Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wistful -- Searching for Jane Austen Pt.2

A year ago July, I was in the south of England with my mother and we visited Jane Austen's cottage in Chawton.

Chawton Village is just outside of Winchester and so worth the 28 minute drive. It still is a village with thatch roofed cottages, single lane roads and on the cloudy morning we arrived, it was still sleepy and quiet. There on the corner is the cottage without ceremony or distinction. There are no gates and no monuments. Even if you didn't know this was her home, Jane is everywhere. Suddenly, you know what Barton cottage looked like for Marianne and Elinor. You see the fields where Lizzy rambled to Netherfield Park to rescue Jane. It's all there and so are you.

Jane Austen didn't write for 10 years. Her father had died. She was suddenly, in the despair, came a cottage given to her mother, herself, Cassandra and a friend by Edward, her brother. Suddenly, in this peaceful place, she could sit at the window, watch the traffic, the passersby, the fields across the way.

There are still original pieces of furniture in the main room, most especially her writing desk at the window, 1st edition Austens in the secretary desk and some of Jane's own personal reading collection.
I've always thought of Jane being alone because she never married. It always filled me with a kind of sadness at her solitude. How wrong I was. In this little cottage are rooms made up for all her brothers and nieces and nephews. The life and the love shared in that cottage is still palpable -- the family is imprinted in its spirit. Jane was adored.

The gardens at the cottage
The most powerful moment of the visit was reading a letter they have in a case from Cassandra to their niece Fanny detailing Jane's last hours. It's impossible to relay the intimacy of the experience, standing where they stood, knowing what the two experienced together. Theirs is the true story of love and loyalty. Maybe she didn't have Darcy but she had Cassandra and once Jane was gone, Cassandra carried on alone in Chawton on the 800 pounds Jane left her in her will. She opened a school and taught there for many years.
Across the street from the Austen house is the Greyfriars tea house .
Flowers at Greyfriars
The field across the street from the Austen Cottage

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy a former post: Searching for Jane Austen pt.1


Former Post: Looking for John Keats in Hampstead:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Let's Be Honest: Eat, Pray, Kill Myself

Everywhere I go, I hear about this book. I did pick it up one time. I opened it, I read the first page and thought --"it's amazing how much I don't care about this person." But I thought that was just the book. After all, the movie has Julia Roberts and how can a person not care about Julia Roberts?

Answer: Apparently me.

This was the worst movie I've ever seen. I've seen movies I've disagreed with, movies I've disliked enormously because they were banal, insulting or just lame. But this is different. This is a whole new level of "How did I get myself into this hideous mess?" So I'm going to lay it out -- exactly what had me seeing lights of nausea in the theater and then I would love your opinions.

The things that drove me nuts:

* How cruel and self-centered can one person be?
*If you're going to Rome, India and Bali, you gotta know that we're holding out for some pretty lush scenery. This movie was gray -- all the way through
* Let me get this straight -- she totally destroys sweet husband and then is tortured over a child actor she met for .25 seconds while still married? Puhlease.
* The Texas guy in India: Kill me
* All of India: Kill me
* And the most unforgivable thing of all time: If you're going to make something nearly THREE HOURS long -- for the love of all that is decent in this world PLEASE GIVE US SOME KIND OF PLOT. Any kind of plot. Anything!!!

I never, ever thought I'd say this: I longed for the wit and pathos of 27 Dresses.

It was that bad.

But what did you think, readers? Anybody like it? Anybody agree? Anybody smart enough to hold onto their money?

Readers, I want your opinions. Did you see this movie?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coming to LA? Tea at Huntington Library?

Critics often say there is no culture in Los Angeles. Maybe it's because of the Han Solo look a likes on Hollywood Boulevard or the 6000 hand made signs that say "Star Maps Here". Perhaps it's the "Star Van Tours" clogging the city's traffic. Whatever the reason for this snobbery -- the Huntington Gardens in San Marino proves them wrong.

San Marino is where everyone in the world wants to live. Don't believe me? It's where they filmed "Father of the Bride." Remember that house? That neighborhood? San Marino. And tucked into the wide, nostalgic streets shaded by old growth trees and multi million dollar verandas is the elegant estate of Mr. Huntington. He donated his entire property to the county and thank goodness he did!

Admission cost is around $20 but even if you just hit the gift store -- it would be worth it. Everything from Jane Austen collectibles, works of art, and histories of the world can be found within.

Outside are the properties which house incredible works of art that range from Mary Cassatt, to Monet, to Gainsborough, Romney and other awe worthy Regency artists. There are also collections of Victorian and Regency sculptures. Think Keira Knightley studying Darcy's likeness in the newest Pride and Prejudice. You are captivated by their realism.

But if you never even go in to see the notorious "Blue Boy" or Lady Emma Hamilton, the grounds are wondrous to behold. There are gardens representing nearly every culture.

The Shakespeare Garden

And while you're wandering, pondering the beauties of the universe, stop in for tea in the refreshing tea house -- always packed so book at least a few days in advance. Then be prepared for an all you can eat buffet of fruits, crustless sandwiches that are sinful and desserts that made me embarrass myself.

The Tea House

The Japanese Garden

An illegal shot of Huntington's bust of Lord Byron