Jane Austen

Why Do We Re-Read Our Favorite Books as Kids, and Why Do We Stop When We Get Older?

As an avid young reader, I tore through every Nancy Drew book — both the originals and the cheap paperback updates — twice, experiencing my favorites up to five or six times. Even more sacred was my semi-annual ritual of re-experiencing all of L.M. Montgomery’s major novels, including the entire eight-book Anne of Green Gables series, alternating with my personal favorite, Emily of New Moon, and its two sequels. For weeks I would go back to Prince Edward Island and dwell with those characters. This journey was supplemented by a solemn re-reading of The Lord of the Rings every four or five years, an experience so intense that my dreams would begin to look like Peter Jackson’s set designs, even before those designs existed. As I got older, I switched out some of these childhood classics for adult ones, going back through the “Austen six” again and again, while also making a point of re-watching my favorite Austen miniseries and the Lord of the Rings films in marathon fashion. … Read More

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“An Endless Succession of Magnificent Possibilities”: Why We Love Vacation Novels

“Something tells me we’re not going to like this place,” declares Rosemary Hoyt’s mother in the first spoken words of Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. “I want to go home anyway,” Rosemary replies. It’s a moment of exquisite irony, considering Fitzgerald has just spent 500 words describing the perfect isolation of the Hoyts’ French Riviera environs, where “the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea plants through the clear shallows.” It’s a traveler’s utopia, with all the romance of an undiscovered paradise and none of the touristic trappings — yet Rosemary, a follower in all things, doesn’t immediately see it that way. But with her unexpected introduction to Dick and Nicole Diver, models of cool elegance and social surety, Rosemary feels the sense of possibility she longed for in her travels open up. With one chance encounter, the promise of the trips unfurls itself. Dick’s voice “promised that he would take care of her, and that little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities.” … Read More

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20 Iconic Fashion Moments From Jane Austen Adaptations

“Our abuse of our gowns amuses but does not discourage me; I shall take mine to be made up next week, and the more I look at it the better it pleases me,” Jane Austen wrote to her sister. “My cloak came on Tuesday, and, though I expected a good deal, the beauty of the lace astonished me. It is too handsome to be worn — almost too handsome to be looked at.”

Although Austen’s novels almost all deal with the themes of self-knowledge, growing up, and the nature of romantic love, she was hardly above loving or thinking about fashion. … Read More

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Jane Eyre, Lizzy Bennet, and Jo March Walk Onto a Stage: Remixing a New Canon of Heroines

Last night I saw You on the Moors Now, an experimental play currently running in New York City’s Greenwich Village, which cannily combines characters and plot points from four novels: Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The story, such as it is, consists of the respective heroines banding together after spurning their various suitors. They end up camping out on the moors. Meanwhile, they are pursued by the rejected men, themselves united in an attempt at revenge, or requited love, or some other concession. The cast features a delightfully queered Mr. Darcy, a manic Jane Eyre who longs to travel in space, a Cathy Earnshaw with unexpectedly pronounced leadership qualities, and sundry twists and gimmicks which wouldn’t have worked if much of the audience didn’t have a basic understanding of at least a few of the four novels. … Read More

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25 Writers on Fashion, Clothing, and Style

In light of all the recent Joan Didion fetishization, it’s fascinating to visit the exhibit Didion by Wasser, now at New York’s Danziger Gallery. In a small room dedicated to Julian Wasser’s iconic shoot featuring Didion and her Corvette Stingray, you’ll find tear sheets and shots of Didion smiling, laughing, looking uncomfortable and, well, seeming like a regular person. Seeing Didion laugh made me think about what it means for writers to have personal style — whether it’s their own fashion choices or the clothing they write about. Some of our most iconic writers have turned their attention to fashion; here’s our compilation of 25 essential… Read More

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Teenage Jane Austen Wrote Hilarious, Racy Parody Stories for Her Family

Jane Austen only wrote six complete novels as an adult, but when she was a tween and a teen she spent much of her time scribbling hilarious stories, plays, and mock histories for her family. A new compilation of these works, Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings, out in late January from Penguin Classics, reveals not so much an early genius as an absolutely overwhelming desire to make the people around her laugh. … Read More

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Samantha Ellis’ ‘How to Be a Heroine': A Life in Great Fictional Women

There’s a thriving subgenre of what one may call cozy literary criticism, where a writer, usually a woman, traces the outline of her life through the books that she has read. It is sometimes very charming — Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch comes to mind. At its worst, though, it can sort of disappear in the brain as all so much generic fluff, a perennial stopgap device from a variety of publishers. So it was a lovely surprise to find that Samantha Ellis’ How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned From Reading Too Much was a thoroughly enjoyable contribution to this canon. … Read More

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Jane Austen Zingers: The 15 Best Disses and One-Liners From ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, published on this day in 1813, is one of the most quotable novels in the English language, full of unforgettably witty repartee that signals attraction, revulsion, maneuvering for power, and more between her characters. To celebrate its birthday, here are 15 of our favorite one-liners from the book, illustrated by thematically (but not chronologically) appropriate GIFs.

Is Pemberley on fire, or did someone just get burned? … Read More

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30 Best Pop Culture Spinsters

The word “spinster” refers to an unmarried woman, and is most often synonymous with the stereotype of the past-her-prime old maid, a woman who hasn’t made a good match and who’s doomed to live an unfulfilling life. Well, that’s just stereotypes talking, because… hey, what’s wrong with that, exactly? The answer is absolutely nothing. Pop culture has given us some pretty great spinsters (although on average they do fall within a specific, homogenous, moneyed, and white demographic). So here are our 30 favorite writers, artists, and fictional characters who show the freedom that comes from living an unmarried life — female characters who are defined by their wants and desires, and not characterized through the simple scrim of their relationships. … Read More

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50 Essential Literary Biographies

Literary biography is a hugely significant, if often overlooked, enterprise. Today, much of what we know about the authors we admire is filtered through an ocean of online mini-biographies, nearly all of which are copies of copies. The original source of an enormous amount of this information is the literary biography, and in the case of most authors, there are precious few examples of such books. Even exceedingly famous authors are gifted only a handful of quality biographies. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 essential literary… Read More

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