Friday, June 4, 2010

In the Year 1996

I remember it clearly. It was the last semester of senior year and after school one day in February we decided to go over to Sonja's house. Everyone, at least all the girls, could not stop talking about the new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that was on A&E. I was surprisingly still Jane Austen ignorant, having read predominately American Classics and Shakespeare in High School. They weren't discussing the plot or anything to do with the author, they were discussing how Bingley, as played by Crispin Bonham-Carter, was equally, if not hotter than Mr. Darcy. To prove this point they kept playing the Netherfield Ball scene over and over again on the low quality VHS tape that one of the party had provided. After that day I was swept up in a whirlwind of finals and papers and one goose attack (don't ask) till I got the lovely diploma (after handing in my cap and gown, cause apparently I would want to keep that tatty old thing), but I never forgot Jane.

1996 was THE YEAR for embarking on a Jane Austen obsession. Besides the miniseries, there was the new version of Persuasion and Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility making their way to the budget cinema. Plus both the A&E and Gwyneth Paltrow versions of Emma. So in the tradition of British students everywhere (and yes, I know I'm not British, but I can dream) I took a gap year. The first few months of it was devoted to Jane. I took myself to the mall and bought one of those big omnibus editions containing Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility from Walden Books, it was even on the end cap. I lugged this tome everywhere, with it's 8 point type. I probably knocked my vision down a few pegs as I devoured these precious books. In a habit that still remains, I'd read the book then watch the movie. Sense and Sensibility was first. I remember sitting in my bedroom window crying for Elinor and later crying with the entire audience at the theater. I then tackled Emma, and remember not liking the Gwyneth version too much, I have since reconciled with this (my friend and I were very tempted at shouting "Mr. E" at Alan Cumming at The Three Penny Opera), but I still remember the people behind me saying they felt the ending was "too Hollywood." WTF! It's all Austen! Then of course came Pride and Prejudice. I'd actually been holding off on this one because it held the biggest expectations. It didn't disappoint, and neither did the miniseries. It was all asked for for my birthday that year, the big, bulky VHS set, displayed with pride on top of my dresser.

And that's the thing about Jane, she hasn't let me down yet. It's been 14 years since we've been together and she has not only entertained me with many hours of reading and viewing and discussing, but she's also opened me to other authors. From Elizabeth Gaskell to Georgette Heyer to Helen Fielding, the authors that have been influenced by her and have then influenced me are boundless. I can't picture my world without Jane Austen, and I wouldn't want to. Jane Austen has helped for me into the literate, deprecating and artistic person I am today and I quite literally don't know where I'd be without her. So how about you?


Hi! That was a wonderful post...I enjoyed reading about your discovery of Jane Austen (both the books and movies!). So far, I've only read Pride and Prejudice which I didn't really like though I love the 1996 and 2005 shows.

I would love to read Emma by the way since I'm a fan of the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow in it.

From reading your post, I'm inspired to go on a Jane Austen marathon sometime soon. I can read the books first and find the movies later. For the record, I'm still not bored of watching Emma and P&P. :)

Jane Austen's an amazing story-teller and I love her happy endings.

Great post about Jane and your love for her and the movies ==the good and the bad. Partial to Colin firth as darcy but love the soundtrack for the 2005 movie.

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