Monday, January 28, 2013

'Pride and Prejudice' at 200

     It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
-- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

From Wikipedia
     That’s one of the most famous opening lines in literature, right up there with “Call me Ishmael” and “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” (Actually, it’s much better known than the latter, which comes from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, but I’ve always liked it.)
     Jane Austen in general and Pride and Prejudice in particular have dealt a severe blow to the male critical perspective that Austen is just a woman’s writer. Rex Stout, creator and author of the Nero Wolfe mysteries, once believed that no woman could be a great writer. Then he read Jane Austen and changed his mind. He said that thereafter he re-read Pride and Prejudice every year.
     Pride and Prejudice was first published 200 years ago today.

     The novel has been much praised and much adapted, too. In literature, there have been numerous sequels and rewrites from another character’s point of view, including an entire Mr. Darcy series and books focusing on Caroline Bingley, Charlotte Collins and Georgiana Darcy, not to mention the first of the literary mashups with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Marvel Comics even did a graphic novel adaptation. Other books explore the culture’s obsession with Austen, such as Karen Joy Fowler’s 2004 novel The Jane Austen Book Club (filmed in 2007) and Susannah Fullerton’s nonfiction work Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austen’s Classic

     You can read the original for free online or in dozens of print and e-book versions, listen to audiobook adaptations or watch a film. There was a 1940 Hollywood version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, a 2005 film with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, the popular 1995 mini-series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, even a 2004 Bollywood musical version, Bride and Prejudice, with Aishwarya Rai, and that just scratches the surface.

     If you have a copy of Pride and Prejudice around the house, or if you happen to in a bookstore or library this week, pick it up and start reading the first few paragraphs. Maybe you’ll be hooked.


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