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Monday, December 8

Two Jane Austen Fans Review Two Guys Read Jane Austen: Part One

“Jane’s got more adoring female fans than Brad Pitt, and my guess is they’re more intelligent too!” - Terrence Hill

Gentle Readers: Vic (Jane Austen’s World) and I are reading Two Guys Read Jane Austen together and having quite a jolly time of 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, I found myself reacting to their comments, insights and observations in many different ways and sharing them with my co-blogger Vic. What evolved was our own personal epistolary – two Jane Austen fans review Two Guys Read Jane Austen.

Part One Pride and Prejudice: Terry and Steve touch sacred ground and curl my hair! - LA

24 September 2007 (Terry to Steve)
LOL, Terry thinks Anne Hathaway was miscast as Jane Austen in the movie Becoming Jane because her surgically inflated lips bear little resemblance to those of the original in the portrait of the author. No kidding. He does acknowledge that most of the story is fictional but thought her a terrific Jane Austen. His wife disagrees, and this opens the male/female divide of how men and women think and feel differently, and the reason why the “Two Guys” were “lured by their wives into this venture in the first place.”

Terry also responds financially (a guy thing) to Becoming Jane as a welcome sign that they have chosen a hot topic to write about and envisions John Grisham-like royalties for their new book. Hmm? Jane Austen is the darling of movieland, but a few sequel writers could give you an earful on royalty woes. - LA

You know Laurel Ann, I love how playful these two friends are in their remarks about each other, their wives, and Jane Austen. Their light-hearted repartees, with their many literary and popular culture associations, and their tendency to stray off course, remind me of the jocular banter among my close male college friends. Smart, well-read, hard-playing, hard-studying, and hard-drinking young men (one of them was my boyfriend), this group of six would sit in the livingroom of their apartment on a Sunday afternoon watching football and quoting lines from classic 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s B&W movies. During commercials, they’d make lively observations about Nietcshe, Tolkien, or Robert Heinlein or argue about which weapon was better: the rapier or the sword, and then discuss a class assignment with remarkable erudition even after polishing off a half dozen beers. My college friends are older now. All are successful, and when we get together at reunions, the years fall away. Reading this book by Terry and Steve is like reliving those conversations all over again. As a result I couldn’t put Two Guys down. - Vic

28 September 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Terry visits a friend and his wife learns that he and Steve are writing their next book about Jane Austen, so she openly threatens him to be kind to Mr. Darcy! LOL. That’s right "Two Guys", don’t mess with Darcy! You don’t even want to go there. Steve does, and calls him a self-important prig. – LA

While that term is used to describe our hero, Terry and Steve largely kept their promises to their wives, treating Darcy with the weight he deserves. That remark came very early in the book, but then the friends begin a dialogue that threads throughout the first half of the book about Lizzy’s and Darcy’s misunderstandings and how their eyes and hearts are opened. I agreed with Terry’s observation of Darcy, “Pride constricts him and ties him in knots so he can look like the strong and silent type. I wish he were more open in his communications. Not a totally feminized metrosexual, but at least enough to explain himself and stand up for himself more openly.” But that is the point, isn’t it? Darcy is too repressed to be at ease among strangers. His character reminds me so much of my father, a kind and generous, man who comes across as gruff and haughty because of his immense uneasiness with people he does not know. As with Darcy, Dad’s friends and family see an entirely different and more relaxed side to him. - Vic

20 October 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Terry considers Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey three of the greatest novels of all time – all written by Austen by age 25. S&S and P&P receive accolades frequently, but that’s the nicest complement that I have ever read for NA who often gets short shrift, even by Janeites. Is he pandering to the true Austen enthusiasts? The jury is still out. - LA

I must admit, the inclusion of NA seemed strange, but then Steve and Terry are making a mature observation: Jane’s parody of the Gothic novel is masterful and who among us does not like Henry Tilney? It is evident that Steve and Terry not only respect Jane’s immense talent, but they keep referring to her courageous decision to remain single with awe. At this point, Terry’s conversation segued into some funny but cogent observations about trophy wives. I just love how these men’s minds work. - Vic

1 November 2007 (Steve to Terry)
Steve thinks that Mr. Bennet is the voice of bemused reason. “Perhaps he is Jane Austen herself at a higher level than even the narrator.” Since this is his first read of P&P and he is only a third of the way through, I am quite amazed that he came to this conclusion so quickly. Some people never ‘get’ this reasoning. I do. Even though Mr. Bennet shirks his responsibilities as a parent and hides in his library, he is the only character in the novel wise enough to see through all the social hoopla. - LA

And he compares Jane to Truman Capote, who comes off as trite. Capote squandered his talent in a long and rudderless, downwardly spiraling life, whereas Jane, who died so very young, never lost her passion for writing. Steve’s humor on page 33 is unparalleled when he shares a scathing review of one of his self-help books. I LOLed and decided right then and there to purchase the book for the sole male Janeite in our book group. As for Mr. Bennet, although I think his dry remarks are witty, I am starting to regard him as a one-dimensional character who remains out of sight in his study until, like a Greek chorus, he is trotted out to voice his opinion. (I know many people will disagree with me, but I have entered the Mr. Bennet-bashing stage of my life.) - Vic

2 November 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Terry thinks that P&P is the greatest gossip novel of all time! I had never thought about it in those terms, but I think he is right and it may even rival the Gossip Girls teen series for chattiness. Jane and Lizzy talk about Darcy and Bingley. Caroline and Louisa talk about Jane and Lizzy. George Wickham talks about Darcy. Lizzy talks about George Wickham, everyone talks about Mr. Darcy and on and on. The only person who does not gossip is Mr. Bennet, and Steve has already correctly pointed out that he is the voice of reason. - LA

2 November 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Terry defends Austen against those who claim her choice of writing about “two or three families in a country village” was too narrow stating “she wrote the novel that she wanted to write.” He goes on to explain that we do not need to know the political atmosphere to understand the story. The only reason we know about Napoleon is because the Regiment is posted in Meryton to defend England against a possible invasion by the French. “If it weren’t for Napoleon’s ambition, there would be no Wickham.” I like this notion and have to admit he has a good point. Coupled together, Wickham and Napoleon make great antagonists. Who is the evilest villian I will leave for readers to decide. ;) – LA

15 November 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Terry has just called Darcy a pompous prig again and made me laugh. I disagree and see Darcy as proud and haughty. A pompous prig is the Prince Regent. Based on the fact that guys know guys better than girls, should we take his word for it? Wait, he just called Mr. Collins an ass-kissing buffoon, and earned my respect. Maybe I should rethink my criticism on the harshness of the pompous prig statements. - LA

He also has great respect for Charlotte Lucas, and rightly pointed out the double standard in Lizzy’s attitude towards Charlotte’s practical reasons for marrying Mr. Collins (which made Lizzy think they could never be close friends again), and Lizzy’s casual acceptance of Wickham’s reasons for going after Mary King. - Vic

19 November 2007 (Steve to Terry)
Steve compares Darcy’s response to Elizabeth’s rejection of his first marriage proposal to that of a poorly educated liberal being berated on William F. Buckley’s political television show Firing Line. LOL!!! Young readers might not catch that rub, but could relate to Britney Spears being asked her opinion of Jane Austen’s third person narrative style on Meet the Press and understand his implication. Even with his Cambridge education, Darcy has been bested by home schooled Elizabeth and stunned into silence. Bravo Lizzy! – LA

The two guys compare reading a novel with watching a movie adaptation, concluding that there is no comparison. A novel goes deeper into the psyche of a character, as Terry says, and then he makes this wonderful observation: “And to those macho guys who are too tough to read anything softer than a violent crime thriller I say you are missing a lot if you don’t read Jane Austen.” No kidding and amen to that, brother. - Vic

22 November 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Terry loves Elizabeth Bennet because “she ain’t no goody two-shoes!” I guess the author of the new book Why Men Love Bitches will be pleased to know that Austen fans will be buying her booked based on the Elizabeth factor.

Terry thinks that Mr. Wickham is the lesser of two evils as a husband in comparison to Mr. Collins. Can we assume that from a male perspective being an unprincipled seducer is more desirable than being a toady minister? Ha! Why is this not a surprise? – LA

Wickham, while a rapscallion and a rake, is a man’s man. Mr. Collins is a pipsqueak AND an ass-kissing buffoon. Very few men, I think, would even entertain finding anything to admire in Mr. Collins. For my part, Lizzy’s attitude of not liking either man is the right and proper one. - Vic

16 December 2007 (Terry to Steve)
Later Terry reflects on the conclusion of the P&P as he comes to his favorite line in the novel by Mr. Bennet, “I admire all of my son-in-laws highly. Wickham, perhaps, is my favorite.” Now, since the "Two Guys" have surmised that Mr. Bennet is actually the voice of Jane Austen herself, I must conclude that this is the clever, witty and intelligent female side of Jane Austen speaking as the voice of reason and irony and not the literal male Jane Austen, which happily rarely surfaces! - LA

Both Terry and Steve hated for P&P to end. In their comments they debunk the myth that men are wholly attracted towards a woman’s looks, for they keep commenting on Lizzy’s lively mind and intelligence. Their admiration for Jane Austen’s excellent writing, her intellectual courage, independence and fearlessness, and her sarcastic wit is also very evident, which prompts me to say that these two men GET IT. I could not wait to delve into the second half of this book after I read Steve’s reaction to Heathcote William Garrod’s opinion that a man who liked to read Jane Austen must be a womanish man. Terry concludes that in a celebrity death match against Jane Austen, she would beat Sir Garrod to a pulp with her superior mind (not to mention her parasol.) - Hah! – Vic

I am truly enjoying their humor and insights. It has far surpassed my expectation of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus meet Darcy and Lizzy and explains it all for us. The additional antecedents really add color and depth to their reactions and observations. They are so friendly and interesting that I wish I could have a personal correspondence with either of them about Jane Austen! Maybe we should ask them if they would like to play along with us and readers? "Two Guys" answer your questions about Jane Austen? Wouldn’t that be a hoot? - LA

Next week, please join Vic and Laurel Ann for the second part of Two Jane Austen Fans Review Two Guys Read Jane Austen. We'll chat about the second half of the book when the "Two Guys" discuss Mansfield Park, one of Jane Austen’s most controversial novels. I am all anticipation if they'll favor or bash Miss Fanny Price. My bet is that they are hot for Mary Crawford, since she “ain’t no goody two-shoes” either! - LA


For a chance to win a copy of Two Guys Read Jane Austen, please comment by December 23rd (winner to be announced on December 24th) on this statement:

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because?

Two Guys Read Jane Austen

by Steven Chandler & Terrence N. Hill
Trade paperback (126) pages
Robert D. Reed Publishers, Bandon, OR
ISBN: 978-1934759172

Cheers, Laurel Ann (Austenprose) & Vic(Jane Austen's World)

Images: Steve Chandler, middle right, Terrence Hill, bottom left


Fatima said...

Then they can refer to Darcy for those of us who still envision our man to be our very own Mr. Darcy.

Kimberly Ann said...

Interesting review. I would love to add this to my ever growing stack of Austen related books!

Kimberly Ann said...

Oops! Realized I needed to comment on why real men aren't afraid to read Jane Austen. I would say that real men aren't afraid to read anything, because they have a self-confidence and an inquisitive mind. They would do well to read JA so they can better understand the female perspective.

Tiaj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laura said...

Men aren't afraid to read Jane Austen becuse they already have such self-confidence that to them there is no harm in competing with Mr. Darcy. It also helps them understand the female mind a bit more.

Anonymous said...

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because they are up for improving themselves. They realize that today's woman needs a 19th century man, and they are not afraid to change! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review. This is so much fun! I'm lucky that my father-in-law is a man who loves Jane Austen. I'm hoping to take him to some JASNA meetings this coming year.

Emily Kugler said...

This might be a bit of a cop-out, but I think real men aren't afraid to read Jane Austen once they've read Jane Austen. I think just a paragraph can dispel a lot of the misconceptions that she's just "chick lit" or an overly-polite author. Once they see how witty (and sarcastic) she is, I think they want to read more.

Courtney said...

This looks like a hilarious read!

Penelope said...

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because they don't fear the unknown, they don't fear being exposed to new ideas, they don't fear much at all, certainly not some little ol' books!

Real men should probably be interested in something that is so fascinating to women and in books that are so well received and admired.

Anonymous said...

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because they want to know why gals are crazy about Mr. Darcy and try to imitate his personality.

Anonymous said...

Men aren't afraid to read Jane; look at me. I did it and even wrote a book about it.

I must say that both my co-author, Steve, and I have been thrilled and gratified by the response to our book from hardcore Jane fans.

We wrote a book about reading Moby-Dick and not even Herman Melville was interested (or at least we didn't hear from him.) We write a book about reading Jane and suddenly we have a thousand new friends. Thank you.

Terrence N. Hill

Anonymous said...

... because they love a good book, no matter who wrote it. And as one of the other commenters mentioned, once they read even one paragraph, they'll understand that there's something too special about Jane to pass up by not reading her books.

Anonymous said...

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because they're too intelligent to think she's "chick-lit" and only romantic women can read her.


Anonymous said...

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because they're too intelligent to think she's "chick-lit" and only romantic women can read her.


Merry said...

Real men are not afraid to read Jane Austen because real men aren't intimidated by intelligent women. I plan on telling my students that Orson Scott Card, whom they all adore because of Ender's Game, happens to love Sense & Sensibility (it got my husband to read S&S, which he now admits to having liked). :-)

Penelope said...

me, me, me!

JaneGS said...

The male perspective on Austen! This sounds like a marvelous book, and I enjoyed reading your comments so far. The one male pov that has stick lo these many years is the male English prof who once told me that while Mr. D. is the male ideal for many women, Emma is the female ideal of most men.

Unknown said...

Real men aren't afraid to read Jane Austen because, to match the ladies, they must add the improvement of their minds by extensive reading.

Anonymous said...

Real men aren't afraid to read Jane Austen because inquiring minds want to know what this Darcy is all about.

Faith said...

Real men aren't afraid to read Jane Austen because they realize that Jane Austen wasn't a flimsy romance writer.

Anonymous said...

They aren't afriad because they know it'll give them something to talk about with the lady-types, and more often than not, the afore mentioned lady-type will be impressed.