One-Minute Book Reviews

May 11, 2008

An Antidote to Mother’s Day Sentimentality (Quote of the Day / Jane Austen)

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Had enough Mother’s Day sentimentality? Any of Jane Austen’s more astringent comments on motherhood might neutralize it. This line from Sense and Sensibility is perhaps the most biting comment on motherhood to appear in any of her novels www.mollands.net/etexts/senseandsensibility/sns21.html (and comes from the e-texts section of AustenBlog www.austenblog.com)

“Fortunately for those who pay their court through such foibles, a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise for her children, the most rapacious of human beings, is likewise the most credulous; her demands are exorbitant; but she will swallow any thing; and the excessive affection and endurance of the Miss Steeles towards her offspring were viewed therefore by Lady Middleton without the smallest surprise or distrust.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 13, 2008

E. M. Forster’s ‘A Room With a View’ Tonight on PBS — Is It a Coincidence That This Follows the Jane Austen Cycle?

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A new production of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View airs tonight on Masterpiece Theater, which ended its Jane Austen cycle last week. A coincidence? Or is PBS trying to strike a blow for moral realism? The late V. S. Pritchett noted the similarity between the novelists in “Mr. Forster’s Birthday” in his Complete Collected Essays (Random House, 1991): “No one is let off in Forster’s novels; like Jane Austen, he is a moral realist.” Watch the preview of tonight’s A Room With A View, with Elaine Cassidy as Lucy Honeychurch at www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 11, 2008

My Favorite Jane Austen Blog

Filed under: Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:42 pm
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My first novel, The Accidental Bride (St. Martin’s/Griffin, 2000), has a heroine who loves Jane Austen, so I’ve explored many Austen sites on the Web. My favorite is AustenBlog www.austenblog.com, which I discovered when it linked to a quote I had posted about the recent Sense and Sensibility adaptation PBS.

One of the virtues of this beautifully designed site is that it has the complete texts of all six of Austen’s major novels in a searchable, easy-to-read format with handsome watercolor illustrations by C. E. Brock. You can find the books in the “Novel E-texts” category on the site.

I love this aspect of AustenBlog because many sites that have the full texts of the novels don’t let you search for quotes. It recently took me at least half an hour to check the punctuation of my favorite quote from Sense and Sensibility: “Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.” I searched for the quote in the e-text posted on AustenBlog and it popped right up.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

April 6, 2008

Did Jane Austen Have a Romantic View of Marriage? Looking Beyond Tonight’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ on PBS

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:04 am
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Many people imagine that Jane Austen had a romantic view of marriage. Her novels and letters don’t support this view. Hilary Mantel writes in an essay on Austen in Literary Genius: 25 Classic Writers Who Define English and American Literature (Paul Dry Books, 2007), edited by Joseph Epstein www.pauldrybooks.com:

“Jane Austen’s novels, as everyone has observed, end at the church door: with the wedding, not the marriage. Jane’s private observation did not. She looked about her and saw what marriage meant. ‘Poor animal,’ she wrote of a woman too often pregnant, ‘she will be worn out before she is thirty.’ Love within a marriage might compensate for what marriage demanded of women – the cyclical facing-down of the risk and pain of childbirth – but the ideal matches Jane sets up for her characters are outnumbered in her fiction by those that are botched together in bad circumstances, contracted in haste, and repented at leisure or simply arrange by cold and grand family interests.”

Comment by Jan:

Mantel is right about those bad marriages. The unions that fit her description include those of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Mary and Charles Musgrove in Persuasion and Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park. Then there are John and Fanny Dashwood, the weak husband and manipulative wife of Sense and Sensibility, the subject of a Masterpiece Theater production that concludes tonight on PBS www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/index.html.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

http://www.janiceharayda.com

March 31, 2008

Last Night’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ on PBS — A Star Vehicle for Jane Austen, Not Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant

Filed under: Classics,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:32 pm
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Does the new Sense and Sensibility leave the impression that Marianne Dashwood needs extra Zoloft?

Ginia Bellafante wrote in Saturday’s New York Times that Marianne Dashwood “slips over the rocks from fragility to desperation” in the new Sense and Sensibility on PBS that began last night:

“At 17, Marianne is meant to possess a heart that gives itself too easily, but I doubt that Austen ever intended for us to see her as someone who ought to increase her dosage of Zoloft.”

Bellafante is right about the generous heart of the middle Dashwood sister www.nytimes.com/2008/03/29/arts/television/29aust.html?ref=arts. But I didn’t see the need for extra Zoloft in last night’s installment of the two-part series, which ends April 6, so you have to wonder if Marianne will take an alarming emotional plunge on Sunday.

But so far I like this Masterpiece Theater/BBC production at least as much as the 1995 Ang Lee adaptation that starred Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman. For all its charms, the Lee version was a star vehicle for its actors, especially for Thompson and Grant. But the new adaptation is a star vehicle for Jane Austen www.pbs.org. And you can hardly fault it for that.


© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 30, 2008

Watching ‘Sense and Sensibility’ on PBS Tonight

Filed under: Classics,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:23 pm
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Remember the great 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth that induced such raptures in Bridget Jones?

The screenplay came from Andrew Davies, one of the finest living adapters of classic English novels, whose credits include an excellent 1994 miniseries of Middlemarch. Davies also wrote the script for the new two-part Sense and Sensibility that airs tonight and April 6 on PBS, so this one should be worth watching.

A few comments on the novel:

Like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility is not an allegory, though their titles might suggest otherwise. The characters in both novels are more than types. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood – the nominal embodiment of “sense” – has deep emotions and a distinctive sensibility. And Marianne Dashwood (“sensibility”) is too intelligent to view as a creature of pure feeling.

Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel (though she wrote Pride and Prejudice before it). But if you haven’t read any of Austen’s work, this is not the best place to begin.

The first 50 or so pages of Sense and Sensibility move so sluggishly that they might defeat all but diehards. You’ll be more likely to understand why people love Austen if you begin with Pride and Prejudice, which gets off to faster start and has more all-around charm even when Firth isn’t bathing in a copper tub on your screen. Persuasion and Emma also move briskly from beginning to end.

Once you get past those plodding opening chapters, Sense and Sensibility has perhaps the sharpest wit in any of Austen’s books, one reason why I love it. Two of my favorite lines from the novel are:

“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”

books.google.com/books?id=FHmUFBfxr1gC&pg=PA189&lpg=PA189&dq=%22elinor+agreed+to+it+all+for+she+did+not+think+he+deserved+the+compliment+of+rational+opposition%22&source=web&ots=in8vioD6pI&sig=G_ViixvJQM0oPAxxQVMnYy3e9ec&hl=en

“ … a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise for her children, the most rapacious of human beings, is likewise the most credulous: her demands are exorbitant; but she will swallow anything …” classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/jausten/bl-jausten-sen-21.htm

Photo: Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield as Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in the new two-part Sense and Sensibility on PBS www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/austen/index.html .

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

December 14, 2007

Funny Gifts for Readers — Jane Austen Action Figures, Librarian Tattoos, Shakespearean Insults and More

Shakespeare is among the writers who inspire gifts that librarians and others think you’ll want to give, at least if you’re a “boiling hutch of beastliness”

By Janice Harayda

All week I’ve been posting serious gift ideas for readers along with the usual reviews. Today I’m here to entertain you. These gifts didn’t make the cut:

Jane Austen Action Figure I couldn’t find a reliable site that stocks the Jane Austen bobblehead dolls that librarians and others have seen. But the Library of Congress shop www.loc.gov/shop/ sells this plastic Jane Austen Action Figure (which comes with a quill pen and writing desk) for $8.50. Austen can’t do battle against Emily Dickinson and the Knights of the Nineteenth Century only because the Belle of Amherst doesn’t have her own action figure (though there’s a plush toy you can find on the Web if you’re determined). Be sure to read all the reader reviews on Amazon www.amazon.com, which also has the doll shown here, if this one tempts you. One critic faults the Jane Austen Action Figure for flimsy construction, including an insecure base and an arm that breaks off easily. Well, what did you expect? Austen died at the age of 41, and this one may have a correspondingly short life span.

Librarian Tattoos In January a Los Angeles librarian won the Newbery Award for a young-adult novel that has the word “scrotum” on the first page. Now the city has given us another pacesetter in a product described as wash-off “librarian tattoos.” “Librarian stereotypes are as old and outdated as microfiche,” says the online catalog for the Library Store at Los Angeles Public Library says. “Nowadays you’re just as likely to see your local librarian driving a Harley as a Honda Accord.” That must explain why the library is selling a 3-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ hardcover book of nontoxic wash-off tattoos for $8, several of which you can see at right. “Put one in a prominent place to prove once and for all that ‘smart’ and ‘cool’ are not mutually exclusive!” the library says in its catalog www.lfla.org/cgi-bin/store/.

Shakespeare’s Insults Magnet Set Are you the kind of person who loves to insult friends with barbs like “thou smell of mountain goat”? Or possibly you “bolting-hutch of beastliness”? If so, these multicolored magnets are for you. A set of 33 insults costs $15.95 at Shakespeare’s Den www.shakespearesden.com, a literary gift site that has items related — and I use the term loosely — to many authors. Among them: George Orwell magnetic finger puppets that you can put on your refrigerator or use for purposes such as — well, let’s stop here.

Source: http://www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

November 28, 2007

2007 A-to-Z Holiday Gift List Coming Soon – Here Are Three of My Favorite Books From the 2006 List That You Can Still Find Easily

COMING SOON …

… the second annual One-Minute Book Reviews A-to-Z Holiday Gift List with books for everyone from an attorney to a Zen Buddhist. A few of my favorites from last year’s list:

What to give to …

A FOOTBALL FAN After a decade out of print, Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay: The Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer (Doubleday, $21.95) returned last year in an edition with a foreword by Jonathan Yardley, the Pulitzer Prize–winning book critic. Give this one to football fans young enough to have missed it when it first came out in 1968 (and maybe also to baby boomers who’ve always regretted giving that first edition to Goodwill). Kramer, a former All-Pro Green Bay guard, wrote this modern classic with the late Dick Schaap, one of the best sportswriters of the 20th century. www.jerrykramer.com

A JANEITE Devout Jane Austen fans call themselves “Janeites.” But you don’t have to fall into that group to enjoy Josephine Ross’s Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders (Bloomsbury, $14.95), with charming watercolor illustrations by Henrietta Webb. Ross doesn’t try to extrapolate a set of 21st-century rules from the behavior of Elizabeth Bennet and others. Instead she offers a literary companion, masquerading as a Regency-era etiquette book, that explains the complex codes of behavior followed by Austen’s characters. www.bloomsburyusa.com

A KINDERGARTENER Mother Goose characters write letters to each other in Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s The Jolly Postman: Or Other People’s Letters (Little, Brown, $19.99, ages 4-8), which has a real letter tucked into in an envelope on every other page. This British import has been delighting children for two decades and has come out in a 20th anniversary edition. The books in “Jolly Postman” series are great gifts partly because children often can’t get them at libraries, which have trouble keeping them on shelves — the letters keep disappearing from their pockets. www.allanahlberg.com. A sequel, The Jolly Christmas Postman (Little,Brown, $17.99, ages 4-8), is shown at right.

Many other books on last year’s list still make good gifts. Click here to read the full list www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/2006/12/01/.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

June 9, 2007

Why Jane Austen’s Novels Aren’t ‘Trivial’ or ‘Frothy’: Quote of the Day #29

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Like so many masterpieces, Jane Austen’s novels might sound trivial or frothy if reduced to their plot summaries. Here’s a partial explanation for why they aren’t:

“Though a contemporary of the major Romantics, Jane Austen is a child of the 18th century, particularly in its Neo-Classical aspects; she is a witty and ironic observer of human inconsistency and ludicrousness rather than a painstaking recorder of consuming passions. As a writer of comedy of manners, she is concerned with a world in which the problems are of good form rather than of subsistence, of the ill-bred rather than the undernourished, of manors rather than slums, of matrimony rather than careers, of gracious gregariousness rather than aggressive worldliness – in short, of bread-and-butter letters rather than bread and butter. To say as much is to risk suggesting that Jane Austen’s world is basically a rather trivial and frothy one. But no discerning reader of hers could hold such an opinion, for she is a serious writer of comedy. In her world the relative unimportance of economic, professional, and political problems permits a concentrating of attention upon personal relations and the quality of living that they make possible. The issue is uniting of moral and social graces, the reconciliation of form and spontaneity.”

From The Reader’s Companion to World Literature: Second Edition (New American Library, 1973). Revised and updated by Lillian Herlands Hornstein, Leon Edel and Horst Frenz.

Comment by Janice Harayda:

As I’ve mentioned, I like The Reader’s Companion to World Literature partly because its A-to-Z entries — unlike those in many literary encyclopedias — aren’t timid. That “no discerning reader” above is typical of its editors’ willingness to put you in your place. I also use reference books that are more tolerant of lesser intellects. But those books are often duller than this one. The Reader’s Companion to World Literature – opinionated as it is — gets it right more often than wrong.

If you enjoy these quotes, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. The Quotes of the Day appear often but not every day. All of the quotes are intended to enhance your enjoyment of the books reviewed on this site and elsewhere.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

May 28, 2007

A Totally Authorized Reading Group Guide to ‘The Accidental Bride’ by Janice Harayda

10 Discussion Questions
The Accidental Bride
A Comedy of Midwestern Manners

Note: Because of the holiday, I’m taking the day off from reviewing and posting this readers’ guide to The Accidental Bride, my first novel. This differs slightly from the other guides on this site, because I haven’t reviewed the book and am instead using some of the material the publisher sent out when the book came out in hardcover. A guide to my second comedy of manners, Manhattan on the Rocks (Sourcebooks, 2004), appeared on March 14, 2007. You can find it by clicking either on the March posts archive or the Totally Unauthorized Reading Groups Guide category (although the guides to both of my novels, unlike the others on this site, are totally authorized). Jan

One month before her fairy-tale wedding to the third richest man in the second largest city in Ohio, Lily Blair is beset by doubts. She appears to have a charmed life – a budding newspaper career and a five-carat engagement ring from a wonderful man – but can’t decide whether to plunge headfirst into the security of married suburban life or follow her career dreams alone to New York. Her family and friends keep nudging her toward the aisle. But Lily has qualms about a wedding her mother wants to stage like a full-scale military operation. Amid the plans, Lily looks to Jane Austen for inspiration. Can she find what she needs in novels like Pride and Prejudice? The answer doesn’t emerge until the last pages of book that Publishers Weekly called “a witty and wise comedy of manners that pays homage to Jane Austen.”

Questions for Book Clubs and Others

1. Each chapter of The Accidental Bride begins with a quote from Jane Austen. How do these quotes relate to the plot? Do they serve different purposes in the individual chapters and in the novel as a whole? What are the purposes? You may want to compare The Accidental Bride to Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club.

2. Many reviewers noted that the humor in The Accidental Bride is satirical. What are some of the things the novel is satirizing? Does Janice Harayda satirize some of the same things that Austen does?

3. Satire can take many forms. For example, it can be gentle or biting (sometimes both in the work of the same author, as in Austen’s novels). How would you describe the satire in The Accidental Bride?

4. The first sentence of The Accidental Bride reads: “One month before her wedding to the third richest man in the second largest city in Ohio, Lily Blair awoke in the middle of the night and realized that she did not want to get married.” The author doesn’t name that “second largest city.” But you may know that it is Cleveland. (The largest city is Columbus, the capital.) Why you do think the author didn’t name Cleveland? Do you think she did this for legal, literary, or other reasons? How might your reactions to the novel have changed if the author had named Cleveland in the first line?

5. Lily, the heroine of The Accidental Bride, doesn’t want to see a psychiatrist because she doesn’t think many therapists are as wise as writers like La Rochefoucauld, who said, “In love there is always the kisser and the one who gets kissed.” What does this saying mean? Is there a “kisser” and a “one who gets kissed” in The Accidental Bride?

6. Lily also admires another writer who says “love is an agreement on the part of two people to overestimate each other.” Do you think that writer was being serious or facetious or both?

7. A critic for The New York Times wrote in her review of The Accidental Bride that “Harayda is an astute social commentator.” That is, she is saying some things about our society in addition to telling a story. What are some of the things you think she is trying to say?

8. In novels about women in their twenties, the men are often cads. That’s especially true of the heroines’ boyfriends. Lily’s boyfriend, Mark, is different. He is a kind and thoughtful man who is trying to understand the woman he loves. How does this affect the plot and other aspects of the story?

9. Mark is trial lawyer who is forced to defend a company accused – with good reason – of age discrimination. Do you see any parallels between Lily’s situation and that of the older people in the lawsuit (called “Geezers” and “Geezerettes” by their employer)?

10. The Accidental Bride belongs to the genre known as the “comedy of manners,” which consists of fiction that tweaks the customs of a particular group (often a group that is — or sees itself — as upper class). The humor in this genre tends to involve wit and charm instead of slapstick or physical comedy. A classic example is Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. What are some other plays, movies, or novels that are comedies of manners? Why do you like them?

Praise for The Accidental Bride
“Satire with heart … In a style that careens from Austenesque to Corporate Memo-ese, Janice Harayda has written a farce that dissects the farce of the matrimonial ceremony. Lily is a charming character.”
— Olivia Goldsmith, bestselling author of The First Wives Club

“A thoroughly entertaining first novel.”
— Joyce R. Slater, Chicago Sun-Times

“Sparkling with wit and humor, this is a story that charms.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Harayda’s first novel has plenty of snappy, witty dialog, humorous scenarios, and sexual innuendo.”
Margaret Ann Hanes, Library Journal

“A frothy comedy … Harayda is an astute social commentator.”
— Maggie Galehouse, The New York Times

“Harayda is quick with a quip and merciless at sniping at an unnamed Ohio city … Residents of that city may not find this funny, but everyone else will.”
— Michele Leber, Booklist

“Vigorous wit, playful homage to the winsome heroines of great nineteenth-century novels, and a charming, irresolute heroine make this tale of a woman who doesn’t want to get married an unusually filling trifle.”
— Karen Karbo, San Francisco Chronicle (“Recommended” book)

“Harayda’s sense of the humorously absurd, combined with her gift for timing and fun, make this book readable and fun … Did I ever put it down? No. I read it at breakfast, at dinner, in the bubble bath. I got to liking Lily and wanted to find out what would happen.”
— Wendy Smith, San Diego Union Tribune

“The former book editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Harayda has made Lily a displaced reporter. This gives the author a wonderful chance to skewer newsroom types … half the fun for the reader is helping Lily sort out her misgivings [about her wedding] and figure out which are real and which are only flutters.”
— Kit Reed, St. Petersburg Times

“The Accidental Bride is a worthy counterpart to … Bridget Jones’s Diary [Harayda’s] hand at social satire rivals Austen’s … Lily Blair is a charming heroine … The reader is pleased to go along for the ride.”
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

“Nicely skewers today’s over-the-top weddings and the whole wedding industry.”
— Linda Brazill, The Capital Times (Madison, WI)

“The Accidental Bride is a delightful romp of a book, both funny and wise and very much a story for our times. In Lily Blair, Jan Harayda has created a contemporary character who outdoes the best of Jane Austen’s most memorable women. When feisty Lily comes to terms with one of the biggest decisions of her life, the reader can do nothing but cheer.”
— Ruth Coughlin, author of Grieving: A Love Story

“True laughs and true lover abound in this galloping romanic comedy. Jan Harayda goes after the smug assumptions of suburban weddings and the absurdity of ‘mandatory’ matrimony. The wit is civilized, the heart is romantic, and the wisecracks are indeed wise.”
— Steve Szilagyi, author of Photographing Fairies

“The Accidental Bride is a charmingly witty, modern-day satirical tale of a woman trying to keep her balance as she teeters on the edge of matrimony.”
Charles Salzberg, co-author of On Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place

Vital Statistics
The Accidental Bride: A Romantic Comedy. By Janice Harayda. St. Martin’s/Griffin, 304 pp., $13.95, paperback.

To invite Janice Harayda to speak to your book group in person or by speakerphone, please use the e-mail address on the “Contact” page of www.janiceharayda.com and write “Book Club” in the subject heading of your note.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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