Sunday, October 27, 2013
Event Recap: Jo Baker and Pride&Prejudice
When I first heard of the event being held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox featuring Jo Baker, her new book Longbourn, and a viewing of the movie Pride & Prejudice, I really wanted to go. I read Longbourn and enjoyed it (read my review here) and thought it'd be great to see her speak. Not to mention rewatching the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at the TIFF theatres would be quite the experience. However, I decided that I couldn't quite justify spending money on getting to Toronto (I'm about an hour and a half drive away) as well as buying a ticket so I decided I wouldn't go. Then, on the Friday before the event (which was on a Monday), International Festival of Authors (IFOA) held a super easy Twitter contest - retweet their tweet about the event and you might win two tickets. Retweet I did and I won! Author, fellow blogger, and friend, Lydia, was my lucky plus one and we had a great evening!
Eleanor Wachtel, host of TIFF's Books on Film and the CBC's Writers and Company, was the event's host. She chatted with Jo for a few minutes before the viewing started. They talked a little bit about her book and the Joe Wright P&P adaptation. Jo mentioned a few of her favourite parts in the movie: the massive pig walking through the house and a scene where the servant girl is walking up the stairs, singing. I remembered the pig from previous viewings of the movie but I couldn't recall the girl. And that's really kind of the point of Longbourn - taking notice of how things were done in Pride and Prejudice. I, along with others I'm sure, made a mental note to pay attention to the scenes involving the servants. Then it was time for the show!
While watching the movie (which I own and have seen multiple times), I was reminded of the feeling I got when I went to film screenings for class when I was in university. Even though a lot of the movies we watched were easily accessible (and therefore able to be watched on our own time...like in our PJs on a Sunday morning), the profs always encouraged us to go to the screenings for the experience. Everyone goes to the screening for the same purpose and you have a much better experience by watching it with others and feeding off their emotions and reactions (laughter, gasps, and so on). I had the same feeling as I watched Pride & Prejudice at this event. You'd think it would be the same feeling as when you go to the local theatre to watch the latest movie but it's not. There's a different sort of camaraderie or companionship when you're watching a movie and trying to get a little more out of it than the simple entertainment factor.
After the movie was over, Eleanor and Jo sat down to talk some more. I found Jo's inspiration for Longbourn to be really interesting. How many of you Austen readers remember the line "...the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy" from Pride and Prejudice? (Hopefully that quote is right...found it on the oh so trustworthy internet!) It didn't stick out for me when I read the book many years ago but it did for Jo. She wanted to know who "proxy" was and her novel evolved from there. Another comment that stuck out for me was when Eleanor also asked Jo about the way she portrayed Mr. Collins. Jo said that a lot of people have caught on that she's quite sympathetic to poor Mr. Collins and said "We all have awkward moments...his is just lasting a lifetime." I think that's such a good way to describe it and I must say that I will watch and read about Mr. Collins in a new light after reading Longbourn and hearing Jo talk about him.
Once Eleanor and Jo wrapped up their discussion and the Q&A portion was complete, it was time to line up to get my copy of Longbourn signed. It was already quite late so Lydia headed home (after making sure I knew how to get back to Union on my own...I'm so glad she looks out for little ol' me when I go to the big city!) I was lucky and didn't have to wait too long to get my book signed. Jo is absolutely lovely. The accent helps! I said that I liked that this retelling of Pride and Prejudice was so different and that it made me think about the characters and story in a new way, through the eyes of the servants. Jo said that she thinks of her book as a "subquel", not quite a sequel but close. Interesting way to think of it, isn't it?
Even though I had to rush to the train station in the rain and got home close to 1:00am, I am so glad I went to this event. Jo Baker was lovely (there really is no other word!) and Eleanor Wachtel asked some great questions. I learned a lot about how Jo came to write Longbourn, got to enjoy Pride & Prejudice on the big screen with a great friend, and had another book signed. What more could an Austen fan ask for?