Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Summer re-reads: Jane Austen & the california high life ...

This is what I said about Jane Austen's PERSUASION, back in 2011, when writing about some favourite books:
I absolutely love Jane Austen's PERSUASION and have re-read it several times and no doubt will again. PRIDE & PREJUDICE is a witty comedy of manners (and there is that great BBC version of it), SENSE & SENSIBILITY was a nice discovery too as we follow the Dashwood girls in and out of love (and we have Ang Lee's perfect film as scripted by Emma Thompson, and the rather nice recent TV version) - I have not felt the urge though to bother with EMMA or NORTHANGER ABBEY, while MANSFIELD PARK was rather a chore. It is PERSUASION though that I want to read and re-read. For one thing it is perfectly romantic as the thwarted lovers slowly begin to rediscover each other, and Anne Elliott is the most charming and wise Austen heroine, compared to her family and the interfering Aunt, Lady Russell. Anne is only 28 but is practically an old maid as she missed her chance with the dashing Captain 8 years previously when she was persuaded to give him up as he had no fortune. Captain Wentworth too is the perfect hero, back from the navy, his fortune made - no wonder those silly Musgrove girls throw themselves at him, as we travel from Uppercross to Lyme Regis and its famous cobb, and high society in Bath. All the 3 adaptations create their own endings. Austen actually wrote two perfectly romantic endings to her book, but neither is cinematic, so in the films we have Anne chasing all over Bath to catch up with the Captain, and the couple kissing! I prefer the 1995 BBC version which is a real film, but the recent one is fine too. The book though is a lasting pleasure. See Austen label for reviews of the films of her books.

It is now another late summer and I am engrossed in PERSUASION once again. Despite like the three television versions going back to the book is a treat with all that perfect prose and Austen's style to savour, as in describing Sir Walter Elliott fear of ageing: "and the rapid increase of the crow's foot about Lady Russell's temples had long been a distress to him". or:
"Anne Elliot, with all her claims of birth, beauty and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession, and no connections to secure even his further rise in that profession; that would indeed be a throwing away, which she  (Lady Russell) grieved to think of! Anne Elliot, so young; known to so few, to be snatched off by a stranger without alliance or fortune; or rather sunk by him into a state of most wearing, anxious, youth-killing dependance! It must not be, if by any interference of friendship, any representations from one who had almost a mother's love, and mother's rights, it would be prevented. "

How Anne and Captain Wentworth overcome such objections is perfectly worked out. Lets look at the blurb again:
PERSUASION, the last competed novel Jane Austen wrote, was published in 1817, a year after her death in 1816. It features a heroine, Anne Elliot, older and wiser than her predecessors in earlier books, and its tone is more intimate and sober as Austen unfolds a simple love story with depth and subtlety. Anne's goodness is not the cloying kind, but an unsentimental quality that, combined with stoicism and integrity, enables her to find happiness in love after seven years when it seemed she had forever put an end to such a prospect. 
The settings of Lyme Regis and Bath are evoked no less vividly than the characters who frequent them, and Jane Austen's achievement is exemplified by Tennyson's famous remark when visiting Lyme in 1867: "Now take me to The Cobb, and show me the steps from which Louisa Musgrove fell".

A total contrast, and almost as delicious, is a 1999 novel by one Doug Guinan, CALIFORNIA DREAMING, which reads like a gay Jackie Collins on acid trashfest. It is witty and complex though telling several stories, as we follow those West Hollywood gym boys Kevin and Leon and their various entangements. Kevin is the uber-gay, who smoulders a lot and manages to land multi-millionaire media and music mogel (think David Geffin) Brad Sherwood and becomes his boy-toy - until a nicely worked out party causes it all to fall apart. Leon meanwhile meets cute personal trainer Kim and their romance dovetails nicely too, as we follow the high life of Brad and his friend Roy with all their assorted hangers-on. We also get the backstory of Kevin's first romance with Anthony, the prince son of a mafia don in New York, and how he had to flee to California when the father finds out.  Kevin has to return to New York but will he also go back to Brad in California, who comes to track him down. This is a delicious fabulous read (particularly where Kevin goes on a shopping spree with Brad's card), ideal for the beach or a plane or a holiday. We like it a lot. As one review said: I haven't read such a fun and involving book like this since Tales of the City. The characters at first seem shallow but this proves, in the long run, their humanity both with their foibles and at times their surprising depth. When I finished the book I felt as though I had lost some new friends. I read it all in one sitting on a plane to LA. Fabulous and fun - a cross between Gordon Merrick & Armisted Maupin.


  1. This one sounds fun. Reminds me of all those awful gay novels I read as a budding youth!

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