One of our favourite finds at the Jane Austen News this week has to be the work of the late Australian comedian, John Clarke.
In his posthumously published book, Tinkering: The Complete Book of John Clarke, which was published in Australia on Monday, he has taken a wealth of literary classics and condensed them down to their most-brief forms. This is abridgment for the reader who really does have no time at all. Or, the reader who has read, or is at least familiar with, the novels he has abridged, and can appreciate the farcical nature of his “short” versions.
These are some of his abridged Austens:
Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet (mother obsessed with marrying daughters off, father amusing but not very helpful) dislikes Mr Darcy because he is too proud. She becomes prejudiced against him and even likes one man (Wickham) because he speaks ill of Darcy.
Her life is occupied with sisters Jane, who is calm and loves Bingham, and Lydia, who loves soldiers (Wickham) and who brings family into disrepute (Wickham). Elizabeth inadvertently discovers that Darcy is unbelievably rich. They marry immediately. Mother knew best.
Featuring Anne Elliot (plain, educated, sensitive, wise, family down on luck). Father and spoilt sister go to Bath for society, Anne to another sister (selfish, stupid, married to cheerful farmer). Children get sick, Anne tower of strength. Visited by Captain Wentworth. (Naval man at time of Trafalgar = national hero.) Wentworth and Anne have met before, have loved, and Anne has rejected Wentworth’s proposal of marriage but heart not still. Farmer’s sister falls off seawall and Wentworth realises he’s an idiot about Anne. Hooray!
Beautiful daughter of silly old fool has nothing better to do than manipulate and matchmake in snobbish rural society. Behaves very stupidly and messes up life of Harriet Smith, a harmless woman who should obviously marry local farmer. Eventually marries best friend Mr Knightley, the resonance of whose name she had previously failed to notice. (See Clueless.)
They’re obviously not a substitute for reading the novels themselves, but they’re a bit of fun, and perhaps a good way to remind yourself of the books you’ve read. (“I’m sure I’ve read it…I just can’t remember what it was all about…”)
A few more examples of John Clarke’s work, including 1984 and Moby Dick, can be found here.
A pair of U.S. playwrights decided that the Christmas canon of plays was rather lacking. A Christmas Carol is wonderful, but it has been done time and time again. Margot Melcon and Lauren Gunderson decided they wanted something new, so they have written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Only it’s not about Lizzy and Mr Darcy so much. Instead it focuses on Mary Bennet, the bookish Bennet sister.
Melcon describes Mary as “the overlooked middle sister. The way she’s described (in the novel) as being dark, determined and bookish and maybe socially awkward are qualities more in vogue today. It’s OK to celebrate when people are smart, and it’s OK to be socially awkward.”
We absolutely agree! Even more so with her statement that, “We need more stories about women, complicated stories about women who have opinions. More of that, please.”
So in “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” (which is currently on stage at theaters across the U.S. including City Lights Theater Company in California, the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, and the Round House Theater in Maryland), Mary gets her time to shine:
Having become resigned to spinsterhood, Mary is surprised to find herself swooning at Arthur de Bourgh, a kindred spirit (and newly invented character) who’s inherited the estate of the novel’s late and largely un-mourned Lady Catherine. Anne, the daughter of Lady Catherine, has other ideas about how Arthur might be most suitably matched.
At the Jane Austen News we’re just sad that there isn’t a production playing in the UK!
Kate Scott gathered together some of her favourite Jane Austen book cover sets, and we enjoyed seeing them all together in one place so much that we had to share them with you. Huge thanks to Kate Scott for her book-cover-gathering!
The U.S. Vintage Classics Collection
The UK Vintage Classics Collection
The Penguin English Library Collection
The Penguin Clothbound Classics Collection
The Penguin Original Classics Collection
The Juniper Books Collection
The Heirloom Box Set Collection
The Everyman’s Library Hardcover Collection
Kate’s original article can be found here.
Bath Christmas Market opened on November 23rd, and has just been awarded the esteemed Event of the Year award at the NOEA’s (The National Outdoor Events Association) 2017 Awards Ceremony. It fought off strong competition, but the awards team chose Bath as the winner for the whole of the UK.
The Christmas market was noted for its solid representation of local goods, with over 80% of produce sold coming from Bath and the South West; there are over 200 twinkling chalets spread out across the picturesque Georgian streets of Bath selling handmade and local Christmas gifts.
The market is running until December 10th, and it has well and truly brought the Christmas vibe to Bath. Our weekend walking tour guides are certainly enjoying taking visitors on a tour of the city with such a festive atmosphere all around. Of course this means that we simply had to get out the holly and the ivy to decorate the Centre as well, so our Christmas welcome is well and truly in place too. Next up: the plum pudding!
“In fiction, money is the new sex. Where Jane Austen had no qualms in telling you that Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice had an annual income of £10,000 a year, or EM Forster that his Schlegel sisters in Howards End each has an income of £600 a year, we are now not often told anything about characters’ income and assets.” – Amanda Craig
We hadn’t noticed until Ms Craig pointed it out in her article for The Guardian this week, but now that it has been pointed out, and we think about all the books we’ve read in recent years, she’s bang-on-the-money (if you’ll pardon the pun). Writers today don’t write about their characters’ incomes. At least, not in specifics.
And why is naming an amount a no-no? For two very good reasons:
Until the first world war, novelists from Austen to Trollope to Forster could describe specific sums of money belonging to their characters because from 1814 to 1914 there was very slow inflation. For a century, Mr Darcy’s £10,000 a year was intelligible to readers, as was the average income of £30 a year. These were stable reference points that everybody could understand as marks of status or the lack of it. Only after 1918, when major European governments left the gold standard, did inflation gallop away. One consequence was that specific amounts of money virtually disappeared from literature
An interesting thought. Certainly one we’ll be noticing more in the books we read now!
The full article on writers’ reluctance to write about monetary amounts can be read here.
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