Please help me welcome the lovely Laurel Ann Nattress to Stephanie’s Written Word today. A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.
Hi Stephanie, thanks again for hosting me here today at Stephanie’s Written Word during my Grand Tour of the blogosphere in celebration of the release of my new Austen-inspired anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.
One of my favorite elements of Jane Austen’s writing style is her dry humor. I have heard people call it acerbic wit, biting satire, caustic comedy or gentle reprove. Any way you describe it, it is sure fire way to make people laugh out loud at the foibles and folly of humanity. It is also one of the hardest styles to write.
The infamous maxim, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” is ironically attributed to actor Edmund Gwenn, who played Mr. Bennet in the 1940 MGM movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. One wonders out loud, (and for the benefit of those who have not seen this adaptation, you may now roll your eyes on cue at all the Hollywood changes to Jane Austen’s original novel), if Mr. Gwenn was referring to what screenwriters had done to Austen’s masterpiece and how he could possibly interject Austen’s impeccable comedic timing back into the script?
Just to further prove my point about Austen as a master comedian, here are some favorite zingers, taken out of context, but still hit their mark:
A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. – Mansfield Park
A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can. – Northanger Abbey
Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. – Pride and Prejudice
I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal. – Jane Austen
Where an opinion is general, it is usually correct. – Mansfield Park
It was, perhaps, one of those cases in which advice is good or bad only as the event decides. – Persuasion
From politics, it was an easy step to silence. – Northanger Abbey
There are certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are of pretty woman to deserve them. – Mansfield Park
If there is anything disagreeable going on men are always sure to get out of it. – Persuasion
Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. – Emma
Yes, comedy is indeed hard, but when you have the right combination of writer, characterization, and setting, you will be hard pressed to find anything more enjoyable. Like Austen’s Incomparable heroine Elizabeth Bennet, I too “dearly love a laugh.”
At the beginning stages of creating Jane Austen Made Me Do It, my editor and I discussed what we hoped would develop as far as the type of stories and their connecting thread. Both us were strong proponents of creativity and not wanting to stifle anyone by rigid guidelines. Knowing that they were all seasoned authors, and with a little guidance, we decided to give them free reign on subject and genre. As the stories started to arrive, opening my email was like Christmas every day for about two weeks. What an incredible comic muse Jane Austen had been. Here are a few of the stories that celebrate her acerbic wit and biting reproof:
“The Ghostwriter,” by Elizabeth Aston
Sara, obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, is jilted by Charles, who can’t compete with Mr. Darcy. His parting gift is a lock of Jane Austen’s hair. Sara wakes the next morning to find a strange woman sitting on the end of her bed. A figment of her imagination? No, it’s the astringent ghost of Jane Austen.
“Faux Jane,” by F. J. Meier (Frank Delaney & Diane Meier)
A rich young American actress anxious to marry an English Lord buys a “signed first edition” of Pride and Prejudice as a gift to impress his rare book collecting mother – which, of course, is a fake. The story mirrors many of the snob and society nuances excelled in by Jane Austen – on whom the restaurateur, Charlie (as his wife calls him: he’s “Charles” to everyone else) is encyclopedic. With the help of their butler-manservant, a former hood named Uncle Julius, Charles and Nicola crack the fraud.
“Jane Austen’s Nightmare,” by Syrie James
Have you ever wondered what Jane Austen dreamt about? Are you curious how she felt about her own characters? In this highly amusing glimpse into Jane Austen’s mind, we are privy to her worst nightmare. All of her heroines, and a compendium of other characters from her novels, descend on her on a foggy day in Bath to discuss or complain about the way they were portrayed, a distressing but ultimately illuminating experience which inspires her to write Persuasion.
“Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!,” by Janet Mullany
It’s 1964 at the height of Beatlemania and the girls of Cleverton High School in England are out of control. Julie Morton, the most junior staff member, finds herself supervising three of the school’s worst offenders, and the resulting conversation about Sense and Sensibility starring the Fab Four gives the girls insight into Austen’s novels and teaches Julie something about her own choice in men.
“What Would Austen Do?,” by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Fifteen-year-old James Austen always thought Jane Austen was for people like his mom – people who read stuff, old people. But when he mistakenly signs up for a country dancing class, James realizes that all kinds of girls actually read Jane Austen. If he wants to figure out why, he’s going to have to actually…read the books.
“Letters to Lydia,” by Maya Slater
Present throughout the budding romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, which culminates in Darcy’s first disastrous proposal of marriage to Elizabeth, we are privileged to Maria Lucas’s own account of their romance from the point of view of her naïve sixteen-year-old imaginings. Although she misinterprets everything she observes, it turns out that she is partly responsible for bringing about the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy.
“Intolerable Stupidity,” by Laurie Viera Rigler
Well hidden from the ordinary world, in a little-known corner of jurisprudential hell known as the Court of Intolerable Stupidity, a legal drama of literary proportions unfolds. The plaintiff is none other than the most famous romantic hero of all time, Mr. Darcy. The defendants are the authors who dared write sequels, adaptations, and inspired-by’s of his Creator’s most beloved work, Pride and Prejudice. And now, between the zombies and the vampires, Darcy and his wife Elizabeth are at their wit’s end. So is defense attorney Fritz Williams, who not only fights a losing battle in a kangaroo court ruled by Darcy’s tyrannical aunt, the Honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but also his secret infatuation with prosecuting attorney Tawny Wolfson. Who has her own secret: a hopeless addiction to the illegal miniseries that she is supposed to abhor.
“A Night at Northanger,” by Lauren Willig
Our heroine, Cate Cartwright, is part of the cast of “Ghost Trekkers”, currently filming at one of England’s most haunted homes, Northanger Abbey. Naturally, Cate knows there’s no such thing as ghosts. It’s all smoke and mirrors for the credulous who watch late night TV. At least, that’s what she thinks… until she meets the shade of one Miss Jane Austen during one fateful night at Northanger.
Yes, Jane Austen Made Me Do It made me laugh. I hope that you do to. Many thanks to comic muse Jane Austen.
Cheers, Laurel Ann
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress
Today I’ll be having a triple giveaway! Enter a chance to win one copy of Jane Austen Made Me Do It AND a copy of each of Laurie Viera Rigler’s books – Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict! Laurie contributed a story to Jane Austen Made Me Do It, so I thought it would be fun to include her books in the giveaway!
That’s three Austenish books you could win!! Just leave a comment on this post by 12 noon on November 11th 2011 stating what intrigues you about reading an Austen-inspired short story anthology. A winner will be drawn at random and I will e-mail that person directly. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck to all!