I Need My Darcy Fix

For some reason, I am really needing a Darcy fix today. I blame The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. If you haven’t heard of them, prepare to fall in love.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Every week, on Mondays and Thursdays, a new 3-6 minute YouTube video is posted chronicling the life and adventures of “Lizzie Bennet”. I discovered it last year near its beginning, interestingly enough, while I was also taking an Austen course, and have been watching ever since. If you aren’t surprised at how much I love it, you should be. As many of you know, I am very particular when it comes to my Austen adaptations. I am particular because so many of them are so TERRIBLE. Like that one that I wanted so much to be good, Scents and Sensibility, because it had Ashley Williams, and I like her. Or that awful, not even worth mentioning LDS adaptation of P&P I watched with great excitement. So, you can understand why I would be wary of anything claiming to be a modern-day adaptation of P&P.

There is nothing worth worrying about with this beautiful adaptation. It is wonderful. The story is told from the perspective of dear Lizzie (mostly), with input from Charlotte, Jane, Lydia, and of course Darcy. There have also been a few spinoffs: The Lydia Bennet, Maria Lu, Collins and Collins, and the latest, Pemberley Digital (links to come).

The story is told chronologically, and slowly at a couple of short videos a week, which drives me insane, but keeps me coming back for more. The most surprising thing, and what keeps me watching, is how faithful they have been to the plot of the novel despite the modern, techy nature of the series.

So today, when I should have been working, I was thinking about how much I wanted to go home and watch these videos, and every other P&P/Austen Novel adaptation I own.

I just need a Darcy fix. I don’t know why I find this story so completely amazing. Maybe it is because of the “against all odds” romances, or the silent, hopeful men. Maybe it is just because Jane Austen was an amazing writer and no matter how you spin her works, you can’t walk away without falling in love with these timeless classics.

So tonight, when I get home, I will struggle to focus on boring Moby Dick, probably procrastinating it, so that I can watch some Austen and get my fix.

Reading Austen

My assignment for this week is to read Northanger Abbey.  Probably one of the easiest reading assignments I’ve ever been given.  I’ve read NA at least twice that I can remember, and I recently finished Amanda Grange’s novel Henry Tilney’s Diary, which, while there is a good deal of creative license in the novel (being from Mr. Tilney’s POV), it does follow JA’s story quite well.

Northanger Abbey was actually the first JA novel I ever read.  I don’t know what made me read it before Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, but I did and I loved it.  I loved it so much that I tried reading Sense and Sensibility and Emma before realizing that they weren’t as much fun to read as NA.  Years later, I reread Sense and Sensibility, and came to the conclusion that I simply wasn’t ready for the full impact of JA’s writing, because I adored Sense and Sensibility the second time around.

The point is, as this semester is beginning, I find that reading doesn’t seem like such a chore for me as it has been in past semesters.  Granted, I will have some boring criticism to slog through in my other class, but that is just part of the English educational process.  What I’ve determined is that I can’t allow myself to read the fun stuff first, so I’ve committed to doing my JA reading at the end of my weekly reading list, so that I’ll have something to motivate me to read everything else that I don’t want to read.

It might surprise you to know that this semester, I will actually be reading some of Austen’s novels for the first time . . . sort of.

The truth is, I’ve never been able to make it through Mansfield Park.  I’ve tried, but I can barely tolerate Fanny Price, and Edmund Bertram is so much of a pansy that it makes me want to scream.  Compared to Darcy, Brandon and Wentworth, Edmund Bertram is a foolish child.  I would have much preferred a story where Fanny grew up and realized that Tom was the real catch in this family.

As for the others, I’ve mostly read them all.  I guess you might as well know that I skimmed Emma because JA was right when she said that she’d created a heroine that nobody but her could really like.  I don’t much like Emma, but I adore Mr. Knightley, so I can tolerate the novel, if I must.

And while I’m almost 100% certain that I read Persuasion once, I can’t remember actually doing it, so I never answer the question.  However, I know the story so well that I can hardly deny my familiarity with it.
However, through all of this, I’m hoping that somewhere along the way, as I revisit all that is Jane, I will discover something new and different in the novels that will give me an even greater appreciation of her work.

The Problem with Fan Fiction

Remember all of that stuff I said about Austen fan fiction yesterday? It doesn’t apply to every writer I love. For example, I’ve never been able to get into “Doctor Who” fan fiction. The writers of the show do a great job and it would be difficult to improve on Steven Moffat’s genius. I’ve tried reading Twilight / Harry Potter crossovers, but they just don’t work for me. Harry is British, and Bella is much too blah for his world. I can’t really seem to get into Jane Eyre fan fiction, though there is not much of it out there. However, I cannot fault Jasper Fforde’s treatment of Jane Eyre in The Eyre Affair.

Recently, while searching for titles related to Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, I came across this:

Romeo & Juliet & Vampires

And this:

Little Vampire Women

Oh, and also this:

Wuthering Bites

This:

The Undead World of Oz: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Complete with Zombies and Monsters

This:

Alice in Zombieland

And finally, this:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim

It’s a double standard that I have, I know. If I am willing to read the Austen fan fiction, then why not Shakespeare fan fiction? Or Twain, Carroll, Alcott or Bronte?

I guess the answer is that I just have to draw the line somewhere.

Truthfully, it is difficult to put into words why Austen (and since we’re being so honest, mainly P&P) fan fiction has become so interesting to me. I know that I love their story, and I like to know what other writers think should have or could have happened. Bottom line, I just can’t get enough of the Darcy and Elizabeth story. Better than Romeo and Juliet, better than Heathcliff and Catherine, better than Rochester and Jane Eyre. Their story is the best love story I’ve ever heard, and I want to read it again and again, in a thousand different ways, knowing all the while that no matter what happens to them, they will always overcome whatever obstacles are in their way. They will always learn to get over their own pride and prejudices. They will always bring a smile to my face. And, at the end of the day, they will always be the story I love to talk about, love to read about, and love to hear.

My Austen Secret

A few years ago, I would have been ashamed to admit this, but I’ve been reading a lot of Jane Austen fan fiction. There was a time when I thought that type of literature was beneath me. I am an intellectual, and we read Austen and Bronte, not Reynolds and Grange. Still, after a huge Sourcebooks eBook giveaway in December 2010, I found myself with 10 novels based on Austen’s characters, and shortly after tentatively stepping into the Austen fan fiction waters, I dove in headfirst. I can’t remember if I read Mr. Darcy’s Diary first, or if it was, Fitzwilliam Darcy, the Last Man in the World. Either way, the Darcy those two women presented was the Darcy I wanted, so I kept reading . . . and kept reading . . . and kept reading. And before I knew it, I found that my collection of Austen-related fiction was growing pretty large.

There is a certain appeal to reading what I call “literary junk food”. As an English major, almost everything I read in a semester is something I have to analyze. I read with a critical eye, looking for the deeper meaning behind the writing. I consider the historical time frame, and what the author was experiencing that may have influenced the work. However, with my “literary junk food”, I don’t have to do any of that. I can simply read for my own enjoyment. I read those books because they make me happy, not because I may have to write an essay over it someday.

This “junk food” isn’t always well written. I have discovered a few writers that are really talented, but for the most part the writing is pretty bad and many of the story plots are ridiculous. Still, I enjoy them, because I know how they are going to end (almost always the way Austen wrote them), and because I don’t have to think about them until I want to read them again.

So, there it is . . . my deep, dark literary secret. Truthfully, I really love some of them. I read Reynolds and Grange over and over. I have all of the best fan fiction sites bookmarked. I have my favorites that I read over and over, and I have a mental list of the stories I’ll never read again.

As I head into this semester, I am excited about getting back to the basics, back to the Austen I love and the depth of her genius. I look forward to the undoubtedly heated discussions I can expect to have on Tuesday nights. I am ready to explore all of Jane through the eyes of a scholar.

But don’t be surprised if you find me sneaking in a few pages of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre once in a great while.

The Austen Semester

In exactly six days, I will be driving to Pittsburg to attend my first Austen class of the semester. I am so excited! Because of my love for all things Austen, I feel that there may be some new posts coming to you, my few, but faithful readers.

I’ve been extremely excited about this class since the moment it was announced. I’m so excited that I’ve done something I’ve never done before. I decided on a paper topic before I even started writing the papers for the previous semester’s classes. I’m in the process of reading some of the works which I’ll use for my paper, and I plan to begin researching soon.

My love for Jane has been a journey, which began when I watched the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility for the first time. There was a time when, if asked, I would have said that Shakespeare was the British writer I would specialize in when I started my graduate work. I don’t think that is the truth any longer. I still love Shakespeare, but Austen has captured me, and she shows no signs of letting go.

So, I’m reviving the blog (I think) for the semester, at least, so that I’ll have a place to share my excitement and vent my frustrations during this course. (Someday, I hope to truly revive the blog and begin posting regularly again.)

For now, it is the Austen semester on this blog and in my life. Get ready, world!