Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So Prejudiced it Becomes Prideful

A review of "First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice" by Alexa Adams

While I found this book entirely readable, let me just say right off the bat that the Kindle edition at least has major punctuation issues and even some spelling errors. At one point "Darcy" was spelled with an e between the c and the y! Are the shades of Pemberley to be so polluted? (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) I also found myself exclaiming out loud, a la Mrs. Elton, "There is a shocking lack of commas in this narrative!" It seriously drove me nuts.

Anyway, issues of grammar aside, as I said, the story is very readable. It also explores a question that I'm sure a lot of P&P lovers have asked themselves: What if Mr. Darcy had manned up and danced with Elizabeth when they first met at Meryton, instead of waiting until the Netherfield ball, when her prejudice had already been solidified by the evil manipulations of Mr. Wickham? Everyone's been wondering that, right?

Well, I actually have before. There are a lot of things in P&P that leave room for what ifs. Like, what if Bingley had gone against Darcy's initial advice and proposed to Jane anyway? Or what if Elizabeth and Lydia and Kitty and I can't remember exactly who else was there had not met Mr. Wickham in town that day? What if, when Lizzy and the Gardiners were in Lambton, Jane's letter had arrived a day later?

I love the idea of changing the course of an entire story by just adding or changing one element. I thought this was done rather well in "Lost in Austen", which had a modern 20-something woman change places with Elizabeth Bennet. This threw off the entire plot, and the main character's attempts to "fix" it only made things worse. In this case, the changed element made the story more complicated, added more conflict, thus making it more interesting.

But the opposite is true for "First Impressions." Its subtitle really tells it all: "A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice." But, you see, the pride and the prejudice are what make it "Pride and Prejudice." The Mr. Darcy in this version of the story does indeed have less pride. There is much less conflict, none at all, in fact, between Darcy and Elizabeth because they communicate perfectly with each other from the beginning. (I mean, what kind of person says exactly what they mean? What kind of game is that?) It's all very pleasant, but in fiction pleasant is boring.

I was pleased enough with the pleasantness to finish the book, because I love the characters, and for the most part, the author stays true to them. But I doubt I'll give it a second read. From now on I prefer to keep my what if speculations off the page (or Kindle screen). Except for, what if Caroline Bingley is a Terminator, a cyborg sent back in time to terminate Elizabeth Bennet, the future leader in the defense against zombie uprising...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The CIA is Still a Runway

“Covert Affairs” has never had pretensions of greatness. This rather frothy CIA drama from a girl's POV is usually good for a few laughs and some spy-lite fun. This week's episode, though, was a bit of a snooze. A side story line features CIA newbie Annie's suspicions of her brother-in-law's infidelity. This whole element of the show, with the sister and the nieces, doesn't really work for me, especially the nieces. It's like they're not even real kids.

Now that that's out of the way, I think there has to be a great drinking game somewhere in this show. Like, every time Annie is shocked when she learns a secret about her new mission? Shot! Or whenever she uses her exceptional language skills to befriend a foreign blue collar worker? Shot! Or how about every time Auggie uses his blindness to charm a woman? Shot! (Remember Jamie Foxx in “Ray”? Christopher Gorham does!)

Yes, the show is a bit rife with cliché, but it usually does a better job of hiding it than this episode did. This week Annie again went undercover as an employee of the Smithsonian, this time to gain access to a senator's office that's been leaking state secrets. To get in good with the senator's (young, female) chief of staff, Annie compliments her sweater and takes her out for margaritas and some girl talk. Turns out the way to a woman's trust is through her wardrobe. And margaritas.

It's becoming more and more clear to me that this is a chick show. Not just a show for a female audience, but a chick show. Comparisons to “Alias” are inevitable, I suppose, and the similarities are deeper than one might think. Yes, women loved “Alias” partly because it didn't talk down to them; it didn't water down the action with lots of extra heartwarming drama. Plus there were all those crazy clothes and fun wigs. The most exciting wardrobe choice Annie ever makes is her Leboutins. Fabulous, but predictable.

But both “Affairs” and “Alias” happen to feature complex women. There is a strange combination of strength and naivete, intelligence and vulnerability in the female characters, just like real women, I suppose. Is “Covert Affairs” a feminist manifesto? Gertrude Stein certainly wouldn't think so. But what woman doesn't love Leboutins?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hang the Jury

I had jury duty last week.

(I think I need something right in here.)

In a trial by jury, the jury is a representation of the general public. The prosecution must prove to the representatives of the population served by the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. That is the burden of truth. It's the closest we can get to democracy without polling an entire city, county or state for every court case.

In theory, the sovereignty of the government, and, by extension, the court, lies in the power of the people. By placing the burden of the discernment of truth on the sovereignty of the people, our judicial system attempts to imitate Divine justice, but our understanding of justice is flawed. This is a fatal flaw for those whom the law fails to judge justly.

I've heard it said that the law does not exist for the just, but for the unjust; the just carry the law in their hearts and do not need to call it from afar. "And we also know that the law is not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful" (1st Timothy 1:9). But in this impure world, no one is purely just; no one is righteous apart from the Law. The Law, therefore, is for us all.