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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, April 26, 2010

When Mr. Darcy Shot Sir Thomas At Jane Fairfax's Direction

My wife and I just saw Polanski's new film The Ghost Writer, and we really enjoyed it. I strongly recommend this film to all lovers of good films, but I particularly recommend it to any Janeite who is interested in JA's shadow stories. I will not spoil the film by telling you anything specific about the story of the film, which is, I understand, closely based on the novel by Robert Harris, which is no surprise, given that he co wrote the screenplay with Polanski.

Just trust me---For reasons which ought to be apparent to anyone has been reading along in this blog during the past year in particular, once you watch the film all the way through, you will know why I immediately detected a strong subliminal aura of Jane Austen behind the film.

I was willing to bet that Harris was a Janeite with a particular affiniity for the shadows of Austen's novels, but even I was surprised at what I found when I Googled. First, Harris's wife is also a writer, her name is Gill Hornby, and if that name sounds familiar, it should-she is the sister of Nick Hornby, author of, inter alia, High Fidelity, which of course was made into a film with Hugh Grant.

Anyway, Gill Hornby, it turns out, is the author of a well-reviewed biography for pre-teens entitled “The Girl with a Magic Pen”--can you guess who is the subject of the biography? I bet you can! I cannot, however, decide whether I think Hornby chose that title for her book WITHOUT having read JHS's Unbecoming Conjunctions regarding Mr. Darcy's writing habits and Anne Elliot's opinions about history-writing, and
WITHOUT thinking about the “broader” implications of the title of Mozart's famous fairytale opera which need not be explicitly named......[edited to add--uh-oh! I just saw in that Hornby wrote a bio of Mozart for young people!!]

And what's more, Gill Hornby is also a regular columnist at the Telegraph website. a 2005 column ABOUT Gill Hornby from The Telegraph Online, Elizabeth Day wrote four things of interest to Janeites.

First, she quoted Hornby as saying that her husband “Robert [Harris] does like Austen and he has read all of her novels". That confirmed my sense of the Austenian sensibility underlying the film. I also learned that Harris wrote the novel Enigma, which was made into a great little film several years ago, starring Kate Winslet and Jeremy Northam, about Alan Turing and the breaking of the Nazi secret code at Blatchley.

In The Ghost Writer, another sort of word game besides enigmas is pivotal in the resolution of the mystery in the story, which has very strong Austenian connotations.

Also Hornby was quoted as saying that "with Jane [Austen] there was a life or death element to marrying", which I think I wrote myself just last week in these groups--I like Hornby's sense of JA as a feminist.

And, speaking of her own domestic life, Hornby said there are "no quadrille dances in the Harris/Hornby household".

If she had only read the thread initiated by Anielka here, and joined by me, earlier this year, on the subject of "quadrilles".

And Hornby also mentioned Hercule Poirot when she wrote a column earlier this year in praise of amateur detectives being deployed by English police to help solve crimes-better she had mentioned Miss Marple, I think.

Oh, and Hornby and Harris live in Kintbury.....

Which all is salient to the Austen aura I perceived so distinctly in The Ghost Writer.

Go see it!


P.S.: The title of this message is a joke that hopefully will make sense if you watch the film all the way through, including paying close attention to the credits showing the names of the actors playing minor roles....