Austenacious
Jane will keep us together.
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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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- 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.

First up! Reader Kaye asks:

“Well, my dear,” said he, when she ceased speaking, “I have no more to say. If this be the case, he deserves you. I could not have parted with you, my Lizzy, to any one less worthy.”

We’re all familiar with these lines, but I can never decide how he means this. Does he mean no one could be less worthy than Mr. Darcy? This seems plausible, given the way his behaviour came across on previous occasions. Or does he mean that by virtue of Elizabeth’s glowing statements in the previous paragraph, he has suddenly become worthy in Mr. Bennet’s eyes?

Miss Ball answers:

To be honest, I had never thought about much the intention of this statement—I assumed the latter. Now that you point it out, Reader Kaye, I see what you mean—but I haven’t changed my mind.

Textually, I think the evidence is in that penultimate sentence: “If this be the case, he deserves you.” I don’t think this is any kind of ironic jab; I think Mr. Bennet means what he says.

Non-textually, by which I mean “manufactured entirely by my brain,” I think Mr. Bennet trusts Lizzy’s judgment. He may, on the evidence of his own experience, believe Darcy to be an uptight jerkface (again, non-textual), but he also knows Lizzy’s head is screwed on straight—and I think this is him giving his sincere blessing based on that knowledge.

(Incidentally, this relates to something I noticed, but failed to mention, during my reading of Death Comes to Pemberley—P.D. James asserts that Darcy and Mr. Bennet ultimately become BFFs, dismissing the awkwardnesses of the past and bonding over their love of books and solitude (and, ostensibly, Lizzy). I balked a bit at first—Darcy’s good opinion having been lost, and all—but eventually we see Mr. Bennet essentially vacationing in the Pemberley library….which actually sounds about right. Anyway, for what it’s worth, Mrs. Fitzpatrick didn’t think it was such a crazy idea.)

 

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I don’t know what happened to me this week…but I read Death Comes to Pemberley.

I don’t really read Austen sequels/take-offs/embellishments/reinterpretations, and by “don’t really read,” I mean “have never read, not even one.” But I was at Miss Osborne’s and raiding her bookshelves, and she told me about the copy of Death Comes to Pemberley she’d found on the book-trade shelf at a friend’s apartment building. I don’t know what came over me, but I took it home.

I read the whole thing, and…I still don’t get it. I like Jane Austen, of course, and I like a good mystery novel, and I see the theoretical pleasure of mixing the two; it’s just that, in practice, the two don’t really mix in any substantive way. They can’t, really, unless you make someone big and important—say, Elizabeth or Darcy—the killer, in which case you’re kind of veering into Pride and Prejudice and Zombies territory, messing with the genre just for the sake of it. And because—spoiler alert!—that’s not the case here, the mystery lives in the realm of supporting and original characters, and we essentially have a historical mystery existing alongside familiar background that doesn’t actually mean anything.

This isn’t to say the book was bad; it wasn’t. It was fine—solid mystery, a little funny, mostly well-written. It’s just…I don’t see the point.

A few specifics (nothing TOO spoilery, but if you don’t want to know anything, consider yourself warned):

- Oh, Denny. He always seemed like a good guy! I think he’s actually a great choice of victim—being somebody we know, but not somebody we care about in particular—though he would also have made a good up-and-coming character, had he lived.

- My favorite parts, by far, are the moments where James executive-decides that the Austen canon is, in fact, a single Austen Universe, and incorporates the other novels in small ways. Wickham gets a job with Sir Walter Elliott! Something spoilery happens to Harriet Smith! This kind of goofy continuity is insubstantial but makes my heart sing nonetheless.

- One moment that stood out to me was James’s assertion that Darcy and Mr. Bennet are friends—not just friendly, but some kind of genuine kindred spirits. I’m undecided. These guys love their books, and they love Lizzy Bennet, and maybe that’s enough…but maybe I just think Mr. Bennet doesn’t really have any friends.

- Well, I’m glad Georgiana ends up with cute Henry Alveston, because he is cute. Not that there’s anything wrong with Colonel Fitzwilliam! But: cute. Get it, girl.

- I have nothing to say about Elizabeth, which I think sums up my whole feeling about this book. How can there be nothing to say?

Have any of you read Death Comes to Pemberley, Austen Nation? What’d you think?

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A handful of Jane-osities this week:

1. The trailer for Austenland is out!

SO. Having not read the novel—you know how we can be about modern Austen take-offs around here—I keep trying to suss out what I think about this, purely via the trailer. Part of me wonders about the codification of Austen fans as such a Type: sad single women (who may or may not knowthey’re sad) so engaged in a fictional universe as to ignore the non-fictional one, particularly the handsome men inevitably trying to get their attention. (Which is an obnoxious assumption, but also…if only.) This isn’t a new phenomenon, but I find it interesting that we’re essentially one step below Trekkies in our identification by the outside world. Another part of me assumes we’ll be subverting this paradigm, hopefully in smart and interesting ways. The rest of me is silently screaming JANE SEYYYYYYMOUUUUUR IN A MOOOOOOVIE! So there you go.

2. From reader Sophie: Caroline Bingley’s chicanery to appear on England’s money! We’ve all heard by now that our Jane’s been chosen to appear on the new British ten-pound note. Less widely recognized is that Jane’s portrait—the Cassandra one—will be paired with what looks like a statement of sincere enthusiasm for books, but is actually Caroline Bingley’s thinly veiled attempt at convincing Darcy that she’s into reading. On one hand, this seems like the kind of thing a basic Google search could have caught; on the other, I kind of like it. It seems kind of appropriate for Caroline to elbow her way into everything, no?

3. Jane Brocket, chronicler of all things cozy, has just finished Mansfield Park  for the first time, with—what else?—mixed feelings. Her main concern is that Jane builds a cast of complex and well-realized characters, only to bow out on them in the end: “the bad ‘uns must be punished and the good ‘uns rewarded, and the stock endings go against all our carefully raised expectations and vested interests.” What do you think, readers? Could, or should, Jane have done better by Fanny & Co.?
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10. Baseball!

9. Walks. Lots and lots of walks.

8. Someone’s sitting in the shade on a fine day, looking upon verdure, getting perfectly refreshed

7. Someone wants to sit in the shade on a fine day with a cute boy, but is too afraid to cross the ha-ha

6. Someone’s getting seduced at the seashore

5. Someone’s falling off a wall at the seashore

4. Someone’s in a constant state of inelegance

3. Someone’s being mean at a picnic

2. (Non-canon) It’s awfully hot! Better jump in the trout pond.

1. Someone’s too busy to go to the north, and settles for vacation in Derbyshire, the land of large houses and loooooove

 

 

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So, it seems that our dear Jane Austen might be turning up as the face of the new British ten-pound note.

I love this because, although I’m sure the guy who comes up with these things was probably just thinking, “Hey, there’s a British person with ladyish bits; let’s put her on a tenner,” anybody who’s read any Austen knows that Jane felt some feelings about money. It’s everywhere in the novels: Bingley has five thousand a year, and Darcy has ten thousand, and it’s the first thing we know about either of them; the Dashwoods are suddenly impoverished, and there begins the story; Fanny Price is suddenly un-impoverished, and there begins the story; Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever, and rich.” A debate-team captain of average skill could probably convince me, without undue effort, that the Austen canon is as much about finances as it is about love and respect between equals.

Jane herself was a gentleman’s daughter—not necessarily champagne wishes and caviar dreams, but enough. But being ON money? Like, printed there to (apparently) represent the female gender to the entirety of her own United Kingdom?* Along with the Queen? I’m pretty sure she couldn’t even have imagined. And THAT—the fact that it makes so much sense to us—makes me really, really happy.

I hope they choose a flattering picture, anyway, because: PRIORITIES.

 

*My favorite part is actually this: “‘[Governor Sir Mervyn King's] comments followed fears that the imminent removal of social reformer Elizabeth Fry from the £5 note would mean there were none in circulation featuring women – other than the standard image of the Queen’s head.” A country that worries about gender representation on its currency! HOW NOVEL, she says, side-eyeing the Sacagawea dollar, which only ever comes from public-transit change machines.

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