Friday, May 27, 2005

If Jane Austen Had a Microwave...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them."--Jane Austen

First off, a major HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my fellow writer and friend MICHELLE MILES! Yay Michelle! (You can read her blog here.) Our birthdays are only ten days apart so I’ll always remember. Have a good one, girl!

On to the topic at hand, I have been reading one of my Half Price Book spoils, titled: JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD, The Life and Times of England’s Most Popular Author, by Maggie Lane.

You have to hand it to Jane Austen, she was bloody brilliant. Pure and simple. Her grasp of life and its ironies was played out so grandly in her charming, funny, and witty stories. I don’t know anyone who had a better grasp of Human Nature.
But she lived so long ago. When she started writing seriously as a 20 year-old, it was 1795. Her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, came out in 1811. (Yes, a LONG time ago.)

Which brings me to the present question (pardon the pun) If Jane Austen lived in the present, (and yes, cooked her meals in a microwave like most of us) would her stories still be as perfect, if she had written them in modern day?
I have to wonder. It seems that to be a rousingly successful writer in today’s Adult Fiction world you have to have healthy doses of A) Sex B) Cursing C) something gross or sinister involving bloodshed and D) Edginess. (a.k.a latent Sexuality)

Granted, Jane lived pre-Victorian age, so she alluded to sex in her books, but never between her hero and heroine. In that day and age, love between literary characters was intense, yet “noble and true”.
For example, putting it in today’s setting, would the love between Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley be so pure and exhilarating (for the reader) if they constantly “did it” in her bedroom, in his bedroom, at the office, etc., and went into detailed depth about her relationship hang-ups and his occasional need for Viagra? Hmmm. Let me think…most likely NOT.

Not only that, but the wit and language Jane used in her day are so perfect, it would be a shame to translate her words to the modern tongue. (I actually had a friend who lamented that they had an American translation of the Holy Bible, so why not Jane Austen’s works?)

To my friend’s point: No one speaks that way anymore, except for maybe, well, nobody. And no one will speak that way again, sadly. And it was such a romantic and lyrical way of speaking, too. Were a writer to attempt Jane's manner of writing today, he/she would be laughed (possibly even snored) out of the Editor's office. Understanding the archaic language of Yesterday can take effort. But it is indeed beautiful.
For instance: When Mr. Darcy proclaims his love for Elizabeth Bennet, here is his poetic confession:

Mr. Darcy: “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Whew! *Lara fans herself and collects her wits* Okay…so if Jane were to write this same sentence today, it might sound something like this:

Mr. Darcy: Man, I’ve fought this, but I can’t help it. I dig you, Lizzie. I really dig you.”

Clearly there is no contest. Needless to say, I am VERY glad that Jane Austen lived when she did. Her prose is so perfect—it just wouldn’t be the same if she lived in the modern world of fax machines and microwaves and dvd recorders. Nothing is that swoon-worthy anymore it seems. *sigh*

...Or maybe I need to get out and read more?


Michelle Miles said...

HAHAHA...your modern day version of Mr. Darcy's proclamation of love cracked me up! And you're right: if anyone wrote that way today, there's no way they'd be published. Her prose is beautiful. Thanks for the birthday wishes. :)

Lara said...

Ooh, Thanks Devon, for the recommendations!