Hey, y’all, we got game! Thanks to everyone who voted; yes, your responses are important to us. The First Round is over: here’s the Austenacious_MarchMadness_Round1_Official bracket if you want to follow along. Voting highlights:
- Of the Sense and Sensibility crowd, only Mr. Palmer and John Dashwood made it past the first round. OK, we were mean to put Marianne up against Eliza Bennet, who slammed her, but Elinor was only barely edged out by Anne Elliot.
- Mr. Darcy wiped the floor with Colonel Brandon (maybe if Jane Austen had known Alan Rickman this would have been a closer fight?), and Captain Wentworth soundly defeated Mr. Knightley. I’m excited to see which of them will hoop it more in the next round!
- All the Bennet women made it through their matches, all except Mary, who fell to Miss Bates. That has got to hurt! Still maybe she’ll have more time to study this way.
Enough talk, more play! Second round voting ends WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT MIDNIGHT, March 24/25.
Once again, fearless voters, in a battle of wits, in a duel to the death, in a love fest for the ages, who would win?
Hello, all you Austen lovers, and pitters of Austen against Austen. Thank you to everyone who sent in a bracket—and may I say, we can expect an exciting two weeks!
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! I declare these Games of the first Jane Austen’s March Madness open! You may commence voting when ready. The polls will close at midnight on March 20/21. If you submitted a bracket, good luck! If you didn’t, we know you still have an opinion!
Out of all of Jane Austen’s characters, in a battle of wits, in a duel to the death, in a love fest for the ages, who would win?
A quick reminder:
Jane Austen’s March Madness brackets are due THURSDAY, MARCH 18! Tip-off (see what we did there?) for the big tournament takes place that day, and we wouldn’t want anybody to miss the chance to enter. Otherwise you might, like, have to follow actual basketball, and where’s the fun in that?
If you’ve already sent your bracket in, you’re good to go. Get your voting fingers ready!
If you haven’t sent your bracket in, what are you waiting for? Download, fill out the e-form, return it, and watch the magic happen! Who knows? You might win the pool, and how often does that happen? (Come on, be honest.)
You can follow the action here on the site and via Twitter (find us here!)—join the party, and bring a friend!
Thursday. Let’s do this.
Cue movie preview voice: In a world filled with madness, tall men dueled sweaty duels with balls . . . and baskets!
Ahem. Let’s try again.
In a March filled with Austen, brave men and witty women dueled for the hearts . . . and minds . . . of you!
Yes, that’s right.
JANE AUSTEN’S MARCH MADNESS!!!
Who the heck cares about college basketball geeks? (Settle down, Lydia.) Let’s kick this old-school. Out of all of Jane Austen’s characters, in a battle of wits, in a duel to the death, in a love fest for the ages, who would win? We’ll settle this NCAA style.
How it works:
Download the Austenacious_MarchMadness bracket marked with the opening match-ups of Austen characters. Fill out your picks for all the matches, down to the Champion, in Adobe Reader. Save the file with your name, and email your completed bracket to us at postmistress [at] austenacious [dot] com BY THURSDAY, MARCH 18. Guess the outcome of the greatest number of matches, and you could win a small prize!
Then, vote! Over the coming weeks—corresponding with each round of the NCAA tournament—we’ll post the character match-ups in a poll. Pick your favorite character from each pair. Follow along with your bracket to see who’s been knocked out and who makes it to the next poll! On April 5, the Champion will be decided. The Austenacious judging committee will pick a winning bracket randomly from those with the greatest number of correct matches.
Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell everyone in the whole world!
It’s time to play.
Basketball photo credit:
Dust off your hash marks, kids, and brush up on your “at” symbols; it’s time to adjust your worldview to include the letter U as both a vowel and a second-person pronoun.
This, of course, can mean only one thing:
Check us out, follow us, and watch us try to express our deep enjoyment of Austen with a donut-themed background and absolutely zero lexically legitimate words whatsoever. Plus nonsense tags and constant accessibility! What could possibly go wrong?
(This is the part where we want to say “We’re on ur phone, using ur 140 characters,” but fear that the reference is simply too ancient to even register, like it’s cuneiform or beta cassettes. Such is the dilemma of the modern Janeite. All your base are belong to us!)
See you on the airwaves, or whatever it is we call them these days.
(P.S. What? Who said that?)
We at Austenacious don’t know about you, but we sometimes say to ourselves, “Selves,”—that’s what we go by around Austenacious HQ—”Selves, we do not exist in enough places online.”
(Note: This is a lie. Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Miss Osborne are, I suspect, currently choking on their tea at the enormity of this lie. Apologies, ladies!)
We do, however, occasionally crave some good Janely discussion, right here! and right now!—life can’t be one long Masterpiece liveblogging party (I’m told), no matter how hard we try. I suspect we’re not totally alone with, say, the urge to discuss whether or not Jonny Lee Miller’s Muppet nose improves or detracts from his performance as Mr. Knightley. (Answer: Improves, and I’ll hear no more about it.) Should this be the case, you might check out the forums sponsored by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England—they’re an existing community, but the more is apparently the merrier. They’ve specifically welcomed the Austenacious readership, which we thought was kind of them.
In any case, whatever you’re itching to talk about, you’ll find it in the forums: Jane’s works, Jane’s characters, Jane’s characters, adaptations, sequels, relevant actors (for all your sudden-onset OMGFIRTH!!1! needs), and a good old-fashioned “Jane Austen catch-all” thread, for good measure and to make all possible content technically “on topic.”
So if you’d rather be sitting at a table somewhere with a nice sharp pen, a quiet moment, and a beloved sister to address—well, this isn’t exactly that, but surely a nice…key-ey keyboard, a quiet moment, and some good Janeite company is the next best thing?
My Christmas vacation was mostly about spending time with my nieces and nephews. But my gift to myself was a day in Manhattan to visit with two old friends—college roommate and artist extraordinaire Kelly, and Jane Austen. The exhibit A Woman’s Wit is still up at the Morgan Library.
I loved the letter Jane Austen wrote to her niece: Each word was spelled backward. I had to buy the postcard just to be able to spend quality time deciphering it with my oldest nephew. He looked at me a little suspiciously when I told him to expect all correspondence from me in the future to be written backward.
As with any exhibit of any artist that I am enthralled with, I was amazed to simply be standing there breathing in particles that a great artist touched. With letters, it’s a different sort of experience than paintings. Sure, you’re viewing something behind glass on a wall . . . and I, for one, love to see handwriting. But instead of just viewing and absorbing what we were seeing, we craned our necks and stood around focusing on the words, trying to read Jane’s (sometimes awful) handwriting. There were words scratched out, funky old-school spelling and writing oddities (like the letter “s” looking like an “f”), sentences criss-crossing . . . what a mess! I’ve never given a thought to how much paper costs, but looking at the way Jane scribbled sideways or crammed in corners of the paper, you really do get a different sense of how having paper was something of a luxury. I really wish they had a folded and sealed letter so you could experience the feeling of opening up a letter the way you open a much-anticipated gift!
For me, the highlight of the exhibit was not actually a letter written by Jane Austen, but one written by her sister Cassandra describing Jane’s last days. The letter expressed the raw emotions of someone who lost her closest companion.
I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well—not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.
—Excerpt from a letter from Cassandra Austen to her niece Fanny
Heartbreaking. It reminded me of my Aunt Helen (my grandmother’s sister) after my grandmother died. The two of them taught in the same school, lived three houses away from each other, and had tea together every afternoon. After my grandmother’s funeral, it hit me that my aunt had buried all of her siblings. Though stoic, she looked a little lost sitting in the church, knowing that she wouldn’t have her sister to talk to and drink tea with every day. I imagine that Cassandra felt the same way—though losing her sister at a much earlier age would be even more devastating.
I was expecting to simply enjoy the humor in Jane’s writing. The humor was there, but I ended up walking away with thoughts of Cassandra’s loss and a new appreciation for the art of correspondence and the depth of feelings conveyed on paper.
Photo credits: ©2009 Christine Osborne. All rights reserved.
So I’m sure by now y’all have heard about the new book A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson. There has been a review in The Economist and an excerpt in The Wall Street Journal, of all places. I haven’t read the book yet—have any of you? I’m kind of torn between wanting it for Christmas [hint hint], and feeling just a mite rebellious about it. For one thing, my friends will tell you that I’m a little contrary, and I can’t help but think of the pamphlet 100 Authors Against Einstein, who were all denying his General Theory of Relativity, and his response: “Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!” But I guess this does not hold in reverse: 33 reasons to read Jane Austen doesn’t mean one reason not to read Jane Austen would be enough if you never have.
Also, the excerpt in The Wall Street Journal, by James Collins, is, as alert reader Rosemary pointed out, stuffy and patronizing. Oh please, like no one but James has used Jane Austen as a moral compass in his, or, thank you very much, HER, life! When we’ve all been discussing this very thing for months. OK, not “moral” sometimes, but thanks very much, the Austen fan base is not just a bunch of drooling romantics! OK, maybe we drool sometimes (you know what I mean), but we appreciate subtleties too, you know! Mr. Collins (LOL) is just like Lady Catherine, all affability and condescension. Pooh!
Then, once nicely annoyed at being patronized at, my hackles got raised by Robert Fulford, writing in The National Post. He really does seem to read Jane Austen without any eye to what she’s talking about, and calls her just “a vicious gossip.” Now, many of my friends would take that as a compliment, and maybe Miss Austen would too, but he seems also to take pleasure in patronizing the fans, assuming we can’t see and enjoy her sharp side as much as her romantic side. Julie Ponzi at No Left Turns has an interesting reaction to Mr. Fulford (though this link isn’t working for me now, so good luck . . .). She points out the “pen envy” and contradictions in his article.
So what do we think about all this? I think, yay, at least they’re (good old “they”) talking about her. As Harriet Evans says over at The Guardian, female authors often don’t get talked about. I think, people underestimate us, and underestimate her. Somehow, Miss Austen’s reputation as a serious author is still on the line. Almost 200 years after her death, do people still see her as an early chick-lit figure? Heck, maybe she was chick-lit because she just wrote about ordinary women and men doing ordinary things. Depends on what you think about chick-lit, I guess. At least they’re talking about her? That makes me so mad! But then, it’s always hard for comedy to get much respect.
Maybe the 33 would be better, would be spiced up in a truly Austen way, if there was some dissension among their ranks, or if they weren’t universally praising. Only Jane Bennet gets to be so sweet and still be interesting.
Let’s begin with a story.
Once upon a time, a young man (we’ll call him Shmitzwilliam Farcy) and a young woman (Belizabeth Shmennet) hated one another. Only, over the course of time, they actually came to love each other—go figure—and to overcome the personal barriers standing between them and a life of deep mutual respect and affection. Wonderful! Too bad poor Shmitzwilliam was obligated to marry his sickly cousin and too much of a weenie to stand up to his crazy rich aunt! He ditched Belizabeth, and they both died unloved and unfulfilled.
I love a good love story. Don’t you?
I’ve been reading lately about Jane’s happy endings. Verdict: there are a lot of them. As far as her star couples (I’m tempted to say “ships”; thanks for that, Miss Osborne) are concerned, Jane deals exclusively in true and lasting love between the people that deserve it most; any hints of final sadness are relegated to side-dish relationships (Mr. Collins/Charlotte Lucas, for example; possibly also Lydia/Wickham) and not much mentioned in the first place. How does this consistent promise of happiness play in our postmodern culture, where we often doubt the depth of stories where everything works out well? Can we trust the truth of all this happily ever after?
I’m currently re-reading Persuasion (because it’s wonderful, and because there’s nothing like running an Austen website to remind you of all the Austen you don’t remember), and let me be clear: Persuasion requires a happy ending. The expectation of Anne and Captain Wentworth’s love resuming after all these years gives the novel shape; without it, there can be no passage of time or change of cirumstance, only chapter after chapter after chapter of resigned pining, forever and ever, amen. In that case, it’s not so much a story as a meditation on grief and on unmet needs—we have to believe that Anne would continue to soldier on, but this is a woman still mourning (at heart, if not publicly) after eight years. Something has to change; the sadness and the tedium of all that pining, without the relief of a happy ending, would kill the reader if not the characters. Certainly people do write novels meditating on lost love, on loves that are never found, but even they have more going on than Persuasion minus the final, happy reunion.
It’s unclear whether any of Jane’s other novels would do any better with a sad or ambiguous ending—if Emma Woodhouse were required to work further to earn Mr. Knightley’s love, for example, or if Bingley and Jane never quite got their timing straight. Perhaps, after all, none of Jane’s novels can have ambiguous endings. Perhaps there’s no such thing as an ambiguous ending with Jane—considering the emotional and sometimes practical stakes that her heroines face, maybe anything less than a happy ending must be considered a tragedy. (In Jane’s time, anyway, ambiguity was not a popular choice for endings—emotionally mixed finales wouldn’t come into vogue until the advent of the Modernists and their fragmented, topsy-turvy ways. Until then, the choices are pretty much Austen happy or Hardy crushing.)
In any case, happy endings aren’t totally the point for Jane—her best work is not in the end (delightful though it may be), but in the means. She’s an observer and a cataloguer of love and its power to change people, and happy endings provide some security for that study—a safe place from which to examine the psychology of love. (She could, of course, have written about the psychology of sorrow instead—of loss and permanent loneliness. After all, Jane herself never married. But would this have shown more depth than a consistent observation of success in love? Doubtful; also, far less fun to read.) If Jane’s heroines don’t end up with the “right” guy, the entire tone of her work–of all her works, collectively—changes; if Anne, for example, finally recovers from her original attachment to Wentworth and learns to love herself for the capable and independent woman she is, then it’s not a study in love and strength of character anymore. It’s a coming-of-age story. If Mr. Knightley moves on, unable to handle Emma’s consistent brattery, that‘s a cautionary tale, not a meditation on love and personal change. They might be fine stories, and they might appeal to our modern sense that everything shouldn’t wrap up so neatly, but they lack the basic frame for observing the human heart, as Jane does.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m going to go read the end of Pride and Prejudice, just to make myself feel better.