Keeping up with my Austen kick, another slightly chick lit adaptation that I read recently (this fall) was The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz. This modernizing update of Persuasion was recommended to me by a friend. Even though I’m well familiar with the story, I still found myself dying to get back to reading it. Somehow, these stories still manage to generate in me a page-turning suspense.
I thought certain aspects of this update worked better than others. Jane Fortune, the Anne Eliot stand-in works for her family’s literary journal, the Euphemia Review. While in keeping with Jane’s literary interests (and the opportunity for meeting her Captain Wentworth figure, writer Max Wellman), something about the unrealistic nature of her career bothered me. The story is set in
While no Austen, and at times oddly irksome, I still found myself captivated by The Family Fortune. What do you think of the cottage industry of chick lit ‘Austen’ retreads? Do you have a book that fully captured your interest despite its faults?
I vividly remember when the movie Clueless came out. I was 11, and had recently moved to a new town, and was going to summer camp with most of the other girls in town. One early social outing was for a big group of us to go see Clueless, a film that had certainly been well marketed as “super-cool” for the pre-teen set. I was very excited to be included, and it was the first time I went to the movies with friends, and without adults. The movie lived up to everyone’s expectations of humor and glamour. The following year I was able to cajole two friends into seeing Emma with me, and I at least, enjoyed seeing the parallels between the two movies.
Fast-forward a few years, to when I finally read Emma, and it becomes my favorite novel. I was then also able to better understand the nuances of two of my favorite movies. When I got to college and was studying Austen, one surprise was that while most of my professors and teaching fellows decried Austen movie adaptations, they universally admired Clueless. For my 19th Century Novel class, our professor even sponsored a movie viewing after we read Emma. One highlight was my TF extolling the virtues of getting to see the physical embodiment of Emma in Alicia Silverstone. Seeing the film as I got older (and many times since) my appreciation for it has deepened. In each new viewing, I uncover a new example of director Amy Heckerling’s trenchant wit and I marvel at how she was able to so supplely adapt the novel to a very different modern setting.
What do you think of Clueless? How about all the Austen and other ‘trendy’ literary adaptations and updates that followed its success? Do you have any favorite going-to-the-movies stories?
Seeing as I wrote about Jane Austen yesterday, I wanted to continue in that vein and write a bit more about an Austen spin-off I recently enjoyed. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler was published in 2004, but I did not read it until this past summer.
This was a book I had been somewhat interested in, but never felt fully motivated to pick up. Last summer I finally checked it out of the library, and read it while traveling to visit a friend. I became instantly absorbed, and found the novel both humorous and moving. I thought Fowler created a novel that was both innovative and entertaining, and which borrowed from Jane Austen, while still remaining subtle and original. I felt like she was really able to capture Austen’s style and wit, while using her own voice to create fresh stories and characters.
The novel follows the formation of a book club in the
I found The Jane Austen Book Club to be one of those novels that’s just a real pleasure to read, and I’d thoroughly recommend it. (Though, as a houseguest, I did wander off a bit in my eagerness to keep reading!)
I heartily enjoy Jane Austen’s six novels (though I find Persuasion divine, and Sense and Sensibility merely good) and I also usually enjoy the manifold film and television representations of her stories. So I was quite excited for PBS’s new Masterpiece Theater season opening with The Complete Jane Austen—broadcasting adaptations of her six novels, along with a Jane Austen biopic. So far new ITV (a British channel) productions of Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and
If I love a book, I usually enjoy seeing an adaptation, even if I think it fails to fully capture the original. And one thing that I am frustrated by is how other ‘fans’ can often become a critical mob, eager to find faults, and unwilling to appreciate the unexpected or something that deviates slightly from their own vision. With these recent Austen adaptations I am a bit perplexed. I’ve read that they’ve trimmed down these versions to fit into a 90 minute running time. I know all the stories well, but I feel like if I didn’t I’d be quite confused. These seem less like complete stories than illustrated Cliffsnotes.
However, I don’t want to become too wacky of a fan. I studied English in college, and the late 18th century/early 19th century in particular, so I always felt a bit self-conscious about the zaniness of Austen-maniacs. In addition to film and television, there’s a whole cottage industry of spin-off books.
What do you think about Austen adaptations? How about the PBS series? And do you ever feel chagrin when you see your fellow fans (whatever your topic of interest might be)?