Austenacious
Jane will keep us together.
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Happy New Year, Austen Nation!

The holidays have passed, and we have risen from the ashes of all the holiday gluttony and sparklitude and are ready for a brand-new year of Janely fun with you all! It’s going to be the official best, just you wait.

To kick things off this year, can we talk about this great piece, Lizzy Bennet vs. Lily Bart vs. The Patriarchy, from The Toast?

I love this for a couple of reasons. First of all, it kind of makes me want to high-five my girl Edith Wharton, though a) when don’t I, and b) intuition tells me E-Whart might not have been a high-five-loving kind of lady. I do love me some House of Mirth, though. It’s all just so complicated: How terrible that Lily ends up the way she does! But also, as the piece says, how darkly inspiring that she never does fall in line with The Man! But Lily is hardly an intentional feminist heroine, spending her life chasing rich (or rich-ish) men as she does. And also, would it kill her to make a reasonable decision, like, once in her life? But even if she did do something right, would it even make a difference? What is happiness for Lily Bart, and is it something she can attain at all?

I’m not saying Wharton is better than Austen, or that Lily is better than Lizzy, or even that unintentional defiance to society/a failure to properly conform is better than a happy and respectful marriage and a fabulous manor house—but I enjoy the comparison.

Second—and, full disclosure, I say this as a Jane fan who doesn’t spend much real-life time other Jane fans in organized settings, and I’m sure your Janeite group is full of lovely and open-minded people—I sort of enjoy the way this plays out in Jane Group. I love Jane; you all know this (or, I hope you know this). But I don’t only love Jane, and I don’t think Jane is the only interesting writer out there, and I think there are so many interesting conversations to be had where Jane is only one part of the equation. And, you know, I’m sure those conversations are happening out there in the wide world. But I’d like to see more of them, and contribute to more of them, and hey, maybe Austenacious is a good place for that in the future. (I know, sweet readers, that you’re out there reading non-Jane lit. It’s okay to say.) So maybe…maybe here’s to more broad-ranging Janely conversation in 2014, and to embracing Jane as a part of something bigger. What do you say?

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What a year! Sadly, we lost our father and then our brother and his greedy wife took the whole inheritance. We moved into our current home–it’s a bit snug, but at least we don’t have too many servants to keep us comfy! In the spring, Marianne injured her ankle (b00), but also met a nice young man and another nice older man (yay!).  Elinor keeps the house running (and seems to have met a nice young man, but we don’t know what his deal is yet), and Margaret just sort of…does whatever. Happy holidays from our family to yours!

 

This year, I turned the big two-seven. Still single, but what can you do? Spent some time at the beach, and it looks like my friend Louisa’s going to be okay. If you know any lonely but faithful (and handsome) sea captains—and by that I mean, one very specific lonely but faithful (and handsome) sea captain—you might want to subtly let me know. Merry Christmas!


This year at Longbourne has been very exciting! Three of our girls were married, two of them taking us quite by surprise, and two of our sons-in-law are very rich! (I’ll let you decide which is which!) Mary continues reading something boring, and Kitty must find a personality of her own, now that our Lydia’s gone away! Mr. Bennet spent lots of time in his study. Maybe next year these old nerves of mine will get a break!

 

Happy holidays from the Woodhouse-Knightley household! Pretty much everybody we know got married this year, including me! Go figure. Mr. Knightley moved in so Dad could stay at Hartfield. The rest of the year was full of parties, picnics, one very mysterious pianoforte, and a whole lot of personal growth—but we won’t get into that. Just make sure to come see our new strawberry patches this spring, each and every one of you! Happy New Year!

 

Aaaaand, SCENE.

 

 

 

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Guess what, everybody? It’s pre-Thanksgiving, Austenacious-style! Action Jane is at the head of the table, awaiting her eggs and onions; don’t you see the glow of the twinkle lights (or maybe that’s just, you know, the Internet)? Afterwards, we’ll have alcohol-spiked cream. But first, let’s go around the table and say what we’re thankful for! I’ll start.

I’m thankful for Emma Woodhouse, who is a lovely girl and a bull in a china shop, all at once, in the way that people are.

I’m thankful for Jane and Mr. Bingley, who are always pleasant and forebearing, and never get anything done.

I’m thankful for Mary Crawford, who is neither a heroine nor a villain, but is interesting nonetheless.

I’m thankful for Anne Elliot, who proves that sometimes we find love with handsome sea captains even after the advanced age of twenty-seven.

I’m thankful for Mr. Knightley, who can be a little judgmental, but is mostly a really good guy.

I’m thankful for Elinor Dashwood, who keeps it together until the very end, and for Marianne Dashwood, who keeps it together almost never.

I’m thankful for pianofortes, for necklaces given in friendship/schemery, for trips to the strawberry patches, and for treacherous walks on the seawall.

I’m thankful for Mr. Collins, and Mr. Rushworth, who love expensive staircases and wear pink.

I’m MOST thankful for you—yes, you, specifically—who share your thoughts, and your humor, and your reading time with us on an astonishingly regular basis. Truly, you guys are the best.

So, Austen Nation, what are YOU thankful for?

 

 

(In other news, Austenacious is taking Thanksgiving week off. See you after the turkey settles!)

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This may be the equivalent of the mall Christmas tree lit on November 2, and we do hate to be the bearers of potentially alarming news, but here goes: You guys, it’s pretty much the holidays. Here in the States, we’re just on the cusp of Thanksgiving—you know, that time each year when we gather with friends and family to celebrate the many blessings of life, specifically the survival of our Colonial forebears thanks in large part, one assumes, to buttered mashed potatoes and an enormous hors d’oeuvres table. (They invited their Native American neighbors over for a celebratory dinner, then sat around the table eating butter mints and cashews and lemon drops out of tiny paper baskets. I’m pretty sure that’s how it went, anyway. Otherwise, my family maaaaay be doing it wrong.)

Of course, there’s no greater blessing than a good book, and, uh, no more appropriate Thanksgiving meal than the historical dishes of the nation the original Thanks-givers left in the first place? (Or something.) That’s why we’d like to offer a few (ostensibly Jane-approved) Regency dishes you might try out this holiday season. Check out a few classic Austenacious takes on Regency recipes, each tested by our own Miss Osborne for Mrs. Fitzpatrick and myself!

  • Apple Puffs: It’s not pie. It’s a puff! Made of air! So really, you can eat, like, a million. It’s fine. It’s a puff.
  • Plum Pudding: Because nothing says “holiday” like dried fruit and raw beef or mutton fat!
  • The Onion Dish: Also contains eggs, butter, English mustard, white wine vinegar, and a bit of naming confusion.
  • Syllabub: It’s not called “cream sherry” for nothing, my friends.
  • Molasses Cakes: For those who have never had a Twinkie.

Enjoy, and don’t forget the butter mints.

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When I moved into my condo, it came with an incredibly boring chandelier in the teeny tiny dining room. Even though it wasn’t a priority to get a better chandelier, I swore that if I ever came across one that spoke to me, I’d jump on it.

In the meantime, during my internet wanderings looking for the chandelier of my dreams I came across the spectacular chandeliers in the Bath Assembly Rooms. Somehow, when I visited Bath in the 1990s I managed to not go to the Assembly Rooms. (Yeah, yeah, y’all should revoke my Austenacious card. It’s embarrassing. But I was really there to see the Roman architecture.) So I had no idea the rooms had such spectacular lighting. We’re talking 8-foot-tall chandeliers! Can you imagine dancing under all of those candles? Or whispering near those twinkling lights to your BFF about the lack of handsome and eligible men and how horridly Miss So-and-So is behaving? On the down side, some poor dude had to light all of those candles and clean up the wax. (You can read about the 2009 restoration of the £500,000 lighting here.) In any case, I suspect it was a lovely thing to behold back in the day when everyone was dressed up and ready to socialize.

Five years later, I finally found my chandelier! I can guarantee you that it’s not all that big, crystal-y, or lit with a million candles. And I just received an email saying it’s still on back order, so it looks like I won’t see it until almost Christmas. But at least I know that by 2014, my dining room will have new lights to illuminate the delightfully fine eyes of my dinner companions.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bellafaye8/9453630429/in/photolist-fpojY6/

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- You know that amazing felted-doll picture book version of Pride and Prejudice? You know, that one. With…the amazing felted dolls. Well, the autumn 2013 batch is out, and features Emma! And lots of other neat books. I can’t decide whether I’m more into the cute felted Moby Dick whale or the full-on War and Peace military dude on horseback.

- So, ostensibly because there are simply not enough Austen sequels/rewrites/reimaginings in this beautiful world of ours—at least, I think that’s how the argument goes—we now have The Austen Project, in which well-known authors (Joanna Trollope, Alexander McCall Smith, Curtis Sittenfeld[!]) take on modernizations of Austen novels. Sigh. What she said. (Via AustenBlog)

- Texts from Emma, you guys! (And may we give a general shout-out to The Toast? You all know The Toast, right? First cousin by marriage to our beloved Hairpin, and source of The Quotable Jane Austen for Evil People?)

(Also: we’re not crazy, right? Emma is having A Moment? How nice.)

-  Last week on Twitter, noted Doctor of Celebrity Gossip (and Hairpin contributor—don’t miss her Scandals of Classic Hollywood series) Anne Helen Petersen came up with a standard way to explain the Kardashians to people who Don’t Get the Kardashians, and I think you’re gonna like it. Just think: Kanye as the most agreeable man in the world.

 

 

RIGHT?!

 

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Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from everywhere else match wits and fists 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 possibly some Regency medical care for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!

Today’s contestants: Miss Catherine “Overactive Imagination” Morland, reader, tomboy, and false-accuser of future fathers-in-law, and Fox “Did You Say Overactive Imagination?” Mulder, crusader for truth, justice, and trench coats everywhere! Both perpetually think something’s shady going on, but who will get the ultimate fake-out?

In their corners:

Catherine has spunk! Catherine has soul! Catherine can be taught, which may ultimately overtake her tendency to fictionalize the world in rather dramatic and unhelpful ways!

Mulder is smart! Mulder is educated! Mulder is relentless! Mulder has a partner who will track you down and haunt you forever if anything happens to her true love!

Handicaps:

Catherine is…well, she’s wrong a lot.

Mulder is…um, also wrong a lot? Also, Mulder would never hit a girl. Unless he thought she was an alien. Or a ghost. Or that Jersey Devil thing. Or about to chew the hair off the head of his true love, Agent Dr. Dana Scully. Let’s be real, here.

Decision:

Is it bad to pit a teenage girl against an occasionally reality-challenged adult man? What if they share a certain sense of Things Going On?  After all, nobody would have seen Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner’s ghosts better than Catherine.

Ultimately, I think Mulder beats Catherine on a variety of levels—having nine (okay, seven) years of character development, he’s just got more going on, like as a character,  than a teenage girl new to the customs of the Season in Bath. Catherine may have heart, and there’s no telling who wins the common-sense battle here, but Mulder’s smarter, obviously stronger, and knows how to use a gun. Whether we’re talking physical or metaphysical battle, here, I think Mulder must come out on top.

(That is, unless they get to talking, in which case they’ll just be stuck somewhere, confirming and expanding one another’s freak-out tendencies. Mulder and Catherine Morland: BFFs in gullibility!)

 

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Emma Approved, the new adaptation of Emma from the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, premiered yesterday on YouTube. We’re exactly four minutes and twenty-four seconds in…which sounds like Judgmental Conjecture Time to me!

My first thought was, “…Do I like this person? I’m not sure that I do.” Which, of course, is the beating heart of Emma. I assume that I feel like giving her the side-eye because Emma Woodhouse is cutesy and self-important, and I’m watching an excellent portrayal of those elements of her personality, and not because the performance itself is cutesy and self-important. I reserve the right to change my mind. Much like Miss Woodhouse, I accept only the best from my webseries.

Not to generalize too much, but I wonder whether Emma isn’t also a slightly harder “get,” demographically.  In terms of Austen fans on the Internet, nerdy, goofy Lizzy Bennet is Our People, and Ashley Clements is Our People (if you don’t know this, you clearly are not Twitter-stalking her, as we are), and so it was easy to embrace her. Emma, aside from being a less wholly likeable character than Lizzy, is less Us than Lizzy. After all, who feels handsome, clever, and rich—or beautiful, clever, and brilliant, as it’s put here—on a daily basis?

Also, you guys, can we all agree that “beautiful, clever, and brilliant” is no “handsome, clever, and rich”? As with every time Jane brings up money—which was, oh, only ALL THE TIME—I think the “rich” part of Jane’s original equation is important. I miss it, and also I wish “clever and brilliant” were less redundant.

Anyway, all that said, I think their take on a modern Emma is spot-on. She’s a lifestyle blogger, because of course she is, and the Emma Approved tie-in website is perfect (check out the outfit roundup!), not to mention a brilliant marketing opportunity. The modernization of these stories is something I think these folks do really well—I keep going back to my deep relief that, in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Charlotte Lu got a job with Mr. Collins, and not a lifelong relationship built mostly on gardening; the shift makes perfect sense for the modern world without losing emotional heft. I look forward to seeing how they take on a particular mysterious pianoforte.

(I gotta say, though, the name changes totally take me out of it. That dude is adorable, but Alex Knightley? GIRL, PLEASE.)

One down, many many to go.

 

 

 

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This is a story about shopping. And paper goods. AND LOVE.

Here’s what happened: one rainy day last winter, I found myself in a shop in the teeny Gold Rush foothill town of Murphys, California, and I threatened to move in, on a permanent basis, right then and there.

The shop was Maisie Blue, which is a yarn store and a bookstore and an everything-I-love store, really, and although I coveted nearly the entire contents of the shop, I spent most of my time there picking out the proper selection of Jane Austen postcards. You know, like you do.

Actually, I have to tell you: I am not a huge collector of Jane Stuff. I have my Action Jane, of course, and a sweet Jane-silhouette bud vase that Mrs. Fitzpatrick brought me from the UK awhile back, but I don’t generally NEED Jane paraphernalia. These, I needed: pretty and tasteful, in a palette of oranges and grays and yellows, with a genuinely excellent selection of quotations from Jane’s works and personal correspondence—but, mysteriously, no brand name printed anywhere. I sorted through the basket numerous times and culled my stack down to just four (from ALL OF THEM), and I brought them home. They live on my desk in the naive expectation that I will someday paint my office walls and hang them up in some charming fashion.

Then! This week, a gray-and-orange postcard arrived in my mailbox, sent by Friend of the Blog (and Friend In General) Miss Tarango: “I am not at all in a humor for writing: I must write on till I am.” The postcards, they stalked me! Also, my friend has really good taste! But where were they FROM?

And then…I found them. They’re made, unsurprisingly, by the good people at Potter Style; they come in a pretty paper box, and Paper Source, aka Cute And Unnecessary Source, sells the entire collection of one hundred postcards for $20. Which is not as much fun as sorting through them in a basket in your new favorite store on a rainy day—I recommend this for a variety of reasons—but will keep you in notes to your beloved sisters for a good long while either way.

I’m not saying you definitely should buy one hundred Jane Austen postcards…I just thought you, of all people, would want to know.

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You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers.

A few weeks back, we solicited your questions—Austen-related or not—and the Austenacious team will be answering them in upcoming posts.

This week we have a double header!

1) Reader Megan asks:

Why doesn’t Edward Ferrars throw off Lucy Steele early on in Sense and Sensibility? She’s horrible. Is she just Austen’s MacGuffin, or is there a good reason for his dedication to this succubus??

Mrs. Fitzpatrick answers:

Poor old Lucy Steele. Players never get any respect, know what I mean? Reader Miss Moore asked a version of this question several months ago, and I answered in Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick: Is Lucy Steele evil or dumb? (For the click-lazy, the short answer is that Edward was like Lucy’s job, therefore she wasn’t going to throw him away until she got another one, and therefore there were laws and conventions ensuring that he wouldn’t throw her away.)

Having said that, though, there are an awful lot of stories in English literature that rely on this gambit of a man getting into an engagement, changing his mind, and not being able to just tell the lady to get lost—I’m looking at you, P.G. Wodehouse. Unlike Bertie Wooster, though, Edward doesn’t get creative in getting Lucy to break off the engagement. But of course the existence and secrecy of it does form a good part of the tension in the story. Austen didn’t have to have Lucy there to keep Edward and Elinor apart, because Mrs. Ferrars objected to Edward marrying Elinor anyway, and there was the lack-of-money complication. But she did get a lot of use out of her. Does that make Lucy Steele a Quasi-MacGuffin? Better experts than me will have to say.

2) Reader Mrs. Davis asks (via Facebook):

Are you going to see Austenland?

Mrs. Fitzpatrick answers:

I polled Team Austenacious on this, and the answers were “No!,” “Hell no,” and “Only if everyone else is going and I’m bored that night.” Bit of a secret, but we actually aren’t all that into these endless spinoffs/adaptations/etc. And I’m smelling a lot of meh coming off the reviews. For example, the Las Vegas Weekly explains that ‘Austenland’ is a tacky insult to Austen fans. And when the City of Tack calls something tacky. . .

Closer to home, I asked a friend what she thought, and got this: “It was cute. You can wait until it’s on Netflix, I’d say. :-)  I had a couple cocktails before seeing it and it was girls night so perfect movie for that. It could use more character development. I wonder if the book is better?” I haven’t read the book, but Miss Osborne did. She was not impressed. And I’ve heard, though I forget where, that the movie carefully removed any subtlety the book might have had. However, if we’re bored in the future you may see a(nother) drunken Austenacious live-blogging event. That does sound kind of fun, actually.

 

 

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