Please vote for Pride & Prejudice — The Great American Read on PBS.

Via JASNA, the Great American Read, a new feature on PBS television, is doing an online poll of favorite books, and reminding folks to please vote for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!

Here is the link/URL —

http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home/

 

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Literary Digression: On Bookcrossing & moving books around the city.

Bookcrossing is not a traditional book club. To note, Bookcrossing(dot)com was founded by two (2) software developers in the United States, Ron and Bruce back in 2001.  Was a side project that took off and flourished — moving around the world and growing into members or Bookcrossers in over 100 countries.

When you register a book with the website, Bookcrossing(dot)com it assigned a BCID –Bookcrossing ID number.  The idea is you can follow the book from reader to reader, provided that someone writes a “new journal entry.”  This person can be another Bookcrosser or “an anonymous finder” — someone who found the book and does not want to join permanently join the site.  To note, joining is free, but members can pay a small fee for “wings” this membership upgrade, which allows some additional access/features on the website.

Some Bookcrossers are active on the Bookcrossing(dot)com website, posting in the forums, there are book relays and book rings.  Others meet up locally once a month, internationally the meeting is set for 7pm, on the 2nd Tuesday of the month.  There is a convention filled with book related activities held in April hosted by Bookcrossers in different countries and cities, and also smaller and shorter gatherings regularly held, called “Unconventions.”

In 2003, I joined Bookcrossing, and sometime after, attended my first Bookcrossing meeting via Meetup(dot)com.  Eventually became a regular for Boston Book Crossing, attending our Tues. night meetings, and also sometimes we have Saturday meetings as well.  We also usually have a special meeting to attend the Boston Book Festival in October and also for the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s free performance on Boston Common.

At Bookcrossing meetings we share and trade books.  More like a literary salon in the sense we talk about books we are reading, books we have read, favorite authors, not so favorite authors, beloved bookstores, and other related or tangent topics.  Sometimes a popular book will make the rounds and we will all discuss it.  There is also a small contingent of Jane Austen fans/Janeites within our Bookcrossing local group — that I’ve sort of encouraged to join and attend JASNA meetings and lectures.

At the end of the meet-up, there are often extra books that no one has selected, aka “orphans.”  We’ll take them/take them back, to distribute in several different ways.  We have an agreement with the hostel in Boston to stock their bookshelf there — it is considered an OBCZ: an Official Book Crossing Zone.  Books are also taken or sent to folks that stock Little Free Libraries which are great for sharing books. Over the years, I’ve sent books via requests to the troops, and to US Veterans mainly through two (2) nonprofits Booksforsoldiers(dot)com and OperationPaperback(dot)org.

And in my office building, our cafeteria has a community bookcase, it’s not an official OBCZ, but I often bring our orphan books there, then swapping them out, take books that have been stranded there for awhile to a Little Free Library nearby — so sometimes feel like I’m moving books around the city, but that is okay, as long as they find a good home.

Book Review: Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud.

Actually won this book via Austenesquereviews(dot)com — which features: “Reviews of Jane Austen Sequels, Para-literature and Fan Fiction.” This book falls I think between the last two (2) categories — it’s sort of a modern day bodice ripper (bodice switched out for leather pants) slash erotica. Technically, there were some issues with typos and editing and I agree with other folks that posted on Goodreads, some of the narrative could have been compressed and/or cut as far as page length.

The premise is to use a musical term, a “riff” off of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice — although think if you could switch out and lose the canon of Austen character names (perhaps just keep one for a shout out), this book could stand alone and/or might then have more appeal to certain readers, because then you aren’t doing a Austen comparison, since it’s difficult for many traditional Jane Austen fans or Janeites, as I’ve said before, myself included; to let go of their feelings for Austen’s original characters. Spoilers follow.

To start out, a very successful rock trio Slurry: made up of Darcy, Bingley and Richard (Darcy’s cousin), all men of wealth and privilege (money, educated), but not without their own modern day tragedies (loss of parents, cancer, addiction), have lost their opening act for a national concert tour. The original group included Darcy and Richard’s childhood friend George Wickham — who pushed them to take this musical effort from a creative outlet into something more mainstream.  Eventually they broke through with commercial success, but not before some scandal, and replacing Wickham with California boy Bingley.

So the guys from Slurry go out incognito to see a local/regional New York band called Long Borne Suffering/LBS (this was clever). Not keen to sign up just anyone via CD/pre-recorded tracks they trek out to hear them live. Each of the trio, Darcy (Lead singer/guitar), Bingley (bass) and Richard (drums) are charmed and enamored by the members of LBS: Jane Bennet the singer/bassist (Bingley), her sister Elizabeth Bennet guitar/also sings (Darcy), and their friend Charlotte on drums (Richard).

Soon LBS joins Slurry on tour and we get a glimpse of the drudge and heavy lifting it takes to set up, schedule, break down, and run a national concert tour. Which I have to say is very well done. Grind of traveling via tour buses, harsh scheduling, meet and greets, while losing track of days and looking forward to hotel beds, regular showers — all very well depicted.

To note, especially in 2018 in the age of the #MeToo movement, there is a noted presence/narrative here of sexual harassment in the music industry — the author includes here in a subplot which is handled well, as it is pretty common in the music industry, and gives some insight again into Darcy’s character and integrity.

Darcy is not just a lead/singer musician, first really he is the CEO of Slurry, and also retains control of his dad’s company. He takes the business responsibilities and the lives of all the people in his employment very seriously which is pretty puzzling to Elizabeth to both the discover or grasp. Darcy has a very public bad boy image — we later learn this is really part marketing strategy and part diversion tactic for his friend Bingley as crisis ensued with his father just as he joined the group, and Slurry was becoming nationally/commercially successful.

Darcy as a mass of contradictions to Elizabeth is very well depicted, and in general the idea of Darcy as a rockstar combination CEO is pretty fun. Think it worked on several levels but did not go far enough in others. This Darcy like the original is also the guardian of his younger sister, “Georgie” short for Georgiana we eventually learn was molested by Wickham during their first tour which Darcy continually berates/blames himself and keeps more than a close watch on his little sister — so a modern day updating of Wickham to a pedophile/predator was also very appropriate (because in the original book, Lydia was 15, but folks did marry back then it was pretty common/standard practice).

We follow three (3) romances here:  two (2) of the others take off really before/during/after — Elizabeth even starts to find herself torn between being attracted to Darcy and generally disliking him.  While on tour with these two (2) other couples hooking up, sort of pushes the tension even further between Darcy and Elizabeth. As in the original, Elizabeth never is quite sure where she stands with Darcy.

The author juggles a lot here. Between chapters and sections, the author goes back and forth between the point of view of the different characters. Think it’s helpful when we get Darcy’s point of view to see how he feels about Elizabeth, his own growing attraction to her, how he views her a musician/peer, and his uncertainty about trying to approach her as a potential lover. We also get the insights of some minor/supporting characters which are a little bit spotty and hit or miss at times.

Again, it works with the theme set in the music industry, that there is a larger world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The drugs are a darker element here, as Richard, Darcy’s cousin and their drummer has had struggles to overcome addiction/maintain his sobriety from drugs/alcohol and during this tour, trying to avoid falling in love with Charlotte he overcompensates with groupies and goes back into treatment during the tour break for sex addiction slash the rest of his addictions.

There is a fair amount of sex/erotica in this book and it is quite woman positive, with the major, lead male characters all very connected in being both emotionally and physically intimate.  They seemed determined if not dedicated, to meeting the physical and emotional needs of their female partners, which I find rare outside of genre/fan fiction. Also the idea of having physical relations connected to the intimacy and the emotional relationship you have with your partner — was very well depicted here — and for a twist, it was Darcy calling out Elizabeth on it. And my favorite quote from the book is also from Darcy, discussing the significance of his tattoo and studying classical literature: “I didn’t study it for my career; I studied it for my soul.”  Yes quite swoon-worthy — very nice update, version of the Darcy character.

This version of Elizabeth Bennet though, well I wanted to like her. Like the original she missed many signs and signals, and there were many misunderstandings, but in general but wasn’t really sure about her uncertainty and misgivings sometimes. Generally, think there is where the narrative fell and was a bit weak, and again perhaps some editing would have helped the story and the character development.  Overall, it is a fun read, especially I think if you grew up in the era of MTV, music videos, and VH1’s documentary and biography program:  “Behind the Music.”

Letter to Martha Lloyd, Wed. 12 – Thurs. 13, November 1800.

Austen is writing to her dear friend Martha Lloyd, away for a visit at Up-Hurstbourne, in Andover, Hants, a town, per the notes located 68 miles Southwest of London and 22 miles from Basingstoke.  Martha eventually became Frank Austen’s second wife, and is probably best known for her Household Book which included many of the Austen family’s recipes.

This letter Austen starts off with a clarification: “I did not receive your note yesterday till after Charlotte had left Deane, or I would have sent by answer by her, instead of being the means, as I now must be, of lessening the Elegance of your new Dress for the Hurstbourn Ball by the value of 3d.–”  (Austen’s own emphasis and phrasing.)

Continues onto to scheduling where Austen seems to be planning her own road trip, “In about a fortnight’s time I hope to be with you; I have two reasons for not being able to come before; I wish so to arrange my visit as to spend some days with you after your Mother’s return, in the 1st place that I may have the pleasure of seeing her, & in the 2d, that I may have a better chance of bringing you back with me.–Your promise in my favour was not quite absolute, but if your Will is not perverse, You & I will do all in our power to overcome your scruples of conscience.–I hope we shall meet next week to talk all this over, till we have tired ourselves with the very idea of my visit, before my visit begins.–” (Austen’s own spelling and phrasing.)

Then jumps right into the apparent, upcoming ball and the recent invitations: “Our invitations for the 19th are arrived & very curiously are they worded.”  Per the notes citing the Family Record, regarding the Hurstbourne ball, the host Lord Portsmouth was a former pupil of Mr. Austen at his rectory school in Steventon briefly as a child, but as an adult, became known as an eccentric and eventually notorious before being declared insane.

Austen continues her letter with an update of news concerning their neighbors the Harwoods, father and son — the father recovering from what seems to have been an accident with his gun or in Austen’s own words: “poor Earle’s unfortunate accident.”  Also Austen, adds more timely news about other neighbors including Mr. Heathcote breaking his leg before she seems to be responding to a specific request from Martha with a request of her own wicked wit: “You distress me cruelly by your request about Books; I cannot think of any to bring with me, nor have I any idea of our wanting them.  I come to  you to be talked to, not to read or hear reading.  I can do that at home; & indeed I am now laying in a stock of intelligence to pour out on you as my share of Conversation.–” (Austen’s own punctuation emphasis, and spelling.)

This is soon walked back with Austen relenting a little bit: “I am reading Henry’s History of England, which I will repeat to you in any manner you may prefer, either in a loose, disultary, unconnected strain, or dividing my recital as the Historian divides it himself, into seven parts, The Civil & Military–Religion–Constitution–Learning & Learned Men–Arts & Sciences–Commerce Coins & Shipping–& Manners;–So that for every evening of the week there will be a different subject; The friday’s lot, Commerce, Coins & Shipping, You will find the least entertaining; but the next Eveng:’s portion will make amends.” (Austen’s own punctuation emphasis, and spelling.)

Of course, Austen wrote her own version, considered part of her juvenila: The History of England. By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian. (Note: There will be very few Dates in this History), illustrated by Cassandra.

Starts to close this letter, with Austen discussing a dinner when Martha returns: “Farewell for a short time–You are to dine here on tuesday to meet James Digweed, whom you must wish to see before he goes into Kent.”

Adds two postscripts and her wicked wit returns with news about a marriage announcement about a not so confirmed bachelor: “It is reported at Portsmouth that Sir T. Williams is going to be married–It has been reported indeed twenty times before, but Charles is inclined to give some credit to it now, as they ever hardly see him on board, & he looks very much like a Lover.–”

The second postscript and update concerns again the Harwood father recovering from his gun wound: “The Harwoods have received a much better account of Earle this morning; & Charles, from whom I have just had a letter, has been assured by the Hospital-Surgeon that the Would is in a s favourable a state as can be.”  (Austen’s own spelling.)

All cites to Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.

 

 

 

It’s Spring! Sense and Sensibility

So far been mostly a cold spring — there was a bit of snow yesterday and also early this morning but usually like to read (re-read) Austen’s Sense and Sensibility in the early spring.  There is something about the story, that ties into hope and renewal after a long winter and right now just trying not to think about hurricane season. Also it is very comforting to come home after a long, often trying day and spent some quality time with the Dashwood sisters.