Okay, I think I may have mentioned that the awesome wedding we went to this weekend was a Pride and Prejudice (and zombies!) wedding. The period was Regency; the theme was Jane Austen. I’m not sure if you know this or not…but Jane Austen and I had a falling out. She wanted more out of the relationship than I was willing to give, and in the end…well…
You see, there was this brief but torrid affair we called Northanger Abbey, and that was Very Good. Why was it good? Because Jane Austen saw the inherent silliness in the intense appetite people had for Gothic novels and so she wrote a parody…in the way only a well-bred woman of a certain social class could in the early part of the nineteenth century. When men were men and novels were exclusively the domain of women…Yes, our time with Northanger Abbey was enjoyable, partly because Jane didn’t take herself too seriously. How could she? How could anyone who wrote NOVELS be taken seriously? The thing with Northanger Abbey was that Jane took her *audience* seriously. Probably too seriously.
She was needy, you know. Oh yes, Jane Austen was needy. Needy like a needy thing that needs. Northanger Abbey wasn’t good enough for Jane. The short, but passionate affair we had…she wanted more. “I daresay,” she said to me once, as we were discussing the finer points of applying needlework directly to someone’s face, “isn’t it dreadful that’s the only thing I’ve had published? You must see my other work; it’s far superior.”
“Jane,” I replied, “Northanger Abbey is wonderful! Look at what you’ve done! You’ve made a case for the novel being accepted as more than solipsistic sensationalism. And I dare you…I double DOG dare you to say that three times fast.”
She sighed. She *actually SIGHED* at me. That’s the thing with all those Regency authors. They were always sighing all over the place.
“Look,” I continued. “Half the people who read your book won’t even GET it. That’s the BEAUTY of it.”
“No, that’s terrible,” she said, and sighed again. “They don’t understand.”
“Well, you’re up against rather a lot here. I mean, first, you have to admit, you’re a woman.”
“Yes, I AM a woman,” she said testily.
“Well, that’s the thing. All these folks, these society folks…you could be writing the Declaration of Independence, and they’d still sniff and balk and roll their eyes. You not only have to fight against commonly held (albeit mostly WRONG) ideas about literature and art, but you have to fight against the very notion that the “unfortunate fact of your gender” is going to be a hindrance. But that doesn’t mean you should quit!”
“You’re right!” She exclaimed. “I should write novels about what women do all day long!”
Hence, the staggering amount of needlepoint, watercolour painting, and sitting around on chaises in all of Jane’s other work. At that point, I knew it wasn’t going to work. I really tried, though. All through Pride and Prejudice, and all through Sense and Sensibility and Emma and Mansfield Park…all through those books, I was hoping to see the spark I’d first seen. I was waiting to see Jane, her face outlined in the light of a warm parlour fireplace, and I was waiting for her words to fill my head again as they had when we shared Northanger Abbey.
It didn’t happen. Jane and I were out walking in some overgrown rugby field she called a ‘garden’ and she started telling me about Persuasion. I stopped her right there. “Jane,” I said, “I can’t go on like this. I’m tired of everyone pining about something but not doing anything. I wish your characters would stand up, like you did. I know you want more, but I can’t give it to you. Not this time, Jane Austen. Maybe not ever again.”
She was a little heartbroken, and we haven’t really spoken since then. Then I found the work she collaborated on with that zombie guy, and we’re starting to talk again. Slowly, of course, because she knows she’s on thin ice.
Anyway, enough about my relationship with Jane Austen. The wedding was awesome.