The Pride and Prejudice 200th anniversary was a public holiday in Australia (a day in lieu for the Australia day on the Saturday), and when I came back to work on Tuesday my sub-editor handed me Page 6 and Page 7 of The Sydney Morning Herald’s weekend ‘Spectrum’ (you can see some of it here).
The article, entitled Pride and Joy by Helen Garner, begins “It’s two centuries this year since Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published.” She notes that the characters are “part of the tissue of every literate person’s mind” before launching into a summary of the novel that she is not quite sure she has read before.
With all due respect to Ms Garner, she could have read the novel a little more closely. “The Bennets throw a dinner part for Bingley, who brings along his best friend, Mr Darcy.” Wait, did that happen? If I remember correctly, Darcy insults Elizabeth at the Meryton Ball.
She also refers to Kitty and Lydia as “younger sisters three and four” … I believe Mary is actually younger sister three and those two are younger than her. There is, however, some interesting reflection in column three, “Here Austen gives us five enthralling pages of Elizabeth thinking. She reasons like a lawyer, or, rather, a jury, weighing up evidence, assertion, argument.” And then, “Lydia Bennet, at 16, is a piece of trash.”
She ends toasting her Absolut to Jane Austen, and overleaf there is an article entitled ‘Word for whatever ales ya on our national day’ tracing words needed to navigate through Australia Day. It is amusing to read about Austen on one side and the words ‘Barcuzzi’ (a bath-tub or Jacuzzi pressed into service as a receptacle for ice and beer.) and ‘Pomnesia’ (The handy ability to forget any sporting victory involving the English. “The last Ashes? No, I don’t recall who won.”) on the other.
On Page 7, Louise Schwartzkoff has a round-up of different films (which comes with a few pictures – one of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, where Knightley kisses Macfadyen’s hand, the BBC ’95 Pride and Prejudice where Firth and Ehle look out together, the 1940s Olivier looking at a defiant Garson, and the 2008 Lost In Austen with Arterton and Rooper) entitled Sex, saris and zombies: more than just plain Jane.
Referring to Janeites as a “worldwide army of fans” Ms Schwartzkoff takes us through the BBC film, to racy eBook versions, to McCullough’s The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet to Bridget Jones.
“Any story that can bear so much tweaking must be a good ‘un,” she concludes.
Running through the other news stories that ran on the day, we see a great mis-use of ‘It is a trust universally acknowledged’.
An ABC video news story covered it as well with their European correspondent, Mary Gearin. Enjoy the mini interviews with Louise West, from the Austen House Museum and John Mullan from University College London. Much more interesting is The Drum, where we get a good opinion piece about her work, as “Unlike Mr. Darcy, it is a book without faults.”
A video on Melbourne’s The Age also had Louise West being spoken to. “It’s impossible to actually track the sales and downloads,” the presenter notes (potentially the first male I’ve seen from). We also get a good Penguin take, and Publisher’s Association take, on the publishing and selling of our favourite P&P. Austenland is mentioned as being released this year.
While the video quality is irritating, this SBS video has a great interview with P.D. James who has previously been Q&A’d on The Bennet Sisters. She tells SBS that the text is ‘lucid’, ‘clear’, ‘elegant’ and is ‘spiced with witticisms, with epigrams’. We also have a quick comment from Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones writer).
The Canberra Times was my biggest disappointment. “Elizabeth Bennett may not have been a gold digger but fast forward 200 years and if Jane Austen were alive today she would want to be in possession of a good fortune,” writes Jenna Clarke. Yes, Bennett. Yes, you read that correctly. Slip-ups like this make me wonder if the journalist has read the book at all (or if we should just mention Sex and The City and the show Girls instead) and if any sub-editors exist at their publication. It was nice to see Susannah Fullerton (Jane Austen Society of Australia president) getting a look in.
All up, it was a good day, despite the weather (it rained in true British style). There were giveaways (I saw a good one from Random House Australia) and blogs going up and tweets, in fact even some of the local papers were covering it.
I hope this year brings big things from new Austen authors and old, and, with some luck, more films and more things to read and see.