Thanksgiving Week Already?

Today’s Sunday edition (11/20/05) of the comic strip “Stone Soup” had a “Herstory” bit – proposing we not accept the theory of relativity as that of Einstein’s but that of Einsteins’ – since Albert’s first wife, Mileva Maric, was the mathematician who did the calculations for Albert back in 1905. She had to give up their first child for adoption (since she was born out of wedlock), care for their schizophrenic son, and put up with his general lack of responsibility and adultery. Plus, when he got the Nobel Prize, he gave the money to her (well, that might have been more because of the divorce settlement, for all we care). Mileva Maric was all but forgotten. I thought this edition was educational.

But, the trend in the historiography of science is apparently to reconsider and acknowledge women scientists. PBS’ Nova had a recent docu-drama “Einstein’s Big Idea: The Story Behind E=mc2” was a bit overdramatic (in between the talking head moments, were recreated scenes of young Albert Einstein in love with Mileva Maric, until he leaves her behind; and the lives of his predecessors on the theories of energy, mass, speed and so on – including a French noblewoman, who was a mistress of Voltaire, cut down at the height of life because of – what else? – childbirth and a successor – a Jewish Austrian scientist who never got the credit for the theory of energy in those little atoms (leading to the nuclear bomb). Although this episode didn’t have great critical reviews from the pro tv critics, I ended up watching it. I thought it was a bit overdone (I mean, really, sex and science?), but fascinating. Heck, Nova even already did an episode on Maric (which I don’t remember watching, maybe parts of it, but it was awhile ago).

This week, I did watch this week’s “Nova” – “Newton’s Dark Secrets.” Ok, so Sir Isaac Newton was the man behind the theory of gravity and invented calulus and all that stuff. But, apparently, he was seriously weird – he got into alchemy (perhaps as an alternative way to approach his study for truth and understand nature and to have power over nature – but still weird ); was a young man who had energy and invested it in scientific study (probably to avoid – umm – sex – was he a prim Puritan?); and suppressed his personal religious beliefs, knowing it did not comply with mainstream thinking at that time (Newton, a professor of Trinity College in Cambridge University – whose seat is now that held by Stephen Hawking – did not believe in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – rather blasphemous at the time). Again, I didn’t like the recreated docudrama parts. But, the revelations of new research and understanding of Newton the man of that time (rather than how we developed the myth of Newton) has been fascinating.

Last week was the Downtown NY Alliance’s Restaurant Week – $20.05 prix fixe at selected downtown restaurants. Friends/colleagues and I tried out Les Halles Downtown and Steamers Landing. Les Halles had great French food; Steamers Landing specialized in seafood – and has an incredible view of the Hudson (right next to the World Financial Center). I like these restaurant weeks, trying out places I really wouldn’t try otherwise for pricing reasons!

NY Times’ Alessandra Stanley observes that the American release of the new “Pride and Prejudice” movie has a different ending than the British release of the same movie:

IT was perhaps a little embarrassing to learn that the British producers of the latest “Pride and Prejudice” released a different ending for American audiences: a swoony moonlit scene of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in dishabille, kissing and cooing in a post-coital clinch. [….]

The loudest protests didn’t come from patriots taking umbrage at the concession to New World prurience. Strict Jane Austen constructionists rose up to lament the sexed-up ending as blasphemy. Elsa Solender, a former head of the Jane Austen Society of North America, said that the boudoir scene “has nothing at all of Jane Austen in it” and “insults the audience with its banality.” The current president, Joan Klingel Ray, a professor of English at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, agreed. “One of Jane Austen’s greatest talents is that she presents sexual tension with such subtlety,” she said in an interview on Friday, as the movie, which had its premiere here a week ago, went into wider release.

And they have a point. The smooches and sappy, made-up dialogue between Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen are more reminiscent of Barbara Cartland’s work than Jane Austen’s. [….] One of the less vaunted joys of Austen is that she is one of the greatest writers in the English language who also happened to write witty romance novels. Women enjoy the love stories in Austen the same way men read Hemingway for the hunting and fishing: it provides guiltless pleasure.

The entire romance novel industry was founded by imitators who tried to adapt and adulterate Austen’s work, starting with Georgette Heyer, who is to Regency romance what Patrick O’Brian is to naval action adventure. [….]

The different endings caused a trans-Atlantic stir, but also a backlash. The film’s director, Joe Wright, chose to cut the final kiss for the domestic market after test audiences in England complained, but kept it for the American market, figuring, not wrongly, that Americans are saps with a lighter allegiance to literary accuracy. Or as he put it, “I guess, in America, you just like a little more sugar in your champagne.”

Some critics in the United States and Britain sneered at the ending (in The New Yorker, Anthony Lane, who is British, called the movie’s brooding romanticism a “Brontëfied” Jane Austen), but most were more indulgent. And Austen fans in England who got wind of the American version were incensed that they had been denied a final kiss.

Yeah, that would be my trouble with current Regency romances – they’re no Austens. It’s more the sex and romance and relationships, rather than social observation and excellent writing. Well, we’ll see what the next version of “Pride and Prejudice” will do. (am I at least glad I’ve read the book a long time ago). I know to keep the stuff separate – I’ll read those Regency romances, sure, but if I want Austen, she’s the classic.

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