On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, what better way is there to honor this extraordinary author than to give thanks for what she has left us? For me, her work is a timeless guide to living life in the no-BS zone, wrapped in an infinitely re-readable set of six novels.
If I could assign a motto, a credo to the the Austen canon, I would say it could be summed up in this one line from Pride and Prejudice: “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.” The fact that Mr. Darcy delivers this line while in the midst of a serious marriage-proposal fail makes it even more resonant: Darcy may be honest, but the brutality of his honesty indicates that he’s hiding behind his angry pride. He’s yet to unmask that part of his own disguise, but being an Austen hero, we know that he will.
That’s the genius of Austen, who calls out her characters on their disguises and their dishonesty. Which leads them to their moment of revelation, their grand character arc, and their ultimate reward–love and happiness.
Along the way, Austen makes us laugh, which makes the hard truths easier to bear. And thus we can begin to see ourselves in it all.
That’s Austen: keeping us real and calling us out. She’s been doing it for 200 years. And that’s no small feat for someone who lived in a society in which polite demurrals, refusals, and denials were a socially mandated matter of form.
Here are 10 gems of Austen wisdom to help you reach your own character arc.
1. A real friend is the one with the guts to tell you the ugly truth.
In Emma, Mr. Knightley was the only person with the courage to tell Emma that her treatment of Mrs. Bates was cruel. Emma was shocked and chastened. And set about making amends. Which also put her on the road to realizing that Knightley’s bossiness was maybe just a little bit attractive; no scratch that, super hot. (more…)
Welcome to the Persuasion Happiness Program. Persuasion, like all of Jane Austen’s novels, is more than a book: it’s a roadmap to happiness. Here are lots of ways to lift yourself up with Persuasion!
1.Read Persuasion, and discover that there is always a second chance at happiness. Heroine Anne Elliot goes from lonely resignation to triumphant empowerment. It’s impossible to turn the last page without feeling a little spark inside that says, “that could be me.” Yes, it could, and it will!
2.Read Persuasion, and renew (or form) your faith in men. If you’ve ever wished and hoped that men could be as loyal and as romantic as women, Persuasion will grant your wish. Persuasion has what is perhaps the most romantic declaration of love in all of English literature. But don’t just wish and hope: Believe. Which leads us to:
3. Read Persuasion, and learn that faith in the good is rewarded. Always. As the heroine, Anne Elliot, says to a male friend, “I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman.”
4. Read Persuasion, and develop discernment. Anne Elliot was persuaded at the tender age of 19 to give up her engagement to the man she truly loved; she spent the next eight years regretting it. Not only did she learn to trust her intuition about love, she also learned to rely on her own inner voice at other critical moments. Observe her closely, and follow her example.
If you’ve ever thought that love passed you by, or you’re just feeling blue, do something nice for yourself: read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. In the Austenian tradition of “three or four families in a country village,” author Helen Simonson takes a keen-eyed look at the flaws and glories of human nature and the never-ending quest for love.
Major Pettigrew is a relic of polite gentility in a brash world, a lonely widower getting by with what passes for friendships in his little Sussex village. He takes comfort in his books and his garden and his memories, and now and again indulges in the vain hope that his clueless London-banker son will someday grow a conscience. The rest of life is just, well, as Miss Austen put it, “a quick succession of busy nothings.” And then, a simple act of kindness from Mrs. Ali, proprietress of the village convenience store, changes his life forever.
I won’t say more, except to encourage all who have ever wished for a second chance at life to run out and buy this triumphant, life-affirming novel. It is one that I know I will re-read many times. (BTW right now the Kindle edition is only $1.99)
Whether you’re going it alone this V-Day, cozying up with a friend, or have a significant other, consider setting the perfect mood with Sing Street. This wonderful film set in 1985 Ireland is a touching, funny, and utterly romantic coming-of-age story that’s all about the transformational power of music and having the courage to follow your heart in life and in art, whether that means telling the girl/boy of your dreams he/she is everything to you or standing up to the bullies of the world. I absolutely loved it. So fight the power, find your voice, tell fear to take a hike, and enjoy!!
The performances are stellar, and so is the music.
Who would have thought that the powerhouse creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and The Catch was an introvert? How could someone who “owns Thursdays” become so overcome with fear at the thought of giving a commencement speech at Dartmouth, her alma mater, or being a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, that her strongest impulse is to say no?
Except that she doesn’t say no. After years of giving into extreme shyness and its attendant fears of public exposure and ridicule, after years of saying no to everything that would make an introvert shudder, Shonda Rhimes forces herself to say yes. That journey is the essence of her book YEAR OF YES.
With humor, generosity, and tremendous relatability, the author reveals the extent of her terror and how she blasted through it. I am loving this book, which I’m listening to on audiobook, beautifully narrated by the author herself.
Here’s a clip of Shonda Rhimes on the Stephen Colbert show.
I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the book. As someone who spent her childhood as an extremely shy person (and still sometimes fights those tendencies), I highly recommend YEAR OF YES to anyone who wants to break the cycle of “no” and step outside of their comfort zone.
Has a holiday ever caused so much unhappiness? I’m not talking about how it was when we were kids. Then it was all about giving everyone in class a paper valentine and those little heart candies. Though kids could get mean about that too if left to their own devices, like leaving out the kids nobody talked to.
As adults, we’re supposed to be more equipped to deal with that stuff, but it takes a stalwart sort to withstand the collective anxiety in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, let alone the day itself.
If you’re not in a relationship, the ads for jewels and bouquets and V-Day menus seem to be mocking your lack of a BF. if you’re in a relationship, it’s sadly easy to get caught up in expectations, and there’s nothing less romantic than thinking, ‘what’s he going to get me, and it had better not be cheap or unromantic.’ Or ‘Is he going to take me out, and somewhere good for a change?’ or even worse, ‘Is he finally going to propose?’
It’s enough to make you want to go underground till February 15.
But don’t despair: you can get through it. Not by hiding and pretending there’s no such thing as the dreaded V-Day. But by embracing the true message behind the holiday and making Feb. 14 your own, empowering, feel-good holiday, regardless of your relationship status.
I’m usually not one for New Year’s resolutions. Probably because I tend to fail at them. But is it the inherent concept of a New Year’s resolution which is at fault? Or is it the nature of my particular resolutions?
Because of course, we can change. I truly believe that with all my heart. If we want badly enough to make a change, and if we make our goals tangible and doable, one bit at a time, practicing till we master and perfect, then of course we can and will and do change. Click here to read more…
Having raced through Gayle Forman’s profoundly moving If I Stay, I immediately devoured the second book in the series, Where She Went. And that was it: I was hooked. My binge continued with Just One Day, Just One Year, and Just One Night, and finished (for now) with her courageous I Was Here.
There’s a lot that I love about these novels: They are packed with wisdom without a hint of preachiness. They are brimming with love without a drop of sentimentality. And they are refreshingly unpredictable. Instead of relying on those familiar devices one often sees in stories about love–the meet-cute, the hate-at-first-sight that turns into uncontrollable attraction, Forman gives us the messiness of real life, which rarely turns out the way we think it will. (more…)