Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekly Lit Quote January 23rd

“We know that we come from the winds, and that we shall return to them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice." --Mr. Emerson (A Room with a View by E.M. Forster)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Darcy's Passions" by Regina Jeffers Review

I have the worst tendency to get ridiculously off task, as you can obviously tell. I know you're probably wondering, "What happened to Jane Austen January?" It's still in full effect, even with the sudden interruption of Rochester: Consummation and that amazing Jane Eyre analysis that made this January seem like it was dedicated to the wrong "Jane." So, let's just disregard the fact that the first two weeks of Jane Austen January have been a distracted mess and continue on like nothing ever happened, shall we?

It's about that time to wrap up with the Darcy spin-offs, unfortunately. I only read four of them, and they all dwell on the same plot, which makes it harder to really infuse any originality in the review besides personal thoughts about random details. However, I must admit that I'm excited about reviewing Darcy's Passions because it was the first (and only) Darcy pastiche to fulfill every detail I was searching for. In fact, this book is basically the reason I only ever read four spin-offs; it was so near perfection that I felt it rather useless to go searching for anything to beat it.

The only way I could really explain it is by equating it to another spin-off I dearly love. For any of you who happen to by acquainted with Jane Eyre's Husband by Tara Bradley, Darcy's Passions essentially utilizes the same preservation and, yet, originality and devotes it to the mind of Darcy in relation to Elizabeth rather than Rochester to Jane. It's rare that a reader comes across such a great balance of faithfulness and creativity when so many other books of the same breed are on various ends of the spectrum. Jeffers covers every base of Darcy's mind, starting from his first visit to Netherfield and spanning all the way to weeks into his married life with Elizabeth. We see the progression of Darcy's secret love for Lizzy through the character's own eyes in all emotional, mental, and physical aspects.

One thing that I must also add is the artfulness with which Jeffers handles the sexuality of Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship, which is almost nonexistent in the original novel (which makes no mention of a kiss nor any real physical contact). Jeffers stays true to the chastity of the source material, but underlays it with sexual tension by intertwining Darcy's physical admiration of Elizabeth with his strange attraction to her witty opinions, intellectual conversation, and all-around intriguing personality. By the time Lizzy and Darcy do share physical intimacy, the reader has no doubt that this is merely a passionate byproduct of a love that is built on the foundations of mental and emotional similitude. At the same time, the pages before that first physical bond are by no means dry. The fact that Jeffers balances the physical, emotional, and mental chemistry between Lizzy and Darcy so well is something that might be undervalued, but in reality it is a hard task to accomplish. I've discovered firsthand that it's often hard for authors to create an equal combination between the three, and the fact that Jeffers was able to do this is an admirable feat.

Jeffers delivered the best rendition of Darcy's story because of her ability to really bring the reader into Darcy's mind without even having to resort to the common first person perspective. She takes small risks by daring to conjecture things that might not have been implied in the original novel, but you will do nothing but love her more for it. There have been too many half-hearted and shallow tales of Pride and Prejudice, with Darcy doing nothing more than saying, "I can't stop thinking about Elizabeth" and leaving it at that. Jeffers gives us the full depth of Darcy's struggle, adds refreshing new scenes that give bulk to his relationship with Elizabeth, and in the end really opens us up to the passionate man Darcy is.

The book is truly interesting and very appealing, and for anyone who enjoys reading spin-offs and has yet to come across this, I think you might definitely want to give this a try. If you have already read it and enjoyed it then I might also recommend you read its sequel, Darcy's Temptation, which picks up where this book left off. I have yet to read it, but it's earned a well-deserved spot on my list of future reads. Jeffers is no stranger to masterful pastiches. In fact, she's written a few others which are also highly recommended (and also on my "future reads" list) including: Christmas at Pemberly, The Phantom of Pemberly, and Captain Wentworth's Persuasion. I'm especially excited to read the latter as soon as I can and review it for you guys. Captain Wentworth is one of my favorite Austen heros.

Comments please. :) 

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Rochester: Consummation" by J.L Niemann Review

Rochester: Consummation begins, of course, where Rochester left off.  For those who haven't a lot of memory of first book, it's the eve of Rochester's wedding to Miss Jane Eyre. Rochester paces, ponders, discusses his upcoming nuptials with his good friend Arthur Eshton, and then he and Jane join hands and walk to the church to be wed.

In my mind, the tension was mounting. I was anticipating, with a certain amount of anxiety and curiosity, how Niemann chose to treat the interrupted wedding and Rochester's resulting demise. However, that never came. It doesn't take long for the reader to realize that Niemann has decided to veer away from the beaten path. In fact, anyone who read the first Rochester has that knowledge in the back of their minds to begin with. But even my own precautions didn't prepare me for what steps Niemann might take.

Jane and Rochester do get married, and they do so peacefully without the least bit of protest from Richard Mason and his solicitor (who are nowhere to be found). The ring is placed on Jane's finger. The vows are said in completion. Edward Rochester does indeed kiss his bride. Strange isn't it? Strange, but surprisingly refreshing and oddly exhilarating because of its originality. Somewhere along the journey, every reader of Jane Eyre stumbles onto the internal question of, "what would have happened if Richard and Briggs hadn't gotten there in time? Or what might have happened if they hadn't gotten there at all?" Personally, my mind could never wrap itself around the idea because, of course, that wasn't how things transpired. Niemann, however, dares to conjecture, and does so rather artfully.

The rest of the story is so filled with various quirks, twists, and turns, that to give you even the smallest synopsis of the plot would be to reveal too much. It's safe to say that liberty was taken, as it was in the first book. Niemann forges her own story of Jane and Rochester that to some may be detrimental and irking and to others may be original and interesting. I personally found it rather intriguing as a whole, but I had a few decisive grievances, the greatest of those being Rochester's use of obscenities which I found both too modern and too unlike the original character. The second is a mere carry over from the first book. The sexual content of the novel was just uncomfortable in the strangest way. In technical terms, there was nothing wrong it. It wasn't too vulgar or discomfiting in its description. My personal problem with it was that it was just very unlike the real characters from the source material. Niemann places a heavy amount of emphasis on the sexual aspect of Jane and Rochester's relationship, especially highlighting the kinetic physical attraction they've had to one another since the moment Rochester slipped his arm around her shoulder the day they first met. It seems, however, like their sexuality constitutes too large of a portion of the relationship. Perhaps I'm saying this because I'm young and virgin and still inexperienced with the physical demands that adult relationships are rumored to have. Yet, the mental connection between Jane and Rochester was lacking to me. The physical is there, of course, and the raw and unbridled emotion is especially moving through Niemann's descriptive language, but I didn't see enough of the intellect of both characters. The wit, sarcasm, and intelligence that draw the two to one another dwindles in Rochester: Consummation.

What I like, however, is the freedom of expression. Rochester's emotions are constantly brimming over, shifting from one extreme to the other, and even Niemann's Jane is a much more outwardly emotional than the one in the original novel. This works to the author's advantage, and this is the area in which Niemann's talent for emotional descriptiveness is allowed to shine and fill Rochester with substance. There are tears, there is screaming, there is action and expression. The emotional intensity of the novel keeps the reader invested in the story. When I finished, I was almost wary with fatigue (in a good way). In an inexplicable way, I felt as if I had witness firsthand each of Rochester's experiences, felt his emotions, and dealt with his internal conflicts. It's a truly tantalizing experience that few authors have the ability to infuse into their writing. Niemann accomplishes that feat, just as she did in Rochester. 

I'm aware that I've been rambling and that this review is very discombobulated, but that's all I really have to say. I hope you will all take the opportunity to read it. As soon as you do, I'd really love to hear your viewpoints! I know that many of you will have some decisive opinions. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thoughts Being Shared

I believe I've developed an addiction to blogging. Not only do I have two separate blogs on blogger, but I was also easily persuaded by my sister to take up Tumblr. She insisted that it was much more functional than blogger, and I have yet to discover what the big fuss is about, but I decided to give it a try just to see. It turns out that Tumblr is actually really fun and also strangely addictive in the same way blogger is. The only advantage I see, however, is the fact that you can type in a key word and everything anyone on Tumblr has ever blogged about that subject pops before your eyes... 

Of course, I had to type in "Jane Eyre" and it led me to one of the greatest analyses I've yet to encounter on the novel and the peculiar, complex, incomprehensible, and yet amazingly beautiful relationship that exists between Jane and Rochester. This analysis sums up what I could never put in words. This is why I and countless other readers have found a binding and relatable attachment to the novel. I wish I knew who wrote this miraculous post, but the person who posted it neglected to give anyone the name from which the post came. Whoever you are, if you happen to be reading this, know that I love and agree with everything you have written and that there is absolutely no copyright intended. Shall you read? 

It is the strangest meeting and it foreshadows the end-resolution.
Not only does he fall flat on his face, he can’t stand on his own two feet anymore, and is forced to use Jane as support to get to his horse and mount it again. A most unflattering and unheroic picture: an independent man of the world who needs to lean on a tiny, frail looking female figure. It’s not just ironic, it’s jarring. 
The theme persists of the hero never really being able to act the hero (instead he is saved by the female lead): she saves his life after Bertha sets his bed on fire, he can’t make her rich nor is he allowed to dazzle her with gifts, he’s not around when Bertha enters her room and tears the veil, he can’t give her his home (it’s burned down), can’t provide her with her first family, he can’t find her after she ran off and make sure she’s physically well. He doesn’t even directly own te title of giving her a position for a governess. Mrs Fairfax gave Jane the job. And as for paying her wages: he owes her 5. His lament of “Jane, Jane, Jane” that causes her to return to Thornfield would, in other romances, have been the thing the female lead would be doing, not the manly hero. 
And in the end, he is reduced back to the state of the hero who’s forced to physically lean on Jane, once more, in his blind state, just as when he first meets her. 
Jane is the action hero, whereas Rochester, whether he likes it not or not, is rendered to a passive role. And you need only to get a copy of the Venus and Mars advice books, that tries to defend this culturally ingrained idea where men are the action heroes and women take a passive role in courtship, to realize how the romance tale of Jane Eyre is even now still much ahead of gender role perception in courtship. 

StJohn, in contrast, is much more of an action hero: he actively takes her in the house and saves her from death and poverty, he supplies her with a job, he is the means through which she learns she has family relations and an heirress. Were it not for StJohn she would have no family, no money, no home, no food, no life. In contrast to Rochester, he pursues her, pops the question thrice without even loving her, and almost manages to secure her through reasoning and emotional manipulation if it weren’t for Rochester’s lament.

Rochester’s affection and love grows depending on Jane’s activity too. He himself declares that he practically fell in love with her (was bewitched by her) from the moment he leans on her to get back to his horse. 

“When once I had pressed the frail shoulder, something new - a fresh sap and sense - stole into my frame. It was well I had learnt that this elf must return to me - that it belonged to my house down below - or I could not have felt it pass away from under my hand, and seen it vanish behind the dim hedge, without singular regret.” (Jane Eyre, penguin books, VIII Chapter I, p 351)

The point in time in the courthship where he accepts his own infatuation with her and forms serious marriage plans is after she saves him from the burning bed. Before that holding of her hand, he always calls her Miss Eyre. After that, no during, he starts to address her as Jane ever after. At least it shows he cannot but regard her in an intimate emotional state. That he contemplates marriage by then can be denoted from his leaving the next morning in order to get Blanche Ingram and co to Thornfield, and provoke Jane into jealousy by planting into her head the idea he courts Blanche and intends to marry her. 

And he reveals his emotions and intentions only truly after she declares herself his equal and persists in leaving Thornfield, despite the fact that, a long while before this declaration of equality, Jane has already been candid enough she considers her home to be the place where he is. 

Jane herself recognizes that she must prevent Rochester from being an active lover to her: no presents, no jewelry, no idling away their time in each other’s arms. Their official courtship benefits from her blocking any of his attempts to shower her with material and emotional evidence of his love (as he feels compelled to), and instead revert back to a game of provocations. 

Likewise she recognizes that the one thing that will assure him losing regard for her is to become his mistress in the French villa. Instead she must break his heart in order to have him love and respect her forever. 

Rochester finally surrenders to her completely, and not just physically by needing her to be his lead while he’s blind, when he says, “Which you shall make for me, Jane. I will abide by your decision.” Only after that does he regain enough action to ask her to marry him. The passivity of his courtship role is again reverberated in Jane’s active declaration, “Reader, I married him.

Loving him and marrying him has not just been her own choice and will, but also her own doing, except for the fact that he at least gets the honour of uttering the proposal. It seems but a meagre contribution that Rochester deserves Jane Eyre for his wife, just because he manages to pop the question. And yet, I never feel he’s undeserving of her. Jane voices the reason why he deserves her to StJohn: he was the first to love her as she is.

More, despite his scoundrel past, his boarish behaviour, his jealousy scheme, his lies about his marital status, I never feel he disrespects her, although there is always the danger lurking around the corner that he might come to disrespect her were it not for her pert replies, her defiance and her active exertion of her own will. Jane has self-respect and integrity (rather than morality and social confirmity), even as a child already. And Rochester is the instrument in which her self-respect and integrity is tested. Not just by him being the domineering, willfull brute she needs to stand up against, but by him being the man she loves passionately at the same time. 

Rochester seems to be aware of both Jane’s integrity and self-respect from the start of the acquaintance. His respect for her imo exists from the start, simply because it’s evoked by the self-respect she seems to have been born with, rather than taught by life eperience. But he acts contrary to his feelings because 
a) he does not actively know her well enough
b) he’s used to get his way because of his status and station in life
c) he’s used to get his way because of his domineering character
He even warns her of (b) and (c) early on already. Rochester wants to be sure she is what he thinks she is and acts from the first meeting until she runs away from Thornfield in every manner to provoke her into disrespecting herself: as a master, as an undeclared lover, as her courtier and husband to be. 

To me the ultimate question the book asks is whether Jane will forget herself and disrespect herself? 
- as a dependent child in a well-enough gentry family for material needs without being loved
- as a dependent child in an austere environment
- as a dependent employee under the caprice of her moody employer 
- as a woman
- as a rejected family member even hated at her aunt’s deathbed
- as a woman passionately in love
- as a homeless destitute 
- as a cousin to family who love her and she owes her life

She proves throughout she does not lose her sense of self in any of the circumstances she ends up, not even the most alluring temptation of all: drunken, passionate love

Weekly Lit Quote

I always have a "quote of the week" on my personal blog, On Page Whatever, and so I figured that I might also bring it to my lit blog. Most weeks, a quote will come to me out of the pages of whatever I'm reading (or have already read) and why withhold it from you? Perhaps it's something you needed to hear just like often times the greatest quotes come to me when I need them. So today's quote:
"Know, that in the course of your future life you will often find yourself elected the involuntary confident of your acquaintances’ secrets: people will instinctively find out, as I have done, that it is not your forte to tell of yourself, but to listen while others talk of themselves; they will feel, too, that you listen with no malevolent scorn of their indiscretion, but with a kind innate sympathy; not the less comforting and encouraging because it is very unobtrusive in its manifestations." --Edward Fairfax Rochester (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)