The second interview I got here is one with my good friend Justin Gist Preuninger. Justin too I met at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. I can tell you that it was a very good place to meet people who share my passion about this subject! 🙂
Justin has recently started a very nice blog, which you can find here:Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Elegance.
1. What was your first encounter with Jane Austen? What made you decide to read her work?
Well, I had heard that it was a good thing to be familiar with her works, but I never dared read them until after I went to university, even though Emma had sat on the shelf at home for years (I don’t think my family had any idea of what was in it). When I was in university one of my friends was watching the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility (with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) in our dorm lounge and I walked in at about the halfway point. I liked what I saw and watched the rest of it till the end, after she had to leave. Afterwards I took greater notice, I read the books one by one, starting with Emma, as I had it at home and then whatever other ones I could get from the library or download on audiobook from audible. I also began to watch the various adaptations and became quite attached to the fact that she wasn’t just interested in characters flirting with one another, but with the actual business of life and morality. I often think that much of life can be explained with the help of the Bible and Jane Austen. 🙂
2. Do you have a favorite of her novels? And if so why that one?
I particularly like Mansfield Park. I know most people don’t seem to agree, but I find it her most moralizing work; I therefore think the more highly of it.
3. Out of her characters, is there a particular one/ones that you like more than the rest? And which character would you say you resemble most yourself?
I like Fanny Price. The modesty and propriety of her character is very appealing. Perhaps today’s readers may think of her as too much of a prude, but really, she understands better than to do wrong against her conscience… which is the true strength of her character. The depth of her heart and thoughts is simply impressive. I think most of the time I probably most resemble Mr. Bingley. At other times I may have some of the faults of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bennet, Marianne Dashwood, Sir Thomas Bertram, etc. I may also have some of the moral feelings and faults of Edmund Bertram, but not the same ideas as to style, taste, or aspirations, etc. My friends will probably think of what I have missed or scold me for being overly hard on myself… 😛
4. Do you ever watch any of the screen adaptations? Do you have a favorite of them?
Of course! I love the screen adaptations. I am collecting them a little at a time, I probably have the greater part of the ones created in the last 15 years now. My favorites are probably Sense & Sensibility BBC 2008 and Pride and Prejudice BBC 1995. The worst has got to be Mansfield Park 1999 from Miramax… oh my word…
5. What do you think it is about Jane Austen’s books that makes them so immortal? Why have they stood the test of time so well and are now more popular than ever?
I think she brings out what we know to be true, even when we don’t want to admit it. She rests her works on things that have not changed over the centuries, things like morality, honor, and humor. She is not merely witty, but she is also instructive. We identify with people in her books as they are very real… they aren’t so fantastic that we think it is a fairytale. There are some people today who seem annoyed though that Jane Austen would make characters who actually are worth something, considering that in this modern period, many of the values Jane Austen writes about have been discarded or considered non-essential… perhaps the return to Austen is that we see something in her characters that we’re simply missing today in society at large.
6. Has “discovering” Jane Austen lead to anything else in your life?
Ha, not only has the actual reading and watching been of great enjoyment… I have also travelled to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England… where I met many good people… including a certain Miss Aurora… 😉 Additionally, I have joined the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and attended my regional chapter’s December brunch. I’m preparing to sew period costume when I make room, time and finish finding the right patterns and fabric. Hopefully I will be finished sometime late summer 2010. Oh… and I started blogging as a secondary consequence of some of the former things. 🙂
7. If you had the chance to meet with Jane Austen and talk to her, what would you discuss or ask about?
Oh dear… I feel as though she already has shared so much in her novels… I might ask to know more of her philosophy on the internal workings of people and her way of observation. My worry would be what sort of character she might later base upon her impression of myself in a future novel, lol! 😉
8. Do you have a favorite Jane Austen quote? Or just one that you really like?
I don’t know that I have a favorite, because there are too many good ones… but I did recently quote Mr. Knightely in Emma on my facebook status and it was a good one… “Men of sense, whatever you may chuse to say, do not want silly wives.” Another passage I like is from Mansfield Park, but I am still trying to find the exact words for it.
9. And lastly, what other authors and books do you like?
I recently discovered Elizabeth Gaskell… North and South is an amazing book… I’m starting on Wives and Daughters, and should have a review later. Outside of that, there aren’t many related authors I’ve read… at least from the period and genre. I did like Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces, written by a Lady of Distinction.
Thank you so much!