The book describes the dress as something that “stepped out of an [Jane] Austen movie,” meaning very Victorian; lots of lace, mounds of tulle and slightly overworked.
NO, IT BLOODY WELL DOES NOT MEAN THAT! Could you go learn some effing history, already? Jane Austen was NOT NOT NOT a Victorian! How many times do I have to tell you?! I may be slightly overworked at this time, but Austen’s clothes were not.
Whew. OK, calming down now. But clothes are important, my friends, really they are. Jane Austen and her beautifully warm and rational heroines wore simple, rational clothes. Victorian thought and Victorian clothes were lots more about emotion and repressions. It’s just a totally different world. Maybe we don’t think Regency clothes were simple and rational, but they did. We think a) They look good wet; and/or b) Boobs! but then so did they. No really. At least these days filmmakers can get the look of the clothes right, even if they miss on when those clothes would come off. (The pond scene . . . not so much. Sorry, everyone!)
Jane Austen said a lot about her characters through their clothes. Think of Lady Catherine, who “will not think less of you for being simply dressed. She likes to see the distinction of rank preserved.” Or think of Mrs. Elton, going on about her fancy new gown, but, oh, she has such a horror of being “fine!” (OK, maybe Bella will wear Mrs. Elton’s wedding dress. Poor girl.) We don’t think Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney are silly for talking about muslin, though maybe Henry talking about it is meant to show that Catherine and Mrs. Allen are silly. And I entirely sympathize with Catherine for thinking Henry looks so handsome in his greatcoat! But Isabella Thorpe reveals her scheming mind by plotting what she and Catherine will wear, and dear Mrs. Bennet shows her silliness when she’s crying to Mrs. Gardiner about all their troubles one minute and being cheered up by the news of “long sleeves” the next. And let’s not even get started about Miss Bingley’s rants about certain people’s muddy petticoats!
The moral of all these stories seems to be: you should look good, but not look like you thought about it much. Not like you tried too hard. And is that not the very essence of cool?
Image credit: Dolley Madison, c. 1804, by Gilbert Stuart.
I’m ambivalent about the declaring of allegiances via t-shirt—I appreciate the straightforward sharing of opinions, but can’t we all just get along?—but I can also think of a number of appropriate venues for breaking out these Team Literary shirts and bags from Fire Petal Books:
- The World Cup: Whether you’re pulling for South American domination, European stick-to-it-iveness, or an African upset, show your cultcha with some gentle, font-based non-nationalist rhetoric. Who knows? Maybe you’ll start an international incident! Break out the vuvuzelas!
- Twilight Eclipse: Confuse the teeny-boppers and show them what it is to be a W-O-M-A-N (or, well, M-A-N, but that doesn’t sound as good and nobody writes songs about it). Practice your “You’ll understand when you’re older” face for your time in line; bonus points for extra condescension. (Also: um.)
- A Conan O’Brien show: He’s tall, awkward, and awesome, but does he race off into the night to save your little sister’s honor? Well, he might, but we haven’t heard about it. Therefore, no t-shirt.
- Brad Pitt’s life circa 2003: You can have it printed on the butt of your sweats, if you want!
It’s a brave new world, people.
Photo credit: © 2010, Fire Petal Books
In groundbreaking news last week, writer Lee Smith declared that her new book of short stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, is not a spinoff, mashup, sequel, prequel, or in a way related to the work of universal author Jane Austen.
“I haven’t read the book, but I think the similarity in names is almost too much to be coincidental,” Austen insider Miss Ball reported. “If she’d called it Mrs. Bingley and the Blue-Coated Stranger, I’d know she was lying.”
“I mean, just look at the statistics,” Austenacious mathematician, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, reminded us. “It’s been proven that 94.6% of all books published in the last two years reference or exploit Jane Austen in some way. I would like to see rigorous proof that the Bennet family is in no way involved in this story, even fourth-dimensionally. And, if Ms. Smith’s book is truly not about Elizabeth Bennet, I think she has some explaining to do.”
We also spoke with noted Darcy-family historian, Miss Osborne. “To be fair,” she said, “there have been other Darcys than Fitzwilliam and his wife Elizabeth. If the Mr. Darcy in Ms. Smith’s story keeps his shirt dry, does not insult anybody, and is in no way a vampire, I think we can give her claim at least a measure of credence.” Miss Osborne sounded slightly disappointed at this prospect, but cheered us up with a look through the Pemberley photo album.
Publishing insiders have postulated that Ms. Smith’s claim is in itself a publicity stunt. “It doesn’t matter whether the book is any good,” commented an anonymous editor. “Just slap a hint of the magic woman on the cover, and you’re as good as gold! And by not actually using Jane Austen herself, or any of her characters, Ms. Smith is bringing a fresh take to fiction, and may actually hoodwink readers into looking at something new! Of course, if she’d also put a Twilight-themed cover on the book, then she’d be made for life,” he added. “Maybe that’s for the paperback!”
Ms. Smith could not be reached for further comment.
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from…well, everywhere else…duke it out for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “Mr. Darcy Fights Like a Girl” t-shirt and some quality Regency-era medical care!
Today’s contestants: John “Yes, I Really Am This Much of a Tool” Willoughby, dashing and dastardly bad boy from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and Edward “Sparklepuss” Cullen, Twilight teen heartthrob/kindly vampire/stalker. They’re handsome! They’re flattering! They like teenaged girls lacking in common sense! Whose sensitive yet lustful stare will prevail? Only time and raging hormones will tell!
In their corners:
John Willoughby is handsome and lively and beloved by young girls and income-scouting mothers alike. He gives horses as gifts; he cheats at cards, but only for his girl; he rescues young ladies from tumbles down hills, and doesn’t track mud all over the house when he’s done. Salient quotation: “It’s okay; I’ve never done this before, either…”
Edward Cullen is a sparkly vampire, the blood-sucking monster of the Lisa Frank universe. He’s prone to rescuing fair damsels (from werewolves, so suck it, Mr. “Let me save you from the rain and your weak joints“). He likes baseball, though he only ever wants to play when it’s a rain-out. He has never, as far as we know, had an affair with or a child by a fifteen-year-old (…he waits until they’re eighteen. AT LEAST!). Salient quotation: “You take a nap. I’ll just sit here and listen to the Police and, you know, keep an eye on you.”
Willoughby is…how do we put this? Oh: a skeevy, on-leading, non-responsibility-taking, child-abandoning bastard. Is that a problem?
Edward has the ability, with an unfortunate slip of the mouth, to turn the lady in question into an immortal (yet undeniably sexy, because really, she’d better be, after all this) creature destined to suck the blood of living organisms for all eternity. Apparently.
Edward, obviously. He’s a vampire. Does Willoughby carry Marianne Dashwood home with his super strength? Does he sparkle in the sun during long, romantic walks on the downs? Does he eventually raise up an army of like-minded bad guys and father a half-vampire baby named after his and Marianne’s dead mothers?
I didn’t think so.
He may be a) ridiculous and b) a stalker, but c) your argument is invalid.
Knockout for Mr. Cullen! Ding ding ding ding ding!
Several weeks ago, I was appalled to hear that a publisher had reprinted Wuthering Heights with a cover that was clearly mimicking the Twilight book covers. (And in case we didn’t make the connection, the cover spells it out: “Bella and Edward’s Favorite Book.”) Fine. I’ve never actually enjoyed Wuthering Heights anyway, so let the legion of Twilight fans be sucked in by the marketing schemes of HarperTeen.
Sadly, the trend didn’t stop there. They’ve Twilight-ified Pride and Prejudice.
Bastardos! Now, I’m down with vampire lore, old and new. Buffy, Angel, the original Dracula novel, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Interview with the Vampire, The Lost Boys (Jason Patric, boys eating maggots, Edward “Lorelai Gilmore’s Dad” Hermann, does it get any better than that?) . . . bring it on! I just don’t see why Pride and Prejudice needs to look like Twilight to get girls (or boys) to pick it up and read it. And what, what, does this cover have to do with the style of Jane Austen? It’s soppy, cheesy, and over-simplified. It has no sense of humor. Do we see Lizzie and Darcy throwing flowers at each other in the dark? No, we see them in a duel of wits on the dance floor. A pair of crossed swords would have made a better, albeit still too romantic, cover for our beloved Pride and Prejudice.
Maybe it’s that I produce books for a living, but I have strong feeling on the subject of book covers. My favorite Jane Austen cover designs are from the mid-1990s, published by State Street Press (an imprint of Borders). I like the clean look, the modern type with the old fashioned images. And, because I am a production dork, I love that the images are glossy on a matte background, making them pop.
I also like the new illustrated cover from Penguin Classics. Slightly Edward Gorey-esque style (though true Ruben Toledo fans might not like me referencing another artist), but clean and fun. You can almost see them flirtatiously throwing insults at each other the moment before.
What’s your favorite cover design for a Jane Austen book, and why?