“I have good news.”

In Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Emma Thompson portrays Elinor (and Thompson also wrote the screenplay for which she received an Oscar), says this line to Edward (portrayed by Hugh Grant).  The scene drawn on reams of awkwardness as in the original novel. Colonel Brandon has generously offered Edward the living at his estate at Delaford, so that Edward can realistically have a living after being cast off by his family and marry Lucy.  And the Colonel asks Elinor to deliver the news, completely unaware of course, that Elinor herself is in love with Edward.

Austen’s original lines in her book are not as succinct as in the film version: “I have something of consequence to inform you of, which I was on the pointing of communicating by paper.  I am charged with a most agreeable office, (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke).”  Here I find Austen’s insertion of Elinor’s description of fast breathing rather telling.  Austen is setting a scene of frayed nerves, with compressed emotions, and continues to convey a very precarious scene unfolding, “What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be expected that anyone else should say for him  He looked all the astonishment which such unexpected, such unthought-of information could not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words:

Colonel Brandon!”

“Yes,” continued Elinor, gathering more resolution as some of the worst was over, “Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his concern for what has lately passed–”

And I’m going to leave off on quoting the passage there.  Returning to the the film version, the scene was awkward with Elinor (Thompson) and Edward (Grant) sort of shifting around, avoid eye contact, until Elinor (Thompson) sort of opens her arms, and gestures for Edward (Grant) to sit, while saying, “I have good news.”

Often I think of the line and it’s origins.  The idea that is a composite or a riff off one of my favorite author’s pivotal scenes often recalls me to sort of say it was a good long pause. Rather like the delivery of actor Emma Thompson, when I have the rare occasion to say it, often at work.  “I have good news,” is not something I say with any regularity and I try to keep (unlike Austen’s Elinor), a good even breath and tone.

These days as we enter the month of October, and are in reminders of the color pink and breast cancer awareness — it’s all we can hope for really.  My maternal grandmother was diagnosed in 1975, but lived until 1999.  My mom was diagnosed in 2014 right before my dad passed away, her surgery was just a small one, but the timing was terrible, she had to have it during my dad’s last days in ICU — and so I was left to run between buildings in Mass. General Hospital in Boston.  The realization of an only child’s worst nightmare.

Before my mum was diagnosed I was not considered high risk but that all changed.  And in February of 2016 my mammogram lit up.  After ultrasounds and biopsies — it wasn’t cancer but my surgeon, who like most surgeons I’ve met is not a big talker — told me simply it was a polyp in my duct and they were going to take it.  To note, he also does genetic profiling which is why I think I was assigned to him chiefly due to family history and my age, etc.  And learned about the high rate of change of cells, and read about the high incidence of cancer often beginning in the duct afterwards.  My surgery was minor, so I was back to work after a few days. Had a follow up mammogram a few months later.  As recommended my mother went in for the genetic testing and it turns out she doesn’t have any of the genes that are a pre-cursor to breast cancer — so I don’t have them either.  That was good news.

The close watch also requires an MRI every 6 months as well, which are difficult because: 1) MRI’s are very expensive and they must be pre-approved by my insurance company as medically necessary at least one week before, 2) the MRI must be done during a certain physical time of the month and Mother Nature often does not cooperate with the scheduling. The MRI is to keep an eye on a group of cysts–they are not cancerous yet (I had an MRI biopsy in the summer of 2016 they came back clear no high change of cells or anything yet) and it seems some people have a lot of cysts, just like acne or moles, but still they are just part of the whole close watch.

The last MRI was in May 2017 — after several attempts and rescheduling  it was done not at MGH Boston but outside the city, I had to go to work, leave, catch a shuttle  bus that did not take me right there, but luckily a nice lady on the bus helped me find it a few blocks away it via the GPS on her phone.  The tech was nice enough but they were short handed and one point he thought he may have perforated my vein hooking up the IV, finally it was all sorted out I just wanted to get it over with and we did. Ending up climbing out of the MRI machine myself because they were so understaffed and took a regular bus back to the train and the city.

By the time I got back to work there was only enough time left in the day to check email and mail and sort things out, and then my cell phone rang. It was the nurse practitioner (NP) covering for the NP from my surgeon/doctor’s office.  And I sort of freaked out but she said, “I have good news.”  The MRI results were back, and the cysts everything was the same, etc. She told me they would schedule me again, and the date awaits on the calendar. I’m hoping that Mother Nature and everything will comply, and again I just hope for that line, “I have good news.”

 

 

 

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Sense and Sensibility to be performed by the ART in Cambridge MA – December 10, 2017 — January 14, 2018

The American Repertory Theater (the ART) has announced they will be performing a stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, to run from December 10, 2017 — January 14, 2018 in Cambridge, Mass.  URL/link to their website below —

https://americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/sense-and-sensibility

 

 

 

“Eligible” Pilot at ABC/Disney

Photo credit: BBC/UK Telegraph

Source: Deadline Hollywood via LitHub(dot)com:  Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice, “Eligible” is getting a pilot at ABC/Disney.  So timely, just last week a couple of Austen loving colleagues mentioned this book to me.  Link to the story below–

http://deadline.com/2017/09/eligible-abc-put-pilot-i-marlene-king-sherri-cooper-landsman-jennifer-levin-1202163842/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geoff Nunberg on Austen’s First Line via NPR’s Fresh Air.

This year as previously noted, there have been a lot of articles and essays about Austen and her work coinciding with several anniversaries.  There were so many that I did a quick read and often put a few aside to go back and do a more closer reading later.

Just reread an article called: “The Enduring Legacy of Jane Austen’s ‘Truth Universally Acknowledged” by Geoff Nunberg which was featured on “Fresh Air” on National Public Radio (NPR).

Nunberg per the NPR blurb is a linguist who teaches at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley.  He starts off his article/essay stating Amazon as part of their kick off launching the Kindle,  put up a page with a frequent list of famous lines for books noting it is no longer online but: “when I first looked at the list in 2013, the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice was in third place.  That was all the more impressive because eight of the other top 10 finishers were passages from the Hunger Games series, which was the hit of the season that year, as Austen’s novel had been exactly 200 years earlier.”

So was interesting to note, as Nunberg does, that Pride and Prejudice was in fact, during its contemporary time, popular reading, and a hit novel.

Nunberg goes on to muse whether or not Austen’s first line is the most famous in literature put up again Melville or Dickens, “But there’s no other opening sentence that lends itself so well to sampling, mash-ups and adaptation.”

Linguistically he seems to favor the following interpretation, “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged’ is always available as an elegant replacement for ‘As everybody knows’ when you want to introduce some banal truism.”

Personally, I’m not in agreement with the choice of the word “banal.”

Nunberg that alludes to something he calls, “the age of Jane-o-mania.” Which as he notes is very true, the popularity of Pride and Prejudice and other/related Austen fan fiction, remakes, prequels and sequels seem never-ending.  He also notes the importance though of Austen’s selection of words, “Here’s the puzzling thing.  Those adaptations of Austen’s sentence are almost never ironic or facetious.  They only underscore the prevailing wisdom, rather than throwing it into question.”

He continues: “Yet my guess is that a large portion of the people who adapt that sentence know perfectly well that the original version is anything but straightforward . . . The sentence may look like a truism, but the first part actually undermines the second.”

Not sure if I agree with his choice of the word “undermines” here.

Nunberg then quotes another author, Rachel Brownstein — “In her book Why Jane Austen, Rachel Browstein points out that if the novel had begun simply with ‘A single man possessed of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,’ we’d snuggle in for a stock romantic story.”

Not sure I agree with either Nunberg or Brownstein here, and perhaps bit more with Katherine Mansfield (she is also quoted), because I think Austen was both a realist and a romantic.  A realist in the idea of women having to marry for security within circumstances of the society in which they lived, but also per her letters the idea of marrying for love — at that time a much more romantic belief.

Nunberg also makes a case for too much love and romance and the removal of irony via the many adaptions of Pride and Prejudice and their mark on popular culture, “We get a beguiling story of romance and courtship. But we don’t see it at Austen’s skeptical remove. We miss the arched eyebrow, the sly and confiding voice.”

Here is a URL/link to his article that was featured on “Fresh Air” NPR:  http://www.npr.org/2017/07/25/538609475/the-enduring-legacy-of-jane-austens-truth-universally-acknowledged?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=books