Reading aloud is really important. Who will you read aloud to today?
When I was a teenager, I devoured all of Jane Austen’s books, including Emma. I loved Emma and Mr Knightley, I loved their little town of Highbury, I loved the secondary characters (especially John Knightley), I loved the wit and the honest emotion. I just adored the whole book.
But then something unfortunate happened.
In 1996, two adaptations were released: one was a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow, and the other a made-for-TV movie with Kate Beckinsale. The movies were quite different in tone—the Paltrow version had a dusting of Hollywood sparkle, and the Beckinsale version felt a bit more down to Earth—but they had one thing in common. An unpleasant Emma. Actually, make that two things: Mr Knightley was more of a father figure in both.
When I’d been in love with the book, I’d not once seen Emma as unpleasant. Flawed, definitely, but I still wanted to be her best friend. And Mr Knightley hadn’t felt fatherly to me at all. However, the movies agreed on these points.
I watched both movies several times over the next few years and little by little, my thoughts about the book changed. It was a subtle process, one I barely noticed happening, but I no longer loved the book. I thought Emma petulant and Mr Knightley condescending.
I tried to read the book again (I was rereading Austen’s other books once a year or so) but I kept seeing Gwyneth Paltrow in my mind’s eye, and she was pouting. I put the book down.
Within the first few minutes I was spellbound. Romola Garai’s Emma was charming. Johnny Lee Miller’s Mr Knightley wasn’t fatherly—more of a big brother figure. I could barely breathe as I watched the episodes, not wanting to jinx it in case Emma suddenly pouted or stamped her foot.
As soon as it ended I watched it again, then took it to my sister’s house and watched it with her.
And then, warily, I opened the book again and began to read. I could barely remember Austen’s own version of Emma, and I was scared I’d find that Garai’s Emma was the aberration. She wasn’t.
The book was delightful, fun and honest, and, as I read, I had flashes of memory from the first times I’d read the book, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties. I fell back in love—head over heels, deliciously in love.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about my journey with Emma—how I let an adaptation steal the book from me, but another adaptation gave it back.
I’d always thought I had an exclusive relationship with each medium of the same story, but it’s more complex than that. Inside my mind, a book and its visual adaptations have an interactive relationship—there’s a give and take between the versions.
But that’s enough analysis for now. I’m off to re-watch the 2009 Emma mini-series.
About the Author:
After selling to Harlequin New York in 2008, Rachel Bailey’s first three books were released in 2010, and all three became USA Today bestsellers. Her ninth book will be released in August 2014. Rachel is a past president of Romance Writers of Australia, lives on the Queensland Coast with four dogs and her hero, and is always trying to scam more time to read and watch Jane Austen adaptations. You can visit her at www.rachelbailey.com, or on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/RachelBaileyBooks.
Join the discussion this month about #reelread. We will be focusing on all things reel related in this discussion.
We have chosen this theme for this month because of the Academy Awards, but that is just the start for thinking about #reelread. Fishing and sewing are just some of the other reel activities we will be looking at and we hope you can suggest many more.
Reelread brings in many areas. Films, television and web series are made or inspired from books such as Pride and Prejudice with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Austenland and Bride and prejudice, and games such as Prince of Persia and Doom. Games are inspired from films (and television series) and books (Lord of the rings online). Books are written from games like Halo and World of Warcraft, and films or television such as Fleece lightning. This gives many different ways to explore an idea.
Do you like to read, watch or play the original format first? Does it matter? Do you like watching television series live, or do you prefer online or dvd catch up so you can choose when you watch? Do you watch with your Closed Captions on and do you listen to the director’s commentary? For material in other languages do you prefer subtitles or dubbing?
What kinds of documentaries do you like the most? Are there subjects such as Egypt or nature or film makers (like Michael Wood and Maeve O’Mara. Who you will watch regardless of the exact subject matter?
Do you like to read about film and television stars, celebrities, directors and writers? Do you follow them on twitter, or read about them in the news? Are you a fan of reality television programs – whether about how people live, cook, renovate, sing or dance? Do you like the gossip? Or do you like the how to elements?
After watching films, or television programs do you explore the costuming, find out how they did the special effects, or photography? Or do you want it to remain a mystery? Do you want to explore the actual history for series like the Tudors and the Medici?
Looking at other kinds of reels such as fishing, the options are vast. iFishTV, Extreme Fishing with Robson Green, River Monsters, Hook, Line, & Sinker, A river runs through it, Salmon fishing in the Yemen, The old man and the sea, and The compleat angler.
Sewing also involves reels. Think about quilting, embroidery, or even sewing on a button. Do you enjoy reading or watching about sewing, or do you take action and sew. Do heritage quilts interest you or are modern quilts more your style ?
Reels are still used for storing material like optical fibre – so as a stretch anything which you use optical fibre for could be a reelread. You could even think about farming, as some hay bales look like giant reels.
While you are reading, playing or watching your #reelread, you might like to tweet about it using #reelread #rwpchat so that other people can have a conversation with you about your #reelread. You can add to the discussion on Pinterest too. You might like to post your photographs to Instagram or Flickr and use #reelread #rwpchat so others can share in your reading, watching and playing.
There will be a twitter discussion on 25 March starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Summer Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 8.00am GMT, 12.00 noon Central European Time. Note: this is a staggered start to the discussion.
Use the tags #reelread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of reelread, so others can join in the conversation too.
Tonight will be a twitter discussion starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Summer Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 8.00am GMT, 12.00 noon Central European Time. Note: this is a staggered start to the discussion.
Use the tags #smoochread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of smoochread, so others can join in the conversation too.
The other day, I watched the 1985 Glenn Close – Jeff Bridges thriller Jagged Edge. The story, if you’ve never seen it, goes like this: Man is accused of murdering his wealthy wife. He hires awesome female attorney to defend him. During the course of the trial, the pair fall for each other, only the lawyer begins to think maybe the man did kill his wife. However, I’m not here to talk about the movie’s plot. I’m here to talk about kissing in movies, so on to the smooch and the first one that happens in Jagged Edge. It starts with a smile from Jeff, a step towards Glenn, and a confident, slow kiss that plainly has no tongue. This of course, made my toes curl into the fake Persian carpet beneath my feet. There’s no slo-mo, no soft focus, no camera angle to capture the actors’ best sides. There’s just Jeff giving Glenn a really extraordinary kiss that I, the observer, felt. I felt Jeff Bridges kiss me. I felt Jeff Bridges kiss me way back when I saw Jagged Edge in the cinema back in 1985. On top of that, the scene made me start thinking, not about The Top Ten Greatest Movie Kisses of All Time, but about:
Actors* Who Know How to Kiss and the Scenes that Prove It.
So what makes an actor a good kisser? Simple. A perfect ratio of lip pressure to moisture, that is, there are no lips mashed into a co-star’s teeth, no lips that are baby mush-mouth (poorly aimed lips, apart with lots of saliva), no rubber lips (lips go in different directions), no vacuum suck (no explanation needed) on the co-star’s lips, and no snail trail of spit. Wetness is not attractive on screen. Trust me on this or go and watch the spit web that stretches from Klaus Maria Brandauer ‘smouth to Kim Basinger’s in Never Say Never Again, the 80s Sean Connery remake of his earlier 60s Bond Thunderball.
I know there’s a lot of technical crap actors have to think about with screen kisses. Hitting marks, being properly lit, a crowd of people watching, make up, what the director wants. A good example is the train scene in North By Northwest. The director, Alfred Hitchcock, shot Cary Grant through glass so that the viewer has the perspective of his kiss from behind Eva Marie Saint, who’s supposed to be smushed up against the wall while being kissed by Cary Grant.
So keeping that technical stuff in mind, watch these actors in action. These are men who know their craft and know how to get the ratio correct. We’ll start kinda sweet with Toby Stephens as Edward Rochester in 2006 BBC adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre
Yeah, so Toby grabs her (Jane is played by Ruth Wilson), but just look at that Thank-you-baby-Jesus-for-what-I-have-in-my-hands that is in his kiss. So what if it all goes pear shaped for Rochester & Jane. Toby’s lips filled my little heart with glee. It’s playful, it’s sweet, it’s one of the stomach fluttery moments for me.
Then there’s Toby again, but this time as Gilbert with Helen (Tara Fitzgerald) in The 1996 adaptation of Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Did you observe how it begins with that firm, even, take no prisoners action, but then eases back to linger on a hair’s breath that you feel, ahem, I mean I feel tickle over my own mouth.
I’ll give a nod to the rather unexpected Colin Firth, who incidentally does not ring my bell as Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride in Prejudice, except he does as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Yay! A total lack of a spit trail. This kiss says, I know exactly what I’m doing, which culminates in his “Oh, Yes they fucking do,” reply to her “Nice boys don’t kiss like that.” And again, toes grab into fake Persian Rug.
This brings me to Clive Owen his tee, and his quick-quick, slow-slow foxtrot he does on my, I mean Kelly MacDonald’s mouth in Gosford Park.
The whole shebang is offset by his little post kiss ‘whoo’ which, I have to confess, were my exact thoughts. My toes dug into faux wool and the rest of me dissolved into a little puddle. Much like Kelly MacDonald does onscreen.
But the actor whose screen kiss astounded me with its perfection, that had me sink onto the pale blue reproduction Kashmiri carpet and gasp and gasp, and gasp, is Paul Rudd. There are no lips mashed into his co-star’s teeth, no baby mush-mouth, no rubber lips, no vacuum suck, no snail trail of spit. Oh, Paul, how I wish that woman onscreen had really and truly been me.
After such a flawless moment it doesn’t seem fair to discuss the actors whose onscreen kisses have left my toes straight and cold on my phony oriental rug, because Simon Baker might be watching this and feel bad.
*By actors I mean male actors.
About the author:
Sandra Antonelli writes quirky romance novels for grown ups & smart asses, which, despite the “grown up” bit, means she has a juvenile sense of humour and a penchant for wisecracks. She is a PhD candidate at Queensland University of Technology with a deep abiding love for coffee, rat terriers, peanut butter, and cookies. Her books A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only were released by Escape Publishing in 2013.
You can find her on twitter @sandrAntonelli and her website http://sandraantonelli.com/
The scene: Hanna Marin’s kitchen. Enter Caleb Rivers, the super-hot boy from the wrong side of the tracks who she’s been letting live in her basement without her mother’s knowledge. To keep her mother from discovering his presence in the house that morning, she was forced to jump in the shower with him. Now, having seen him naked, everything is weird. She’s found bags full of his stuff on the table and is going through them when he speaks…
CALEB: Didn’t take anything that wasn’t mine, officer.
HANNA: Are you leaving?
CALEB: Thought you’d be relieved.
HANNA: Why would you think that?
CALEB: Because you’ve been treating me like something you scrape off your shoe. At least, since our shower.
HANNA: Look, I know. I just – I wasn’t –
CALEB: Ready to see that much of me?
HANNA: No. Yes.
CALEB: What, now you think you have to throw down too?
HANNA: What if I don’t want to?
CALEB: That’s okay.
HANNA: What if I do want to?
CALEB: That’s okay too.
That’s the lead-in to one of my favourite first kiss scenes on television in the last few years – Hanna and Caleb’s first kiss on Pretty Little Liars, a teen TV series adapted from Sara Shepard’s series of books. (You can watch the scene here.)
It’s not the most dramatic or most tension-filled kiss in the history of ever. The stakes are not that high. This is not the first kiss that happens after years of UST or at the end of the world when they both think they’re going to die. But it does do what so many of my favourite first kiss scenes do, whether on the page or on the screen: expose a vulnerability that will enable the characters to grow – together.
I’m a scholar of popular romance fiction. My focus right now is on virgin heroines, so I spend a lot of my time thinking and writing about first sex scenes. Sex scenes are, I think, an integral and fascinating part of the romance narrative, and when done well, they change not only the characters but drive the plot forward. But kissing scenes are, I think, often more intimate, and that’s why a lot of the time, I like them better. (I vividly remember being a teenager and talking to a friend at school who had read and re-read the sex scene between Ellie and Lee in John Marsden’s The Dead of the Night so many times she’d cracked the spine of the book. I refrained from mentioning I’d read Anne and Gilbert’s first kiss in Anne of the Island so often that the pages were actually falling out.)
I think the reason that I find kissing scenes often so much more intimate is precisely because the stakes are lower. Nothing is changed by Hanna and Caleb kissing in Pretty Little Liars. Despite the fact that this is a show that has an abundance of plot, the only thing Hanna and Caleb’s first kiss changes is Hanna and Caleb. There are none of the risks that come with sex, ones that we often see come to fruition in romance: no one is going to get pregnant, no one is going to be forced to get married. There are no societal implications for kissing. There are only personal ones. No one is going to get hurt physically, although they might get hurt emotionally. And that is simply delicious narrative.
In romance, there is a long(ish) tradition of what is commonly termed the “punishing kiss”. It becomes super popular in the 1950s and 1960s – I’ve seen it credited to Mills & Boon author Lilian Warren, who, while she did not invent it, certainly did a lot to popularise it. (She wrote under several pseudonyms and was among the authors who brought a real erotic tinge to category romance.) The punishing kiss developed hand in hand with the alpha hero: a hero that was often cruel, emotionally guarded, and often a real arse to the heroine, who is eventually transformed from dangerous aggressor to ideal husband by the power of the heroine’s love. The punishing kiss – usually their first – is often an attempt for him to symbolically claim ownership of her, but moreso, it’s a sign of frustration. He does not – cannot – comprehend her, and what she is doing to his emotions. Here’s an example from Chantelle Shaw’s 2010 Harlequin Mills & Boon title Untouched Until Marriage:
Never in his life had anyone challenged his authority or spoken to him in such a way as Libby had. He was tempted to grab hold of her and bring his mouth down on hers in a punishing kiss that would shut her up…
Raul jerked his head back as if she had slapped him. ‘Dio, someone needs to teach you to control your insolent tongue,’ he growled, goaded beyond belief.
He moved towards her with the speed of a panther homing in for the kill. Too late Libby realised that he intended the ‘someone’ to be him, but he had already tangled his fingers in her hair and tugged her head back, and her startled cry was lost beneath the pressure of his mouth as he captured her lips in a savage kiss. (pp. 49-53)
I have to admit that I’m not the most massive fan of the punishing kiss, but I can certainly enjoy the emotional work it performs in texts like this one. Although Raul is the one doing the punishing here, it is actually his vulnerability that is exposed – which is delectable, since he is the untouchable alpha hero. The heroine Libby has got under his skin in a way he does not understand and cannot shake, and the punishing kiss is his way of trying to reassert his authority. (Which he obviously fails to do: in the romance, Beauty always tames the Beast.) In real life, this would obviously be quite horrifying, but within the symbolic code of the romance? This is a major emotional milestone in the relationship.
But personally, I prefer kiss scenes that expose the vulnerability of both the participants. I LOVE reading them and watching them. While scenes like the one from Untouched Until Marriage often violently expose the heroine’s desire for the hero during- or post-kiss, that delicate moment of pre-kiss negotiation and emotional nakedness in non-punishing kiss scenes? That’s my favourite. We can see that in Hanna and Caleb’s first kiss. It’s also evident in another much beloved kiss scene from television – Logan and Veronica’s first kiss in Veronica Mars. These two hate each other, but when he ends up saving her (or so he thinks) from a bad guy who turns out to be a federal agent, the spark that’s flickered between them turns into a full-on bonfire. Unlike Hanna and Caleb, that pre-kiss negotiation process is not verbal: Veronica kisses Logan’s cheek and then they simply look at each other. And then…
…it is ON. This scene is the epitome of Ingrid Bergman’s assertion that “a kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”
Logan and Veronica’s kiss does not change anything about the overarching plot of the show. What it does change is both of them. Veronica, the most hardboiled private detective teen girl you will ever meet, becomes deeply aware of her own vulnerabilities. She immediately breaks up with her cop boyfriend, saying this:
Trust me, you don’t want to date me. I’m a train wreck. Seriously. The first guy I ever loved just dropped off the face of the earth, probably because of something I said, and the last guy I dated turned out to be a drug dealer, and I just made out with my dead best friend’s boyfriend, who, incidentally, I hate. So. Train wreck.
While characters might get physically naked in sex scenes, the emotional nakedness that happens in kissing scenes, particularly first kiss scenes, always sends gives me a frisson of excitement. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has got a few YouTube clips bookmarked and who has cracked a few book spines! A kiss is deeply intimate – some cultures believed that kissing mingled the souls of the kissers – and it is also full of potentiality. It’s delicious in and of itself, but it’s also a beginning. And what is more exciting than the beginning of a story?
Jodi is a PhD student at Macquarie University. She studies romance, love, sex and virginity. She is also a theatre critic and devotes a surprising amount of time to writing about The Bold & the Beautiful. You can find her on Twitter at @JodiMcA.
To celebrate both of these you might like to take a #shelfie of your favourite library. You may want to use the tags #shelfie and #libraryshelfie as well as #rwpchat. If you are enjoying hashtags you could add #libraryloversday.
You may want to photograph a single item you are reading, watching or playing as your #smoochread – what ever you feel passionate about.