I'm really, really sorry if I'm boring you with my London updates. Quickly, on books:
Cassandra and Jane is really good if you happen to be an Austen fan. Say, if you spent a portion of your Saturday afternoon at the London Literature Festival listening to how difficult and wonderful it is to work with Austen's texts to make movies and other books.
Okay, well maybe you don't have to be that big a fan.
But you should probably like Austen and be sort of familiar with her history (may I suggest Carol Shields' brief biography?). Because for all that Jill Pitkeathley is clearly riffing her own take on Austen and the relationship she shared with her sister, her take isn't really all that different from the official history. Which is kind of a surprise if you take a skim through other books on offer from Harper's historical fiction titles:
Revenge of the Rose -- "In a court of the Holy Roman Emperor, not even a knight is safe from gossip, schemes, and secrets."
The Fool's Tale -- "Travel back to Wales, 1198, a time of treachery, political unrest...and passion."
The Scroll of Seduction -- "A dual narrative of love, obsession madness, and betrayal surrounding one of history's most controversial monarchs, Juana the Mad."
See? So it's kind of shocking how tame Cassandra and Jane is. However, given the depth of love so many fans have of their Jane, Pitkeathley probably played it pretty close to facts for her own safety. Rather than a love story that would throw question on whether Miss Austen did in fact die a virgin, Pitkeathley opts to tell a tale of sisterly love in a first-person narrative from Cassandra's point of view.
My other travel companion in the last couple weeks has been Novel Destinations, a birthday gift from a dear friend. I can't possibly get to even half the places the book notes in London and England alone, but it's really just the start of a life journey.
Bought? Well, so far I've been really good about keeping my wallet in my purse.... Knowledge the pound continues to outstrip the Canadian dollar by nearly 2:1 helps. But I couldn't resist Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, an inspired collection of break-up tales I found at the South Bank Book Market that's perfect for reading before I go to sleep after I've toiled through hours of studying....
Yes. Yes I am supposed to be toiling right now.
But quickly: The London Literature Festival. My new favourite thing. Even though it wasn't exactly packed with people on the weekend. And the Austen industry talk featured at least two women sitting in the front row who gasped, giggled and sighed whenever they agreed with or were shocked by presenters' words. They were particularly agog by the idea someone might mash up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. (Which, by the way, has now been published in 22 languages and 37 countries, leading to a spike, too, in sales of the original book. Still, harrumph on principle.)
A Wuthering Heights seminar saw more people in attendance, but mostly because there is a new British mini-series expected out in the fall, and members of the press were invited out to see clips of the film and hear from the screenplay writer.
What was so interesting, to me, was how writers can work towards taking apart the original manuscripts and rebuilding them. Wuthering Heights, particularly, presents a problem because of the style of narrative, the two characters who tell the story but aren't really part of it. The screenwriter said he literally had three copies of the book, one of which he took a knife to in order to break apart the story and reorganize chronologically in order to navigate the tale.
Not initially a fan of Wuthering Heights -- I still think it presents a hero only infatuated teenage girls could truly love -- the evening discussion had me reconsidering. I never thought of Cathy and Heathcliff's children as the rays of hope, as the real hero and heroine of the novel....
I do wonder about the idea every generation needs its own Pride and Prejudice, or its own Wuthering Heights. Perhaps this is the line of thinking born of having a broadcast community almost wholly funded by the government?
Meanwhile, I should really get my hands on an old text to manipulate and reform as my own....