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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
Literature loves a mean girl, an archenemy, or just an undermining frenemy. Let’s face it: this archetype is often (though not always) realized as a charming blonde who’s either a snob guarding her place against interlopers or a determined social climber. For every spunky heroine, she’s the prissy antagonist who scorns our protagonist’s rough ways, while her nimble feet fight for their place on the rungs of a given novel’s social ladder. She represents the apex of the idea that men can fight each other out in the open, but women are forced to be underhanded in their jockeying for alpha status. Her machinations make plots get thicker and tension ratchet up. Here’s a selection of literature’s most delightfully nasty mean girls. We love to hate …Read More
In The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy, open-mouthed, says “I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before,” Glinda famously quips that only bad witches are ugly. But ’tis not so — or at least, there are plenty of very bad witches who are the opposite of ugly: beautiful, sexy, charming, devastatingly intelligent, or all of the above. So, in honor of J.K. Rowling’s outrage that we all love Draco so much, here’s 50 villains that we wouldn’t kick out of …Read More
This month marks the release of Margaret C. Sullivan’s book exploring the history of Jane Austen covers in print, Jane Austen Cover to Cover (Quirk Books). While the book showcases Sullivan’s skills as a publishing-history sleuth, we already knew the author for her witty Austen blogging and fan fiction. So naturally, we were thrilled at the chance to have her come up with some humorous “outtakes” from her cover collection. She obliged with five of the most absurd covers found in the book, paired with added “scenes that Jane Austen never wrote.” — Sarah Seltzer
With not one, but two novels featuring Jane Austen, one featuring the ghost of Dorothy Parker, and a third about Virginia Woolf and her sister hitting shelves soon, it seemed like a good time to survey the entire “writer-as-character” category of novels. Who are the most popular fictionalized writers? It’s no surprise to see a ton of Shakespeares, Dickenses, and Brontës scampering with pens through the pages of other peoples’ novels. But a graphic-novel Susan Sontag? Cranky Robert Frost? Witty Alexander Pope? These are some of the delights we uncovered for your reading …Read More