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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Book Wednesday: Emma, by Jane Austen

We all know this, we always hear it: don’t judge or dismiss a book (or a movie, or a tv show, or a type of food) without even trying it, because you might be missing out on a future favorite.

The subject of today’s blog was my last experience in proving the saying right.

Up until last summer, I had absolutely no interest in reading Emma. What I knew of the book was that Clueless served as a modern adaptation of it, and that Jane Austen had described Emma as “a heroine whom no-one but myself could like”. While I enjoyed Clueless when I watched it, it is not and has never been a cult movie for me. So read the other Jane Austen novels (the complete ones, minus Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan) and figured that was well enough for me.

And it might have been, but in August, Bernie Sue and the team behind the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (a modern, vlog adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) and Welcome to Sanditon (a retelling of Sanditon starring Gigi Darcy of the LBD) announced their next project: Emma Approved. You’ll never guess which book it tackles.

Because I made a vow to myself to read the book before I watch an adaptation, whenever I can, and because I loved the LBD and Welcome to Sanditon so much and wanted to support the creators in their new endeavor, I read Emma. My expectations were pretty low, so it would have been hard not to meet them, and indeed, the book did meet my expectations, and even exceeded them, thanks to the character of Jane Fairfax and her secret romance with Frank Churchill. But even then, I figured: “okay, this was all right, thank God for Jane Fairfax,” and I was all ready to move on.

Only, I wanted to see more of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill. I started scouring the Internet for fan-fiction  of these two. I found some, but I also found some distressing blog entries and comments. Some people were arguing that Frank Churchill was the villain of Emma, that he was no better then a Willoughby or a Wickham. “That can’t be right!” I thought. “Why are those people wishing a Willoughby/Wickham on my Jane Fairfax? Did I read the book wrong? Did I miss something?”

So I went back and read again, and I discovered the genius of Emma as a novel. Jane Austen may, arguably, have reached her peak with this novel. I’ve heard Emma described as a detective story, and that is exactly what it is. It works in the way of the best detective novels, with little clues carefully planted throughout the text for the reader to pick up and pick apart, with something new to be discovered with every re-read. I should know, I’ve re-read the whole book at least 6 times, and various parts of it, especially volumes 2 and 3, maybe twice that.

So the next time someone recommends a book and I hesitate, I hope I’ll remember Emma, and give it a go. And if there’s anyone out there who wants to argue with me about Frank Churchill being the villain of Emma, I say Pull out your book and I’ll pull out mine; we’re going to have a chat. Also, to the team of Emma Approved, you have just begun the Volume 2 arc, and we know what that means. I hope you do this story more justice then Hollywood, or the BBC, have ever done. I am worried, but I have faith in you.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Theater Monday: Zone

I figured I would begin Theater Monday chronologically, with my oldest memory. The first play I can remember that really left an impression on me was Zone, by Marcel Dubé. We studied the play in my second-to-last year of high school French class.

(Just a quick note to say that my French teacher that year was genuinely awesome. When he returned our first assignments of the year, he said to the class: “I was looking for the proper word to express my feelings towards these assignments. I asked myself What is worse then mediocrity? And then it came to me: pathetic.” I’m not sure I agree that pathetic is worse then mediocre, but I know that in later assignments, when he complimented my work, I felt special.)

Zone is a 1953 play in three acts about a gang of young adults (between 16 and 21 years old) who smuggle contraband cigarettes from the US into Canada. I don’t remember the exact details of the play (and damn it! I don’t own the book anymore and it’s out of print!) but both the second act and the ending stuck to my mind especially.

At the end of the first act, the gang is arrested (because the leader killed a border agent during his last run). During act two, they are interrogated by the police. The beginning of the act, I remember being hilarious, because of the way the teenagers would frustrate the policemen without meaning to. They all have peculiar nicknames – Tarzan, Passe-Partout (Master Key), Ciboulette (Chive), Moineau (Sparrow), Tit-Noir (Blackie) – and when the policemen ask for their names, they answer with the nicknames at first. It’s especially funny when it’s Moineau’s turn, because he’s so sweet and a little simpleminded, and no-one’s ever called him anything but Moineau, so the policemen cannot get an actual name out of him, nor much of anything else.

But act two takes a turn for the dramatic after Passe-Partout has his turn, and spills his guts to the police, betraying Tarzan, the leader, in the process. The police take a (second?) turn at Tarzan, and a much more brutal one. They use Ciboulette, the youngest, the only girl in the group, against him. They pretend that they are about to arrest her, and he confesses to keep her safe. As he’s dragged away, he yells at Ciboulette not to speak, to stay strong. It’s been clear up to that point that Ciboulette has feelings for Tarzan, and this scene is the first clue that Tarzan feels something back. The second clue came from act three, when Tarzan escapes from jail, reunites with the gang, is shot by the police and dies in Ciboulette’s arms. At least, that’s how I remember it. (I shipped those two before I knew what shipping was.)

I probably missed a lot of the important stuff about this play when I first read it, and it’s been years, and I really need to re-read it, and probably to see it as well because that it a completely different experience, but there was one important lesson learned here: give people a ship and they’ll remember you forever.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Back to the Internet.

I finished and submitted the manuscript I promised my publishers I would send them yesterday. Finally, I know. And I was only two and a half hours late. Which I consider especially impressive because, and no-one knew this other than me, when I suggested this manuscript three weeks ago, and was asked to submit it, it was only three-quarters written. And I had some extensive revisions to do, because of that bad habit I have of switching between past and present in my verbs, and because some parts were just bad and needed to be scrapped.

So anyway, the point is I am done! Which means that I can start doing other stuff, like using Twitter more actively, reading some books to add to my Goodreads shelf, use this blog more often the way I promised myself I would. (And also do other stuff I’ve been putting off, like shoveling and grocery shopping.)

In my last post, I mentioned plans I had made to be more efficient in my “regular posting” resolutions. Well: here it is. I will be posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (This Saturday post was planned to be a Friday post, back when I though I might finish my manuscript before midnight.) Some friends suggested that I choose a theme for my blog, because to retain a readership, people have to know what to expect of me. Just talking about whatever the hell I want might have worked if I’d started blogging in the 90’s, but as things stand, I guess my friends have a point. While I don’t like the idea of one theme, I thought I could use some more structure, and maybe a couple of different themes.

Monday is Theater and Musicals day. I’ve had a long interest in both those subjects, and I have seen many plays and many shows, sometimes live on stage, sometimes in a film adaptation, and … let’s leave that at that. Anyway. I could talk about the shows I’ve seen, and the ones I haven’t seen but studied in school (when you study literature, theater kind of comes along with it). I could even upload videos of me singing covers of my favorite songs from my favorite musicals, if/when I ever get my camera back.

Wednesday is Books and Writing day. I do spend a lot of time reading and writing, and it’s only fair that I spend some time talking about that. I can do book reviews. I can talk about book adaptations. I can talk about the ongoing marketing efforts for The Admirer. I can talk about my next project, or about the fan-fiction I write. That’s right, folks, I write fan-fiction and say it proudly. I might even post some here.

Friday is Whatever I Feel Like day. Is it cheating? Maybe, and maybe my friends won’t be happy with me, but you know what? That’s just the way it is. I have things going on in my life that don’t fit in any of the above-mentioned themes, and I want to give myself the freedom to talk about them. I could talk about games, either video or table top. I could upload covers of songs that are not from musicals, again, if/when I get my camera back. (I know I could film myself on my phone, but I have a hard time exporting those videos, and it doesn’t look as good anyway.) I could develop some other interest, like cooking, or baking, or fashion, or make-up, or something that isn’t even tangentially related to books.

So here is the plan. It’s exactly as much structure as I’m willing to implement in my blog at this time. Too much? Too little? Time will tell.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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