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Archive for January, 2008

Thankfully the new adaptation of Northanger Abbey was done by Andrew Davies who hits all the right notes.  Admittedly, this book has not been adapted as much as the others, so there is nothing stellar to compare against, but he makes excellent use of Austen’s own dialogue (not every director is able to do this), adroitly showing the humor in the characters and situations, and the casting is great – Felicity Jones is perfect as Catherine, pretty, innocent and lively with a bit of spirit.  J.J. Feild does justice to Henry Tilney (one of the best of Austen’s heroes!).  Just looking at the previews for Mansfield Park has me filled with dread – that blonde, pouty girl to play Fanny Price! 

To see more about the PBS productions of all of Austen’s works, visit http://www.wgbh.org/article?item_id=3792119.  You can also take the Austen Quiz – I got 100%! (Nitpicking:  they have Sir John Middleton as Sir John Littleton in the quiz ).

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Persuasion – ouch!

I hated the new version of Persuasion, which aired on PBS last week  as Masterpiece Theatre becomes “Masterpiece Classics” and an all-Jane Austen slate of programs is kicked off.  Sally Hawkins is no Amanda Root, who played Anne in the 1995 movie version. She has a slumping, shuffling way of walking, gapes constantly like a fish out of water and in no way conveys Anne Eliot’s character, self-reliance or elegance.    I guess there would be no point in making a new version that didn’t try something different, but why amputate Wentworth’s letter to Anne from her moving speech to Harville that occasions it? Without his having overheard Anne say that all she claims for women is the power of “loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone,” his passionate, almost involuntary response by letter — “You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever” — loses all impact.  The very climax of the book is taken away and replaced with idiotic scenes of Anne running here and there across Bath in search of him. And the ending showing Wentworth and Anne arriving back at Kellynch Hall which he has purchased for her as a wedding gift, is just wrong.  Austen revered the navy, two of her brothers were in the navy and one of the themes of Persuasion is how much better this new class of self-made men are than the landed gentry represented by Sir Walter.  To put the newlyweds in Kellynch at the end, rather than on board a ship as in the book, is simply ridiculous.  That said, the character of Sir Walter was well played and resulted in the best scenes in the movie.  Next up on Masterpiece, Northanger Abbey.

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Audio Austen

While on a roadtrip to Virginia (11 1/2 hours with minimal stops), I listened to an audio version of Sense and Sensibility, read by Nadia May (Blackstone Audiobooks; 2000).  At first I thought her voice was too strident, but that impression evaporated almost immediately.  She does a fine job with the different voices, crucial with Austen which is very dialogue-heavy, and you always know who is speaking.  She did two favorite characters, Mrs. Jennings and Sir John Middleton, to perfection. 

While I have read all of Austen’s books many, many times and seen every film adaptation, I had never listened to them, but now that I have heard one, I must hear them all.  The exquisitely chosen language rewards the ear with every speech and phrase. It is a true delight, and one does not have to quarrel with casting or director’s choices of which scenes to leave in or take out as with a movie. 

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Shrimp Quesadillas

So, the holiday is over, and the ‘fridge is full of leftovers, most notably a bag of cooked shrimp. 

Put a flour tortilla on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with shredded mozzarella cheese.  Top with chopped cooked shrimp, minced garlic, red onion, maybe a minced scallion; add a layer of shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar, some sliced jalapenos and some grated paremesan. Place another tortilla over the filling and press down, brush with oil and bake at about 400 degrees for 5 minutes, flip and cook another 4 or 5 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. 

This made a great dinner with a green salad.  I made one with sauteed fennel and yellow bell pepper, but it didn’t really enhance the taste and the above version is quicker.

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