Posted on

Austen: Keeping it real for 200 years

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.  

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, what better way is there to honor this extraordinary author than to give thanks for what she has left us? For me, her work is a timeless guide to living life in the honesty zone, wrapped in an infinitely re-readable set of six novels.

If I could assign a motto, a credo to the the Austen canon, I would say it could be summed up in this one line from Pride and Prejudice: “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.” The fact that Mr. Darcy delivers this line while in the midst of a serious marriage-proposal fail makes it even more resonant: Darcy may be honest, but the brutality of his honesty indicates that he’s hiding behind his angry pride. He’s yet to unmask that part of his own disguise, but being an Austen hero, we know that he will.

That’s the genius of Austen, who calls out her characters on their disguises and their dishonesty. Which leads them to their moment of revelation, their grand character arc, and their ultimate reward–love and happiness. 

via GIPHY

Along the way, Austen makes us laugh, which makes the hard truths easier to bear. And thus we can begin to see ourselves in it all.

That’s Austen: keeping us real and calling us out. She’s been doing it for 200 years. And that’s no small feat for someone who lived in a society in which polite demurrals, refusals, and denials were a socially mandated matter of form.

Here are 10 gems of Austen wisdom to help you reach your own character arc.

1. A real friend is the one with the guts to tell you the ugly truth. 

In Emma, Mr. Knightley was the only person with the courage to tell Emma that her treatment of Mrs. Bates was cruel. Emma was shocked and chastened. And set about making amends. Which also put her on the road to realizing that Knightley’s bossiness was maybe just a little bit attractive; no scratch that, super hot. 

2. Self-destruction is NOT romantic.

In Sense and Sensibility, a heartbroken Marianne was well on her way to passive suicide. As she realized, once she recovered, her willful self-neglect in the wake of devastating heartbreak was nothing less than self-centeredness. As she confessed to her sister Elinor, “I wonder at my recovery,–wonder that the very eagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God, and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died,–in what peculiar misery should I have left you, my nurse, my friend, my sister!”

3. You will become (or already are) the thing you judge.

Elizabeth Bennet spends a good deal of Pride and Prejudice judging Mr Darcy for his pride and his arrogance. Until she realizes that she too has exhibited exactly the qualities she disliked him for: “Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly…Till this moment, I never knew myself.”

4. Be discerning as to which book you live your life by.

Though this very post suggests that the Austen canon is full of wisdom to live by, it’s important to stress that one should not apply this advice to every other book you might like. In other words, there is no substitute for discernment. As Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey discovered, just because gothic horror novels thrilled her, didn’t mean they were also full of life lessons. Therefore, if reading horror fiction makes you think that every person you don’t like must also be an axe murderer, you might consider switching genres. 

via GIPHY

5. You are never powerless, even if you are a creepmouse.

Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey said that women have “only the power of refusal.” But in Mansfield Park, Fanny Price shows how powerful refusal can be. Her refusal of Henry Crawford sets off a chain of events that results in scandal, divorce, heartbreak, and which nearly brings a powerful family to its knees. Not that she does it for power or even thinks of herself as powerful. She’s been a timid, self-denying doormat and neglected poor relation for so long that she could hardly conceive of herself as powerful. She may not be the most exciting or charismatic of Austen’s heroines, but that girl shows remarkable spine and resolve and courage in standing up to pretty much everyone. She knows that Henry Crawford is wrong for her, and that’s all there is to it. BTW, The Paris Review’s defense of Fanny Price is well worth reading.

6. Be a keen observer.

Anne Elliot may come off as a passive heroine, but her keen observations of human nature are almost like a superpower, much like Austen herself. Case in point: Despite Captain Wentworth’s flaunting his supposed indifference to her by publicly paying lots of attention to Louisa Musgrove, Anne knew he wasn’t in love with Louisa. There had been a ton of stinging rejection, and so even after Anne learned that Louisa was going to marry someone else, and that Captain Wentworth was now, like Anne, in Bath, most women would need the equivalent of a cartoon anvil dropped on their head to convince them that this man had the slightest bit of interest in her.

And yet Anne knew, from a single conversation in a public place, that he had much more than the slightest bit of interest in her. “His choice of subjects, his expressions, and still more his manner and look, had been such as she could see in only one light…all declared that he had a heart returning to her at least….She could not contemplate the change as implying less. He must love her.” Superpower indeed.

7. Admit that you don’t know everything.

Emma is Austen’s supreme know-it-all. And like most know-it-alls, she knows nothing. Emma fancies herself a matchmaker while continuing to misread one situation after another, most especially the ones that apply to herself. She’s so busily moving people around like chess pieces that she fails to see the damage she’s inflicting. Until, that is, her friend Harriet Smith decides to fall in love with the one man who might actually inspire Emma to reconsider her decision never to marry. Thankfully, this is Austen, which means that Emma has her revelation, repents her arrogance, and all is happily ever after.

8. A good face doesn’t guarantee a good heart. 

How many of us have fallen in love with someone so gorgeous we just know he must have a heart to match? And sometimes, that gorgeous person is really, really good at hiding who he actually is. Which is how Marianne falls for Willoughby, and Elizabeth Bennet (briefly) falls for Wickham. And which is why once again, discernment and observation are key qualities to be cultivated. Because let’s face it, if Marianne (and Elinor and their mother) weren’t so enamored of Willoughby, they would have wondered aloud a lot sooner as to why the man didn’t propose to Marianne. After all, this is an age in which men propose after a few dances and maybe a dinner. And this dude was practically living at their house for a lot longer than that. As for Wickham, Elizabeth later admits to herself, when unpleasant truths come out, that it was highly inappropriate for him to share with her his personal gripes against Darcy almost as soon as they met. 

via GIPHY

9. A reformed rake is an oxymoron.

I can’t help but be sad about this one, especially when it comes to Henry Crawford of Mansfield Park. I really wanted him to be for real, and I really wanted him to marry Fanny Price. Because Fanny Price plus Edmund Bertram pretty much equals boring. Sorry. But they’re happy, so I will endeavor to be happy for them. And I will continue to marvel at the brilliance of Austen in crafting a story that could have had an alternate ending. A very plausible alternate ending. And which I fool myself into thinking may happen every time I re-read the book. But it can’t happen. Why? Because a player is a player is a player. And we can’t have an Austen heroine marrying a player.

10. Cruelty is not okay. Even when it’s tempting.

Who wouldn’t be tempted to laugh at Mr. Rushworth of Mansfield Park? The man might as well be wearing a target in his back with his pink cloak and his “two-and-forty speeches” and his general lack of grey matter. But he’s a human being, and Fanny Price, being a kind, compassionate soul, takes pity on him. She helps him and coaches him, as he seems to be as fundamentally incapable of learning his lines as he is painfully aware of how much attention his wife-to-be is bestowing on another man. Kindness doesn’t always look to be as much fun as making someone else the butt of our jokes, but it’s the right thing, the human thing, the decent thing, to do. And darn it, Miss Austen, you make us laugh at Mr. Rushworth’s pink cloak anyway.

What gems of Austen wisdom have you discovered?

 

Laurie Viera Rigler is the author of the Jane Austen Addict series.

Visit her at her website www.janeaustenaddict.com

Posted on

Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out

Welcome to the first of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style.

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.

 

Perhaps it’s just that kind of day. Or year. Bottom line: you’re feeling none too great. Friends, there is a cure to what ails you, and
her name is Austen. Her magic comes in many forms, and this series of posts will illuminate, in no particular order, what you can do, with almost no effort, to feel light and bright and fabulous!

 

Today we’re feeling the fairy dust from Northanger Abbey. 

Northanger Abbey Graphic NovelWhat? You’ve heard it’s frivolous? Not as polished as Austen’s later works? Balderdash. But wait—didn’t its original publisher accept it and then couldn’t be bothered to publish it? Just means he was a fool. And anyhow, you’re too wise to waste time caring about what other people think. Because if you did care, you wouldn’t be dressing in Regency-era costumes (or wondering what it would be like to do it). You wouldn’t be going to (or imagining) fun things like the Jane Austen Festival in Bath or your local ECD get-togethers (not OCD, ECD, and that stands for English Country Dance). And you definitely wouldn’t be saving up for (or wondering what it would be like to go to) ComicCon. I could do a whole series of posts on the cross-pollination between Austen fans and sci-fi fans, but I digress…

Anyhow, here’s the Northanger Abbey Happiness Program:

Continue reading Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out

Posted on

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict A review by Laurel Ann Nattress

confessionsFrom the Desk of Laurel Ann Nattress Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
By Laurie Viera Rigler

Happy news for all you UK Austen fans. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is invading your shores. UK Janeites will now know what all the laughter has been about across the pond since this book was released in 2007 when you finally meet Courtney Stone, a modern LA singleton who mysteriously wakes up from a booze induced stupor to be transported back in time into the body of Regency era Jane Mansfield.

No, that’s not the actress Jayne Mansfield, but I love the play of words. We see plenty of that as author Laurie Viera Rigler places her modern thinking Jane Austen addicted heroine Courtney into the 1813 era life of Jane, an unmarried woman of thirty who is also facing a cross roads in her life after a riding accident knocks her unconscious and her threatening ma’ma is determined that she conform or be sent to the insane asylum. Even though Courtney has inhabited Jane’s body, she has no recollection of her memories, only adding to her frustration and angst. Jane’s world could not possibly be worse than her own shattered life back in the future after her fiancé Frank shagged their wedding cake designer, and her best friend Wes covered up for the cad. The engagement is off in her own life, but with her new personae Jane, it has yet to happen, much to the disapprobation of her mercenary ma’ma who is quite determined that she accept her latest suitor Charles Edgeworth. This dishy buck is even richer and more handsome than Mr. Darcy, so Courtney can not understand Jane’s hesitation in accepting him. Not knowing their back story she trys to fake her way through, all the while reminding herself that it is all a dream and she will wake up or get back to her own life at any moment. Until then, she must negotiate her way through a time where repugnant body odor is ignored, blood letting common practice, and the social customs and mores for a women in her upper class station are so restrictive that her 21st-century sensibilities clash even after her years of reading Jane Austen novels. With stream of consciousness, pulse beating detail, we follow Courtney/Jane through her travails, cringe over her disgust, feel her anxiety, share in her laughter, and find hope after she meets a fortune teller in Bath who might have the answers to how this mysterious transformation took place, and how she can get home.

Courtney Stone is one of those characters that you just want to wrap up in a big hug. A cross between Bridget Jones and Catherine Morland, author Viera Rigler has crafted a young woman so fresh, funny and real she could be your best friend, workmate or YOU in the same situation! Her use of driving first person narrative places the reader within her heroine’s mind adding intensity, candor and humorous insight. Her encounter with Jane Austen herself on a London street is so hilariously embarassing that it was the high point of the novel for me. Once you have begun on Courtney/Jane’s journey, you will be hard pressed to put it down, hooked on living her Regency era life through the filter of her quirky Jane Austen sensibilities. What Courtney discovers about herself through her gradual transformation will pleasantly remind you of why we all become Austen addicts to begin with. And to sweeten the deal, the highly anticipated parallel story Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict told from Jane Mansfield’s perspective in modern Courtney’s life in LA will be released in the US in June. So, sorry UK readers but if you can not wait another two years for the UK edition, I highly recommend spending the extra pewter and pre-ordering it today!

 Buy online at our giftshop for £7.99

  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC;
  • First UK Edition edition (16 Mar 2009)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 074759421X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747594215

rudeRude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict By Laurie Viera Rigler

Is there always another chance at happiness? Are we bound to our past, or do “we all have the power to create heaven on earth, right here, right now?” Important questions heroine Jane Mansfield must come to acknowledge and understand in Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler’s parallel story to her best selling novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.

This time around, it is Jane Mansfield a gentleman’s daughter from 1813 who is transported into the body of twenty-first century Los Angelean Courtney Stone. Jane awakens with a headache, but it will take more than aromatic vinegar to solve her problems. Where is she? Her surroundings are wholly unfamiliar to the usual comforts of her parent’s palatial Manor house in Somerset. Is she dreaming? She remembers a tumble off her horse Belle, but nothing after that point. She looks in the mirror and the face reflected back is not her own. How can this be? A young man named Wes arrives who calls her Courtney. Is he a servant? Who is Courtney? Ladies arrive for a visit concerned by her odd behavior. Why is she acting like a character in a Jane Austen novel?

Jane is indeed a stranger in a strange land. As her friends, or Courtney’s friends Paula, Anna and Wes, help her navigate through the technology of cell phones, CD players, washing machines and other trappings of our modern life it becomes less taxing. She relishes her privacy and independence to do as she chooses, indulging in reading the four new (to her) novels by Jane Austen that she discovers on Courtney’s bookshelf – one passion/addiction that she shares in common with her over the centuries. Between Jane Austen’s keen insights and the fortune teller called “the lady”, she might be able to make sense of this nonsensical world she has been thrown into. Is this the same fortune teller she met in Bath in her own life? She had warned her not to ride her horse. Or did she? Are her memories and Courtney’s one in the same? The lady tells her she has work to do to put Courtney’s life in order. Jane only wants to return to her former life and Charles Edgeworth, the estranged beau she left behind.

Seeing our modern world from Jane’s nineteenth century eyes was quite revealing. I do not think that I will ever look at a television screen again without remembering her first reaction to the glass box with tiny people inside talking and dancing like characters from Pride and Prejudice! These quirky insights are what Rigler excels at, and her Regency era research and knowledge of Jane Austen plays out beautifully. We truly understand Jane’s reactions and sympathize with her frustrations. Not only is Rude Awakenings a comedy of lifestyle comparisons across the centuries, it supplies a very interesting look at modern courtship and romance with a bit of genteel feminisms thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, what principals and standards that Jane learned in the nineteenth century, will straighten out Courtney’s mixed up twenty-first century life at home, work and in her budding romance with Wes.

Buy online at our giftshop for £7.99

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (7 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408813068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408813065

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and 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 Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress. This review originally appeared on Austeprose.com and is used here with permission.