Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What can one even say about this? AUSTEN v. BRONTE WARS.

We really ought to start keeping a tally of how many mainstream news outlets start writing stories about how Bronte is the new Austen. Because they are coming in fast and furious. It's the 2010-2011 meme.

Seriously, this is a sexist way of looking at things. Do we ever get articles about how Dickens is the new Trollope? Hemingway is the new Joyce? MOVE ON OVER Faulkner, it's Fitzgerald's time to shine! Have you heard the news? MARLOWE IS IN. JONSON IS OUT.

The media needs to get over the fact that these 19th century women are really really popular. They always have been, they will be, they are.

Just my indignant two cents.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Literary Birthday: Daphne DuMaurier

Today, in 1907, that obsessive reader of "Brooding Hunx Weekly" and biggest Bronte fan EVAH, Daphne DuMaurier, was born unto this world. Her unstoppable pen gave us "Rebecca" and "Jamaica Inn" and "The Birds" and dozens of chilling settings and smoldering heroes and pseudo-retrograde, pseudo-feminist counter-narratives and subtexts. Most importantly, she gave us the kind of books that are utterly un-put-downable and so hard to replicate--and she lived a haunted life worth obsessing over on its own.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Literary Linkage du jour

Around the web to-day:

*Me, on the new Sookie Stackhouse, here.

*My college classmate Nicole Cliffe, on the House of Mirth as a choose your own adventure novel. This is a must-read LOL for Wharton fans. Sample question:

2. Upon leaving Selden’s apartment, you run into the unfortunately Jewish, and hence socially dead, Simon Rosedale who asks what brings you to a street consisting entirely of male rooming houses. You…

A) Tell him the reasonably innocent truth, and butter him up by accepting his offer of a lift to the train and making friendly conversation.
B) Make up a weak story about visiting your dressmaker, and butter him up by accepting his offer of a lift to the train and making friendly conversation.
C) Make up a weak story about visiting your dressmaker, then insult him by jumping into a hansom cab and dashing off.

*Media megastar Tyra Banks is writing a YA novel series that is a self-described cross between America's Next Top Model and Harry Potter, taking place at "an exclusive academy for 'Intoxibel las' -- who are the most exceptional models known to humankind and harbor unknown powers." Umm, word?

*The awesome Margaret Atwood speaks up against cultural boycotts. I agree with her, FWIW. Economic boycotts are another thing altogether.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The "Charade"

That Simon figured out.

["first" and "second" are SYLLABLES--mini-words making up the word which is the answer, the "third"]

Here are the clues we were given by Arnie Perlstein: the answer has three syllables; the name of the housemaid is the same as the name of one of the housemaids in Emma; the "second" word which itself is two syllables, refers to the kind of real world event many Janeites believe was never referred to by Austen in her novels, although it was mentioned in Northanger Abbey.

Any guesses?

Mother's Day Weekend

Three generations of women in my family, all enthusiastic bookworm chicks.

Greetings, readers. This weekend, for some incomprehensible reason, I'm reflecting on mom characters in literature. Mother figures tend to be pretty reviled or absent in literature, but is there any literary mama more beloved than Marmee, who gave life and love to Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth? Mrs. Morland, Catherine's mom in Northanger Abbey, is another exception. Lily Potter gave up her own life for baby Harry's, (kind of like Jesus and Mary in reverse.)

But it's hard to think of too many sainted moms. The mind immediately wanders to the far more plentiful monstrous mommies who devour their young--and their close literary kin, a veritable parade of Wicked Stepmothers. We've got Mrs. Bennet, Paul's smothering mother in Sons and Lovers, and Mrs. Clenham in Little Dorrit, a perfect example of the latter. There's also the immortal Sethe in Beloved who straddles the line between good and bad mother so memorably.

Who are your favorite mother characters, good or bad, in literature? HuffPo has a slideshow of twelve of the worst, and they are baddies indeed.

My first JASNA meeting

Last weekend, Simon and I went to our first Jane Austen society regional meeting right here in our neighborhood, at local Fancypants U's swanked-out faculty house.

So I pulled out a string of nice fake pearls I hadn't worn since the bar-mitzvah era, put on a pair of heels and a cardigan, and elegantly hobbled over. The day began with a scrumptious, and free, three course-lunch with wine for new members, most of whom were ahem! a bit older and more female than Simon but who were delightful. During the course of the luncheon, names like Mary Eliot and Jane Fairfax were bandied about as though they were mutual friends of all of ours, which in a way, of course, they were. These characters and their tales were the major threads that knit us together. As the wine kept coming and the Prada chocolate cake came out, things got very loose indeed as we debated whether Mary knew that Charles had proposed to Anne first.

After lunch the gentlemen retired to the library for brandy and cigars--err, that is, we all went up stairs and listened to a provocative lecture on the secret subtext of Emma, from Arnie Perlstein. Perlstein is convinced and has a stack of evidence to prove that all Jane Austen's books have secret pregnancy narratives embedded within the text. He thinks that Emma is oblivious to the fact that Jane Fairfax is knocked up throughout the nine months of her time in Highbury. While the exact details of Perlstein's counter-narrative didn't always sit well with me, I think he was picking up on the screening-effect of Emma's limited perspective, and on the fact that Jane Fairfax is the heroine of an alternate story. In fact, many people have noted that in a more typical Austen tale Jane would be the heroine and Emma her meddlesome, spoiled foil. But the way Emma hews so tightly to the almost myopic perspective of the titular lady does give the novel a mysterious feeling--a feeling of a plot unraveling. Still I think there's more of an emotional component to this: it's the mystery of how the world works being gradually revealed to a young person who has a self-centered view of things and later learns to expand her line of vision. The lecture made me appreciate the subtle genius of St. Jane all the more.

Also, we began the session by solving the "charades" or riddles from Emma. We also tackled one riddle posed long ago by Austen's brother Henry. Simon was the only person in the 70-person or so crowd to solve it off the top of his head. I am all the more convinced that I will soon be making a most fortunate alliance.

So dear readers, 'twas a success! I'm excited to be joining JASNA just as the NY chapter begins to gear up for hosting its national general conference in 2012.