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Sex and the Austen Girl (& a BIG giveaway)

August 24, 2009

This guest post was written by Laurie Viera Rigler author of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, both which are available now. You can find out more about the author and her books at her website Jane Austen Addict. Please help me welcome Laurie to Stephanie’s Written Word!

In honor of the Everything Austen Challenge, I thought it would be fun to take a look at one of the things that many of us find most attractive about Jane Austen’s world (or our idea of Austen’s world); namely, the romance, and compare it to romance in the modern world.

 Have you ever wondered how our dating rules and rituals today might look to someone from Jane Austen’s England? 

This is a question I thought about constantly while writing my new novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. It’s the parallel story to my first novel, CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. 

In CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, a twenty-first-century Austen fan named Courtney Stone awakens one morning in 1813 England as a gentleman’s daughter named Jane Mansfield—with comic and romantic consequences.

 In RUDE AWAKENINGS, Jane, the gentleman’s daughter from 1813 England, finds herself occupying the body of Courtney in the urban madness of  twenty-first-century L.A.

For Jane, who was born into a privileged yet proto-industrial world of horse-drawn carriages and candlelit nights, the wired, electrified, and multi-tasking twenty-first century is a shock. So is its lack of servants, civility, or sufficiently modest clothing. There are, however, some very clever little machines, especially a shiny glass box in which tiny people act out scenes from her favorite novel, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.  

Although nothing is familiar to Jane–not even her own face in the mirror–one thing is clear: the technological wonders of the modern world are a lot easier to comprehend than its rules of love.

In Jane’s world, she was forbidden to live alone, travel alone, or even earn her own money–let alone spend unescorted evenings with single men. While she revels in her newfound freedom, she struggles to make sense of how single men and women interact in the modern world. And so, when she finds herself falling for a young gentleman—who may not be a gentleman at all—she’s in over her head.

 Good thing she has the wise words of Jane Austen—and the counsel of a mysterious lady–to guide her.

And so I herewith pose the question that my heroine asks herself:

Are we better off now, or would we be better off back then?

(I suppose we’d have to remove from our equation the vision of Colin Firth emerging, dripping wet, from that lake—or that scene where he’s fencing—or  Matthew MacFadyen brooding across the moors…Otherwise, who could keep her thoughts straight?)

Here’s a list of the most glaring differences between dating today and courtship in 1813 (which is also the year that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE was published).

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Getting Acquainted, 1813:

Although a ball is an all-important opportunity for singles to get to know one another, a woman is not allowed to dance with a man unless he has been properly introduced to her by a trusted friend. Or the master of ceremonies at the assembly rooms. He certainly can’t just walk up to her on the street and strike up a conversation.

Dancing is one of the only opportunities that single men and women have for a tête-à-tête, and it’s pretty much the only way they can touch. It’s a socially sanctioned way to display the grace and proportions of your body, and to admire those of your partner. Eye contact is very much a part of the dance. The whole ritual of display, chaste touch, and locking eyes with your partner is actually quite sexy, despite how stilted English country dance may look at first glance.

Is it any wonder that ballroom scenes are important in Austen’s novels? Other than balls, your opportunities to meet new people or develop intimate relationships with new acquaintances are limited to the social inclinations and fortunes of your parents and whatever heavily chaperoned parties and dinners they give, or are invited to. Not to mention whom you get stuck sitting next to at dinner. Oh yes, and don’t even think about getting involved with anyone from a lower social class.

Getting Acquainted, 2009:

Any man may approach any woman anywhere he pleases, and vice versa (at least theoretically; how many women make a habit of making the first move?). Class is no obstacle (at least theoretically). Opportunities for alone time are limitless. But does that mean modern singles take advantage of those opportunities to forge more intimate relationships than people did in 1813? After all, there’s always another opportunity to get together—or meet someone else. Why rush things?

 Staying in touch, 1813:

If a woman wants to see a man again after their initial meeting, all she can do is wait and hope he’ll visit her in her home or wherever she is staying (with relatives or other chaperones present, of course). Writing letters to the object of your affections is strictly prohibited unless you are engaged. So, if a man doesn’t make his move after the initial meet in person—and soon—chances are he’s just not that into her. Or in love with someone else. Or a twit.

Staying in touch, 2009:

Landlines, cell phones, voicemail, text, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter. Who calls first, how long after a meeting, and by what clever method? Do men still prefer to take the initiative, or do women feel as free to pursue as men do? Such are the great mysteries of modern living.

Gauging a Man’s Intentions, 1813:

When a single man reserves the first two dances at a ball with a young woman and then asks her to dance with him again, that’s a pretty obvious sign of interest. If he then pays regular visits to her mother and father, contrives to sit by her at dinner, and has little conversation for anyone else, a proposal is sure to follow.

Gauging a Man’s Intentions, 2009:

Since anything goes in the flirting and physical contact department, much of it in public, and none of it necessarily indicative of anything more than the ego and physical gratification of the moment, intention is anyone’s guess. Though a man may appear to be in love (or pretty close to it) prior to making love, the woman may never hear from him again after the deed is done. In that respect, things have not changed at all since 1813.

Making Love, 1813:

Something a man does verbally rather than physically, when he declares his affections and proposes marriage—a gentleman doesn’t do one without the other. And despite what he might wish would happen physically before that trip to the altar, he doesn’t expect more than a handshake. Even a kiss isn’t supposed to take place before marriage, but if it does happen it will definitely not be in public. (I don’t care; I still love that PDA kiss in the 1995 film adaptation of PERSUASION.)

 Making Love, 2009:

One of the things that Jane cannot wrap her mind around is the inherent contradiction of a society that glorifies brides and marriage with hugely elaborate weddings and an entire wedding industry, but at the same time engages in courtship, cohabitation, and even the sexual act without any matrimonial consequences. The language is also puzzling. At least “making love” refers to a physical act between two people in love. But “hooking up”? It brings to Jane’s mind being lured to one’s death, like a fish, while “having sex” sounds as if it has about as much gravity as “having cake.”

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!

Laurie has generously offered to send both of her books CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT to 3 lucky winners!!  

To enter all you need to do read this guest post and in the comments answer Laurie’s question – Are we better off now, or would we be better off back then? Please also include your e-mail address.

For an additional chance to win you can Tweet about this giveaway (@SWrittenWord has 3 copies of @austen_addict books to giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/lf3y29 #everythingausten) or post about this contest on your own blog. Please note that this giveaway is only open to US residents (sorry international readers) and you have until Saturday, August 29th at 12 midnight EST to enter. I will announce the winners on Sunday. Good luck!!

Win a Kindle by Tweeting

August 20, 2009

Did you read my recent book review of Perseveranceby Carolyn Rubenstein? To celebrate the release of her book, Carolyn is giving away a KINDLE A DAY and there are still two days to win!

From the author’s blog:

Tuesday marks the release of my new book, PERSEVERANCE, a collection of candid stories from 20 young people who have faced cancer head-on and emerged with a new outlook on life. Contained within the pages of PERSEVERANCE are life lessons that all of us can take away, with the message that “now is everything.” This book is a labor of love, and I hope the life lessons I learned from these brave survivors will inspire you, as well.

I am a huge fan of the Amazon Kindle and to celebrate the release of my book with readers, I am pleased to announce that we are giving away a Kindle wireless reading device on Twitter each day from August 18 through Friday, August 21, to four lucky tweeters. (That’s Twitter users, for the digitally-challenged. You can start an account here: www.twitter.com)

The rules are simple: to participate, simply send out a tweet with #perseveranceincluded somewhere within the 140 characters. You only have to send out one tweet each day during the contest to be eligible for that day. You can enter in all four daily contests if you want. Your message can say whatever you want—but it must include the hashtag #perseverance.

There will be a random drawing to choose the Kindle winner each contest day. Winners will be notified via my Twitter account (@clrsimple2), and will have five days to claim the prize. Good luck!!

Cupcakes, books & movies

August 19, 2009

It’s been a week and a half since my (final) surgery and I am feeling great! Yesterday I went into NYC to see my doctor for my first follow up visit. Afterwards I headed over to Book Club Girl’s office and we had lunch together. It was so nice to see Jennifer again (last time was when I sat on a panel with her at Book Expo America). We chatted about books (of course) our kids and the 2010 BEA. Afterwards I stopped by Crumbs to pick up some of these yummy delights for my neighbor, who was taking care of my kids for the day. 

Crumbs Bake Shop

While on the train ride to the city I started Her Fearful Symmetry, the highly anticipated second novel by Audrey Niffenegger (I received an ARC of it in the mail on Monday). I’m about one hundred pages in and so far enjoying this creepy story.

Audrey Niffenegger

Speaking of Niffenegger, some ladies from my neighborhood got together to see The Time Traveler’s Wife at the movies last night. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film since I found out it was being made into a movie. The movie itself was pretty good, but not nearly as good as the book (isn’t that usually the case)? It might have something to do with the casting of Eric Bana as Henry. I just didn’t think he was the right actor for the role. Also, the visual effects used to make Henry dissapear were a little cheesy. It did though make me want to re-read the book (it’s been quite awhile since I read and thoroughly enjoyed the love story between Henry and Clare).

Perseverance

August 17, 2009

Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer SurvivorsOne of the hardest parts about getting a diagnosis of cancer is the isolation you feel. Sure, I knew there were many, many people who were going through (and still are) treatment for various cancers, many of which were much more serious than my own. Still, there are moments when I felt all alone.

When I received a copy of Perseverance: True Voices of Cancer Survivors by Carolyn Rubenstein, I quickly realized it was full of stories of young adults who also felt that isolation of a cancer diagnosis. Perseverance is a collection of essays told by twenty college age kids about how they survived childhood cancer. The essays were compiled by the author, who during her own teenage years founded Carolyn’s Compassionate Children a non-profit organization that provides emotional and financial resources to childhood cancer survivors.

These kids tell their personal stories of scary diseases, long treatments, painful biopsies, surgeries and even transplants. Like Jamie Saunders, who underwent a year and a half of chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma as a high school freshman. Or Rob Dooley, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor the day before his twentieth birthday. These are harrowing stories of hardship some of us will never know and yet these kids have hope for the future.   

Emily Corwin writes about starting treatment for cancer:

“I saw five-year-olds laughing and smiling who were so sick. If they could do it, I could do it.”

Or Henry Choi:

“I now appreciate every single bit of life, and I think of challenges as ways to make me stronger.”

In the end, Perseverance is a book full of touching stories, told in unique voices, and leaves us with the feeling of hope and more importantly, that we as cancer survivors are not alone.

Perseverance is on sale August 18, 2009.

Cross posted over at Mothers With Cancer.

Sense and Sensibility, a mini-challenge & giveaway

August 14, 2009

My love for Jane Austen started in an unusual way. With most fans, a book is the first glimpse into the world of a favorite author. For me though, it was the movie Sense and Sensibility.  

It was over twelve years now, when I was living in a small apartment not far from my current home, when I on a whim picked up Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility from the video store. What I didn’t realize was how much of a emotional roller coaster the story was and how no matter how many times I would watch it, I would always cry at the end.

It’s taken me all these twelve years to finally pick up the original novel to read, which I did recently for my Everything Austen challenge. Even though I had the basic knowledge of the characters and their personalities, it was nice to take the time to get a more in-depth glimpse into their lives during 19th Century England. I really enjoyed my reading time.

Afterwards I picked up my well worn DVD and sat down to watch Sense and Sensibility again. I have to say that between Emma Thompson’s award winner screenplay writing and Ang Lee’s direction, they preserved the story of Jane Austen’s original book beautifully.

If you are planning to read or watch Sense and Sensibility during Everything Austen, I would highly recommend you do both – I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

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I hope you guys are enjoying my Everything Austen challenge so far! I’ve been thrilled to see so many reviews for the challenge pop up already (over 250 and counting) and hope that your Austen experience has been a pleasant one.

Nicole of Books & Bards was sweet enough to offer to host a mini-challenge for participants. Please stop by her blog today and join in her Do you Have What it Takes to Be a Mrs. Jennings? A Jane Austen Mix-and-Matchmaking Mini-Challenge for a chance to win a copy of the book Lost in Austen: Creat Your Own Jane Austen Adventure. Nicole also has another really great post called Regency Glosseries for the Austen-Impaired, where you can find out answers to your most burning questions (like what really is the difference between a phaeton and a barouche)!

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Also, stop by MariReads today for a really great post filled with information and beautiful pictures about her recent trip to Bath. She has also brought something back to share with all of you Darcy fans so make sure to leave a comment for a chance to win!

The Magicians

August 10, 2009

Over the last few years I’ve found myself more and more drawn to reading fantasy novels. The ultimate in escapism, good fantasy writing creates fantastic worlds very different from our own. Great fantasy leaves us wanting more. The Magicians by Lev Grossman left me wanting more.

Quentin Coldwater is an extremely gifted seventeen year old who is also extremely unhappy. He is bored with his home life in Brooklyn and doesn’t quite feel like he belongs in this world. In fact, since he was a little boy, he has been obsessed with a Narnia-like series of fantasy books from the 1930′s . Written by Christopher Plover, the series follows the adventures of the Chatwin siblings as they fight evil in the world of Fillory. Quentin dreams of one day living in a magical type world like Fillory. What he doesn’t know is that the magical world is about to find him.

Quentin soon finds himself quite magically on the grounds of Brakebills, a college for magicians hidden in upstate New York. When asked to perform magic tricks as an entrance exam, Quentin realizes that the slight-of-hand tricks he learned from books as a kid really are magic and soon he is enrolled at Brakebills.

Even though Quentin is learning to cast complex spells at Brakebills, college life is still filled with lots of  typical college experiences. With some new found friends at his side, Quentin begins to develop his magical skills and his college years fly by.       

After Brakebills though, Quentin finds himself stuck in a merry-go-round of drugs and alcohol with his old classmates. After spending his life pining for adventure, he is disappointed with the life he is leading. But when someone from his past turns up with information that the magical land of Fillory is a real place, will Quentin really be prepared?

I’m sure there will be some Harry Potter comparisons to The Magicians, since there are many similarities in circumstances. In both, there are magical people living among the general population and there is a lot of focus on learning magic as specialty schools. Grossman even gives a nod to Harry Potter:

“Hang on,” he said. “Gotta get my quidditch costume. I mean uniform.”

Grossman though wrote The Magicians for an adult audience, with references to alcohol use, sex and drug abuse. His wonderfully descriptive language can be seen throughout. I love how he describes the grounds at Brakebills:

The hedges that made up the Maze were cut in the shape of heavy, slow-thighed beasts – bears and elephants and other less-easily-identifiable creatures. Unlike ordinary topiary they moved: they lumbered along very slowly, almost imperceptibly, wading half submerged in the dark foliage like hippopotami wallowing in an equatorial African river.

Plus, I was intrigued by the sinister character The Beast. Not since the Crooked Man in The Book of Lost Things have I read about such a wonderfully descriptive and scary character. Truly bone chilling stuff.

With the exception of a small slow part in the middle of the book, The Magicians is pure literary magic.

The Magicians will go on sale tomorrow, August 11, 2009. Along with the main website for The Magicians, there are four clever companion websites that are worth exploring: Fillory fan site, Christopher Plover website and even a site for the imaginary Brakebills College!

Thank you to Viking for sending The Magicians to me for review.

My bedside table & a tiny break

August 6, 2009

TBR pile 2

Tomorrow is Friday, which means that I will be in NYC for the day undergoing the last of my surgeries (you don’t even want to know what time I need to be at Sloan Kettering tomorrow morning – let’s just say that it is early)!  I am this close to putting the last year of cancer treatments and surgeries behind me and am really excited to be on the last leg of this journey.

As I will need a bit of time to recover from my surgery, I won’t be checking my computer all that much over the next week. I have however scheduled some posts to go up, including my review of the new book The Magicians by Levi Grossman, my thoughts about reading (and watching) Sense & Sensibility and also an announcement about our next mini-challenge for Everything Austen, to be hosted late next week by the lovely Nicole over at Books and Bards (click here to find out a few details about it)!

In the meantime, I’ve left you picturse of the book stack next to my bed. I recently put these books on my night stand  to remind myself of the books I plan to read over the next few weeks. 

TBR pile

It’s a lovely stack, isn’t it? I recently received Time of My Life and House & Home, both of which I will be reviewing for TLC Book Tours in September. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte came directly from the publisher and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the August pick for my book club. As for The Lovely Bones, which I read a few years back, I’m tempted to try to read it again before the movie is released (yep, The Lovely Bones will be release in December by DreamWorks Pictures and you can see the trailer here)!!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend and I will be back blogging soon.

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