Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from…well, everywhere else…duke it out for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “The first rule of fight club is, we don’t talk about Mr. Darcy” t-shirt and some quality Regency-era medical care!
Today’s contestants: Lydia “Last born, first scandalized” Bennet, youngest and least redeemable sister in Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, and Khloe “At least my reality show’s only a spin-off” Kardashian, youngest and least famous sister in the sort-of-not-fictional Kardashian clan. Both have large families full of more-famous siblings! Neither can abide a long engagement! Who will prevail, ladies and gentlemen? It’s a fight! A real fight!
In their corners:
Bennet is, though the youngest of her sisters, also the tallest. She can (theoretically) flirt with six officers at once. She is “untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless,” has the gift of never hearing nor seeing any thing of which she chooses to be insensible, and has the gall to pull rank on her single older sisters when she shows up for dinner. So, basically, bulletproof.
Kardashian is an entrepreneur, socialite, television personality, radio personality, and model, with a nine-carat engagement ring from husband/Laker forward Lamar Odom. Eat that, accomplished ladies!
Lydia Bennet is stout, a complete mama’s girl at age 16, and doesn’t realize that her husband became her husband practically at gunpoint. (Bennet: “Allegedly.”)
Kardashian got married with her family present. I mean, who DOES that?
Bennet. Is this even a contest? Lydia’s total, willful obliviousness about a) men, b) women, c) talking, d) listening, and e) the meaning of the word “embarrassment” lead to an early and decisive defeat of Kardashian and her weak-sauce L.A.-royalty wild-child impression. (Yeah, “jail,” whatever.) In contests of vapidity and poor decision-making skills, she’s simply too skilled to lose and too busy gloating to care.
TKO, Lydia Bennet!
If zombies can invade Pride and Prejudice, I don’t see why it can’t invade reality shows. And so, without further ado:
The Real World: Five sisters. One crazy mom, one sarcastic dad. Hot, cold men! What dumb decisions will expose the sisters to our scorn? Who will make it through to their wedding days untouched by scandal? (See Jasper Fforde’s sneak preview in Thursday Next: First Among Sequels!)
The Bachelorette: Oops! Lizzie voted Mr. Darcy off the first week after the ball at Meryton. Guess she’ll have to marry Mr. Wickham after all.
The Bachelor (in Reverse): Who will marry Mr. Collins? No one wants him, but someone has to take him! Jane? no. Lizzie? Unh-unh. Maybe Mary? But in a sudden shocking development, the axe falls to Charlotte Lucas!!! Victory for the dark horse outsider! (And Mr. Collins’ proposal to Lizzie shows up on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Who let Mrs. Bennet use the video camera?)
What Not to Wear: Miss Bingley abhors the shabby chic look for Lizzie, but the guys kinda like it. Hair by. . . well, there’s nothing to be done about it anyway.
Iron Chef America: Lizzie prefers a fricassee to a ragout, a stunning upset at Netherfield Stadium! Mr. Hearst and Alton Brown are speechless.
American Idol: Lizzie plays the piano, but is dissed by Lady Catherine, who talks during the show. Miss de Bourgh wins for her abstract performance piece: “Taste, Had Her Health….”
Mythbusters: Mr. Darcy blows all Lizzie’s myths out of the water! Unfortunately, no real explosions were involved, but there were fireworks when he proposed to her on a previous episode.
Extreme Makeover: Heart Is Where the Home Is Edition: Can anything possibly change Mr. Darcy from a rude, life-destroying snob to a gentle, self-sacrificing hero? Only the long galleries, elegant furnishing, and spacious grounds of his beautiful estate, Pemberley.
The Bachelorette, Season 2: Where can you look to avoid the scandalous news that the winner of Season 1, Mr. Wickham, has run off with a long-priced candidate from The Bachelor, who is, get this, Lizzie’s OWN SISTER!!! The blogs have a field day, and the Wickhams make a special guest appearance on House Hunters.
Worst Cooks in America: Lady Catherine tries to cook Lizzie’s goose by insulting her to her face and to Mr. Darcy. She fails (LOL) and they get married after all. Lady Catherine wins as the worst cook in America!
Readers, what other reality shows can Miss Austen cannibalize? If you don’t like one, vote it out of the book!
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.
It all starts this way: things get ugly at the Silver Bullet. We hit the road, Jane and I, and head for Mexico, picking up handsome parolees, running from the Feds (that’s what we call them—the Feds), and blowing up lecherous truck drivers along the way. But then, trapped! Only to find self-realization halfway to the bottom of the Grand Canyon! At least we’ve had the greatest “spa weekend” of our lives, right?
(Or maybe I drove from Washington, DC to San Francisco in December, bringing my Jane doll—excuse me, action figure—along. Maybe nothing bad happened in Texas. Maybe I just took a lot of pictures of our adventures. Hey, it’s an Austen Nation out there.)
Places and names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Jane on the open road in North Carolina, with the wind whipping through her plastic bonnet. Naturally.
Jane enjoys Graceland, though the man of the house has not yet arrived and dived into a pond, hotly. So…it’s a nice house, but no Pemberley, if you catch my drift.
Jane gets familiar with The King. It is, after all, very like him and a handsome…ahem. Face.
Jane does Dallas West Texas.
Jane approves of meat wrapped in corn and covered in meat (beef tamale with chili con carne, Franco’s Cafe, recommended by reader Miss Mason). We’re women of delicate tastes, Jane and I.
Jane’s so good, she can spot cops backwards.
Jane went to the beach in Malibu, and all she got was this lousy faked photo! (Coming to an Austenacious near you: Jane Austen Hates It When You Forget Your Camera!) (Kudos and thanks to Miss Osborne for the towel.)
Last photo by Christine Osborne; all others by Elizabeth Ball.
“Nooooooo! Oh fffuuuuuudddddggggeee!” (Only I didn’t say “fudge.”) Those were the sounds emanating from me as I realized en route to the airport that I had left my iPod at home.
For many years I’ve joked stated for fact that I’m a Pride and Prejudice addict. I can watch the 1995 movie over and over again with constant enthusiasm. But I didn’t know just how much I depended on it until I flew from California to New Jersey for the holidays this Christmas. You see, a cross-country flight is perfect for watching P&P again, particularly when they’re not showing any decent movies on the flight (if they even bother showing any at all . . . damn you United and your cheap planes with lousy video!). You situate yourself for the long haul in the most uncomfortable seat imaginable, wait for the flight attendant to announce you can turn on electronic devices, and then settle in for five hours of entertainment—laughter, tears, clingy wet man-blouses, and the wit and social commentary from one Jane Austen—all on a 2-inch screen. Heaven! That is, if you remembered to pack your iPod.
I’ve watched the movie at least once on every vacation for as long as I’ve had my video iPod. P&P got me through a stomach-churning ferry ride between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. P&P has accompanied me on several coast-to-coast trips to see family. P&P keeps me from having to make conversation with strangers.
I was lost. And bored. I’m grateful to be back home, iPod in hand. Never again shall I travel without my iPod and the P&P goodness contained within it.
This first day of the year—of the decade!—I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to the future, to the person I might be the next time the ball drops. I’m a fair-weather resolution maker, generally—sure, I would like to lose ten pounds, become a better public speaker, find my Darcy/Wentworth/Knightley, and learn to like olives, like a normal person, but let’s be honest. I’ve met myself, and somehow a resolution towards disappointment seems counterproductive. On the other hand, wouldn’t it great to be more awesome in the future than I am now? Such a conflict!
And so, as is so often the case, I’ve got to ask: WWJD?
I’m unsure about Jane’s hypothetical stance on hypothetical New Year’s resolutions. (To be fair, I’m also unsure about the Regency take on January 1, generally. Oh, Mrs. Fitzpatrick?) On one hand, I imagine that Jane was very much in the business of self-improvement, where possible and desirable: both her personal correspondence and the pattern of change in her heroines lead me to believe that personal growth is not against Jane’s credo. Whether learning to be wrong, learning to butt out of other people’s business, or discovering that being the dramatic heroine isn’t always a thrill, the Austen canon points directly towards a healthy respect for Life Lessons, capital L.
On the other hand, I suspect there are a few vices that Jane would have been loathe to part with: what if she had self-improved biting wit right out of her repertoire? What if, heaven forbid, she had resolved to like everybody she met? Is Jane Jane without the bits of herself that make her just slightly less than perfectly nice? Are any of us?
With all this in mind, perhaps January isn’t the time to make sweeping proclamations. Maybe cold-turkey isn’t the way to go. Maybe, as I suspect Jane might say, we change with time and experience, and not by sheer force of will and with the turn of a calendar page—maybe Elizabeth Bennet doesn’t learn to give second chances until she meets Mr. Darcy, and maybe Emma Woodhouse doesn’t learn to mind her own business until she’s caused some havoc around the neighborhood, and maybe Marianne Dashwood doesn’t learn to love a little normalcy until she’s crossed the path of one Mr. Willoughby. Maybe life takes care of our New Year’s resolutions for us, and not only once a year.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself—my reluctantly out-working, spotlight-avoiding, single, olive-hating self.
Happy New Year, friends.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy New Year, etc, etc! Have a treat of your choice on us! The lovely ladies of Austenacious will be joining the Gardiners in their sojourn to Longbourne for the next two weeks. We thought about taking a trip to the Musgroves’s, but it’s true: there’s only so much noisy-children-by-the-fire you can take. And the family politics at Hartfield—! Well, let’s just say it’s not that relaxing. Besides, we’re worried about Lizzie. Do you think she could be serious about Mr. Wickham?
Your regularly scheduled programming will resume in 2010. See you then!
I know. We is a terrible Jane Austen blog because we did not post on Jane Austen’s birthday! Miss Austen, ladies and gentlemen, please forgive us! But maybe on her 234th bday, Miss Austen wouldn’t see being a day or two late as being very late at all? . . . No, you’re right, I’m sure she was a stickler about that sort of thing. Anyway, Happy Belated Birthday, Miss Austen!
Mystery author P.D. James has a new book out, Talking About Detective Fiction, and this book contains, I think, a birthday present for Jane Austen. P.D. calls Emma “the most interesting example of a mainstream novel which is also a detective story.” What is the secret in the novel? Of course it is the “unrecognized relationships” between characters caught up in Emma’s romantic machinations, says Lady James, adding: “The story is confined to a closed society in a rural setting, which was to become common in detective fiction, and Jane Austen deceives us with cleverly constructed clues.” I’ve read mystery stories my whole life, and I’d never thought of that. At last, a fresh voice in Austen debate! (Unless this is well-known in academic circles, and I just missed it?) And it’s true. Critics are usually so caught up in hating Emma to bits that they don’t talk about the craft that Jane Austen uses to give us these situations that can be read in a number of ways. And she plays fair—if you know, you can see the significance of Frank Churchill’s going to get his hair cut and Mr. Elton’s giving the poem to Emma instead of Harriet. But, and this is the mark of a good detective story, the first time around, I completely misread those clues! I totally bought Emma’s reasoning about Mr. Elton and missed all Jane Fairfax’s telltale blushes. How about you? Are the Emma-haters so angry because they were deceived by her too?
Interestingly, there’s also a mystery in Northanger Abbey, at least in Catherine’s mind: the mystery of Mrs. Tilney’s death. But this mystery, Jane Austen’s avatar Henry Tilney tells us, is ridiculous—it’s too like a Gothic novel to believe that a wife could be killed under the eyes of a physician, or locked up without anyone’s protesting! Miss Brontë and we think differently, and the long lineage of detective and Gothic/horror stories certainly has something to do with that. But Jane Austen sympathizes a lot more with Emma’s self-deception than she does with Catherine’s.
It’s too like a Gothic novel. . . Jane Austen liked those, but she thought they were silly (hence Northanger Abbey). She followed the old adage about writing what you know about, and not about long ago and far away with monstrous creations wreaking havoc. She appreciated girls trapped by monstrous men in exotic Italian castles hundreds of years ago, so I think she would understand our fascination with girls trapped by werewolves in exotic English country houses two hundred years ago. But there’s no doubt she’d think it and us more than a bit silly. I wish she were here to tell us how much. But at least now someone is appreciating her real sense of mystery.
I’m writing today from the South, the land of delights from mustard-based barbecue sauce (!) to the world capital of mini-golf to sixty-degree (F) weather the week before Christmas, among others. My arc through this portion of the States, along with nine-hour days of driving, is full of meditations on the richness of Southern language and literature—particularly, today, the words of a fine craftsman from another time. Say, the 90s. The 1990s (around here, best to clarify). By this, I mean—wait for it—the “You might be a redneck” joke, popularized by the word wizard Jeff Foxworthy.
I don’t actually know much about ways in which I might be or become a redneck,—I’m not sure whether this makes me more likely or less likely to unwittingly be one—but I do know a fair amount about ways in which I might be or become a character in Jane Austen novel. To wit:
If your strategy for husband-hunting in your own family includes the tenet “the closer, the better,”….you might be in a Jane Austen novel.
If flannel says, to you, neither “I cut down trees for a living” nor “I live in Seattle in 1993,” but rather “I am forty going on Dick Clark,”…you might be in a Jane Austen novel.
If you love a man with good taste in hat-ribbons…you might be in a Jane Austen novel.
If you’re destined to find that your charming new man-friend is actually an enormous cad and may or may not have debauched the honor of several young ladies previously…you might be in a Jane Austen novel.
If your best friend is your sister, and your sister is your best friend…you might be in a Jane Austen novel.
If you use your own respiratory distress as revenge on others’ sanity…you might be in a Jane Austen novel.
What do you think, readers? For future reference (and in case of some serious Thursday Next-stye hijinks), how might you know you’re in a Jane Austen novel?
(I’ll find a new comedian when I get to Texas, promise. That’s, like, two days of highway. I just need time to think.)
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” – Mansfield Park
I feel like we could all use some simple refreshment. So we’ll save talking about Mansfield Park or Jane Austen’s musings on nature until another day, OK?