Welcome to my living room! My bookshelves start in the corner of the living room with fiction, alphabetized by author, natch. (None of this pretty, color coordinated stuff for me!) This bookshelf holds A through K, with miscellaneous plays and such on the bottom shelf, which is too small to hold anything upright. The corner is one of those places that causes my friend Jeffrey to say, “Miss Osborne, you’ve got a book problem.” (Note: I sort of, maybe agree with him, but when I mentioned it to Miss Ball, she was pretty peeved and huffily told me that I’m a grown woman and I should do what I want with my apartment. Clearly, domestic book eradication is one of those topics that upsets certain people.) Those two piles have been reduced from what they were before a recent purge. But I think it may be time to invest in another bookshelf. Or start making Esty-worthy art projects out of the books.
K–Z in fiction continues into the dining room, hanging out with my Scotch, bourbon, and wine. As it should be. Though I’m mildly embarrassed that I have yet to rearrange my shelves so that the continuation of fiction shelf is on the left. You see, when I move I like to get everything put away the day I move in. I can’t deal with clutter. But somehow I managed to reverse those two shelves. The shelf on the left is the start of my non-fiction, which is starting to be heavily weighted toward Mary Roach and biographies. (If you haven’t read Mary Roach, I highly recommend everything she’s written. Her books make me laugh out loud, and I—temporarily, anyway—learn stuff! If you’re looking for a biography, one of my favorites is My Life in France, by Julia Child—and what portions of the movie Julie & Julia were based on.) There’s also a subsection of books about Arthurian legends. And British history.
On top of the bookshelves I have a portion of my art books, mostly from exhibitions I’ve seen. To the right are cookbooks, my enormous binder of recipes that I’ve collected from the Internet and friends, and The Complete Calvin and Hobbes boxed set. (Should you have a craptacular day, the best way to get over it is to go home and read Calvin and Hobbes for a few hours. Or watch Anne of Green Gables. Life is instantly better.)
The little bookshelf when you enter my bedroom is where I keep a random assortment of young adult or children’s books (mostly because they’re smaller and fit on the smaller, unmovable shelves) as well as reference books for copyediting (note that I still hold only to my Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed., which I think is the best one) and miscellaneous books that will eventually be inserted into the fiction and non-fiction shelves. I’m proud to say that a few books on this shelf were illustrated by friend-of-Austenacious, Mrs. Light. (aka Kelly Light, author and illustrator extraordinaire. Go pre-order her newest title Louise Loves Art. Right now!)
And the last bookshelf is the keeper of photo albums, Oakland A’s bobbleheads, travel books, and the rest of my non-fiction, heavily weighted toward medieval history. A prized possession on the second shelf is my copy of the Bible. Right after graduation, my college roommate suddenly was offered a job by CNN and packed up her beat up old Volvo and left for L.A. She also left a ton of stuff, including a pile of textbooks destined for the trash. I told her if she threw out a bible (from her World Religions class) that surely she burn in hell for eternity. She told me that if I was so worried for her immortal soul that I should keep the bible. While irritated because I had my own packing up to do, I took the bible. Whether from fear of the wrath of God or inability to see a book go to waste, you’ll never know.
There are other miscellaneous piles of books around—on the nightstand, below the coffee table, and in corners around the house. I’m saving things for the day when I get to move into a house with a library like this:
(Above image borrowed with love from http://www.weirdlyodd.com/10-interesting-libraries-around-the-world/)
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: Mr. William “Pride” Darcy, disastrous proposer and saver of family reputations, and Gilbert “Slatehead” Blythe, who knows now not to resort to name-calling. Both won over the high-spirited ladies of their dreams, but who gets the upper hand in this Clash of the Dreamboats?
In their corners:
Darcy’s handsome, wealthy, good-hearted, and determined (but not so determined that he won’t let it go…and then pi
ne heroically forever and ever). He proposes awkwardly, but then saves the Bennets but doesn’t want them to know about it. He’s nice to his little sister, but calls Caroline Bingley out on whatever it is she’s doing. And we love him. LOVE HIM.
Gilbert’s handsome, not very wealthy, good-hearted, and determined. He saves Anne Shirley from drowning by Tennyson, gives up his job so she can have it, outwaits Roy Gardner (SIGH), then becomes a doctor and has lots of kids, and it’s wonderful, okay? WONDERFUL.
Darcy is…how do we put this? Awkward. Rude at parties. Sometimes a giver of bad advice to his BFF. In fact, you kiiiind of can’t take him anywhere.
Gilbert, well, he did call the girl of his dreams Carrots. I guess he’s pretty full of himself as a kid, but he gets over it. Right?
Um, are you asking me to make a DECISION? Have we met? AM I NOT HUMAN? DO I NOT HAVE A HEART, AND OVARIES?
Readers, help me out! Which literary unicorn of handsomeness wins this fight? Leave your explanations in the comments.
For immediate release: Austenacious requests proposals for a JANE AUSTEN THEME PARK!
Goals: To have a fun place irl to hang out with our peeps, being sarcastical, laughing at our neighbors, and trying not to be sport for them in return. Why? Why not, she said!
Rules for theme park proposals:
Note, we are not talking about some kind of holodeck adventures where we roleplay with low-rent actors dressed up as Mr. Darcy, ala Austenland. That is not a theme park. Nor is it, as AustenBlog pointed out, ironic enough for the Austen fans. We are as ironic as all hell, damn it. That is why we are Austen fans!
Nor, actually, do we want some kind of honest attempt to immerse tourists in Jane Austen’s Bath, or her villages, or even her country houses, with actors waylaying you and attempting to interact or something. How pathetically embarrassing! (OK, I am scared of those people. I admit it.) That sort of thing may be fine for Dickens’ World, but honest, vulgar sentimentality is not for us.
And we have no desire to sully Chawton, Bath, or even Lyme Regis with our water slides. You are talking to someone who almost cried when she saw the Anne of Green Gables theme park, Rainbow Valley.
But Austen is not Brontë. (I guess you knew that.) We can have some ironical, Austen-spirited fun, right? Sure, Bath is practically a Regency theme park, but the essence of Austen isn’t the world—it’s the snark. So we need a theme park with some snark, some fun, a Louisa Musgrove Drop ride, OK, yes, a Colin Firth splashing into the water roller coaster, and maybe Lady Catherine vs. Elizabeth Bennet paintball. The rest is up to you.
That’s the goal. Now hit us!
Evening, Miss Osborne’s apartment. A dinner of pigeon pie, forcemeat balls, and sherry syllabub sits demolished on the dining room table; Miss Osborne, Miss Ball, and Mrs. Fitzpatrick lounge around the living room, each trying not to be the one to have to make tea for the group.
Miss Ball: . . . so it’s like that time in Book X when Character Z says—
Miss Osborne: Wait, don’t spoil it for me!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: What?!
Miss O: I-I haven’t read it yet.
Miss B: How is that possible?
Mrs. F: It’s the best book ever written!
Miss B: I read it in first grade.
Mrs. F: I read it in the womb.
Miss B: That book saved my life.
Mrs. F: You can’t be President unless you’ve read it, you know. It’s in the Constitution.
Miss B: . . . I was in a dark place.
Mrs. F: They say it was the inspiration for “Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens.”
Miss B: I heard it’s what makes Superman fly!
Mrs. F: Don’t your parents like you?
Miss B: Or is this some kind of cruel joke?
Miss O: I . . . I don’t think so? I mean, I think they like me.
Mrs. F: Well, it doesn’t matter. They’re cruel.
Readers, it’s true. My parents were cruel, but only because they made me wear my brothers’ hand-me-down Toughskins jeans. They were and are avid readers, and they indulged my reading habits. Still, I managed to miss out on a few classics. To right these terrible wrongs, I’m slowly catching up on the books that apparently failed to shape my young psyche. Last summer, Mrs. F loaned me her tattered and well-loved (and fabulous) Little House books; this summer, I bought myself the entire Anne of Green Gables series. (In my defense, I had seen the movies. I’m up to the fifth book, and squeee! I do love Anne-with-an-E.)
I’ve stayed up late many nights enjoying the world of Anne Shirley, and was also pleased to find that the movie was faithful to the first novel. But I have to admit that I was surprised by the short bio about Lucy Maud Montgomery at the end of the book: apparently, during her college and post-college years, there was a tumultuous time when she was engaged to a cousin she did not love, and was in love with a farmer she thought was not a good match. She ended both relationships and eventually married a minister named Ewan MacDonald. Per the bio, “she did not love MacDonald with any passion, but she respected him, and he was a more suitable match for her than any of her previous suitors.”
I recognize it’s not uncommon to marry without passion, but I was surprised that Montgomery would do so when her heroine also made her way through a series of potential suitors (and ruminated on others’ good and bad relationships)—and then happily entered into a relationship of respect and passion with Gilbert Blythe. My mind keeps going back to Jane Austen, who is often quoted as saying, “Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection.” Is that why Jane never married? I assume that when she wrote about the marriage prospects of Lizzy Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, and her other heroines, she gave the reader her ideal vision of a good marriage—one of passion, tenderness, and mutual respect—because that’s what she desired for herself. Without any hard facts to back up my assumptions, I have always felt that Austen was true to her words and chose to remain unmarried because she couldn’t find a husband that could provide her ideal marriage. Who knows? Maybe Austen secretly wished she had married for the sake of being married, and maybe Montgomery was perfectly satisfied in a passionless marriage. But I can’t help but believe that both put their innermost desires into the lives of their heroines. In the meantime, I shall keep myself out of the depths of despair over the lack of my ideal mate by entertaining myself with more stories of Anne-with-an-E, outings with kindred spirits, and tantalizing visions of men with muttonchops.