We need more parties, don’t we? Well, I know I do, especially Jane Austen parties! Other people have ventured opinions on this topic. 99% of them involve a) tea, b) watching movies, or c) both. I’m in favor of all three of these activities (well, duh), but I do think we could broaden our horizons here, venture across the ha-ha, as it were.
Basic steps: This write-up has some good ideas, including period card games, period snacks, and trivia. Be warned that you are venturing into weirder territory here than you know, as Miss Osborne’s cooking experiments have shown us. Stick to syllabub, is my advice. As far as card games go, I love them, but Miss Austen did not, or at any rate none of her heroines did. So if you play them, stick to the more “comfortable, noisy” games, like Speculation, and avoid Whist as all costs. Whist (the precursor of Bridge) is bo-ring, both in Mansfield Park and in my experience. Still, you get good discussions around the card table, and good insights into people’s characters, the Crawfords’ in particular.
Crafty steps: While “painting tables, covering screens, and netting purses” may draw derision from Mr. Darcy, I am all in favor of “cutting up silk and gold paper” as the girls do in Persuasion, and crafts in general. Here’s some Regency party craft ideas.
Ballsy steps: Lots of places have Regency balls, where you can be spurned by Mr. Darcy and overhear Mr. Elton insulting your best friend, and have good times generally. You can also do this at home, even if you have to dance down the hall to lively tunes from your MP3 player. (It’s better than Mary Bennet on the piano.) Make sure to have white soup, negus, and indiscreet conversations, and, ladies, I happen to know that many gentlemen find Regency/square dancing less intimidating than ballroom. Show them diagrams! Let them figure it out!
RPG steps: It’s funny how you never hear “role-playing” and “Jane Austen” in the same sentence, especially when you consider all that fanfic out there. So, if you are really feeling adventurous, I suggest designing some sort of Austen role-playing activity. You could, you know, assign the different parts from a book beforehand, get everyone together, and let them have at it. Sounds sort of like Lost in Austen, doesn’t it? Or, since it’s almost Halloween, why not do a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies flash mob? Everyone decide beforehand whether you’ll be a zombie, a Bennet sister, or an innocent bystander; show up someplace and have it out! Regency zombie battles on the National Mall! I see this happening, people! Serious Austen party-ers will do this in full costume, of course. But watch where you put that sword. You could put someone’s eye out with that thing.
Olympic steps: OK, OK, it’s true that zombies aren’t genuine Austen. But it’s also true that whenever you get together, you are probably having a party pretty close to one Jane Austen wrote! Oh, the food, drink, dancing, and clothes might be different, but I bet the social dynamics are not far off. I know that’s not what you want to hear, though, so I suggest the Jane Austen Olympics! Events can include: the 100-meter Dash Across the Lawn to Find Mr. Bennet, the All-Terrain Walk to Netherfield (points deducted per inch of dirty hem), the Louisa Musgrove Stair-Jumping Contest, the Pairs’ Rainy Hillside Rescue Dance, Fencing Wits, and Conversational Gymnastics (Lizzie’s an odds-on favorite there, clearly), and . . . .
But you see! The possibilities are endless! Now get your corsets on, go out there, and PARTY!!!
Photo credits: ©juzka81. Used through Creative Commons licensing.
This week, world-wandering elder brother Mr. Ball has hung up his top hat and arrived at the family country house for a much-deserved furlough from the competitive world of international diplomacy. The whole clan is sequestered away, in fact, for a period of long carriage rides, late-night Whist (aka Scrabble), and the kind of family togetherness that only a trip to the country can bring, for better or for worse.
As any young lady returned to her family after a season away will find, there’s something about suddenly having parents and an elder brother very present that makes one’s role in life perfectly clear: come hell or high water or long periods of living independently, little sisterhood is forever.
As far as Jane goes, I think I’m doing all right. So far, I’m pleased to report that I have not yet run off to Scotland or to the seashore with any older men, only to need rescuing/marrying at gunpoint, nor have I injured myself and fallen head-over-heels for any dreamy scoundrels on horseback. I haven’t played the pianoforte in an inappropriate manner. I haven’t become “often a little unwell,” nor have I become (more so than usual) “always thinking a great deal of my own complaints”. There may have been a little bit of running wild—of which the Morlands surely approve—but have we mentioned we’re at the country house? Who do you think I am, Mary Bennet?
On the other hand, my brother hasn’t bought me any pianofortes, nor has he leapt up to defend my honor. To be fair, though, he hasn’t forced me out of my ancestral home and into a pauper’s cottage, either.
I say we’re even…as long as he lets me call shotgun on the way home.
We open on a multiplex movie theater. MISS BALL and MISS OSBORNE sit in the audience, watching the movie raptly. On the screen, CILLIAN MURPHY sits in a hotel bar, talking with a blonde woman in an unnecessarily complicated cocktail dress.
Miss Ball: This is awesome, but I feel like that chick is waaaay too nerdy for this.
The blonde continues to flirt.
Miss Ball: Why do I get the feeling she’s going to start spouting sermons?
The blonde gives Cillian her phone number.
Miss Ball: Does she play the piano?
Miss Osborne: SHHHHH.
Miss Ball: I don’t know why, but I get the feeling she wears contacts.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO arrives onscreen.
Miss Ball: Oh no. Ohhhhh, no. No no no no no no.
Miss Osborne: WHAT.
Miss Ball: This is suddenly a horror movie.
Miss Osborne: Why?
Miss Ball: MARY BENNET IS FAKE-SEDUCING A MAN IN A HOTEL BAR!
People, it’s true: if you’ve seen Inception—and I hope that you have—let’s take a trip down bit-part memory lane. Remember the woman in the hotel bar, who gives Fischer (Murphy) a fake phone number, just as Cobb (DiCaprio) shows up? That is one Talulah Riley…also known as Mary Bennet in the 2005 big-screen Pride and Prejudice. Think about it: dye the hair brown, switch out the dress, add some glasses, and hand the girl a book of sermons. Voila! Nobody wants your concertos here!
And you thought Inception was mind-boggling before.
For those of you who haven’t already seen it, some LA Mormon girls have made a hilarious and so far fake trailer for Jane Austen’s Fight Club.
Now this is deeply satisfying; I don’t deny it. Everyone wants to see proper young ladies kick ass. Time period is not important, but the more proper, the more ass they obviously have to kick. (See: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, obviously Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Kill Bill – does she count as proper? – and so on and so on.) I’m tempted, naturally, to make a list of other movies Jane Austen could be inserted into, for copyright-ambiguous fun and profit. The Matrix: Jane Austen Reloaded springs to mind.
What about Little Miss Sunshine Bennet? In this quirky romp, the Bennet family drives their falling-apart carriage from Hertfordshire all the way to London just so Mary can compete in a talent competition. Lydia isn’t talking because she wants to join the military [wink wink nudge nudge], and Mr. Collins dies en route, the dirty old man. I think it should do well.
Or, in Eleanor and Marianne’s Excellent Adventure, the two bodacious sisters set out on a time-traveling quest to find sweet rhyme and pure reason, which will save the future universe from annihilation by evil spamlords. Along the way, they pick up a fun set of characters, including Lady Gaga, Stephen Hawking, and Stephen Colbert, all of whom embarrass them immensely. Quite by accident, they do find true love and happiness. Barack Obama advises a gathering at Sir John Middleton’s to be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!
All of this is very jolly, but I would just like to point something out here. Readers, has or has not Austenacious had a Jane Austen Fight Club column for almost a year now?! Are we owed royalties on this video? Our legal team better get busy!
In the meantime, perhaps our loyal readers could make trailers for our other columns. What Would Jane Do? is clearly a sickeningly sweet romance in which a cynical advice columnist is saved by a long-lost love (probably by falling down a hill). Jane Austen Hates You is probably an indie comedy, possibly about YouTube, MySpace, and all them there Social Networking Sites, hopefully starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick sounds like an Agatha Christie to me, and Quote Unquote is clearly the new Bond movie.
Readers, are you game? What other movies mesh well with Austen novels? Or mesh so terribly badly they just have to go?
P.S. Jane Austen’s Army of Darkness! Just saying. . .
People, did you know that there is a gross universal oversight right in the middle of Pride and Prejudice?
In Chapter 13 (it’s a sign!), Mr. Collins comes to town. Sing it with me: he eyes Jane, nearly causes a permanent rift between Lizzy and one or both parents, leaves with the ever-practical Charlotte Lucas in tow, and removes himself to a life of enthusiastic gardening in the shadow of Rosings Park. The End. But I’m here to tell you that, in this series of events, Mr. Collins completely misses the potential love of his life.
Miss Mary Bennet.
It’s not made clear in the novel why Mary and Mr. Collins never hit it off, but it seems to me this is a major error in somebody’s judgment. How is this not a match made in awkward heaven? Two extraordinarily earnest people, each with a strong guiding principle (Morality for one, Lady Catherine for the other) and a complete unawareness of their own ridiculousness? They belong together. Think of the long, serious conversations! Think of the hilariously didactic children! Think of the copy of Fordyce’s sermons in Mary’s bedside table!
The trouble here must lie with Mr. Collins, as we know that Mary appreciates Mr. Collins’s original self-inviting letter to the Bennets, and rumor has it (unconfirmed by a helter-skelter scanning of the relevant chapters; help, sharp-eyed readers?) that further thoughts about Collins’s mate potential do cross her mind at some later point in the novel. It’s true that Mary might have something to say about Rosings and the importance of simple lifestyle, but one beatdown by Lady Catherine, and the accompanying coronary on Collins’s part, ought to nip that in the bud. Are we surprised that it’s Collins who’s wandering blind, here? Frankly, nothing surprises us at this point. But you’d think that the young lady with the book of proverbs burning a hole in her pinafore might be a bit of a turn-on, no?
I don’t get it: is he looking for a different girl with whom to share his love of leisurely theological inquiry? Is he one of those guys who refuses to, as Rob Gordon says during that one part of High Fidelity, punch his weight? Does he not enjoy a nice evening of questionably-tuned music? Or does Charlotte simply get to him first, the lucky lady? Whatever the case, a re-considering of the Bennet family and the joys of middle sisters might have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
With the return of Glee to the weekly TV schedule—finally—I think we’ve all been reminded of a new truth universally acknowledged: everything would be better, Austen novels included, if everybody had at least the option of bursting into a well-chosen pop song from time to time. You know, revealing their places in the collective consciousness, choreography optional (but encouraged). Lizzy belts out a girl-power ballad—ill practiced, of course—at the height of her emotional turmoil? Knightley takes the edge off with a few bars of air guitar and a phantom drum solo? I’m telling you: Jane Austen might roll in her grave, but Jane Lynch would make a fine Lady Catherine.
Am I right?
Here are a few Austen characters and their likely anthems:
Captain Wentworth: “I’m on a Boat” – The Lonely Island
Anne Elliot: “I Will Always Love You“* – Dolly Parton
*The original version with the sad monologue in the middle, because that speech is exactly the gracious and heartbroken speech Anne would make to Wentworth—complete with poignant pauses every few words—and nobody can convince me otherwise.
Mr. Bingley: “Mr. Brightside” – The Killers
Mr. Collins: “Hell No” – Sondre Lerche & Regina Spektor
Charlotte Lucas: “The Sound of Settling” – Death Cab for Cutie
Mary Bennet: “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” – Cat Stevens
Catherine Morland: “Miss Teen Wordpower” – The New Pornographers
Isabella Thorpe: “We Used to Be Friends” – The Dandy Warhols
Marianne Dashwood: “I Feel It All” – Feist
John Willoughby: “It’s Raining Men” – The Weather Girls
Readers, who are we missing?