Gentle Readers: Laurel Ann (Austenprose) and I have finished reading Two Guys Read Jane Austen and had quite a jolly time reviewing it. This new book by writers and lifelong best friends Steve Chandler and Terrence Hill is in an epistolary format written over a course of five months and touches on their male perspective of reading Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park together. As they go Austen Trekking, (bravely going where few men have gone before), sharing their thoughts on Austen’s writing, life and social impact, we two gals found ourselves reacting to their comments, insights and observations in many different ways. What evolved was our joint review of Two Guys Read Jane Austen - in epistolary format, of course! Part One of our review sits here.
I just finished reading Part Two of Two Guys Read Jane Austen, in which Steve and Terry discuss Mansfield Park, and couldn’t believe how quickly I finished the book. Steve and Terry conclude that Jane Austen is no whiner. No kidding. Unlike the woman that they described in Santa Monica who talked loudly into her cell phone about personal issues that every stranger in standing distance could (uncomfortably) hear, our Jane and her characters retain an air of mystery. Towards the end of Mansfield Park we are not even made privy to Edmund’s proposal to Fanny or any details of their marriage. We read more about the Crawford’s and what they are up to! I posit (and I believe that Steve and Terry will back me up on this) that herein lies the secret to Jane’s greatness – she sums up her novels in less than lurid or sappy circumstances and leads us to make a number of significant conclusions that expand our knowledge about the human character, a fact that escapes many romance and JA sequel writers. – Vic
Nothing surpasses the feminine mystique and Jane Austen was one mysterious woman in private, and through her characters in her novels. She was so mysterious in Mansfield Park that some critics complain that we were cheated out of a good wrap up of the love story between Fanny and Edmund. I must concur with you that sequel writers often tell too much and it spoils the allure. Having Darcy and Lizzy do the wild thing just fractures the fairy tale for me. :) I think that Jane Austen would be the Greta Garbo of mysterious screenwriters if she was alive today because she wrote like one 200 years ago. – LA
Steve and Terry adhere to a reading schedule that I admire very much. You probably don’t know this, LA, but I receive a chapter or so of Persuasion from Dailylit in my email inbox every day. I’m hard pressed to read these emails, which must be the easiest way to read Jane Austen, but Steve and Terry manage to stick to a rigid schedule, which allows them to finish Jane’s two novels - Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park - in tandem. I wish I had their stick-to-it-ness. I’d be rich and set for life, even in this tanking economy. - Vic
I too admire their dedication, but I also am humbled by yours. Strict schedules are a guy thing Vic. They love the competition. At one point Steve got ahead of their reading and started reading another book to fill in the time. I bet that revved up Terry’s testosterone. – LA
LA, you are too much. I loved reading this book, as I mentioned before, and I finished Part Two even faster than Part One. I wish Steve and Terry lived in Richmond so that I could invite them to my Christmas cocktail soiree. Two men who can discuss Jane Austen? They’d be the LIFE of this Janeite’s party! They likened the plot of Mansfield Park to a certain fairytale, which I won’t reveal, but the moment they went down that path I thought – yeah, this interpretation makes sense. Of course, MP can be read on many more levels, which I don’t think Steve or Terry would disagree with. – Vic
I wish I lived in Richmond so I could receive an invite to your Christmas cocktail soiree! If Mansfield Park is like that un-named fairy tale, then I missed the pumpkin into a barouche trick and even though Aunt Norris’ ego would like to think that she was Fanny’s fairy godmother, I do not think that was what Austen had in mind. – LA
28 January 2008
Steve’s reaction to ITV’s 2007 version of Mansfield Park is one of horror. He called Billie Piper (who recently became a mother) a Bavarian milkmaid. Hah! I must admit I disliked this film adaptation as much as the guys did, but their reasons for disliking the flick are funnier than mine.
A Bavarian milkmaid in a porn flick no less! The Two Guys understood how the screenwriter and director missed the boat on this one and “lost the brooding depth of the story.” Since we are in such total agreement with them, I flatter myself by thinking that they possibly read our reviews for research! – LA
Next thing we know, Steve talks about Dorothy Parker, a witty, vibrant, though dissolute character, much like Mary Crawford. Born in the U.S. just 120 years after Jane’s birth, Dorothy Parker was known for her scathing wit, but I personally think our Jane was funnier and more observant. While Dorothy forked her tongue for deadly effect, Jane’s observations are timeless.
Ooo…, Mary Crawford and Dorothy Parker. What a brilliant connection. Parker’s wit was caustic and abrasive, whereas Austen’s was a sideways and sly. Two similar authors, but two totally different ladies. – LA
As I said before, these guys make associations that are unique and interesting, mentioning Nabokov's lectures on Mansfield Park in one moment, then jumping to contemporary movies. Terry compares Henry Crawford to the detestable characters in The Company of Men, in which two guys intend to woo and dump a vulnerable woman. Henry comes to actually love Fanny (in his own stunted way), but his initial intent in pursuing her was for sport and fun. – Vic
I was really glad that the Two Guys spent some time talking about Henry Crawford. He is a villain that tried to become a hero for all the wrong reasons. I always felt that Henry didn’t love Fanny. She was just another one of his projects. I’ve know a few men like this in my life and seen the destruction in their wake. Not a pretty sight. – LA
2 February 2008
I’ve not heard a reference to Dolores Hart in over a decade, but Steve makes one on page 91. (Don’t you love the way these men’s minds work?) This beautiful, engaging, and talented actress of the early 60’s (George Hamilton’s love interest in Where The Boys Are) left Hollywood at the height of her career to pursue the contemplative life as a nun. Steve is of two minds when talking about her decision to become a Bride of Christ. As a man, he thinks it was a waste. As a thinking and sensing person, he admires her Chutzpah! As do I. I wish today’s politicians, CEOs, and bank managers had the same resolve. Dolores’s moral compass is similar to Fanny Price’s, who did not waver in her ability to judge right from wrong, and what was right for HER. Both women are strong, morally upright characters. – Vic
LOL Vic! Oh I am so glad that you mentioned the reference to actress now nun Dolores Hart. She was an icon to the nuns at my parochial school; -- a modern recruitment tool for young impressionable Catholic schoolgirls. She was a bit before my time, but they still doled out her name ten years after she chose her vocation. My older sister explained it all to me. We watch Where The Boys Are every Easter religiously! It’s a rites of passage thing. Interestingly, the character that Hart portrays, Merritt Andrews, shares Fanny Price’s principles also! Would Jane Austen approve? – LA
LA, We should have titled our posts ‘Two Catholic Gals Review Two Guys Who Read Jane Austen.’ LOL. - Vic
7 February 2008
Steve is spot on when he describes Jane’s heroines as being powerful. ‘Nuff said. – Vic
I liked his answer to his six-year old grandson about what special powers the Jane Austen Action figure has. “She writes.” – LA
27 March 2008
Both Steve and Terry react to Jane’s statement that Edmund wants a sisterly marriage. They assert that no warm-blooded male would want such a relationship with his wife. I concur, and realize after reading their remarks on why I have always thought of Edmund (and Edward Ferrars) as wusses. They seem too milk-toasty brotherly to be REAL men. – Vic
Oh Vic, I so agree. I love my dear Jane, so sorry Miss Austen, but your two heroes Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park and Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility are wusses. I laughed when Terry quoted Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes’ description of a tie game as “like kissing your sister”. When I read that Edmund wants a “warm and sisterly marriage” with Fanny Price after the exalted delights of Mary Crawford, I know he is wimping out. It has never sat well with me. I agree with his question, “why does Jane Austen run out of steam at the end of the book?” I am often the cheese alone when I openly declare my adoration of Mansfield Park. I never said that it was perfect! – LA
I enjoyed the second half of this book as much as the first, but before ending my part of the review, I want to comment on the cover of the book, which I think will work against its marketability. The photo of Terry and Steve is murky and the yellow and orange pattern looks like Victorian wallpaper. There is no Jane Austen/Regency feel to this cover, which is the primary reason we have been displaying the blue graphic from Steve’s website. I – we - simply refuse to have the orange, brown, and ochre cover grace our nice little blog. (Well, we did import this teensy cover to show you what we mean, with apologies to orange, brown, and ochre lovers everywhere.) Aside from this observation, this book will make the perfect gift for the Jane Austen fan who has read everything written by her and about her. –Vic
Having just come off reading a slough of Austen sequels, I found this book so refreshing Vic. I just ate up all of the references to modern media and culture. Our enthusiasm and praise for The Two Guys is not alone. I read this week on Steve’s web site that the Chawton gift shop will be carrying Two Guys Read Jane Austen. Next to the author herself, this is the highest seal of approval available for them. My only hope, which I pride myself we are in agreement on, is that with the second edition, they redesign the cover. Jane Austen fans are a very loyal group Two Guys, but we do have our limits. – LA
Thanks for your insights, L.A. You are right. This short book is one FUN read. For those who are wondering how to spend their Christmas bonuses or checks from Santa, click on the link below to order Steve and Terry’s book.
We are giving away two copies in two separate contests.
Deadline? December 23rd. Look for the contests on our sidebar or click on these links to answer the question, or click here and click here.