing as “A Lady,” is if the “not being out of print for 200 years” doesn’t grab you by the cajones, than it should be the fact that there is a pop culture explosion of Jane Austen goodness has been going on for the last couple of years.

Entrance to the Jane Austen Centre
Bath, England

Her popularity is so huge that when I traveled to England in 2008, there were two things I had to do: Visit the For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond exhibit at the IWM and lodge in as many Jane Austen locales as humanly possible. My friends Andy and Charlotte, whom I stayed with on this particular trip, graciously drove me to various points around south east England to get my fix. They even suffered through a talk at the Jane Austen Centrein Bath for my benefit. True friends will suffer for anything with you (and hide the bodies later). Andy and Charlotte also lived within minutes of Basildon Park, which was the location of Netherfield in the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice1, and I had to suffer through Andy’s mockery of holy that is Jane Austen and P+P as I toured the estate. But then again, Andy continually mocked just about everything I did on that trip because he loves to remind me that my country is mere toddler to his country and I’m easily and suitably impressed with any structure, monument, or bridge over 50 years old. In America, if it’s over 50 years old, it must be knocked down and the space made into a car park. Yes, apparently England is up to HERE in castles.3

You may remember that book-thing, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which came out in the spring of 2009? The mash-up of the old and the new has spawned a whole new industry and it’s not even just the mash-ups, it’s also the paraliterature, retellings (Clueless, Bride & Prejudice and cannot forget, Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (Yes, it IS a Mormon version!) – which I willingly did watch.), action figures, t-shirts, and the list goes on.

P+P and Zombies did not start the paraliterature trend, not by a long shot, but it DID push to public Ms. Austen’s popularity beyond that of Janeites and English Lit majors the world over. However you wish to explain Ms. Austen’s renaissance in the 21st century, it does go without saying that one could read/watch/listen to a plethora of retellings/mashups/adaptations/etc and not run of things to do for a very long time. When I stumbled across the Everything Austen II Challenge a few weeks ago, I knew this would be a perfect opportunity to organize my obsession a bit better. Goal: Pick any six Austen things (books/paraliterature/movies/audio/etc) and read/watch/listen to them between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011. Because there is so much, and I also read/watch/listen rather quickly, I’m fattening up my list to more then six items because I want to take pleasure in this for quite some time.

To Read:

To Watch:

  • Pride and Prejudice (1940), with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Lizzie. [With a tagline of, “The Gayest Comedy Hit of the Screen! Five Gorgeous Beauties on a Mad-Cap Manhunt!,” it will surely be hard to resist.]
  • Sex and the Austen Girl. [A webseries based off the work of Laurie Viera Rigler.]

To Listen:

  • Old Harry’s Game. [A BBC comedy radio show, Harry is actually Satan and the series, based in Hell, revolves around Harry\’s relationships/conflicts and tensions with his minions and the damned. J.A. is played as a foul mouth creature. Can’t wait to listen!]

Updated: 07/14/2010

1. In the holy war of the 2005 vs 1995 version of P+P, I’m firmly in the camp of 2005. Before someone starts squawking about the “integrity” of the 1995 version and how “true to the book” it is, let me remind one and sundry that there is not a single effing scene in the book describing Mr. Darcy’s exit from the lake. SECONDLY! Having re-read P+P after watching 2005 and 1995, 2005 is MUCH CLOSER to the book than 1995 version. Besides, K.K. is much “truer” to Lizzie’s spirit than Jennifer Ehle.
2. Grabbed P+P and Z when it was first published and tried desperately to read it. DESPERATELY is as close of word I can come up with because it is essentially JA’s writing worked around some awful “writing” that is to allude that if P+P had Zombies, this is how it would go. But the book is awful not because it’s a mashup but it’s awful because Seth Grahame-Smith delivered a great idea but an awful execution. What’s obvious is that he “attempted” to imitate JA’s voice but he fails madly at doing so so instead of having a blended work that is to be “80% JA and 20% SGS” comes out as “100% dreck.” Having started on the prequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which is far and away 1000 times better than the P+P and Zombies, this is the one I recommend for JA paraliterature/mashup over that other one.
3. Nod to Eddie Izzard for that one.