What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Are Retellings A Good Idea? Austen & Shakespeare
You have probably heard that in 2013 HarperCollins launched the Austen Project, commissioning contemporary updates of Jane’s six completed novels. Well, less well publicised has been the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative, which, in a similar vein to the Austen Project, is giving eight of Shakespeare’s plays to a selection of today’s best-selling novelists for some modern retellings.
Shylock is My Name is Howard Jacobson’s take on The Merchant of Venice. Jeanette Winterson has written The Gap of Time based on The Winter’s Tale. Then came Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler which is a remake of The Taming of the Shrew.
The Austen Project has had a few criticisms from reviewers, but the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative has a couple of problems that the Austen Project did not, which has left some critics cold to the idea. For example, how to deal in a modern society with a plot hinging on misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew, and one based on anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice. Also, changing the format from a play that happened over the space of a few hours, to a form that takes much longer, usually a few days at least, takes some thought and much deeper access to characters’ psychology.
The next in the Shakespeare series is due out this October; Hagseed by Margaret Atwood, based on The Tempest. We at the Jane Austen News thought that fans of the Austen Project might like to know and compare the relative successes of the books from the two initiatives.
Musical Jane At The Fringe
Given the size of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the number of performers taking part and shows on offer, it would have been somewhat incredible if there wasn’t at least one Jane Austen themed piece of theatre to see.
This year Penny Ashton fulfils that requirement with Promise and Promiscuity. She presents a rather down-to-earth/tongue-in-cheek view of Jane’s world in an hour-long comedic romp through material based on Jane’s famous novels. Ashton’s one woman show gives the audience an insight into the lives of Miss Elspeth Slowtree and her family and general acquaintance. They navigate through a complex social world and dance the ‘wriggly maggot’, deal with marriage proposals, explore the role of the woman in society, and get mixed up with Horatio Nelson’s bodily functions.
Within the play are 33 direct Jane Austen quotes, as well as references to plenty of modern pop songs. Ballads, arias, and jaunty tunes are another feature; written to the tune of well-known classical pieces.
So now to wait and see if it will prove to be a successful blend of modern and old, or if it will be too much for more purist fans.
New Bridget Jones Novel On The Way
Fans of Pride and Prejudice will know that Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones is based on Austen’s Lizzy Bennet. The Bridget Jones books became hugely popular with established Austen fans as well as those who’d never read any of Jane’s work before. So, assuming that the overlap between Pride and Prejudice fans and Bridget Jones fans still exists, we at the Jane Austen News thought you might like to know that a new Bridget Jones novel is on its way.
On September the 16th this year (2016), the film Bridget Jones ‘s Baby will be released in UK cinemas. A month after this the book Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries written by Helen Fielding will also be released. Both the film and the book follow Bridget’s not so smooth journey into motherhood after she gets pregnant, along with the awkward question of who the father of the baby is.
The new book will be set after the events in The Edge of Reason but before those of Fielding’s last Bridget Jones book, Mad About The Boy, so rest assured, Mark Darcy will feature heavily.
Perception The Perfect Sequel Name?
There have been plenty of sequels, and prequels for that matter, written about Pride and Prejudice. Lots of sequel, with lots of things in common; the same characters, the same tone of voice, some have the same basic plot lines, but they don’t usually have the same name…
In September 2015 Dennis R. Fortier released a sequel to Pride and Prejudice titled Perception, in which “Jayne, the beautiful, charming, intelligent daughter of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy falls in love with young Jeffery Richards. Unfortunately, Richards is the son of parents in service and the irregular romance causes plenty of concern and scandal that echoes far beyond the hallowed halls of Pemberley.” Now a second book called Perception is to be released. Due out next year the new Perception is written by Terri Fleming and it’s going to include Elizabeth and Darcy (of course) but will follow primarily Kitty and Mary Bennet.
It would be interesting to know if the respective authors find it to be an advantage or a disadvantage to have another Pride and Prejudice based book on the market with their book’s name.
Examining Jane Austen’s Fashion
On Saturday 5 November 2016 and on Saturday 12 November 2016, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, UK, will be hosting the two-part event Pride, Prejudice and Petticoats: Regency Fashion from Jane Austen to Cranford.
In the course attendees will explore women’s clothing from 1800 to the mid-1830s, examining details of surviving garments in museum collections and comparing them with contemporary images and descriptions.
Also explored will be the social background to fashion. This includes how it was bought and made, and what can be learnt about this from the books and letters of writers such as Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. By the end of the course “you will come to historical fiction and costume drama with a new understanding of the clothing of this period.”
So for Austen fans in the Coventry area, this might be an event to add to the calendar. Tickets are limited and priced at £46 when booked via eventbrite.
Jane’s Chawton Raises School Funds
Guests attending this year’s Chawton Hamper Ball enjoyed a wonderful evening of music, magic, food and drink, while simultaneously raising funds to buy new IT equipment for the village primary school. The event was hosted by Chawton House Library on July 9, under a marquee provided by the Jane Austen Society, and it attracted more than 130 people.
A raffle was also held as part of the Ball to raise funds for St Michael’s Hospice in Basingstoke. Prizes included a private aircraft flight over Chawton, private tours of Chawton House Library and Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, flatscreen televisions, beauty treatments, and Country Market vouchers.
The total amount raised for the hospice was over £400, and the total raised for the primary school over £2,000!
Jane keenly encouraged her nieces to write, so it seems only appropriate that Chawton, her home after she left Bath, is helping to raise funds to inspire and educate the next generation. Perhaps a few may even go on to be authors like Jane. Who knows.
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