I just read an article in the New Yorker Online about re-reading novels. It struck a chord with me because I am re-reading Pride and Prejudice after two years of reading, almost exclusively, novels based on Pride & Prejudice. I'm struck by how little dialog there appears to be. I like the way Austen describes what is said rather than presenting large blocks of dialog. I need to keep that in mind in my own writing, as I am often using dialog to express thoughts and feelings that could be expressed otherwise.
I also realized that I have incorporated bits of all the variations of Pride and Prejudice that I have read, as well as the movie adaptations, to round out the characters a bit more. I am not sure I would be as smitten with Elizabeth, if I didn't have the support of Jennifer Ehle's performance- her non-verbal looks and cues.
Friends have asked me why Jane Austen doesn't describe the clothing the characters wear, to any great degree, or the landscape and I reply that Jane wrote for her contemporaries- and one has to imagine that she did not expect her writing to be read 100 or more years later, after significant changes in culture and daily life, or she would have set the scene in greater detail. Or, perhaps she thought things wouldn't change that significantly, but I have trouble believing that. When we write today, this assumption doesn't exist. That is not to say that authors run around believing they will be as famous and lauded as Austen is today, but even the lowliest paperback can end up in some future rummage sale to be purchased for a few cents and enjoyed on a long drive in the hovercraft :)
In other news, I found this image on Pinterest and I think we can all relate to it as Austenites. (Credit for this image goes to someecards.com.)