Bridget Jones’s Diary Was My Lean In #AustenInAugustRBR

Please welcome Jill from All the Books I Haven’t Read

Bridget Jones’s Diary was my Lean In

I started my professional career in the year 2000. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but when I think back, things were so different. I didn’t even have a cell phone, and the internet was still kind of new. Amazon existed, but Amazon Prime did not. And as a woman in the workplace, there were no widely read books like Lean In to help us navigate the issues women face.

What should I do when the president of the organization hits on me (in the same breath he told a bartender I was under 21, ugh), when should I tell my colleagues I was pregnant, should I ask for a raise or find a new job? I had no guide other than hurried talks at lunch with my girl friends who may or may not have been out to take my job. As is my way, I turned to books.

When I first found Bridget Jones’s Diary, a British novel loosely based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I felt like I finally had the guide I needed. Bridget had the same worries and issues I had. Her boss was too busy commenting on the size of her skirt to take her seriously, and her friends all gave her terrible advice. Bridget had to find her own way to a better job and a satisfying love life in her own way. Much to the delight of myself, and millions of other readers, she did it in a hysterical way with diary entries.

I eventually found my way too. I’m closing in on forty now, and I eventually found a job that suited me. I owe it all in large part to Bridget Jones, my year 2000 role model. As Bridget herself said, “It is proved by surveys that happiness does not come from love, wealth, or power but the pursuit of attainable goals.”

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Movie Review: Before the Fall #AustenInAugustRBR

Please welcome Amelia from the Central New Jersey Jane Austen Society of North America!

When Adam asked for submissions for this year’s Austen in August I knew I wanted the excuse to finally rent and watch “Before the Fall.”  I had been looking forward to watching the movie when I first heard about it a few months ago. It turned out to be the perfect lazy weekend morning movie.

“Before the Fall” is set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Southern Virginia.  We are first introduced to Ben Bennet, a well to-do attorney. While we are watching Ben get ready for his day, Lee Darcy is finishing up his work shift as a welder. Lee has a drinking problem; we learn from a clerk that every day after work Lee stops in and picks up a six pack of beer.

Why does Lee drink? We get a hint of this when a young, attractive man gives Lee a knowing look and Lee flashes back to being left in a car when he was a boy. His father left him to go into a gas station bathroom with another man. Lee is clearly trying to drink away his desires as he quickly downs a beer in the store parking lot.

Back home Lee is confronted by his neighbor Tina Collins. Lee’s girlfriend Cathy has confided in Tina that Lee is drinking. Lee gets angry and fights with Cathy who falls and gets hurt. Tina calls the cops and Lee is charged.  This charge brings Lee and Ben together.  This meeting in the courtroom is the Assembly Room scene in the novel. Ben says something about Lee without knowing that Lee was standing right there.

The two meet again when Ben throws a party for Chuck Bingley. Bingley and Lee are friends, they deliver meals to the homebound together. Bingley brings Lee to the party, Lee is clearly uncomfortable, especially after a run in with Ben’s friends Lyle and Kittner.

Ben’s best friend is Jane Gardiner. Jane is instantly taken with Bingley and him with her.  He invites them to go hiking thinking Jane and Ben a couple.  They agree and meet to go hiking with Bingley, Lee, and Cathy. During the hike, Cathy gets Ben to admit he’s gay and then proceeds to question his lifestyle since he’s not flamboyant. No sooner does Ben tell her that not all gay men are flamboyant than Lyle and Kittner show up, both of whom are colorful.

You might be wondering where George Wickham is in all of this.  He was Lee’s lawyer and is pursuing Ben. Ben, of course, is taken with Wickham. As the viewer we know that he’s shady and when Ben finally learns the truth about Wickham he’s heartbroken.

While Ben is being pursued by Wickham. Jane and Bingley are falling in love. There is a trip to his cabin, where there is no running water. An awkward run in between Ben and Lee, and another homophobic Q&A with Cathy.  After this disastrous trip, Ben convinces Jane that while Bingley is a good guy, he’s beneath her and she could never be happy with him.

At the same time Ben is building a friendship with Lee. He’s discovering more about him and slowly falling in love. At the cabin he found Lee’s journal and he starts to look into Lee’s case. He questions Tina, who admits she may have lied and she tried to tell Wickham but he dismissed her.

Ok this is running a bit long so to wrap this up, Lee overhears Ben admit to splitting up Jane and Bingley. Lee lays into Ben and insults him. Ben finds a way to clear Lee’s name in the assault case and also get Wickham into trouble. Jane and Bingley get back together. Cath confronts Ben about trying to make Lee gay. Lee tells Ben he’s leaving the state. Lee and Ben meet up on a hiking path and after some really quick deep thinking Lee finally admits he loves Ben.

I liked many aspects of this movie. I enjoyed the modern take on the story and the characters. I liked that both Lee and Ben were a combination of Darcy and Elizabeth. Neither one was too like their namesake and split the roles for a nice twist.  I also enjoyed the fact that Jane and Bingley were still Jane and Bingley, the adorably cute couple that appear in so many of the movie adaptations. This is also true for Lyle and Kittner, the perfect male Lydia and Kitty. I didn’t care for Cathy, the role or the actress. She was the only part that didn’t work for me. I liked the idea of Cathy but how she fit into the story just didn’t work for me overall.

This wasn’t just a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it was a movie focused on some of the social issues we are seeing in our daily lives like the prejudice of sexual orientation. We see Lee struggling with being a gay man, it’s not something he feels comfortable admitting which is why he drinks. He’s torn between being what society expects of him and what he wants for himself. Cathy is the role of society and he’s is sort of shoved down our throats. I don’t think anyone who chooses to watch this movie really needs that, the more subtle aspects would have been enough. Like the novel, also deals with issues of class and how we view those of a higher or lower social class.  I would have liked to have seen a more diverse cast, but you can’t have everything you want in some movies.

I’m suggesting this movie to anyone who likes Jane Austen adaptation movies, Lifetime movies, and indie films. I think it’s worth the watch, especially on a lazy weekend morning.

Watch the trailer:

10 Austenesque Writers #AustenInAugustRBR

Please welcome Jessie from Dwell in Possibility

 It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that six completed novels by Jane Austen is simply not enough. Or at least it’s a truth acknowledged by every Janeite. Once you’ve read (and reread) all of her oeuvre, you may be at a loss as to what to read next.

While there can be no replacement for her wit, genius, and talent, there are some authors whose works are reminiscent of our beloved Jane’s. If you are looking to fill the Jane Austen void in your life, these Austenesque writers may just do the trick.

Frances (Fanny) Burney (1752-1840)

Jane Austen herself was a great admirer of Fanny Burney. The idea for the title of Pride and Prejudice even came from Burney’s novel Cecilia. There can be no greater recommendation than that! Burney’s eighteenth-century comedies of manners are sparkling and effervescent reads. Her lively dialogue, outrageous secondary characters, dashing heroes, and lovable heroines should be tempting to Jane Austen enthusiasts. It’s also interesting to look for the ways in which her writing served as inspiration for Austen.

A Good Place to Start: Evelina

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)

Maria Edgeworth was another of Jane Austen’s favorite authors; Jane even sent her a copy of Emma before it was published. There’s something thrilling about reading the books she grew up with. Like Austen, Edgeworth’s works feature social satire, strong heroines, and marriage plots. Her novels focus on morality and explore the broader themes of politics, religion, gender, and race. 

A Good Place to Start: Belinda

Emily Eden (1797-1869)

Emily Eden is a lesser-known nineteenth century writer, whose work is imbued with a vibrant intelligence that many Janeites should find appealing. Eden also counted Austen among her favorite authors. Discovering her novels is like uncovering comedic buried treasure. Emily Eden’s writing showcases shrewd psychological insight and clever social commentary. 

A Good Place to Start: The Semi-Attached Couple

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)

If you were to cross Jane Austen with Charles Dickens, you would get Elizabeth Gaskell. In fact, Gaskell even wrote for the magazine that was published by Dickens. Her works highlight Victorian era social and economic issues and explore women’s roles. There’s also plenty of romance and glimpses of everyday life. North and South features a love story that is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice, while Cranford looks at life in a small English village, and Wives and Daughters tackles familial relationships and unrequited love.

A Good Place to Start: North and South

 Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

Sometimes referred to as the male Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope wrote highly readable, character-centric, domestic novels. The prolific Victorian novelist was adept at creating nuanced, complex characters that face everyday problems and grapple with life’s big questions. Many of his works also explore courtship and marriage, yet unlike Austen, he offers insight into the male perspective as well as the female. Trollope’s novels are full of gossip, politics, and social interactions that are still relevant to readers today. 

A Good Place to Start: Doctor Thorne

Mrs. (Margaret) Oliphant (1828-1897)

Mrs. Oliphant was a huge admirer of Jane Austen; she even wrote about the author’s life and works in her capacity as a literary critic. Her own novels are light reads full of clever observations of Victorian life. Mrs. Oliphant masterfully weaves subtle irony, social satire, and sparkling dialogue. This bestselling Victorian author- although less known today- is worth seeking out. 

A Good Place to Start: Miss Marjoribanks 

Angela Thirkell (1890-1961)

Angela Thirkell’s charming pastoral comedies provide amusing slices of English life before and during WWII. Similar to Austen, her plots often center on matchmaking and marriage, along with the common occurrences of day-to-day village life. Thirkell is certainly an author who drew inspiration from the past. In fact, she set her novels in the fictional English countryside of Barsetshire originally created by Anthony Trollope. Her fully drawn characters, engaging dialogue, and witty observations make for enjoyable reading indeed. 

A Good Place to Start: Wild Strawberries or High Rising 

Georgette Heyer (1902-1974)

She’s known as the Queen of the Regency romance for a reason. Georgette Heyer has a keen eye for period details, as well as a huge talent for replicating Regency slang. Heyer’s novels vividly bring to life the world in which Jane Austen lived and wrote. Her novels are laugh-out loud funny and full of ridiculous hijinks and plenty of romantic entanglements. Many of her heroes are just as swoon-worthy as Mr. Darcy himself, while her heroines are intelligent, quick-witted, and strong. Luckily, Heyer was incredibly prolific, and she left a wealth of works to choose from.

A Good Place to Start: The Grand Sophy

Barbara Pym (1913-1980)

Barbara Pym was a popular mid-century writer whose works sadly fell out of fashion- and out of print- for several decades. Often referred to as a modern Jane Austen, Pym’s novels capture the everyday lives of women with superb wit and insight. Like Austen, she writes about the small section of society in which she was a part. Her comedies are populated with middle-class characters: vicars, academics, “spinsters,” and office workers. Pym brilliantly finds the humor and the value in the mundane. 

A Good Place to Start: Jane and Prudence or Excellent Women

Jude Morgan (Tim Wilson)

Jude Morgan is the pseudonym used by English author Tim Wilson. His Regency historical fiction follows in the grand tradition of Georgette Heyer. With witty banter, clever heroines, and stellar writing, Morgan’s novels are sure to appeal to readers who can’t get enough of the Regency era.

A Good Place to Start: An Accomplished Woman 

10 Bonus Austenesque Reads

These books may give you an Austen vibe:

  • The Female Quixote, Charlotte Lennox (1752)
  • The Woman of Colour: A Tale, Anonymous (1808)
  • The Blue Castle, M. Montgomery (1926)
  • Diary of a Provincial Lady, E. M. Delafield (1930)
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons (1932)
  • Miss Buncle’s Book, D. E. Stevenson (1934)
  • The Makioka Sisters, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (1943)
  • The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford (1945)
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (1948)
  • A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth (1993)

What writers remind you of Austen? Do you have a favorite Austenesque book? 


Jessie has been an avid Janeite since she first picked up Pride and Prejudice at the age of eleven. When not reading or watching period dramas, she can be found blogging at Dwell in Possibility.


A Visit from the Incomparable Kathe Koja

Today, I’m very excited to welcome back a brilliant writer and wonderful person, Kathe Koja! Kathe’s here to share a bit about Christopher Marlowe and her new book, Christopher Wild (Roadswell 2017). Oh my GOSH, I cannot wait to read it! 


MARLOWE’S HERE! LET’S HAVE FUN

by Kathe Koja

Cover Art: Rick Lieder

In his lifetime, Christopher Marlowe was notorious for a lot of things: bold and brilliant plays and poems that were the talk of Elizabethan London, and equally bold behavior—as a gay man, as a freethinker—that dangerously challenged the authorities, until he was murdered in what was called a drunken brawl in a tavern, and buried so quickly no one can say for sure where his body lies.

But his badass spirit is still very much alive.

His plays continue to be performed all over the world, and taught in universities alongside his poetry. The TNT series WILL prominently features Marlowe—as a riotous, rivalrous colleague to newcomer Shakespeare—and viewers have already called for a spinoff Marlowe show.

And in fiction, there are all manner of Marlowe bio-novels. The one that blew me away was Anthony Burgess’ insightful and superbly written A DEAD MAN IN DEPTFORD, my first introduction to Marlowe’s life and work, work I read in a wild binge and emerged ravished and determined: Oh my god, I have got to write about this guy.

So I did.

CHRISTOPHER WILD is three lives, one man: we meet Marlowe in his own era, then the gritty mid-20th century, then a dark near-future where surveillance is everywhere. He makes his way with his words, makes friends and enemies, finds lovers, and flees those authorities who try to use him, or silence him, every time.

And he lives his life, his lives, like a Roman candle: all heat and spark, daring the darkness, throwing light. If you run with him you’ll be dazzled or burned, or maybe both, but you’ll never, ever be bored.

That’s how it was with CHRISTOPHER WILD, its research and its writing: enthusiastic early backers supplied funding, and in return I sent them emails with research snippets and excerpts as the book took shape. I was nervous—I’ve never shown my WIP before, not even to my beta readers—but Marlowe’s inspiration made me bold. (Check Out What Cory Doctorow Had to Say)

And the book’s launch events are scheduled at parties and in bars (NYC, Detroit, Chicago, with more cities on the horizon), because Marlowe was always joyfully, thoroughly drunk on words, and who wants to sit quietly in a folding chair when you can declaim or argue poetry over a drink?

I’m hoping that readers who know Marlowe and those who’ve never met him will join the party with this book, this man, who always seems to get the last word:

How’s your nose?

Fine, fingering the tape, eyes still bruised. You broke it, you know.

 I know.

That wasn’t exactly fighting fair, was it?

No, it wasn’t.

Well . . . My pop always said, if you can’t kick a man’s ass, make him your pal.

 We’re not pals. The last swallow of beer as flat as tap water, he sets aside the bottle with a smile unfeigned—Icarus still rising, the sun’s heat to his upturned face, what would that be like? to fly, know the fall was imminent, fly anyway—and Come on, he says, turning that smile on Jay Reeder, let’s live a little. Drive us someplace, I’ll buy you a drink.

from CHRISTOPHER WILD


Check out the beautiful book trailer below & then get your copy!

My Characters Knew Who They Were #TheLiteraryOthers

My characters knew who they were before I did.

by Robert Hill for Roof Beam Reader

remnants-front-cover-web-sizedWhen I started to write my novel, The Remnants, I had only the vaguest idea about whom the people in it would truly be. All I knew was that I wanted to write a story that would capture life among the last members of a small, isolated town, a group of very senior citizens at the end of the town’s days and at the end of their own. Yet, while fleshing out their individual and collective pasts, traits began to emerge as randomly and organically as if my fictional creations were born of the womb. Eccentricities and genetic oddities made their way onto the page and marked every family line. Dark deeds found their way into every family’s home. Humor arose from the most unlikely moments. But what surprised me the most, were the relationships that took shape without my planning for them.

In creating backstories for the three protagonists (two men, one woman, all of whom are in their 90’s) and other townsfolk as well whose stories are woven throughout, I found myself dredging up a rite of passage from my own youth that suited the small town story well – the rite of passage known as the circle jerk – and used it to exemplify a kind of freedom of exploration that growing up in a small town sometimes makes possible (more often than not, in fiction only).

I’m a gay man and I’m a writer, but I don’t self-identify as a gay writer. Yet, as I delved into the childhoods of the two main male characters, and had each of them furiously gripping themselves during this “innocent” rite, over and over and over and over and over and over again, the two boys loosened my grip on their creation and decided for themselves that their youthful curiosity about each other was more than a curiosity.

Fictional characters, like real people, are born. And like people as real as Cole Porter, or Michael Sam, or too-numerous-to-count Republican Congressmen, or myself, fictional characters are sometimes born gay. I love my characters for having had the (fictional) balls to tell me who they were and make me honor them.

At the core of the novel is the evolutionary desire to find love, and although I may have been coy at first about writing a relationship arc between two men, my characters would not let me cheat them out of their truth. Nor, for that matter, would other characters in the novel whose relationships also took unanticipated turns – some of them surprising, others disturbing, and one downright weird. (But who am I to judge?) All were born from the womb of my imagination, and I love and respect them all equally for their defiance against all odds and conventions to find love in a doomed world. I hope readers find these characters as surprising as I did.

GIVEAWAY:

Robert has generously offered one paperback copy of his book, THE REMNANTS, to a lucky winner! Please comment on this post with your email address if you’d like to be entered to win! Good luck!

Brothers by Ted van Lieshout #TheLiteraryOthers

Please welcome Carola from Brilliant Years who is here to provide a guest review of BROTHERS by Ted Van Lieshout. This is a book I read many years ago, and I agree with Carola that it is definitely worth reading.

Carola has also generously offered to provide one giveaway copy to a lucky participant of THE LITERARY OTHERS event! Read to the end for details. 

2320259Synopsis:

Half a year after Luke’s brother Marius passed away, their mother intends to burn all Marius’ possessions on his first birthday after his death as a grand goodbye. In an attempt to save Marius’ diary, Luke starts writing in it to make it as much his own as it was his brother’s. At first Luke simply writes on the empty pages and avoids reading Marius’ entries, but eventually he gives in and reads his brother’s words.

This book is quite special to me. I’d like to put this book in the spotlight because it’s a gorgeous young adult book, and because it’s from my home country: The Netherlands. It has been translated to multiple languages, including English, and received a Dutch award and even a German youth literature award. It’s  a fairly popular book for high school reading lists in the Netherlands, which is fantastic.

The story is written from Luke’s point of view in the form of diary entries. In an attempt to save Marius’ diary from being burned by his mother, Luke starts writing in it. At first he only writes in the diary without peaking at his brother’s entries. He writes about himself and his family. He wonders, among other things, if he is still a brother when his only brother is death. When his mother threatens to tear out Luke’s pages and burn the diary after all, Luke is forced to start using Marius’ pages as well and to write between his lines. This is how the dialogue with (or rather monologue to) his brother begins. Not only do we find out more about what happened to his brother, but the diary also helps Luke come to terms with his sexuality. Luke’s words are down to earth, often witty, sometimes heartbreaking. The diary format is incredibly intimate and it works perfectly for this story.

Brothers is a fairly short book at just 160 pages, but even so the author manages to make the reader care deeply about his characters. I finished the book in no time, not just because it’s so short but also because I simply couldn’t put it down. Brothers is a story about family, loss, and sexuality. The book touches sensitive topics, but is written in an almost light-hearted way.

I can’t stop recommending this book!

Giveaway:

One lucky winner will receive a copy of BROTHERS.

  • The giveaway is open to anyone living in an area where The Book Depository ships.
  • Please leave a comment on this post indicating that you would like to win and give your recommendation for a book you think everyone should read.
  • Please leave your email so we can contact the winner!
  • Giveaway will close October 31st at 11:59PM CT

Acting Like Yourself #TheLiteraryOthers

Today, I am honored to welcome back to the blog, Kathe Koja!

Kathe is one of my favorite writers (who happens to have written one of my favorite books). If this is your first introduction to her, you’re in for a treat! Please enjoy this brilliant piece, and be sure to read through to the end for a special treat! 

Acting Like Yourself: Christopher Marlowe, Talk and the mecs

Kathe Koja

We are who we are: that’s determined by genes, by sexuality, by the attributes and traits that combine to make personality; the self is a given from day one.

But how we self-define and then choose to reveal and present ourselves to the world—how we act—that’s mutable, and responsive to circumstance. Enacting the truth of the self is a lifelong gift and task; and easier for some of us than for others, especially if our earliest days were shaped by the pressure to conform, or by fear that made it seem safest to hide who we really are.

As a writer, I work hard to understand my characters—I need to know who they truly are before I can make them real in a novel. And in some of my novels, it’s theatre and the stage, the enactment of roles, that have helped to reveal or highlight those characters’ deepest selves.

talk_pbTalk pivots on a high school performance of a controversial play. Kit Webster has been hiding who he is, unsure how to tell his friends, his parents, his world, that he’s gay, and it’s the action of performance, playing the male lead in the play called “Talk,” that opens him up, from silence to talk, from a fairy tale crush into real first love: “What would he do if he knew? about me, about how I feel for him? What would I do, set free with something bigger than relief—release, into that room where everything is, everything I want?” Losing himself in the role is Kit’s way of finding himself for good, in every sense.

In the Under the Poppy trilogy, the stage is everywhere, on the open road, in a grubby brothel or a Victorian townhouse, and everyone is acting, piling role upon role, sometimes using the mecs, puppets, to perform in outrageous or confrontational ways. But it’s the novels’ heroes, Istvan and Rupert, whose lifelong love is fed, tested, and ultimately enriched by the performance they enact together on the stage of the world, in their comradeship, feints, and deceptions. And both come to know that it is “foolish to call the play at all, for comic or tragic, while the curtain are still parted; always there may be a twist to the story, a coup de maître, a masterstroke.”

Book cover illustration

Book cover illustration

And writing a novel (Christopher Wild) about the trailblazing Elizabethan writer Christopher Marlowe has led me deeply into Marlowe’s dark impassioned view of human nature, its greeds and furies and love of power. His worldview was informed by what he learned as an operative for the Queen’s spy network, itself another kind of performance, with human lives and nations at stake. And Marlowe brought a forthright gay sensibility to his poetry and plays, perhaps most movingly in Edward II, where the king is asked point blank about his lover, Piers Gaveston, “Why should you love him whom the world hates so?” and replies as directly “Because he loves me more than all the world.” Marlowe was as honest about his own beliefs and desires in an era when the wrong words could mean imprisonment and torture, especially for a man who lived so vividly in the public eye.

The stage seems a place of pretense, but sometimes it’s where the literary others find themselves most truly at home, in the words they write or speak, in the masks that show their own true faces to the world. We all are exactly and forever who we are: let none of us ever be unwilling or afraid to act the part.

GIVEAWAY

Kathe has generously offered one autographed copy of her brilliant and beautiful novel, UNDER THE POPPY (find my review here).

To enter: please leave a comment on this post engaging with the topic. What do you think about character(s)? Performance? Have you ever felt you were “acting a part” in life? Do be sure to leave your email so that I can contact the winner.

Giveaway open until October 31st at 11:59PM CT.