I was supposed to be looking up something else entirely, but when I saw the “Darcy friction factor” in the index, I couldn’t resist. Even better, it is the Moody Darcy friction factor. I think this calls for a detailed experimental study to determine Moody Mr. Darcy’s friction factor, and I heartily volunteer to participate. I’d like to tap into a little of Moody Mr. Darcy’s latent heat, if you know what I’m saying. I’d like to transfer a little heat between us by means of conduction. I’d like to put his working body against my hot body in a Carnot cycle of love. Alright, that’s enough.
As a lover of all things antiquated, I don’t read a lot of modern or contemporary fiction. I have recently been trying to catch up with some of the well-regarded works of the second half of the 20th century, but I got about 40 pages into an “absurdist” novel (The Crying of Lot 49 specifically), and I just couldn’t do it. All that (unnecessary) information being shared, I do like to read popular fiction sometimes. Case in point, Shannon Hale’s Austenland. After Heather posted that movie trailer last week, I looked into the book that inspired it. After finding it available as an E-book from the library (wee!), I went for it and checked it out.
Let me start out by saying, I enjoyed this book while finding it annoying. In the first few chapters, the writing style really bugged me. Hale is primarily a young adult writer and Austenland was her first novel for adults. The writing did not strike me as any more mature than a typical YA novel, though. In the first few chapters, there were sentences like these:
“Argh,” she arghed.
“It’s not something you tell your single best friend. It’d be like rubbing your nose in the poop of my happiness.”
Not a good start, in my opinion. The poop of my happiness? Come on, that doesn’t even make sense. The “Argh” line I think I would accept coming from someone with word-play cred like Nabokov (I do enjoy some 20th century fiction), but in this context, it just irked me. I pushed through this stuff, though, because I was really interested to get into the story. The story is about a young, 30-something woman who is so obsessed with the fantasy of Mr. Darcy that she can’t be happy in a real relationship. Her aunt bequeaths her a trip to a place called Austenland, where (seemingly exclusively female) visitors live in an immersive Regency world complete with handsome actors paid to woo them. The fact that these men are very nearly prostitutes is not at all addressed by the novel and does not seem to be an issue. I found that a little disturbing, but perhaps I’m thinking too hard about things. The interesting question the author has the protagonist (named Jane…”Ugh,” I ughed) face is whether or not the feelings her Regency dreamboats express towards her, and those she feels in return, are real or fantasy.
Once I got into the story, I definitely enjoyed it. I burned through the book in two days which is fast for me even with an easy read. The story was totally fun – enough so that I was able to get past the overly-simplistic and too colloquial narration from the protagonist. I found the premise a bit misleading, though. I thought the idea would be that the protagonist was obsessed with Austen’s works in book form, but it seems like she is much more hung up on the movie versions of all the novels. While some of the cinematic versions of Austen’s works have been great, the real art is in the written word. To become overwhelmed with the fantasy presented on the screen strikes me as shallow. I didn’t believe “Jane” was an Austen fan so much as a movie-romance fan, and that took something away from her character. I can get behind a reader lost in the worlds of her favorite books; I have less sympathy for a character pining for Colin Firth in breeches to the point of dysfunction in real life.
I also found the ending totally unrealistic and a bit bizarre. In fact, Jane’s return to real life at the end is when the plot takes the most fantastical turn. Still, I did relish the thought of what it might be like to live in the Regency world for a few weeks. I appreciate that Hale made a point to show the “life of leisure” that upper-class women lived to be almost unbearably dull at times. Hale also writes romantic tension well – I felt engaged in Jane’s relationships with the male leads and was sincerely hoping she’d end up with one in particular. For the devoted Darcy lover who likes breezy chick-lit, this book is a fun, very easy read. For the real Austen fan, this book is enjoyable but ultimately not satisfying.
Sometimes everything strangely comes together in a perfect (media) storm. That seems to be the case with Jane Austen this week. Two things of note sprang up yesterday and today. First, this trailer for Austenland, starring Keri Russell as a woman so obsessed with all things Austen that she heads to an Austen theme park/getaway of sorts for period costume/cosplay fun (uhhh, is the NSA monitoring my home? I’m pretty sure Katherine and I would do this for real). It also features Jennifer Coolidge (of the American Pie series), Jane Seymour and BRET MCKENZIE of Flight of the Conchords and Lord of the Rings fame (he plays Lindir (or Figwit for those of you/us REALLY in the know) ). His name gets caps-locked because I’m really excited to see him as a Wickhamesque character in the film. UNF.
Secondly, this ridiculous statue of Darcy.
No, I mean it. WTF is this. It’s supposed to be recreating one of the hottest moments in the A&E Pride and Prejudice and it just ends up well, falling flat on its face. Just terrifying. I’m going to be seeing this in my nightmares. The swans look a bit confused as well.
What say you, Dear Readers? Are we excited for Austenland? What would you want to see in a real-life Austenland? Should the Darcy statue be sent to Davy Jones’ locker?
I love seeing great books adapted into movies. Seeing the story played out with the nuances of facial expressions and body language lends a drama I can miss when reading the book. Older novels are particularly good to see acted, because it is easy to miss the humor or the irony in a written scene if you are not fully familiar with the customs or etiquette of the period; I often find the context to be more clear within a movie. Plus, I love seeing handsome actors in cravats and frock coats. There have been so many adaptations of the great 19th century works of literature that it can be hard to pick favorites, but we are up to the challenge. Below are the Vicky A’s choices for Top 10 Male Leads in a 19th century Film or TV Literary Adaptation, aka the Top TV/Movie Victorian Hotties.
10. Christian Bale as Laurie from Little Women
Before he was Batman or an American Psycho, he was every girl’s favorite boy-next-door, Laurie from Little Women. Apparently what it takes to win the heart of a March sister is to grow a goatee and become a wastrel.
9. Gene Wilder as Victor Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein
There have been a lot of Frankenstein movies, but for us, the definitive Victor Frankenstein is actually Victor FrAHnkensteen. Gene Wilder is simultaneously debonair, hilarious, and insane — the perfect man!
8. Orson Welles as Rochester in Jane Eyre
We’re dipping into the archives for this one, because I’m a bit concerned that this list is too heavily biased towards recent movies. There have been a ton of Jane Eyres, and I don’t necessarily think this one is my all time fave (I love the Masterpiece Theatre version with Toby Stephens which I just saw for the first time recently), but I do love me some Orson Welles. Citizen Kane-era, pre-liquor commercials Orson Welles.
7. Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer from The Age of Innocence
Oh, Daniel Day. DDL is amazing in everything he does, so if you haven’t seen this version of Age of Innocence, you can imagine the intensity he brings to the role of Newland Archer. Also, I have a feeling all the top hat wearing he does in this movie helped him really nail the role of Lincoln. Note: We know The Age of Innocence was written in the 20th century. Indulge us, please.
6. Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights
When asked to choose a favorite Heathcliff, Ralph Fiennes is our pick. It’s too bad he went on to be Red Dragon and then Voldemort for 8 movies – that kind of ruined him for me.
5. Brendan Fraser as Trevor Anderson in Journey to the Center of the Earth
HAHAHAHAjustkidding, I would never put Brendan Fraser on this list.
5. Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley in Emma
I am aware that Mark Strong has a minor male pattern baldness situation going on even in this movie, but I kind of don’t care; he’s a total fox.
4. Gabriel Byrne as Professor Bhaer from Little Women
Yes, another one from Little Women. Clearly, I saw this movie at too impressionable an age, and I still love Gabriel Byrne as the kindly Professor Bhaer.
3. Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility
Alan Rickman can read me Shakespearean sonnets anytime. How it took Kate Winslet so long to come around to this guy, I have no idea. I’m pretty sure I thought he was superhot even as a teenager.
2. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
He hasn’t been around as long as some of the others, and as they age like fine wine, Benny is just hitting his stride. Is that too mixed a metaphor? The point is, who doesn’t absolutely adore Cumberbatch in this role?
Sorry, that photo slipped in. I can’t control myself around Benny. Focus…
1. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy
The number one spot is easy. Who can deny that Colin Firth is the one and only Darcy? And who doesn’t remember the first time she saw that LOOK of his? In college, I spent hours discussing that look with the girls in my dorm. Colin Firth is number one on our list no matter what the subject of the list actually is.
Ok, we want to hear from you! Who did we miss? Are we way off? Who is in your top 10?
This will be a recurring post that answers the question of what it would be like to be married to that literary character you are in love with. Would it really be that great to be married to your Byronic ideal and have to deal with his emo day in and day out? Here is a day married to Mr. Darcy, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
— Waking Up —
You wake up at 8am, roll over, and find that your husband, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is not in bed next to you. Suddenly, the door opens.
Darcy: Are you still asleep?
You: Of course. It’s Saturday, and it’s only 8am! Where have you been? I thought we might cuddle…
Darcy: I awoke at 5am, restless to begin the day. I have been riding around the estate all morning. I am ashamed of your laziness. What is for breakfast?
You: My…what? I think there’s some cereal in the…
Darcy: CEREAL?! This I CANNOT stand!
<Darcy storms out and slams the door>
— Taking messages —
Darcy: Your mother called while you were out.
You: Oh, really? What did she have to say?
Darcy: I wouldn’t know. I hung up on her as soon as I heard her shrill voice. I refuse to speak to that silly woman.
You: What? But she’s your mother-in-law….
Darcy: I MUST refuse! My pride will NOT allow it!
You: Um…ok. I guess I’ll call her back.
— Intimate Moments —
Darcy comes home from a long trip into town.
You: <Arms spread> I’ve missed you! I’m so glad you are back.
Darcy: <puts his hand out to shake> Darcys don’t hug.
— Out with Friends —
You: Laura, Steve, this is my husband Fitzwilliam. Fitz, these are my friends from work.
Laura: It’s so nice to finally meet you! We’ve heard so much about you from your wife!
Laura: Um…yes, we’ve heard you have a very lovely estate. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard it’s a lovely area.
Laura: And you have horses?
Darcy: <Looks away and stares at television on the wall>
Steve: <jumping in> Hey, Fitz, you like to shoot, right?
Darcy: <Begrudgingly turns back to the party> I do.
Steve: I’ve got a couple of passes to the rifle range outside of town. We should go sometime!
Darcy: I would rather not.
You: Maybe we should just get a table…
— Watching TV—
You: <laughing> Oh my gosh, Fitz, you’ve got to watch this show. It’s hilarious!
Darcy: Ok. <sits next to you>
Show: …and that’s when the car exploded!
Darcy: Why are you laughing?
— Chores —
You: Can you do the dishes tonight?
Darcy: I must tell you how ardently I admire and love doing the dishes.
You: And could you iron your shirts, please? I don’t have time to do it.
Darcy: I must tell you how ardently I admire and love ironing shirts.