Monday, May 23, 2011

I Begin John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun & Finish Cindy Jones's My Jane Austen Summer

My John Sayles book arrived by Fed/Ex.

There was a knock at the door. I'd expected the book by mail or UPS in the afternoon, when I could intercept it and recycle the box before anyone noticed.  But it was lunchtime.


Well, I'm not Lucy Ricardo.  "It's John Sayles's new book."

My husband was pacified.  If I don't read it, he will.

My family is not supposed to know I buy books.  Everyone knows I vowed not to buy books until next year.  I reserved my B&N membership card for coffee and cut up my Amazon VISA card.  I would borrow everything from the public library or a university library.  

I lasted six days.  

Yes, I have bought a "few" books since February.

Sayles, known for his independent films, novels, and short stories, has a new novel out, A Moment in the Sun.   He is on a national book tour.  Maggie Renzi, his companion, creative partner, producer, and fellow actor, is blogging about the tour here.  

My husband decided I should write a review and submit it to newspapers in all the cities left on the tour.


"I haven't read the book.  It's 955 pages.  It's too late to send it to Blah Blah Blah..." 

These things have to be planned.  I did like the idea, though.  If I read, say, 200 pages a day...  Impossible.

Anyway the publicity is already excellent.

So I'll just blog about it in my lazy way. 

VERY light reading:  Cindy Jones's My Jane Austen Summer 

Ellen was so enthusiastic about Cindy Jones's witty new novel that, yes, I had to read it. She classifies this as a "kind of novel that comes out of Jane Austen's fiction." I consider it high-end "chick lit" for Jane Austen lovers, set in contemporary times. 

Ellen writes:

"Unlike most of these that I've read there is a vein of deeply felt genuine emotional hurt and melancholy shown to be a justified reaction to the conditions of modern life for young women; like Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary the novel attempts a consideration of the irresolvable challenges, inadequate choices, and problems and consequent traumas young women face today, including the basic one of how to survive (support yourself) decently if you do not marry." 

 As Ellen says, the comedy runs deeper than that of many Jane Austen spin-offs.  There are delightful parallels between Mansfield Park and My Jane Austen Summer.   But Lily, the witty Texan narrator, is so traumatized by personal losses that people suggest she see a therapist.   She has broken up with her boyfriend and stalked him.  She has lost her job for reading Jane Austen novels in her cubicle.  And her father is marrying the woman who moved in a week after Lily's mother's death.

So what better plan than to sell all her things and go to a Jane Austen festival in England?   Vera, a bookstore owner who plans the festival every year with her husband, allows Lily to attend free under the vague titles of actress/business planner.  Theater re-enactments of Mansfield Park, the JA novel of the year at the festival, are the main attraction, and especially funny are the theater-within-a-theater scenes. Lily learns about about the "Fanny Wars" (Fanny Price is the heroine of MP), the scholarly and fan disagreements.  And she wants desperately to play Fanny in the play. 

"Staring uncomprehendingly at the pages of my book, I imagined myself as Fanny Price, the poor cousin, brought as a child to live in the home of her rich uncle.  I have always loved Fanny Price.  Of course, I knew I wouldn't play the lead, but I kept imagining myself in the part. Whenever I read, I always assumed the protagonist's part.... Had I been born in an earlier century, when people appreciated special qualities like mine, I would be beautiful and confident, and travel in higher circles.  Edmund would have fallen for me."

At one point Lily writes a one-woman show about Jane Austen's lost letters. And, as in MP,  she  falls in love with an Edmund-like character who is studying to be a priest (and secretly writing a vampire novel). 

The writing is only so-so, but the novel is very, very funny.  Excellent summer reading.

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