Sunday, January 20, 2008

All Is Not Lost

Writers always give this advice: Read, read, read.

Well, I like reading the backs of books better than the books themselves. "Wow," I often say. "That plot sounds intriguing. But I think I've read enough."

You see, it takes me three months to read a book--even when I read a little bit every night. I'm a slow reader.

And I'm impatient because it's taking me a year to write a book. Oprah Aha! moment: maybe there's a correlation.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to write some summaries of my own about a series running on PBS this month: Jane Austen movies. This is my NFL playoffs. Not the Superbowl, mind you. That would be the Anne of Green Gables miniseries. The World Series happens anytime a musical airs on T.V. The NBA playoffs are, well, I think we've already established that I'm a complete dork.

So last week, Persuasion aired. This isn't my favorite Jane Austin book; personally, I think Emma was her best. But for raw emotion and romantic tension, Persuasion is number one. It reads like a first novel, even though it was published a year after her death. The movie, only one and a half hours, doesn't lose much of the drama.

Justin would have loved it. Unfortunately, he got called away for an emergency pool game.

Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, who made a terrible mistake at age 19. Now she's in her late 20s.

Ms. Elliot, her father Sir Walter and her sister are being evicted from their mansion because a. They are going broke. and b. Anne's dad and sister are pompous, vain dumbasses and refuse to cut back on lavish spending.

Now that the house is vacant, a member of the British Navy and his wife are moving in. This sends Anne reeling. You see, the wife's brother is Frederick Wentworth: the terrible mistake.

He and Anne loved each other. But he was going into the Navy and was middle-class (not upperclass like Anne's family.) So her father and godmother convinced her that it was a bad match. Anne listened to them. She has never forgiven herself. Now, he might be visiting her house!

Alas, Anne is moving to Bath with her family. Or is she? As it turns out, her other sister, a whiny hypochondriac, needs Anne to take care of her (and her children, and anyone else who gets in the way of a good time.)

This pain-in-the-ass sister is married to a man who wanted to marry Anne, but Anne refused because she was in love with Frederick Wentworth.

Well, Captain Wentworth--who looks like a young, hot Captain Kangaroo--is indeed visiting his sister. Soon, he and Anne run into each other. And he is pissed! You see, the one thing he cannot abide is a woman who is easily persuaded. Also: Anne broke his heart.

In addition to being handsome, Wentworth is rich now, so he's a favorite among the young ladies of the town, especially two of Anne's giggly friends.

The captain is quite flirty, for an Englishman. And one of the giggly girls and her family get the impression that he is going to propose soon.

Meanwhile, Anne is beckoned to Bath, where her cousin begins to court her. (Remember, in those days, cousins got hitched all the time.) Well, just looking at this guy, you can tell he has bad breath. Anne, of course, doesn't like him. But what can she do? Her family all but forces her to see him.

Anne gets a letter from her brother-in-law saying that her giggly friend will soon be married. All is lost. She weeps.

This is Jane Austin's greatest gift: You know her stories will end happily. That's how romances work. But in the middle of her stories, you don't know.

I find myself yelling at the T.V. like it is a football game: "Come on, Anne! Get a backbone! And pull your head out of your ass or nobody's ever going to marry you!"

It's not very nice. But I really like Anne and I want her to get the guy--and the backbone.

There's been a lot of talk lately about why Jane Austen's stories have become so popular lately. I think it's because so many romantic comedies right now feature a smart, funny guy and a girl who is pretty and nice.

But in Austen's stories, it's the guy who is handsome and nice, and the heroine gets all the good lines. A lot of times, she's not even that cute. But she's always likeable--and definitely not because she's perfect.

As it turns out, all is not lost. A different guy with lambchops proposes to Anne's giggly friend. Wentworth finally comes to Bath to find out if Anne is hot for her cousin or not. Misunderstanding ensues. All is lost again.

Then a letter comes: swallowing his pride, Wentworth proposes to Anne again. Suddenly, Anne leaves her house against her family's will. She searches for the captain in the rainy streets of Bath. She finds him and says yes. And they all live happily ever after.

More happily that Anne ever knows, for tonight is game two of the Jane Austen playoffs: Northanger Abbey. In 20 minutes and counting.

I'll try not to bore you with another summary--mine are way too long.

But I haven't had much to write about lately. My kids have been uncharacteristically calm and collected. I mean, J.J. is up to his old tricks. But I think I've complained about him enough. He's two. It's not like he can write a rebuttal.

Johnny got a good report card. His teacher said he had integrity. I stopped reading after that. She had me at "integrity." Even if he got an S- (which I think is a D in today's grade lingo) in everything else, it would be a dream report card. But I feel bad because I've been feeding him smartass lines to say when this one kid won't let him play penguins with the other boys. I feel like I'm corrupting him.

I guess Richie's doing okay in school because his teacher didn't ask for a conference. He's been coming home saying he was involved in food fights and kung fu battles and what not, but I'm pretty sure he's lying.

So all is well. But I'm sure that if I'm patient with the children, they'll come around and give me something to write about. All is not lost.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved that one - the review was great, you were funny and the comments about the kids show well deserved pride. The 'integrity' word was big! Definitely worthy of pride!
YOu may have found another writing possibility. You wrote a good, clever book review.
I read a line by Walt Whitman in a National Geographic lately, from his bk of poems "Leaves of Grass". He said, "the strongest and sweetest songs yet remain to be sung". I thought of you!

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's offical. Greetings from Waldo is "Internationaly Known". I have everyone here in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

Uncle Jonnie

2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa!!!!!! you are internationally known, Bridge! WAy to go, Johnny!!! Tell him we are proud of him and love him.
Great Blog!!

10:33 AM  

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