Did you fear I would never address the Obama/Romney election on this blog? Fear no more! The day of reckoning is here, and my ranting powers are at their full potential.
After all, it’s election time in the USA! Will we manage to survive yet another racist-ass, anti-woman, queerphobic disaster of a Republican Candidate (Mitt Romney) and elect a moderately conservative dude instead (Barack Obama)? Only time will tell!
Is Mitt Romney as horrible a slimeball as he appears? … YES!
Now, I know you don’t need me to tell you that Romney is a slimeball. And I know you don’t need me to tell you that he’s a racist, queerphobic, classist misogynist with big entitlement issues. Those things are pretty damn obvious.
But there IS something I have to tell you. Hell, I put my entire blog schedule on hold for this huge insight into the character of Mitt Romney. It’s GAME CHANGING.
You should probably hold onto something.
Or sit down.
Is a runaway Jane Austen character.
Oh yeah, I just brought in Jane Austen.
I… I think I just lost half my readership there. SORRY GUYS! I LOVE YOU! I PROMISE I’LL STOP TALKING ABOUT REGENCY LITERATURE IN MY NEXT POST. I’LL STOP MAKING VERY BIZARRE SPECULATIONS! COME BAAAAACK.
Then again, the three literature/poli-sci geeks in the room just started fist-pumping. “Austen – Romney FTW!”
And as I am a literature/poli-sci geek… well.
So. Random fact: I am totally obsessed with Jane Austen. I became an English literature student because of Jane Austen. I’ve read every novel Jane Austen ever published. I’ve read Jane Austen’s juvenilia. I’ve taken classes on Jane Austen. I’ve planned book-length projects on Jane Austen. I think about Jane Austen a LOT.
And a couple weeks ago, I was walking to the library, thinking about Jane Austen (as you do), and how interesting it is that her marriage plot, which appears so stuffy to modern readers, was actually radical and revolutionary, because she gave her female characters the right to say “No” to marriage proposals. And isn’t it interesting how this “no” always shocked male suitors? The entire thing really exposes the way the clueless male suitors felt so damn entitled to getting women… wait… you know who else seems to have that massive sense of entitlement to getting people’s support?
And I was all “OH MY GOD, I’VE GOT IT.”
Mitt Romney is the clueless suitor.
I immediately raced to twitter. “Romney,” I said. “Is like every boorish male suitor in Austen’s novels – Mr. Elton, Mr. Collins, Henry Crawford. The suitor asks the protagonist to marry him, and is shocked she could say “no, because, after all, they have MONEY. Just like Mitt Romney runs for president, and is shocked that people won’t vote for him, because after all, he has MONEY.”
I spent the rest of the day tweeting about this. People needed to know. They needed to know that Mitt Romney is a runaway Jane Austen character.
Now, I imagine you aren’t convinced by my brilliant thesis yet. Neither was I, at first. But the evidence kept piling up.
Let’s have a checklist!
1. The Longing Gaze
Jane Austen’s clueless suitors are known for gazing longingly at their object of their affection. In fact, Mr. Darcy’s longing stares at Elizabeth Bennet are so epic, they’ve given rise to the term “Firthing” (longing, silent stares) in honor of Colin Firth, the actor who portrayed Mr. Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
And Mr. Mittens Romney, Clueless Presidential Suitor?
ALSO known for his (vaguely disturbing) longing stares!
2. Sense of Entitlement
Austen’s Clueless Suitors are always shocked that the objects of their affection actually expect them to behave WELL. Notable in the Mr. Collins proposal scene, where Mr. Collins is all “what are you talking about with your “no thank you”? I have everything a woman needs!” Or, in Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford’s total confusion at the fact that Fanny doesn’t love him: “Sure, I behaved like a total manipulative douchebag for the past two hundred pages. But I’m hot! And thus entitled to your affections!”
Or the Mr. Darcy proposal scene, where Mr. Darcy finds it incredible that Elizabeth Bennet expects him not to act like an asshole. Yo, I’m already asking you to marry me, Lady. And now you want me to act like a decent human being?
Next thing you know, these pesky women will expect you to treat them like human beings!
The suitors, in other words, are very entitled.
And Mitt Romney has a very similar sense of douchebag entitlement.
“What, you mean campaigns involve work? And scrutiny? and QUESTIONS? Yo, I’m being nice enough to run, let’s not raise expectations too high, okay?”
The poor man gets increasingly annoyed every time voters or the media dare to presume to ask basic questions, like “where are your tax returns?” or “can we get a press conference over here?” or “would you mind clarifying your position, please?” He seems to expect that we should just go along with his whole “don’t look at my record! Don’t look at my business record! Just look at the parts I want you to look at, and only as long as I want you to look at them!” schtick.
Note Ann Romney’s infamous quote on the subject of Mitt Romney’s invisible tax returns:
“We’ve given you people all you need to know!”
3. Hating Poor People
Jane Austen’s clueless suitors tend to also be giant snobs who highly dislike anyone in a lower class.
Example: Mr. Darcy, to Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he’s proposing marriage to: “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
“There are 47 percent [of Americans] who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. (…) My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Or, translated into Austen speech:
Mr. Romney, courting the American vote: “”Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of 47% of the country? To congratulate myself on the entitlement of Americans, whose conditions in life are so decidedly beneath my own?”
SEE THE SIMILARITIES?
4. Acting like people are lucky to be able to vote for/marry them?
Going along with the “sense of entitlement” thing: Austenian suitors usually act like the women they propose to are LUCKY to have someone so handsome/rich/competent asking for their hand in marriage.
Mr. Collins to Elizabeth Bennet, asking her to marry him: “It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in its favor; and you should take it into farther consideration that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you.”
And Mr. Mitt Romney? Does he ever show any of this “you people are so lucky I want to be President” attitude?
Surely not! That would be too ridiculous! And entitled and…
Ann Romney: “It is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country.”
(uh, HUGE CHECK) 3
5. Last, but not least: Super Awkward!
Indeed, Jane Austen’s clueless suitors tend to be catastrophically awkward and stiff (which makes them all the more hilarious).
Mr. Romney, what sayeth you to this? Are you stiff and awkward?
Well, he loves laughter. So much.
And he’s so genuine.
… Your honor, I rest my case.
… I’m telling you. It shocked me too, but it is TRUE. Mitt Romney is a clueless suitor. He has escaped from one of Austen’s novels to our world, and is now plotting his evil evil ways.
As Dani Alexis (@danialexis) reminded me on twitter: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a Presidency.”
Romney: “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My desire to be President will not be repressed.” (credit for quote: @danialexis)
HIS DESIRE TO BE PRESIDENT WILL NOT BE REPRESSED!
… quite a scary concept, actually.
You know what else? If Mitt Romney is actually a Jane Austen character (which I believe I’ve thoroughly proved by this point), it also explains why Mitt Romney has so many problems with women!
Yes, indeed! For, as Mr. Collins tells us: “As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”
You see, women don’t have a problem with Mitt Romney because he’s from a party of giant misogynists who want to take us back to the stone ages. No! We’re just PRETENDING we’ve not going to vote for him, in order to increase his love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.
I JUST EXPLAINED THE GENDER GAP EVERYONE!
[She really loves him, she's just increasing his suspense]
So basically, we need Mittens Romney to ask women to vote for him a few more times, and we’ll totally change our minds!
… yeah, no.
I mean, I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone else’s political decisions, but… let’s just say I don’t think Mr. Romney’s “courtship” of my vote is going to end any better for him than Mr. Collins’ courtship of Lizzie Bennet’s hand.
Hey, Mittens, sorry, but I’m sending my absentee ballot off to the states just as soon as I find an American witness to… witness me voting.
And the name I checked?
But hey, good luck with your attempt to court all us elegant females!
And all you elegant females? And males? Be forewarned! Mitt Romney’s desire to be President will not be suppressed! He’s going to be courting you pretty hard!
And as a runaway Jane Austen character, I think there’s a good chance he’ll start organizing formal balls.
Mitt Romney Style!
** Before you ask, yes, I am aware that Mitt Romney is PROBABLY not a Jane Austen character. It’s a joke! I know it’s a joke! Moving on.
I go through a lot of books – most years, I read at least a hundred and twenty novels. Last year, I hit 162 books, which was a record for me.
Before you ask: of course, I count! I’m so competitive that I can’t help but compete with myself (can I read more than 160 books this year? Or will last-year me win? NEVER). It’s pathetic. But hey, it gets me to read.
Since I consume so many books, there’s no way I can ever review all of them on this blog – or even most of them. Thus, I’m planning on doing a monthly roundup, which will allow me to discuss most of them briefly. And then I can stop feeling guilty that I’m not reviewing all my favorites.
I’m also doing these roundups because I’m a narcissistic, self-obsessed literature student who likes to obsessively document all the books she reads. But we don’t need to go there.
I’m starting with February books, even though it’s March. March isn’t over yet; it’s not too late to talk about February. At least, that’s what I tell myself (allow me my delusions).
The reviews follow the list:
(note: any book that is starred (*) and in italics is one I enjoyed enough to recommend)
1. Dawn by Octavia Butler **
2. Groundings for the Metaphysics of Morals by Kant
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen **
4. The Studhorse Man by Robert Kroescht
5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins **
6. Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware
7. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton **
8. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton **
9. Green Grass and Running Water by Thomas King **
10. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen **
11. Genealogy of Morals by Nietzsche **
12. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons **
13. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzochelli **
14. The Day of the Locust by Nathaneal West
15. Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine **
16. The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaage
17. I Never Liked You by Chester Brown
18. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey **
Given how busy a month February was, I’m retrospectively shocked by how much I managed to read. Eighteen books? Really?
But most of them are books I read for school – twelve out of eighteen, in fact. If I didn’t have to read for class, this would be quite a sparse list. It’s hard to be a vigilante literature reader… I need some kind of structure.
February was a bit of a low month in terms of quality. I only liked twelve out of the eighteen, which sounds decent, but is far below my personal averages. And a lot of the books I didn’t like, I really didn’t like – The Studhorse Man, for example, was a complete trainwreck for me.
That said, there were a few standouts. Other than the Austens, which are always a treat, I thoroughly enjoyed Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique (nominated for a Nebula in 2012), Jacqueline Carey’s Santa Oliva, David Mazzochelli’s Asterios Polyp and Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water.
My two favorites this month were Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm and Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw. Both are genre-defying, hilarity-inducing mashups with lots and lots of knotty thematic stuff for me to sink my metaphorical teeth into (I assure you, I do not chew books, except when they’re made out of candy).
Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm is a mashup of the highest order. In the book, it’s as if Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma suddenly showed up on the set of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and proceeded to put everyone’s life in order.
With no-nonsense vigor and an arch sense of humor, Flora Post (the Emma Woodhouse lookalike) sends the brooding, woman-hating man of mystery (*cough* HEATHCLIFF *cough* ) off to become a Hollywood movie star. She transforms the imp-like but beautiful young woman (*cough* Catherine Linton *cough*) into a desirable mate for the local aristocrat. She teaches the overly fertile maid the importance of contraception. She deals with Aunt Doom (yes, her name is Aunt Doom), the owner of Cold Comfort Farm, and a woman who has refused to come out of her room for some sixty years, because she saw “something in the woodshed” as a girl.
The book also presents some subtle discussions of feminism and the treatment of female authorship. When Flora meets an aspiring author (Mr. Meyerberg), he tries to convince her that the Bronte sister’s entire oeuvre was written by Branwen (their brother).** Mr. Meyerberg pursues Flora romantically, and blames her indifference on sexual frigidity.
The whole story is funny as hell, in a mischievous, high-wire sort of way. I’d be fascinated to read the scholarship on the piece, because there’s so much rich, tangled intertextuality to work through.
Jo Waltons’ Tooth and Claw, meanwhile, is another 19th century parody (what can I say? I love the 19th century. I love parodies). Walton writes a typical Victorian comedy of manners: everyone tries to get married and find their vicarage and display proper conduct all while keeping their clothes in perfec order. But the “everyone” she writes about aren’t humans. They’re dragons.
Yes, you read that right. Every character in the novel is a dragon, from blushing maiden to overbearing aristocrat.
It shouldn’t work, but it does, in large part because of how Walton uses the biological realities of being a dragon to explain the bizarre traditions of Victorian society. For example, we finally understand why victorian girls weren’t allowed around men. When men get too close to virgin dragons, the virgin’s scales “blush” red, and everyone knows they’ve been near a man, bringing on scandal.
Walton explains the perpetual survival of the aristocracy in a similar way. Aristocratic dragons are allowed the first bite of any dead dragon. They, for example, get to eat the stunted children of their tenants. Dragons grow big depending on the amount of dragon-flesh they eat – and since the size of a dragon determines their ability to survive a fight, aristocrats will always have a physical advantage over their tenants.
In these, and many other examples, Walton cleverly reworks the tropes of two genres (dragon stories and Victorian comedy of manners). It was a fantastic, funny, flaming (sometimes literally) read. And I hold out hope that there might be a sequel someday.
** Cue obligatory Joanna Russ reference. As Russ points out in her non-fiction masterpiece How to Suppress Women’s Writing, the easiest way to marginalize womens’ writing is to yell “SHE DIDN’T WRITE IT!
Mr. Meyerburg, Joanna is Judging You.