Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lost in Austen--Living the Fantasy

If you are any kind of Jane Austen fan (and I know some of you are), you must check out the new PBS series Lost in Austen. It takes a woman from the modern world and, through a door linking her modern apartment to a door in the servants' quarters of the Bennett household (from Pride and Prejudice), this woman, Amanda Price, and Elizabeth Bennett switch places. 

Now, if you are an Austen fan, the series will be delightful all on its own, but even if you aren't a fan (and I'm sure some of you aren't), the show sparked an idea for me that I have been mulling over ever since. Is there a place, in a novel or a film, where you've longed to be? For many women, Austen's world was this kind of utopia, and part of the appeal of the series is that the woman thrown suddenly into the world immediately begins to discover the not-so-nice aspects of living during this time.

How would you fair in your ideal world? Let me take one of ideal worlds: the hidden, magic world of Harry Potter. How would I get along in that world? Honestly, though I'd like to think I'd catch on to all of the stuff and be a brilliant Hogwarts student (like Hermione Granger), I'm afraid I'll more than likely resemble Loony Lovegood, or worse, turn out to be a squib like Filch (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you have to read the books!)... 

Or I could be one of those people killed by Voldemort. Or beaten up by Dudley. 

I guess my point is that all of this is fantasy. While the idea of being in one of these worlds sounds great, the reality wouldn't probably be so fabulous. Then again, even this show is fantasy, for it doesn't reveal some of the more sordid differences between Austen's world and ours. I wouldn't last a month there, for within that time I'd be looking for a certain women's product, and when I couldn't find it... well, I don't think I could handle that. 

I don't think I'd deal with the whole chamber pot thing well, either. What about you? What fantasy have you been holding onto? Time to 'fess up!


  1. Chamber pots? Heck, I don't want to give up the internet, electricity, air conditioning, refrigeration. I don't want to go back to dinner being an all day effort. I want to have access to antibiotics and vaccines, antihistamines and aspirin. I want doctors who know to at least their hands before surgery and know what "sterile" meant. I want vaccines. I want baths.

    I don't want to live in a world where women could barely inherit property and were treated as property themselves by even the most open-minded. I want a world where slavery is not socially acceptable.

    On the other hand, someone from their might be appalled at our manners and unthinking discourtesy. Be dismayed by the relative inactivity of our lives with so many activities focused on sitting down.

    They might be shocked not only with the sexual imagery readily available, but at the violence that is part and parcel of our daily lives. We would likely be surprised at the reaction if we told them we once destroyed two inhabited cities with two bombs and still feel it was perfectly justified. Perhaps they might be equally appalled at the notion of living where a gun toter gunning down several innocent bystanders happens nearly weekly if not more often, but amazed we find out so much so quickly.

    My characters spend a lot of time in environments I wouldn't want to live in. But there are always aspects I prefer to how I live now. I think the truth is there's always a tradeoff.

    But now's not so bad.

  2. Honestly, given my general love of sewing, art, and embroidery, I'd be cool without television, etc. And I've gotten VERY used to being without A/C, though I don't live in Texas.

    I just thought chamber pots were, for me, the deal-breaker.

  3. I wouldn't actually want to live in an age without space travel. There may be some science fiction worlds I might like to live in, where people are able to visit other planets. But I don't think I'd want to live in the past.

    On the other hand, there's one character I'd love to meet -- Francis Crawford, from Dorothy Dunnett's "Lymond Chronicles" series. Except he's so scintillatingly brilliant I'd be utterly tongue-tied and embarrassed. But it might be enough just to be in his presence, just once.

  4. Oh, and.... I love love LOVE "Lost in Austen." I've seen it twice already, in about three months. Love it madly.

  5. It actually got me to watch the entire A&E "Pride and Prejudice" today... and then I caught the last half of "Enchanted"... interesting, since it's a blend of fairytale world and "real" world (I must put real in quotation marks, since it is still Hollywood, after all).

    It would be an interesting fantasy... to be able to explore a whole other world, yet still return to one's own (hopefully safely).

  6. Must check out Lost in Austen, now.

    And it's been years since I've seen Colin Firth, er, I mean A&E's Pride and Prejudice. Must fix that, too.

    I can't think of an ideal world where I'd like to live.

    (pausing for more reflection)

    Nope, I got nothing.

  7. I'm thinking now that the woods where Briar Rose lived until she found out the crappy news that she was a princess would work best for me, complete with the friendly animals, of course, and the cool cottage (even if the ceilings were a bit too low), and the occasional handsome guy coming through to dance and sing with me.

    Not that I'm a realist, or anything.

  8. I have to agree with Stephanie about not wanting to do without modern conveniences. I have lived without indoor plumbing, and it was quite a nuisance to say the least.

    If I could experience a different place in time, mine would be the Roaring Twenties through the end of World War II. So much was happening in our society during this time, and I would love to have been a part of it. I look at the old pictures of my grandparents and wonder about all the things they experienced. I see my grandmother's sense of style and her sassiness shines through. Her thick, wavy black hair is piled high on her head, she is wearing blue jeans and a Western-style blouse, one foot rests on a chair, and a gun belt is wrapped around her hips. My grandma is packing! A picture of my grandfather shows him with a buddy out for a night on the town. His fedora is tipped back on his head, his tie is loosened at the neck, and his face shows a night of tossing back a few too many. These snapshots of my grandparents intrigue me. Looking at the photos of these two, I know I would have liked to have met them in this place in time.

  9. That sounds fascinating! And to meet your own relatives so long ago. People change over time... imagine knowing them when they were young... I wonder what we'd discover.

  10. I am the type of person that would make the decision to live in the past and regret every day I chose that path.. And if I chose to live in the future I would regret that choice and wish I could live in the past.

    Maybe someday I can find the desire to live in the present and find solace in my everyday life.