Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Dress: Inspired by Grace Kelly?

It was 3AM on the California west coast when the Royal Wedding was playing on my t.v. I was asleep and rose promptly at 5am as I do every day of the workweek. I skipped my morning workout to catch the Royal kiss. Then I caught up on the ceremony on the internet and I was entranced by Kate---excuse me Catherine’s dress. How exquisite it was.

The dress reminded me of the dress Grace Kelly married in when she became Princess of Monaco. Take a look at both dresses.

Was Kate inspired by Grace? Either way I have to say the dress was befitting of an elegant and beautiful woman. I am a Grace Kelly admirer and if Kate wants to channel Grace Kelly I have no objections.

Congratulations to Catherine and William

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Austen Reads: Sanditon by Jane Austen

I have been remiss in my normal blog features. Blame the sickness or my consumption with writing my novel or doing edits on my friends novel, but whatever it is I need to focus. Welcome back my blogs Austen Reads feature.

Sanditon is our featured recommended read of the week. Sanditon is one of Jane Austen’s two unfinished novels, the other being The Watsons. Jane Austen was working on Sanditon before she passed away and left us with only a 12 chapter fragment.

Had she been able to finish this novel we would have had a whole new reason to love and adore Austen. As it is, the fragment we are able to read is delightful and leaves you begging for more. The cast of characters, even in the short unfinished forms are hilarious. They are hypochondriacs in a seaside resort which is to be the up-and-coming Bath.

Despite being unfinished there have thankfully been two brave authors who have taken up the task to finish Austen’s novel. The results are satisfying finished to Austen’s Sanditon and we can only imagine where Austen would have taken this novel.

Sanditon by Jane Austen and Another Lady

Formats: Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Touchstone (October 6, 1998)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 9780684843421

ISBN-13: 978-0684843421

ASIN: 0684843420

Out of print for more than 20 years, this novel--an 11-chapter fragment at Austen's death completed with seamless artistry by an Austen aficionado and novelist--is a wonderful addition to Austen's beloved books.

  Sanditon: Jane Austen's Unfinished Masterpiece Completed by Jane Austen and Juilette Shapiro
Formats: Paperback: 194 pages and Kindle

Publisher: Ulysses Press (March 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 156975621X

ISBN-13: 978-1569756218

Had Jane Austen lived to complete Sanditon, it would have been as treasured as her other novels. In the half-finished masterpiece, Austen fashions one of her classic heroines—Charlotte Heywood. The surviving fragment also sets the story well on its path as Charlotte begins an adventure to Sanditon where a full cast of characters becomes intertwined in various intrigues.

At first, Charlotte finds amusement enough standing at her ample Venetian window looking over the placid seafront. However, before long, Charlotte discovers that scandals abound. She becomes captivated by the romance of the seaside lifestyle. But is the town of Sanditon truly a haven and will Charlotte find happiness there?

Now, fully completed by respected author and Austen expert Juliette Shapiro, this new edition of Sanditon finishes the original story in a vivid style recognizable to any fan. Shapiro’s prose and plot twists stay true to Austen’s sensibilities at all times while capturing her romance, tragedy, humor and sardonic wit.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Finding Comfort: Jane Austen and The Golden Girls

Besides Jane Austen, I have to admit to another guilty pleasure in The Golden Girls. Never mind that the show premiered the year I was born but The Golden Girls is my comfort show. Just like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese or a cup of coffee and an old black and white film I’m an old soul and like all things before my time. Ok, maybe not all things.

So, what do Golden Girls and Jane Austen have in common? Absolutely nothing, except that just as Jane Austen wrote about the intricacies of society so did Golden Girls show true friendship.

Plus, Rose was a storyteller like no other.

The Golden Girls are like old friends to me. I go to them when I am down or when I need a really good laugh, but Golden Girls could be serious as well in an effort to make a point. I love that. Jane Austen is also a comfort when I don’t want to read other books. Sometimes I just want what only Jane Austen can give me.

As I sit here nervously pecking away at my novel and the sending it off for edits to some great friends I grow more determined to finish so I can self-publish. As many of my twitter friends know self-publishing was not on the top of my list. In other words, I was a big scared cat cowering in the corner. I have decided to come out from my corner with a little help from my comfort places….Jane Austen and The Golden Girls, oh and a little help from twitter friends. I have some great friends at home, but I haven’t gained the nerve to tell them of my new venture yet. I’ll get there someday.

Every writer has some comfort places whether it is in books, television, movies or a place. Sometimes we just need to go there for a little comfort. Then we return to our crazy writing habits again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Finding the perfect Regency Portraits for Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lady Grace

I have made the brave decision to self-publish. I am quaking on fear in the inside and I have to ask myself what insane urge has processed me to think such thoughts. I have ambition and I have always wanted to see my name in print, I’m a bit self-centered that way. As I work on finishing my story and then thrusting it on my nice, yet great critiquing friends, I have been pursuing the wonderful realm of Regency paintings. What fun!

I was also in a conundrum as my twitter friend Farah (Hi Farah *waves) did a fantastic piece of artwork portraying my heroine Lady Grace. As I rifled through the romance section of the bookstore I came to realize that these books often have a cover picture and then a picture on the inside. So, why can’t I have to best of both worlds?

Here is Farah’s fantastic artwork. I really love it! I really do. :D

Farah Khan Sadozai 2011

Here is my portrait of Colonel Fitzwilliam at the moment. At least this is the one I like best. I don't know if I will like something better later, but for the moment here he is in all his glory. Even better it is public domain so I am legally allowed to use it.

John Vanderlyn Self-Portrait 1800

Here is my portrait of Lady Grace. I have yet to figure out if this lovely image is public domain. If it is not then we are back to square one which would make me sad as I have fallen in love with this one. Besides finding a Regency image of a redhead with green eyes is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Portait of Princess Marthe Bibesco by Giovanni Boldini 1911

What do you think of these images?

Finally, looking for an image of a potential Darcy for one of my twitter friends, Nancy Kelley, who will be self-publishing later this year I stumbled across this hot portrait. She thought I intended him to be Colonel Fitzwilliam. Now the wheels turn. Oh, dear!
Eugene Delacroix self-portrait

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Perspectives of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility: Understanding Marianne Dashwood

***Post was amended 04/18/2011 To include the Austen Hero I forgot to mention. Shame on me!***

I owe my dear readers a post. :D

As I sit here reflectively, at my new antique writing desk, with Sarah Evans ‘A Little Bit Stronger’ in the background, I realize that it has been almost a year since my ex and I parted ways. Well, he parted for an 18 year old who wasn’t even out of high school yet, but my point with this post comes out of my recent rereading of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

The first time I read Sense and Sensibility I was a teenager in high school. I immediately liked Elinor. She was the strong one who when the need arose was the rock that supported those around her while she struggled on the inside. I identified with her because I saw myself in her. I hardly wear my heart on my sleeve as I would not rather portray my weaknesses. It’s been known to create some problems in my relationships, but I can’t change who I am.

I never identified with Marianne and her heartbreak with Willoughby until now. I always thought Marianne was ruled too much by emotion and gave her heart too freely. Perhaps, she still does give her heart too freely, but having been through two devastating heartbreaks I can honestly say that I see Marianne differently now. She is ruled by emotion, which hurts her---making her ill to the point of death even---but she doesn’t sit on the sidelines waiting for life to come to her. She takes life by the hand and runs with it.

It is amazing how your perspective of Jane Austen changes with life’s circumstances. So, how has that changed me? Well my first heartbreak was over five years ago. He is married now and I remember him fondly, for our good times, as a first love. Just like Marianne will never truly forget Willoughby, I will not truly forget who first held my heart.

My second heartbreak is much more recent. Do I regret my choices? I suppose I regret giving my affection to a man who did not feel the same about me. When I found out his new choice of woman---much like Marianne felt about Willoughby’s Miss Grey----I was hurt, but then I realized I have the better end of the bargain. I am independent, I have two college degrees, I have a budding career, a loving family, fantastic friends and a whole lot of dreams which I wish to pursue. I deserve better than a man who treated me as a passing fancy and I am at peace with it.

So, do I know what I want should the next gentleman (because I will accept nothing but a gentleman) come to call? Yes I do! I want someone with the Tilney wit, Colonel Brandon’s steadfastness, Darcy’s strength, Wentworth’s passion, Knightly's acceptance of a persons faluts and Bertram’s friendship. It’s quite a list, but one should never settle.

I am proud to say in my family we have only ever had two divorces. Pretty astounding for this day in age, but for me personally when I get married I want it to be a onetime deal. My list of criteria isn’t so bad. If I ask too much then someone will point it out eventually.

In the meantime I have a book to write. Saving Grace will be appearing in the self-publish realm sometime next year…. I hope. Although, I have to say compared to other Jane Austen Fan Fiction it is far off the beaten track. I love the current offering of Jane Austen Sequels/variations and I have many favorite authors, but I had to be different. It’s a sickness. LOL.

What makes my book different? Well you will have to read it, but I will say the following: It is dark and it confronts difficult issues. Colonel Fitzwilliam has what we today would call PTSD. He is tortured and in a very dark place. His story is not for the weak at heart.

My heroine, Lady Grace, had her heartbroken and doesn’t want to go through it again. She is also suffocating within the constraints put on women during the Regency era.

This is no light historical romance. I don’t like easy. Have I struggled as I write this? With some of my darkest scenes, for the Colonel and Grace, I find myself feeling horrible after I finish them. I have to put on music to set the mood and to get me to that place and coming back from those places can be hard. I wanted this to be a realistic story, with real problems and a romance which slowly builds until it just has to happen. I hope I achieve that.

You will have to let me know how I succeed when I finally set a release date and you are able to purchase this book. Speaking of which, I have to get back to chapter 9 and work out the next piece of the story.

Until next time friends.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pride and Prejudice Bollywood Style: Part 1

I’ve recently had a crisis in my love and affection for Jane Austen, which was a result of a culmination of events that soured my adoration for Jane. Sadly, I have yet to regain my former delight derived from visiting Jane over a cup of tea and a plate of scones; and perhaps, my affection will never be what it once was, but I have been making small efforts to visit Jane in the hopes that our friendship will rebuild itself to its former state. That is why my blog post today is later than I had planned.

Jane, my dear friend, has the power to do many things. She can make us laugh, cry, scream in frustration and feel a level of satisfaction that can only be obtained from her writing. She is a splendid woman and so I decided what better way to visit Jane than through a film which I first enjoyed viewing with my sorority sisters, who are like family. It was a perfect and wonderful visit.

I recently dusted off my DVD of the Bollywood version, Bride and Prejudice, of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. It has been some years since I watched this version and while I remembered some parts of the film there were those that I had forgotten. The first time I watched this film I was in undergraduate school and a group of my Sorority sisters and I circled ourselves around the television in the living room of our Sorority house and sat back with popcorn and enjoyed ourselves.

First off, this film is a colorful painting which delights the senses. Unlike many Western films which are filled with soft, romantic, subdued tones or extremely dark sets, depending on the type of film, Bollywood does not shy away from color. I remember this was one of the first things that I personally loved.

Secondly, this film is also a musical. Many of the songs I liked, but some were not so great. I love musicals so this was another bonus to me. The music is a blend of western and eastern cultures and even the songs I did not enjoy very much were enjoyable to listen to. So, if you don’t like musicals this film may not be for you. Enjoy this clip of the song Marriage into town which is a favorite of mine in the film.

Look for one of my laugh-out-loud moments at part 3:48 of the clip.

Lastly, while set in a more modern setting the many constraints of the Regency time period are reflected in the Indian culture as displayed in the film. Although, there are some modern social customs which do counteract the Regency customs in this film, which is to be expected. You will never see any couple kiss in this film. As I understand it Bollywood films never show a man and a woman kiss. I also don’t recollect any handholding by couples either, but I could have blinked and missed it.

There are some twists to Austen’s original novel in this film. The Bingley’s are a rich family in London and Darcy is an American who is the heir to a hotel empire. His mother is Lady Catherine. Oh the horror! But a delightful twist which contrives to present the constraints and family honor which Darcy must uphold. Surprisingly it works well.

Balraj (Charles), Darcy and Kiran (Caroline) are in a small Indian village for a wedding which Balraj is in. And so begins the tale of Pride and Prejudice Bollywood style.

Mrs. Bennet (Mrs. Bakshi in this version) is not as annoying as portrayed in other film versions. I found myself empathizing with her situation of having five unmarried daughters whom she needs to see married advantageously. She still comments on Mr. Bingley being rich when at the ball, but not so loudly as to censure her. In fact, the first time she meet’s Mr. Wickham she has him pegged as a no-good-philanderer. How is that for a twist? Unlike the novel she does not wear rose colored glasses where Wickham is concerned. This portrayal of Mrs. Bennet was one of the best I have seen if you find yourself unhappy with her initial portrayal in other films or even the novel. In other words her character is softened in this film.

Caroline Bingley (Kiran in this version) is softened as well. I actually found myself liking Caroline. She isn’t constantly throwing herself at Darcy and in all actuality it is as if she has no interest in Darcy romantically at all. She is still a pretentious snob, but she is a pretentious snob you can like most of the time. Damn! There goes the Caroline Bingley that you love to hate. She isn’t really a villain in this film and even when she tries to warn Elizabeth (Lalita in the film) about Wickham her intentions are good. She still contrives to separate her brother from Jane (Jaya in the film) which one cannot like, but even when she is being terrible in her actions, she still has redeemed herself in other junctures.

Lalita, played by the lovely Aishwarya Rai, is our Elizabeth Bennet in this film adaptation. When she and Darcy meet it is a clash of cultures which creates the pride and prejudice between them. She believes Darcy looks down on her because she lives in India and the town she lives in is a poor Indian village. Darcy does not help matters in his attempts to argue his point and only further portrays his arrogance to Lalita. In this film making Darcy an American, instead of British, works because as we all know American’s are arrogant and pretentious and think they are better than everyone else.

Our first glimpse of Wickham in this film is on a dark moonlit night coming up out of the ocean like Botticelli’s Venus on the half-shell. It is a laugh-out-loud moment because---surprise---here’s Wickham coming out of the ocean. Later, Wickham and Elizabeth are walking along the beach and Ashanti is singing in the background like she is some sort of well known Indian pop singer. I could accept Wickham coming out of the ocean, but I have a major problem with Ashanti’s brief role. Ashanti’s performance is contrived and it deflects from the actual story line as the performance is only manufactured to introduce Wickham. There were plenty of better ways which the producers could have introduced Wickham.

Wickham is a wander. He backpacks around the world begging for scraps or shelter it is presumed. Later, when we meet Wickham in London we find out he lives on a riverboat. This adds a whole new meaning to the term river rat. I felt it was a fitting, modern day, portrayal of Wickham. Wickham can still be hated in this film and he does attempt to run off with Lucky (Lydia in this film). Wickham remains a villain which is just as it should be.

My favorite moment in this film, which I think many Austen fans will agree is long awaited, if the fist fight between Darcy and Wickham. Darcy and Elizabeth run through London trying to find the wayward Lydia and Wickham. They find them and are given chase into a dark movie theater which happens to be showing an Indian film. Darcy and Wickham have their fist fight in conjunction with the film on screen and movie goers are to assume the fist fight is part of the fight on screen. Darcy wins the fight. YES! Elizabeth get’s to slap Wickham and so does Lydia. How satisfying!

Click here to the see the fight scene video on youtube. I cannot embed it here. Thanks to narniamum for helping me get this clip. You rock!
Let us not forget odious Mr. Collins (Mr. Kohli in this film). He is a rich accountant who lives in California. He brags about his wealth and is perhaps one of the most odious portrayals of Mr. Collins I have seen, but the comedy that is projected by his role is fantastic. The best moment, a laugh-out-loud-I-am-in-shock-moment, is when we see Mr. Collins in an American flag Speedo on a round bed. See clip below.

My one major gripe may be the ending we have for Darcy and Elizabeth. We as viewers feel cheated. We get to see Darcy beating on a large drum like some sort of he-man come to take Elizabeth back to his man cave by throwing her over his shoulder. It feels like the writers or producers ran out of ideas or just didn’t feel like making the effort. It was like Bingley and Jane are getting married—wonderful---oh yeah we still have to address Darcy and Elizabeth---what to do? Light bulb---we will have Darcy beat on a drum and Elizabeth come to him and he will fold her in an embrace---and CUT! Not a very satisfactory ending.

What do I really think of Bride and Prejudice? I think it is an often overlooked adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Bollywood has done other modern adaptations of Jane Austen which I have yet to see, but I enjoyed this Bollywood offering. It has some corny, laugh-out-loud or oh-my-word-what-where-they-thinking moments, such as a black gospel choir singing on the beach in one of the musical numbers, Wickham rising up out of the ocean, men walking around with their shirts open like its normal, Mr. Collins in an American flag Speedo or Darcy beating on a big drum in the end, to name a few. I leave it up to you my dear readers to decide which of those listed I thought were corny, laugh-out-loud or oh-my-word-what-where-they-thinking.

Despite my gripes with this film I think the story as Austen wrote it stays much the same. The themes Austen wrote about are universal and ever present and this is a wonderful addition to Austen in Film. I recommend this film as a lighthearted modern alternative to the more traditional British film versions of Pride and Prejudice (I am a 1995 P&P aficionado). It for the most part follows the storyline set forth by Austen, which only deviates slightly on occasion in this film. The music is also fun.

I delighted in my visit with Jane and will come to visit again soon.

Hope you enjoyed my look at the film Bride and Prejudice. What are your thoughts and opinions?

Note: I am thinking of making this blog post a 2 part series. Part 1 was a general look at the film Bride and Prejudice. In Part 2, I will be looking at the portrayal of Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship in relation to the novel.

Aishwarya Rai can sing and act. She sings the musical number Take me to Love. The version in the first part of the movie is beautiful. There is a second version later in the film which débuts that ridiculous black gospel choir in blue choir robes randomly singing on the beach is one of those moments in film where you wonder just what the heck they were thinking----then you laugh out loud since it is so ridiculous. I cannot in good faith recommend the song version of this sound in conjunction with the film. If you have seen this film perhaps you hold a different opinion. I just remember my Sorority sisters and I bursting forth in rambunctious laughter at the gospel choir.