Austenacious readers, today’s post is not for you. Today’s post is for your loved ones—those wishing/required to give you a gift this holiday season. Specifically, those hoping not to find themselves in a picked-over Walgreens on Christmas Eve (or, you know, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa Eve), weighing the costs and benefits of a pair of LED-lighted Babylon 5 socks. So just hand this on over to them, and you’re welcome.
To the friends and family of the reader at hand, it’s nice to meet you. We’re here to help—we’ve scouted the coolest, funniest, prettiest, and Jane-iest stuff at our beloved Etsy and laid it out here for all your gift-giving needs. We recommend shopping early, as shipping time is of the essence, but we hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and give the Austen fan in your life something a little special to get excited about this season.
Students of modern typography and/or fictional geography, take heart! Brooke and Justin made you a shirt. From Longbourn all the way to Pemberley, this top is stylish and modern, and also offers endless chances to say to yourself, “IN CHEAPSIDE!” (Austenites, you know what I mean. Confused non-Austenites, nothing to see here. Except a really cool shirt that your loved one will wear all the time.)
Are you looking for a way to show your lady friend how much you care? Has it been more than half a decade? Are you handsome, and basically a friendly pirate? This print commemorating the proposal of Captain Frederick Wentworth to his once and future intended, Anne Elliot, should do the trick. Also comes in black on white.
Wrap your favorite Austenite in romantic angst this holiday season. Like, literally. Around the neck. But not like a psychopath! More like a Naval captain who’s been pining for his ex-girlfriend, who has, thankfully, been pining right back. Does that sound good? Then give someone this scarf. Also comes in Darcy’s proposal.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single lady in possession of a sense of adventure (so, not Fanny Price) must be in want of a nine-hundred-year-old anthropomorphic alien to whisk her around time and space in a blue police box and then probably be separated from her in some amazingly poetic and heartbreaking manner. At least, we THINK that’s how the saying goes. Anyway, anybody who loves Elizabeth Bennet AND Doctor Who cannot go wrong with this set of prints commemorating their theoretical meeting.
For all the essentials: pragmatic elder sister, romantic younger sister, handsome tool, guy who regrets promising himself to someone else, older gentleman who doesn’t mind an age difference. Also keys, phone, wallet, lip gloss, mints, emergency earrings, tiny notebook of mostly to-do lists and brunch menus, The New Yorker, half-empty tub of hummus. (Just me, then?) Also comes in Persuasion and, for the heavy packer in your life, Seven Novels.
I recently got a note on Facebook from a friend of the family. “You’ll be so proud!” it said. “I just read my first Pride and Prejudice!”
We get a lot of this sort of thing, we Austen bloggers.
And the thing is, mostly, that we are proud. But then, proud is also a misnomer. What we are is pleased—for ourselves, and for the first-timers. For our part, we get new Austen pals with whom to discuss and enjoy! And—not that we’d ever bring this up, being of fine breeding and proper training—we’ve been proven right! People like what we like, and that’s always nice, not to mention a sign of excellent judgment on their parts. OBVIOUSLY.
But we’re even more excited for them. What could be better than seeing Lizzy and Darcy (or Emma and Knightley, or Elinor and Edward, or Anne and her Captain) with fresh eyes? It’s an accomplishment, yes, but it’s also a kind of engagement; especially in a literary and pop-culture landscape that embraces primarily the very new, there’s a sense that discovering the Austen universe is a bit like discovering that old things can be funny, and sharp, and hit romantic notes that we somehow expect them not to know about. (Jane’s humor is, I think, the most surprising thing to new readers. They just seem so shocked! Wry humor: not invented by Mark Twain, or so we hear.) From that first page, there’s so much to enjoy, and I, for one, just want to hear about it.
And so, if you’re just reading your first Pride and Prejudice—or Emma, or Sense and Sensibility, or (let’s be brave) Northanger Abbey—do an Austenite near you. (Or not near you. We’re on Facebook! HINT HINT.) You just might make her day, as long as you’re also making your own.
Recently I went to a conversation between William “Bill” Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught me about Love, Friendship, and the Things that Really Matter, and Karen “Karen” Joy Fowler, author of Jane Austen Book Club. There were about 15 of us there at Books, Inc in Berkeley, and OK, it was almost a month ago (don’t you just love instant reporting on the Internet?), but it was really cool! It was like hanging out with all you dear readers, all of us gabbing about Austen, all of us being surprised at just how differently we see the books. One of those, you know, life metaphors.
Here’s a few of the things we talked about. And because I think of you all as my Jane Austen friends, I’d love to hear what you think about any of them.
- The way that the humor of the books is generally lacking in the movies, and if this could be remedied. I and a few others said, yes, it could, but those movies would not be the rather swooshy pink rom-coms lots of people want from their Austen films. (Talk about irony . . . .) How you would do this I’m not sure, being better at watching movies than making them. Any ideas out there?
- Secularism in Jane Austen—how church and religion are hardly ever mentioned in her books, yet she was the daughter of a clergyman, etc, etc. And how the clergymen run the gamut from Edmund Bertram and Edward Ferrars to Mr. Collins and back again. Now my own take is that church and the clergy were such a ubiquitous part of Austen’s life that she hardly ever thought to comment on them, and that she saw the clergy in particular as just a bunch of guys. What do you think?
- Bill said that widowhood and loss are a theme in Persuasion. I’m not so sure. He pointed out that most of the characters are widows or widowers, which is true. Anne’s loss of Captain Wentworth and other losses do play a role, but as Miss Ball argued, the recovery of love and happiness is crucial to the book (and is significantly lacking in widowhood). And the way Austen treats the widows and losers of Persuasion, other than Anne, is not really very sympathetic. Like the clergy, I would venture to say that they were just more common in an age of earlier deaths. But it is an interesting thought.
- So was Karen’s comment that Mrs. Smith is a rather sinister character—she doesn’t tell Anne how wicked Mr. Elliot is until after Anne declares she won’t marry him. This is a common problem in friendship, though, isn’t it? In my own circle I know of two instances of one person on the brink of a disastrous marriage and their friend deciding whether or not to say something. One friend did, the other didn’t (having already made her opinions known). It didn’t make a difference in either case, and both couples are now divorced. Aside from the fact that it had never occurred to me that Mrs. Smith was sinister, this discussion pointed out parallels in Austen’s books to my own life that I hadn’t even thought of!
- One person asked how reading Jane Austen has enlivened your life. Do you think and act differently because of her? Karen said she suffered fools better than she used to, enjoyed them even! And Bill said she’d made him able to admit the possibility of his being wrong. For myself, I think that I started reading Austen young enough (~13) that she helped shape my entire outlook on life, both my morals and my ever-present sense of irony. Though I also simply felt that I had found a friend.
What about you? How has reading Jane Austen enlivened your life? Has she changed you?
Photo credit: ©2000 by Sean Dreilinger. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
Well, it’s happened. The lovely Miss Mason has drawn my attention to a new Jane Austen video game: Matches and Matrimony. In this “visual novel,” Reflexive Arcade’s Russell Carroll does something new—he mashes up three Austen novels with each other. Here is a turn no one had thought of! I don’t have a PC, so I haven’t played, but Emily Short over at Gamasutra gives an in-depth review (also funny for her exhaustive—one hopes—list of Austen fanfic). Apparently you play Elizabeth Bennet, and your goal is to marry Mr. Darcy. Or, if you fail with him, Colonel Brandon and Captain Wentworth show up in their turns for you to take a shot at.
Does the deep irony of this strike anyone but me? Who wrote this game, Mrs. Bennet?! When was it Lizzie’s goal to marry Mr. Darcy? When was it Marianne’s goal to marry Col. Brandon?? Not even after she did, you could argue! It was not even Anne Elliot’s goal to marry Capt. Wentworth, though she wanted to. Any and all of these ladies would scorn to set their cap at any man, to scheme and plan and work on pleasing him—for that is how you move ahead in the game. Uh, excuse me? This is the behavior of Caroline Bingley, not Elizabeth Bennet. And we know how that match-up turned out!
In this same vein, Jane Austen’s Games is working on a game called Matchmaker. Sigh. At least there you’ll be the mother trying to marry your daughter off, and not the daughter herself.
Do you know, this actually makes me wish for Wii games with heroines in Regency dresses and corsets where if you took a deep breath your avatar would faint, and for Jane Austen first-person shooters in which you lose a life (social) if your petticoat gets dirty.
Seriously, though, assuming such a thing was necessary, how would you envision a Jane Austen video game? I think it’d have to be like The Sims or Second Life. (The aforementioned Miss Mason did build her own Pemberley in The Sims, so she’s been onto this for awhile.) Austen wrote about daily life and realistic encounters with family, friends, and local annoying people. Her heroines moved within strict boundaries, which makes programming their choices simpler, perhaps, but they were searching for happiness. That did mean moving away from home and marrying, but that did not, as Lizzie tells Jane, make marriage a goal to be worked towards. It’s a subtle story, and not one that lends itself to dramatic game-play or special effects. So my game would just be a Regency world where you have to act properly or take the consequences, but in which you’d be as you chose. Finding love and happiness would be, well, exactly like in real life. Without Austen’s voice telling those stories, I don’t know how compelling it would be, but Electronic Arts would probably go for it. There’s already a Sims: Medieval, apparently.
However, even Austen heroines kicking unrealistic butt with major weaponry sounds better than Austen heroines competing on The (Regency) Bachelor.
You all know those Jane Austen quizzes that pop up online: Which Austen Heroine Are You? Which Hero is Your True Love? Does anyone ever get Fanny Price? I’m serious here: I’ve scored as Anne Elliot, Emma, and Elizabeth Bennet (not at the same time), but never as Fanny Price. Poor Fanny. She is so hard for modern readers. Even we who like her sometimes want to slap a little backbone into her, want her to tell off Aunt Norris just once. So I was disturbed to find on the Austen-L mailing list page that Fanny Price and I have something in common: our Myer-Briggs type.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 1996 11:07:22 -0500
The discussion about Fanny Price has been interesting, and leads me to offer my thoughts. My background is in psychology, and I couldn’t help but to try to identify what puts so many Austen fans off about this particular heroine.
I believe that in Fanny, Jane Austen has developed a perfect INFP personality type (in the Jungian or “Myers-Briggs” classification). INFP stands for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling and Perceptive as dominant traits. In a word: an “Idealist”. Interestingly, only 1 percent of the population fits into this group.
Consider this brief portrait: INFPs—
- present a calm, pleasant face to the world.
- are seen as reticent and even shy.
- demonstrate cool reserve toward others, but inside are anything but distant.
- care deeply about a few special persons or causes.
- have a profound sense of honor derived from internal values. (This is not necessarily religious morality—they have their own sense of integrity and morality.)
- are willing to make unusual sacrifices for someone or something believed in.
- seek unity of body, mind, and soul.
- often have a tragic motif running through their lives, which others may not detect.
- show deep commitment to the ‘good’ and are always alert for the ‘bad’.
- are adaptable to new information and ideas.
- are well aware of people and their feelings and relate well to most people while keeping some psychological distance.
- prefer to live in harmony and will go to great lengths to avoid constant conflict.
- tend to be compliant, and may even prefer to have decisions made for them, until their value system is violated—then they will not budge from their ideals.
- will often be found in service careers— social work, ministry, teaching (or in Fanny’s case, serving as a companion to her aunt).
I think the only way she might have been persuaded to marry Henry Crawford was if he had had a profound reformation, so that she was able to believe that not only was his love true and deep, but her values of honesty (integrity) were shared. I believe she could accept less of a passionate love from Edmund Bertram because she believed him to share her same values.
I don’t have the psychological background to debate Theresa’s take on INFPs in general, (anyone? Bueller?) though I do think it’s a good portrait of Fanny. But do I share these characteristics that put “so many Austen fans off about this particular heroine”? I’m really finding it surprisingly discouraging that had I lived in Austenland I would only have had Edmund Bertram to look forward to!
Come to think of it, these characteristics describe Anne Elliot as well as they do Fanny Price. And yet Anne is not so annoying as Fanny, not so very self-effacing. So I think there is some hope for we INFPs after all. We just need to be born rich, rather than as a poor relation given away when we’re young!
Readers, what do you think? Would you be disturbed to be compared to Fanny Price? Do you think Anne Elliot is like Fanny, but born into better circumstances?
Now here‘s a unique marketing strategy: To celebrate and cross-promote the new Marvel Comics Emma, the new Uncanny X-Men (#534) features an alternate cover by Janet K. Lee, the artist behind Emma, featuring Emma Woodhouse as Emma Frost. Get it? Because they’re both named Emma?
Which brings up a point that I kind of hope isn’t as original as I think it is: I’m generally in favor of spreading the Austen universe—ooh la la, genre-speak!—as far and wide as possible, but if we’re going to make graphic novels of Austen novels, why not go all the way? I’m thinking a band of accomplished ladies fighting crime by night, preferably in tall boots and elaborate hairstyles and carrying optional ladylike crime-fighting accessories. They use their powers for the good of proper young ladies everywhere, and have a futuristic lair hidden deep underneath an English country church! There’s a charming, villainous young man with a scandalous past and an insatiable hunger for young girls! Come on: leather and lycra, but with an empire waist? Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before? (Or have they? Readers?)
I call it—wait for it—The A-Team!
…Wait. That can’t be right.
Well, whatever! Behold the power of the ladies of Austen! Insert your own cool 70s artwork as needed.
Elizabeth “Prejudice” Bennet: With a muddy hem and a pair of fine (bionic) eyes, she out-snarks any man!
Fanny “The Faninator” Price: Turns invisible in the presence of basically anybody!
Emma “The Matchmaker” Woodhouse: She always gets what she wants. Always.
Elinor “Dash” Wood: Absorbs the rage and desire of those around her…
Marianne Dash “Wood”: …only to transfer them to her sister!
Anne “The Waiter” Elliot: Will wait you under the table with imperturbable patience!
Catherine “P.I.” Morland: Will ferret out the juicy details…whether they’re accurate or not!
Universe, make it happen.
How is it, do you think, that Jane Austen hit on so many lessons that we need to hear, not just once, but over and over again? From Persuasion:
Mr. Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on her knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.
Anne, judging from her own temperament, would have deemed such a domestic hurricane a bad restorative of the nerves . . .. But Mrs. Musgrove . . . concluded a short recapitulation of what she had suffered herself, by observing, with a happy glance round the room, that after all she had gone through, nothing was so likely to do her good as a little quiet cheerfulness at home.
Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity. When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon . . . amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. No, these were noises which belonged to the winter pleasures: her spirits rose under their influence; and like Mrs. Musgrove, she was feeling, though not saying, that after being long in the country, nothing could be so good for her as a little quiet cheerfulness.
Anne did not share these feelings.
Other people are not like ourselves; they like other things, and that’s OK. You’d think we’d have figured that out after 200 years, (and I’m sure she was not the first with this message), but it seems that everyone has to discover this for themselves, if they ever do discover it. But I think this is one truth that good fiction helps us discover. What do you think?
I hope you are enjoying a little quiet cheerfulness of your own, whatever it might be.
Photo credit: ©2009 Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
It’s rainy and muddy in Austenland right now, and the good people there were thinking of passing the time with a little amateur dramatics when, lo and behold, a wormhole opened up and a copy of the Harry Potter series dropped back in time and into our heroes and heroines laps! While Fanny Price looked on in horror, a fantasy casting frenzy commenced.
Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley: All the heroines wanted to be one of these two. Hermione has the best brains and get the most to do, while Ginny is, of course, the love interest, and feisty in her own right. Emma tried to claim Hermione by pointing out that she read the most, but Lizzie pointed out that making lists of books is not the same as reading them! Also, who sticks up for herself and her friends most in a tight spot? All right, Lizzie, fine, you can be Hermione. Anne Elliot gently reminded the others that Ginny was also a put-upon member of a large family, but Catherine Morland pointed out that she was the only one who played a sport, baseball, so she should be Ginny. . .
Harry Potter: Most of the men made a claim to this, but the ladies agreed that none suited so well as Captain Wentworth. He was dashing, he was a common (not too bright) man who did things, won hearts, stirred up controversy . . .
Ron Weasley: Mr. Darcy disdained being Capt. Wentworth’s sidekick, even for Lizzie’s sake, but Mr. Bingley said he didn’t mind if he did.
Lord Voldemort: Of course, Darcy was attracted by the role. But everyone agreed quietly than it really belonged to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. And she agreed that it was fitting she should play a noble role.
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Mr. Knightley or Mr. Bennet, for sure, the from-the-side-watching know-it-alls.
Professor Severus Snape: Lizzie laughed, and said surely this role belonged to Mr. Darcy!
Draco Malfoy: Henry Crawford, to be sure. Draco doesn’t get much action, poor boy, but Crawford could identify with his halfhearted redemption.
Professor Gilderoy Lockhart: For sheer daffiness, vanity, and ego, everyone agreed, Sir Walter Elliot should have the honor here. (Mr. Collins would have done, had he been handsome.)
At this point, the ladies’ scuffles over who was to be Ginny Weasley became really quite alarming. Mary Crawford was heard to say that Ginny had always had plenty of boyfriends to choose from, and that therefore she should be Ginny. Then Lydia Bennet proclaimed loudly that she had more, and should be. Mr. Bennet went into one of his rages, and took his whole family back to Longbourn, leaving the others to practice riding their broomsticks in the drawing room and casting spells at the card table.
. . .
Obviously, I have merely scratched the surface here! Readers, what do you think? What obvious character connections have I missed?
Photo credit: Magic wand image ©amanky. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
Pop quiz: Which Jane Austen character said this?
Anyone can revolt. It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings, and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.
Actually, it was none of them. The quote, according to The Happiness Project, is from a French painter named Georges Rouault. But it sounds like Elinor Dashwood, doesn’t it? Or possibly Fanny Price, or Anne Elliot, or any one of Austen’s more serious heroines. (It also sounds a lot like Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch, but that’s another story.) It sounds like the backstory of any Austen novel.
I don’t think, by the way, that Georges meant this to relate to political revolt. I think he, and Jane, were talking about good old ordinary life, and how hard it can be to find your niche, your “inner resources,” as Mrs. Elton would say. Then and even more now you get a lot more attention if you are revolting (Lydia, I’m looking at you) than if you’re just trying to lead a good life, or even your own life. Perhaps sometimes you have to revolt to do that. But all Jane’s heroines learn Georges’ lesson, don’t they? They all have to spazz less and look beneath the surface of events rather than respond on a superficial level.
One of Jane’s more subtle messages, really. But a true message, I think, and one leading to happiness.
Photo credit: ©2010 by Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
Today’s post over at Jane Austen’s World reminds me that, even before Anne and Wentworth come around, Persuasion already has a ridiculously happy couple, and that I love them dearly. And not even in a moony, melancholy, hopeful way! With Admiral Croft and his cheerfully hardcore wife Sophy, it’s all fun and games (and a good dose of common sense)—and a literary mirror for our star semi-naval couple.
I love the Crofts—good-hearted and capable folks with a zest for life and a healthy sense of humor. More than anybody else in Persuasion, Anne’s future in-laws are people I’d like to meet at a party, run into at the Farmer’s Market, and/or join on vacation (ostensibly sponsored by Lonely Planet…or, um, the U.S. Navy). Luckily—inspiringly!—I see modern-day Crofts all around—middle-aged (-plus) couples embracing life together as an adventure, either figuratively or literally. Need some Crofts in your life? Try REI. Or your local wilderness experience—not among the young and the stylishly decked out, but among the people who know what they’re doing. Look for people with ruddy cheeks and vintage gear, and you’ll know you’ve hit Croft jackpot.
To be fair, though—Jane would want us to be fair—the Crofts aren’t just there to offer a bracing breath of fresh air. They serve a very specific purpose in the novel: they’re the alterna-Wentworths. They’re what Anne and the Captain might have been if Anne hadn’t turned him down the first time, if instead of pining and fading away, she’d followed him off across the seas and become (basically) a pirate’s wife. They’ve lived their adventure; their relationship is full of the intimacy and humor that come with being together through thick and thin, and not just in the milieu of the Regency middle class. It’s strange to think of calm, forbearing Anne flying by the seat of her pants, but her younger self might just have ended up living True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle-style (minus the murder, obv.) if she’d taken Wentworth up on his offer—and how different things would have been! Imagine: Anne Wentworth, adventurer and pirate-novel heroine!
On the other hand, if the Wentworths had lived out their Croft-life the first time, we wouldn’t have our melancholy masterpiece. And who wants that?