Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy 200th Anniversary of Pride and Prejudice!

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In honor, I've thrown together a little list of my favorite things that are P&P or Jane Austen related. Numbered, but in no particular order:

01. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Pride and Prejudice re-imagined by Hank Green and Bernie Su as a mass communication student's video blog series. An enjoyable adaptation of P&P because of the updated setting, the lively characters (Lydia in particular), and drawn-out posting schedule that keeps the viewer guessing and anticipating the next video. The nature of the vlogs limits the point of view, but that allows the viewer to develop a connection with Lizzie and go through her emotional journey right along with her. It also allows for some hilarious costume theater segments.

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02. Austenblog. For me, the definitive Jane Austen website. It's not updated as often as it used to be, but, when your subject is 200+ years old, that's not a huge deal. Besides news about anything JA related, there are a lot of good reviews of Jane Austen offshoots, meaning P&P 'sequels,' contemporary retellings, and twists on the current obsession with Mr. Darcy. The editors have written and contributed to several Jane Austen related books.

03. Lost in Austen, by Emma Campbell Webster. Not to be confused with the 2008 BBC miniseries (although that is an entertaining romp), this is a choose-your-own-adventure-style book based on Jane Austen's works. You read as Elizabeth Bennet, and your mission is to marry for love and for comfort (ahem, money). As you choose your path, you run into different characters, both heroes and villains, from the rest of Austen's works. You have points for Accomplishments, Intelligence, Confidence, Connections, and Fortune, all of which increase or decrease according to your choices and also affect your marriageable status. While it's maybe not for Austen purists, it's great fun for someone who grew up with CYOA books and has the opportunity to sit and relax on a rainy (or snowy) afternoon.

04. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. As you can tell from the title, this is Pride and Prejudice . . . with zombies. This started the whole classic book/monster mashup genre that still seems to be going fairly strong. There are large chunks of P&P kept intact, which is sometimes jarring, but if you can suspend your disbelief and accept the concept, it can be a lot of fun. This also served as the introduction to P&P for a few guys I've known who admitted that they probably wouldn't have been able to get through the original. The last I had heard, this was being made into a movie, and Natalie Portman was cast as Elizabeth Bennet, zombie slayer. Related books include: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters; Mansfield Park and Mummies; Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons; Emma and the Vampires. (I have to stop. There are too many.)

05. Marvel Illustrated's Jane Austen comic books. As far as I know, they have released five-issue collections of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. I'm a fan of short, literature-inspired comic series, and these are fantastic. The art in P&P and NA is especially great, and the P&P covers are designed to look like teenage magazines, which is a fun touch.

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06. Bride and Prejudice. Bollywood does everything right. This 2005 movie by Gurinder Chadha, the director of Bend It Like Beckham,  is an adaptation of P&P filled with great music, fantastic dance numbers, and lavish costumes. Standout numbers are "Punjabi Wedding Song" and "No Life Without Wife." Aishwarya Rai Bachan stars in her first English speaking role as Lalita Bakshi (Lizzie Bennet), while Naveen Andrews of Lost fame plays a supporting role as Balraj (Bingley). While the story remains timeless, the cultural translation works well, partly because cultural misunderstandings contribute to the obstacles in Lalita and Darcy's relationship and partly because of the charisma of the film itself.

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07. And last but not least, a Jane Austen action figure, because, really, there is nothing cooler than having a mini writer on your desk, especially one who comes with her own writing desk and quill pen. There is no greater writing motivation than being stared at by one of your favorite authors, is there?

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