The Wonderful World of Jane Austen

It’s amazing how many hours of entertainment I’ve found in  Jane Austen’s work. Pride and Prejudice and Emma, written over 200 years ago, still offer characters and situations so amusing and heartfelt that they made me giddy with excitement when I reached the pinnacles of each story.

But reading the original stories is not the only way to enjoy Jane Austen.  Thankfully, the BBC has produced miniseries of each one (available on Amazon Prime), that made my reading experience far more satisfying.

Pride and Prejudice was my first introduction to Jane Austen. Admittedly, I had trouble visualizing the story at first, especially because of to the number of characters introduced in the first chapters (Elizabeth Bennett has four sisters, after all). But when I started the BBC version, my enjoyment improved dramatically; NOW I understood that all these characters are sisters; NOW I understood that Mrs. Bennett is, in fact, a very silly mother. The dialogue in the BBC version is almost completely preserved from the book, and the characters are perfectly cast.  Mr. Darcy, portrayed by Colin Firth, is stolid and proud, and nothing short of dreamy.  As a reader, I knew how it would all end. But the journey was still so, so fun.

By the end of the story Austen imparted to me a little truth, which is that Elizabeth Bennet, though headstrong and independent, is still by all measures, a lady. Considering the state of being female today, this is enough to make any woman stop and realize that being independent and empowered does not preclude one from being ladylike or, as Jane Austen would say, well-bred. In this way, Elizabeth Bennet should rank high with the likes of Wonder Woman and Princess Leia, as a strong female characters we ladies should all want to be like.



To Better Understand Boys, Read Tom Sawyer

The world of men and boys had always felt foreign to me. I suspect one reason why is that I didn’t grow up with a brother.  Even so, while I served in the military I thought myself attuned to the guys by virtue of being immersed in a masculine culture. But several years later when I had my son, my delusions about how well I understood the opposite sex were once and for all set straight: I didn’t get it.  Continue reading

The Crucible Experiment: Chapter One, Part Two

This is part of the draft for the book I’m writing, “The Crucible Experiment.” I’ll continue to post excerpts as I continue to write. 

The crowd dissolved into complaints and speculation over who had ratted out the fight. Our tight throng scattered like spilled paper clips in a race to make it back to VMA in time. I later learned that some cadet—still unknown who exactly— had called the Officer of the Day from the Foxhole and reported the fight.

But I had Edwin deal with. I went over and helped him to his feet as everyone around me ran off. Mel pulled at my shoulder.

“Carla, we’ve got to get back to the academy, they’re going to shut the gate. Get him up and let’s go.” Continue reading

Book Review: The Importance of Being Earnest

When I read this play, I could not help but appreciate the talent Oscar Wilde had in storytelling, especially crafting dialogue. A playwright is almost completely limited to dialogue when painting a picture for the reader. There is no description, no narrative voice. And yet without me having seen the movie (of which there are several), or the play itself, Wilde’s characters, setting, and situations all come to life based entirely on what the characters say and do. Wilde’s dialogue is so precise; so specific. It goes to show how unimportant, how unnecessary, description can sometimes be. Continue reading

The Crucible Experiment: Chapter One, Part One

Here is the first part of the draft for the book I’m writing, “The Crucible Experiment.” I’ll start posting excerpts as I continue to write, and I would love to hear your thoughts. 

If you want to hear how it all happened Mr. Montgomery, I have to start at the beginning, a few days before The Crucible. It was Thursday night liberty; a cold front had just blown in— I remember because the air felt cold and wet and I’d forgotten my gloves. I had gone out with my roommate Mel and nearly all of our Virginia Military Academy class. When nineteen hundred hours came around, many of us ventured the mile walk east out the main VMA gate into the Triangle town square. We would make an odd sight walking in droves down the shoulder of a country road in uniform, but the Triangle locals passing by are used to seeing us.

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Book Review: The English Patient

Last month, I watched “The English Patient” on HBO for the first time. I remember trying to watch it years ago and thinking it was boring; I was a teenager of course and not mature enough for the “high-brow” storytelling style.  This time around I had the opposite reaction from years ago, and I admit that I haven’t been so moved by a story in a long time. The movie led me to Michael Ondaatje’s book on which the movie is based.

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