The great ebook wars started innocently enough in June, 2012. A single alert blogger, Philip Howard, noticed that the Barnes & Noble version of War and Peace had erased all instances of the word Kindle—an competitor at the time—with their own brand-name, Nook. (“It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….”) One or two blogs picked it up, the people lol’ed, case closed.
An simple mistake with search-and-replace, but it started people thinking. . . hackers had already inserted zombies into Pride and Prejudice in the careless spirit of the 2000s, so why not make some money by selling product placement in the books? Anyone can publish e-versions of books no longer in copyright. Starbucks was first on the bandwagon in late 2012, with their special Frappuccino Editions of the classics (Frappuccino was a curious coffee-like drink). These editions merely replaced all coffee and tea, coffeehouses and tea shops in the classics, with Starbucks. The changes to the coffee shop scene in Persuasion did cause some comment on the primitive “social networks” of the time, but marketers and companies eagerly lined up to have their products inserted in some edition, any edition of a classic, and by 2015 generic ebooks were becoming rare and collectible.
The sudden rebirth of the bowdlerizers, and their tireless campaign to find and replace smut where ordinary dirty-minded citizens couldn’t even see it, spun off into its own crusade. Of course, the main target in Austen was “intercourse.” The mere thought of Emma and Miss Bates having “a regular and steady intercourse” caused President Sarah Palin to mandate bowdlerized versions of all classics in 2020.
The fall of America into chaos, the rise of the underground movement for Pure Classics, and the petty in-fighting of the various Jane factions (Austen, Eyre, Bennet, and Cobb), need not be gone into. Every schoolchild knows that in 2072, the Pure Classics broke away from the Altered Versions, and the two empires have been fighting ever since. It has been a long and terrible history. But on this, the 1,000th anniversary of the first shot of this massive war, let us stop and remember that it need never have happened.
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Ok, so this could also be called Leo Tolstoy Hates Your Search-and-Replace. But, you know, once you start down the Dark Side, forever will it guide your destiny! So, beware!
Lovely Jenn over at Citivolus Sus asked us whether she was the only Austenite who like beer. Well, I hardly think so. She even posted recommendations on which beers go with which books. I am, sadly, allergic to beer, but I do like to eat and drink (and travel), so here are my own recommendations on the right ambiance for each book. I won’t insist on Regency dishes. I won’t even go into the hardback/paperback split, and how the musky odors of old books bring out the woodier notes in certain pinot noirs, changing the whole dynamic. Just imagine Giles twittering on in the background, and making you read your Kindle only on the airplane, eating airplane food.
Northanger Abbey has a hard feeling, and such sharp edges and corners. So I see it as going well with Chinese food. I’m not particular as to the dish. Something spicy hot, perhaps with fermented black beans in it. You should drink lots of jasmine tea and get a really surreal Jane Austen fortune cookie afterward. Try to be in a restaurant that at least has Chinese people in it. No P.F. Chang’s, please. If the people are speaking Mandarin or some other form of Chinese, this is a bonus.
Sense and Sensibility: What a weird book, foodwise. There’s no doubt it can be unsettling to the stomach. I think a nice butternut squash soup. Or maybe Welsh rabbit. Orange food is called for, apparently. Orange juice? Sure. Maybe you should be in Orange County, too, whatthehey. Or in any one of these fine Orange places.
Pride and Prejudice: There is no wrong thing to eat or drink with Pride and Prejudice, right? And no wrong place to read it. For all that I have to say: No junk food. Do not insult Miss Austen with McDonald’s, or I will kill you. There are some things beyond even irony. If you must have a specific setting, I seem to see you in a wonderful Belle Epoque patisserie in Alexandria, sipping your tea and eating French/Egyptian sweets. It’s probably sunset or something, too.
Mansfield Park: Somehow, I see Mansfield Park as going best with Indian food. A good rogan josh and a steaming cup of chai make a nice counterpoint to the sometimes startling flavor of this book. You should be somewhere rainy. By the ocean.
Emma is a summertime book. Think a picnic lunch on the lawn, with strawberry shortcake. Please be nice to Miss Bates. Do try the cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, and make the Assam tea strong, with plenty of cream. As long as you sit in the sun, you may be anywhere you like.
Persuasion: This is also a book that makes me want to feel cozy and warm. It has, yes, autumnal overtones. A traditional Irish dinner followed by a really good whiskey, and some chocolate cake, maybe? Please curl up on the couch and enjoy a roaring fire while you read.
Lady Susan and The Watsons: You really should be absolutely drunk to read these, and possibly high on opium as well.* I don’t mean this in a bad way! Absinthe, I think, is the way to go. If you want to smoke a hookah and be in Istanbul as well, just to get the feel right, we’re down with that.
Sanditon: With its emphasis on health fads, I do see Sanditon as a breakfast book. You can do the straightforward hippie thing with yogurt and granola, or go all ironic with croissants and coffee. I seem to see you doing this in Paris, I don’t know why. Can you even get granola in Paris?
As a final note, I feel that all Jane Austen is most properly accompanied by chocolate. Dark, rich, delicious chocolate. Any other suggestions are optional. Readers, what do you think?
*Austenacious does not endorse the use of illegal drugs, even if they are picturesque. Note that absinthe is not illegal in the U.S. anymore. Yay!