April 2010


Part II: Pride and Prejudice, cont’d

Tonight I watched P&P40, starring Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Darcy.  I love this movie.  Even if I didn’t love it, I might still have a soft spot in my heart for it because it was the first Austen adaptation I ever saw.

There are more lines taken directly from the book than one might think but, unfortunately, there are not enough.  I don’t mind some of the changes made to the story (for example, seeing the Netherfield Ball turned into a garden party), but some just make one scratch one’s head.

Mr. Collins is a librarian here, not a priest, and I do understand that, in 1940, they didn’t want to offend priests. OK, fine.  Whatever. Change the setting from Regency to early Victorian?  No biggie.  I’ll live.  Get rid of the visit to Pemberley?  Not so fine, but still not necessarily a deal-breaker.  But I will never understand why they needed to give Lady Catherine a personality transplant and have her be in favor of Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy.  This is not to say that Edna May Oliver did not do a great job as Lady Catherine — she most certainly did — but I just don’t understand why they changed her character so much.

Oliver steals almost every scene she’s in, except those with Greer Garson.  In my not-so-humble opinion, Greer Garson steals the show. Elizabeth Bennet is supposed to be 20, so Garson is far too old for the role, but she really gets the character and what makes her tick.  As Austen tell us,

Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody, and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed that, were it not for the inferiority of her connexions, he should be in some danger.

The dictionary tells us that “arch” means “roguish,” “mischievous” or “saucy,” and Garson understands this.  She’s never smug or nasty and it’s very easy to see why Darcy falls for her so quickly.  The whole cast does a terrific job with what they’re given, but Garson is just outstanding in this role.

Despite the weirdness that is P&P40, I still love this film dearly.  It’s not a great adaptation of P&P, but it’s still a fun movie and I have lost track of how many times I’ve seen it. Not everyone loves it, and that’s fine.  The world would be a very dull place if we all agreed on everything.

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Part II: Pride and Prejudice, cont’d

I just finished P&P and I liked it as much as ever.  Unlike most FoJ’s (Fans oJane), it is not my favorite of her novels; that honor is reserved for Persuasion.  I do enjoy it very much, however, and never turn down an opportunity to read it.

As I mentioned before, Miss Bingley positively jumped off the page in this reading.  Her jealousy is blatant and highly entertaining to read about.  I love how Elizabeth takes great pleasure in believing that Caroline’s fondest hopes may be for naught when she hears that Darcy may be engaged to Miss De Bourgh.

Now for something potentially controversial:  I don’t love Elizabeth Bennet.  Not at first, anyway.  I find her to be a rather self-absorbed young woman who looks at the world solely from the perspective of how it affects her.  She’s not very empathetic.  In this reading, I was taken aback at how rude she was to Charlotte, her best friend, when learning about Charlotte’s engagement to Mr. Collins.   Elizabeth is very proud of her wit and her cleverness and she allows herself to be taken in by a man who flatters her.   That’s fine if you’re a typical adolescent, but it’s not fine in a mature adult. Why is my opinion controversial?  Because a lot of readers think that Elizabeth is a mature adult from the start of the story.  I beg to differ.  Much is made of Darcy’s transformation from stuffy prig to romantic hero, but not nearly as much is made of Elizabeth’s transformation from self-absorbed girl to mature woman.  The title doesn’t just refer to “proud” Darcy and “prejudiced” Elizabeth. These words were, I believe, carefully chosen by Austen because they both refer to both characters.

I am also on record as not liking Mr. Bennet very much.  Without getting into adaptation territory, I’ll just say that I am not fooled by his wit into thinking he’s a benign character.  Quite the contrary.  He’s a bad husband and a bad father whose indolence is, in part, responsible for Lydia’s behavior. By the way, “indolence” is not my word. It’s Austen’s.  From chapter 50 of the novel:

Mr. Bennet had very often wished, before this period of his life, that, instead of , he had laid by an annual sum for the better provision of his children, and of his wife, if she survived him. He now wished it more than ever. Had he done his duty in that respect, Lydia need not have been indebted to her uncle for whatever of honour or credit could now be purchased for her.

…That it would be done with such trifling exertion on his side, too, was another very welcome surprise; for his chief wish at present was to have as little trouble in the business as possible. When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence.

In other words, this is a lazy man who is also rather self-absorbed.  Yes, he loves Elizabeth, but it is a signal that she’s growing up and becoming less self-absorbed when she realizes that his benevolence towards her does not compensate for his ill-treatment of the rest of his family.

As was the case with their edition of S&S, the Signet Classics edition of P&P that I read has an introduction by scholar Margaret Drabble and an afterword by a popular author of contemporary women’s fiction.  The afterword for S&S was by Mary Balogh, and the afterword for P&P was by Eloisa James.  When she’s not writing romance novels, Eloisa James (a.k.a. Mary Bly) is a professor of English Literature (primarily Shakespeare) at Fordham University in New York.  Her father is Robert Bly, the poet, and her mother is author Carol Bly.  So there was not quite the divergence of opinions between the introduction and the afterword as we saw in S&S.  I admit that I missed the differences in style and opinion and look forward to reading other afterwords by non-scholars down the road.

For this edition of our Jane Austen Odyssey, we’ll be looking at the following adaptations (because these are the ones I own):

  • P&P40 — Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier
  • P&P80 — Elizabeth Garvie/David Rintoul
  • P&P95 — Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth
  • P&P05 — Keira Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen

These are the “traditional” versions of P&P.  If I have time, I’ll check out the modernizations:

  • Bridget Jones’s Diary — Renée Zellwegger/Colin Firth
  • Pride and Prejudice-A Latter-Day Comedy — Kam Heskin/Orlando Seale
  • Bride & Prejudice — Aishwarya Rai/Martin Henderson

I like some more than others and my opinions may surprise you.  So, next up is P&P40 which, because of the costumes, is referred to by some as “Jane Austen meets Margaret Mitchell.”  See you then!

Bradenton.com’s headline describes the day quite nicely: Mutt Derby is doggone fun for good cause.

I never thought I’d say that I’d been to a dog track, much less that I had a great time at a dog track, but now I can say both.  The 2nd annual Mutt Derby was held yesterday at the Sarasota Kennel Club.  It’s a great idea and is a fund-raiser for Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption and the All Faiths Food Bank.  Dog owners pay $20 to register for the race, and everyone else brings food for the food bank.  A fine time was had by all.

My friend KC has a great dog named Trixie.  Trixie was entered in last year’s inaugural Mutt Derby, but she didn’t finish the race.  This year, however, we had a strategy.  “Team Trixie” showed up in force, wearing t-shirts made by Trixie’s (and our) good friend “C,” otherwise known as “The Cookie Lady.” Everyone we met loved our shirts, which featured Trixie’s picture and the legend “Team Trixie” in pink for the girls and maroon for the boy (for which he was very grateful).  We had our pictures taken by several people, but since none of them work for the local media, all you have is my word for it.  Here is a picture of the official Team Trixie uniform (click on it to make it bigger):

Trixie came in 2nd in her heat and so qualified for the finals of her weight class (17-35 pounds).  Unfortunately, she did not finish high enough in the finals to qualify for a prize, but we were all immensely proud of her anyway. She showed true class — she won with grace and lost with dignity.  None of us expected anything less.  The Team’s official videographer shot footage but this reporter has no clue how to get it into this post.  I apologize to one and all.  But if you do decide that you want to see the clip, drop me a line at currentscene AT gmail.com and I’ll forward it to you.

Anyone who’s in the Sarasota/Bradenton area next April should come and check out the Derby.  It’s a good time for a good cause.

The Mets are 9-9 and this is the first time they’ve been at .500 since April 5, when they were 1-1.  They’re 6-1 on this 10-game homestand, and they’re doing it without David Wright.  He’s  not on the DL or anything, he’s just not hitting.  At all.  The big news is that  Jason Bay went 3-for-4 against the Braves on Saturday and yes, I did get to see him get those hits. Box is here.

How did I see him get those hits?  With my Roku, which is finally accepting MLB.tv.   Before the season started, they promised us baseball for Opening Day.  Then they promised “mid-April.”  Then it was “late April.”  The natives were getting very restless over at MLB.com and Roku.com’s support fora.  But anyone who put money on “late April” won the bet. The interface is a little cumbersome and takes some getting used to, but it works and it works well.  It’s so nice to be able to watch games on the TV instead of on the laptop.  Two thumbs up for Roku.

Break up the Mets!

They took 3 of 4 from the Cubs, for the first series win of the still-young season. The Cubs (6-10) are dreadful.  How bad do you have to be to put your ace in the bullpen?

As for the only slightly-less-dreadful (7-9) Mets, Frenchy finally got off the schneid with a single in the 4-run 6th inning (breaking his 0-for-20-something skid) and Wright finally got a hit (but still managed to strike out 3 times).  I’m not sure I’ve even seen Bay get a hit.  I know he has at least one (he does have a BA, after all), but I don’t remember seeing them with my own eyes.  Given his history, I know he will hit, but I just wish he’d do it soon.  Frankie got the save, but it wasn’t the prettiest effort I’ve ever seen.  Last night’s box score is here.

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A second Navy SEAL has been cleared of charges stemming from a prisoner claiming he’d been beaten.  Bravo!  That’s two down, one to go.

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I mentioned a few weeks back (here) that I’d borrowed Gail Godwin’s Unfinished Desires from the library.  Unfortunately, I only managed about 75 pages before I returned it.  I simply could not get into it.  I lost track of how many characters there were and how they were related (or not) to one another, and basically didn’t care about any of them.  Oh well.

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And here’s something hot off the presses Arizona’s governor has signed the controversial immigration bill.  From Fox News:

The sweeping measure will make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It will also require local police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally.

I’m not sure what to think about it just yet but, given how much Obama hates it:

President Barack Obama on Friday harshly criticized a proposed law in Arizona to crack down on illegal immigration and said his administration would examine the measure to see if it is consistent with federal law.

…it has to have some redeeming features.

You’d think they’d have better things to do with their time than to come up with nonsense like this.  According to the National Post, taking a vacation will soon be a human right in Europe:

The European Union has declared travelling a human right, and is launching a scheme to subsidize vacations with taxpayers’ dollars for those too poor to afford their own trips.

This piece quotes another from the Times of London:

AN overseas holiday used to be thought of as a reward for a year’s hard work. Now Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer.

Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.

…Tajani, who unveiled his plan last week at a ministerial conference in Madrid, believes the days when holidays were a luxury have gone. “Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” he said.

This could cost Europeans hundreds of millions of pounds/euros per year.  They claim that, in Spain (where a similar idea has been tried), they made €1.6 for every €1 spent.  Maybe so.  But  that doesn’t make it a good idea over the long term.  When you subsidize something, you get more of it, and free vacations are bound to be popular.  Skyrocketing entitlement spending is hamstringing economies all over the world, and it hasn’t dawned on these people that a new entitlement (free vacations) won’t add to their problems?

It’s not enough to have a shorter work week. It’s not enough that double-digit unemployment is the norm.  It’s not enough that the few taxpayers who are left are forced to pay for mediocre “free” medical care.  Now these same taxpayers have to foot the bill so that 20-somethings can go on a 21st-century version of the Grand Tour.   Give me a break.

While I love visiting Europe, I don’t want to live there.  Unfortunately, a certain segment of the US population wants to bring Europe here, and I’m sure this is an idea that some of them can’t wait to look into.

Part II: Pride and Prejudice

My “first impressions” (pun very much intended) of this reading:

For some reason, it’s not Elizabeth who has been capturing my attention, nor is it Darcy.  Instead, it’s Miss Bingley.   I know that, once I finish reading about the Netherfield Ball (which will be soon), I won’t be seeing anything of Miss Bingley until Elizabeth and the Gardiners arrive at Pemberley, but in the meantime, I’m finding Austen’s description of a woman being eaten away by jealousy to be highly entertaining.

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I read chapter 19 during lunch today (Mr. Collins’ proposal), and came upon this:

Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the situation.”

It’s just so odd that I don’t remember ever seeing that passage before.  It’s shaming me into remembering that I’ve probably seen the adaptations more than I’ve read the book so I forget things that the adaptations omit but that actually are in the book.

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