Wednesday, March 11, 2020

"Emma," and a satisfied student

My tenant Robin came in last night and told me I should see the new Emma, that he'd just seen it a second time and thought I'd enjoy it. "I've just been, this afternoon," I said. "I loved every minute."

It's heavenly - just the sets alone, stately houses and verdant English villages, swards of green and rolling hills dotted with photogenic sheep (where it never, implausibly, rains) - my heritage on my mother's side. The china and furniture, the costumes, oh the material of those costumes, the jewelry and ridiculous hair, all of it perfect. The genius of Jane Austen, a story more than 200 years old set firmly in its time and place, and yet providing up-to-the-minute social commentary and insight into human flaws: greed, vanity, selfishness, snobbishness, hypochondria. What a sharp clear eye she had, this writer.

Quibbles - for me, mostly that the actress playing Emma, Anya Taylor-Joy, is so odd-looking, with a tiny face and a teeny bow mouth; though a good actress, she seems too arch and too young. Otherwise the cast is spectacular, including Josh O'Connor as the venal, vain minister, like Mr. Collins in P and P; how Jane loved to skewer ministers. Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse - no one but Nighy could make the insufferably self-pitying Mr. Woodhouse so sympathetic and understandable. And especially - be still my beating heart - Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley. Who could imagine the stern Mr. Knightley sexy as all get-out? But here he is, a tousled blonde, manly and smouldering with a nude scene, luscious in every way. (The Guardian: Johnny Flynn, combining vulnerability with a weapons-grade animal magnetism notably absent from Austen’s novel.)
Five stars. Give me weapons-grade animal magnetism any day. One headline read, "Move over Mr. Darcy." And that's saying a LOT.

Still working to cancel the many aspects of the trip. Getting there.

Received this today from a former student, a minister - a very nice minister, not a Jane-type minister - whose book is doing well; she forwarded a rave review. What pleasure to hear from her.

Hey Beth, my first ever book review - this is a book trade journal in the UK/Europe. My book is going really well and a German publisher has just bought the rights so its going to be translated!

I Just wanted to say thank you for your class and your book - it was so instrumental and formative for me. You challenged me to dig deeper, tell less and show more, take more risks, cut more adverbs!

I know I'm still just a new writer and have a long way to go to develop my craft, but I'm deeply grateful for all I learned from you. You are an extraordinary teacher and I wanted to give you my deepest thanks.

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