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.
Welcome, yogis, to Jane-asana, and thank you for taking this time out of your day to do something good for your body and spirit. Today we’ll be focusing on core strength, flexibility, and deep truths about life and love, while finding our inner plucky heroines and searching for love among our intellectual and emotional equals. Any requests today? Handsome scoundrels? Yes—I think we can work that in.
Cow Pose: Kneel on all fours. Inhaling, drop the belly, finding a back bend and allowing your head to rise last. Make mean comments about the countryside and about your crush’s crush’s dirty hem. Find yourself summarily smacked down, to the remorse of absolutely nobody.
Peaceful Warrior (for Colonel Brandon): With one leg bent deeply and the other straight and strong through the knee, windmill your arms up to horizontal for Warrior II pose. With the breath and finding a back bend, drop the back arm down the hamstring and raise the front arm vertically, as if it were a bow. Wear flannel waistcoats, provide for the abandoned illegitimate daughter of another man, and eventually marry a much younger woman, whom you love for her emotional acuity.
Wild Thing Pose: Beginning in Downward Dog, flip your dog by lifting one hand and flipping upside down in the opposite direction, supporting yourself in a back bend with both feet and the remaining hand. Extend the leg on the same side as the supporting hand, and with the non-supporting hand, make a clawing motion. Run off to Scotland with a handsome scoundrel, only to return and brag obliviously to your sisters when he’s been forced to marry you. Hope for the best.
“Captain Wentworth is on a” Boat Pose: Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend one leg and then the other, shifting your weight backwards so that your torso and upper legs form a V and your lower legs are parallel to the ground. Lift one arm and then the other to extend alongside your legs parallel to the ground. Pine. Repeat for seven years, then return to check out the situation with the girl you secretly wanted to marry this whole time.
Corpse Pose (Mrs. Woodhouse-asana/Mr. Dashwood-asana): Settle onto your back with the legs as wide as your mat, allowing the feet to splay sideways. Allow the arms to fall at a forty-five-degree angle to the body, or, if it helps you to connect with your inner Mrs. Woodhouse, place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Allow the spine to become long, tucking your chin slightly. Remain here until your daughter marries a nice but vaguely judgmental young man. And, well, beyond.
Why, Colonel Brandon! How nice of you to drop by! And may I say how dashing you look—I’m sure Mrs. Brandon is quite proud! I didn’t know colonels could be promoted to admirals—I thought admirals were navy only? … Oh, really? How kind of Miss Austen!
And this must be Captain Picard, I mean, Wentworth, of course! A natural for the admiralty! Do I think Persuasion is ripe for a slightly more … mature… adaptation? Is it me, or is it getting very warm in here? Miss Osborne? Oh, she’s fainted. Miss Ball, stick a pillow under her head, would you?
Mr. Downey, do you know I don’t know why you have that on at all. Is it Iron Man, or Sherlock Holmes, or just some cosplay? Oh, Mr. Wickham makes admiral, does he? Anything is possible, I guess. And, uh, I think I finally see Lydia’s point. So! Moving on!
Did I just say anything is possible? I take it back. Shatner, stop staring at me like that or I’ll push you into the ha-ha. What? You’re Mary and Henry Crawford’s uncle? The Admiral Crawford who’s steeped in sin and vice? I certainly can believe it! Now I understand their messed up personalities so much better!
SO nice of you to call, gentlemen! Do stop by anytime you’re passing. We love us some gold tassels around here.
Photo credit: I don’t know who to credit for this, but would love to, as it’s awesome! Let us know if you do.
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.
This week we saw the Doctor and Captain Wentworth go up against each other in Jane Austen Fight Club. Miss Ball pronounced Wentworth the winner; the commenters favored the Doctor, mostly because of the TARDIS. (And old-skooler Mrs. Fitzpatrick can’t get Tom Baker as Wentworth out of her mind. Steampunk Regency naval captains sailing around the galaxy? Anyone?)
However, in a happy outcome, we no longer have to choose!
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-era medical care for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!
Today’s contestants: Captain Frederick “Kindly Pirate” Wentworth, professional piner and warrior in the name of handsomeness, and The Doctor, time-traveling alien and occasional heartbreaker. Both have loved ‘em and left ‘em; which one’s worth chasing after?
In their corners:
Wentworth is a clear winner in the world of Austenian good guys: anyone worth pining after for eight perfectly good man-catching years (and by the generally sensible Anne Elliot, no less!) must be, ahem, spongeworthy. We’re told he’s handsome and adventurous, yet gentle and willing to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his lady love; after all, he’s been waiting, too.
The Doctor is good, and wise, and full of adventure and a particular brand of romance; he’s been rather handsome lately, and he wears a variety of vintage suits with great skill and aplomb—and if you don’t like the Doctor you’ve got, you can just wait for the next one. He’s charming, and kind, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s a dude who’s capable of loving deeply. And…look. He DRIVES A SPACESHIP. THAT IS BIGGER ON THE INSIDE! And he travels through time and space, because why wouldn’t he? So…there’s that.
Is it possible for a man to be too patient? Because Wentworth waited an awfully long time (admittedly at sea) before getting back on the horse, love-declaring-wise. We’re not saying it’s insensitive, just that a man’s gotta stake his claim, you know?
The Doctor…well. He is all of the things we said, and more—which is why such stellar young ladies continue to steal away with him—but he always leaves eventually, and he doesn’t come back. Even if by “leaves” I mean “gets caught on the wrong side of a closing dimensional portal and makes Miss Ball cry and cry and cry.” He keeps his beloved in his heart(s), but he doesn’t keep them in his sights, and that’s going to be a problem. Plus, you know, alien.
It’s gotta be Wentworth. It’s hard out there for a guy without a phone-box spaceship, but Wentworth’s general faithfulness and ability to commit long-term without great emotional harm puts him over the edge. However, if he would like to try on a fancy pair of suspenders and a nice tweed-or-TARDIS blue suit, and perhaps a well-loved pair of Chuck Taylors, I believe the ladies of Austenacious would not object. Ahem.
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.
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.
For the first time in a good long while, we have a Disney fairy tale on our hands—a true “Once Upon a Time,” sugar-coated Grimm’s-ripoff fairy tale—and all the buzz over this Rapunzel business has the generic Prince Charming type on my mind. Surprise! But really: his name is Charming. Blame me if you must.
Jane, of course, isn’t in the business of fairy tales. Happy endings? Yes. True love’s kiss? Usually. But Jane is fundamentally a realist, and in her version of Regency England, sometimes perfectly intelligent and likeable ladies end up with guys like Mr. Collins—who never turns into a prince, no matter how many kisses he gets (to be fair: twice, max).
Oddly enough, with a slight change of scene and a good fairy godmother, many of the heroines of the Austen universe would make pretty good fairy tale princesses, or princesses-to-be—think smart, dreamy, plucky, maybe a bit bossy (ahem, Miss Woodhouse), and generally virtuous even in the case of undeserved poverty. The men, however, definitely tend away from the Prince Charming type—probably, to be honest, because Austen took the time to develop her gentlemen in a way that isn’t on the menu for most Disneyfied princes. They’re handsome, those princes, but let’s say complex emotional arcs aren’t exactly their bag (though 30 Rock tells me that Prince Eric, the gold standard for animated hotness, was based on fictional Jon Hamm‘s high school swim team photo—and I’ll take that fake fact to my grave).
Sorry, Austen gents. We’re taking away your…well, whatever it is you call a prince’s little crown (tiaros?), and here’s why:
Mr. Darcy: Prince on the inside, Beast on the outside. Surely in possession of a trusty steed (for that fifty miles of good road) and a true heart, but a bit on the oversensitive side. Definitely doesn’t hold with fairy godmothers; is probably made extra cranky by extraneous acts of the supernatural.
Mr. Knightley: Definitely the most outwardly princely of the bunch—handsome and well-intentioned, and ripe for occasional high-horse unseating at the hands of his lady love, which of course is always a nice touch. Prone to snootiness and angry speeches—theoretically appropriate for the position, but ultimately unbecoming to a man with the last name Charming (who, remember, may eventually need to get it on with a very recent scullery maid).
Captain Wentworth: He’s a pirate, not a prince. I mean, come on.
Col. Brandon – Too old for the Prince Eric treatment. Also, princes don’t have wards or wear flannel waistcoats. Unlikely to burst into song.
Henry Tilney – Okay, cute and clever. He’s the prince’s bookish little brother—sarcastic, and into a good novel and the price of muslin. Possibly too detail-oriented and not take-charge enough for the average dragon-slaying mission, though excellent for an entertaining retelling later.
Edmund Bertram – A clergyman! And not even a first-rate one! Certainly a good guy, but too much in need of a rich princess to bail him out of his own financial duress.