Category Archives: Women Writers

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

krik krakSeparation and memory. These are the two things that, for me, define the lives of Edwidge Danticat’s characters in Krik? Krak!. The nine interconnected stories present us with the struggles of different women that have to deal with the political tension and the poverty in their country, Haiti, and how they affect their lives. Each story tells us about the pain and suffering that are the common trait of characters that have different backgrounds and varying expectations of life.

The opening short story, “Children of the Sea”, grabs the reader’s attention in such a way that it is impossible to put the book down. Two narrators, a young man and woman who love each other are writing letters that they will never exchange. Through their letters you learn of their haste and forced separation and the promise to write daily to one another so when they meet again they can read the letters and know what each of them went through. But the separation will not be temporary, as they hoped, and only the memory of that love will remain in the unread letters.

In these stories memory is the way that women find to stay alive forever. They keep in mind what the generations past lived, and they want to make sure to let their stories for posterity. Some of them are away from home, like Grace’s mother in “Caroline’s Wedding”, and try desperately to keep their culture alive by passing everything on to their daughters who live in a different world and cannot truly understand the traditions of their Haitian antecedents.

Danticat’s language is compelling; it urges us to feel the pain of those characters and to understand their nature and sympathise with them. All those characters have lost something or someone due to the political and economical instability of Haiti. By the end of the book you feel like you can really understand the narrator of the epilogue when she says:

“You have never been able to escape the pounding of a thousand other hearts that have outlived yours by thousands of years. And over the years when you have needed us, you have always cried ‘Krik?’ and we have answered ‘Krak!’ and it has shown us that you have not forgotten us.” (224)

This is the weigh of the memory of women’s lives. In this case it is that of Haitian women, but what it brought to my mind was the memory of all the women in the world that have suffered so much and fought for a better life for us. And it reminded me that we still have a long way to go.

The edition I read was:

Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak!. Vintage Contemporaries: New York. 1996. Print.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Literature, Women Writers

Pride and Prejudice: Adaptations

There are countless adaptations and works based on Pride and Prejudice. From comics to vlogs, Jane Austen’s novel is probably one of the most retold stories ever written. The 1995 BBC mini-series adaptation of the story has certainly brought Austen’s work back to attention and set off a movement of adaptations that has yet to stop (not that I think it ever will). I will list only some of these because, as I said before, they are countless and I’m sure I am not aware of everything that was done based on Pride and Prejudice.

pp 1 pp 2 pp 3 pp 5 pp 6 pp 7 pp 8 pp 9 pp 4 pp 10 pp 11

The 1940 film adaptation is a must see for every Pride and Prejudice fan. The plot differs from the original in many points, but the focus on the comic make up for it! The BBC productions are excellent and you should watch in case you have not done so yet. Of course, the 1995 adaptation is the most beloved (might have something to do with Colin Firth).

The Marvel adaptation of the novel to comics is fabulous; everyone should give it a try! There are five magazines that tell the whole story!

The 2003 film adaptation is not so good, but if you want to watch something just to relax and not have to think about it, that’s your film. The Bollywood adaptation is one that I have not watched yet so I cannot express an opinion about it. If you have watched, please comment the post and tell us what you think of it!

The 2005 adaptation is a favourite of mine, of course! Besides the fact that I think that Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen made a great couple on screen, there is the fact that the score for this film is absolutely beautiful, one of my all-time favourites and my 2nd most listened album, according to my LastFM. Dario Marianelli got the feeling of the novel and made it into sound, there is no way you’ll not love it. Try reading the book listening to this score, I promise it will be amazing.

Amanda Grange’s novel Mr. Darcy’s Diary is a very interesting work telling Mr. Darcy side of the story. It follows the original plot from beginning to end, but from the hero’s point of view. Definitely worth reading!

“Lost In Austen” may scare off some of the most traditional fans, you know, those who do not like plot twists. But if you are comfortable with some, maybe not so small, changes in the plot, you are going to like this a lot! There are four episodes that will make you laugh a lot.

The adaptation Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is another one that I have not checked yet, so I will abstain from judging it for now!

And here it comes: “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”. If you are not watching this yet, then you have 89 videos to watch and you better do it soon because another one is on the way! This adaptation in a vlog format is simply amazing. I confess that when I heard of it I tended to think that it was probably not such a cool think, but then I started watching and was very pleasantly surprised by the amazing quality of this work. Besides the videos, all the characters have Twitters, Tumblrs, the companies have pages on the internet. It is all very interactive. “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” is definitely going to be remembered was the production that changed the way we interact with literature. I’m sure that after this many other classics will appear adapted in a similar way on the internet. Way to go “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” cast and crew!

Watch the first video below. But I warn you, do it when you have a lot of time to kill because you’ll want to watch all the videos once you get started!

To know more about each adaptation just click on the images!

2 Comments

Filed under English Literature, Literature, Television, Women Writers

Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice

IMG_4908 - Cópia

Jane Austen began writing First Impressions in October 1796; she was then only twenty years old. The draft was finished in August 1797 and her father, the clergyman George Austen, tried to have it published, but the manuscript was rejected without being read. In late 1811, Austen begun revising First Impressions, after abandoning it for years, and it became the novel we all know today as Pride and Prejudice, which was first published in 28 January 1813.

The manuscript of the final version of Pride and Prejudice was sold to the publisher Thomas Egerton in November 1812 by £110 (about £ 6.418,74 today). The day after the book came out Austen wrote a letter to her sister Cassandra in which she called Pride and Prejudice her “own darling child” and tells the story of how she had read some of the book to an acquaintance:

“Miss Benn dined with us on the very day of the book’s coming, and in the eveng. we sat fairly at it and read half the 1st vol. to her – prefacing that having intelligence from Henry that such a work wd. soon appear we had desired him to send it whenever it came out – and I believe it passed with her unsuspected. She was amused, poor soul! That she cd. not help – you know, with two such people to lead the way; but she really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.”

It is clear from this passage that, although proud of her work, Jane Austen truly wished to remain anonymous. That plan was thwarted by the very book she was so proud of. Pride and Prejudice was Austen’s most popular novel and it meant that her name was soon well known as its author. She wrote to her brother Frank in September 25 1813:  “the truth is that the secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the shadow of a secret now and that I believe whenever the 3d appears, I shall not even attempt to tell lies about it”. She was clearly not happy with her fame, but seemed resigned enough to say she would not even try to hide the authorship of her next book although she did publish Mansfield Park in May 9 1814 without her name, the book was identified only as being by the same author of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

auction-mansfield-park-122009-title-pageAusten’s choice to sell the manuscript of Pride and Prejudice to Egerton instead of publishing it on commission (read about the publishing methods here) as she had done with Sense and Sensibility was probably related to her uneasy in depending on her brother’s money to do it.  She wrote to Martha Lloyd, her friend, soon after the manuscript was sold: “Its’ being sold will I hope be a great saving of trouble to Henry, & therefore must be welcome to me. […] I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that she should not chuse to hazard so much.” This was a rather unfortunate decision since the book sold better than Sense and Sensibility had, to the point of increasing the demand for the first novel. Austen learned her lesson and when Egerton offered to by the manuscript of her next novel in 1814, Mansfield Park, she refused him publishing it on commission using the money she had made with the previous novels.

Tomorrow there will be more! Don’t miss it!

This post was based on:

Jan Fergus’ “The professional woman writer” from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster; Published by the Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, 1997.

Rebecca Dickson’s “Pride and Prejudice” of Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasure; Published by Metro Books in New York, 2008.

The 29 January 1813 letter to Cassandra was taken from The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen, edited by Penelope Hughes-Hallett; Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers in New York, 1990.

The value of the pound today was calculated with the Bank of England Inflation Calculator.

Leave a comment

Filed under English Literature, Literature, Women Writers

Publishing in Austen’s time

pandp_title_first_ed2wJane Austen wrote at a time when women authors were not seen with good eyes by society. A woman’s reputation could be seriously damaged by assuming the authorship of published works, especially novels, and profiting from its selling. Being published exposed a woman to the public eye, and the consequence was her loss of femininity, which was defined by her modest behaviour, domesticity, submission to the male authorities in her life and so on. This led many women writers of the time to publish their first novels anonymously, among them were Sarah Field, Frances Burney, and Ann Radcliffe. Some of these women would start publishing under their own names after they achieved a certain reputation as novelists, but Jane Austen never changed her preference for keeping herself away from the public eye, choosing to have all her books publish only as “by a Lady”.

At her time, Austen and any writer, known or unknown, had four options for publishing their novels: by subscription, by profit-sharing, by selling copyright, and on commission, also known as publishing for oneself. In the subscription method, the author offered subscriptions on a projected book and would keep records and collect money of the subscribers, who would have their names printed in the book when it came out (you can relate it to the Pledge Music method many artists have been using to record their albums nowadays). By Austen’s time this method of publication was declining due to its demanding nature that did not always turn lucrative.

In the profit-sharing method, the publisher would assume the expanses of printing and advertising and, after the selling of the book paid their expanses, they would share the profit with the author. This method was usually offered to new authors whose success or failure could not be predicted; it was safer for both publisher and author.

The sale of the copyright guaranteed the author that they would receive the agreed fee for the rights of publication of their works, but it also excluded them from any future claim to their work and its profit in the market. This method was risky for both author and publisher. On the one hand, if the book did not sell well the publisher would still have to pay for the copyright fee and the printing and advertising costs which would be lost money for him, but would be good for the author that would be paid something anyway. On the other hand, if the book was a success, chances are that the author would have been able to earn more if they had not sold the copyright for the work and the publisher would be the only one to profit of their work. Jane Austen sold the copyright of Pride and Prejudice in November 1812 by £110 (about £ 6.418,74 today) to the publisher Thomas Egerton; This choice would prove to have been unwise when the novel became a success and gave Egerton a profit of more than £450 (about £25.614,11) considering only the first two editions.

When publishing on commission the author paid for all the expanses of printing and advertising and the publisher distributed the books charging a commission of 10 per cent for each sold copy. This was a very risk method for the author; if the book did not sell enough to pay the expenses, the author would still have to pay the publisher for printing and advertising besides the commission for any copy sold. Austen mostly used this last method to publish her works.

That’s all for today people! Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more about Pride and Prejudice.

This post was based on Jan Fergus chapter “The professional woman writer” of The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster. Published by the Cambridge University Press in Cambridge, 1997.

The value of the pound today was calculated with the Bank of England Inflation Calculator.

1 Comment

Filed under English Literature, Literature, Women Writers

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!"

As I have mentioned on my post about Jane Austen, Jan. 28 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of her masterpiece Pride and Prejudice. Of course, I could not let this pass without writing about one of my favourite books ever. During this week I will be posting about Pride and Prejudice, from the publishing methods of the ending of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries to the most recent success inspired by Austen’s novel, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”. Be prepared.

Leave a comment

Filed under English Literature, Literature, Women Writers

The Middle Ground by Margaret Drabble

MargaretDrabbleBW75Lately, I have not had the chance to read many books simply because I wanted to read them. The reason for that is simple: I have too many books to read for my classes at college. That does not mean that I do not want to read the required books for my classes, actually, they are usually books that are on my list of books to read. One of these books that I read last semester was The Middle Ground by Margaret Drabble.

Margaret Drabble was born June 5, 1939 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, to John F. Drabble and Kathleen Marie. Her older sister is the author A.S. Byatt. Drabble was educated at the Mount School, York, and Newnham College, Cambridge. She is known mostly as a novelist, but she is also a critic and biographer. Her novel The Millstone won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1966. Jerusalem the Golden won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) in 1967 and The Needle’s Eye won the Yorkshire Post Book Award (Finest Fiction) in 1972. The author has also received the E. M. Forster Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973.

The Middle Ground is a novel that could make you give up the reading in the beginning, but if you give it a chance you will probably enjoy it. The narrative structure employed by Drabble is nothing you would expect and seems a bit pointless and boring until you get really involved in it. The main character, Kate Armstrong, is going through what her friend, Hugo Mainwaring, termed her “mid-life crisis” and we follow her in her quest to find herself again and understand how her life has got to the way it is right now.

The narrator of The Middle Ground is intrusive and often talks directly to the reader and expresses his/her opinion on the characters and their lives. The narrative is fragmented, just like real life, and that is what makes this novel very interesting. For my final paper about the novel I wrote about how the narrative strategy used by Drabble reflects the inner turmoil of its characters. The narrative that disturbs the reader in the beginning turns out to be a reflection of the novel’s content, of the feelings faced by the main characters as they try to understand the hows and whys of life.

We get to known Kate at a point when she does not know herself very well anymore. What Kate wants is to find some sense in life, to understand how her past brought about her present and how it will create her future. Through the fragmented narration of her life and the lives of those around her we learn along with Kate that life has no predictable patterns, everything has multiple perspectives and anything is possible. The novel does not have a closing ending; the narrator leaves us with a cliffhanger that allows to any possible ending, just like life has many possibilities, many directions it could go at any moment.

I know I failed to write a proper blurb for this novel, but that is because nothing really happens in The Middle Ground, at least, not in the way we are used to read in novels. The truth is that the transformation that occurs during the story is more of perspective than any big change in plot.

The only way to truly understand this novel is to read it. If you keep in mind that the narrative strategy is more than it seems, that it is a reflection of what is going on with the characters, I am sure that you will enjoy it immensely.

For further information about Margaret Drabble visit:

United Agents

Fantastic Fiction

Red Mood

British Council Literature

For more information about The Middle Ground I recommend the following articles:

Bromberg, Pamela S. “Margaret Drabble’s ‘The Radiant Way’: Feminist Metafiction”. NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 24.1 (1990): 5-25.

Bromberg, Pamela S. “Narrative in Drabble’s ‘The Middle Ground’: Relativity versus Teleology”. Contemporary Literature 24.4 (1983): 463-479.

Greene, Gayle. “Feminist Fiction and the Uses of Memory”. Signs 16.2 (1991): 290-321.

Pickering, Jean. “Margaret Drabble’s Sense of the Middle Problem”. Twentieth Century Literature 30.4 (1984): 475-483.

Rose, Ellen Cronan. “Drabble’s The Middle Ground: ‘Mid-Life’ Narrative Strategies”. Critique 23.3 (1982): 69-82.

Rubenstein, Roberta. “Fragmented Bodies/Selves/Narratives: Margaret Drabble’s Postmodern Turn” Contemporary Literature 35.1 (1994): 136-155.

Stovel, Bruce. “Subjective to Objective: A Career Pattern in Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Contemporary Women Novelists”. Ariel: A Review of International English Literature 18.1 (1987): 53-61.

Leave a comment

Filed under English Literature, Literature, Women Writers

Jane Austen

My Jane Austen books collection

My Jane Austen books collection

Jane Austen has become increasingly popular after the 1995 Pride & Prejudice BBC adaptation with Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. The six-episode adaptation started a fever of productions based in Austen’s books, from TV series that follow the plot of the books to adaptations of the stories to modern days, like the now popular The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and twists like the TV series Lost in Austen. Jane Austen probably (we could even say for sure) never imagined that her works would become so popular and that her name would be known and admired all over the world.Born on December 16th, 1775, in the Steventon parsonage, Hampshire, England, Jane Austen was the seventh child of eight children. The Austen family was not rich, but they lived comfortably enough on the clergyman’s salary of Reverend George Austen and the supplementary earnings with the farm and a boys’ school run by Austen’s father and mother.

3-jane-austenJane Austen had six brothers and just one sister, Cassandra, who would be her best friend throughout her life. The two sisters went to boarding school together to receive what was, at the time, the education deemed appropriate for girls (music, languages, drawing, painting, etc.) After returning from school Austen began writing and was supported in this by her family who enjoyed listening to her stories.

After her father’s death in 1805, Jane Austen found herself in precarious financial situation with her mother and sister, both named Cassandra. They were forced to move many times until they finally settle in a cottage in Chawton that was owned by her brother Edward. At this time, Austen began working on her writings again and 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published with the authorship identified only as By a Lady.

The book was very successful and was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, Emma in 1815 and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion that were published posthumously in 1818.

Jane Austen never married. She received a marriage proposal which she accepted, but changed her mind on the next day and refuse the young man. This is something for which we should be grateful, as a married woman Austen would probably not have published so many books and we would be missing out in these great works of the English literature.

The author died on July 17th, 1817, supposedly from Addison’s disease, leaving behind an unfinished novel, Sandition, with only eleven chapters.

Although her works are seen as merely romantic novels by many people, it is indisputable that her books are full of irony and witty criticism of the 19th century English society. The world of marriage and the rules involved in the process are explored and criticized in her novels. The mistaken assumptions of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice show that social standings are not enough to make a person less susceptible to character faults. In Northanger Abbey, Austen wittily criticizes the reaction of the public to the popular gothic novels of the time. These are just two examples of the words between the lines of her works, we can find much more if we look closely enough.

This year we celebrate the the bicentenary of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice. The novel was first published in 28 January 1813. I will write more about the novel soon.

I’ll eventually write a bit more about each of her novels. This was just a brief biography so that we can know a little more about such an important name on the English literature canon.

Capturar

Based on my readings of:

Hannon, Patrice. 101 Things You Didn’t Know about Jane Austen. Adams Media: Avon. 2007. Print.

Dickson, Rebecca. Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury. Metro Books: New York. 2008.

1 Comment

Filed under English Literature, Literature, Women Writers