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Mrs. Robbo:   So you think you have the flu?

Self:   Yeah, I’ve got that achy-jointed, energy-drained feeling, what my old secretary used to call “punky”.  But it’s not bad so far.

Mrs. R:   How do you know it’s not swine flu?

Self:  Well, so far I haven’t had the urge to throw myself in a mud puddle or squeel.

Mrs. R:  Oh, you’re hysterical.

Self:  Thankkew!

Mrs. R:  But what if it is swine flu?

Self:  It wouldn’t matter because I’d do the same thing I’ll do anyway: stay off my feet and take it easy.  If things get better then great.  If things get worse, then I’ll go see a doc.

Mrs. R:  You’re getting a shot next year!

Self:  Feh.

Really, I’ve no patience with the panic and hysteria.

So Dubyanell went ahead and let super-king-kamaya-maya journalistic fraud Jayson Blaire speak on journalistic ethics.

Sigh.  This is the sort of think I would have expected from my old stomping ground The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, not from Dubyanell.  (Granted, it was the j-school and everyone knows what a pack of weasels journalists are, but still…..)

At least from the report it seems like the majority of students and faculty gave the guy a pretty hard time.  On the other hand, it also seems that he and his campus sponsors still don’t get why his being there was a problem to begin with.

As an alum, I’m pretty disappointed.

JaneAustenI see where there’s a new exhibit on Jane Austen opening at the Morgan in New York, an exhibit containing rayther a large number of Miss A’s own letters and manuscripts.  Judging from this review, it appears that the exhibit is emphatically not one of those that seeks to mold her to fit modern sensibilities, although it seems that the producers could not resist the temptation altogether.  To wit:

The only thing out of character is a self-conscious, 16-minute documentary, “The Divine Jane,” created for the show, in which contemporary figures speak about Austen’s importance — though little that Cornel West, Fran Lebowitz or Colm Toibin have to say comes close to what the documents communicate on their own.

Heh.  I should think not.

At any rate, this leads back to the question that occassionally gets bandied about here:  What is the basis of the enduring Austen craze?  What is it about her that attracts so many fans nowadays?  The reviewer, I think, nails the problem:

The difficulty comes, though, in imagining Austen herself. She was such a subtle reader of her characters’ manners, so knowing about their flaws and virtues, yet herself so opaque and mysterious a presence that it is hard to imagine her in the flesh. You have to read her the way her most sentient characters read their companions, attending to subtle signs, mannerisms and language.

I would submit, given nobody could suggest with a straight face that we live in an era of “subtle signs, mannerisms and language”, that some many most modern readers of Austen very probably misunderstand her after all, and instead are infatuated with an image or images of her of which she herself would have been horrified.  The wealth of gubbagy adaptations, prequels, sequels and erzatz biographies (e.g., “Becoming Jane”) bear me out in this, I think.

Interestingly, I happened to come across a quote about Jane as I was reading some Chesterton (his What’s  Wrong With The World).  Says G.K.:

I fancy Jane Austen was stronger, sharper and shrewder than Charlotte Brontë; I am quite certain she was stronger, sharper and shrewder than George Eliot.  She could do one thing neither of them could do: she could coolly and sensibly describe a man.

No doubt this will send up howls of outrage from defenders of Jane Eyre and Middlemarch.  I’ve never read either and have no plans to do so, but from what I know of the general genre,  and especially from what I know of Jane’s own writing, I strongly suspect Mr. Chesterton was, as he so often is, on to something here.


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November 2009